Akureyri is sometimes dubbed the capital of the north and it’s the only settlement outside of Reykjavík and its surrounding municipalities that could possibly claim to be a city. It has the services and culture – it just doesn’t quite have enough people to be declared a city by most standards. But apparently, this is debatable.
I love going up there and we visit quite regularly, mostly during the dead of winter. We normally don’t have any plans and when we do have plans, the weather has a funny way of messing them up so we end up just hanging out and relaxing a lot. Which is exactly what we need most of the time.
One of the things I’ve noticed when we visit is that the restaurant scene in Akureyri is not quite as happening as here in Reykjavík. There are a lot of places that are kind of legendary, like Greifinn (people love The Bullfighter’s Pizza) or Bautinn which are fine if you’re looking for the typical pizza and burger fair (nothing wrong with that) but every time I go there I’m hoping I’ll discover something new and exciting and then it kind of never happens.
That’s not to say that I haven’t had good food in Akureyri, I guess I’ve just become spoiled with choice. I’m sure there are logical reasons for why the restaurant scene in Akureyri is the way it is, the fact that it’s a fairly small town even though it’s big for Iceland could be one of them. Reykjavík’s scene flourished with the tourist boom and Akureyri, lovely as it is, just doesn’t attract the same numbers of tourists year round.
I always try to do my research before I go to Akureyri with this in mind but I may have missed something so if there are any restauranteurs in Akureyri reading this, please tell me about places I need to check out and I’ll be sure to do it next time I’m in town. I would love to be proved wrong on this!
Meanwhile, if you find yourself in Akureyri (which you should to do, the north is lovely) below are some places the family and I have enjoyed on our trips up there.
Always when I’m in Akureyri, I go to Berlín for breakfast. Some trips I go there once, other trips I go there every day. Their egg and avocado toast just speaks to my (selectively) millennial heart. Yes, according to the definition I’m a millennial – don’t let my gray hairs fool you.
Although I’ve only gone there for breakfast they also serve a dish of the day during lunch on weekdays that is usually chicken or fish or something light like that. Their brunches on the weekend are also very popular and it’s recommended that you book a table in advance.
I recently recommended Berlín to a guest who was traveling all around Iceland in February and after the trip, she made a point to thank me especially for this recommendation because she LOVED their waffles.
Rub23 is often considered the best restaurant in Akureyri and is one of the few fine dining options around. They caught people’s attention with their sushi when they first opened but they have a vast menu beyond just sushi.
Last year, I celebrated my birthday at Rub23 with a tasting menu and wine pairing and it was very nice. I’ve also been there for the sushi and although I’m sure that sushi connoisseurs could find it lacking in authenticity (which would not be strange considering it’s a place in a small town in Iceland, not Japan) I have always enjoyed it. I’m not a purist in any sense and just go with what tastes nice and what makes me happy.
It’s a cozy little place and reservations are recommended. I can’t say with good conscience that Rub23 is the best dining experience I’ve ever had in Iceland but it’s always solid and I’ve never walked out disappointed.
Bryggjan restaurant is located in this old building down by the sea and when you walk in it feels like it should be a fancy fish restaurant. What it is, however, is kind of a hodgepodge of popular dishes like pizza, burgers and beef carpaccio (?). I’m always very confused when I go there but when you just want something simple and not to fancy, the food is actually pretty decent. At least good enough that I keep coming back.
It kind of reminds me of a similar place that we used to have here in Reykjavík called Vegamót. You wouldn’t go there because it was the best food in town but with a group, everyone usually found something they liked and the food was always good enough.
It’s by no means a culinary hot spot but a good place for families and casual meals.
Akureyri Backpackers is a hostel in the heart of Akureyri and on their ground floor they have a small restaurant and bar that is quite popular. I’ve stayed at the hostel and dropped in for food and drink and I’ve always been satisfied.
What I like about the Backpackers is that it doesn’t try to be something that it’s not and just offers decent food at decent prices. They usually have good fish of the day and a nice atmosphere. Good burgers too. It’s also almost always full when I’m in town, with travelers and locals alike, which to me is always a good sign.
They also serve beer at reasonable prices which doesn’t hurt.
Bakaríið við Brúna
For some reason, whenever I drive into Akureyri, my first stop is usually Bakaríð við Brúna (The Bakery by the bridge) and it doesn’t seem to matter whether I’m hungry or not – I just have to stop there.
I’m not sure how popular this bakery is with the Akureyri locals (maybe they have a secret bakery they favor that I have yet to discover) but I’m not the only Reykjavíking who speaks fondly about this bakery. They have an amazing selection of all kinds of bread and pastry (and they always have something yummy to taste laid out) but what keeps bringing me back are mostly two things: Their Soðbrauð (Boiled bread) with smoked lamb or smoked trout and their Ástarpungar (love balls). Yum!
Unfortunately, this bakery is kind of old school and doesn’t seem to have a website or a Facebook page so you’ll just have to go there yourself to check it out.
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