Welcome to Ice Cream Land

Ice Cream Parlors – I bet you didn’t know that was a thing.

I’m sure you’ll find this an odd attraction to pitch to adults but this is not just a sweet afternoon delight in Iceland, this is a cultural experience in its own right.

First of all, it’s not nearly as cold in Iceland as most people think so having some of this frozen delicatessen on a nice afternoon is not as ridiculous as it sounds. Second, the ice cream parlor is a historical hangout in Reykjavík. It is a popular stop on the rúntur, an activity where Icelanders drive around town to see who’s out and about, nowadays often used to catch up on some top secrets in the car, in a town where everybody knows everybody. You’ll also notice that ice cream parlors are often situated close to the local pool, another very popular hangout, making them an ideal stop to cool down after a long chat in the hot tub.

Here’s a little guide to a few of our favorite ice cream parlors.

Ice cream in Iceland
Image copyright Frank R.: https://flic.kr/p/4RRWWy

Ísbúð Vesturbæjar

After time well spent in the hot tubs of Vesturbæjarlaug swimming pool, take a left as you exit the pool and you’ll find this retro ice cream parlor in a little strip mall on the other side of the kindergarten. This is an old time favorite for one simple reason: “the old recipe”. It’s their specialty and has a great number of fans in Reykjavík but you have to ask for it specifically. Otherwise, you’ll just get plain old regular ice cream.

Brynja Ice Cream in Iceland
Image copyright Alyson Hurt: https://flic.kr/p/yKLZgr


This is probably Iceland’s most beloved ice cream parlor and while their ice cream is definitely great it might also have something to do with the fact that up until a couple of years ago, their only ice cream parlor was in Akureyri. So it wasn’t just really great ice cream, for most of the country you could only have it when passing through this capital of the north. Now you can have it in Kópavogur as well, although some claim it isn’t the same. I suspect they’re just missing that whole exclusive Akureyri-experience.

Ice cream shops in Iceland
Image copyright ActiveSteve: https://flic.kr/p/NUXDwj


One of the most recent hits in the ice cream parlor industry of late is ice cream parlor Valdís, situated in one of the old fishermen’s huts down by the old harbor. It is a hybrid between a super fun novelty shop (in its original and fun flavors) and a delicatessen (in its high-quality produce) and it’s usually crowded. Icelanders usually meet someone they know in that line and taking a stroll along the harbor in good weather with your quirky ice cream is always good fun.

Ice cream parlors in Iceland
Image copyright Kiersten Chou: https://flic.kr/p/cM33gj


This was for a long time my kids’ favorite and you’ll see why if you try it. It’s a self-service shop so you choose the kind of ice cream you want, the toppings and sauce, how much you want and how you want it and pay per weight. This is nothing short of brilliant since everybody has strong opinions on how they want their ice cream. The obvious downside is that you usually have way more than you intended and swear off ice cream for at least a couple of days afterward.

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