You already know that Iceland is a hot spot for nature lovers. But for shoppers too? Absolutely. Iceland has some of the best souvenirs in the world, with a different take: most of what you buy here you’ll use elsewhere. From warm woollens to beautifully crafted pottery and glass, to resilient outdoor wear, these are more than just keepsakes. And if you have a taste for the finer things, Iceland is also one of the best places to buy luxury. Not only is it one of the trendiest places in Europe, and therefore a hip spot for fashion, the haute couture here is reasonably priced, especially once you claim your 15% tourist rebate on purchases over ISK 4,000.
You know you need a memento of your holiday, and your family back home isn’t just looking forward to seeing you. Try some of the following for the best ideas in great purchases that avoid the traditional tourist kitsch:
If anyone knows how to make outdoor wear practical, durable and fashionable, it’s the Icelanders. Stores like 66 Degrees North and Cintamani offer great looking outdoor clothing that you can use on any of your hikes or just when you need to be warm. Stock up on everything from fleece to wind and rain gear to hiking socks (highly recommended!).
The traditional Icelandic lopapeysa, a knitted wool sweater with special design at the top and on the sleeves, is now a must-have fashion item. Worn for practical reasons by farmers and fishermen, the sweater (or its variations, including button or zipped cardigan) is one of the trendiest items around. You can also buy high-quality woollen scarves, gloves, hats, blankets, and many other things, all made from Icelandic wool.
Fashion and accessories
Iceland is home to many great fashion brands you are already familiar with, as well as some smaller, more specialised ones. Stores likes Flex and Kron have great independent labels from all over the world, as well as jewellery.
CDs and books
You’ll have heard of Björk and the Sagas. But Iceland has a lot more to offer the worlds of literature and music. You can buy some of the best up-and-coming Icelandic music here at a fraction of the import price you would pay back home. Impress your friends with music from the hippest acts like Sigur Rós, Singapore Sling and Mugison. There are also terrific photographic books on all things Icelandic, as well as English translations from well-known authors, including the Nobel Laureate Halldór Laxness.
Some of the music stores in town, including 12 Tónar, Smekkleysa (Bad Taste) and Skífan, not only have a full selection of Icelandic music, but work hard to introduce you to as much local music as possible before you make your purchase.
Iceland has a surprising number of speciality stores, great for gift buying or for unusual items. Try Kokka for anyone who loves to cook, or Friða Frænka for antique collectors.
For the great Iceland-themed souvenirs, few can resist pieces based on the 13 Icelandic Yule Lads – think Father Christmas, only angry. Pottery pieces and smaller jewellery items are also highly recommended.
Iceland’s the capital of cool at the moment, due in no small measure to its hip and trendy fashions. Couple this with the tourist rebate you’ll get on larger purchases and the variety of well-known luxury brand names, and you’re set to get some of the best deals around.
Start saving your money for some jewellery as soon as you book your ticket. Local designs have been celebrated of late for their observation of Celtic and Old Norse patterns. The constant desire for fresh materials and inspiration has kept goldsmiths in the capital churning out gallery pieces. Artists often incorporate gold or silver with materials found in Iceland, like lava rock, and the effect is very eye-catching. You can also commission your own design. This is very popular for wedding rings, which many people buy in Iceland.
Iceland has unique high-grade jeans and denim for a fraction of what you pay at upscale boutiques throughout the world. The most revered local brands are available at Galleri Sautján, which has numerous locations.
Fur and suits
You can buy the most famous luxury brands (Max Mara, Hugo Boss, Versace, etc.) or some great Icelandic designs. If you’re into it, you can also stock up on Icelandic fur products (that’s not only mink and other animals, but the skin of fish as well!), assuring you’ll stay warm throughout the winter.
Reykjavík is full of boutiques and shops which feature the unique work of Icelandic designers using a variety of styles and materials. Great for finding a really unusual yet incredibly stylish piece of clothing. You can find something for all ages, shapes and sizes.
Artists in Iceland often take their inspiration from the country’s outstanding natural surroundings or from its literary history. From paintings to sculptures to pottery and glass work, you’ll find all sorts of creative designs here, both small and large. A street more and more dedicated to artists, Skólavörðustígur in downtown Reykjavík hosts many respected smaller galleries.
The main shopping streets in Reykjavík are Laugavegur and Skólavörðustígur. Most stores here are open from 10.00–18.00 on weekdays and from 11.00–16.00 on Saturdays. Clothing stores are usually closed on Sundays, but the record and bookstores will be open.
For longer shopping hours, visit either Kringlan or Smáralind Shopping Centres. Kringlan and Smáralind both have a number of major stores for clothing, accessories and books / souvenirs. These include Zara, Next, Debenham´s, Fat Face, and many others.