In Reykjavik, there’s no shortage of souvenir shops where you can find everything from postcards and key chains to elf figurines. Anything you can imagine emblazoned with the Icelandic flag – they probably sell it. But if tchotchke souvenirs just don’t do it for you, here are some ideas for Icelandic souvenirs you’ll actually appreciate once you get home.
Lava rock jewelry
Forget the cans of ash from the Eyjafjallajökull eruption, for souvenir that really celebrates the volcanic nature of Iceland, pick up some jewelry made of lava rocks. Rings, necklaces, earrings and bracelets made of rounded black rock are sold at jewelry stores all over Iceland, including the high-end Isis and Mariella in Reykjavik. Prices can vary widely; you’ll find the lowest prices (about 3,500 ISK or $32 US for a necklace) at the Kolaportid market
Icelandic woolen goods
The traditional Icelandic sweater is the most popular wool souvenir for tourists, but they are expensive, and let’s face it, the odds that you’ll actually wear it back home might not be great. If you aren’t comfortable dropping $150-$300 on a sweater you might never wear again, you can still get some quality woolen goods. Pick up a knit hat, scarf, or warm mittens for 2,000-4,000 ISK. Every tourist shop, like Geysir and the Puffin’s Nest, sells at least a few wool items. The lowest prices are at the Kolaportid, or at Thorvaldsens Bazaar, where proceeds go to charity.
T-shirts from Dogma
If you prefer items that aren’t so obviously souvenirs, you’ll have lots of options in Reykjavik, which offers dozens of (pricey) designer boutiques to choose from. On a more affordable level, there’s hipster heaven Dogma, a shop that sells logo and slogan t-shirts. The selection constantly changes; my personal favorite is the “eg tala ekki islensku” (translation: I don’t speak Icelandic” ) t-shirt.
66° North gear
North Face? Patagonia? Please, they’ve got nothing on 66° North when it comes to stylish clothes that will keep you warm and dry no matter what the weather. The gear isn’t cheap; if you plan on buying a lot and have a rental car (or a few folks to share cab cost with) head to the outlet shop just out of town.
Hands down, the best music shop in Iceland is 12 Tonar. Staff are incredibly friendly and knowledgeable about Icelandic music, you can listen to anything in the store, and on Friday nights in summer they offer a backyard concert series.
Every tourists shop in town sells some kind of coffee-table-worthy art book of Iceland photos, and prices are about the same everywhere. Collections cover different landscapes and regions, or focus on a theme like horses. Find your favorite and you’ll always have a set of beautiful photos to remind you of your time in Iceland. Or, pick up a book or Icelandic recipes or some literature written by Icelanders like Nobel Laureate Halldor Laxness. The largest and oldest bookshop in Iceland, Eymundsson, has an extensive collection.
Viking beer glasses
Another ubiquitous souvenir item, Viking beer glasses can be purchased at most tourist shops in Reykjavik…or, for those with a slightly wobbly moral compass, casually collected from any bar where the beer is served.
Blue Lagoon beauty products
The silica found at the bottom of the Blue Lagoon is known to have special properties that help heal and clear your skin. That’s why when you visit you’ll see people slathering the white stuff all over themselves, letting it harden into a beauty mask. Face washes, lotions, and jars of the silica are sold at most souvenir shops, at the Blue Lagoon, and at the airport. If you’re on a budget, just bring a small container into the Lagoon with you, and take a small scoop of silica to go.
While Reyka vodka has begun expanding their distribution to bar and restaurants in the US, I’ve yet to see it for sale at any liquor store near me. Which means fans of the spirit will need to buy it at the source. Hit the duty free on your way into or out of the country (for savings of up to 60% off what you’ll pay at the Vinbudin) and take a liter or two home with you.
Icelandic hot dog mustard
When I tell people I had to buy some special hot dog mustard in Iceland, they look at me like I’m a bit off. But once you taste the special combination of ketchup, mustard and remouladi that cover Icelandic hot dogs, you’ll understand. The bottles of brown mustard come in two sizes, last for months unopened (or about 6 weeks once opened), cost just a few bucks, and will bring back fond memories every time you eat a hot dog.
Like other Scandinavian countries, Iceland is known for its modern, even futuristic design which mixes new and traditional elements in creative ways. Kraum and Kisan are two of the most popular shops, selling everything from handmade coat racks and art prints to light fixtures and organic music boxes.