The big trip

Reykjavik Edition review: the hottest hotel in Iceland

A brand new place to stay in the heart of the Icelandic capital marries high style with a great location

The Edition hotels, part of the Marriott group, are based on two paradoxical ideas. Despite having a collective identity as a chain, they all have their own idiosyncratic character – and each one seeks to be a boutique hotel on a grand scale.

The Reykjavik Edition is one of the newest, having launched at the end of 2021, just as Iceland was reopening after the pandemic. And, like its forerunners, it is a very stylish place to stay. It shares with them a crisp, modern aesthetic, with plenty of sleek, dark surfaces in the perfumed corridors and common areas – but here they’re supplemented by a distinctly Nordic twist. Blonde timber and unpolished concrete are softened with sheepskins, woolen blankets and faux furs, draped liberally across beds, benches and restaurant chairs.

What really sets this hotel apart, however, is its location. Right on the water, it overlooks the glass-sided Harpa concert hall, and beyond that, across the water, the snowy peak of Mount Esja and the Snæfellsjökull glacier. The rooms, with floor-to-ceiling windows, make the most of the setting.

The Harpa concert hall, seen from a room at the hotel

The Harpa concert hall, seen from a room at the hotel

Holden Frith

Why come here?

A small city with a big personality, Europe’s most northerly capital is at once a remote outpost and a cosy compendium of everything we’ve grown to love about the Nordic way of life. With warm cafes, cool restaurants and the restorative sense that nature still has a place even in the heart of the city, Reykjavik is more than just a launchpad for a tour of the island.

Sun Voyager sculpture

The Sun Voyager sculpture and, in the distance, Mount Esja

Holden Frith

What to do

The Edition hotel is right next to Reykjavik’s main shopping area, a grid of narrow streets lined with shops and cafes. In a world of cookie-cutter high streets, the architecture here remains unique: corrugated iron is the building material of choice, brightly painted and affixed to cottage-like homes, churches and businesses, giving even the heart of the city a village-like feel.

Walk along the harbour and you’ll find the Sun Voyager sculpture by Jon Gunnar Arnason (above), a stripped-back Viking ship that overlooks the bay. You can learn more about the country’s relatively brief human history – it was settled little more than a thousand years ago – at the National Museum of Iceland.

Or turn inland and take a stroll around Tjornin, a picturesque lake (frozen for half the year), from which you can admire the skyline – and plot your route to the Hallgrimskirkja (below), the modernist church whose concrete spire rises above the city. Austerely Lutheran on the outside, it reveals a warmth within, where its light wooden pews – and colossal pipe organ – glow in the bright sunlight that streams through its plain glass windows. 

Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavik

Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavik’s most celebrated building

Holden Frith

Further afield

Most visitors to Reykjavik are on their way too or from Iceland’s great outdoors. It is a landscape like no other, encompassing the gentility of the Blue Lagoon and the wildness of the glaciers and volcanoes that have shaped the island. The Golden Circle is an excellent introduction, taking in geysers, waterfalls and hot springs on a route that fits into a manageable day trip from the capital.

From April to September, you can take a whale-watching expedition from the harbour. Sightings are never guaranteed, but you stand a reasonable chance of seeing humpback or blue whales on a full-day trip. During the other half of the year, you can set out to sea in search of the northern lights – or wait in the hotel for them to come to you, which is a regular but unpredictable occurrence between October and March.

Strokker geysir in the Golden Circle

The Strokker geysir in the Golden Circle

Holden Frith

Hiking is possible at any time of the year, but should be attempted with care, especially in the winter. The Icelandic weather can change in a moment from benign to ferocious, and blizzards can strike at all times of the year on high ground. Organised tours offer the reassurance of expert guiding and support.

Those who want to get even closer to nature, can take a unique glacier tour and descend into the ice through a tunnel, walking down through the layers of snow and volcanic ash deposited over recent decades. Or don a drysuit and snorkel through the crystalline glacial meltwater in the Silfra fissure, where Europe and North America’s continental plates are edging away from each other.

What to eat

Tides, the Reykjavik Edition’s restaurant, is a good place to start. A la carte breakfasts include the traditional bacon and eggs, as well as various combinations of avocado, feta and smoked salmon on toasted rye and sourdough. Dinner is a more distinctively Nordic affair, with reindeer featuring alongside a hige range of seafood. The vegetables are particularly well done: heirloom tomatoes with ferskosti cheese are fresh and surprisingly luxurious.

Tides restaurant at the Reykjavik Edition

Tides restaurant at the Reykjavik Edition

Nikolas Koenig

Beyond the hotel, Reykjavik has an enviable restaurant scene. Dill is the prime proponent of the “new Nordic” movement, which relies heavily on foraged ingredients and puts sustainability at the core of its mission. Grillmarkadurinn is a little less austere: it serves grilled meat and fish in a restaurant that seems to have been hollowed out of sheer rock. Its tasting menu is a highlight.

When to go

Summer and winter offer two very different experiences of the country. In the depths of winter you have only a few hours of daylight to enjoy the snow-filled wonderland, and roads may be closed, particularly in the interior – but this is Iceland in its purest form. Summer is the better time for hiking and other outdoor activities – and you will still find snow in the central highlands.

How to get there

British Airways, Icelandair and easyJet fly to Reykjavik from a range of British cities, from about £120 return. 

How to book

Rooms are available from the Reykjavik Edition website from about £370 per night.

Nikolas Koenig

The lobby bar at the Reykjavik Edition

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