Huge bearded men knocking back vodka shots for breakfast might be what you imagine as part of life among the vast lava fields and mountains of Iceland’s capital but, in reality, things are considerably more refined. Reykjavik’s picturesque centre, with its Lego-like stack of colourfully roofed buildings, combines striking modern architecture with historic museums and galleries. Today you wouldn’t guess that the country was under varying degrees of prohibition until 1989: Reykjavik is home to some great bars, but these days its drinkers are looking for quality rather than quantity.
In the pared-back surroundings of MicroBar, owned by local microbrewery Gaedingur, aquavit is eschewed in favour of a range of local and international craft beers; try a glass of their toasty Stout (£5.65). For an authentic Icelandic cocktail, head to Slippbarinn in the foyer of the Marina Hotel. Try a Perfection, with vodka, dried cherries, liquorice syrup, lemon and black raspberry liqueur (£11), or an R&B, made with rye whiskey, bitters and birch sap (£12.50).
Loftid is another trendy cocktail hotspot where you can also sample the local Reyka vodka (£6). Filtered through lava rock, the result is an incredibly pure yet creamy spirit with notes of vanilla and aniseed. Double rooms at the hip Kex Hotel cost from £64. Return flights from Gatwick to Rejkjavik cost from £80 (wowair.co.uk). More info: visiticeland.com
Written October 2014