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Food and Music: Other Reasons to Visit Iceland Besides Nature

Can you believe it’s already been 15 months since I moved to Amsterdam? Time flies! With 21 months left before I move back to the US, I’m upping my travel game by focusing on my bucket list with Iceland being #1. “D2: The Mighty Ducks” inspired me to pick Iceland as the country for my third grade project, and fast forward 20 years later, Iceland is still on my mind.

Some people might plan their trip around seeing the Northern lights, snorkeling between tectonic plates, and embarking on a whale watching trip in Iceland, but I plan on doing it differently by focusing on food and music first, then planning those activities second. Check out these other reasons to visit Iceland besides nature!

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Food

New Nordic Cuisine

Image via Iceland Tourism Board

Because of increased tourism, greenhouses, and appetite for more worldly flavors, New Nordic Cuisine has been on the rise. Developed in November 2004, this cuisine is pure, simple, and fresh and emphasizes the use of seasonal and local food, which in turn, naturally helps it meet high ethical standards— the cherry on top of a meal for me!

Dill Restaurant

Chef and owner Gunnar Karl Gíslason is one of the visionaries heading the New Nordic Cuisine movement at Dill Restaurant. True to the cuisine, his tasting menu pares modern methods with local ingredients and old traditions. Despite the seemingly upscale affair, the restaurant is set in the Nordic House whose mission foster connections among Nordic countries. This purposeful setting, the restaurant’s own garden, the wild bird preserve surrounding the restaurant, and the seasonal menu are a few of the many reasons I’d love to try New Nordic Cuisine here.

Dill Restaurant
Hverfisgata 12, 101 Reykjavík
Open Wed., Thurs., Fri. & Sat. from 6:00PM


Traditional Icelandic Food

Of course, a trip to any country wouldn’t be complete without understanding the culture through traditional food. Because of Iceland’s harsh climate, its cuisine has been historically dominated by animal products such as seafood, lamb, and dairy, which include some of these foods I’d try:

Lamb

what to eat in iceland lamb
Image via Iceland Tourism Board

Lambs in Iceland sound like the happiest animals raised for consumption. They roam free in wild, untamed lands and then are gathered once a year to return to their respective owners. Icelanders say they have the best lamb in the world. I dare them to dare me to eat it everyday.

Grillmarkaðurinn
2a,, Lækjargata, 101 Reykjavík
Open Weekdays from 11:30AM to 2:00PM and 6:00 to 10:30PM and Weekends from 6:00 to 10:30PM

Minke Whale

Apparently eating minke whale in Iceland is ok because it’s not an endangered species so I say, why not? It can be eaten skewered on kebabs, seared like ahi tuna, or served like a steak. I’d opt to try it at Fismarkadurinn where it’s cured and lightly seared.

Fiskmarkaðurinn
Aðalstræti 12, 101 Reykjavík
Open Daily from 6:00PM

Pylsur (Hot Dogs)

https://www.flickr.com/photos/aschaf/4825640149/in/photolist-8mqEGe-ojoSxY-6BsEjW-fSW35c-9S6WzH-dBXuHs-4qxD7K-f97TFa-3ywnLS-59fx6h-cBgYHu-3ywnZW-6Lao2J-3ywoJf-ecn4JM-dMkECK-2PByZn-9GT7wT-4P9M9T-78V662-kf1EB8-9pQwT6-h9Rgvm-mJGz3q-9ZVnPZ-3ywn8Q-3yrZPc-83yZmo-9omfEV-6fSzPR-3ywmRs-fNoeNS-9zWHMM-56uA5P-3yrYPT-56yGny-3zzSjb-34RYmb-teVdf-8H2VD9-3fYeA-fNoeRQ-dFcVk9-yuCiZE-75h2Q-2AC67-6Pc3pc-4DqztR-wNJFYq-8vt6DB
Image via Flickr by Andrea Schaffer

As hot dogs are so prevalent in America, I wouldn’t normally pay much attention to these, but Condé Nast calls it the one dish to eat in Iceland. Plysur are mainly made of lamb and topped with raw onions, a sweet brown mustard, and a sauce with mayonnaise, herbs, and more. They’re basically nothing like their American counterpart, and yes, I’d like it with everything.

Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur
Tryggvatagata 1, 101 Reykjavík
Open from 10:00AM to 2:00AM on Weekdays and Until 4:30AM on Weekends


New and Old

Combining the new and worldly with the old and traditional is the Food and Fun Festival where chefs from around the world fly in to collaborate with local restaurants. They do what they do best by making delicious food but with one catch, they can only use Icelandic ingredients. Sustainable and tasty? Yes please.

The Food and Fun Festival
Where: Reykjavik
When: It happens yearly for a week in February or March so in 2017, it’s March 1 to 5.


Music

Despite its small population, Iceland produces a large amount of internationally recognized artists such as Björk, Múm, Of Monsters and Men, and my favorite, Sigur Rós. Equally as good as what comes out of Iceland is what happens in Iceland— their music festivals.

Secret Solstice Festival

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgyDQi028o4

In 2016, my friends from New York and Germany flew to Iceland for the Secret Solstice Festival and saw artists like Radiohead and Jamie Jones. Best of all, they got to experience 72 hours of sun while the seasons shifted meaning they were partying at midnight with full blown sunlight. Crazy, huh?

Despite it’s very modern party appeal, the festival doesn’t fall far from its Nordic roots in which Norse mythology noted the summer solstice as a time of bounty and cause for celebration. This mythic theme makes Summer Solstice quite the unique festival.

Secret Solstice Festival
Where: Reykjavik
When: It happens over the three days surrounding the summer solstice so for 2017, it’s June 16-18!

Bræðslan Music Festival

There’s a special place in my heart for small music festivals with less than 5,000 people. There’s a greater sense of community and feeling of inclusion. That’s why I would love to check out Bræðslan Music Festival with only 900 festival goers. Even more homey sounding, it’s set in Borgarfjörður Eystri, a small village of only 110 people, on the complete opposite side of the island from Reykjavik with bands playing inside a 50 year old fish factory.

There’s a solid mix of local and international artists such as Of Monsters and Men and Damien Rice, but it seems like the festival to go to for up-and-coming Icelandic artists.

Bræðslan Music Festival
Where: Borgarfjörður Eystri
When: Normally in July so for 2017, it’s on July 29.


Now all there’s left to do is figure out what to wear and the best time to visit Iceland! Do you have suggestions on other reasons to go to Iceland besides nature? Share by commenting below.

Thanks for stopping by! xo.


Dan Hagen

Friday 8th of December 2017

A good writeup. I ate the Icelandic hotdogs like they were tacos. You coming back for Nordur og Nidur at the end of the year? Sigur Ros is playing for the first time there since Heima. Can't wait!

Erin

Wednesday 25th of January 2017

This post is really inspiring in terms of less obvious reasons to go to Iceland. It's definitely a destination for seeing natural wonders, but as you mention, the food is really interesting, especially those lamb hot dogs and the other lamb preparations.

Sarah

Wednesday 25th of January 2017

Yes the lamb seems really great! I'm definitely going to try that.

Sarah

Thursday 19th of January 2017

Those lamb hotdogs sound GOOOOD!! We are thinking of Iceland and although I have read a lot, there is not much about the food so thanks for posting this article - useful insights!

Sarah

Thursday 19th of January 2017

Yay! I'm glad you found this. I'm looking forward to a trip to Iceland too!

Natasha

Friday 13th of January 2017

Iceland is high on my list and I hope to visit next winter! I didn't even think about the music and festivals -- but it all sounds awesome.

Claire

Friday 13th of January 2017

Haha I love how the Mighty Ducks 2 inspired your desire to visit Iceland!! I think nature would be my first priority here, and then food of course :) Its good to know there is plenty to keep you busy once you've had your fill of waterfalls!

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