Forget Berlin, London and Prague – Iceland’s Christmas markets top them all. Whether you want to buy presents, food or both, Reykjavik has plenty of options. First, there’s Yule Town. Based in Ingólfstorg Square, this festive pop-up has an ice rink at its heart, surrounded by a maze of handmade gifts, tree decorations and tummy-warming treats.
If you’re a foodie, though, there’s one place you should definitely be going – Jolakras. The weekend before Christmas, this food market takes over Fogetagardurinn Square. You’ll be truly spoilt for choice as the best chefs in Reykjavik come together to sell Christmas-themed street food, crafted in their restaurants and cafés.
Families, meanwhile, should head to the town of Hafnarfjorður. Here, you’ll find a full-on Christmas Village, centred around a towering tree. Little ones can meet Father Christmas, and all ages will enjoy the live entertainment, arts and crafts, and steaming hot chocolate.
If you thought pigs in blankets and mulled wine were the pinnacle of December, get ready to be surprised. Iceland takes Christmas dining to a whole new level. As with most Icelandic food, the festive favourites are largely meat or fish-based, with recipes often handed down through the generations. Topping most Christmas menus is the traditional meal of Hangikjöt – smoked lamb served with peas and potatoes, smothered in Béchamel sauce. On Christmas Eve, though, it’s all about Ptarmigan. Similar to pheasant, this roasted game dish is Iceland’s equivalent of turkey with all the trimmings.
For pudding – if you have room – you can tuck into Risalamande. Adopted from Denmark, this rice pudding-like dessert is a delicious end to your alternative Christmas meal. But Laufabrauo, or Leaf Bread, is the real Icelandic essential. This deep-fried, wafer-thin bread looks similar to a crepe, except for one crucial detail – it’s covered in intricate hand-carved patterns. Like homemade paper snowflakes, but edible.
You’ve wandered around the markets, filled up on delicious food, and are feeling very festive – but also slightly chilly. Whilst Christmas is a magical time to visit Iceland, there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s rather cold. But there’s one place that’s always warm – the famous Blue Lagoon. This geothermal spa is one of Iceland’s most visited attractions, and it’s easy to see why. At a steamy 37 degrees, this milky-blue pool is the perfect place for a relaxing dip in the middle of winter. The water is rich with minerals, too, which will help revitalise your skin after exploring in the cold. Give your face a treat with a silica mud mask, or swim over to the spa and unwind with an in-water massage.
When you think of Iceland, there’s usually one thing that springs to mind – the glittering Northern Lights, spread across the night sky. Well, if you go to Iceland in December, you have a good chance of seeing them. At this time of year, the nights are classed as ‘full dark’ which means you’ll have much better visibility, especially on a clear night. What better way to add some sparkle to your Christmas? Plus, all our holidays to Iceland include a Northern Lights tour. On your first night, we’ll pick you up from your hotel and whisk you away to the countryside, away from the brightly-lit skies of Reykjavik, in search of the Lights. If they’re hiding behind some cloud, though, you can go on the tour again another evening – for free – in the hope of catching a glimpse of this incredible natural phenomenon. If you look closely, you might see Santa zooming across the sky, too…
Ready for a magical Christmas?
Find out more about the food in Iceland and book your holiday to Iceland today. Or, read about the best Christmas markets you’ve never considered.
Author: Sarah Reeves
Alda Hotel boasts design-led interiors and has an unbeatable postcode on Reykjavik’s bustling main street, Laugavegur.
Highlights at the Grand Hotel Reykjavik include a contemporary Icelandic restaurant, plus a location that puts Laugardalur Park and Reykjavik within striking distance.
The Storm Hotel makes a great base for exploring Reykjavik, as the restaurant-lined main street is just around the corner.
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