Shopping in Iceland
What the shopping in Iceland is like depends to a large extent where in Iceland you go. In Reykjavík you can walk around Laugavegur or go to one of the local shopping malls (more on Reykjavík below). In Akureyri, the shopping centers around the walking street called Hafnarstræti.
The countryside of Iceland is largely populated with small towns and villages. However, because of the considerable tourist industry, you will probably find adequate shopping opportunities. Outside of Reykjavík, whatever part of the country you're in, there will likely be a central hub of commerce and services. You'll do well to find out where it is, it will probably be where your coach stops, quite likely it will be where your hotel/hostel is. It will be the seat of local health care, tourist information, and where you go to do your shopping. In the countryside, opening hours will vary, and it will be good to make a note of them.
Iceland is like other Scandinavian countries in that most stores are quite institutionalized, and the label price is final. Unless you're at a flea market or buying a house, we don't haggle. Take it or leave it.
The Icelandic culture is quite helpful, but not "warm" or "friendly" in the traditional sense. For instance, there is no Icelandic word for "please" - politeness is implied by formulating the request as a question "can you ...?". Don't be surprised if you don't get a smile, or even a greeting, in some places. They're not mad at you and they are happy to help, it's just a different culture. That being said we are becoming more international, so in all probability the people you deal with will be more cosmopolitan.
In Reykjavík, quite many stores are open all night. Whether this is because of the variation in the cycle of the sun, or just because Icelanders are so stubborn they don't like to be inhibited by such trivial things as "the time of the day", we don't know. But we quite like it.
Helpful tip: don't tip! Iceland, like most of Scandinavia, has a strong legislature protecting worker's rights. Your service fee is included in the price of the food, and your server is payed for their work. As such it is not usual to tip your servers in Iceland. However, contrary to what some travel publications say, most servers will be happy to accept a tip, not offended. But you don't have to.
The Icelandic currency is the Icelandic Króna (ISK). You can buy currency when you land in Iceland, at the airport or at any bank. Iceland has a developed infrastructure so you are never far from an ATM and you can pay with a debet or credit card almost anywhere. Usual cards in Iceland include Visa, MasterCard and Maestro.
Prices are quite comparable to Scandinavia or Western Europe, or perhaps slightly less expensive. For a developed economy with many unique products and a progressive design and art market, you can get some great value for your money. Don't expect anything ridiculously cheap though.
You can expect to pay 1-2000 ISK (7-14 EUR or 8-16 USD) for a basic meal. Alcohol is notoriously expensive, a beer at a pub easily running you 900 ISK (6 EUR or 7 USD).
This site offers up to date exchange rate information.
Iceland offers some truly first-class restaurants. The proximity to unspoilt nature and traditional organic farming ensures high-quality ingredients. The developed economy and educational system provides an advanced population of proffessional chefs. The combination of the two provides you with some unique opportunities to satisfy your palate. We particularly recommend the smoked lamb, which is in a league of its own.
If you're looking for souvenirs or some conveniently packaged local flavour, there is a wide selection of tourist boutiques all over the country. For example:
The Viking has stores in Reykjavík, Ísafjörður and Egilsstaðir.
Álafoss has stores in Mosfellsbær and Reykjavík.
The Geysir shop has stores in Reykjavík, Selfoss and Akureyri.
Rammagerðin has stores in Reykjavík, Egilsstaðir and Akureyri.
The Puffin (Lundinn) has a store in downtown Reykjavík.
Iceland has a number of luxury items and brands not available or more expensive elsewhere. Here are some examples:
66North is high quality design resistance wear sold all over the world. In Iceland you will find 66North boutiques in several places in Reykjavík, as well as in Keflavík, Akureyri, Garðabær and Kópavogur.
Cintamani is also a luxury outdoor wear company. You will find their stores in Reykjavík, Kópavogur and Garðabær.
The handknitting association is one of the best places to get the true traditional Icelandic wool sweater, along with other beautiful and unique designs. Icelandic wool is unique in many regards, for one thing it keeps you warm even if it's wet. Most tourist shops also carry Icelandic wool sweaters now as well.
If you can prepare your own food where you're staying, or you just need some household item, the most prominent supermarkets to look out for are:
Hagkaup - greater variety and quality, and higher prices.
Bónus - low price supermarket.
10-11 - Has a similar concept to 7-11. And similar name. They are often open all night.
Krónan - another low-price supermarket.
Nóatún - high-end products and service.
Samkaup - a chain that is bigger in the countryside.
Shopping in Reykjavík
In Reykjavík, you will find small local shops in the neighbourhood in which you stay. The major shopping areas, however, are:
The downtown area centers around the main street Laugavegur and surrounding roads. This area is chock-full of shops, café's, restaurants and bars. You can literally just wander around and find anything you need.
Kringlan is the original shopping center in Reykjavík, there you will find anything you need, from the food court, sushibar, and movie theater to local and international fashion labels, banking and hardware stores - this place has it all.
Smáralind is the biggest shopping mall in Iceland, with a sophisticated luxury movie theater, restaurants and fashion boutiques, you can get anything you need here.
Find out how you can shop TAX FREE in Reykjavík!
Be sure to also check out out Reykjavík on a budget article!