Smack bang in the centre of downtown Reykjavik, Kvosin Hotel is charmingly historic on the outside, but inside you’ll find swish, Scandi-style interiors and a bar that'll please the pickiest connoisseur. Another winning feature of this former townhouse is the size of its rooms: all but the smallest have a lounge area and marble-topped kitchenette – worth its weight in gold if you’re looking to keep costs down. If you don’t mind splashing a little, brace yourself against the elements with an Icelandic G&T at Klaustur bar, then head out to take on the city’s burgeoning resturant scene. Thankfully, with a location as central as this, pretty much every place worth its salt is just a few minutes’ walk away.
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Chocolates from local chocolatiers Omnom; crowberry and rhubarb schnapps miniatures from Reykjavik Distillery; two Kvosin Hotel schnapps glasses
11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £123.30 (€136), including tax at 11 per cent.
Rates don’t usually include breakfast, a buffet spread full of Icelanders’ favourites. There are baked goods by famous Icelandic chef Joi Fel; Skyr yoghurts; meats and cheeses; hard boiled eggs; cereals; juices, tea and fresh coffee. If you skip breakfast
This hotel has a big heart. Each room has an individual and inspiring name (often invoking Norse gods), but none quite so much as Pippa’s Wish, the disabled access room. Former guest Pippa has Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, but she wouldn’t let it stop her from travelling to Iceland to see her favourite band, Sigur Rós. The hotel were so honoured to be able to put her up that they renamed the room after her.
At the hotel
Boutique, free WiFi throughout, laundry. In rooms: Samsung smart TV; minibar; Nespresso coffee machine; kitchenette with a hob and sink; tea-making kit; free reusable water bottles; organic Sóley bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Like Paris or New York, Reykjavik is known for having some rather pokey hotel rooms. Not so at Kvosin, where even the Junior Suites give you room to stretch out – but we do like the added lounge space in the aptly named Bigger Rooms. If you want a view of the cathedral, ask for an an east-facing room; if you’d prefer one over the parliament and gardens, then west is best.
Pack an eye mask in summer, as it hardly gets dark at night. In winter, layers, layers and more layers. Remember your swimming gear if you’re going to the Blue Lagoon.
The lobby and common areas are wheelchair accessible, and one of the Bigger Rooms is specially adapted.
Very welcome. Little Smiths will love the toys, books and board games that can be checked-out from reception. They even have snowman kits in winter (complete with a pint-sized pail and shovel, a box of reusable lava rocks, a carrot, a scarf and a hat).
All of the hotel’s electricity and heating is powered by geothermal energy, currently the cleanest in the world. They recycle wherever possible and use locally-produced organic bath products in large bottles to reduce plastic waste.
The hotel doesn’t have its own restaurant, encouraging guests to explore the city’s burgeoning restaurant scene. Bergsson Mathus is right downstairs, however, and Klaustur serves sandwiches and delectable Icelandic-style tapas.
They take the art of imbibing seriously at Klaustur, a laid-back space clad in wood and finished with copper-piping, dangling Edison bulbs and dark hexagonal tiles. They’ve amassed the largest (and most international) selection of wines and spirits anywhere in the city, with 50 whiskeys, 60 gins and 150 wines to choose from. The breadth of the collection is largely down to the knowledge and studious dedication of the staff – klaustur means cloister, after all. And it’s not just those behind the bar: Joe Compton, the CEO of the company that owns Klaustur, is a Certified Specialist of Spirits, a qualification that involves a rigorous and comprehensive test on all things swillable. If you’re stuck for choice on what to order, kick the evening off with one of their wildly popular Icelandic G&T’s, in which craft gins are muddled with traditional fruits and herbs.
Breakfast is served from 7am to 10am. The barmen in Klaustur shake, strain and stir from 2pm to 1am Monday to Thursday, 2pm to 3am Friday and Saturday, and 6pm to 11pm on Sundays.
None, but there's plenty to sustain you just over the threshold.
Kvosin Hotel is in the historic Kirkjuhvoll building in the heart of downtown Reykjavik.
Keflavik International Airport is the largest in Iceland – flights land there from all over Europe and larger US airports. It takes 45 minutes to drive from there to the hotel. The Smith24 team are on hand around the clock to book any flights and transfers.
If you’re in town for a whirlwind visit, you’re unlikely to need a car. If you’re going to venture further afield – to the Golden Circle, for instance – then a your own set of wheels will come in very handy. If you’re arriving in the depths of winter, bear in mind that the conditions can be very difficult for anyone who isn’t used to driving through snow, ice and white-out conditions. There’s street parking in front of the hotel, and public carparks nearby. If you do want to hire a car, the Smith24 team can do it for you.
Worth getting out of bed for
One of the best things about the hotel is that it really is smack bang in the centre of the city. The Althing, Iceland’s parliament, is right next door; the city’s cathedral is across the road. In fact, you’re no more than a 20-minute walk from almost all of the city’s best attractions – but many of its most in-demand restaurants, bars and boutiques can be reached in less than three. A five-minute stroll will take you to the port, where most of the whale-watching and puffin colony tours depart; in less than 10 minutes, you can be ascending to the viewing platform of the soaring Hallgrimskirkja (open every day except Sunday), or gazing at the crystalline Harpa Concert Hall, recipient of the coveted Mies van der Rohe Award. As if the city’s sights weren’t enough, several day trips to the Blue Lagoon and the Golden Circle collect from right outside the hotel. Guests are also sent the Mews Navigator App before they arrive, an in-the-know guide to the city.
Icelandic bistro Bergsson Mathus shares the same building as the hotel. A local favourite for lunch and brunch, it always has plenty of vegan and vegetarian options on the menu, and their homemade sourdough bread is about as good as you'll get anywhere. You’ll need to book ahead for Kol, another local star who describe their menu as ‘feel good comfort food with a twist’ – which seems a bit of an understatement once you’ve seen the quality of the ingredients and artistry lavished on many of the dishes. For something really special, try Dill, often said to be the best restaurant in the country. The seven-course set menu is a journey through New Nordic cuisine, so you can expect classic Icelandic ingredients that have been given a creative overhaul. It’s a tiny place, so booking ahead is essential. Meat-eater’s delight Grillmarkadurinn (grill market) has forged relationships with some of the Iceland’s best farmers and fishmongers, allowing them to get hold of some truly first-rate cuts and fillets. At Rokyou'll find a buzzy atmosphere and eclectic sharing dishes with an Icelandic accent – ask for a table downstairs, but away from the door as it can get chilly.Achingly hip and fun-loving Sushi Social fuses Japanese and South American influences (we know – sounds like it wouldn't work, but it really, really does).
The Laundromat Café is a quirky eatery bedecked with rainbow bookshelves and vintage washing machines. Stop here for a hearty brunch, burgers, sandwiches and pancake stacks.
‘Kvosin’ is the name given to downtown Reykjavik, so it’s no surprise that boutique hideaway Kvosin Hotel is smack bang in the middle of the city and close to many of the best bars, museums, restaurants, cafés and shops – a great location from which to kick off our trip.
The hotel itself is a piece of Reykjavik’s rich history, made up of two historic adjoining buildings, each with their own story to tell. Kvosin was previously a library, a fur shop and a soft-drinks factory. Its 24 individually-dressed boutique apartments (within which each room has a unique look) each have a name that pays tribute to Icelandic culture; be it nature, fairy tales or music, each room tells a story – a touch that enhances the feel of being at the epicentre of Reykjavik. Our apartment, for example, is called ‘Lòan’, after the Icelandic golden plover bird that heeds the coming of summer. Others include Pippa’s Wish and Sigur Rós.
Our apartment is spacious with a relaxed feel, and has a marble-topped kitchenette and parquet floors. Merging traditional Icelandic style with more modern Scandinavian design, it makes for a cosy, comfortable and inviting spot to weather out the oncoming blizzard. There are Icelandic Lín Design linens on the beds, photographs of life in the capital by Reykjavikian artist Gaui H, and locally made Sóley Organics toiletries (made using wild Arctic herbs, native birch and the like) in the bathroom. Basically, it’s bloody lovely. All the basics for cooking and preparing your own meals at the kitchenette are provided for, and a Nespresso coffee machine is right there for that much needed caffeine fix. We have a refrigerator but there’s no minibar or room service; however, you can get snacks and drinks at the front desk and you’re close to food shops for last-minute munchie dashes.
The unique design of the hotel gives us private nooks to get cosy in and a sociable space in the open-air deck, which would be the perfect place to sit outside in summer, to take in the Midnight Sun – maybe even a sneak peek at winter’s Northern Lights, too. Be warned though, those wooden floors and decking can resonate, so when the eager housekeeping starts or heavy-booted guests walk in or out of one of the rooms above it can be a little noisy. Thankfully, earplugs and slippers are provided, and the hotel requests keeping noise to a minimum after 10pm. It’s not a party hotel, but a pocket of rest.
Staff go above and beyond to make you feel at home. Even when we arrive on the day of a blizzard with 149mph winds, the staff ensure we are safe and comfortable throughout our stay and offer advice and suggestions for dinner, plus top tips for Golden Circle tours once the weather had calmed down; handily, the pick-up point is just a one-minute walk away by Iceland’s parliament headquarters (or Althing, as its known here).
One of the reasons the hotel also doesn’t have its own restaurant is to encourage guests to get out and explore everything Reykjavik has to offer. Just around the corner is Messinn, a delightful family-friendly seafood joint serving hearty dishes in a cosy setting. There’s also the fantastic brunching and lunching spot Bergsson Mathús, conveniently attached to the same building, it's popular for its healthy, Mediterranean-style dishes with specials each day and sourdough made in-house, and in the evening it becomes Tacos By Night, a lively taqueria. (Even our local friends rave about it when we mention the place.)
Then there’s the Klaustur Bar, inside the hotel right next to the lobby. It’s beautifully designed with wood and copper finishes and dangling Edison bulbs: an elegant retreat from the elements. It‘s also a well-known hangout for locals, so you’ll have the chance to rub shoulders with Icelanders. We opt for an Icelandic gin and tonic, but there’s a vast selection of international wines, whiskeys (more than 50) and gins (more than 60) to tap into, including Taiwanese and Belgian gins that can only be found in this bar outside of Taiwan and Belgium. It’s open every evening – until 3am on a Friday and Saturday for night-owls. Luckily, the generous breakfast spread has a good array of fruit, cereal, Icelandic Skyr yoghurt, eggs, cold cuts, freshly baked oatmeal cookies and sourdough bread. There’s also a stand with coffee, tea and cookies, all day, every day, just next to the lobby.
Kvosin falls comfortably into the category of hotels that allow you to pretend you live in another city for a few days. It reminds you of your own home, rather than trying too hard to be better than it. This kind of accommodation inspires the traveller: it’s comfortable yet not so indulgent that we never leave – so, a base for the countless activities and sights Iceland has to offer, it’s perfect.