Don’t let Sandhotel’s gritty name fool you: this boutique hotel in central Reykjavik is a sweet confection whipped up by the pâtissiers behind beloved Icelandic bakery Sandholt. The eatery is just next door, but Sandhotel’s friendly team can often deliver a basket of warm cinnamon-spiced buns to your super-soft bed on-demand, and wares from their neighbour, Iceland’s oldest tailor, if you’d like a polo-neck with your pastry. Don’t spend all day preening and pigging-out: there’s a list of day-trips longer than an Icelandic summer to try and Reykjavik’s main street to ramble down.
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A selection of handmade chocolates from the in-house chocolatier
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £156.50 (€174), including tax at 11 per cent.
Rates include a Continental breakfast, which includes a selection of fresh-from-the-oven breads and sticky-sweet pastries from Sandholt Bakery.
Brush up on your Icelandic history here: flick through a novel by Icelandic writer and Nobel laureate Halldór Laxness who lived in one of the houses that now make up the hotel.
At the hotel
Lounging area with a selection of coffee-table books; free WiFi throughout; laundry service. In rooms: flatscreen TV, Marshall Bluetooth speaker, Nespresso machine, minibar, Soley Organics bath products. A kettle can be added to rooms on request.
Our favourite rooms
Reykjavik’s hotel rooms often favour a monochrome, concrete-lined, volcanic-stone-accented look to reflect the country’s more lunar-looking wilds. Not so at Sandhotel, whose rooms use art deco elegance and a touch of masculine tailoring to create the cosiest of city spaces. The Junior Suites with their huge button-back headboards in minke-whale grey, cushions made of offcuts from Iceland’s oldest tailor; and local artwork, such as Birgir Andrésson’s textual canvasses and Sigurdur Gudmundsson’s playful photographs feel snug and stylish. Street-facing windows let you spy on hip Reykjavikers, too.
Bring some footwear suitable for exploring; for winter stays, a North Face parka and fleecy jim-jams are de rigeur.
The hotel is wheelchair-accessible with four specially-adapted rooms and a lift to all floors. Single occupancy room are available on request – just call our Smith24 team and they'll sort out everything you need.
Children are welcome. The hotel has a limited supply of baby kit (a couple of buggies, highchairs, beakers, children’s cutlery, child-friendly books and art supplies). Baby cots (free) or an extra bed (ISK6,000 a night) can be added to certain rooms.
Sneak down to the bakery and return with goodies to eat propped up against your cushioned headboard – just don’t get cinnamon-y crumbs on the luxurious bedlinen.
Sleek knits and classic Lopapeysa jumpers.
Tuck into a Continental breakfast buffet each morning at Sandbar & Bistro on the ground floor. The morning feast includes house-made granola, rich coffees and freshly baked breads and pastries from nextdoor neighbour Sandholt Bakery.
A lounge bar is attached to Sandbar & Bistro, for glasses of imported wine with cheese platters and a range of local and international beers.
The hotel sits on Reykjavik’s main strip, Laugavegur; its neighbours are edgy clothing shops for wannabe Björks, an assortment of global restaurants and cute cafés. All of the city’s main sights are within easy walking distance.
KeflavÍk Airport is Iceland’s main hub; from here, the hotel is an hour’s drive. There are direct flights to here from most major cities in Europe and services from New York arrive direct in around six hours. For hassle-free trip planning, get our Smith24 Team to book flights and hotel transfers for you; prices for the latter vary depending on what time you arrive.
Reykjavik is the jumping-off point for adventures in Iceland’s wondrous wilds; if you’re not a fan of coach tours, a car will come in handy. Smith24 can arrange car hire on request, and there’s a multi-storey car park a six-minute walk from Sandhotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
The list of trips the hotel’s friendly staff can arrange for you is as long as the number of vowels in an Icelandic volcano’s name. Ride horses through lupin fields and volcanic landscapes; trek through ice tunnels to the heart of a glacier; go caving, snorkelling and surfing; uncover Viking settlements; or hop in a helicopter for a private tour around the tip of a volcano. First-timers should hit the Golden Circle'sunpronounceable beauty spots (Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall and Geysir), or book a soak in the Blue Lagoon’s geothermal springs. Reykjavik itself is quirky and cosmopolitan, with sights as diverse as the Hallgrímskirkja church and Olafur Eliasson-designed Harpa opera house, and the blush-inducing Phallological Museum. Shop for lopapeysur (Iceland’s signature yoke sweaters) from the Handknitting Association of Iceland; niche vinyl from the Bónus Plötur label at vegan eatery Kaffi Vínyl(only 30 pressings are made of each release); and on the weekend hit downtown thrift market Kolaportið where you can buy a vintage sweater, handcrafted dreamcatcher, retro dinnerware and fermented shark meat in one fell swoop. Along Laugavegur, take pit stops at clothing store Kiosk (for troll-claw earrings, caped swimsuits and one-off wares by indie designers), Spúútnik (for Seventies leisurewear and sequinned things), and Myconceptstore (for tin toy robots, scented candles and turntables). Fatigued but in need of formal wear? Gentleman’s gear from Guðsteinn Eyjólfsson can be delivered to your room.
Lined in colour-coded books and working its kitsch-Americana interiors with style, the Laundromat Café is a hip hangout that also happens to be one of Reykjavik’s more reasonable dining spots; the duck-confit burger and blueberry pancakes are stand-out menu items. Book in advance for fine pescetarian fare at Fiskfélagið whose two tasting-menu choices include a seasonal culinary tour of Iceland (caraway-cured salmon and tender local lamb) or ‘a’ trip round the world’: a pan-global feast for the whole table. 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).
Sandholt, Iceland’s most beloved bakery, is part of the hotel’s community; and it’s just next door, so you needn’t wander far for lunch. Order sandwiches of paprika-flecked chicken salad and brie with serrano ham encased in warm, freshly baked sourdough, followed by stylish sweet treats. Alternatively, the spiced rolls at Brauð & Co elicit more gasps of delight than the friskiest of auroras do – seek out the bakery’s graffitied façade on Frakkastígur.
Along Laugavegur, Dillon is a lively rock bar with an international whisky menu – including one distilled in Iceland. Live music is often hosted in the gastropub within super-cool hostel – and former biscuit factory – Kex, and Kaffibarinn (look for its idiosyncratic London Underground-roundel-style sign) is one of Iceland’s cosiest gathering spots.
If you’ve just arrived in Iceland, then Sandhotel is, for me, the place to stay. This fine hideaway stands at the heart of Reykjavik's main shopping street, Laugavegur, bordering Iceland's oldest gentleman's tailor, Verslun Guðsteins Eyjólfssonar, and best all-day bakery, Sandholt.
It’s welcoming to a tee and staff are a shining example of the hotel’s inner warmth compared to other more stark, corporate hotels looming close by. We’re offered gingerbread cookies on arrival and the Christmas tree in the lobby is aglow as we check in on a mid-week in December. And the owners have peppered the property with thoughtful touches throughout: a mobile phone for your room, USB sockets, locally sourced organic toiletries, and a chic, warmly lit and stylish room are all approvingly in place here. Not bad for a converted stable.
Housed within some of Reykjavik’s most historic buildings, and right by the birthplace of Iceland’s most famous author Halldór Laxness, the hotel makes for a relaxing spot, a punt or two from the best Reykjavik has to offer. There are vibrant restaurants, cafés and bars, shops, boutiques, and attractions such as the Art Museum, Photography Museum, Hallgrimskirkja Church, the Saga Museum, the Phallological Museum (for the more adventurous), and many many more within walking distance.
Still, there’s plenty to keep your attention at the hotel. A relaxed lounge has a block of Icelandic art books (think Sigurður Guðmundsson and Olafur Eliasson) on the coffee table, and the art on the walls – commissioned by the hotel from a local artist – depicts sweeping constellation-strewn night skies. Dinner and room service aren’t available at Sandhotel, but with Sandholt bakery next door, we were never far from treats. Be sure to try the croque madame for brunch, which is big enough to share between two. We snaffled away a box of delectable truffles for later, too. Yum.
Our room was a wonderful sanctuary, decked out in contemporary Swedish and Art Deco furnishings. We revelled in the views, below to the street and above to a sky that held the promise of a glimpse of the Northern Lights – all watched in comfort as we got cosy in our bathrobes. Our king-size bed knocked us out for a full nine hours of sleep. It made getting up for breakfast nigh-on impossible, the thought of leaving that pillowy embrace in the morning bordered on heartbreaking. Once we were out of the bed, we discovered that the bathroom’s stone heated floors paved the way to a rainforest shower with such bracing pressure that it made waking up a more invigorating process.
Sandhotel has clearly learned a thing or two from its neighbours – the venerable tailor and cinnamon-bun-proffering bakery – because, what we liked most about it is its style and dedication to comfort.