Iceland Airwaves Festival: Where to Eat, Stay and Visit

Alexander Matukhno
The Flaming Lips performing at last year's festival.

Icelandic artists dish on the best of Reykjavik, a city by the sea and home to the music fest, taking place Nov. 4-8.

Founded by the national airline, Icelandair, and first held in an airplane hanger in 1999, the Iceland Airwaves Music Festival now boasts more than 300 acts across nearly a dozen venues in the country’s capital city, Reykjavik. Iceland-native Bjork has been known to hit the dance floors, and even though this year will see U.S. acts like Father John Misty, Ariel Pink and Beach House hit the stage, the festival has remained true to its mission of showcasing the local talent.


Sin Fang: The indie-folk solo work of Seabear’s Sindri Már Sigfússon. (Nov. 6 at 12:50 a.m. @ Harpa Nordurljos)

Kiasmos: BAFTA-winning composer Ólafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen’s electronic project. (Nov. 7 at 9 p.m. @ Harpa Silfurberg)

Hide Your Kids: The groups 80’s synth-infused tunes have made them a national favorite. (Nov. 7 at 9 p.m. @ Harpa)

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Hotel Reykjavik Marina 

Musicians Asgeir and Hide Your Kids agree: Hotel Reykjavik Marina is one of the best options for lodging near the water. “It’s close to Grandi [harbour area] where great restaurants are popping up,” Asgeir says of the nautical-chic hotel which sports alive satellite feed of Icelandic sights in the lobby. Rooms start at $169. (

Hotel Borg

A favorite of Sigur Ros group members and FM Belfast's Loa Hjalmtysdottir, this art deco-accented retreat is “one of the oldest and most beautiful hotel buildings,” says Hjalmtysdottir. With a long history of celebrity guests including Marlene Dietrich, Ella Fitzgerald and Anthony Hopkins, it’s also a pricier option; rooms start at $310. (



Smack dab in the middle of the city, Grillmarkaourinn (or The Grill Market) gives diners an upscale opportunity to taste a bit of what Iceland has to offer. Says Asgeir: “They work closely with local farmers and their menu is a great fusion of traditional and modern cuisine.” Bjork is among the clientele to have dined here. (

The Coocoo’s Nest

If you can locate this tiny reataurant, which is tucked into the Harbor area, the green eggs and ham are worth the effort. “It’s the best brunch in town,” says Asgeir. (


This buzzy bar-restaurant is bedecked with vintage record players and draws the country’s top musicians. “They have the best cocktails in Iceland,” says Daniel Jonof of Hide Your Kids. (


The Blue Lagoon

Jay-Z and Beyonce visited this geothermal spa, which is surrounded by a lava field in Grindavík, in 2014 to celebrate the mogul’s 45th birthday. (

Gulfoss Waterfall

The breathtaking waterfall is one of the natural wonders visited during The Golden Circle tour, which leaves daily from Reykjavik. (

Northern Lights 

One of the country’s biggest draws, the bright display of charged particles (a.k.a the Aurora Borealis) is best visible from September to April. (

This story first appeared in the Nov. 7 issue of Billboard magazine.