Thanks to some cunning publicity from the Icelandic Tourist Board, Reykjavík is now deservedly known across Europe and the US for its nightlife. Although the scene is actually no bigger than that of any small-sized town in most other countries, what sets it apart is the northerly setting and location for all this revelry – during the light nights of summer, it’s very disorientating to have entered a nightclub in the wee small hours with the sun just about to set, only to emerge a couple of hours later into the blinding and unflattering daylight of the Icelandic morning.
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There’s been a strong rock music network in Reykjavík for over two decades, represented originally by Björk and the Sugarcubes and more recently by groups such as Sigur Rós, though decent venues have always been thin on the ground, with most gigs taking place in the city’s bars. Besides the local talent, some British and American acts use Icelandair as a cheap way to cross the Atlantic and they sometimes do a show here on the way.
Wrecked in Reykjavík
A rite of passage for all young Icelanders, the rúntur (literally “round tour”) is a drunken pub crawl that generally takes place between at least half a dozen bars and pubs, whatever the weather. Intent on searching out the place with the hottest action, groups of revellers (already well oiled after downing several generous vodkas before setting out) maraud the city centre, particularly on Friday nights. If you come across them, expect to be engaged in conversation or to see some rather unrestrained behaviour – but then nightlife in Iceland isn’t known for its subtleties.