“It’s clean and comfortable, and that’s all you really need in Reykjavik.” That’s what my friend said to me when I told her where I was staying during my trip to Iceland’s capital. She happened to have stayed at the CenterHotel Plaza the year before, so when we realized the coincidence, the first question this hotel junkie asked was, “what’s the hotel like?!”
Sometimes, all you need is a room in a central location—even when you’re as obsessed with hotels as me. When there’s enough to do outside the room, and those activities will be so exhausting that you won’t even notice what the hotel looks like—just what the pillow feels like under your head, a clean and comfortable lodging within walking distance of everything you could possibly want or need is all that matters.
And if that hotel happens to have a little something extra, like this one does, well, splendid.
CenterHotel Plaza has personality, style and spunk without sacrificing comfort and convenience.
The hotel comprises multiple buildings on the main square of the city center. One looks like a tall boxy mall, with CenterHotels written on top. When you see the sign on this building, you might wish the building next store was your hotel instead. Well, you’re in luck, because it is. It is the shorter and cuter structure, with Plaza written down the middle and CenterHotels a little smaller underneath.
The façade is simple other than two sets of pitched windows jutting out from the surface spanning about four of the six floors this building has. The peaks at the top of the windows and dark mullions against the cream façade give it a chalet look. While there’s plenty of this Swiss-chalet-inspired architecture around the city—in the 20th century, Iceland adopted the Swiss chalet architectural style—many of those houses have been replaced by more modern (read: boring) three of four story buildings. The CenterHotel Plaza’s contemporary take on Iceland’s older buildings pays homage to more traditional styles that you will find to the right of the hotel (if you’re facing it) while ensuring they are not old-fashioned.
Step inside the lobby and it becomes crystal clear this is not a Swiss chalet. Clean lines, fresh wood and light colors fill the lobby that feels much more like an Ikea store than a ski lodge. A curved light wooden reception desk sits a few steps in front of you and sleek gray couches perfectly aligned fill the rest of the space to the right. Hardwood floors and a few tall plants give it a hint of coziness, but the design is otherwise uncluttered.
The simplicity would normally make a hotel lobby seem a little uncomfortable, but there isn’t a lot of empty space so it’s actually quite warm. And the couches, while not exactly plush looking, are in fact a welcome respite from a day on your feet exploring the glaciers.
On the other side of reception, the floor continues and you are in the other building, where the Plaza Bar awaits. If you’ve been out in the cold all day, the long modern fireplace will call you name. The sprawling lounge is crowded on the weekends and offers a contemporary outing with a clean mix of seating from swivel chairs to sofas, floor-to-ceiling windows and dim lighting come night. The floor is mostly covered with a psychedelic yellow carpet.
Follow the carpet back beyond the lobby past the meeting rooms—one of which has an outdoor patio that is said to be open to guests during warmer weather, but I was there in winter so I didn’t get to experience it—to see more of the hotel’s quirks, like a thin long window along the wall. The window is lined with a simple display of plants, a totally unnecessary but thoughtful detail.
Go downstairs to see the breakfast room, but all you really need to know about it is that it’s where your very expansive complimentary breakfast is served.
The hallways give the impression that the hotel is under construction, because depending on which building you are in, they differ. Some hallways are stark with gray carpets and white walls, others have exposed wooden beaming and that crazy yellow carpet from downstairs. But they’re all very bright and airy with lots of big windows. There’s even a completely clear enclosed walkway bridging two of the hotel’s buildings that you can walk across.
The 180 hotel rooms are a bit more consistent. You’re guaranteed to have big windows—some floor to ceiling—and an expansive view of the city center. Most have hardwood floors and polished wood furnishings, contributing to that chalet feel. The upholstery of the beds and some of the chairs is kind of old lady, which may be on purpose (I don’t go to chalets that often so I don’t know how they are decorated), for example, my bed was covered in pale blue with a worn out looking pattern. But the seating itself is sleek and Ikea-like, giving it the modern twist. Some of the newer rooms have a darker color scheme, but most likely you’ll find pastel or white bare walls.
All you really need to know is that the beds are comfortable enough, there is enough space to make a mess that housekeeping won’t be able to make their way through and the bathrooms are clean and functioning.
What the CenterHotel Plaza really has going for it is the location. I cannot tell you how many times I got to my destination and realized I forgot my camera—luckily I only had to walk a few blocks back to get it. Other times, it started raining in the middle of the day and I simply ran back to the hotel to wait it out, grab an umbrella or change out of my drenched clothes. In a city as eclectic and unpredictable (in so many ways) as Reykjavik—even though the center is small—it’s great to have a central home base, which this hotel has in spades.
Want me to harp on the location more? OK. The hotel is on half old school, half modern Ingólfstorg Square—the main square in Reykjavik’s Old Town. The hotel sits on one end of the city center, and with plenty to do on Laugavegur street (which starts at the hotel), sometimes this square is rowdy, and sometimes the crowd is farther up the block. Aside from the diverse restaurants and bars that are on your doorstep, sights like the National Museum of Iceland, Harpa Concert Hall and Hallgrímskirkja Church are a short walk away.
Address: Adalstraeti 4, Reykjavik 101
Website: CenterHotel Reykjavik
Room Rates: $125-$425
Images: Courtesy of CenterHotels Facebook
Maggie Parker is Paste’s assistant travel editor.