Reykjavik is not the type of capital city that’s filled with skyscrapers (at least, not in the city center). Instead, you’ll find rows of townhomes, short buildings and a few simple houses that have been standing since the 1700s. As you make your way up main shopping street Laugavegur toward the business district, the buildings begin to grow taller. And then you reach the largest building in the city, Fosshotel Reykjavik, which opened in 2015.
It’s hard to miss the Fosshotel Reykjavik; it rises up from the landscape like one of the only other tall structures in the city, Hallgrímskirkja Church. The towering building has a metal façade made up of small rectangles, making it look like a completed Tetris puzzle, with the windows representing the holes the player was unable to fill. The first eight or so floors create a wide rectangle base, and then a slimmer tower juts out from the top, extending another eight-ish stories.
The silvery-gray exterior screams business district, but the interior has a bit of personality—though tame. The massive revolving doors are tucked into the main floor, allowing the next level of the building to create a steel awning, setting an industrial tone. The main floor is surrounded by large windows, many of which feature cute white decals. Some are animals, others are fun facts about Iceland (like the one about how beer was illegal in Iceland from 1915-1989) and one is a map of the country.
When you walk into the lobby, you’re greeted by a large open loft-like space that houses reception, a shop/tourist desk and two restaurants. That may sound cramped, but it’s quite the opposite. To your right is a metal wall with wood details that leads to one of the hotel’s restaurants, Haust. The wood seems to say, “don’t worry, there are some homey aspects to come.” Columns and unique seating (think handheld massagers) barely fill the tiled floor.
If you need a snack or to plan some excursions, turn to your left where a shop/tourism desk awaits. Otherwise, walk toward the elevators, which are directly in front of you on the opposite side of the lobby, and stop at reception on your left. Behind the dark desk, four clocks hang on another metal wall with wood accents. There’s that industrial-yet-rustic touch again; this time it extends up into the ceiling above the reception desk, and also into the shop. A lone plant sits next to you as you wait in line, reminding you that Iceland isn’t always as cold as this metal and porcelain filled hotel lobby (and the glaciers throughout the country) make it seem. Turn around for a warm meal at Haust, where colorful yet modern seating matches the tone of the hotel. Keep walking back and you’ll realize the lobby extends … a lot (more on that later). For now, ride the elevator up the tallest building in the city.
Oh—if you’re wondering why they have waterfalls framed everywhere: Foss means waterfall in Icelandic. Fosshotels are filled with waterfall themed décor, from the placemats in the dining room to the art in the guest rooms.
The property has 320 rooms ranging from standard to deluxe to suite. While a lot of the design elements of the lobby extend into the rooms, there’s also a touch of coziness that the lobby lacks.
Beige wallpaper lines the hallway and a darker beige carpet fills the floor. The hallways lead to windows that will probably distract you from finding your room with their views of the mountains surrounding Reykjavik.
If you like the brightness and airiness that you’ve experienced so far, you’ll be pleased with the rooms. Light gray floor-to-ceiling curtains and bare (save for one or two photos of waterfalls) white walls keep the rooms bright no matter how deep into winter you are (when there are only about five hours of daylight per day). The room design is clearly minimalist, with limited bulk aside from sleek brown wooden desks, armoires and headboards, and light modern chairs and lamps. The color scheme is mostly light blue, light gray and brown, and when you look at the beds, which feature all those colors (save for white sheets) under a wide-angle photo of a waterfall, you realize why (however, some rooms have purple, so maybe the color scheme isn’t that intentional, either way, it works).
But here’s where the coziness comes in (aside from the very welcoming bed): the rooms feature hardwood floors, creating an at-home atmosphere.
The larger your room is, the more sleek seating and empty space you get. Seriously, there is a bare void in the suite that is kind of weird, but also awesome, and super Scandinavian (although you’re not technically in Scandinavia, but close enough).
And if you can’t imagine parting from your travel partner, you’ll appreciate that the bath and shower are separate, so you can both bathe at the same time!
Well, the building juts out of the city like a pop-up book, literally. So … there’s that. But besides that, the space of the main floor will amaze you. As I mentioned, on the Haust side of the lobby, the restaurant extends and weaves its way farther back than it appears. But on the reception side, a narrow hallway hides next to the elevator and leads to the hotel’s Beer Garden, which has the largest beer tap in Iceland with 22 different draught beers. But not only is the extensive beer list impressive (they also have a booklike menu with beers from all over the world, but don’t get too excited, many were not available when we were there), the décor is overachieving.
When you walk into the expansive bar with high ceilings, you’re transported to a totally different part of this hotel—and Iceland, for that matter. This is what those wooden details were hinting at; this is where Fosshotel’s rustic and warm side was hiding. Huge copper tanks frame the wooden bar with a stone base. A stone wall behind the spirits matches the bar. Geometric wooden light fixtures hang from the ceiling and barrels fill the wall separating the main bar from a seating area. Leather armchairs in varying shades of brown sit next to floor-to-ceiling windows, and all different kinds of sausages are being served. Other than the charmingly cranky bartender, it’s a world of warmth. With its dedicated décor and wild menus, the Beer Garden is a lot to take in, but once you swallow it all, you won’t forget it.
The hotel is a 10-minute walk from the heart of Reykjavik. Walk along the water for better views. While the area directly adjacent to the hotel is pretty barren, it seems like the kind of neighborhood that will be bustling in a few years. But for now, try the high-end Johansen’s Deli, down the block from the hotel; their sandwich concoctions and gourmet chocolates are phenomenal.
Address: Þórunnartún 1
Website: Fosshotel Reykjavik
Room Rates: $149 – $583
Maggie Parker is Paste Magazine’s assistant travel editor.