I can’t really begin to explain how cool Reykjavik is. The northernmost capital of the world feels more like a small colourful village plopped against the stunning backdrop of Faxa Bay and the snow-capped mountains, where hip people strut and stop at even hipper cafes. Naturally, hip hotels and hostels abound in this design-forward city, and I found myself staying at the Scandi-Chic hostel-cum-hotel Hlemmur Square for a few days last month.
Hlemme give you the grand tour (get it?!)
Hlemmur Square is centrally located in what used to be the Natural History Museum, on Reykjavik’s downtown Langavegur street, right by the Hlemmur Square bus terminal (no-faff, logical name!) The beautiful Art Deco building is in a perfect location for exploring most of the city by foot, just a few blocks from the waterfront, yet far enough from the noisy nearby night-life area that goes on until the wee hours of the night at the weekend, if you so happen to want be away from it (which I did, as I was traveling with my mom – it’ll be for another visit!)
Hlemmur Square is both a fancy hotel and an upscale hostel under one roof. The 18 spacious and elegant hotel rooms are located on the fifth floor, whilst the dorms are on the third and fourth floor with shared bathrooms and kitchens. The ground floor features a vast lobby with several common relaxing areas and lounges, a cocktail bar and a cute restaurant. As a thirty-something, rather quiet flashpacker who enjoys in equal parts hostel life and its sense of community as well as the comfortable elegance of hotels, and being unable to ever decide between the two, Hlemmur Square represents the best of both worlds – a place to meet people from all walks of life and enjoy all of the perks both hostel and hotel living have to offer.
Being a budget traveler who enjoys a little luxury, I went for the female spiffed-up dorm. Hear me out: the stylish shared accommodation has nothing to do with your average hostel dig. The 26 dorms are spacious, clean, comfy and designed with care and minimalism: stark white linens, plush pillows and colourful Danish-modern furniture all contribute to a stylish and comfy vibe. My room also had a sink, which was super convenient, and the shared bathrooms were clean and plentiful. The Wi-Fi reaches all rooms and is really fast. As an added bonus, the view from the dorm was perfect, looking over the snowy mountains.
THE RESTAURANT & BAR
The bar at Hlemmur Square quickly became my favourite place in the hotel to hang out and sit on one of the comfy sofas to sip on a cocktail and watch life – and hot Icelandic people – go by. There is a great selection of wine and craft beer and a resident mixologist who will prepare all the libations your heart desires. There are also happy hour specials and live music on many nights from 4pm to 8pm. The bistro bar is also where the morning breakfast is served: a self service assortment of all your usual suspects, plus a DIY waffle station with a good enough selection of vegan and gluten-free items. The bar offers soy milk for the coffee and the dinner menu at Pylsa/Pulsa restaurant features a few vegan selections, notably the delicious vegan Bulsur barley sausage with all the trimmings.
Helpful, friendly and – why not drop in there gorgeous as any single inhabitant of the city, the staff at Hlemmur Square was always there to assist. The hotel is also a pick-up/drop-off point for the airport shuttle as well as for many tours, and the staff is super knowledgeable about anything up and coming around town.
In a town where everything is rather pricey, cheap-and-stylish accommodation options such as Hlemmur Square are a sigh of relief for many budget-conscious mature backpackers such as myself. It seems designer hybrid hotels/hostels are an emerging trend in this increasingly popular destination, but Hlemmur Square is definitely at the forefront of the game. A clear winner.
Laugavegur 105, 105 Reykjavík, Iceland (Directions)
Many thanks to Hlemmur Square for their hospitality.
As always, you receive my honest opinion regardless of who is footing the bill.