Tourism in Iceland has really taken off in the last few years and that shows in downtown Reykjavík. The majority of shops in the area mostly seem to offer two things. Souvenirs and technical outerwear. What is on offer in the souvenir shops (called “lundabúðir” by the locals, or “puffin stores”) is the same as in all other countries really, some of it is good and original and unique. And some of it is just a cigarette lighter made in China with a picture of a Puffin on it. Avoid those, but do peruse the souvenir stores, because some of the stuff on offer is quite interesting and often handmade in Iceland.
The outerwear stores in Iceland mostly represent two Icelandic brands which have both garnered international recognition for quality clothing. The larger, and older brand, is 66North. The other is Cintamani. Both offer a broad range of technical outerwear catering to everybody, from the professional mountain man to the average tourist, and to the kids as well.
If one were to name the one thing that everybody should get in wwIceland, something really unique to the country, and something that is useful as well, the answer is the Lopapeysa. A woolly hand knitted sweater made from Icelandic sheep wool. Almost every man, woman and child in Iceland has one. Its qualities are renowned, and it is a lightweight garment that is also really warm. And you can buy it almost everywhere. Just make sure that what you buy is the genuine article. Some tourist shops sell sweaters that are machine knitted and some are even manufactured abroad. Stay away from those if you want the real thing that will last you for years to come and keep you warm on cold winter nights.
The prices are a bit high though, so do remember to ask for TAX Refund. In fact, do that as often as possible when shopping in Iceland because it really does add up. And then, on departure at the Keflavík Airport, you just go to the Arion banki in the Arrivals Hall and produce the necessary papers and get your VAT refunded before you head home. The purchase price for the item must be at least 6000 ISK, including VAT.
Shopping for groceries and other necessities
Before you embark on your camping trip around the island, you will have to stock up on food and other items necessary for your trip. Prices in grocery stores vary quite a lot in Iceland. The cheapest are called Bónus and Krónan. There you will find a good selection of foodstuffs and the prices are quite low, at least compared to other stores in the country. And in the larger towns around the Island, there is usually a Bónus og Krónan store to be found there as well.
Two things to keep in mind though; as the tourist industry has grown in Iceland and the number of visitors started swelling, some store owners have been tempted to sell foreigners things that is really not necessary or smart to buy. One is water. The water in Iceland is really clean. So clean in fact, that the bottled water that you can buy in stores is essentially just tap water in a bottle. Better just to get a bottle, and fill it up at the nearest tap when it runs empty. There is no need to buy bottled water in Iceland.
Another thing is the beer in grocery stores. You can’t buy it there. In some stores you see cans of something that resembles beer. It’s not really. It’s low alcohol beer, 2.25 percent and it will not make you drunk. It’s decent tasting though, so if you fancy something that resembles beer without actually being real beer, go ahead and try it.