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Ice cream

The Very Icelandic Art of Eating Ice Cream in Winter

“Should we go for ice cream?” is a question that wouldn’t raise an eyebrow if posed on a hot summer day in southern Europe or somewhere else the mercury habitually rises above 15 C. But when asked by an Icelander as they scurry through gusts of frigid wind in the deepest winter, they may come across as slightly less lucid.

How did a delicacy conceived of by the Persians in the 5th century BCE for the purposes of providing a nice “summertime treat” for royalty come to be consumed in such large quantities in the Icelandic wintertime?

Whatever the reason, a cold-weather ice cream run is something you should definitely try for yourself. You might just come to realise there’s never a bad time for ice cream.

A Step-By-Step Guide to Buying Ice-Cream in Iceland

  1. Dress warmly. Presumably, you’re already bundled up if you’re outdoors when the hankering for ice cream strikes.
  2. Pick a parlour. If you’re smack-dab in the middle of Reykjavík, you have your pick of no less than nine ice cream parlours within a 2 km radius. Do you want a classic soft serve? Authentic Italian gelato? Rolled Thai ice cream? The world is your sundae!
  3. Upon arriving, take a number and mull your options. There’s a lot to consider here. You’re either going to be selecting from a wide range of flavours or having to make split-second decisions about ‘old’ or ‘new’ soft-serve (‘old’ is creamier), plus mix-ins, dips and toppings. Choose wisely; it may be an entire day before your next cone.
  4. Receive your ice cream and marvel at its beauty – remember, you eat first with your eyes.
  5. Enjoy! Either find a spot inside the parlour to enjoy your frosty treat while watching the snow fall out the window, lick your ice cream out in the cold – hey, no drips! – or climb into your car, buckle up and get your ísrúntur on.

What is an “Ísrúntur”, you ask? Why, that’s the truly Icelandic art of driving around while eating ice cream. Yes, there’s a specific word for that. It is that common of an activity on this island just south of the Arctic Circle that it requires its own entry in the dictionary. Who’d have thought!?

Now go get a couple of scoops for yourself.

As usual, there is also a budget version of getting ice cream in Iceland. In the supermarkets in Reykjavík, you can find a variety of good ice cream, these are among the best options:

  • Lúxus karamellu is milk chocolate covered vanilla ice cream bar with a soft but not liquid caramel filling. This caramel is something special that you will not find elsewhere, their secret ingredient and the best thing about this ice cream.
  • Hnetutoppur is an Icelandic classic, a vanilla ice cream cone, topped with grated peanuts and chocolate
  • Bragðarefur is filled with candy and tends to be a favourite of Icelandic kids, sold in 1 L boxes in Bónus grocery stores, you can also get bragðarefur in most ice cream parlours

There are a few more things you can do in winter in Iceland than eating ice cream. After thinking about it really hard, we managed to come up with this list of 10 things to do in Reykjavík in the winter.

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