If you haven’t experienced a night out in Reykjavik, then you haven’t lived. This is the tale of my introduction to The Runtur. A famous night out where the locals let loose!
An Introduction to Nightlife in Reykjavik
We had almost thawed out from the blistering wind that beat our faces like an unrepentant thug. We were tired from being up early and achy from exploring the streets and hills. The last thing we wanted to do was party.
Little did we know that Reykjavik would not take no for an answer. And so, party we did. We partied like we were hardcore, not noticing the hours flying by.
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Friday Nights in Reykjavik
We had arrived in Iceland’s capital early one Friday morning. We had read that Icelanders didn’t really drink during the week (especially true in the countryside) and that it was almost frowned upon. Shockingly, we were told that beer was illegal in Iceland until just over twenty years ago. No wonder then that Friday night is the night, with most of the city making a dedicated attempt to get trashed, having an almighty blow out.
Alcohol in Iceland
You have to be at least twenty years old to buy alcohol in Iceland, which was fine for us girlies, so we couldn’t use that as an excuse to stay in our warm apartment. We debated what to wear; should we take a coat, what kind of shoes would be suitable…blah, blah, blah. Eventually thoughts of the earlier wind encouraged us to wear boots with our dressy outfits and to take a coat. We had heard of the Runtur and discovered it was the term for the renowned pub crawl. We’d done a pub crawl or two back home, so we thought it would be similar. Wrong.
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Firstly, nobody goes out until at least midnight. This can be tough if you’re feeling super sleepy like we were. We managed to hold out until 11.15pm and decided if we didn’t go then, we’d be fast asleep. So off we went to Laugavegur (the main street in Reykjavik) and found a dimly lit, bohemian spot that had been transformed from its daylight former café self to a little drinking corner. Worried about the rumoured ridiculously expensive drinks we decided to go for a large glass of wine each. The logic being that wine is usually most lethal. We were on a mission to embrace the Runtur.
Well, after that one glass and as the lively crowds started to descend on the streets, we had long forgotten about our aching limbs and heavy eyelids. We were swept up in all the fun and headed to Vegamot, a daytime restaurant that had now become a bar. The place was heaving. Energetic groups filled the dance floor, giggling and jumping their way through the songs. Friends crowded the tiny and too few tables. The rest had elbows out, money waving in the air, trying to negotiate the jam-packed bar and vying for the bartender’s attention. It seems we weren’t the only ones on a mission.
It wasn’t long before we got chatting to some of the locals and headed to some of the other bars. They were really friendly and keen on showing us what the Runtur was all about. We rose to the challenge; downing Jägerbombs, cheering and whooping as our favourite songs blasted out.
The small space and bustling crowds meant that you had no choice but to party with your neighbours. It was amazing. The majority of Icelanders spoke great English and were really, really happy (the drink might have helped a little). One of the security guys from Vegamot even walked us down to the next pub so we wouldn’t get lost (we must have really looked bad!).
The elbow barging took a little getting used to. At first we thought people were being really rude, pushing and shoving on the dance floor and at the bar. I don’t mean mosh pit style, but there were definitely quite a few noticeable jabs. We asked one of our newly befriended Icelanders, who explained it was just the norm. Straight forward and no particular offence intended. So, as you should when you’re in another country, we embodied the Icelandic spirit and took it on the chin.
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We recongised some of the songs and others not so much. It seems Macklemore was way more popular in Iceland than it was in the UK. It was only months later when it was released here that we realised it was our Runtur song.
Time flew by and the first time we actually bothered to look at our watches it was 5am! The night started to wrap up, and so buzzing, off we headed to our apartment for a well deserved rest. I can honestly say it was one of my best nights out ever. Thank you Iceland.
Have you been on a night out in Reykjavik? Did you enjoy it as much as I did? X
P.S. If you’re wondering where all the pics are, they are faaaaaar too embarrassing to post on here!
P.P.S. Skál is the Icelandic equivalent of ‘cheers’
This post first appeared on the blog in 2013.