My stylish Nordic friend: A review of Canopy by Hilton, Reykjavik City Centre, Iceland
Despite its cool name, Iceland is a hot tourism destination right now. Summer in this very northern country sees 24 hours of daylight every day, allowing for plenty of time to explore some of the most spectacular scenery you will find anywhere in the world.
The country relies heavily on tourism so has been focused on welcoming back tourists as quickly and safely as possible following COVID-19 lockdowns thanks to a successful vaccine roll-out, strict entry requirements and good mask and hygiene compliance.
Related: 9 reasons you should visit Iceland this summer
I was in the country's capital, Reykjavik, after flying into the country on Iceland's newest airline, Play. There are a good number of points hotel options in Reykjavik -- TPG's Andrew Kunesh was one of the first international tourists to enter Iceland this year and was able to review some of the top hotel options.
I settled on the Canopy by Hilton, Reykjavik City Centre. While I stay at Hilton group properties fairly regularly since I appreciate that they provide gold status members with free breakfast, I had never stayed in a Canopy and didn't know much about the brand. Hilton's marketing team describes Canopy as "a modern boutique hotel experience offering simple pleasures, thoughtful extras and nice surprises."
There are currently 33 Canopy properties across Europe, North America, Asia, South America and the Middle East. Interesting, the Iceland property I stayed in was the very first Canopy hotel.
Here's what I found at the Canopy by Hilton.
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Though you might find a cheap flight there, Iceland is definitely not a cheap destination for anything else. Accommodation, food, alcohol, activities and local transportation are usually very pricey, especially during the peak summer tourist season.
I booked a King Premium Room at the Canopy hotel directly with Hilton.com at a Hilton Honors discounted rate of ISK 58,021 per night (around $462 per night) which included breakfast.
The Hilton Honors program doesn’t have an awards chart, so it’s hard to give you an exact estimate of the cost in points. A standard room reward is priced from as low as 71,000 Hilton points per night, though in peak periods like when I stayed the points cost rises well over 100,000 points per night, and up to 218,000 points per night for a premium room reward, so paying cash for this stay was the sensible option.
To pay for Hilton hotel stays, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card stands out in the crowded mid-tier category of cobranded hotel credit cards. It comes with elite-like perks at a reasonable annual fee. New cardholders earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points and a Free Night Reward after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership. You will also earn 12X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio.
Related: How to choose the best Hilton credit card for you
The hotel has an ideal location right in the center of Reykjavik, as the name suggests.
It's located at Smiðjustígur Street (no, I still don't know how to pronounce that either), just off Laugavegur, the city's main pedestrian street full of charming cafes, bars, boutiques and restaurants and very easy to find.
I adored the sense of fun with the bright colors up and down this street both in the giant hopscotch game and brightly colored buildings.
The hotel building itself adopts a far more neutral color scheme and is unlikely to be winning any design awards. Do remember, while I was treated to some sunny skies, the country experiences some of the most extreme weather of any place in the world, so the architecture is designed with that front of mind.
As I walked through the main entrance I was immediately struck by the upmarket yet very homey feel. The check-in desk wasn't some hole in the wall at back of the room -- instead it was more like a dining table you might find in a big family home.
The friendly and relaxed front desk staff member quickly checked me in though brushed over any real features of the property other than breakfast times. She did not advise me if there was a fitness center available at the hotel, and I had to ask specifically about any lunch or dinner dining options.
She thanked me for being a Hilton Honors member and handed over a small bar of Icelandic chocolate as a thank you.
She also advised me that masks were no longer legally required anywhere in Iceland, including in the hotel. No staff members wore masks at any time during my stay.
This took some getting used to after more than a year of religiously sliding a mask over my nose and mouth when entering any public space, though it was a wonderful sense of pre-pandemic normality once I became used to it.
Classic vinyl and a record player and interesting design magazine and hardcover books added to the sense that I'm visiting some cool friend or relative, not some stuffy cookie-cutter chain hotel.
The hotel is much larger than it seems from the outside as the owners have decided to link several buildings together, creating a rather confusing rabbit warren of stairs and corridors.
I was assigned Room 303 -- the King Premium Room I had booked. Thankfully it was located in the main hotel building so it was easy to find among the multiple buildings that make up the hotel.
Upon entering the room there was an open closet to my left, with the bathroom to the right.
I was pleased to see an actual ironing board in the room -- I cannot tell you the number of hotel rooms I've stayed in that provide an iron without the accompanying ironing board, meaning I have to pester reception to deliver a board to the room.
There were nice big and deep drawers with plenty of storage for my belongings.
I'm not sure it would be properly washed between each guest, but I also liked the big, heavy, warm blanket on top of the wardrobe as well as the kimono-style branded bathrobe. Both would be great for snuggling up in a hotel room on a cold Icelandic day.
The Canopy brand adopts bright orange as their signature color -- I noticed it on the hotel logo and it was also on these pairs of very loud but very comfortable socks which I did wear several times during my stay and brought home with me too.
At 215 square feet the room was mostly taken up by the huge, inviting and very comfortable king-size bed in the center of the room.
There was also a day bed squashed into the corner next to the bed.
There were USB charging plugs and regular European outlets all over the room. I was a little disappointed the plugs were not universal.
As it is located on a side street, I wasn't expecting sweeping ocean views.
The view out of my window was about as bland as you can get.
What did catch my eye were the artworks and decorations around the large flat-screen television -- a nod to both the country's folklore and liberal politics. Marriage equality has been legalized in Iceland since 2010.
The retro Nordic desk chair was surprisingly comfortable to work at during my stay.
In between the desk and wardrobe I found some familiar hotel amenities -- an (emptied) mini bar, kettle and pod-style coffee machine. There was a sign advising me that Icelandic tap water is some of the purest in the entire world so I should not bother with bottled water.
I can confirm Icelandic tap water is delicious.
The bathroom featured stylish subway tiles with a huge, walk-in frosted glass shower.
Apivita toiletries were provided in individual bottles.
While not huge, I thought the room was well appointed and very comfortable. It seemed to fit the Nordic surroundings well.
I kept thinking to myself -- if I were ever to live in Iceland, I would want my bedroom to look exactly like this.
After being told very little that the hotel had to offer guests, I had a good hunt around on my own. Outside were hotel bikes in the signature Canopy orange. Reykjavik is a very walkable city and the weather is rarely warm enough for a breezy bike ride, so I doubt these get much use.
There was no information about any fitness center given to me at check-in, or provided in my room via the on-screen menu of hotel amenities so I only stumbled across its by following corridor signage.
It's a great set-up and was deserted, so I don't know why the hotel doesn't tell guests about it.
I also found a rooftop with a few random tables and chairs. I imagine this is for smokers to use as it didn't have the sort of vibes for a sunset drink, not that the sun sets in Iceland in the middle of summer anyway.
Food and beverage
The hotel has three separate food and beverage areas. In the reception area there is a very casual grab and go section where guests can purchase a light meal to either eat in the lobby, or take back to their rooms.
While the space was nice, the food was not.
The limp sandwich I had for lunch tasted like it had been there for several days and was the sort of quality you would expect from a rural highway gas station.
I would recommend the two-minute stroll up to Laugavegur where you'll find considerably better quality food.
There's also a bar area that connects the main reception area with the main restaurant. It's a pleasant space with a variety of seating options.
There's a small staffed bar with happy hour drink specials each evening. Given the high price of alcohol in Iceland any savings are very welcome.
The only food options available are a few bar snacks which I washed down with a local Icelandic beer.
The bar has an outdoor area, though keep in mind it's rarely warm enough to sit outside in Iceland, even in the middle of summer.
Geiri Smart is the name of the hotel's fine dining restaurant.
Despite the removal of many social distancing restrictions like mask-wearing, and a city bustling with tourists I was disappointed to discover this was still closed for lunch and dinner because of the pandemic.
This means that outside of bar snacks and the pre-packaged, fairly bland offerings in the lobby there is no food available at the hotel after breakfast.
The restaurant does open for breakfast for hotel guests and it's a really cool space which made me wish I could have had lunch or dinner there even more.
There was a good range of breakfast options available with cold options including fresh fruit, pastries, cold cuts, muesli and famous Icelandic Skyr yogurt.
Hot options included bacon, eggs, potatoes, sausages and pancakes.
Everything was well prepared and good quality.
For the first time during the pandemic, I experienced completely normal buffets and it was a wonderful sense of normality in travel.
Juice and filter coffee were available, though guests had to pay extra for barista-style coffee.
A cappuccino was abut $5.50 extra.
With the price this hotel is charging for rooms this left a bitter taste in my mouth, and very few people seemed to be ordering specialty coffee once they were advised of the cost. This should have been included in the standard breakfast.
Staff at the Canopy by Hilton provided relaxed, friendly yet a little reserved service which I have come to expect with Icelandic people. You won't find staff jumping to open a door for you, but they will happily help you if you have any queries.
I was disappointed the staff did not advise me of the available amenities in the hotel like the fitness center, given how few options were available. Many guests to Iceland just want a comfortable nights sleep as they're out and about exploring the spectacular scenery, but staff should promote things like the hotel's excellent fitness center.
This hotel felt more like I was staying with a stylish Nordic friend than a brand from an international hotel chain. The furnishings and decor struck just the right balance between style and comfort. It was instantly inviting especially during the chilly Icelandic summer.
I doubt I will ever have the chance to actually live in Iceland, but if I do I would want my bedroom and bathroom to look exactly like my room at the Canopy did.
The location is perfect -- central enough to be a few minutes walk from the cities best attractions while quiet enough to enjoy uninterrupted rest as it's tucked away on a side street. The only disappointment was the day and evening food offerings, although breakfast was good. Hopefully, the main restaurant will reopen soon to provide more dining options.
The Canopy brand seems to work really well in this setting -- perhaps that is why Iceland was chosen for the world's first. Iceland is a pricey destination but you'll enjoy a comfortable stay at this hotel.