Great hotel, not-so-great location: A review of the Hilton Reykjavik Nordica
I didn't know what to expect from Reykjavik's hotel scene when I traveled there to cover Iceland's border reopening. I'd been in other Nordic countries in the past and found hotels in cities like Copenhagen and Oslo to be well designed, but with no frills. This usually meant forgoing an on-site bar and restaurant but having a nice place to come home to after a long day of exploring.
I started my hotel search and eventually settled on a handful of hotels for the journey, with one being the Hilton Reykjavik Nordica. This was the property I was most excited to experience. It had solid TripAdvisor reviews, and its restaurant specifically was well-regarded by numerous Google and Yelp reviewers.
So after I landed in Reykjavik, I took a bus to the city center and started the long walk to the Hilton Reykjavik Nordica for a two-night visit.
Here's how my stay went.
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Hotels in Reykjavik aren't exactly cheap, but they aren't ridiculously expensive either. My nightly rate at the Hilton Reykjavik Nordica was 19,124 ISK before VAT in late March, or roughly $151 per night. This is cheaper than many of the other hotels in Reykjavik, but that's likely because of its out-of-the-way location — more on that soon.
You can also book the property with Hilton Honors points or a free-night certificate earned with a card like the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. The program doesn't have an award chart, so it's hard to give you an exact estimate of the cost in points. I found a weekend night consistently costs between 35,000 and 45,000 Hilton Honors points when booked at least a month out. This is a pretty solid deal.
The information for the Hilton Aspire Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Weekend nights, however, jumped as high as 240,000 points per night on some dates, thanks to Hilton's dynamic award pricing.
Fortunately, this property doesn't add resort fees, and Iceland's hotel VAT is very reasonable. If I had to book the stay again, I'd still pay cash, given the relatively inexpensive nightly rate. You can also earn bonus Hilton Honors points if you pay with a Hilton cobranded credit card, stack one of Hilton's ongoing promotions and have Hilton elite status.
Related: The best hotel credit cards
One of the downsides to the Hilton Reykjavik Nordica is its location. It's situated outside Reykjavik's city center in the Laugardalur district. There are a handful of eateries and cafes nearby, but I found the surrounding area was mostly filled with offices and auto dealerships. Funny enough, it's also right across the street from the U.S. Embassy in Iceland.
Thankfully, Reykjavik is a small city. You can walk from the hotel to the city center in roughly 20 minutes. There's also a bus stop right outside the hotel that I frequently used during the stay. The hotel is a 10-minute bus ride to the city center at most; a ride costs just under $4 if you use the Strætó mobile app.
There are some interesting things to do in Laugardalur, too. It's home to the largest outdoor thermal pool in Reykjavik, a botanical garden and a zoo. I had to skip the thermal pool due to COVID regulations, but it looks like it's worth a visit once it reopens.
Unless you have specific plans in Laugardalur, you'll want to spend most of your time in Reykjavik exploring the eateries, bars and coffee shops housed in the city center.
Related: Traveling to Iceland during the coronavirus pandemic — the complete guide
Check-in and lobby
When I arrived at the hotel, I was first struck by just how large the building is. It's much larger than many other European hotels I've stayed at, taking up nearly an entire city block. I walked into the hotel and headed to the check-in counter, where I was greeted by a friendly staff member who asked for my passport, vaccine card and credit card.
I arrived at the hotel around 12 p.m., three hours before the stated 3 p.m. check-in time. The man at the front desk told me that my room was already available and handed me a set of keys. You need to scan your key to use the elevator and enter your room. Unfortunately, it didn't work the first time, so my keys were re-issued, and the front desk clerk walked with me to the elevator to ensure they worked on the second try.
The Hilton has a huge lobby with a bar, a restaurant and a spa. There's also plenty of seating where you can use the hotel's free Wi-Fi or order a drink. I used this seating area like a coworking space in the morning and loved the wide array of seating options that ranged from tables to couches.
There's also a place to buy snacks and drinks in the lobby. Drinks ranged from non-alcoholic to beer and wine, and there was a self-serve espresso machine. In terms of snacks, you can pick from sandwiches, chips, fruit, chocolates and noodles. It's nice to have this in the lobby, given the hotel's location and how early some stores close in Reykjavik.
Related: How to find lodging with good Wi-Fi
My room was on the seventh floor, so I had to take the elevator up. There were signs indicating that groups in the elevator should be limited, and there were bottles of hand sanitizer right next to the elevator buttons. This was a nice touch and is something I hope the hotel maintains after COVID.
You'll find seating areas spread out among the hotel's long hallways. There's floor-to-ceiling glass along the hallway, so this can be a nice place to enjoy the view of the surrounding mountains.
The guest rooms at this hotel are basic but well-designed. I stayed in a standard king room. The bed was large and comfortable and was flanked by two nightstands. There's also some storage above the bed and reading lights that provide a non-intrusive way to light the room at night.
Next to the bed, there was a comfortable reading chair pointed at the TV.
The bathroom was pretty basic, but I found it extremely spacious for a European hotel. I also liked that there were both bulk and individual toiletries offered and refilled daily. The shower/tub combo was large enough for me, and the vanity had enough counter space for my needs.
Outside of the bathroom, there's a large closet with plenty of storage and a laptop-sized safe. Unfortunately, there was no robe or slippers, but there was an ironing board, iron and hairdryer.
Underneath the TV there was a mini-fridge, glasses, icebox and a coffee set. There were three different types of instant coffee and several different teas available, which I appreciated. The fridge was large enough for a couple of takeout boxes and should be more than enough for the average hotel stay.
My favorite part of the room, however, was the workspace. It had its own nook at the back of the room, with an office chair, desk, lamp and plenty of power outlets. I used this as my office during my two-night stay and was able to work without issue. I also kept the kettle and coffee set here for the duration of my stay.
My room faced a nearby mountain range and had an excellent view from the seventh floor. I just wish the windows had been cleaner.
Related: Iceland is open to Americans: Here’s how to get there on points and miles
The Hilton Reykjavik Nordica has an on-site fitness center and spa, but both were closed due to the pandemic during my stay. There's also a small business center in the lobby with two computers and a printer. Those renting a car will be happy to know that the hotel does offer free parking.
You'll also find free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel. As a Hilton Diamond member, I'm entitled to premium internet access at all Hilton properties. I was able to get pretty good upload and download speeds in the middle of the day:
Related: 9 unique hotel amenities that will make your next business trip so much better
Food and beverage
The standout amenity at this hotel, however, is the on-site food and drinks. There's proper restaurant seating at the far right-hand side of the lobby, or you can opt to eat lunch and dinner in the bar area. I ate breakfast and dinner at the property and stopped by the bar for a drink on my last night. I had an excellent experience all three times.
Breakfast was included with my stay as a Hilton Diamond member. Instead of a buffet, the waitress passed out order cards where you could select what you'd like to eat. She also asked me if I wanted any juice with my meal and pointed me in the direction of the self-serve espresso machine.
Breakfast is served in the restaurant portion of the hotel. It's a very well-designed space with plenty of seating and room to spread out.
I tried to sample a little bit of everything from the breakfast menu. The selection was pretty standard, but the food was tasty and high-quality. I particularly liked the smoked salmon and the fruit jar.
Later in the day, I went to the bar to order dinner and a drink. The dinner menu mostly comprised of meat and fish, but there were a couple of vegetarian options. I'd heard Icelandic fish and chips were incredible, so I ordered it with a local IPA. The food was excellent — the fish tasted extremely fresh, and the fries were great. That said, the portion could've been a bit bigger for the price.
The bar was stocked with plenty of local beers, red and white wines and cocktail options. There was also the option to get a "bartender's choice" cocktail where the bartender on staff makes something unique to the moment.
I'm more of a beer guy, though, so I tried a Gull when I went back the following evening. This is the traditional larger of Iceland, and I really enjoyed it.
I was impressed each of the three times I visited the Hilton's restaurant. The staff was attentive and didn't mind me hanging around to work on my laptop after I finished my meal. I highly recommend checking out the hotel's dining options if you find yourself at the property.
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Like at the restaurant, the rest of the hotel staff was great. I was immediately helped when my key card stopped working during the middle of my stay. Likewise, my room was spotless upon arrival, and I received housekeeping daily. Interestingly enough, a note in the room said room service was by request only — but clearly, this wasn't the case. Make sure to leave the do-not-disturb sign out if you'd rather forgo housekeeping.
Related: An inside look at how Hilton is cleaning hotel rooms between guests
I really enjoyed my stay at the Hilton Reykjavik Nordica. The rooms were basic but had everything I needed during my two-night stay. The whole property felt extremely clean, and the service was excellent. I also really enjoyed the on-site restaurant and bar and will absolutely return for the fish and chips next time I'm in Reykjavik.
That said, as a tourist, its out-of-the-way location is a dealbreaker for me. The property feels disconnected from the city center's energy and its countless bars, cafes and restaurants. But if you're OK with the commute, I think you'll enjoy your stay, too.
Feature photo by Andrew Kunesh/The Points Guy