UNESCO City of Literature? We´re in!

unescoliteratureIn case you didn´t know, Reykjavík is one of only 6 UNESCO Cities of Literature? Well, until recently, we didn´t either. The city is heading a great initiative to make locals and guests alike more aware of how rich our culture is with the written word. Iceland of course, has a very strong connection with literature. Many argue that without the Sagas, we wouldn´t have our completely unique language and apparently, as a nation, we read more than most people. Of course, we are very proud of Halldór Kiljan Laxness, Iceland´s one and only Nobel  Pr

laxnessize Laureate (1955) but we also have plenty of exciting writers and poets to inspire the mind currently. People like Arnaldur Indriðason, Sjón, Einar Már Guðmundsson and Hallgrímur Helgason. The list goes on and will continue to go on. At Hotel Holt, we have always been known as an art hotel but mainly for the visual arts. Now we are going to take our library in the Library Room and expand it into the lobby by allowing the written word to inspire our guest´s minds and entertain them during each moment they allow it to. The Hotel has several connection with our literature heritage that guests can enjoy. Additionally, we are excited to work with the city to set up some appearances by some of our current crop of great authors and have them read out of their works at the hotel bar. Of course, we have had many well known authors stay at the hotel such as Michael Crichton of Jurassic Park fame and Jack Hemingway, writer and son of the legendary writer. Crichton used to stay at the Holt when enjoying the Icelandic horse, which he and his wife had a passion for. Hemingway enjoyed fly fishing in our many salmon rivers during summer and enjoyed many a good evening in the hotel bar. Other living authors have visited the hotel when attending literary fairs in Reykjavík. People like Anne B. Ragde, Luis Lopez-Nieves, Robert Bringhurst, Ngugi Thiog´o and Kader Abdolah. Hopefully we can interest you in a good read in the future. In the meantime, take a moment to check out the website where the city is organizing happenings all over town in connection with this title we are so proud of. http://bokmenntaborgin.is/en/ And check out some videos on their YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/Bokmenntaborgin?feature=watch

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Great Dining Options in 101 Reykjavík

ImageThe downtown dining scene is full of exciting options for every palate. A lot of our guests look to us for advice in this. Why shouldn´t they? We do have the best restaurant in town in our very own Gallery Restaurant!

But let´s say you have already had an unforgettable meal at Gallery. What are the options for second best experience? Let me give some suggestions:

Sjávargrillið/Seafood Grill: With three years under it´s belt, this is a great little place within 3 minutes walking distance on Skólavörðustígur. They are top of Tripadvisor and deliver on really good compact dishes and attentive service. They care about your experience and they are small enough to be accountable for it being outstanding. The place is nicely renovated with an upscale feel but casual attitude. I recommend the 4 course Taste of Iceland menu. It has everything.

-Grillmarkaðurinn/Grillmarket: Yes, it sounds similar to the last place but it´s different, I promise. This opened to huge expectations on Lækjartorg, less than 2 years ago and has not disappointed one of our guests so far. The decor is very impressive with lava rocks and a most impressive bathroom experience. I have not enjoyed a meal there in the evening but can say I enjoyed a very good burger there for lunch last year and outstanding service. Everyone is raving about the Grillmarket so make sure you have us reserve a table for you well in advance, especially if you are going to be in Reykjavík for a weekend!

-Fiskfélagið/Fish Company: An offspring of the now deceased Seafood Cellar, this is one of my favorites. A unique location where the designated “center” of Reykjavík is calculated right above them. The decor is rustic and a fusion of Icelandic highlands chic and Colorado mountain cabin feeling. Very cozy. I had the Around the World menu here and really enjoyed it. This is really an excellent choice for all occasions.

MAR restaurant: We have a special connection with this place. It is owned by Elding Whale Watching company, so no whale meat on the menu, obviously. But the chef is one of the stars to come out of our own Gallery kitchen in recent years. Mar is located at the newly popular harbour area and features a casual atmosphere with an ambitious menu. I´ve been twice, once for lunch where I enjoyed the best ever Chicken Salad and once on “housewives day” with my wife for the tasting menu. Really good stuff and I recommend you try it!

Steikhúsið/Steakhouse: This is less than a year old but really a great option for those who want a really robust meal. Icelandic meat is very expensive so get the valet out, but ultimately, it´s worth it. I had a fantastic meal, so did my wife and a really nice surprise were the lobster “balls” for starter. I would recommend you not to miss those in preparation of a nice big steak.

Alright, alright Snorri! What about some more diverse food that is not so very Icelandic? I´ve got it! There is a very good variety of ethnic food on offer in Reykjavík. Of course, varying standards of service and prices apply here.

Ítalia, as the name suggests, is the main option for….you guessed it. It actually opened in 1997, when I was 7 years old, by my old man. He sold it a couple of days later and it is the only place he regrets selling. When the interior was burnt to a crisp in 2005, the current owners renovated in the exact same fashion again. If it ain´t broke, don´t fix it! Wood oven pizzas, warm atmosphere, perfect location (you see it directly to the left when you hit Laugarvegur main street from the hotel) and a tradition for very satisfied customers. Don´t do Italian anywhere else.

Austur Indíafjélagið is the best Indian restaurant in Iceland. It´s of the high-end kind so expect to pay for the quality. Located on Hverfisgata, the dirty little sister of the mainstreet, one block down, this place is a small and cozy restaurant with over 20 years of history as the first choice for this type of cuisine.

Ban-Thai is the most popular Thai food restaurant in Reykjavík. With a upscale cantina decor, this place is where you go if you are not eating Thai to replace fast food. The service can be spotty and the food came out very slowly when I ate there last year, but the locals love the food and it gets rave reviews. It´s not like the “localized” thai restaurants around town so stick to only 1 pepper on the menu if you don´t know what you are doing.

the concierge idea

The concierge lady!

The concierge lady!

Good afternoon and happy weekend everyone! We are finally going to give ourselves the time to share with our guests and followers what we think they might be interested in during their visit.

We have promoted our fantastic guest service team member, Hera, to a new position of Head Concierge. She will make sure there is nothing we miss from the things that are happening around town and of course in the hotel.

She will not be alone in sharing information with you but it will be her duty to make sure we are aware of interesting things. Good work, if you can get it.

We have high hopes that with this added service, we will have a unique perspective to share with our clients and they will be able to be entertained as well as informed about all things Hótel Holt and Reykjavík.

October coming to a close

It´s been a busy summer and it´s only just slowing down now at Hotel Holt. Don´t tell anyone, but we are quietly relieved to have A view from Hallgrímskirkja towertime to address some technical things we want to improve. We will definitely use this winter to improve on all our IT things. Consolidating the availability through online travel agencies and by next summer, we will have a new partner for our homepage bookings through our affiliation with Worldhotels.

We are looking forward to that transition, as it will allow us to service our guests much more effectively from the time they book with us. We will make more of an effort to contact you when you have booked and make sure you are getting the most you can out of your visit to Reykjavík. Our Front Desk staff are ready to take good care of everyone.

In other news, we are doing some improvements on our bathroom amenities. Since taking over as Hotel Manager, one of my primary goals has been improving on the toiletries offering. We have only had shampoo and shower gel in one bottle but now we are going to add hair conditioner and body lotion for our guests. To top it all off, we are buying environmentally packaging for it. The containers will disintegrate in landfills in 5 years instead of 500. That must count for something, right?

The weather is getting colder now but we are looking forward to seeing more of the Northern Lights and welcoming guests for Christmas Shopping and other delightful reasons to visit our city.

See you soon!

Everybody´s fine

Despite all the global noise to do with the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, funnily enough, we are fine here in Reykjavík. We have barely noticed the activity except for some panicked e-mails we´ve received from the outside world. We can assure you that life goes on as normal in Hotel Holt, Gallery Restaurant and Reykjavík as a whole. Come on over, we´re standing by for your call, e-mail or even fax:)