When we visit a new place, we love living as the locals do – participating in local customs, eating the native foods, walking through their neighborhoods, and everything else. When we came to Iceland for Christmas, we wanted to have an Icelandic Christmas. We wanted to eat skate on Þorláksmessa, (dish of putrefying shark), and reindeer on Christmas. We knew we had to dine at a traditional Christmas Buffet, so we spent the early evening of the 23rd of December visiting the little Iceland Christmas Village of Hafnarfjörður, and eating at Fjörukráin Viking Restaurant.
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Christmas Village of Hafnarfjörður & Christmas Buffet at Fjörukráin Viking Restaurant
Strandgata, Hafnarfjörður, Iceland
Phone: +354 565 1213
Christmas Buffet Hours: November 20 – December 20
Price: 8,900 ISK per person
Christmas Village of Hafnarfjörður
This is a quaint local Christmas Market full of wares and handmade crafts from local vendors. The market is arranged in a circular round, with a large, sparkling, live Christmas tree as the centerpiece. The space around the tree is open to allow room for frolicking and dancing, with a stage set directly in front of the tree and live music playing during opening hours.
On the outer rim, trees line the pavement in all shapes and sizes, along with decorations, fruit and candies available for purchase to trim the tree. Sandwiched between the trees for sale, and the open space for dancing, vendors are situated next to each other around the inner circle.
Here you will findis more Christmas decorations, multicolored handwoven smocks, and traditional Icelandic winter clothing. We found soaps, honey, candies, and cookies. There were about 20 vendors in total and they were warm and friendly. We ended up taking home a tall, thin Santa figurine, covered in a green robe with what resembled more of a wizard’s cap. We love him because he is unique and dissimilar to our Western version of Santa Claus, and he always reminds us of our wonderful journey celebrating Christmas in Iceland.
After we got home and unwrapped our Iceland Christmas Village Santa for the first time we noticed a “Made in China” stamp on the bottom of his pedestal – so that was a huge bummer.
The Yule Lads (13 Icelandic Santas) will also make an appearance here, and if you are lucky you might spot one!
Christmas Buffet at Fjörukráin Viking Restaurant
Just down the street from the Christmas village of Hafnarfjörður, you’ll find the Fjörukráin Viking Restaurant and Christmas Buffet, also known as jólahlaðborð. With everything in obscure darkness from the polar day, it can be difficult to make out the slight differences in buildings and signs as you walk down the old village path lined with similar old wooden buildings resembling an ancient Viking Nordic Village. Fjörukráin Viking Restaurant is the second oldest building in the village, built in 1841.
The restaurant reeked of the skate, and so we knew immediately we had found the right place. We were seated in the back of the restaurant in a booth with dart boards on the walls, and the classic Icelandic colors of red, yellow and green prominently displayed everywhere. There is live music throughout the evening, as singers and dancers walk around the restaurant serenading everyone.
In the center of the restaurant is a long wooden table, atop of which is poised a replica of a Viking ship filled with every type of Icelandic delicacy and savory dish you can dream of. The outer walls of the dining room are stacked with desserts and side dishes.
The jólahlaðborð has every traditional dish from smoked leg of lamb, hangikjöt, to leaf bread, laufabrauð. We consumed no less than 10 different types of potato dishes, each surprisingly different than the last, and of course we tried the skate, putrefying shark, and crossed that off our list never to try again.
Full Christmas Buffet Menu at Fjörukráin Viking Restaurant.
► For Kids: Icelanders drink straight cod liver oil for breakfast, so come prepared. This buffet won’t have turkey or spiral ham, but it will offer you a true taste of Icelandic food and culture. This was such a unique experience, that even though the food was different than our normal fare, we had such a fun time listening to the music and enjoying in the fun of the season. At the very least, you’ll find a potato dish and some bread they’ll love, and you’ll remember the experience forever.
Have you ever tried a foreign cuisine that was nothing like anything you’ve ever eaten before? Tell us all about it! I’m pretty sure the smell of skate will live on forever in my nostrils.
► Nap-Time Version: Our family adventure celebrating Christmas in Iceland at the traditional Iceland Christmas Village of Hafnarfjörður & Christmas Buffet at Fjörukráin Viking Restaurant.
We also enjoyed winter swimming at Laugardalslaug, listening to the sound of the organs at Hallgrímskirkja Church, and failed at seeing the Northern Lights.