Supermarket shopping in Iceland

When preparing a trip to Iceland, it is useful to know where you can go shopping. All the Icelandic towns and villages have at least one supermarket or you may have the option of going to a fish market, bakery or grocery store.

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Supermarket shopping is by far the cheapest. Bónus, the supermarket chain, is the most inexpensive of Iceland, and you will find this store easily in major cities thanks to its pink smiling pig logo. If you're in the Icelandic capital, Reykjavik, there is a large Bónus in the district of Grandi. You may be lucky enough to be served by the wonderful cashier Fransisca Mwansa, an immigrant from Zambia, who is known as "the happiest cashier of Iceland". It transforms the bland experience of your shopping into a  Christmas tale (and if you think I am exaggerating, you‘ve clearly not had the pleasure of meeting her)! 

The supermarket is emblematic and was the subject of a book of poems by Andri Snær Magnuson; built as the Divine Comedy of Dante, the poems take you through the shelves of the supermarket,  beginning with Paradise (fruit and vegetables) and Hell (meat department) and finally to Purgatory (detergents).

The fruit and vegetable selection at Bónus is quite limited if you want more choice, try the Krónan or Nettó supermarkets. Stores such as Samkaup Urval, Samkaup Strax, 10-11 and Hagkaup are more expensive than the previous ones, but often it is possible to find a more  international selection. Hagkaup, kind of similar to Marks and Spencers, sells cosmetics , clothes and decorative items in addition to more traditional products; this is the place to go if you want to buy a French goat bûchette, jar of duck fat or organic milk.

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At the supermarket check-out, the cashier will usually ask how many bags you intend to use, as you will have to pay for these when purchasing your goods. It also makes sense to buy reusable bags which are stronger and more durable.

In larger cities, you will also have a choice of small neighborhood shops, such as Melabúðin in the Vesturbær neighborhood of Reykjavík, shops selling local and organic products, such as Lifandi markaður or Heilsuhúsið, and specialty stores such as the cheese shop, Óstabúðin, on Skölavorðurstígur, which is also a  restaurant.

Most of the petrol stations also have convenience stores with deli counters and coffee. Kiosks that sell hot dogs and sweets known as sjóppa are located throughout many of the towns.

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It is forbidden to display cigarettes in stores in Iceland, so the cashier will keep them behind the counter. Alcohol can only be bought in the off-license Vínbúð, which is owned by the state and controls the sale of alcohol.

Supermarkets are generally open from 10 or 11 to 6 p.m., and open at noon on Sunday. In larger cities, stores such as  10-11, Hagkaup or Samkaup are open round the clock.

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Supermarket shopping in Iceland