a coffee at a red house on iceland’s south coast

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IMG_3122On a recent winter trip to Iceland in search of the Northern Lights, I stayed in the town of Hveragerði which is approximately 45 km to the east of Reykjavík on Iceland’s main ring road, also known as Route 1. It is quite easy to navigate Iceland, as there are not many cars on the road and, to assist your ease of travel even further, there are not that many roads. To solidify the details of my trip, I am lucky to have able to consult with a company that created an Iceland tour that Condé Nast chose as a “Trip of a Lifetime,” Icepedition.

After hanging out in the thermal hot tubs trying to correctly pronounce “Hveragerði,” I decided to take a short drive from the town to a few small towns along the south coast to check them out – and of course in search of a latte. I first arrived at Stokkseyri, a town of only 450 founded around 900 C.E. Unfortunately the only café in town was closed as the owner was on vacation. Speaking to a local, they directed me to the next town over, and recommended I look for a red house next to a church – there, I was told, I would be able to get a proper latte.

IMG_3111With its 570 residents [not including inhabitants of the prison located there], the fishing village of Eyrarbakki is a metropolis compared with Stokkseyri. It is there that I found the Rauða Kaffihúsið, or the Red House, just next to a church, as I was told.

While my goal was to get a coffee, I was quite surprised at how good the food was – in particular an incredible vegan sandwich served alongside the perfectly crafted Lavazza coffee.

According to the Red House website:

Mrs. Gudmunda Nielsen built the oldest part of this house, the restaurant on the first floor, in 1919, for her retail shop. Mrs. Nielsen was a person of many talents: an organ player, choir conductor, music teacher and song writer, as well as being very active in the Woman’s Association of Eyrarbakki. She studied business management in Copenhagen before opening her retail shop here, which was considered the trendiest shop in the region. Eyrarbakki was the first port of call for foreign influences in music, literature and art, and was the largest trading center in the country for a very long time. Mrs. Gudmunda Nielsen lived in The House [Húsið].

IMG_3110In 1957, a second floor was added to the building and it became home to Plastiðjan and later Álpan. In 2004, after being abandoned for a few years, it was renovated and lovingly restored and the restaurant opened its doors there at the new location on 14 May 2005 [though at the time the house was white!].

All in all, the Red House delivers a serene, typically Icelandic experience and some damn good coffee. What else could a traveler want?

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