Favourite Places - Mokka Kaffi

Mokka Café Reykjavík, photo by Michael Ridpath author of the Magnus Iceland Mysteries a
Reykjavík has plenty of good cafés, but my favourite is Mokka. It’s a few yards up Skólavördustígur (the Skola Street) on the left, in a building that used to be white but is now raspberry red.

It is supposedly the oldest café in Reykjavík, founded in 1958 by an Icelander returning to Reykjavík from Naples where he had been studying music. The warmth and friendliness of the place hits you as soon as you walk in, subtly conveyed by the smell of coffee mixed with waffles and strawberry jam, the house speciality.

It’s a small café with leather benches, booths and wood-panelled walls under yellow light. These are hung with pictures by Reykjavík artists that rotate monthly: abstracts, photographs, landscapes, all for sale. Often, the artist will be there too, willing to talk about their work.

The staff are young, friendly and of course speak perfect English. I have often suggested Mokka as a place to meet my sources. It has a reputation as a hangout for artists, writers and intellectuals, a sort of Icelandic Deux Magots, with better waffles.

Reykjavík has many good cafés. Grái Kötturinn (‘the Grey Cat’), on Hverfisgata, is just as cosy as Mokka and famous for its large American-style breakfasts. Babalú, further up Skólavördustígur, is like a little bit of Morocco swept in some Saharan storm to a wet rock in the Atlantic. And Reykjavík Roasters is a classic hipster artisanal coffee place complete with mysterious metal equipment and sacks of coffee scattered around. 

There are no Starbucks in Reykjavík, but the local chain, Kaffitár, is pretty good: the kind of place where you can linger over a book or a laptop and a cup of coffee.

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