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Inside Hlemmur Square, Klaus Ortlieb's New Icelandic Outpost

Where: Laugavegur 105, Reykjavik, Iceland, 101
January 6, 2014 at 10:27 AM | by | ()

Hot hotelier Klaus Ortlieb brings his magic to Iceland. A HotelChatter Review

Iceland in the winter? Sure, why not? Unlike, say East Coast U.S.A, Reykjavik can be surprisingly temperate at this time of year (high 30s to low 40s while we were there). Windy? Yes. Chilly? A bit. But the chance of weather mayhem of snowpocalypse proportions is slim. Plus, the Northern Lights are at highest activity in a decade, so now might be your best chance to spot them.

Since learning that Klaus Ortlieb had resurfaced in Reykjavik last spring, we knew we had to check out the new hostel/hotel hybrid Hlemmur Square. Funnily enough, we came across Klaus himself chatting with friends in the hotel lobby in the morning. There's an endorsement! We didn't interrupt but we sure did eavesdrop: the hostel rooms "need some work" he says, "they need a splash of color."

Check In
The FlyBus from Keflavik International Airport drops off in front of the hotel. The hotel lobby was quiet when we checked in around 5 p.m., with just a handful of guests/bar drinkers hanging around; two of which were asleep, one of which was asleep on the floor. Well, we are all a little tired after the new year, no? Our receptionist was very friendly and even walked us up to our room herself. We already were getting a very laid back vibe. "Check out time is around 11, " we were told, "but if you're later than that, it's OK". We like.

Room Reaction

We opted for a private hotel room over a shared dorm. Our fifth floor room was very spacious, with a desk, love seat, coffee table, and outdoor terrace overlooking the bustling streets below and toward the water. Our room was very tastefully decorated in a minimalist fashion, with a black-and-white print by Icelandic photographer Magnus Olafsson and just one bright splash of orange around the bathroom door.

Amenity Madness
Toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion) are by C.O Bigelow. We found enough outlets around the room to keep us happy, and the mini bar included Icelandic candy and beer, as well as a few international offerings. The black-and-white tiled bathroom was sleek and had large windows unbothered by drapes or curtains: great ... if you're an exhibitionist. We chose instead to shower with the lights off.

WiFi is free and fast throughout the hotel. You are given a code at check-in that is valid for three days and for up to five devices.

Dining In
There's no restaurant yet, but there is a kitchen so you can order from the 24-hour room service menu. The lobby bar has a list of around 100 different craft beers and runs a Happy Hour from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. As is usually the case in Iceland, the bar gets busier much later into the night.

Location, Location, Location
The hotel is handily located on Reykjavik's main street, Laugavegur, across the street from the penis museum. Everything is within walking distance: Hallgrimskirkja, Harpa, the museums, and the waterfront. If you need the FlyBus to take you back to the airport, have reception call them the day before.

What We Liked
The design was very chic. We especially loved the Icelandic wool features in the bedroom: the pillows and throw on the bed and patterned rug on the floor. As we noted previously, the little piles of books scattered around the lobby are very shades of Cooper Square.

What We Didn't Like
Being located in the heart of Reykjavik's nightlife scene, it could get a little noisy at night. We would have really preferred to feel some privacy in the bathroom.

Bottom Line
We paid $107 for a King Room with a corner terrace. Given that Reykjavik is a pricey city, we felt we got a pretty good deal. Hotel rates in Reykjavik almost always increase quite a bit in the summer, so there's another good reason to bundle up and head to Iceland in the winter. Despite the hotel/hostel hybrid and budget focus, it never felt, you know, backpacker-y.

[Photos: Karen Gardiner for HotelChatter]

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