Backpackers and businessmen check into Hlemmur Square in Reykjavik
Klaus Ortlieb, a German-born hotelier who made his mark stateside with the Hotel Modern in New Orleans and two properties in New York City (the Gotham Hotel and the Standard East Village), proves once again that building a successful hotel is not unlike throwing a much-talked-about party. It’s all about appealing to a wide range of guests.
So for the new Hlemmur Square hotel in Reykjavik, he designed a high-low model to accommodate the discerning traveler at any budget. The 26 shared, hostel-style rooms are available for as little as $20 per night, while the 18 private rooms, on a separate, plusher floor, cost as much as $182.
A far cry from the standard-issue budget digs of yore, the hostel suites offer duvet-covered beds, complimentary local telephone calls and optional room service. And the upgrade to a private room comes with the usual boutique hotel comforts: modern décor (earth tones and oak parquet floors, gray walls dotted with black-and-white photographs of Old Reykjavik), extra-cozy beds (made with up with Lissadell linens) and stunning, top-floor views (of the city’s boldly colored roofs).
At any given moment, the scene in the lounge reflects the varied inn crowd. Tattooed backpackers in flannel shirts share a bottle of wine with bankers in pinstriped suits and hip weekenders from Glasgow, Copenhagen, London and beyond.
The overall style of Hlemmur Square, which was originally built in 1919 as a rest-stop tavern and most recently served as government offices, is textbook Scandinavian minimalist. Furniture is streamlined and contemporary, always functional and never gratuitous, like the steel-framed bunk beds in the hostel rooms and the small but smart dark wood desks and side tables in the hotel rooms.
Still in its soft opening stage, the location will open its full bar and restaurant in December. In the meantime, the eclectic upstairs-downstairs clientele marks Hlemmur Square as one of the best parties in Iceland’s capital. It’s also a swanky launchpad from which to explore Reykjavik’s offbeat attractions beyond the tourist-heavy Blue Lagoon, including the strangely alluring Hellisheioi Power Plant, a geothermal power station, and the spectacular views from the top of the Hallgrimskirkja, Iceland’s largest church.
And after a long day of taking in the sights, slink back to Hlemmur Square and curl into a chair in its own little movie theater, where a large collection of classic Icelandic films is all yours to choose from.