Check In: An Art Deco Grande Dame in Iceland Takes a Star Turn — Again


A dining area inside the Hotel Borg.


From 35,000 Icelandic krona, or $346 at 101 krona to the dollar.


This iconic Art Deco grande dame was opened in 1930 in downtown Reykjavik by Johannes Josefsson, a wrestler in the 1908 London Olympics. As the first luxury hotel in Iceland, the Hotel Borg drew luminaries such as Marlene Dietrich, William Faulkner and Ella Fitzgerald in its mid-20th-century glory days. The hotel emerged from a major renovation in August 2015, adding 43 rooms to the original 56 by taking over an adjacent building, and a subterranean gym and spa. This July, a new restaurant, Jamie’s Italian, by Jamie Oliver, is set to open. The hotel’s first floor retains its original Art Deco interior, with touches from its heyday, including Borg-branded silver teapots and wrestling ephemera. Service is fairly hands off — no doormen, no bellhops, no valet — which seemed fitting in a country that was largely settled by self-sufficient Vikings.


On Austurvollur Square in downtown Reykjavik, the hotel is a seven-minute walk from the striking Harpa concert hall fronting the North Atlantic, a 13-minute walk from the landmark Hallgrimskirkja church, and a 10-minute drive to Grotta Lighthouse, a spot to watch for the aurora borealis without paying for an expensive tour.

The Room

We stayed in a double room in the new wing that had concrete walls and a small balcony overlooking adjacent apartments. There were Bauhaus table lamps, parquet floors, black-and-white photographs of street scenes from 1930s Reykjavik and glossy Macassar ebony furniture by the German-based Cygal. The headboard was king size, but the (painfully firm) mattresses were twins, and oddly separated when we checked in, with traditional Icelandic twin duvets. We quickly pushed them together. Pricier suites come with Hastens mattresses.


The Art Deco Hotel Borg in downtown Reykjavik, Iceland.

Hotel Borg

The Bathroom

Tight quarters but serviceable, with heated black-and-white marble floors, a lit makeup mirror and clean-lined, minimalist toilet, faucet and rain shower designed by Philippe Starck. I was surprised, in a luxury hotel, to spot what appeared to be water damage on the ceiling.

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