Reykjavik 101. Sounds like an Orwellian nightmare, or a remedial class in Scandinavian literature. In fact, it's a postcode – the one that counts in these parts: it's where Reykjavik's beautiful people (so that's most of them) come to eat, drink, shop and generally loaf around being artistic.
And Thingholt, the bright young thing on the city's hotel cast list, is so very 101. The hotel occupies a former print works and while its exterior could body-double for Wernham Hogg HQ in an Icelandic version of The Office, the interior revamp, completed in December 2006, has discarded industrial grit in favour of innovative textures and materials, plus generous helpings of wit and verve.
Architect Gulla Jonsdottir – alumna of various chichi Los Angeles hotel renovations – has melded themes of Icelandic mythology, geology and heritage in her design. So far, so serious. But my dread of boutique hotel dreariness was banished at the entrance stairway's black lava wall.
Dotted with black masks, water trickling over them, it represents Iceland's "hidden people" (elves and so forth; best not to ask) – it also made me need the loo, but also raised a smile and an eyebrow. Similarly, the chic lobby bar induced a thirst for a mojito instead of a design treatise – live weekly jazz sessions help.
In homage to Iceland's fishing heritage, the subtly lit corridors are lined with salmon skin – I almost asked if it's real fish skin, but I wasn't sure I really wanted to know – indicative of the thoughtfulness of the concept. Throughout the hotel, there's enough playfulness to leaven the effect of the dark leather tiles and largely monochrome colour scheme, and service is smoothly helpful rather than obsequious or formal. The Asian/French fusion seafood and sushi in the adjoining restaurant, Domo, exceeds expectations – although if your tastes are more proletarian, the city's finest lobster soup simmers in a spit-and-sawdust harbourside eatery 10 minutes distant.
And no, there's no pool. Here? Why would there be? You're splashing distance from geothermal bathing heaven, and the best people-watching in Iceland, in one of the city's seven al-fresco pools.
CenterHotel Thingholt, Thingholtsstræti 3, Reykjavik 101, Iceland (00 354 595 8530; centerhotels.com). Thingholt is just a short stagger from the bars and restaurants of the Bankastræti nightlife strip – though staggering is no longer the adjective applied to prices, thanks to the plummeting krona; Iceland has gone from a very expensive destination to merely quite expensive. It's also less than 10 minutes' stroll from pretty much everything else you'd want to see, taste or wear in the city, including the museums, galleries and whale-watching docks.
Consider carefully your choice of room on a Friday or Saturday – unless your stamina is monumental enough to last out till the 5am climax of the bacchanalian Runtur pub crawl, you'll want a room away from the main drag, or some industrial-strength earplugs.
Time from international airport: Reykjavik is 48km east of Keflavik Airport. The 40-minute ride costs upwards of Ikr10,000 (£55) by taxi. The Flybus (00 354 562 1011; flybus.is) takes 50 minutes, costs Ikr1,500 (£8) one way and drops you at Thingholt.
Of the 52 rooms, even the amply spacious if not palatial standard doubles boast sizeable flat-screen satellite TVs, black faux-crocodile- skin desks and substantial wardrobes housing tea- and coffee-making facilities and a smallish minibar.
Frosted-glass-walled bathrooms feature walk-in monsoon showers and cascade taps; everything swankier than standard doubles boasts a tub, while loft suites are duplex affairs with discrete lounge areas. The two-tone decor is striking at night, when the effect is softened by the beds – so-plump-your-head-rolls-off pillows, cumulus-puffy duvets and sheets more Swiss chammy than Egyptian cotton.
Freebies: Pascal Morabito toiletries.
Keeping in touch: Every room has high-speed broadband and a direct-dial telephone.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Double rooms start at Ikr15,100 (£77), including breakfast.
I'm not paying that: Salvation Army Guesthouse (00 354 561 3203; guesthouse.is) offers double rooms from Ikr8,000 (£41), room only.