Akureyri is the unofficial “second city” of Iceland, located in the far north about six hours from Reykjavik, nestling at the end of the longest fjord in the country.
Once a little 17th-century fishing village and trading station, Akureyri is now a bustling town. You’ll find funky cafés, restaurants, art galleries, design stores and a botanical garden to explore.
Even though it’s very close to the Arctic Circle, the 20,000 people who call Akureyri their home enjoy some of the country’s warmest and most stable weather.
International cruise ships anchor at “The Capital of North Iceland”, and whale watching tours and ferries to Grimsey make their way along Eyjafjordur into the Arctic Ocean.
You’ll see an imposing cathedral towering above the city, and there are outstanding views across the fjord.
As you walk the streets of Akureyri, make sure you take a look at the traffic lights. All the red lights are heart-shaped!
Rich in culture and seafaring history, Akureyri is the most vibrant place in Iceland outside the capital. You’ll discover a charming downtown full of nineteenth-century wooden houses mixed with modern design stores, busy bars and eclectic art galleries. You can feel its “buzz” and the warm welcome from the locals as soon as you arrive. As well as that, the city is surrounded by snow-capped mountains, offering astonishing views of Eyjafjörður, the longest fjord in Iceland, where whales can be spotted throughout the year.
Explore Akureyri’s Old Town heritage and enjoy a great meal
Akureyri’s “Harbor Street” is the main thoroughfare in the city, lined with bars, restaurants, cafés and ice cream stands. Enjoy a coffee and a cake at the famous Blaa Kannan (the Blue Teapot café), or try the brilliant burgers at Akureyri Backpackers. If you’re looking for something sweet, just wander down Hafnarstræti to the ice cream parlor at Turninn, or grab a pastry from Kristjánsbakarí. Akureyri has many other great dining options, including Hamborgarafabrikkan, Rub23 and Strikið.
Enjoy an oasis of calm in the world’s most northerly Botanical Gardens
High up on the hills overlooking Akureyri are the city’s Botanical Gardens. Benefiting from the warmer and more stable weather in North Iceland, this is the oldest public park in the country. It was first opened in 1912 after local women founded a Park Society in 1910. As well as three hectares of glorious gardens, you’ll discover an excellent café on the grounds and many of Akureyri’s oldest buildings. There’s even a statute to the poet Matthias Jochumsson, who wrote Iceland’s national anthem.
Climb the steps to Akureyri’s landmark church
Looming over the city is Akureyrarkirkja, an impressive Lutheran church built in 1940 by the same architect who designed Hallgrímskirkja in Reykjavík. Akureyrarkirkja has a more traditional style, but it still echoes the basalt columns found everywhere in Iceland! It’s the most distinctive landmark in the city and can be seen from far away. Its interior is equally impressive, featuring a 3200-pipe organ and spectacular stained windows. Tributes to those serving at sea make Akureyrarkirkja well worth a visit!
Visit Akureyri’s cultural hub in one of the city’s most impressive buildings
Catching the eye as you explore Akureyri’s harbor, Hof Cultural and Conference Center is a stunning circular building designed to be the hub for the arts in the area. Opened in 2010, Hof is now a popular venue for live music events, theatre and other performing arts. It also offers first-class conference facilities and a fine restaurant with unbeatable views of the harbor and Eyjafjörður, making it an ideal place to visit while you’re in Akureyri.
Take a stroll along the shores of Iceland’s longest fjord
Akureyri’s early days centered on fishing, with the outstanding natural harbor and fertile Arctic waters making it a prime place for the industry. The town quickly grew up around the port, even more so when it became a military base in World War 2. Walking paths along the shoreline tell the story of Akureyri’s connections with the sea, including a sculpture paying tribute to lost seamen by the Hof Cultural Center. However, you’ll need to look carefully for it – it’s not the biggest statue in the country!
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