Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland, Iceland's largest city and the world's northernmost capital of a sovereign state. With a population of 122,000 (and more than 211,000 in the Greater Reykjavik area), Reykjavik is the centre of Iceland's governmental, economic, cultural and academic activities.
Reykjavik is also a city of students, the University of Iceland, located in the city, offers many courses in English, and many students come from all over the world to study or just for a semester, bringing with them a youthful and international spirit. Although this is the main city and as modern as any other city in Europe, Reykjavik has many special qualities. The atmosphere in Reykjavik is lively but not noisy, although it has high-rise buildings and shopping complexes, the sea is always within walking distance. The horizon is decorated with snowy peak and a river full of salmon flows through it.
Reykjavik's offers a vibrant nightlife and holds numerous cultural events throughout the year. Reykjavik is lively but not hectic. It is an international city and home to a diverse mosaic of residents, yet saying this it is classed as one of the safest places in the world to walk the streets as violence and crime are rare. Never boring Reykjavik city mice and not rats village.
It is commonly assumed and according to the documentation in Iceland's Book of Settlement "Landnámabók", the first settlement in Reykjavik was around 870 AD. The first settlers were a delegation of Norwegians led by Ingólfur Arnarson who arrived in at Iceland's coast in ships and in true Vikin tradition hoisted wooden poles off them and settled in the place that the poles drifted to. The wooden poles were swept to the shores of the land steaming in volcanic activity therefore earning the name 'Reykjavik' meaning ' Gulf of Smoke'.
However it is likely that the choice to settle in Reykjavik was made because the area is relatively more appropriate and comfortable compared to other regions in Iceland, with ground suitable for grazing, hot springs and sea abundant in fish.
The first settlers lived on farms in houses made of earth with grass roofs, called Turf House and made their living from fishing and sheep and cows brought in from Europe. Until the 18th century there was almost no urban development in the city, but following the decision of the Danish government to develop industry in Iceland, a wool processing workshop was established and other industries gradually developed in Reykjavik such as fish plants, sulfur mining and shipping.
Following the development stone and wood structures that were typical of that period were constructed thus marching the city and Iceland towards modernization. Reykjavik was officially declared a city in 1786 and since then has steadily transformed from being an important city to Iceland's capital in all senses. In 1845, following the Icelandic parliament 'Alþingi's' decision to class Reykjavik as its base, Reykjavik was undisputedly classed as the capital city of Iceland. In 1918, when Iceland became an independent kingdom under the auspices of Denmark, Reykjavik won international recognition and strengthening.
During World War II in May 1940, Iceland including Reykjavik was conquered by the British army in a matter of just a few hours, in order to overcome and defeat the control of the Germans in the North Atlantic. Due to this and also the occupation of the American army that also came and took control of the area, Reykjavik progressed and developed.
The British set up a harbor, paved roads and built the airport in Reykjavik in the city center that till present is used for domestic flights and flights to Greenland.
Unemployment that, at that time, was at its peak decreased thanks to the employment of approximately 2500 people for construction jobs. The Icelandic economy grew as restaurants, clubs and cinemas were built and opened. Many consumer products, considered luxuries such as sweets and toiletries, that were imported from the United States and Britain for the military were also enjoyed by the residents of Reykjavik .
Over time, Reykjavik continued to grow and develop, its population grew, many new neighborhoods were built, regional trade expanded and living standards were considered one of the best in the world. In 2008-2009, during the financial crisis and bankruptcy of Icelandic banks, many residents decided to leave Reykjavik and Iceland.
When the currency value sharply took a dive and many residents found themselves in deep debt, an atmosphere of uncertainty spread through the streets. Reykjavik slowly and steadily recovered from this crisis and in 2010 in the municipal elections, entertainer Jón Gnarr was elected as Mayor of Reykjavik. He founded a satirical political party that ridiculed politics in Iceland and thus captured the hearts of the people, was chosen by a majority vote and brought hope for change.
In recent years, with the sharp increase in tourism in Iceland, Reykjavik flourishes throughout the year. Many hotels have been built and are being built, restaurants and recreation areas were opened and many festivals and music events have gained international recognition.
Reykjavik is home to the largest population in Iceland and together with the towns surrounding it form 65% percent of Iceland's entire population. During the past when every part of the community was the size of a small village, distances between settlements were greater, but as the population grew new neighborhoods were built and the boundaries of existing settlements expanded thus forming one large territorial contiguity. Today "Greater Reykjavik" includes Reykjavik city and an additional 6 independent authorities.
Reykjavik is located at latitude 64 degrees north, but thanks to the Gulf Stream, is climate there is relatively warm in comparison with other places on the same latitude. Depending on the proximity to the Arctic Circle, the hours of sun during wintertime are as few as 4 hours of light per day whereas during the summer there are about 22 hours of daylight and even at midnight you can be dazzled by the sunlight!! Reykjavik is located in the southwest part of Iceland and covers an area of 273 sq km. Reykjavik stretches north to Faxaflói Gulf and it's coastline is boasts many coves and headlands.
The Gulf has several small islands that belong to Reykjavik but are not inhabited or cultivated. Reykjavik borders on the south with the city Kópavogura and on the west, the borders fall in close proximity to the small town Seltjarnarnes and the Skerjafjörður fjord. To the east of Reykjavik lies a mountainous terrain with lava fields and Heiðmörk Forest. The Elliðaár River flows here from the mountainous terrain to smaller streams that surround the hills and mountains.
The Iceland tourism industry in general and Reykjavik in particular is constantly evolving. In the past, tourists came to Reykjavik to stay the night in the city before or after a trip around Iceland.
Reykjavik is now a main and sometimes the only venue for vacationers. A range of accommodation facilities are open all year round and cater for any budget, from camping and hostels to rental apartments and luxury hotels. Most hotels have easy access to the city center and also offer fast Internet connection. Although usually compared to the cold image of those from northern Europe, Icelanders are known for their warm welcome and they always ensure that you feel at home.
They have a fantastic sense of humor and if you tell a joke, they will understand it and immediately tell you one of their own. During weekends the downtown area is crowded with people who like to go out and enjoy until the wee hours of the night, yet violence is extremely rare and tourists and locals interact in the numerous bars, discos and entertainment venues the city has to offer.
Reykjavik offers visitors a quality vacation with all the advantages of a modern European capital.
Held in early October each year presenting new films focusing on independent cinema from around the world. Movies are shown throughout cinemas in Reykjavik and sometimes after the screening, a discussion is held with the film director. The films screened in the festival are divided into different categories such new directors, veteran directors, Icelandic films, futuristic films etc.
This festival is held annually in early November for 5 days and is dedicated to the new age electronic music genre. Artists from Iceland together with various international artists participate in the festival that is held in various venues throughout Reykjavik, with performances on every stage there is. During the festival, additional musical events are held that are not included in the festival program, free of charge.
Iceland as the rest of Europe celebrates New Year's Eve on the 31st December and it is a national holiday. According to Icelandic law, the sale of fireworks is permitted for private use between 28-31 of December only and during this time frame, Icelanders stock up with a generous amount of fireworks. On New Years' Eve, the sky in Reykjavik shows off a 360 degree array of fireworks that are launched by residents from their gardens. The show culminates at midnight when the last load of fireworks is launched into the sky. This is probably the largest amateur fireworks display that is held jointly with a municipal firework display, in the world.
A week of celebration for culinary fans in a festival dedicated to Icelandic food is held annually in early March. During the festival, chefs from Iceland and the rest over the world join forces with selected restaurants in Reykjavik to present a special menu during the festival in which all dishes are made with local raw materials. On the last day of the festival, a competition is held amongst the chefs for different dishes inspired by Iceland and with the use of local raw materials.
Since 1944, June 17th Iceland's Independence Day in which Icelanders celebrate their independence from Denmark. The Parliament area and the city center become a huge amusement park with Viking-themed games, Icelandic horse parades and musical performances. The street are decorated with the flags of Iceland and the Icelandic people wear traditional costumes .
This new festival started was first held in 2014 and although it being relatively new has gained international recognition, placing it in line with renowned European summer musical festivals such as Glastonbury held in England and Werchter held in Belgium. The festival is held in mid-June around the date of the longest day of the year known as the summer solstice, at time in which the sun never sets in Iceland which is an added factor for participants! The atmosphere is like a never-ending After-Party. Iceland's leading artists, joined by a popular bands and artists from the USA and Europe perform in the festival.
This marathon takes place throughout the street of Reykjavik during late August and has been annually held since 1984. The entire city joins forces to ensure the success of the marathon and cheer on competitors. The course is especially beautiful as it runs in proximity to the beach and all of Reykjavik's beautiful and central places to the finish line near Tjörnin Lake.
This event takes place every summer in Reykjavik, and is considered a family event in Iceland. Tens of thousands of Reykjavik residents come with their children to watch the colorful parade, entertainment stages and performances. Iceland is one of the world's most open countries regarding the gay community and the Gay Pride Parade is not classed as a protest, but a cause for celebration in celebrating human freedom.
Towards the end of August and the end of the summer holiday all the museums, theaters and concert halls are open free to the public from noon to the night. August also marks the period of the new culture year with an assortment of programs and shows. The focus of this day is to connect with traditional Icelandic hosting, doors are open and everyone is invited. Culture Night is an excellent opportunity to visit the many cultural institutions in Reykjavik and connect to the local atmosphere. During the night, many street performances take place in the city center and close to midnight there is a spectacular fireworks display in the harbor.