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What is the capital of Iceland? The Icelandic capital of Reykjavik

What is the capital of Iceland?

Most of us have heard of Iceland before, with its stunning scenery, amazing ice hotels, vivid nightlife, and world-class restaurants. 

Iceland is more than just one of the best places to check out The Golden Circle or the Northern Lights, it’s a country full of amazing experiences to discover. 

Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, is at the heart of these amazing experiences. From Reykjavik, you can see modern museums, galleries, bars, and saunas, or just relax in the great outdoors. 

Natural wonders are everywhere in Iceland, and it’s easy to plan excursions when you’re staying in the capital city. 

If you’ve always dreamed of learning more about Iceland, and the Icelandic capital, then you’re in the right place. 

Today, we’re going to introduce you to all the important things you need to know about the capital city of Iceland, and what makes it so special. 

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What’s the capital of Iceland?

Iceland is one of the most beautiful places in the world. At the heart of its stunning scenery and incredible people, Reykjavik, otherwise known as the “Bay of Smokes”, started as a small fishing village. 

Founded way back in 874, Reykjavik appeared thanks to a Norse man called Ingolfur Arnarson. It maintained its position as a fishing and trading post until the 20th century, and eventually earned municipal powers in 1786. 

Reykjavik, like most capital cities, is the cultural, industrial, and commercial heart of Iceland. 

Though the location has grown significantly over the years, it still stands out as a well-known fishing and trading location, with around half of the nation’s industries begin. 

Reykjavik mainly exports food and fish products, along with metal and machinery. 

Brimming with life and creativity, Iceland’s capital is modern and stylish in appearance, with hot water piped into the city from nearby springs, and lots of concrete. 

There are many outdoor swimming pools where citizens can relax, or you can check out the National University Library of Iceland to brush up on your knowledge. 

Reykjavik is also home to the Reykjavik art museum, made up of three buildings. Visitors can find Reykjavik on the Seltjarnar Peninsula, towards the southwestern side of Iceland. 

Icelandic capital fact file

Reykjavik is one of the most eye-catching cities in the world in winter, where the streets and buildings are often lined with snow. 

However, this location isn’t home to a huge number of people. Nearly two thirds of the entire country’s population lives in Reykjavik, which still adds up to only around 123,000 people in total. 

  • Size: About 273 km squared
  • Population: 122,853 people 
  • Time zone: Greenwich Mean Time
  • Climate: Temperate
  • Currency: Icelandic Krona 

Although you won’t be surrounded by many people, living in Reykjavik, the city makes up for its small population with tons of culture and unique experiences. 

Home to an amazing design scene, plenty of museums, and lots of boutique shops, Iceland’s capital has a lot to offer. 

Only two degrees south from the Arctic Circle, Reykjavik is the city that’s the furthest north on earth. Its location also means that it gets as little as four hours of sunlight in some days of winter, and up to 21 hours of sunlight in the summer. 

Reykjavik’s biggest building is the Hallsgrimskirkja, a massive 240-foot tall church that resembles volcanic lava columns. The building took 41 years to construct in full, and its home to a 25-ton pipe organ. 

Reykjavik is also the only current capital city in the world that is home to a giant puffin breeding quality. An estimated 60% of the puffin population lives and nests in Iceland. 

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What is Iceland’s capital like today?

One of the smallest capital cities in Europe, Reykjavik is an easy place to explore if you’re looking for a relaxing vacation experience. You can see plenty amazing sights on foot if you visit in the summer months. 

For those interested in seeing Iceland’s spectacular northern lights, it’s often best to visit in the winter, when there are more hours of darkness. 

There are countless amazing bars, clubs, restaurants, and cafes to discover in the Icelandic capital, with the Pearl dome sitting atop Öskjuhlíð hill for those who want an amazing view of the capital. 

There’s also access to the Saga Museum, featuring various exhibits from Icelandic history. 

For those interested in culture, the Reykjavik concert hall and conference center is a wonderful place to visit, with presentations from Swan Lake, to the Shakespeare Globe Theatre’s Hamlet. 

Alternatively, if you feel like a spot of shopping, the biggest flea market in Iceland happens on the Reykjavik harbour, with stalls selling their wares on weekends. 

Notably, though the Blue Lagoon is one of the most popular attractions in Iceland, it’s actually around 31 miles away from the city, located near to the international Keflavik airport.

What is the Icelandic capital known for? Fun facts

Reykjavik is a location full of unique things to discover if you’re willing to wrap up warm and go exploring. Known as a city of literature thanks to its excellent collection of medieval literature, and the central role it plays in the modern landscape. 

The capital is also home to more than forty different species of birds. 

Here are some interesting facts about Reykjavic:

  • Reykjavik is brimming with events to experience. The capital city hosts the Winter Lights Festival, the festival for children’s literature, an international film festival, and even a Viking festival where people with Viking heritage come from around the globe to celebrate. 
  • Dogs were once banned in Reykjavik. In the 20th century, you weren’t allowed to keep a dog as a pet. There were people who flouted the ban and kept their pooches illegally, of course. Without the freedom to own a dog, Reykjavik became a place covered with cats. Today, there are thousands of cats across the capital region. 
  • Dogs weren’t the only thing to be banned here. There were no TV broadcasts available until the 1980s, and you weren’t permitted to watch TV on Thursdays until 1987. Additionally, beer was banned in Iceland between the years of 1915 and 1989. 
  • Reykjavik was actually discovered by a fugitive. Ingolfur Arnarson settled in Iceland when he was chased from Norway. He’s currently listed in a medieval book of settlements as the person responsible for discovering Reykjavik. 
  • Until the 1960s, people in Iceland generally lived in turf houses. It wasn’t until the late 80s when Iceland discovered lime deposits in mountains which allowed them to build full-sized homes like the ones we know today. 
  • Reykjavik isn’t the best place to visit if you love your fast food. It’s the only place in Western Europe that doesn’t have a Starbucks or a McDonalds. The only burger you’ll find in Reykjavik is the one that’s sitting in a museum to determine how quickly these burgers actually break down. You can still find other fast food franchises in Reykjavik too. 
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Discover the capital of Iceland

Iceland is an incredible place, popular for a lot more than just it’s ability to showcase the Northern Lights in style. 

If you’re looking for a place where you can get some of the most comfortable and warming jumpers in the world, or you just want to check out a massive amount of beautiful natural scenery, Iceland is definitely a place worth checking out. 

The great thing about Reykjavik is that you can have an incredible experience here regardless of whether you’re visiting in the summer or the winter. 

Thanks to the long days in summer, there’s plenty of opportunities to explore the great outdoors and take everything in. 

In the winter, when the nights are longer and darker, you’re more likely to see the aurora borealis. 

There are plenty of organised trips and tours you can take if you are looking for some advice.

Our advice? Make sure you soak up all the unique culture that Reykjavik has to offer while you’re there. 

That definitely means eating some local food (like shark) and checking out the incredible open baths in public spaces, where you can soak in some warm water for a few hours at a time. 

And if you’re looking for a place to stay during your trip, there are plenty of hotels in Reykjavik you can book.

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