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Reykjavik is the capital and largest city of Iceland.It is located in southwestern Iceland, on the southern shore of Faxafloi Bay.With a population of around 120,000 (and over 200,000 in the Greater Reykjavik Area) it is the heart of Iceland's economic and governmental activity.Reykjavik is believed to be the location of the first permanent settlement in Iceland, which Ingolfur Arnarson is said to have established around 870.Until the 18th century, there was no urban development in the city location.The city was founded in 1786 as an official trading town and grew steadily over the next decades,as it transformed into a regional and later national centre of commerce,population and governmental activities.

The Danish Crown abolished monopoly trading in 1786 and granted six communities around the country an exclusive trading charter, Reykjavík was one of them and the only one to hold on to the charter permanently.1786 is regarded as the date of the city's founding its 200th anniversary was celebrated in 1986.Trading rights were still limited to the subjects of the Danish Crown however, and Danish traders continued to dominate trade in Iceland. Over the following decades, their business in Iceland expanded.After 1880, free trade was expanded to all nationalities and the influence of Icelandic merchants started to grow.

Icelandic nationalist sentiment gained influence in the 19th century and ideas of Icelandic independence became widespread. Reykjavik, as Iceland's only city, was the melting pot of such ideas.Advocates of an independent Iceland realized that a strong Reykjavik was fundamental to that objective.All the important years in the history of the independence struggle are important for Reykjavik as well.In 1845, Alþingi, or the general assembly that Icelanders formed in 930, was re-established in Reykjavik; it had been suspended a few decades earlier when it was located at Thingvellir. At the time it only functioned as an advisory assembly with the function of advising the King about Icelandic affairs.The location of Alpingi in Reykjavik effectively established the city as the capital of Iceland.

In 1874 Iceland was given a constitution and with it, Alpingi gained some limited legislative powers and in essence became the institution that it is today.The next step was to move most of the executive power to Iceland and that was done by Home Rule in 1904 when the office of minister for Iceland was established in Reykjavik.The biggest step towards an independent Iceland was taken December 1, 1918 when Iceland became a sovereign country under the Crown of Denmark, the Kingdom of Iceland.In the 1920s and 1930s most of the growing Icelandic fishing trawler fleet sailed from Reykjavik and salt-cod production was the main industry but the Great Depression hit Reykjavik hard with unemployment and labour union struggles that sometimes became violent.

The mayor is appointed by the city council; usually one of the council members is chosen but they may also appoint a mayor who is not a member of the council.The office of mayor was introduced from 1907, and in 1908 applications for that position were requested.Two applications were received, from Pall Einarsson, sheriff and town mayor of Hafnarfjorour and from Knud Zimsen, town councillor in Reykjavik.Pall was appointed on 7 May and was mayor for six years.At that time the city mayor received a salary of 4500 ISK per year and 1500 ISK for office expenses.The current mayor is Jon Gnarr.

How to Reach

By Air

Reykjavik Airport, the second largest airport in the country (after Keflavik International Airport),is positioned inside the city, just south of the city centre.It is mainly used for domestic flights as well as flights to Greenland and the Faroe Islands.It was built there by the British occupation force during World War II ,when it was on the outskirts of the then much smaller Reykjavik.In recent years there has been some controversy regarding the location of the airport,since it takes up a lot of valuable space in central Reykjavik.

By Road

Per capita car ownership in Iceland is among the highest in the world at roughly 522 vehicles per 1,000 residents,though Reykjavik is not severely affected by congestion.Wide multi-lane highways run all over the city, connecting the different neighbourhoods and suburbs.Parking spaces are also plentiful in most areas.Public transportation consists only of a bus system (called Streto bs) and is not very popular in this car-friendly city.Route 1 (the Ring Road) runs by the city outskirts and connects it to the rest of Iceland.

By Ferries

Reykjavik has two seaports,the old harbour near the city centre which is mainly used by fishermen and cruise ships and Sundahofn in the east city which is the largest cargo port in the country.

Key places to visit
Alpingishusio, Hallgrimskirkja, Laugavegur, Reykjavik Art Museum, Smaratorg Tower, Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, Blue Lagoon, Kringlan


Places to Visit


Is a classical 19th century structure which stands by Austurvollur in central Reykjavik, Iceland.It houses Alþingi, the Icelandic parliament.The building was designed by Danish architect Ferdinand Meldahl and built using hewn dolerite during 1880 to 1881.Today, only the debating chamber, a few small meeting rooms and the offices of a some of the senior parliamentary staff are actually located in Alpingishusio. Committee meeting rooms, parliamentarians offices and most of Alpingi's secretariat are located in other buildings in the area around Austurvollur.There are currently plans to build a new building to house these offices and meeting rooms in the area immediately to the west of Alpingishusio, where there is today a parking lot and a few smaller buildings currently being used by Alpingi and which will be incorporated into the new building.


Is a Lutheran (Church of Iceland) parish church in Reykjavik, Iceland. At 74.5 metres (244 ft), it is the largest church in Iceland and the sixth tallest architectural structure in Iceland after Longwave radio mast Hellissandur, the radio masts of US Navy at Grindavik, Eioar longwave transmitter and Smaratorg tower.The church is named after the Icelandic poet and clergyman Hallgrimur Petursson (1614 to 1674),author of the Passion Hymns.The church houses a large pipe organ by the German organ builder Johannes Klais of Bonn.It has mechanical action, four manuals and pedal, 102 ranks, 72 stops and 5275 pipes.It is 15 metres tall and weighs 25 tons.Its construction was finished in December 1992. It has been recorded by Christopher Herrick in his Organ Fireworks VII CD.


Is the primary commercial artery of downtown Reykjavik, Iceland and one of the oldest shopping streets.The name means Wash Road,as it used to lead to the hot springs in Laugardalur where in olden times the women of Reykjavik took their laundry for washing.It has experienced economic setbacks in recent years mostly because of the increase in popularity of shopping malls, most notably Kringlan and the recent Smaralind.It still maintains the charm of a historical shopping street and is still home to the more exclusive stores in Iceland.

Reykjavik Art Museum

Is the largest visual art institution in Iceland.It occupies three locations in Reykjavik; in Harbour House by the old harbour at Kjarvalsstaoir by Klambratun and in Asmundur Sveinsson Sculpture Museum in Laugardalur.The Museum offers a variety of events all year round where art is closely examined from different angles and with different emphasis.Extensive family programmes as well as guided tours for students of all levels are cultivated.In addition, the museum takes active part in ambitious cooperative projects and festivals in the field of music, film, design, dance, drama and literature.

Smaratorg Tower

Is an office and retail building in Iceland. It is the tallest building in Iceland, surpassing the Hallgrimskirkja in height, and is the fifth tallest architectural structure in the country after the Eioar longwave transmitter, the masts of Naval Radio Transmitter Facility Grindavik and longwave radio mast Hellissandur.The building is located in Smarahverfi, Kopavogur, where the shopping mall Smaralind is also located.The building has 20 floors and is 77.6 metres (256 ft) high.The tower was designed by Arkís architects.The global accounting and consulting firm Deloitte is located in the tower.The building was opened on February 11, 2008.

Baejarins Beztu Pylsur

Often shortened to simply "Baejarins beztu", is a popular hot dog stand in central Reykjavik, Iceland. In August 2006, the British newspaper The Guardian selected Baejarins beztu as the best hot dog stand in Europe.A hot dog costs 300 ISK (equivalent to $2.55 CAD or $2.62 USD as of March 2011) and condiments include ketchup, sweet mustard, fried onion, raw onion and remolaoi,a mayonnaise-based sauce with sweet relish.Hot dogs are often ordered with "the works," i.e.,all condiments, or in Icelandic "eina meo ollu".The majority of Icelanders have eaten at Bæjarins beztu. It’s downtown near the harbor and has been open since 1937.Foreign visitors are often brought to the stand to introduce them to the hot dogs there, which are often called "the Icelandic national food." Among famous people who have eaten at Bæjarins beztu are Bill Clinton, former president of the United States, and James Hetfield, vocalist of the popular heavy metal band Metallica.

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