A Short History of Akureyri

In 1778, the first residential house was built in Akureyri, when Danish merchants were first allowed winter residence there, and only 8 years later, Akureyri became a certified trading post by the king of Denmark (and Iceland, at the time).

Welcome to Akureyri

With only 12 inhabitants, the town wasn’t as prosperous as was hoped and the coveted trading license was lost in 1835. Almost three decades later, in 1862, Akureyri got the license back and the town started to blossom.

The area’s history is much older, as it was first settled by the Norse Viking, Helgi Magri (the slim), in the 9th century and Danish merchants spent time their during the winters in the 17th century, because of the site’s great natural harbour. The first documented mention of Akureyri as “Akureyri” is in a court document from 1562!

A field on sandbanks

The name Akureyri can roughly be translated into “field” (akur) and “sandbank” (eyri), which probably derives from a cornfield that is believed to have been in the area and the sandbanks that led into the ocean from the harbour. The harbour was of a turning points for Akureyri, and one of the reasons the town cemented itself as an important part of Iceland and is known as “the capital of the north.”

A stroll through history

For art enthusiasts and history buffs, Akureyri has a lot to offer. Near the town centre, a steep hill runs down from Akureyri’s thermal pool which bears the nickname “Arts’ Alley.” The street is teeming with fantastic art studios and galleries, and also the largest museum in Akureyri, aptly named “Akureyri Museum.”

You don’t need to go into a museum to see Akureyri’s rich history, although it helps and we recommend it. You can take a stroll through “Old Town,” situated south of the centre, and see the beautiful and well-preserved century old houses, including Laxdalshús, the town’s oldest building, completed in 1795. The second oldest part of Akureyri, Oddeyri, also has many historic buildings as well as shops and businesses.