The history of the area where Akureyri is now, stretches back to the 9th century when the Norse Viking Helgi magri (Helgi the thin) and his wife, Þórunn Hyrna, settled in the area. Despite centuries of settlement, the name Akureyri isn’t mentioned until several years later, in 1562.
In the 16th century, the town of Akureyri started out as a handful of buildings belonging to Danish merchants trading their wares in Iceland in the summer. They weren’t allowed to live there the whole year round until 1778. A few years later, Akureyri was recognised as an official market town, although the town didn’t really start to blossom until the mid-19th century.
Since then, Akureyri has become an important hub of commerce, production, arts, culture and education for the north of Iceland. The town has produced poets and artists, politicians and businesspeople who have put their stamp on Iceland as it transformed from a Danish colony to a successful independent nation. The history of Akureyri is embedded into the town itself, its buildings and streets. The buildings represent different stages of time in history, from the charming houses of the old town, through the more modern centre and all the way to some of the most recent buildings on the north side of town.
If you’re interested in learning more about the history of Akureyri, a trip to Akureyri Museum is a must. Akureyri also has preserved some of the houses of notable poets who lived in town. You can visit the house of Jón Sveinsson, Nonni, the author of several autobiographical children’s books about growing up in Akureyri and poet Davíð Stefánsson. Finally, taking a historical walk through the town centre and the oldest part of town is a great way to get to know the spirit of Akureyri. Check out the tourist information office in Hof for more information on the historical walk!