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Reykjavik History, Iceland

Reykjavik, or Smoke Bay as it is called in Icelandic, is the largest city and the capital of Iceland located 129 miles from Vestmannaeyjar and 266 miles from Akureyri. This fascinating city can boast of being the northernmost capital in the world. The history of this city is not very long, but it is nonetheless interesting. Reykjavik’s touristic potential has been discovered only recently, so the city has not yet turned into a generic tourist destination, and many elements of traditional Icelandic life are still part of the experience of visiting the place. As a capital, Reykjavik is the country’s cultural, political and financial centre, and there are many historical sites that are curiosities well worth visiting. This Reykjavik History guide will take you on a tour of this city’s intriguing history.

Reykjavik History Guide - Foundation and Early History

According to the legend, the first person to set foot on Icelandic soil was a Norwegian fugitive named Ingólfur Arnarson. He landed in what is today Reykjavik’s bay, and set up a farm there. He named it Smoke Bay due to the steam rising from the hot springs around the place. There is archaeological evidence pointing to early Viking settlements in the area, and a monastery was built in the bay in the 13th century. This Reykjavik History Guide recommends that you visit the site of the first Icelandic settlements, in the city centre. Reykjavik was nothing more than a collection of farms until the 18th century, when a local sheriff established several factories in the bay in order to bypass the embargo imposed on Iceland by Denmark. Reykjavik’s wool industry began to boom, and the city became more am more flourishing, especially when other industries, such as shipbuilding and sulphur mining began to develop. In 1786, the Danish Crown abolished their monopoly over Icelandic trade, and Reykjavik received a trading charter. This date is actually considered the date of the city’s foundation. From this moment on, Reykjavik’s and Iceland’s entire economy began to expand.

Reykjavik History Guide - 19th Century until Today

In the 1880, the Icelanders obtained the right to trade freely with any other nation in the world. The Danish influence was still rather string, but farmers and merchants from Reykjavik could finally take matters into their own hands. At the time, Reykjavik was the only city in the country, so naturally when the nationalist movement began to emerge in Iceland, Reykjavik was the centre. In 1874, the country’s general assembly voted a constitution, and Iceland started to assert its independence. In 1918, Iceland became the Kingdom of Iceland under the sovereignty of the Danish Crown. In 1940, at the beginning of WWII, four allied ships landed in Reykjavik, but there was no resistance on the part of the people. The British and American occupation had positive effects on the city’s economy, and the capital quickly turned into a modern city. Nowadays, many tourists are drawn to Reykjavik natural beauty, and the exciting activities it offers, such as cruises, sightseeing, or enjoying the hot springs.

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  • lindamuraThe geysers and fjords of Iceland
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    Iceland The following content has been contributed by Trausti Tomasson - Please visit his galleries here: and you will see what a beautiful country it is! The North MYVATN: Myvatn lies in the northeast of Iceland on the western...
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