Interesting facts about Reykjavík


Reykjavík is the capital and largest city of Iceland.

It is located in southwestern Iceland, on the southern shore of Faxa Bay.

As of June 2019, the population of Reykjavík is about 130,000 people.

Reykjavík covers a total area of 273 square kilometers (105 square miles).

Throughout the ages, the landscape has been shaped by glaciers, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and the area is geothermal; after all, its name translates to “Smoky Bay”.

The Reykjavík area coastline is characterized by peninsulas, coves, straits, and islands.


Mount Esja, at 914 meters (2,999 feet), is the highest mountain in the vicinity of Reykjavík.

The largest river to run through Reykjavík is the Elliðaá River, which is non-navigable. It is one of the best salmon fishing rivers in the country.

According to tradition, Reykjavík was founded in 874 by the Norseman Ingólfur Arnarson.

Ingólfur Arnarson is said to have decided the location of his settlement using a traditional Norse method; he cast his high seat pillars (Öndvegissúlur) into the ocean when he saw the coastline, then settled where the pillars came to shore.

ingólfur arnarson

When he arrived, he happened upon columns of steam rising up from a hot spring, and therefore named it “Smokey Bay,” or Reykjavík.

It was granted municipal powers and was designated the administrative center of the Danish-ruled island on August 18, 1786.

Reykjavík became the seat of Icelandic legislation when the historic Icelandic Parliament, suspended in 1799 AD, was re-instituted in 1844 with Reykjavík as its seat.

Then when Iceland became independent from the Danes a century later, in 1944, Reykjavík became the country’s capital. From then onwards the city began booming into the modern capital you see today.

reykjavík old photo

Today, Reykjavík is known as a vibrant, quirky place, that melds a small town vibe with big city living.

The most prominent landmark in Reykjavik is Hallgrímskirkja church in the city’s center. It is one of the largest and finest churches in Iceland. The church is 74,5 meters (240 feet) high and is visible from almost any point in the city.


Harpa is a concert hall and conference centre in Reykjavík. The opening concert was held on May 4, 2011. The award-winning architecture of the building is uniquely artistic. The honeycomb exterior is eye-catching in the daylight and mesmerizing at night as the windows change in a rainbow of colors. It is the new home of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and the Icelandic Opera, has four halls, the largest one accommodating up to 1,800 seated patrons.


Perlan is a prominent landmark in Reykjavík. What was originally a cluster of hot water tanks was in 1991 converted to a building open to the public. It hosts an exhibition, a planetarium, an observation deck, and a restaurant. One of the most impressive exhibits is a replicated ice cave that you can explore at a chilling -10°C (14°F).


One of the top activities in Reykjavik is to relax in the public thermal pools. The 17 pools located around the city are filled with Iceland’s natural geothermal water. The thermal pools are Reykjavik’s community meeting spots that provide a natural therapy for the mind and soul. These communal pools are an important part of the Icelandic culture.

thermal pools

The Sun Voyager is a sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason, located next to the Sæbraut road in Reykjavík. Sun Voyager is described as a dreamboat, or an ode to the Sun. The artist intended it to convey the promise of undiscovered territory, a dream of hope, progress and freedom. The work is constructed of quality stainless steel and stands on a circle of granite slabs surrounded by so-called “town-hall concrete”.

the sun voyager

Reykjavík is the world’s northerly capital.

It is among the cleanest, greenest, and safest cities in the world.

The original name was Reykjarvík with an additional “r” that had vanished around 1800.

The highest ever recorded temperature in Reykjavík was 25.7 °C (78 °F), recorded on July 30, 2008, while the lowest ever recorded temperature was −19.7 °C (−3 °F), recorded on January 30, 1971.

Per capita car ownership in Iceland is among the highest in the world at roughly 522 vehicles per 1,000 residents.