Reykjavik Main Image.jpg
From upper left: Reykjavik from Perlan, rooftops from Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavik from Hallgrímskirkja, Fríkirkjan, panorama from Perlan
ISL Reykjavik COA.svg
Coat of arms of Reykjavík
Reykjavikurborg map.svg
Location of Reykjavík
RegionCapital Region
ConstituencyReykjavík Constituency North
Reykjavík Constituency South
Market rightAugust 18, 1786[1]
MayorDagur Bergþóruson Eggertsson (SDA)
CouncilReykjavík City Council
Area273 km2 (105 sq mi)[2]
Population128,130 (2018)[3]
Density451.5/km2 (1,169/sq mi)
Municipal number0000

Reykjavík (k/ RAYK-yə-vik, -veek;[4][5] Icelandic: [ˈreiːcaˌviːk] (About this soundlisten)) is the capital and largest city of Iceland. It is located in southwestern Iceland, on the southern shore of Faxa Bay. Its latitude is 64°08' N, making it the world's northernmost capital of a sovereign state. With a population of around 123,300 (and over 216,940 in the Capital Region),[3] it is the heart of Iceland's cultural, economic and governmental activity, and is a popular tourist destination.

Reykjavík is believed to be the location of the first permanent settlement in Iceland, which, according to Ingólfr Arnarson, was established in AD 874. Until the 19th 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 following decades, as it transformed into a regional and later national centre of commerce, population, and governmental activities. It is among the cleanest, greenest, and safest cities in the world.[6][7][8]


A painting by Johan Peter Raadsig of Ingólfur commanding his high seat pillars to be erected
Reykjavík in the 1860s

The first permanent settlement in Iceland by Norsemen is believed to have been established at Reykjavík by Ingólfr Arnarson around AD 870; this is described in Landnámabók, or the Book of Settlement. 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. The story about the pillars is dubious to many people. He obviously settled near the hot springs to keep warm in the winter and would not have determined it by happenstance. Furthermore the probability of the pillars drifting to that location from where they were said to have been thrown from the boat seems improbable. Nevertheless that is what the Landnamabok says and says furthermore that Ingolf's pillars are still to be found in a house there in town. Steam from hot springs in the region is said to have inspired Reykjavík's name, which loosely translates to Smoke Cove (the city is sometimes referred to as Bay of Smoke or Smoky Bay in English language travel guides).[9][10] In the modern language, as in English, the word for 'smoke' and the word for fog or steamy vapour are not commonly confused but this is believed to have been the case in the old language. The original name was Reykjarvík with an additional "r" that had vanished around 1800.[11]

The Reykjavík area was farmland until the 18th century. In 1752, the King of Denmark, Frederik V, donated the estate of Reykjavík to the Innréttingar Corporation; the name comes from the Danish language word indretninger, meaning institution. The leader of this movement was Skúli Magnússon [is]. In the 1750s, several houses were built to house the wool industry, which was Reykjavík's most important employer for a few decades and the original reason for its existence. Other industries were undertaken by the Innréttingar, such as fisheries, sulphur mining, agriculture, and shipbuilding.[12]

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 thus regarded as the date of the city's founding. Trading rights were limited to subjects of the Danish Crown, 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.

Rise of nationalism

Reykjavík in 1881

Icelandic nationalist sentiment gained influence in the 19th century, and the idea of Icelandic independence became widespread. Reykjavík, as Iceland's only city, was central to such ideas. Advocates of an independent Iceland realized that a strong Reykjavík was fundamental to that objective. All the important events in the history of the independence struggle were important to Reykjavík as well. In 1845 Alþingi, the general assembly formed in 930 AD, was re-established in Reykjavík; it had been suspended a few decades earlier when it was located at Þingvellir. At the time it functioned only as an advisory assembly, advising the King about Icelandic affairs. The location of Alþingi in Reykjavík effectively established the city as the capital of Iceland.

In 1874, Iceland was given a constitution; with it, Alþingi 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: Home Rule was granted in 1904 when the office of Minister For Iceland was established in Reykjavík. The biggest step towards an independent Iceland was taken on 1 December 1918 when Iceland became a sovereign country under the Crown of Denmark, the Kingdom of Iceland.

By the 1920s and 1930s most of the growing Icelandic fishing trawler fleet sailed from Reykjavík; cod production was its main industry, but the Great Depression hit Reykjavík hard with unemployment, and labour union struggles sometimes became violent.

World War II

On the morning of 10 May 1940, following the German occupation of Denmark and Norway on 9 April 1940, four British warships approached Reykjavík and anchored in the harbour. In a few hours, the allied occupation of Reykjavík was complete. There was no armed resistance, and taxi and truck drivers even assisted the invasion force, which initially had no motor vehicles. The Icelandic government had received many requests from the British government to consent to the occupation, but it always declined on the basis of the Neutrality Policy. For the remaining years of World War II, British and later American soldiers occupied camps in Reykjavík, and the number of foreign soldiers in Reykjavík became about the same as the local population of the city. The Royal Regiment of Canada formed part of the garrison in Iceland during the early part of the war.

The economic effects of the occupation were positive for Reykjavík: the unemployment of the Depression years vanished, and construction work began. The British built Reykjavík Airport, which is still in service today, mostly serving domestic flights. The Americans, meanwhile, built Keflavík Airport, situated 50 km (31 mi) west of Reykjavík, which became Iceland's primary international airport. In 1944, the Republic of Iceland was founded and a president, elected by the people, replaced the King; the office of the president was placed in Reykjavík.

Post-war development

In the post-war years, the growth of Reykjavík accelerated. An exodus from the rural countryside began, largely because improved technology in agriculture reduced the need for manpower, and because of a population boom resulting from better living conditions in the country. A once primitive village was rapidly transformed into a modern city. Private cars became common, and modern apartment complexes rose in the expanding suburbs.

In 1972, Reykjavík hosted the world chess championship between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky. The 1986 Reykjavík Summit between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev underlined Reykjavík's international status. Deregulation in the financial sector and the computer revolution of the 1990s again transformed Reykjavík. The financial and IT sectors are now significant employers in the city. The city has fostered some world-famous talents in recent decades, such as Björk, Ólafur Arnalds and bands Múm, Sigur Rós and Of Monsters and Men, poet Sjón and visual artist Ragnar Kjartansson.

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Reykjavik
Alemannisch: Reykjavík
አማርኛ: ሬይኪያቪክ
Ænglisc: Rēcwīc
العربية: ريكيافيك
aragonés: Reykjavík
asturianu: Reikiavik
azərbaycanca: Reykyavik
Bân-lâm-gú: Reykjavík
беларуская: Рэйк’явік
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Рэйк’явік
български: Рейкявик
Boarisch: Reykjavík
བོད་ཡིག: རེཀ་ཇ་བིཀ།
bosanski: Reykjavík
brezhoneg: Reykjavík
català: Reykjavík
Чӑвашла: Рейкьявик
čeština: Reykjavík
chiShona: Reykjavík
corsu: Reykjavík
Cymraeg: Reykjavík
dansk: Reykjavik
davvisámegiella: Reykjavík
Deutsch: Reykjavík
dolnoserbski: Reykjavík
eesti: Reykjavík
Ελληνικά: Ρέικιαβικ
español: Reikiavik
Esperanto: Rejkjaviko
euskara: Reykjavik
eʋegbe: Reykjavík
فارسی: ریکیاویک
Fiji Hindi: Reykjavík
føroyskt: Reykjavík
français: Reykjavik
Frysk: Reykjavík
Gaeilge: Réicivíc
Gaelg: Reykjavík
Gàidhlig: Reykjavík
galego: Reiquiavik
客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî: Reykjavík
한국어: 레이캬비크
Hawaiʻi: Reykjavík
հայերեն: Ռեյկյավիկ
हिन्दी: रेक्जाविक
hornjoserbsce: Reykjavík
hrvatski: Reykjavik
Ilokano: Reykjavík
Bahasa Indonesia: Reykjavík
Interlingue: Reykjavík
íslenska: Reykjavík
italiano: Reykjavík
Basa Jawa: Reykjavík
Kabɩyɛ: Reyikzaavikii
kalaallisut: Reykjavík
ქართული: რეიკიავიკი
kaszëbsczi: Reykjavík
қазақша: Рейкиявик
Kiswahili: Reykjavík
Kreyòl ayisyen: Rèkyavik
kurdî: Reykjavîk
Кыргызча: Рейкьявик
Ladino: Reikiavik
لۊری شومالی: ریکاڤیک
Latina: Reykiavica
latviešu: Reikjavika
Lëtzebuergesch: Reykjavík
lietuvių: Reikjavikas
Ligure: Reykjavík
Limburgs: Reykjavík
lingála: Reykjavík
Lingua Franca Nova: Reykjavik
Livvinkarjala: Reikjavik
lumbaart: Reykjavik
magyar: Reykjavík
македонски: Рејкјавик
Malagasy: Reykjavík
Malti: Rejkjavik
Māori: Reykjavik
მარგალური: რეიკიავიკი
Bahasa Melayu: Reykjavík
Mìng-dĕ̤ng-ngṳ̄: Reykjavík
Nāhuatl: Reikiavik
Dorerin Naoero: Reykjavík
Nederlands: Reykjavik
Nedersaksies: Reykjavik
нохчийн: Рейкьявик
Nordfriisk: Reykjavik
Norfuk / Pitkern: Reykyavik
norsk: Reykjavík
norsk nynorsk: Reykjavík
Novial: Reykjavík
occitan: Reykjavík
олык марий: Рейкьявик
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Reykyavik
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਰੇਕੀਆਵਿਕ
پنجابی: ریکیاوک
Papiamentu: Reykjavík
Piemontèis: Reykjavík
Tok Pisin: Reykjavik
Plattdüütsch: Reykjavík
polski: Reykjavík
português: Reykjavík
română: Reykjavík
Runa Simi: Reykjavík
русиньскый: Рейкьявик
русский: Рейкьявик
саха тыла: Рейкьявик
Sängö: Reykjavik
sardu: Reykjavík
Scots: Reykjavík
Seeltersk: Reykjavík
Sesotho: Reykjavík
shqip: Reykjavík
sicilianu: Reykjavík
Simple English: Reykjavík
slovenčina: Reykjavík
slovenščina: Reykjavík
ślůnski: Reykjavík
کوردی: ڕێکیاڤیک
српски / srpski: Рејкјавик
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Rejkjavik
suomi: Reykjavík
svenska: Reykjavik
Tagalog: Reikiavik
Taqbaylit: Reykyavik
татарча/tatarça: Рейкьявик
tetun: Reikiavike
тоҷикӣ: Рейкявик
Türkçe: Reykjavík
удмурт: Рейкьявик
українська: Рейк'явік
اردو: ریکیاوک
ئۇيغۇرچە / Uyghurche: رېيكياۋىك
vèneto: Reykjavik
vepsän kel’: Reikjavik
Tiếng Việt: Reykjavík
Volapük: Reykjavík
Võro: Reykjavík
Winaray: Reykjavík
Wolof: Reykjawik
ייִדיש: רעקיאוויק
Yorùbá: Reykjavík
Zazaki: Reykjavík
Zeêuws: Reykjavík
žemaitėška: Rėikjavėks