Sometimes our glorious capital can be forgotten in the clamor to tell you about Icelandic towns.
It can be assumed that everyone knows about Reykjavík but may not know about places like Akureyri, Ísafjörður and Selfoss. It has come to our attention that this is not quite true, however. So here is an article about Reykjavík. Not where to eat, or what to do; just actually about the place itself…
Let‘s start with the size of Reykjavík. It has been stated that the city is physically bigger than San Francisco but has a population of just 120,000. The first part may or may not be true (research, what research?) but the second part is quite wrong. You see, while the municipality of Reykjavík indeed has about 120,000 inhabitants, it is just one of a handful of municipalities making up the capital area – effectively one single urban area with a population of over 200,000.
It was not always thus. It is believed that Reykjavík was the first point of permanent Viking settlement in Iceland (and the Settlement Exhibition is a very worthwhile visit) and the name is said to come from those most distant of times too. Reykjavík means Smoky Bay and was apparently named after all the geothermal vents.
After settlement, Reykjavík fell out of fashion. It was not the biggest town in Iceland, and was in fact only home to a farm until the 1700s! During that century one cannot exactly say the village blossomed either; but it did hit the 600-person mark in about 1800. By comparison, London had nearly one million inhabitants at the time and eight million now (eight-times more people in roughly 210 years). Reykjavík’s population has increased nearly 350-fold in the same time. At that rate of growth it should be the biggest city in this galaxy by three weeks on Tuesday.
Except, no, of course. The growth of Reykjavík and other towns reflects changes in agriculture and the literal ability to live in towns without starving to death. Improvements in technology and weather allowed fewer people to produce more of the food – the rewards of which we are still reaping today.
Anyway, as we fast-forward a couple of hundred years we can see that Reykjavík has become the absolute King Conurbation (the Biggest Burg, the Top Town, the Supreme Settlement, if you will) of Iceland. It is the northernmost capital city of a sovereign nation in the world, but is characterized by most un-Arctic weather. Winters are mild, rainy and windy and summers can be similar (to be perfectly honest). But glorious sunny days in Reykjavík during any season are frankly amazing due in large part to the mountains, sea and other assorted countryside that can be seen for miles in every direction. And if you don’t like the weather on any given day in Reykjavík, there’s a good chance it’s quite different in the rest of the country – much of which is generally drier…but also cooler.
Hopefully this covers a few of the basics. Do feel free to search “Reykjavik” here on the left of the screen for all the many other articles about the city. And leave a comment below if there’s anything glaring you think we are missing…