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It’s Iceland’s second largest city, often used as a base for exploring northern Iceland.
Akureyri is Iceland’s unofficial capital city of the north. With a population of 18,000, it’s Iceland’s second most populated town outside of the Reykjavik area. While many visitors use Akureyri as a base to explore other nearby regions (Myvatn and Husavik come to mind), we stayed near Akureyri for some downtime. Our cottage, Ytri Vik, was about a 20 minute drive from Akureyri. We divided our time between relaxing at the cottage and exploring Akureyri.
Even though Iceland’s spectacular natural beauty is the best reason to visit, you should also explore its towns and cities. Here’s our Akureyri travel guide: how we spent one day in the city.
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You can reach Akureyri by car, bus, or plane. There are daily flights between Akureyri and Reykjavik several times a day. Justin and I arrived by car as we were in the middle of our Iceland road trip. You can access Iceland easily from the Ring Road, the main highway of Iceland.
Once you arrive, park your car at one of the several parking lots near the downtown core. Parking in Akureyri is free; however, the town has a quirky parking system. In order to park your car in one of the lots, you must pick up a parking disc. The parking discs are available at every local shop or bank. We picked one up at a store next to the parking lot. The parking lots have a two hour time limit. You set the clock to two hours from the present time. Of course, if you go beyond your allotted time and get caught, you could get a parking ticket.
We stayed longer than two hours, so we returned to the car and adjusted the clock. Just to be on the safe side, we moved the car to a new parking space (not sure if that was necessary, but doesn’t hurt to be safe!).
Akureyri is very walkable, and you should be able to explore the whole place in a day (or an afternoon, depending on what you do). We walked around and admired the colorful buildings, the street art, and the statues. There’s a pair of iconic troll statues in the middle of town that you won’t be able to miss.
If you’re looking to do some shopping in Iceland outside of Reykjavik, Akureyri is the place to be. The main shopping street is called Hafnarstræti. There are lots of small boutique shops selling local specialties. We browsed shops selling clothing, books, local music, art, accessories, and housewares. I got the cutest espresso mug with an owl on it. We bought some souvenirs for friends and family back home.
Stop for a coffee at a local cafe or enjoy your beverage outside on a bench. Watch locals and tourists alike roam about.
You also can’t miss the Akureyri church. Built in 1940, it’s an iconic symbol of the town. The church is at the top of a hill with several sets of stairs leading up to it.
Across the street from the Akureyri church on Kaupangsstræti, you’ll find Grófargil, also known as Listagil (art canyon). In this area of town, you’ll find the Akureyri Art Museum, the Akureyri School of Art, and several artists’ studios and boutiques.
WHERE TO EAT
In town, you can stop at Símstöðin, a healthy restaurant with smoothies, pizza, pasta and more. All vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options are clearly marked. It’s right on Hafnarstræti on the main shopping street.
We highly recommend that you drive a few minutes outside of town to dine at Silva, a vegan/vegetarian restaurant in the countryside. This restaurant was a highlight of our dining experiences in Iceland. They have burritos, wraps, vegetable dishes, salads, a nut loaf, soup, hummus and dip, and raw food. There’s also a big selection of vegan desserts.
If you’re looking for groceries, there’s a little mall in town called Glerártorg. It’s a short drive from the downtown core of Akureyri. There are a few shops in the mall (Toys R Us, 66 North, and others). I highly recommend that you check out the small organic food store inside the mall. They have unique vegan food items, like vegan Nutella and chocolate bars. I guess those aren’t the “healthiest” choices inside a health food store, but I’m always happy to try yummy vegan food! The grocery store, Netto, also has all the ingredients you need to prepare a meal. We also found vegan cheese (try the Violife cheese slices and vegan Parmesan cheese) and plant-based milk.
WHERE TO STAY
One of our favorite accommodations ever is Ytri Vik Cottages, 20 minutes outside of Akureyri. We stayed here for two nights and absolutely loved it. You’ll enjoy views of the Eyjafjörðu fjord from your own private hot tub at a luxurious cottage.
If you’re looking for a hotel or guestroom closer to the city, there are many hotels in Akureyri that are comfortable and convenient.
We hope that you find this Akureyri travel guide useful for your future trip to the city! While it’s a great home base for exploring the region, we thought it was a lovely city to visit in its own right.
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