A City Guide to Akureyri | Explore the Capital of the North Skip to content

A City Guide to Akureyri, the Capital of North Iceland

By Lára Borg Lárusdóttir

Akureyri party-goers
Photo: Golli – Akureyri Church.

Akureyri is located in the North of Iceland. It is often called the Capital of the North as it is Iceland’s second-largest city with a population of about 20,000. The city is small but stands out as a charming, vibrant city that captivates visitors. With its unique blend of culture and beautiful nature, Akureyri offers travellers countless attractions, activities and culinary experiences.

Below, we will delve into the many options of sights and activities to experience in Akureyri, along with listing where it is best to stay and where it is best to eat to give the taste buds a delightful time.

 

What to see in Akureyri

Akureyri in itself is a stunning sight, with breathtaking landscapes, such as tall mountains surrounding the city. If basking in the city’s beauty is not enough, there are endless other sights to encounter.

 

Kjarnaskógur 

Kjarnaskógur forest is the most popular outdoor area in Akureyri. Since the beginning of forestry there, over 1,5 million plants have been planted in the forest, making it a lush outdoor area. Kjarnaskógur forest has children’s play areas, walking paths, volleyball areas, and barbeque spots. In addition, people can mountain bike in the summer or cross-country ski in the winter, making it an attractive place for outdoor enthusiasts. 

 

Church of Akureyri 

Elegantly overlooking the city is the Akureyri Church, a noteworthy architectural landmark which has become the city’s symbol. It is a Lutheran church that was designed by the famous architect Guðjón Samúelsson and consecrated in 1940. 

The church is situated on a hill, providing stunning panoramic views over the town, where the steps leading up to it have become a popular photo spot for visitors and an exercise spot for locals. 

Akureyri Church by evening
Photo: Akureyri Church

 

Lystigarður Botanical gardens

Lystigarðurinn is a lush botanical garden situated at Eyrarlandsvegur street in the city of Akureyri. The garden was officially opened in 1912 and was Iceland’s first public park, making Lystigarðurinn a historically special one. The Akureyri Park Society was in charge of its design and was entirely composed of women, which was unusual at the time. 

Lystigarðurinn Botanical Garden is a true haven for plant enthusiasts with its diverse collection of Icelandic and foreign flora. It has a unique, peaceful atmosphere and has become an attractive spot for leisurely strolls, and at times, wedding receptions have been held in the garden’s cafe. 

 

Nonnahús – Nonni’s House 

Nonnahús, or Nonni’s house, is a museum dedicated to the works of the author Jón Ásgeirsson. The museum provides insight into his life and the cultural heritage of Iceland. The house itself is a special one, a dark wooden house from the 1840s, and was the famous author’s childhood home, making it a unique sight for visitors. 

 

What to Do in Akureyri

There are not only numerous things to see in Akureyri, although its beauty is truly captivating, but there are also endless things to do and experience.

 

Akureyri Whale Watching

The elegant creatures of the ocean can be gazed at during a whale-watching experience in Akureyri. The tour brings visitors to the beautiful Eyjafjörður fjord on a high-speed whale-watching ship to view the incredible Humpback whales in their natural habitat. 

The specially trained guides will educate tour participants on the whales, and they are able to answer just about any question you might have. They are also experts at spotting the whales and analysing their behaviour, which they will also educate the group on. 

A classic whale-watching tour can be booked here

Admission: ISK 12,990. Children 7-15: ISK 6,495, free for children under 7.

A mother Sei Whale and it's calf.
Photo: Christin Khan – Whale mother and calf.

 

Visit the Christmas House 

One of the most popular attractions in the Akureyri area is Jólahúsið or the Christmas House. As counterintuitive as it may sound, the Christmas House is open all year round and not only around Christmas time. Entering the house, you become transported to the land of Christmas, with decorations, candies and the scent of the holidays setting you in the right mood. The house’s exterior also looks like a giant gingerbread house, truly getting visitors into the holiday spirit, no matter the season. In the Christmas House’s garden, there is also a market offering beautiful handcrafted products from locals. 

 

Take a dip in Akureyri’s Swimming Pool

A popular destination for tourists and locals alike is the swimming pool of Akureyri. The pool is located centrally in the city and offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and Eyjafjörður fjord. The pool has become one of Iceland’s most grand water parks for visitors of all ages. It consists of two large outdoor pools, five hot tubs, a children’s pool, a steam room and a cold tub. To top it all, the pool also comprises three waterslides, one of them being the longest waterslide in Iceland. 

Admission: ISK 1,200. Seniors: ISK 300. Children 6-17: ISK 290, free for children under 6.

 

Icelandic Aviation Museum

The Aviation Museum is located at Akureyri Airport at the city’s brim. The museum exhibits and explains Iceland’s aviation history with the help of photographs, videos, models and historic aircrafts. Some of the museum’s aircrafts are in mint condition and are flown at the city’s air show held each year in June. 

The museum’s exhibition lets visitors explore how aircrafts and airlines have developed from the year 1919 up until now. Some aircrafts allow access for visitors to observe the interior and learn more about its operations. 

Admission: ISK 1,500. Seniors and Students: ISK 1,000. Free for children under 18 accompanying adults.

 

Forest Lagoon 

Right outside of Akureyri city is the geothermal spa Forest Lagoon. The lagoon is located in Vaðlaskógur forest, right outside the city, making it accessible from the centre. The experience is the perfect way to rewind in the midst of a birch and pine forest, overlooking the longest fjord in Iceland, Eyjafjörður. 

Forest Lagoon consists of two large warm pools overlooking the ocean with a swim-up bar, a traditional Finnish dry sauna and a cold pool. The location also offers guests a high-quality dining experience at Forest Lagoon’s restaurant, Forest Bistro. 

Entrance to the Forest Lagoon can be purchased here

Admission: ISK 6,590. Seniors: ISK 4,990. Children 6-15: ISK 3,290, free for children under 6.

Skógarböðin Akureyri
Photo: Skógarböðin Akureyri

 

Hof Cultural and Conference Center 

Located in the heart of Akureyri is Hof, a cultural and conference centre. Hof is a notable and visually appealing venue which plays a vital role in promoting cultural activities in Akureyri. The building opened in 2010, and its design encompasses contemporary elements and top-tier facilities optimal for conferences, meetings, parties and exhibitions. 

The cultural centre hosts various events such as concerts, art exhibitions, theatre events and more. 

To see upcoming events hosted at Hof, visit Akureyri Cultural Company’s website here

 

Where to stay in Akureyri 

In Akureyri, a large variety of accommodation options are available, including hotels, guesthouses and apartments, catering to the different needs and preferences of visitors. 

 

Hotel Kea 

Hotel Kea is located centrally in the heart of Akureyri and has become an important landmark in the city. The hotel’s design is in a classical style, reflecting the hotel’s history. Around Hotel Kea are several shops, museums and restaurants in addition to the city’s swimming pool. 

 

Hotel Akureyri

Hotel Akureyri is a unique and modern hotel situated in the city’s centre. The hotel’s concept is a micro-hotel split into four buildings, inspired by locale, history and culture. The hotel is unconventional but provides guests with modern comfort and timeless experiences. Hotel Akureyri also has an eccentric restaurant named North, inspired by the Icelandic landscape. 

 

Sæluhús Apartments & Houses

Sæluhús Apartments & Houses is a popular accommodation option for locals and visitors in Iceland. The houses are located within walking distance of the city’s centre but still manage to offer tranquillity in a family-friendly environment. Located overlooking the city of Akureyri, Sæluhús Apartments & Houses provide superb views over the city and the Eyjafjörður fjord. Many options are available, ranging from small studio apartments to larger houses. 

 

Berjaya Akureyri Hotel 

Berjaya Akureyri Hotel is a bright and beautiful hotel located centrally. The hotel has been certified as a Green Hotel, where environmental performance has become a priority, along with providing guests with an exceptional level of service. Berjaya Akureyri Hotel is situated in a renovated historical building, exhibiting a very chic and modern design. 

 

Apótek Guesthouse

The guesthouse offers visitors a mix of Akureyri’s historic charm and modern comfort. In the past, the building housed a pharmacy, adding its historical uniqueness. Apótek Guesthouse is located in the heart of Akureyri, making it a convenient spot to get around the city’s centre on foot. 

 

What are the best places to eat in Akureyri?

With Akureyri being a vibrant and cultural city, there are endless options for cafes and restaurants. Below, we will discuss some of the best places to eat in Akureyri. 

 

Rub23 Restaurant

Rub23 is one of the most popular restaurants in the North of Iceland and for a good reason. The restaurant offers seafood, with a large selection of fish species and sushi dishes mixed with some meat options. Rub23 is a vibrant spot where the atmosphere is top-tier every day of the week. On Thursdays and Fridays, the restaurant also serves lunch.

 

Strikið Restaurant

Strikið restaurant is located on the 5th floor in the heart of Akureyri, letting guests enjoy a beautiful view over the Eyjafjörður fjord and Hof Cultural and Conference Center. In addition to the panoramic view, they have a wide range of delicious dishes and a friendly atmosphere, creating a special dining experience for all guests.

 

Lyst Cafe

Kaffi Lyst, or Lyst Cafe, is a unique cafe located in the midst of Lystigarðurinn botanical garden. The cafe is bright with large windows overlooking the garden and has a large outdoor seating area. Lyst Cafe is a casual spot, but with the blend of its beautiful interior, stunning surroundings and quality food and drinks, it’s a unique visit for all.

Food being served at Cafe Lyst in Lystigarðurinn, Akureyri
Photo: Cafe Lyst in Lystigarðurinn

 

Eyja Wine Bar & Bistro 

Eyja is a high-quality wine bar and bistro specialising in high-quality wines from around the world. The food selection is mouth-watering as they serve small dishes such as beef carpaccio, bacon-wrapped dates and cheese plates, to name a few, along with larger fish of the day. It is also possible to choose a special three-course dinner and pair it with one of the Eyja’s exquisite wines.

 

Pylsuvagninn – Akureyri Hot Dog Stand

When visiting Akureyri, you can’t miss out on a classic Icelandic hot dog from the city’s hot dog stand or Pylsuvagninn. The Akureyri-style hot dog is served with red cabbage, making it a unique one. 

 

How do I get around in Akureyri?

The central area of Akureyri is relatively compact, making it convenient to go around on foot. For instance, Akureyri Airport and the city harbour are only about 5 minutes from the city centre. However, several options are available to get around in Akureyri.

 

Getting Around by Bus 

Within the city of Akureyri, public buses are free of charge, making it a very feasible option. During the weekdays, the bus runs from 6:28 am until 10:36 pm, and on the weekends, it runs from 12:18 until 6:55 pm. The buses all drive in a loop, beginning and ending at the city centre’s main stop. For more information on the full bus schedule, click here.

 

Getting Around by Taxi

The only taxi station in Akureyri is BSO, located in the city’s centre by Hof Cultural and Conference Centre. It operates 24 hours a day, offering service to its customers. To contact the taxi service by telephone, BSO’s phone number is (+354) 461-1010.

 

Getting Around by Private Car: Parking 

In the city of Akureyri, there are two parking zones, P1 and P2. The simplest way to pay for parking is to do so by mobile app EasyPark (www.easypark.is) and Parka (www.parka.is). However, several pay stations are located in the city’s centre. See here for more information on parking in Akureyri.  

 

How much time do I need in Akureyri?

As Akureyri is quite a charming city full of activities to fill out the days, spending a lifetime there wouldn’t be atrocious. However, spending around 2 to 3 days in the city would be enough time to explore the main attractions and enjoy the best cuisine. 

When travelling in North of Iceland, Akureyri could also serve as the base while exploring nearby towns and areas. Therefore, spending longer there would also be a great option. 

 

Can You Walk Around Akureyri?

The short answer is yes. The city of Akureyri is quite small and compact so within the city’s centre going around by foot is very easy. Main attractions, restaurants and cultural events are most within walking distance. 

People walking around Akureyri city
Photo: Akureyri City

 

Is it Colder in Akureyri than in Reykjavík?

The average temperature in Akureyri is slightly lower than in Reykjavík, though the difference is not substantial. 

During peak summer the average high is 12°C [54°F]  in Reykjavík and 13°C [55°F] in Akureyri and average low is  8°C [46°F] in Reykjavík and 7°C [44°F] in Akureyri. 

During peak winter the average high is 3°C [37°F] in both Reykjavík and Akureyri and average low is  -2°C [28°F] in Reykjavík and -3°C [26°F] in Akureyri.

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