The town of Akureyri has been called the capital of the North and rightly so, as it serves as a center for transport, services and culture, connecting the North to the rest of the country. Akureyri, however has a unique and distinctive character which makes it an essential stop for anyone travelling up North and the core of its character can be found in the old town of Akureyri – called Innbærinn.
Only a few minutes walk from Akureyri’s city center you’ll find this monument to the charming town’s culture and history. Many of Akureyri’s oldest houses have been preserved and today are homes to people, business, cafés and museums, giving visitors a chance to experience the town’s rich history. The Old Town’s location plays no small role in its charm as a cliff forms a natural border to the North and the Ocean to the East.
Where the Past Meets the Present
In recent years steps have been taken to secure the Old Town’s legacy, both in terms in preservation and accessibility. Informative signposts have recently been place throughout the Old Town giving visitors a chance to learn about the life in much different times.
Hanna Rósa Sveinsdóttir, at The Museum of Akureyri, says it is important to take these steps to preserve and maintain the Old Town, but at the same time adapt it to modern day life. “In my mind the Old Town is a historical monument which connects the town’s history and present, making it completely unique,” says Hanna Rósa. “We’ve managed to maintain the original street planning even though the Old Town has been inhabited all this time. The townsfolk respect the town’s history and when it comes to renovations and new buildings, it is always done with that in mind,” says Hanna Rósa.
Akureyri is now celebrating that 150 years have passed since it was given its official title of township. The name of Akureyri however dates back to the 15th century, but it was in 1778 when the first dwelling was built in Akureyri. The oldest standing house in Akureyri is Laxdalshús, built in 1795 and today houses a restaurant & café that provides local dishes. The Old Town is littered with old picturesque timber houses which give the town its relaxed and unique feel.
History Captivated in Museums
Fittingly, Akureyri’s Old Town is home to the town’s many museums. Nonnahús is the childhood home to one of Iceland’s most celebrated authors, Jón Sveinsson, who was the author of the book series about the adventures of Nonni, which have been translated into over 30 languages. Nonnahús, built in 1850, has been renovated into a museum dedicated to his life and works – a landmark in Akureyri.
The Museum of Akureyri is located in Akureyri’s first villa with an extensive garden where forestry was started in 1899. Which explains why Akureyri is so blessed with vegetation. The museum is dedicated to everyday life in the area from historic times, as well as art and photography displays.
You’ll also find museums dedicated to motorcycles, industry and aviation. A day in the Old Town visiting museums will thus leave you enlightened about almost every facet of life in the North imaginable.
The Best Ice Cream in all the Land?
Icelanders have a strange obsession with ice cream and will bicker to no end about which shop has the best one. Considered by many a strong contender is the shop Brynja in the Old Town, where ice cream connoisseurs from all over the country stop by every time they’re in Akureyri.
But whatever you choose to spend your time with in the Old Town in Akureyri, it is well worth your while just walking around, looking over the fjord, taking in the sights and going just a little bit back in time.