From Academic Kids

Reykjavk, Iceland

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City seal
City nickname:
"Strsta smborg heimi"
(The biggest small city in the world)

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Location in Iceland
ConstituencyReykjavk North
Reykjavk South
Area 274.5 km² (106 mi²)

 - Total (2003)

 - Density


413 / km²
Postal codes101–155

Geographic coordinates

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Municipal website (
See also: Reykjavk, Manitoba in Canada

Reykjavk is the capital of Iceland, its largest city and the northernmost capital city of a nation. Its latitude being 6408' N, not far from the Arctic Circle (at 6633' N), it receives only four hours of sunlight per day in the depth of winter, and in the summer the nights are almost as bright as day.



Reykjavk is located in southwest Iceland by Faxafli bay. The Reykjavk area coastline is characterized by peninsulas, coves, straits and islands. The city of Reykjavk is mostly located on the Seltjarnarnes peninsula but the suburbs spread to the south and east from it. Reykjavk is a spread out city, most of its urban area is in the form of low-density suburbs and houses are usually widely spaced. The outer residential neighborhoods are as well widely spaced from each other and in between run the main traffic arteries and a lot of empty spaces with little aesthetical or recreational value. The young age of the city has contributed the most to this kind of urban planning. The largest rivers to run through Reykjavk are the Ellir Rivers, not navigable by ships. Mt. Esja, at 914 m, is the tallest mountain in the vicinity of Reykjavk.


The population of Reykjavk in 2003 was 113,387 (55,650 men and 57,737 women). The combined population of the Greater Reykjavk area in 2003 was 181,746. There are six other municipalities in the Greater Reykjavk area, those are:


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Hallgrmskirkja in Reykjavk

The first permanent settlement in Iceland by Nordic people is believed to have been established in Reykjavk by Inglfur Arnarson around the year 870 AD; this is described in Landnmabk, or the Book of Settlement. Steam from hot springs in the region is supposed to have inspired Reykjavk's name, as Reykjavk translates to "Bay of Smokes".

Reykjavk is not mentioned in any medieval sources except as a regular farm land but the 18th century was the beginning of urban concentration there. The Danish rulers of Iceland backed ideas of a domestic industry in Iceland that would help generate some much needed progress on the island. In 1752, the King of Denmark donated the estate of Reykjavk to the Innrttingar Corporation; the name comes from Danish "indretninger," meaning enterprise. In the 1750s several houses were constructed to house the wool industry that was to be Reykjavk's most important employer for a few decades and the original reason for its existence. Other crafts were also practiced by the Innrttingar such as fisheries, sulphur mining, agriculture, and ship building.

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Viking Ship SunCraft, by Jon Gunnar Arnason

The Danish Crown abolished monopoly trading in 1786 and granted six communities around the country an exclusive trading charter, Reykjavk was one of them and the only one to hold on to the charter permanently. 1786 is regarded as the date of the city's founding, celebrating its 200th anniversary in 1986. Trading rights were still limited to the subjects of the Danish Crown however, and Danish traders continued to dominate trade in Iceland Over the next decades, their business in Iceland expanded. After 1880, free trade was expanded to all nationalities and the influence of Icelandic merchants started to grow.

Nationalist sentiment gained influence in the 19th century and ideas about Icelandic independence became widespread. Reykjavk, as Iceland's only city, was the melting pot of such ideas in the country. Advocates of an independent Iceland realized that a strong Reykjavk was fundamental for that objective. All the important years in the history of the independence struggle are important for Reykjavk as well. In the year 1845, Alþingi, or the general assembly that Icelanders formed in 930 was re-established in Reykjavk, however it had been suspended a few decades earlier when it was located at Þingvellir. At the time it only functioned as an advisory assembly that was supposed to advice the King about the matters of Iceland. The placement of Alþingi in Reykjavk effectively established the city as the capital of Iceland. In 1874 Iceland was given a constitution and with it, Alþingi gained some limited legislative powers and in essence became the institution that it is still today. The next step was to move most of the executive power to Iceland and that was done by the Home Rule in 1904 when the office of minister for Iceland was established in Reykjavk. The biggest step towards an independent Iceland was taken December 1,1918 when Iceland became a sovereign country under the Crown of Denmark, the Kingdom of Iceland.

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Lkjartorg in Reykjavk

In the 1920's and 1930's most of the growing Icelandic fishing trawler fleet sailed from Reykjavk and salt-cod production was the main industry but the Great Depression hit Reykjavk hard with unemployment and labour union struggles that sometimes became violent.

In the morning of May 10, 1940 four warships approached Reykjavk and anchored in the harbour. Many citizens were relieved to find out that those were British rather than German. In a few hours, the allied occupation of Reykjavk, illegal under international law, was complete. There was no armed resistance. The Icelandic government had received many requests from the British government about allowing the occupation but they always declined on the basis of the Neutrality Policy. For the remaining years of World War II, British and later American soldiers built bases in Reykjavk, the number of foreign soldiers in Reykjavk became about the same as the local population of the city.

The economic effects of the occupation were quite positive for Reykjavk, the unemployment of the depression years vanished and a lot of construction work was done. The British built Reykjavk Airport, which is still in service today, mostly serving domestic flights; the Americans built Keflavk Airport that has later become Iceland's primary international airport, situated 50 km from Reykjavk. In 1944 the Republic of Iceland was founded and a president elected in popular elections replaced the King, the office of the president was placed in Reykjavk.

In the post-war years, the growth of Reykjavk began for real. A mass exodus from the rural countryside started mainly because of the better technology in agriculture that reduced the need for workforce in that sector and because of the population boom following better living conditions in Iceland. Young people in the prime of their lives were the most populous group that moved to the capital to live the "Reykjavk Dream", and the city became a city of children. The previously primitive village was rapidly transforming into a modern city. Private cars became common and modern apartment complexes rose in the expanding suburbs and much of Reykjavk lost its village feel. In 1972, Reykjavk hosted the world chess championship between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky.

Reykjavk has in the last two decades become a significant player in the global community, the 1986 summit between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev underlined Reykjavk's new-found international status. Deregulation in the financial sector and the computer revolution of the 1990s have transformed Reykjavk yet again. The financial sector and information technology are now significant employers in the city. The energetic city of children has fostered some world famous talents in recent years such as Bjrk and Sigur Rs.

Historical Population

  • 1801 - 600
  • 1860 - 1,450
  • 1901 - 6,321
  • 1910 - 11,449
  • 1920 - 17,450
  • 1930 - 28,052
  • 1940 - 38,308
  • 1950 - 55,980
  • 1960 - 72,407
  • 1970 - 81,693
  • 1980 - 83,766
  • 1985 - 89,868
  • 1990 - 97,569
  • 1995 - 104,258
  • 2003 - 113,387


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Rhs Reykjavkur (Reykjavk city hall)

Reykjavk is governed by the city council, directly elected by anyone over 18 and registered with domicile in the city. The council has 15 members that are elected for 4 year terms.

The city council governs the city of Reykjavk according to law number 45/1998 [1] ( The city council selects people on the boards and each board controls a different field under the city councils authority. The most important board is the city board that wields the executive rights along with the city mayor. The city mayor is the uppermost public official in the city and also the director of city operations. Other public official then control different institution under his authority.

Therefore the administration consists of two different parts. The political power that the city council wields and other boards in its authority and the official system where public official under the authority of the city mayor take care of administering the policy and the management.

The mayor is appointed by the city council, usually one of the council members is chosen but they may also hire a mayor that is not member of the council.

In the town-laws from 1907 the term city mayor public office was introduced but in the year 1908 applications for that position were requested. Two applications were received, one from Pll Einarsson sheriff and town mayor of Hafnafjrur and another one from Knud Zimsem town councillor in Reykjavk. Pll was employed on the 7th of May and was the city mayor for six years. The city mayor received at that time a salary of 4500IKR annually and 1500IKR because of office costs.

Reverse timeline of mayors


Major companies



Car ownership in Iceland is among the highest in the world but Reykjavk is not severely affected by congestion though since the city is rather spread out. Wide multi-lane highways run all over the city connecting the different neighbourhoods and suburbs. Parking spaces are also plentiful in most areas. Public transportation only exists in the form of a bus system and is not very popular in this car friendly city. Route 1 (the Ring Road) runs by the city outskirts and connect it to the rest of Iceland.

Airports & seaports

The second largest airport in the country (after Keflavk International Airport) is positioned inside the city, just south of downtown. It is mainly used for domestic flights as well as flights to Greenland and the Faroe Islands. It was built there by the British occupation force during World War II on the outskirts of, then much smaller, Reykjavk. In later years there has been some controversy regarding the location of the airport since it takes up a lot of valuable space in downtown Reykjavk.

Reykjavk has two seaports, the old harbor near downtown which is mainly used by fishermen and cruise ships and Sundahfn in the east city which is the largest cargo port in the country.



Most houses in Reykjavk use the geothermal heating system. It is the largest system of this kind in the world. See geothermal power in Iceland.

Sites of interest

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Tjrnin (the Pond) in Reykjavk

Colleges and universities



Sports teams

Related Articles

External links

Selected Municipalities of Iceland Missing image
Flag of Iceland

Reykjavk | Kpavogur | Hafnarfjrur | Akureyri | Reykjanesbr | Garabr | Mosfellsbr | rborg | Akranes | Seltjarnarnes | Vestmannaeyjar | Skagafjrur | safjrur | Fjarabygg | Borgarbygg | Hsavk | Grindavk | Hornafjrur | Fljtsdalshra | Dalvkurbygg |


ca:Reykjavk da:Reykjavik de:Reykjavk el:Ρέυκιαβικ es:Reykjavk eo:Rejkjaviko fa:ریک یاویک fr:Reykjavk gd:Reykjavk io:Reykjavk id:Reykjavik is:Reykjavk it:Reykjavk he:רייקיאוויק hu:Reykjavk nl:Reykjavk nds:Reykjavik ja:レイキャヴィーク no:Reykjavik pl:Reykjavk pt:Reiquejavique ro:Reykjavk sk:Reykjavk fi:Reykjavk sv:Reykjavk zh:雷克雅維克


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