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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Day 7: Visiting Akureyri - Eat, Drink, Art, Shop

Akureyri (pronounced ah-koo-rare-ee) is fondly known as Iceland's "Capital of the North" and its second city (and second largest urban area with a population of about 18,500).  Akureyri is on one of the longest fjords in the country and is surrounded by mountains reaching 1000-1500 m.  At this point in the trip, we had left Reykjavik 6 days earlier and had spent our time driving through quiet sections of Iceland and sleepy tiny towns.  We were looking forward to seeing Iceland's OTHER city and soaking in some more Icelandic charm.  We didn't really have set plans but knew we wanted to spend a few hours walking around, grab lunch, and stop in a few shops along the way.

Streets of Akureyri

Our Stops:  
  • Walk around the main area of the city, see the strange street art and stop in various shops off of the main street Hafnarstræti 
  • Have lunch and a drink at the Akureyri Backpackers
  • Stop for pastries at Kristjánsbakarí
  • Walk through Lystigarðurinn, Akureyri's botanical garden (free!)
  • See Akureyrarkirkja Church 

Other things to do we did not have a chance to:
  • Visit the Christmas House, Jólahúsið
  • Visit Akureyri Swimming Pool (year round outdoor geothermal pools)
  • Visit the Laufás Turf Homes
  • Go skiing at Hlíðarfjall
  • Take a boat ride to Grímsey Island (40 kilometers (25 miles) off the North coast of Iceland) to go to the Arctic Circle.

Streets of Akureyri

Walk Hafnarstræti, see the art, shop around

We found the main center of the city and spent some time walking around, popping into various shops and cafes along the way.  We were impressed (and sometimes disturbed) by this cities quirky street art.  From painted buildings to some insanely odd knitted sculptures, the city had a unique artsy vibe to it. 

Interesting street art in Akureyri

Trolls in Akureyri

The stores were fun and had an odd arrangement of souvenirs, books, and other random happenings of Iceland. I bought a new pair of warm mitten to deal with the cold day, and some small artsy postcards in a few of the shops.  The book stores had an interesting array of books and magazines for sale. 

Book store in Akureyri

Parking was rather interesting in the center of town and it was a system we were NOT used to.  It is free to park but you need to go into a store and get a card.  On this card, you mark your time of arrival, and check back in on intervals depending where you park (our lot had one hour intervals).  You must go back to your car every hour to update your card.  We were insanely confused by this system (and the lack of signage describing it).  We did see parking maids walking around and checking clock cards so be aware.  In case you don’t find a clock-card, write the time of parking on a piece of paper and display it in the front window of the car.  More on this strange system HERE

Parking tickets in Akureyri

Akureyrarkirkja Church by Eyrarlandsveg

IS-600 Akureyri Tel: 462 7700

The Akureyri church is the iconic symbol of Akureyri. It is a Lutheran church and a climb up the stairs to the front entrance is worth it for some beautiful photographs and a grew view of the city below.

Akureyrarkirkja Church 

Akureyrarkirkja Church 

Lunch and a drink at the Akureyri Backpackers

Address: Hafnarstræti 98, 600 Akureyri, Iceland

Phone: +354 571 9050We walked around and scoped out the many lunch options in Akureyri.  After reading about a fish special and glancing at a menu that had reasonable prices, we settled on Akureyri Backpackers because their daily fish special sounded oh so good.   Everyday, they have a different fish special for 2,300 ISK ($22.36). It was a cod wellington with a risotto and curry sauce and it was oh oh so good.  We split this and a beer and loved the atmosphere, the food, and the view looking out over the main street. The menu has something for everyone and they are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Akureyri Backpackers

Fish special at Akureyri Backpackers

Pastries at Kristjánsbakarí

Address: Hafnarstræti 104, 600 Akureyri, Iceland
Phone: +354 460 5930

 splitting the fish special and a beer, we decided a pastry (or two) would be a great way to end eating in Akureyri.  We had two different types and soon spun into a sugar coma.  This is a great spot to stop in for an espresso and something sweet. 

Pastries in Akureyri

Lystigarðurinn, Akureyri's botanical garden

Eyrarlandsholt IS-600 Akureyri
Tel: (+354) 462 7487

Summer was over in Iceland but we still wanted to walk around the botanical gardens that were free and open to the public.  There were nice waking paths, fountains, bridges, and best of all, this GORGEOUS cafe in the middle of the park. (Cafe Bjork) with some really gorgeous architecture and windows overlooking the garden.    The park was opened in 1912 and the botanical section opened in 1957.

Botanical Garden in Akureyri

Cafe Bjork

Cafe Bjork
We really enjoyed the cute, artsy Akureyri with great restaurants, cute shops, and interesting art.  This was a great stop in Northern Iceland, and a great space to compare to Reykjavik.  Iceland's second city was beautiful, clean, and had a lot to do up here in the north.  I highly recommend visiting this cute little city when making your way around the Ring Road. 

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