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One Day in Akureyri Itinerary + Things to do!

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Planning a trip to north Iceland? Then you must read our one day in Akureyri itinerary. Akureyri is the second largest settlement in Iceland, and it is a great stop when exploring the northern part of the country. 

There are museums, parks, pools, amazing views of the Eyjafjörður Fjord, and awesome accommodation which makes it a great stop on your Iceland trip.

One day in Akureyri Itinerary: Exploring north Iceland

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Akureyri is home to about 18,000 inhabitants. Of course, it may not sound like a lot, but it is filled with cute hearts, cafes, and cultural attractions that make a visit here worthwhile. 

This town is also known for its friendly people and stunning landscapes in and around it. 

view of hearts and Akureyri Church
The beautiful town of Akureyri (view of church and KEA hotel)

There are a variety of shops, restaurants, and cafes in Akureyri, as well as a number of museums. 

You can enjoy hiking, skiing, snowboarding, and other outdoor activities in the region. And even chase northern lights and go whale watching!

Girl at the Akureyri Church
How to spend one day in Akureyri (church)

This Akureyri one day itinerary assumes that you have the entire day in this charming town. We will share travel tips on how to get there, day trips, and excursions in and around Akureyri and the nearby Myvatn area in Iceland. 

Things to do in Akureyri in one day: Akureyri itinerary (snapshot)

  • Start with a lovely breakfast in the heart of town
  • Visit Akureyri Church
  • Explore the Akureyri Botanical Gardens
  • Visit the Akureyri Museum and the Nonni House
  • Walk along the Akureyri waterfront
  • Hang out at the Hof Cultural and Conference Center and the Port of Akureyri
  • Wander the town centre of Akureyri

Read: One day in Reykjavik itinerary

Getting to Akureyri: North Iceland Travel Tips

As mentioned Akureyri is located in the northern part of Iceland. It is about a 5-hour drive from Reykjavik. Essentially it covers a distance of 387.3 km or 240 miles – one way. 

Of course, you can make this road trip uber scenic and lots of fun by stopping along the way on the Ring Road.

Read: How to get from Keflavik Airport to Reykjavik

If you do not prefer to drive, a good way is to hop on the IcelandAir flight and arrive in Akureyri in 45 minutes or so. Because I was traveling solo (and didn’t want to drive lol) I chose this option. 

The flight was great. I departed from Reykjavik City Airport (not the Keflavik Airport which you might use when arriving from the United States or anywhere in North America) and arrived at the tiny Akureyri airport. 

Akureyri airport
Akureyri airport

This airport is slowly operating international flights to and from London and some Scandinavian countries. 

There are buses that can take you there. Rides are about 6-7 hours long. 

There are no day tours from Reykjavik that cover this route. You can book guided tours for 3 days which includes Akureyri or join a day tour from the city to the Myvatn Lake area (more on this below).

Read: 5 days in Iceland itinerary

Where to stay in Akureyri? 

Akureyri is the perfect base for those who wish to explore more of northern Iceland, without a road trip, and without hopping from one campsite or lodge to another. 

Icelandair Hotel

Accommodation in Akureyri is actually super nice, and you will find all modern amenities with views, a nice breakfast, and also a strong (free) internet connection to continue your ‘work from home!

I stayed at the IcelandAir Hotel for 3+ nights. I absolutely loved the hotel. My room had mountain views, a large king-size bed, a desk area, and a nice (big) washroom. Breakfast was extra, but it was worth it.

You can book tours, arrange taxis, and more at the front desk. And the staff is super friendly and helpful!

What I loved most about the hotel was its lobby and a lovely outdoor area where you can hang out; plus there was a swimming pool, parks, and walking trails near the hotel.

There is a generous parking lot as well if you are driving to town. 

Click to view availability here – I am sure you will love it too! 

Other hotel recommendations: Here are two more properties that I was looking at when I booked my hotel. 

  • KEA Hotel: This is a lovely 4-star property located super close to the Akureyri Church and the town centre. I could not find any rooms with views or a large hang-out area, so opted for the IcelandAir Hotel instead. KEA is great if you do not wish to do a lot of walking, and it has all the restaurants and attractions on your finger trips. Check availability here
  • Hotel Akureyri: Perfect 3-star property (very similar to the Icelandair hotel, but cheaper). The property offers views of Eyjafjörður Fjord, and the rooms are trendy and chic. Check prices and availability here

 Now let’s get the trip itinerary started. 

Start with a lovely breakfast in Akureyri 

Kickstart your one day in Akureyri itinerary with a lovely breakfast at your hotel or at the town centre. 

Most hotels will provide a hearty meal with toast, eggs, sausages, fruits, parfait, cake, and unlimited cups of coffee and juices! Or you can opt for a nice soup and bread!

I enjoyed mine at the IcelandAir Hotel and fueled up for the rest of the day. Don’t forget to fill your reusable bottle with water. 

Pro tip: We recommend booking a hotel with breakfast. Great way to save time and money when you are on a tight sightseeing schedule!

Visit Akureyri Church

After a nice breakfast make your way to the landmark Akureyri Church. 

Church of Akureyri

The Akureyri Church or Akureyrarkirkja is a beautiful church located in the town of Akureyri, Iceland. 

The church was built in 1940 and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the region.

It was designed by Guðjón Samúelsson and boasts a stunning interior with a large organ pipe. 

View from the church complex

Outside the church is a beautiful area where you can soak in the views of the surrounding fjords, mountains, and the town below.

The church is free to enter and is closed on the weekends. 

There are about 100+ steps to reach the church entrance. When you look back you will find amazing views of the Eyjafjörður Fjord. 

102 steps to the church
Steps to the church

If you are staying at the IcelandAir Hotel you will enter the church complex from the backside, and that view is also pretty and it makes for a nice photo spot. 

The complex is spacious, allowing you to enjoy a walk, sit down and relax a bit. 

  • Address: við Eyrarlandsveg 600, 600 Akureyri, Iceland
  • Opening hours: Monday to Thursday 10:00 am to 06:00 pm. Fridays they close at 4:00 pm. Weekends closed

Explore the Akureyri Arctic Botanical Gardens

Up next is the Akureyri Botanical Gardens. They are located along the route behind the church. It will take you about 15 minutes to get there. 

Arctic Botanical Gardens

Because you have already had breakfast it makes sense to enjoy the gardens and nearby attractions before exploring the town centre.

The Botanical Gardens, or Lystigarðurinn, are considered to be the world’s northernmost botanical gardens. They are only 50 kilometres (31 miles) away from the Arctic Circle and offer views of the fjords.

The gardens were established in 1957 and it is housed inside a public park that dates back to the year 1912. There are over 7,000 species of plants on display, as well as a café and a gift shop. 

The gardens are open year-round and offer a beautiful place to relax and take in the scenery. 

Botanical Gardens

During the summer months, the Botanical Gardens are officially open, but in the off-season, as gates are technically open you can walk through and enjoy the stroll. 

During my visit, not a lot of flowers were blooming (I was there in late April), and the fountains had all dried up. But the walk was still nice, and the staff members were busy in the greenhouses. 

Greenhouses at the Botanical Gardens
Greenhouses at the Botanical Gardens

The Botanical Gardens conducts scientific research on a regular basis. 

Other than the flowers, there were several busts of prominent people such as those of the donor Jón Rögnvaldsson, or Matthias Jochumsson, who wrote Iceland’s national anthem.

Cafe at the Arctic Botanical Gardens
Cafe at the Arctic Botanical Gardens

I loved the stunning cafe interiors, and spend some time there with my Kindle! I ordered a pricey latte and it was delicious!

  • Address: MWG4+3J4, Eyrarlandsvegur, 600 Akureyri, Iceland
  • Opening hours: Everyday 08:00 am to 10:00 pm

Visit the Akureyri Museum and the Nonni House

Walk another 15 minutes to get to the next stop on this one day Akureyri itinerary. This time we are visiting the Akureyri Museum, Nonni House, and a 19th-century church

Brynja ice cream shop
Brynja ice cream shop

Along the way, you can make stops at the popular ice cream shop – Brynja, and cute and colorful houses for photos and views!

The Akureyri Museum is a paid attraction and it includes the 3 items – the museum itself, Nonni House, and the church located in the complex. 

Akureyri Museum complex
Museum complex (3 attractions to visit)

The entry fee is about 15-20 USD per person. Without a paid ticket, you can only explore the complex from the outside.

The Museum is small, but it offers a good insight into the life and people of Akureyri. 

Exhibits inside Akureyri Museum
Exhibits inside

There are two permanent exhibitions depicting the history of the area from settlement to modern times: “Eyjafjorður from Early Times” and “Akureyri – the Town on the Bay”. 

You will also find artifacts and exhibits related to the Viking period, the Middle Ages, religion, and everyday life in Eyjafjörður and Akureyri in the past. They are neatly labeled in English, so you can just follow along. 

Akureyri Museum inside

On some days, they also have temporary exhibitions (musical history is what I explored) and your entry ticket includes it. 

The surrounding museum garden is cute for a stroll, and this will bring you to the old black church. 

Girl at the 19th century Church in Akureyri
19th century Church in Akureyri (I am wearing IceWear headbands I got in Akureyri – so warm)

The 19th-century church was originally built elsewhere and was brought here. You are allowed to open the church door and enter.

Next walk to Nonni House. 

Nonni’s House or Nonnahús is a small house dating back to the year 1850. This is one of the oldest houses in Akureyri, and it gives you an amazing opportunity to see how life was back then.

View of Nonni House from the Museum entrance
View of Nonni House from the Museum entrance

I was impressed by the upkeep of the furniture and the conditions of the rooms overall. There was an upper level with bunk beds. 

Everything was beautiful and well-maintained, and for an 1850s house well stocked (my granny’s house didn’t look like this in the 1950s – a century later in India), but this house was epic!

Inside Nonni House

The house is named after a well-known children’s author and Jesuit priest Jón Sveinsson, who was also known as “Nonni”. You will find his statue as you enter and leave the complex. 

  • Address:  Aðalstræti 58, 600 Akureyri, Iceland
  • Opening hours: 11:00 am to 5:00 pm

Read: 3 days in Iceland itinerary

Walk along the Akureyri waterfront

Make your way back to the town centre, and this time choose a different route. 

Akureyri waterfront

You will see signs for Peking (red house). Head there and then cross the road to walk along the trail with views of the Eyjafjörður fjord.

This is a lovely path with a wooden bridge, cute abandoned ships and iron sculptures (this is similar to the Sun Voyager you can see in Reykjavik). 

As you continue walking you will find the church towers from a distance. 

Instead of making a turn here (traffic lights) for the town centre head to the Port of Akureyri passing the whale watching office (in red). 

Whale watching and port of Akureyri, with the Hof centre at a distance
Whale watching and port of Akureyri, with the Hof centre at a distance

Hang out at the Hof Cultural and Conference Center and the Port of Akureyri

Hof Cultural and Conference Center is a beautiful building where performing arts and musicals are showcased (for a fee). 

Hof Akureyri
Hof Akureyri

The concert hall is a popular venue for a variety of events and concerts. The hall is open all year round and offers modern facilities and services.  

Without catching a show or a concert, you can still access the building, grab a coffee or snack and walk over to the port area for more beautiful views.

What Harpa Concert Hall is for Reykjavik, Hof Cultural and Conference Center is for Akureyri!

  • Address:  Strandgata 12, 600 Akureyri, Iceland
  • Opening hours: Varies

As you come out of the Conference Center you will be at the township of Oddeyri. This is one of the oldest neighborhoods and it forms the northern side of the Akureyri basin. 

From here, make your way back to the town centre. 

Whale watching office on the left

Tip for whale watching tours: If you wish to add a whale watching tour, now is the time. You can walk back to the Whale watching center (red office) from the Conference Center. 

Tours leave at 5:00 pm, and the office opens at 4:00 pm for booking, or you can book one here online. They last for 3+ hours, and you will be back in town in the evening by 08:00 pm-ish. 

Wander the Town Center and spot hearts!

The town center of Akureyri is SUPER CUTEEEE. It is full of colorful cafes, shops, pretty street art, lanes and oh my heartssss everywhere! 

It is very easy to navigate and many alleys are pedestrian access only. Take the time to wander the town center, pick a library/bookstore, sit down with a nice book, grab a coffee or soup and just have fun!

There are souvenir stores in the Town Centre, where you can buy some IceWear goodies or magnets to bring back home. 

View of Akureyri Town centre and street murals
Town of Akureyri

This is where you can also enjoy a nice meal – there are fine dining options, casual eateries, and food stalls including hot dog stands where you can buy something to eat. 

Don’t underestimate Akureyri as a cutesy small town, this little one has a Shawrma place, Italian cuisine, and even an Indian Curry house (yup all pricey, but you got options, you know!)

About the hearts

As you wander Akureyri or drive through the town, you will find hearts everywhere, including their traffic lights. 

traffic lights for hearts in Akureyri
Hearts in Akureyri

The stop sign is a red heart (my heart!!!!), and there are also others from window sills at the airport to flower pots and art – there are many!

Take the time to spot these, and snap a photo or two. 

Hearts seen at the Botanical Gardens
Hearts seen at the Botanical Gardens

The reason Akureyri has so many hearts is that during the recent years of recession, this little town was under a lot of depression and darkness. 

These cute red hearts were supposed to brighten up the moods of the locals, and bring in cheer and hope! 

More things to do in Akureyri and nearby areas

Ideally, 3 full days in Akureyri is perfect to check off all the attractions listed in this one day itinerary, and then use the next 2 days to venture outside. 

Main square view
Main Square

For one, the whale watching tour takes place in the evening. So you can utilize the next day to explore the following places

  • Visit the newly created Akureyri Art Museum, located at the center.
  • Set aside 4 hours for exploring Glerárgil or Hrísey – best for walking trails and hikes. You can also swap this for Laufás Museum and heritage site (located a few minutes away from Akureyri town centre)
Akureyri Swimming Pool
  • Hang out at the Sundlaug Akureyrar – a geothermal swimming pool. This complex is located near the IcelandAir hotel with two outdoor geothermal pools, hot tubs, play areas, and water slides.
  • Then in the evening, head out for the whale watching tour

Just like the whale watching tour, you can also sign up for puffin watching or the northern lights tour. These are seasonal activities, so do check the availability as you plan your Iceland itinerary.

On the third day in northern Iceland, while keeping Akureyri as a base you can head out to the Diamond Circle route, or explore the Lake Myvatn Area

Girl at the Lake Myvatn Nature Baths Iceland
Lake Myvatn Nature Baths

Just like the Golden Circle tour in southern Iceland, the Diamond Circle covers hot springs, waterfalls, and nature baths.

Here is what you can explore in one day along the Myvatn Lake area

  • Godafoss waterfall is located near the town of Akureyri. The waterfall is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the region. It is 12 meters high and 30 meters wide. You can enjoy hiking, picnicking, and other activities in the area. 
Godafoss
  • Visit Dimmuborgir or Dark Castles and see where 13 yule lads are and learn their history and folk stories!
  • Then explore the area around Lake Mývatn. Visit the boiling mud pits close to Námafjall Mountain, including a stop at the Víti crater which sits by the infamous Krafla Volcano.
  • Enjoy an awesome soak at the Myvatn Nature Baths, known as the Blue Lagoon of the North.
  • From here, continue on to the waterfall Dettifoss.

Read: Best geothermal pools in Iceland

More Akureyri Travel Tips

How do I spend my day in Akureyri?

– Start with a lovely breakfast in the heart of town
– Visit Akureyri Church
– Explore the Akureyri Botanical Gardens
– Visit the Akureyri Museum and the Nonni House
– Walk along the Akureyri waterfront
– Hang out at the Hof Cultural and Conference Center and the Port of Akureyri
– Wander the town centre of Akureyri

How much time do you need for Akureyri?

To cover the main attractions in the town of Akureyri with a whale watching tour or time at the local hot pools, one full day will be nice! This way you can explore all the free attractions, hang out at the town centre, and gardens, enjoy a nice walk and more!

Is there free parking in Akureyri?

Yes, for most sites parking is free in Akureyri.

Where do you stop on the way to Akureyri?

You can stop at Staður, Borðeyri, and Hvammstangi, as you travel from Reykjavik to Akureryi.

Can you see the northern lights in Akureyri?

Yes, you can. Northern lights are visible from October to April in Akureyri. 

Is Akureyri worth visiting?

Yes, definitely. I enjoyed my time in this little town. 

Remember that Akureyri is not a metro city, and for all practical purposes, it is a small town with less than 20k inhabitants. 

Eyjafjörður fjord from Akureyri
View of Eyjafjörður fjord from town

Having said that, Akureyri is soooo cute! It is a beautiful town filled with confetti and hearts, pretty cafes, houses, and lanes. 

With a plethora of shops and accommodation options, Akureyri becomes the perfect base to explore more of north Iceland. 

You can chase northern lights, go whale watching, puffin watching, skiing, and hiking in the nearby areas. 

There are historical sites, and the town makes it very easy to learn and navigate them through cultural attractions, museums, and placards with stories and information about the past! And this is something you won’t find online or even in guidebooks! 

Akureyri is a great place to visit all year round. Whether you’re looking for a winter wonderland or a summer paradise, Akureyri is the perfect destination.

More Iceland travel guides:

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