Located in northern Iceland is the cutest town of Akureyri. This small town is the second largest settlement in the country after the capital city of Reykjavik. With its stunning landscapes, charming lanes, cute cafes, and rich history, Akureyri is sure to be an unforgettable experience. In this guide, we will share all the fun things to do in Akureyri Iceland.
Things to do in Akureyri Iceland
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Planning your trip to Akureyri Iceland
Despite its small size of fewer than twenty thousand people, Akureyri is still the second-largest urban area and fifth-largest municipality within Iceland.
Located on the Eyjafjörður fjord, reaching this Icelandic city is quite simple.
You have the option to take an hour-long flight from Reykjavík’s airport with IcelandAir or rent a car for a five-hour drive on the Icelandic Ring road.
Additionally, bus services take 6.50 to 7 hours of travel time between the two cities depending on schedules.
Where to stay in Akureyri
If you’re looking for the perfect place to start exploring Northern Iceland and the Diamond Circle route, then Akureyri is a great spot.
Located only about an hour’s drive from Lake Mývatn, Dettifoss, and Godafoss waterfall, Akureyri provides beautiful mountain views, with the Eyjafjörður fjord on one side and the distant mountains of Tröllaskagi on the other.
These stunning natural marvels are surrounded by hot springs and geothermal pools that are perfect for relaxing.
There are also many cultural attractions such as art galleries, museums, and restaurants to give you a truly memorable experience.
With so much to do within close proximity to this vibrant little town, Akureyri is definitely an ideal base for your Icelandic adventure!
Here are some hotel recommendations for Akureyri,
- IcelandAir Hotel: This is a lovely 3+ star property where I stayed for the duration of my trip in Akureyri. The hotel has free parking, and paid breakfast which was amazing. My room had mountain views with a large king-size bed and a desk area. Highly recommend it. They changed their name to Akureyri – Berjaya Iceland Hotels recently. Click to view availability here
- KEA Hotel: Located near the Akureyri Church and the town centre is the KEA Hotel. The rooms are nice, and you will be within walking distance of many shops and restaurants. Check availability here
- Hotel Akureyri: Hotel Akureyri is an affordable place to stay in town. You got the gorgeous views of Eyjafjörður Fjord and nice rooms for a comfy stay! Check prices here
- Torg Guest House: Located at 600 Akureyri, Torg Guest House is another affordable find in town. The guesthouse is within a 15-minute walking distance of Akureyri Church and Akureyri Botanical Garden. You will also have a spacious parking space. Book your stay here!
Akureyri may be small but it certainly packs a punch when it comes to things to do! Here are all the attractions and activities to do in Akureyri.
1. Explore the Town Center
Akureyri’s downtown area is a vibrant hub of activity. From shops to restaurants and bars, there is a lot to do for everyone.
Stroll down the main street which is lined with colorful buildings and take in all the sights and sounds of this unique town.
Be sure to make time for some shopping too—there are plenty of stores selling handmade Icelandic goods like woolen clothing, and more!
2. Visit Akureyri Church
The Church of Akureyri is an iconic structure situated in the northern capital of Iceland. It offers visitors a unique insight into Iceland’s cultural heritage and its religious traditions.
The interior of this magnificent stone building is decorated with intricate carvings and tasteful stained glass windows. This majestic structure stands tall against the gorgeous landscape that surrounds it and greets you every day.
You have to climb up 112 steps to get to the church entrance. The church complex is huge, and perfect to take in the views of the fjords and the town below.
You can also enjoy the tranquil atmosphere of the church when you visit!
3. Go on a self-guided walking tour
Taking a walking tour of the quaint city of Akureyri is a great way to immerse oneself in the culture and beauty of northern Iceland.
Stroll through the colorful streets, admire classic Icelandic architecture, and stop for lunch at one of the many local eateries — this charming town has something exciting around every corner.
With its bustling harbor, cute museums, cafes, shops, and numerous parks nearby, there’s no shortage of interesting places to visit while exploring Akureyri on foot.
Here is a self-guided walking tour of Akureyri, which we are sure you will love!
You can start off your adventure at the Church of Akureyri or Akureyrarkirkja, then walk the streets of the town admiring the fjords and decades-old buildings. Next, you will be at the old harbor.
Walk the bridge and then head to Hof (Cultural center), and then end at the Port of Akureyri where you can grab a bite to eat.
A walking tour of Akureyri offers sights and experiences that can’t be matched anywhere else – make sure it’s part of your Icelandic itinerary!
4. Enjoying the Akureyri Botanical Gardens or Lystigarðurinn
The Akureyri Arctic Botanical Gardens are a wonderful oasis in the heart of town. These gardens are free to enter and perfect for a visit in summer.
Although they are open all year, to see flowers in bloom, you must visit the gardens from June 1st to September 31st.
When visiting in the off-season, you can still walk the complex and take in the views, check out photo exhibits from local artists, and even hang out at their beautiful cafe!
You will also find busts of renowned personalities here such as Jón Rögnvaldsson, whose donation helped create the botanical gardens; and Matthias Jochumsson, a local clergyman who penned the national anthem of Iceland.
The Botanical Gardens are easy to reach by foot, bus or car, just fifteen minute’s walk south from the town centre.
5. Visit the Akureyri Museum and the Nonni house
Stop by one of the many museums located here such as the Akureyri Museum. Learn about the history of this cute town, and also check out contemporary exhibits.
During my visit, there was a music and records exhibit. There was also a shopping display – like grocery-related history and how it has changed over the years.
The Museum complex is also home to Nonni House, his statue (that welcomes you at the entrance), an old church, and a cannon in the gardens.
The Nonni House is also a museum, and this house dates back to the 1850s. Nonnahús as it’s locally called was the childhood home of Jón Sveinsson who lived around this time.
As you enter the Nonni House, you will be amazed by how meticulously well the house and its items are kept.
There are living room, kitchen, and bedroom spaces with items kept intact as it was yesterday – when people were living here.
I was particularly impressed by the bunk beds and the ladder that lead up to it – all very well-kept and maintained!
There is an entry fee to visit both the Nonni House and the Akureyri Museum. It starts at $20+ USD per person.
6. Visit the Akureyri Art Museum
The Akureyri Art Museum provides an opportunity to explore the vast history of Icelandic art and culture.
Located in the heart of the town center, this museum houses collections from some of the best Icelandic artists from the past centuries.
It also features illustrations and photography for other visual arts and installations.
As you walk through the galleries and marvel at the brilliant paintings, you will enjoy the vibrancy of this place. The museum was opened in 1993 and is housed in an old dairy.
It also has a cool splash of artwork right outside the museum, which is also very inviting.
From the charming exterior to the interiors teeming with creativity, this art museum is sure to impress any art lover.
7. Spot the hearts in town
As you explore Akureyri you will find that this charming little town is filled with cute hearts. You will find hearts everywhere you look from traffic lights, and windows, to street art and more.
The reason for these red hearts sprinkled everywhere was to improve the mental wellness and positive thinking of the residents of Akureyri.
Due to the financial crash of 2008, there was a lot of anxiety and sadness in town and add to that the gray and cold days of northern Iceland.
Adding cute hearts to red stoplights was meant to radiate positivity and good cheer amongst its residents.
It is a lovely addition to the town of Akureyri, I found it super cute! Be sure to take pictures of the hearts as you encounter them whilst exploring.
8. Walk the waterfront area of Akureyri
Akureyri’s beautiful waterfront is an ideal spot to take in the beauty of Northern Iceland. The area features a fishing harbor, and they have cute boats sprinkled here and there along the way.
Along the promenade, you will also find unique sculptures, wooden bridges, and beyond.
On top of this, several inviting public areas await those who want to relax or engage in outdoor activities such as cycling or sailing around the bay.
You can stop at the Hof Cultural center or even conclude the stroll at the Port of Akureyri, and relax over a cup of coffee overlooking the fjords.
9. Catch a performance at the Hof Cultural and Conference Center
What the Harpa Concert Hall is to Reykjavik is the Hof Cultural Center to Akureyri. This is a cultural building that is home to musical concerts and other performing arts.
The building looks stunning from the outside, and the inside is very welcoming as well. You can catch a show, hang out or eat at their cafe (with views).
10. Visit one of the cafes in Akureyri
Traveling to Akureyri Iceland is always a treat. And there’s no better way to experience the beauty of the town than sitting down in a cafe and watching life unfold around you.
From the streets lined with brightly colored shops to the amazing view of the fjords, there’s something magical about this place that comes alive when you take it all in from a cozy cafe table.
You’ll be comforted by warm beverages or a bowl of soup, friendly service, and a relaxed atmosphere; soaking up all the culture, conversation, and sights that pass by.
Here are some of my favorite cafes and restaurants in Akureyri,
- Blaa Kannan Cafe
- Ketil Kaffi
- Te & Kaffi (perfect to eat and read a book)
- Kristjans Bakari Bakery and Cafe
- Bakariio vio Bruna
11. Hike to see the Landnemar monument
The Landnemar monument in Akureyri stands to honor the area’s first settler, Helgi Magri (the slim) Eyvindarson, who was a Norse Viking who arrived in the 9th century.
The first recorded mention of Akureyri was in 1562, after which Danish settlers and traders began to migrate to Iceland.
The town was officially granted status by royal decree from the king of Denmark (who at this point also reigned over Iceland) along with five other Icelandic towns in 1786.
The statue also features Helgi’s wife Þórunn Hyrna.
To get to the statue you have to walk/hike about 20 minutes from the town center. The walk takes you through residential areas and then to the statue which is located on a small hill.
The spot where the Landnemar monument stands welcome you to the views of the town of Akureyri.
12. See the St Peter’s Catholic Church
St Peter’s Catholic Church in Akureyri stands in a unique place, both geographically and spiritually.
Located on Eyrarlandsvegi 26, this stunning church features a beautiful exterior of striking red and white colors. It was named after the renowned saint St. Peter, the spiritual leader of the early churches.
Inside its doors lies a peaceful environment that has been encouraging faith and reflection for centuries. Whether you weigh in on its significance or take it just at face value, St Peter’s remains an iconic monument to Iceland’s rich religious history.
13. Visit the Laufas Turf Houses
Laufas Turf Houses in north Iceland are some of the interesting things to see in Akureyri.
The turf houses are huge with many structures including a large farmhouse, elegant church, and more, making it an impressive site with loads of character.
What’s even more impressive is that Laufás was considered quite wealthy according to Icelandic standards, which adds even more charm to this already gorgeous location.
This site dates all the way back to Iceland’s Settlement of Iceland 874-930. Today, it is run by Akureyri Museum and has been made part of the National Museum of Iceland thus ensuring its protection for future generations.
If you want to experience the beauty, grandeur, and history of Icelandic culture all at once, then Laufás Turf Houses should be at the top of your list!
14. Wander the Oddeyri district
Take a short walk through the picturesque old neighborhood of Oddeyri by the sea. Along the route, you will be enthralled by the nearby stunning view of Eyjafjörður fjord and the surrounding mountains.
From Hof Cultural Center, take a stroll down to the harbor area. Keep following Strandgata until you reach Hríseyjargata, at which point you should turn right and cross over to the north side of town.
Here, one of Akureyri’s oldest neighborhoods makes quite a charming spectacle; with its quaint old houses painted in every color of the rainbow and iconic stone tins that adorn many roofs!
Outdoor artwork lines the streets, adding even more vibrancy to this already captivating experience – it’s certainly enough to give you a taste of what Akureyri is all about.
15. Soak in the warm waters of the Akureyri swimming pool
Spending a day at the Sundlaug Akureyrar is the perfect way to enjoy Iceland’s natural beauty.
Located near the IcelandAir hotel, this geothermal swimming pool complex boasts two outdoor pools with an array of hot tubs and waterslides to enjoy.
No matter your swimming ability, there are play areas tailored for children and adults alike, providing fun in the Icelandic sunshine.
Whether you’re looking to kick back in one of the soothing hot tubs or get adventurous on a waterslide, visiting the Sundlaug Akureyrar is the ideal way to make the most of your Icelandic holiday.
The cost is 900 ISK for adult entrance.
16. Visit Godafoss Waterfall
Godafoss Waterfall is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland. It’s located only about 45 minutes from Akureyri and can easily be reached by car or day tour.
When you arrive at Godafoss, you’ll be amazed by its sheer size—it stands 30 meters (98 feet) tall!
You can even spend some time exploring the area around the waterfall as there are plenty of trails that offer spectacular views of this natural wonderland.
The name Godafoss means Waterfall of the Gods, and it is named so as statues of pagan gods were thrown here after the Chief converted to Christianity.
17. Go on a whale watching tour
Whale watching off the coast of Akureyri is an experience that should not be missed!
You’ll have a chance to spot minke whales, humpbacks, white-beaked dolphins, seals, and more as you cruise around Fjord Eyjafjordur in search of these majestic creatures.
There are several tours available so be sure to book ahead before your trip so you don’t miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!
You can choose a 3-hour cruise in the morning or evening leaving from the Port of Akureyri.
From November to March you can see orcas, sperm whales, and humpback whales. The latter can also be seen in November and December, and February.
Akureyri, Husavik, and around Eyjafjörður are good places to see whales in Iceland.
18. Chase northern lights in and around Akureyri
If you dream of seeing the majestic northern lights, make Akureyri your destination.
Akureyri is located on the north coast of Iceland and its surrounding area makes for an ideal place to chase the aurora borealis. It is also known as one of the best places in Iceland to see them.
From here you can start your quest and explore numerous locations where you can witness the captivating displays of light whether through a guided tour or a self-guided experience.
With its elevated terrain, lower level of light pollution, and mostly clear skies — you are guaranteed breath-taking experiences on your venture!
Plan your trip in the months from September to April to chase northern lights.
19. Take a day trip to the Lake Myvatn area and the Nature Baths
If you are looking for a unique day trip from Akureyri a great option is to visit the Myvatn Lake and the Myvatn Nature Baths.
Located in the northern area of Iceland, it boasts breathtaking views of volcanoes and lava fields along with various types of wildlife.
Upon arriving at Myvatn Lake, enjoy the beautiful landscapes by going on a hike and then a swim in the mineral-rich waters of Myvatn Nature Baths.
Known as the Blue Lagoon of the North, these nature baths are perfect to ease your muscles in hot mineral water amidst a stunning volcanic landscape.
The entire area makes for a magnificent adventure perfect for outdoorsy types and photographers alike.
20. Ski at the Hlidarfjall Akureyri
A ski trip to Iceland wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Hlíðarfjall Akureyri.
With its beautiful snow-covered slopes and picturesque surroundings, it is the perfect location for your winter holiday.
Boasting over 14 km (8.6 miles) of amazing skiable terrain, and an abundance of lifts, and accommodation options close by, you’re guaranteed an unforgettable experience!
There are 8 lifts to help transport guests, plus you can also book a stay in places in and around the resort!
Beginner or expert skier, there’s something for everyone here – fun runs, challenging inclines, and off-piste exploring; to name but a few.
Not only that, but the resort also provides rental facilities so all you’ll need is yourself and your friends or family to make your ski dreams come true!
21. Go on a boat cruise and explore the nearby islands Hrisey or Grimsey
A boat cruise is a perfect way to explore the nearby islands of Hrisey and Grimsey near Akureyri.
You can spend an entire day (like a day trip) and enjoy the beauty of these offshore gems as you sail past acres of unspoiled land and serene coastline.
Through these cruises, you will have the chance to marvel at unique wildlife, observe dazzling sunsets, and find your feet in a new culture.
Hrísey is known as ‘The Pearl of Eyjafjörður’, and it is home to over 40 bird species, plus there is cool history and culture for you to discover.
Grímsey is an island and is the only part of Iceland that is located in the Arctic. It is home to cute puffins and other bird species.
The waters around the island are teeming with fish which provide the birds with enough food to sustain them.
You can get there by renting a car and driving from Akureyri or hopping on a ferry.
Most people come to Grímsey to witness Atlantic Puffins nesting on the island, but there are many others waiting to be discovered by curious visitors – with so many different species all living on one small landmass and wary explorers need not worry about harming any fragile ecosystems as they wander through this remote yet bustling spot.
May to September is the best time to hit the island. Experiencing these remote places with locals gives an authentic touch to the adventure!
22. Horse riding tours near Akureyri
Horse riding in Akureyri is a truly unique experience that’s suitable for riders of all levels.
Polar Hestar in Grýtubakki offers many different riding tours, ranging from shorter excursions to longer journeys, and giving both experienced and less experienced riders the opportunity to explore the beautiful scenery around Akureyri.
The perfect end to a great ride is offered at the farm with house-made cakes and cookies – really, who could pass up on that?
You can book a horseback riding tour all year round in Akureyri. Reserve your spot here
Whether you enjoy outdoor activities or prefer exploring small towns and cities, Akureyri has something for everyone!
From whale-watching excursions to visiting Godafoss Waterfall or strolling through downtown Akureyri—you won’t run out of things to do during your stay here!
So start planning your trip today and get ready for an unforgettable adventure in one of Iceland’s loveliest locations.
Read more of our Iceland travel guides
- Iceland: Iceland in April | Iceland in May | Iceland in October
- Iceland winter tours | Guided tours in Iceland
- Reykjavik: One day in Reykjavik itinerary | Free things to do in Reykjavik