What to See, Do and Eat in Akureyri: Iceland’s Capital of the North
Although it only has a small population of around 18,000 people, visiting Akureyri on a campervan trip makes you feel as if you’ve entered the big city. We at Go Campers love our northern neighbour, so for those campers among you who fancy stopping in for a visit on their trips we’ve created a great guide of what to see and do in the city, and if you’re feeling like treating yourself after many meals in the campervan, where to eat.
What to See and Do
A visit to the main church in town, Akureyrarkirkja, should be first on the list of things to do for campers. Designed by Guðjón Samúelsson, the same architect who designed the iconic Hallgrímskirkja in Reykjavik, the church is a beautiful piece of architecture and a symbol for the city.
One of the best things to do in Akureyri is to visit the Botanical Gardens. Found on top of the hill behind the church, this is the northernmost botanical gardens in the world. On a sunny day it’s a beautiful spot for a stroll, and the café in the middle is a great place to enjoy a coffee.
The main street in downtown Akureyri is Hafnarstræti, loaded with coffee shops, places to eat, and shops. If you’re after a bit more serious shopping, you can head to the nearby shopping mall Glerártorg.
There are also several companies in town that offer whale watching tours from the harbour, and other companies set out on long day trips to Askja in the highlands as well.
Akureyri is also one of Iceland’s biggest art hubs outside of Reykjavik. Most of the action goes down along the street Kaupvangsstræti, nicknamed the ‘Art Street’. Other than studio space for artists and the Akureyri School of Visual Arts, for tourists the epicentre is at the Akureyri Art Museum.
Other museums are scattered throughout Akureyri, like the Davíð Stefánsson Memorial Museum, and others are further down the valley towards the airport, like the Aviation Museum and the Motorcycle Museum. It’s also worth driving even further to visit the Christmas House, a festively decorated house that is jam packed with all kinds of beautiful Icelandic Christmas decorations.
Parking in Akureyri
The parking situation in Akureyri has caught many a tourist off guard. In the city there is free parking, but a maximum time limit applied to different areas between 10.00 and 16.00 – time limits range between 15 minutes and up to 2 hours. You’ll need to grab a time clock and indicate what time you’ve parked where you are – you can pick these up from the banks, information centres, hotels and petrol stations. If you don’t, there’s a small fine of around 3000 ISK.
Campsites in Akureyri
There are 2 different campsites in Akureyri. The first is located centrally in town, just by the swimming pool and is called Þórunnarstræti. The other is located a short drive south into the valley and is next to the forest Kjarnaskogur, called Hamrar.
What Grocery Stores are There in Akureyri?
As the hub of all things commercial in northern Iceland, Akureyri is one of the best towns to replenish your supplies for cooking out on the road. There are two Bonus stores in town, the more convenient one being on the main road through town just north of the centre. There’s also a large Nettó inside the shopping mall Glerártorg.
The Best Places to Eat in Akureyri
For those who are looking to splash out on a meal, here are our recommendations on the best places to eat in Akureyri.
The Campers Crowd – Akureyri Backpackers
This backpacker hostel is found smack bang in the middle of Akureyri’s main street downtown and is the perfect place for a tasty and reasonably priced meal. Servings are quite large, and there’s a unique offering on their menu. Vegetarian and vegan friendly.
Akureyri’s Fanciest Restaurant – Rub23
This Akureyri institution is well known with northerners and is the spot if you’re looking for a fancy meal out on the town. Try the sushi pizza and you won’t regret it.
A Hearty Pub Meal – Bryggjan
Burgers, pizzas, meat, fish and salads. Their extensive menu has great prices and even better serving sizes. Our pick if you’re after a hearty meal that you’ll dream about for days to come as you’re cooking instant noodles in the campervan.
Best Breakfast in Akureyri – Café Berlin
This café does the best breakfast in town, meaning you can fill up on a tasty meal of bacon, eggs, fruit and toast before taking off into the wilds of Iceland.
The Best Places to Drink in Akureyri
What’s the nightlife like in Akureyri? Where are the best places to enjoy a quiet beer? We’ve got your answers here.
A Big Night Out – Pósthúsbarinn
This is the only real ‘nightclub’ in Akureyri. Open from 11pm on Friday and Saturday, it’s the place to go if you’re looking to enjoy the raucous Icelandic nightlife while you’re in town.
Live Music - Græni hatturinn
Regularly hosting live bands from around the country, the Græni hatturinn is the best place to catch some live music on a weekend in Akureyri. Check their website for upcoming gigs to see what’s on.
For the Beer Lovers – Einstök Brewer's Lounge
This little brewer’s lounge above the bar Ölstofa is an inviting place to enjoy an evening drink. You can sample all the Einstök beers on their tasting axe, and there’s a map of Iceland on the wall with all of the craft breweries marked on it.
An Evening Drink – R5 Micro Bar
Right in the centre of town is R5, probably the best all-round bar in the city. Great music and popular with the locals, it’s a good bet on any night of the week.
Cocktail Lounge – Múlaberg
Inside the KEA Hotel in the middle of town is Múlaberg, with a happy hour between 4pm and 6pm where you can score their cocktail of the day for 1100 ISK.
Coffee and Cake - Bláa Kannan
The big historic blue house on the main street in town is the spacious and warm café Bláa Kannan, a great place to warm yourself up with some coffee and cake. Their soup of the day lunch special is a good deal as well.
Akureyri in the Winter
Have you driven to Akureyri in the winter and are wondering what there is to do? The entirety of Eyjafjörður is a fantastic place for both cross-country and downhill skiing. The closest destination is the Mt. Hlídarfjall Ski Resort, right out the back of Akureyri. There are also great resorts up in the Tröllaskagi Peninsula as well if you’re looking for an even more exotic skiing destination.
Dog Sledding is offered in the area with pickup in town, and in town there is an ice-skating rink that is set up from September through to May. Their Friday night ice-disco is a winner if you’re travelling with kids in the camper.
Christmas and New Year’s Eve are both amazing to celebrate in Iceland’s capital in the north. Throughout the season the town is lit up with thousands of beautiful Christmas lights to illuminate those dark Icelandic days, and on New Year’s Eve there is a big bonfire in town, of course followed up by the release of a lot of fireworks – as is tradition in the country.