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Akureyri

History

The first permanent inhabitant of Eyjafjörður was Norse-Irish settler Helgi Magri (Helgi the Lean), who arrived in about 890. Although Helgi worshipped Þór and let the gods choose an auspicious site for him to settle by tossing his high-seat pillars overboard (they washed up 7km south of present-day Akureyri), he hedged his bets by naming his farm Kristnes (Christ’s Peninsula).

By 1602 a trading post had been established at present-day Akureyri. There were still no permanent dwellings, though, as all the settlers maintained rural farms and homesteads. By the late 18th century the town had accumulated a whopping 10 residents, all Danish traders, and was granted municipal status.

The town soon began to prosper and by 1900 Akureyri numbered 1370 people. The original cooperative, Gránufélagsins, had begun to decline and in 1906 it was replaced by Kaupfélagið Eyjafirdinga Akureyrar (KEA; the Akureyri Cooperative Society), whose ubiquitous insignia still graces many Akureyri businesses.

Today Akureyri is thriving. Its fishing company and shipyard are the largest in the country, and the city’s university (established in 1987) gives the town a youthful exuberance.