Akureyri: Town Or City? - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Akureyri: Town Or City?

Published August 31, 2015

Photos by
Paul Fontaine

A recent seminar held in Akureyri sought to answer the question that has plagued Icelanders for years: is Akureyri a town or a city?

To many visitors to Iceland, Reykjavík is the country’s sole city, and has repeatedly been compared to a small town or even a village by visitors in the past. Akureyri, with a population of just over 17,000, probably does not count as a city to these same visitors, but what about in an Icelandic context? What does it even mean to be a city?

Akureyri is Iceland’s fourth largest municipality, surpassing a few municipalities in the capital region. Size does not necessarily matter, either, as St. Davids in the UK – with a population of just over 1,600 – is classified as a city, albeit Britain’s smallest.

“If we look just at the services being provided, and the cultural activities that are at work here, then Akureyri is by all means a city,” Kjartan Ólafsson, an assistant professor at the University of Akureyri told reporters.

Akureyri’s mayor, Eiríkur Björn Björgvinsson, is not especially concerned about the issue, but said there is nothing really stopping Akureyri from calling itself a city rather than a town.

“We could decide on it today, if we wanted,” he said. “Reykjavík elected a city mayor long before the municipality was called a city.”

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