Reykjavík is Iceland’s capital city, lying on Faxa Bay in the southwest of the country. Settled by Vikings, it is the focus of Icelandic life and is home to two thirds of the country’s population. The world’s most northerly-situated capital, it derives much of its energy from local geothermal springs.
The site of Reykjavík, according to the twelfth century Icelandic Book of Settlements, was settled in 874 by a Norwegian chieftain, Ingólfur Arnarson, who built a farm. He named it Reykjavík, which means ‘smokey bay’, because of the steam eminating from the natural hot springs.
The area, reliant principally on fishing, grew slowly over the ensuing centuries and it was not until the mid-eighteenth century that Reykjavík began to prosper as a trade centre. In 1786, with Iceland under the jurisdiction of Denmark, it became the seat of the Danish administrator and in 1843 it was chosen as the home of the Icelandic parliament (Alþingi).
In 1911 the University of Iceland...