Reykjavík is the capital of Iceland, and the world's most northern national capital.
The first permanent settlement in Iceland by Nordic people is believed to have been established in Reykjavík by Ingólfur Arnarson around AD 870. Reykjavík is not mentioned in any medieval sources except as a regular farm land but the 18th century was the beginning of urban concentration there. The Danish rulers of Iceland backed ideas of a domestic industry in Iceland that would help generate some much-needed progress on the island. Nationalist sentiment gained influence in the 19th century and ideas about Icelandic independence became widespread. Reykjavík, as Iceland's only city, was the melting pot of such ideas in the country. In the 1920s and 1930s, most of the growing Icelandic fishing trawler fleet sailed from Reykjavík and salt-cod production was the main industry but the Great Depression hit Reykjavík hard with unemployment and labour union struggles that sometimes became violent.
Reykjavík is located in southwest Iceland. The Reykjavík area coastline is characterized by peninsulas, coves, straits, and islands. Despite its extreme north Atlantic location, Reykjavík is much warmer than most locations at similar latitudes. The average mid-winter temperatures are no lower than those in New York City. The climate is subpolar oceanic. The city's coastal location does make it prone to wind, however, and gales are common in winter. Summers are very cool, while spring tends to be the sunniest season. Winters are long and bleak, with just four hours of daylight on some days, although the chance to view the spectacular Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights makes up for this. Summer, by contrast, brings the famed midnight sun with the city's inhabitants at their most colourful and the streets taking on a much lighter atmosphere at night.
Reykjavik has two landmarks that offer views over the city to aid orientation: Perlan (the Pearl), on �skjuhl�d Hill, and the 75m-high (230ft) Hallgrímskirkja church in the centre of town. A visit to the top of either of these is the best way for visitors to become acquainted with the city's layout. The very heart of Reykjavik lies between the Atlantic Ocean and the pleasant Tjörnin Lake to the north. In-between lies the centre of the city with flat, wide streets housing bars, cafés, hotels, museums and art galleries. The modern Icelandic National Gallery lies right on the edge of the lake, while the National Museum lies just to the south. Just north of Tjörnin is Austurvollur, an attractive square popular with sun worshippers in the warmer months.
Over the last decade, Reykjavikís nightlife has been hyped up by the enthusiastic tourist board and a stream of travel writers. Reykjavik, however, is a small city and those arriving expecting to find a large-scale (Ibiza of the North) may be a little disappointed as most of the action takes place in a very small central area. All of the Reykjavikís nightlife centres on the main street, Laugavegur, and the roads leading off it. The cafés and bars in Reykjavik tend to have a Jekyll and Hyde character - serving beer and coffee throughout the day, before transforming into buzzing drinking and dancing venues in the evening.