Akureyri is a town in the northern part of Iceland; it is the second largest urban area after Greater Reykjavík area but is the fourth largest municipality in Iceland after Hafnarfjörður, Kópavogur and Reykjavík. As of the april 1, 2008 census, the town had a total population of 17,304
The Norse Viking Helgi magri (the slim) Eyvindarson originally settled the area in the 9th century. The first mention of Akureyri dates back to 1562 when a woman was sentenced there for adultery. In the 17th century Danish merchants based their camps on the actual Akureyri which was one of the numerous spits of land in Pollurinn. The reasons for choosing this exact spot for the trading operations were mainly the outstanding natural harbour and the fact that Akureyri is surrounded by a very productive agriculture area. The Danish merchants did not live at Akureyri the whole year round, in winters the houses were locked up and the merchants went home.
Permanent settlement at Akureyri started in 1778 and the town was granted its municipal charter by the king of Denmark (and at the time Iceland also) eight years later in 1786 along with five other towns in Iceland. The king hoped to improve the living conditions of Icelanders by this action because at the time, urban areas were virtually non-existent in Iceland and had never existed. As far as the king was concerned Akureyri was unsuccessful, as it did not grow from its population of 12. In 1836 Akureyri lost its municipal status but gained it back in 1862. From that point, Akureyri started to grow because of the excellent port conditions and perhaps more because of the productive agricultural region around it. Industries processing agricultural products became the backbone of the city and spurred its further growth.
During World War II, Akureyri was the base of Catalina flying boats from the Norwegian-British No. 330 Squadron RAF, which protected convoys from the United States to the United Kingdom and Murmansk from German submarines.
The 20th century in Iceland became the scene of a mass exodus from the countryside to the cities. Commerce and service industries grew to be the primary employers in Akureyri as the manufacturing industries started to decline in the 1990s.
In the early 21st century, fishing industries have become more important in Akureyri as two of the major fishing companies of Iceland has become a more important source of revenue and are expected to grow further in coming years. The University of Akureyri was founded in 1987 and is growing rapidly. Akureyri is the home of RES - The School for Renewable Energy Science
Since 2004, the former municipality of Hrísey, an island 35 km to the north of the rest of Akureyri, has been a part of Akureyri.
Akureyri is located at . Positioned at the bottom-west side of the fjord Eyjafjörður. It is surrounded by mountains, the highest being Súlur 1213 m (3980 ft) and Hlíðarfjall 1116 m (3661 ft). The coast in the area is a narrow strip of flat land before a steep but low hill. In earlier times a few spits of land (Icelandic: eyri, thus Akur-eyri) jutted from the narrow coast but a lot of land has since been claimed from the sea so that today the coastline is more even except for the largest spit of land (eyri), Oddeyri, which was formed by the river Glerá that runs through the town.
The body of sea between Oddeyri and the fjord's bottom is known as Pollurinn and is known for calm winds and a good natural harbour. The central area of Akureyri today is at Ráðhústorg Square near the north-west corner of Pollurinn. The districts of Akureyri are: Innbær, the oldest part of town on the land strip between the hill and Pollurinn south of the central area; Brekkan, on top of the hill; Oddeyri on the peninsula with the same name and Glerárhverfi on the north bank of Glerá river(also referred to as Þorpið which is more of a slang version, in English: the Village). Because of the town's position at the bottom of a long fjord surrounded by high mountains, the climate is actually more inland than coastal, meaning greater variants in temperature (warmer summers, colder winters) than in many other parts of Iceland. The surrounding mountains also shield the town from strong winds.
Akureyri is a transport hub for the region, it is well connected by land, sea and air.
Route 1 (the Ring Road) runs through Akureyri and connects it with other parts of the country.
The town has an airport that is mostly used for domestic flights, with occasional international flights as well. Air Iceland flies several times a day to Reykjavik, but there are also flights to Grimsey, Vopnafjörður, and Þórshöfn. Scheduled flights from Akureyri to Copenhagen began on May 30, 2006, operated by Iceland Express, and are now flown during the summer.
The port of Akureyri is a vital structure for the town, which largely bases its livelihood on fisheries. It is the site of a few large fish processing plants and trawlers come there to unload. The port is also very important for tourism as many cruise ships stop in Akureyri during the summer months. The port is important for freight handling.