Reykjavik is situated on Iceland's picturesque south-western coast. The river Elliethaá, one of the best rivers for salmon fishing, runs through it. Much of the city lies on the Seltjarnarnes peninsula but it has spread out to the south and the east. A nice thing about Reykjavik is that residential areas are widely spaced and easily accommodate the city's 190,000 population without looking overcrowded.
Reykjavik was the first Nordic settlement in Iceland, established about 870. Its name means 'bay of smokes', probably having to do with the steam of the hot springs in the area. Its inhabitants made their living in the textile industry, fishing, ship building and agriculture. The year 1786 is the official date of the city's founding. Iceland became a sovereign country under the Crown of Denmark in 1918. British warships anchored in Reykjavik on the 10th of May, 1940, and within a few hours the allied occupation was complete, meeting no armed resistance. Reykjavik served as a British and American base throughout the war, but the occupation had the positive effect of boosting economic development and a lot of construction was carried out. In the post-war years, Reykjavik developed rapidly as a modern capital, people from the countryside moved to the city, and Reykjavik claimed a place on the world's political map by hosting important international events such as the 1986 Summit between Reagan and Gorbachev. Companies such as Actavis, Baugur Group, FRISK Software International, deCODE Genetics, Og Vodafone and Iceland Telecom have their offices in Reykjavik.
The Parliament House (Alingishúsi) is a stately 19th-century building by the Danish architect Ferdinand Meldahl. It houses the parliament (Al'ingi), the National Library and the National Gallery. The Library keeps precious manuscripts from the 12th-14th Centuries, containing the Icelandic Sagas. The Hallgrímskirkja church was built between 1948 and 1986, and named after an outstanding clergyman and poet, Hallgrímur Pétursson. It is one of the tallest structures in Iceland, rising to 74.5 metres, and one of Reykjavik's symbols. An interesting building is the Perlan, four water tanks topped with a glass dome with lights that look like stars from the outside. There is a posh restaurant with a rotating floor inside, treating visitors to a changing panorama. The City Hall stands by the Pond (Tjörnin), a small but picturesque lake. The University of Iceland is a modern building, home of about 8000 students in eleven faculties.
Reykjavik is a car-friendly city, with wide multi-lane highways, no traffic jams and plenty of parking space - a situation any other modern capital may envy. There are two seaports in the city, the 'old harbour' used chiefly by pleasure boats and fishermen, and the new cargo port, the largest in Iceland.
Reykjavik boasts an animated night life, with more than a hundred bars and clubs that fill during the weekend. Drinks, however, are rather expensive. There are plenty of opportunities for shopping: in the historical Laugavegur shopping street, or in the huge Kringlan mall with more than 170 shops, restaurants, a library, a cinema and a theatre.
The sea and the countryside offer great opportunities for outdoor activities. You can go on a whale-watching or fishing tour, or explore the beautiful surroundings of Reykjavik on horseback, you can visit the hot mineral-water Blue Lagoon with its great spa, or dip in the many thermal pools. There are also excellent golf courses with dramatic scenery where in summer you can play even at night!