Nestled at the head of Eyjafjörður, Iceland's longest fjord, Akureyri is north Iceland's largest fishing port, and its cultural, industrial, and trade capital. It's often called Iceland's "second city," but residents don't seem to take this the wrong way. Akureyri has only 17,000 people, so just reaching the status of "city" is an unrivaled achievement outside the Reykjavík metropolitan area. (Technically, Akureyri is Iceland's fourth-largest city, after the Reykjavík suburbs of Kópavogur and Hafnarfjörður.) Akureyri is a sophisticated and thriving town, and Akureyrians boast of their superior weather, warmer and drier than drizzly Reykjavík in summer.

Akureyri's first known settler was Helgi the Lean, who arrived circa 890. By 1602 it was an active trading post, and by 1900 had 1,370 residents. The trade cooperative KEA, formed in 1886, still owns large shares of several Eyjafjörður businesses, and in 1915 Akureyri had the country's first social-democratic government. The University of Akureyri, established in 1987, is the only state-run university outside of Reykjavík.

Akureyri sees about 180,000 visitors a year, and has no shortage of restaurants and museums. The annual Summer Arts Festival, which includes concerts, exhibitions, dance, and theater, lasts from mid-June to late August, with a street party finale.