What You Need to Know When You’re Moving to Reykjavík

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Relocating to Reykjavík

About the City

The capital and largest city in Iceland, Reykjavík is the cultural, political, economic, and governmental center of the country. Despite its location in the southwestern region of Iceland, Reykjavík holds the record for being the northernmost capital city in the world, with a latitude of 64°08′ N.

It has a population of just over 120,000 people in 2015, and the city center covers around 274.5 square kilometers, increased to 777 square kilometers if you include the rest of the region. Despite having a relatively small population compared with other capital cities, it does have a large expatriate community, with foreigners from Poland, Lithuania, and Denmark the most common.

This small population means that at certain times in the year, visiting students and tourists can outnumber the locals and expatriates living in the city. As the largest city in Iceland, Reykjavík is home to many business headquarters, financial banks, and industrial parks, including the offices of Air Iceland, Íslandsbanki, HB Grandi and many others.

It is also a major arts and cultural hub, with many museums, theaters, and the famous Harpa Concert Hall, and is the center of Icelandic government. As an English speaker living in Reykjavík, you will find that communication is not a problem as many people, especially the younger generation, do speak good English. Danish is also widely spoken due to the large Danish community living in the city.

The Climate in Reykjavík

Living in Reykjavík means adjusting to a cold sub polar oceanic climate, with snowy winters and cool, dry summers. However, the winters are made more bearable by the Gulf Stream, which moderates the temperature somewhat.

Reykjavík’s coastal location does mean that it is prone to winds, particularly in the autumn and winter months, with gales commonplace. In the summer, average temperatures can rise to 15°C, but tend to sit around 10°C. In winter, expatriates that live in Reykjavík can expect temperatures as low as −15°C, but it has not dropped below −20°C since 1971.

On average, you can experience around 148 days of precipitation every year, although Reykjavík is not known for being a particularly wet city. Sunshine hours are around 1,300 per year, similar to other parts of North and Northeastern Europe.

Visas for Iceland

If you are moving to Iceland for work purposes, then you will need to obtain a visa (unless you are hailing from an EEA member nation). However, Iceland has a very open border policy and is a member of the Schengen area, and so expatriates from a number of different nations do not need to obtain a visa if they are planning to move to Reykjavík for fewer than three months.

As Iceland belongs to the Schengen area, those relocating from other Schengen nations can have this three month period extended for another three months before having to apply for a more permanent visa. You can find more information about visas for Iceland before you move to Reykjavík in article on Moving to Iceland, or directly from the Icelandic Directorate of Immigration.

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  • Fjodor Andersen

    Finding other expats interested in playing squash in Reykjavik seemed difficult. But with InterNations I found them easily.

  • Michelle Guillemont

    Iceland is not the expat country number one. But I met truly global minds with InterNations. It really works.

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