Iceland is not just a country; it’s a world unto itself. From the dramatic volcanic landscapes to the serene fjords and vibrant cities, this Nordic island nation offers a mesmerizing array of living experiences. However, with its unique geography and culture, finding the ideal place to settle can seem overwhelming. To aid in your decision, I’ve crafted this guide on the best places to live in Iceland.
My extensive travels across Iceland have allowed me to witness firsthand the country’s astounding variety and charm. From the awe-inspiring glaciers and geysers to the quaint fishing villages and the cosmopolitan allure of Reykjavik, Iceland’s diversity is truly captivating. Whether you’re enamored by the tranquility of remote towns, the rich cultural tapestry of its urban centers, or the unparalleled natural beauty, Iceland has a spot that seems tailor-made for you.
But where to begin? The perfect location varies for each person. Some may prioritize proximity to nature, others might seek vibrant cultural scenes, and for many, the unique Icelandic lifestyle is the key factor.
Join me as I delve into the best places to live in Iceland, tailored to what matters most to you. Drawing from my experiences, extensive research, and conversations with locals, I’ve compiled a list that embraces all lifestyles and preferences. Let’s embark on this journey!
The Best Places to Live in Iceland
Eager to discover the most enchanting places to live in Iceland? Situated far in the North Atlantic, this European gem offers a remarkable mix of landscapes and lifestyles. So, continue reading to unearth the top living spots in Iceland.
Searching for your ideal home in Iceland? Whether you’re planning a move or simply dreaming, Iceland, with its unique position just below the Arctic Circle, has a place that will suit your desires.
- Best for vibrant city life: Reykjavik
- Best for art and culture: Hafnarfjörður
- Best for expats: Keflavik
- Best for fishing and nature: Siglufjörður
- Best for digital nomads: Akureyri
- Best for couples: Laugarvatn
- Best for outdoor enthusiasts: Hvolsvollur
- Best for adventure lovers: Vik
- Best for families: Húsavík
- Best for solo travelers: Egilsstaðir
- Best for urban sophistication: Kopavogur
- Best for artistic community: Seyðisfjörður
Here are all the best spots in Iceland you should consider for your new home:
Reykjavik shines as Iceland’s best city to live in, a vibrant mosaic of culture, history, and breathtaking landscapes. This city, the northernmost capital in the world, offers a unique blend of cosmopolitan buzz and serene nature. Compact yet diverse, Reykjavik hosts an array of cafes, museums, and galleries, all set against the backdrop of majestic mountains and the Atlantic Ocean.
In Reykjavik, community and creativity thrive side by side. Here, innovative cuisine meets traditional Icelandic dishes, showcasing the city’s culinary prowess. The city’s heart beats with a rhythm of music festivals and artistic events, making it a hub for those seeking cultural enrichment.
The charm of Reykjavik extends beyond its urban allure. Surrounded by natural wonders, residents indulge in outdoor activities like hiking, whale watching, and even midnight sun golfing. In winter, the city transforms into a wonderland, with the Northern Lights painting the sky in vivid colors.
Living in Reykjavik means embracing a lifestyle where modern amenities coexist with unspoiled nature. It stands out as one of the best places to live in Iceland, a testament to its unique blend of city life and natural beauty. The city’s welcoming atmosphere and high quality of life make it an ideal home for those seeking a balance between urban living and outdoor living.
Tucked between lava fields and the sea, Hafnarfjörður offers an enchanting blend of natural beauty and cultural vibrancy. This town, often celebrated as Iceland’s best cities to live, prides itself on a rich history steeped in Norse mythology. Its streets whisper tales of elves and hidden folk, adding a mystical aura to everyday life.
Art and culture flourish in Hafnarfjörður. Annual festivals like the Viking Festival transform the town into a lively celebration of Iceland’s heritage. Art galleries, music events, and theatres provide residents with a constant stream of creative stimulation. The town’s cultural fabric is as rich as its volcanic landscape.
Hafnarfjörður is not just about history and culture; it’s a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. The surrounding lava fields and seascapes invite exploration, whether it’s hiking, horseback riding, or simply strolling along the harbor. The town also serves as a gateway to Iceland’s iconic Golden Circle, offering endless adventures.
Living here, you find a community that harmoniously blends tradition with modernity. Hafnarfjörður, truly one of the coolest places to live in Iceland, captivates with its unique charm. It’s a place where folklore meets contemporary lifestyle, making every day an adventure in this enchanting Icelandic town.
Imagine a town where the sea whispers tales of history and the sky dances with the Northern Lights. Keflavik, a jewel in Iceland’s crown, offers just that. This coastal town combines small-town charm with the excitement of an international gateway, making it one of the best places in Iceland to live in. Its proximity to the international airport adds a cosmopolitan flair, connecting residents to the world.
Keflavik’s heart beats in its rich maritime and musical heritage. The town’s museums are treasure troves of local history, and its music scene is surprisingly vibrant, echoing through the streets and alleys. This is a town where history and modernity merge, creating a captivating living experience.
Residents here find a harmonious blend of community and nature. Keflavik’s stunning coastline invites long, reflective walks, while its geothermal waters offer relaxation and rejuvenation. The town is also a stone’s throw away from the famous Blue Lagoon, adding a touch of luxury to everyday life.
Living in Keflavik means embracing a lifestyle where nature’s wonders meet human creativity. This town is not just a nice city to live in Iceland’s vast landscape; it’s a place where every day brings a new adventure and a deeper connection to Iceland’s unique spirit.
Cradled between towering mountains and the endless sea, Siglufjörður is a gem nestled in the north of Iceland. This small town, once the center of Iceland’s herring industry, is now a tranquil haven for those seeking peace and natural beauty. Siglufjörður’s captivating charm makes it a great place to live in Iceland, offering a retreat from the hustle of larger cities.
The town’s history echoes in its streets, museums, and the annual Herring Era Festival. This celebration of Siglufjörður’s past brings the community together, showcasing a strong sense of unity and pride. Music and culture are deeply ingrained here, with the Folk Music Centre illustrating the town’s rich artistic heritage.
Outdoor activities abound in Siglufjörður. The surrounding mountains and sea offer endless opportunities for hiking, skiing, and fishing. Each season transforms the landscape, offering residents a constantly changing backdrop to their daily lives.
Siglufjörður’s serene environment, coupled with its vibrant community life, makes it one of Iceland’s best places to live. Here, you can immerse yourself in the tranquility of nature while still enjoying a lively cultural scene. It’s a perfect blend for those seeking a quieter, yet enriching lifestyle in the heart of Iceland.
Nestled in a scenic fjord, Akureyri is a treasure trove of Icelandic charm. Known as the ‘Capital of North Iceland’, this city marries a small-town feel with big-city amenities. Akureyri’s landscape is a painter’s dream, with vibrant houses dotting the hillside and a stunning backdrop of mountains and water. This picturesque setting makes it one of the best areas to live in Iceland.
Culture thrives in Akureyri. The town boasts numerous cafes, unique airbnb rentals, galleries, and theaters, creating a vibrant arts scene. Its botanical garden, a lush oasis, displays every native Icelandic plant, symbolizing the city’s deep connection with nature.
Outdoor enthusiasts find Akureyri a paradise. From skiing on pristine slopes to exploring the mystic beauty of nearby fjords, there’s always an adventure waiting. The town’s harbor bustles with activity, offering a gateway to the stunning beauty of Northern Iceland.
Akureyri’s combination of cultural vibrancy and natural splendor makes it a nice part of Iceland to call home. Here, you can sip coffee by the fjord, stroll through blooming gardens, or embark on Arctic adventures, all within a city that feels like a close-knit community.
In the heart of Iceland’s Golden Circle lies Laugarvatn, a serene village surrounded by natural wonders. Its charm lies in the peaceful coexistence of rustic village life and the extraordinary geothermal activity that defines the region. Laugarvatn emerges as a great place to live in Iceland, especially for those seeking tranquility and a close-knit community.
Laugarvatn is a haven for wellness enthusiasts. The village is renowned for its geothermal lake and the Fontana Spa, where locals and visitors alike bask in the healing warmth of natural steam baths. The steaming grounds and bubbling hot springs around the village add to its mystical allure.
Nature’s beauty is in full display here, with the surrounding area offering hiking, fishing, and bird-watching opportunities. The proximity to attractions like the Gullfoss waterfall and the Geysir geothermal area makes Laugarvatn an ideal base for exploring Iceland’s natural treasures.
Living in Laugarvatn means embracing a slower pace of life, one that is deeply connected to the rhythms of nature. It’s a place where each day brings a new appreciation for Iceland’s raw beauty, making it one of the best places to live in Iceland for those seeking a peaceful retreat amidst nature’s wonders.
Discover Hvolsvollur, a unique Icelandic town that stands apart from its counterparts. Nestled in the heart of the country, this town is not bordered by a river or sea, yet it thrives, enveloped by lush green landscapes. Its distinctive location and community-centric life make Hvolsvollur one of the most livable cities in Iceland.
Hvolsvollur is a gateway to some of Iceland’s most awe-inspiring natural wonders. The town is a stone’s throw from the Katla UNESCO Global Geopark, offering residents daily encounters with breathtaking scenery and outdoor adventures. Hiking, bird watching, and exploring the numerous nearby waterfalls are everyday activities here.
The town’s focus on agriculture and tourism injects a vibrant yet peaceful energy into daily life. Living in Hvolsvollur allows residents to experience a balance of quiet, rural living and the excitement of welcoming visitors who come to explore the wonders of Iceland.
In Hvolsvollur, life revolves around community and nature. This balance makes it one of the best places to live in Iceland for those seeking a slower pace of life amid stunning natural beauty. Hvolsvollur offers a unique Icelandic living experience, combining the allure of rural life with the thrill of outdoor exploration.
Embrace the untamed beauty of Vik, a picturesque town perched on Iceland’s rugged southern coast. Known for its dramatic landscapes, Vik is a haven for those enchanted by nature’s raw power. Its unique setting, surrounded by black sand beaches and towering cliffs, ranks it among Iceland’s best places to live.
Vik’s charm lies in its small-town feel, coupled with extraordinary natural attractions. The iconic Reynisfjara black sand beach, famous for its haunting beauty and towering basalt columns, is a stone’s throw away. The town is also a prime spot for viewing the mesmerizing Northern Lights, offering a spectacle like no other.
This town isn’t just about scenic beauty; it’s a thriving community where locals are deeply connected to their environment. Residents of Vik enjoy a lifestyle that blends adventure with tranquility. The town’s proximity to active volcanoes adds an element of excitement to everyday life.
Living in Vik means being part of a community that values nature and simplicity. This town, one of the top cities in Iceland to live, offers a lifestyle that’s both peaceful and thrilling. It’s a place where the wild Atlantic meets the rugged Icelandic landscape, creating an unforgettable living experience.
Dubbed the Whale Watching Capital of Europe, Húsavík is a sanctuary for nature lovers and marine enthusiasts. This charming town, nestled in Iceland’s north, is a fusion of breathtaking natural beauty and rich maritime history, making it one of the best Iceland towns to live.
The heart of Húsavík beats with the rhythm of the ocean. The town’s Whale Museum and annual Whale Festival celebrate its deep connection with the sea. Here, residents live in harmony with the environment, embracing a lifestyle that revolves around the natural wonders of the Arctic Circle.
Adventure and tranquility coexist in Húsavík. Beyond whale watching, the town offers birdwatching and hiking opportunities, with each trail leading to another spectacular view. The presence of the Northern Lights and midnight sun adds a magical touch to life here.
Living in Húsavík means being part of a close-knit community that cherishes its natural surroundings. This town, a nice city to live in Iceland’s vast landscape, offers a peaceful yet exciting lifestyle. It’s a place where nature’s wonders are a daily spectacle, creating a living experience like no other.
Imagine a place where serene nature meets cultural richness. Egilsstaðir, in East Iceland, is just that—a haven where the beauty of the Lagarfljót River and the mystical landscapes form a perfect backdrop for a peaceful life. It’s a town that stands out as one of the best cities to live in Iceland, offering a blend of natural splendor and modern amenities.
Egilsstaðir is not only about stunning views; it’s a cultural hub. The town’s proximity to the Hallormsstaðaskógur National Forest and Vatnajökull National Park makes it an ideal spot for nature enthusiasts. Here, birdwatching, fishing, and hiking are part of daily life.
This town offers a vibrant community life. Festivals, local markets, and cultural events are commonplace, fostering a strong sense of togetherness. Residents enjoy a high quality of life with access to good healthcare and education, set amidst a breathtaking landscape.
Living in Egilsstaðir offers a unique Icelandic experience. It’s a place where nature’s tranquility and community vibrancy create a harmonious lifestyle. Recognized as one of the what are the best places to live in Iceland, Egilsstaðir is a gem for those seeking a balanced life in a picturesque setting.
Step into Kopavogur, a city where modern life and natural beauty intertwine effortlessly. As Iceland’s second-largest city, it presents a dynamic blend of urban living and stunning landscapes. Kopavogur, evolving rapidly, is a testament to Iceland’s best cities to live for those who seek both progress and tranquility.
Kopavogur captivates with its cultural landmarks. The Kópavogur Church, an architectural marvel, dominates the skyline, while the city’s art museum is a hub for creativity and inspiration. These sites reflect the city’s commitment to cultural enrichment and architectural elegance.
The city’s natural surroundings offer a refreshing escape. With panoramic views of the ocean and nearby mountains, residents can easily connect with nature. Parks and green spaces are scattered throughout, making outdoor activities an integral part of life in Kopavogur.
Living in Kopavogur means enjoying the best of both worlds—urban sophistication and natural serenity. It stands out as a place to move in Iceland for those seeking a vibrant lifestyle in a setting that blends the modern with the majestic. Kopavogur is a city that promises a life full of discovery and beauty.
SEYÐISFJÖRÐUR, a picturesque town in East Iceland, is a blend of historical charm and artistic flair. This town, snugly situated at the end of a fjord, is surrounded by steep mountains, making it a breathtakingly beautiful place to live. It stands as a prime example of one of the best places to live in Iceland, especially for those who appreciate a fusion of nature and art.
The town is a haven for artists and creatives. Its vibrant art scene, characterized by numerous studios and galleries, fosters a rich cultural atmosphere. SEYÐISFJÖRÐUR’s unique architecture, with well-preserved wooden houses, adds to its artistic and historical appeal. This makes it an Instagrammable place in Iceland.
Residents of SEYÐISFJÖRÐUR enjoy a close-knit community spirit. The town’s festivals and cultural events are a celebration of community and creativity, bringing together locals and visitors alike. This sense of community is a cherished aspect of life here.
Living in SEYÐISFJÖRÐUR offers an idyllic lifestyle where the charm of a small town meets the inspiration of artistic culture. As one of the top cities in Iceland to live, it promises a tranquil yet culturally rich life, surrounded by some of the most stunning natural scenery Iceland has to offer.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About the Best Places to Live in Iceland
Curious to learn more about the top living destinations in Iceland? Below are some frequently asked questions that I often encounter regarding the best places to settle in Iceland.
Where is best to live in Iceland?
Deciding where to live in Iceland depends on your lifestyle preferences. Reykjavik, the capital, is ideal for those seeking a vibrant city life combined with cultural richness. It’s perfect for expats and English speakers. For a more laid-back, artistic environment, Hafnarfjörður or Seyðisfjörður are excellent choices, offering community-centric living and a strong cultural scene. Keflavik, with its proximity to the airport, is great for frequent travelers or expats.
If you’re drawn to natural beauty and outdoor activities, Akureyri and Egilsstaðir are top picks. They provide easy access to Iceland’s stunning landscapes and offer a balance of modern amenities and natural serenity. For those seeking a close-knit community vibe, smaller towns like Vik, Húsavík, or Laugarvatn are ideal. They offer a slower pace of life with a strong connection to nature.
Each location in Iceland has its unique charm and advantages, making it important to consider your personal and professional needs when choosing the best places in Iceland to live in.
Can you live in Iceland as a foreigner?
Absolutely, you can live in Iceland as a foreigner. In fact, Iceland is known for its welcoming attitude towards expatriates. Key steps for foreigners include obtaining a residence permit, which is necessary for stays longer than three months. For non-EU/EEA citizens, this typically involves having a job offer from an Icelandic company or enrolling in one of the country’s educational institutions.
Once in Iceland, foreigners often find a high standard of living, a strong sense of community, and a safe environment. English is widely spoken, especially in larger towns and tourist areas, easing the transition for many expatriates. However, learning some Icelandic can be beneficial for deeper integration into the local community.
Expats in Iceland enjoy access to excellent healthcare, a robust education system, and a lifestyle that balances work and leisure, all set in a country with stunning natural beauty. This makes Iceland not only a feasible option for living as a foreigner but also an enriching and life-enhancing one. It’s one of the best Iceland cities for those looking for a safe, welcoming, and beautiful place to call home.
Is it very expensive to live in Iceland?
Living in Iceland can indeed be expensive, with the cost of living being higher compared to many other countries. This is particularly true in the capital, Reykjavik, which is often cited as one of the most livable cities in Iceland but also one of the most costly. Key factors contributing to the high cost of living include:
- Housing: Rent and real estate prices in popular areas, especially in Reykjavik, are high. The demand often surpasses supply, leading to increased costs.
- Food and Groceries: Due to its remote location and reliance on imports for many goods, grocery prices can be steep. However, local products like dairy and fish might be more affordable.
- Transportation: Owning and maintaining a vehicle can be expensive, although public transport is available and efficient, especially in larger towns.
- Utilities: In contrast, utilities like heating and electricity are relatively affordable, thanks to Iceland’s abundant geothermal energy.
- Leisure and Entertainment: Prices for dining out, entertainment, and other leisure activities are on the higher side, reflecting the overall cost of living.
Despite the high costs, many find that Iceland’s quality of life, natural beauty, and safety offsets these expenses. Budgeting carefully and embracing some local habits, like enjoying the great outdoors, can make living in Iceland more manageable financially.
Is it very expensive to live in Iceland?
Yes, living in Iceland can be quite expensive. The high cost of living is a well-known aspect of this beautiful country. Several factors contribute to this:
- Housing Costs: In areas like Reykjavik, housing can be particularly pricey. Renting or buying property in the capital, one of Iceland’s best places to live, often comes with a significant cost.
- Groceries and Food: The cost of food is higher in Iceland compared to many countries. This is due to its remote location and the need to import many goods. However, local products like fish and dairy are relatively more affordable.
- Transportation: Owning a car can be expensive due to high import taxes and fuel costs. Public transportation is available but can also be costly, especially outside of Reykjavik.
- Utilities: Interestingly, utilities such as heating and electricity are more affordable in Iceland, thanks to its geothermal and renewable energy sources.
- Leisure Activities: Dining out, entertainment, and other activities can add to the expense, reflecting the general cost of living in Iceland.
While living in Iceland is costly, many residents find that the country’s quality of life, safety, and natural beauty make it a worthwhile place to live. Budgeting and adopting local habits, like enjoying nature, can help manage expenses.
Is it a good idea to live in Iceland?
Living in Iceland can be a wonderful idea, depending on what you value in a living environment. Iceland is often praised for its unique qualities that make it an appealing place to reside:
- Natural Beauty: One of the most compelling reasons to live in Iceland is its unparalleled natural scenery. From geysers and waterfalls to volcanoes and glaciers, it’s an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise.
- Safety: Iceland consistently ranks as one of the safest countries in the world. Low crime rates contribute to a high quality of life.
- Strong Community: Icelandic society is known for its strong sense of community and egalitarianism. It’s an ideal place for those seeking a close-knit, supportive living environment.
- Health and Education: The country boasts excellent healthcare and education systems, which are accessible to all residents.
- Cultural Richness: Iceland has a rich cultural heritage, with a thriving arts scene, music, and literature. This cultural vibrancy is evident in its many festivals and events.
- Work-Life Balance: Icelanders place a strong emphasis on work-life balance, making it an attractive place for those looking to avoid the hustle and bustle of more frantic urban centers.
However, the high cost of living and challenging weather conditions are factors to consider. If you appreciate a peaceful, safe environment with stunning natural beauty and don’t mind the expenses and colder climate, living in Iceland could be a great fit. It’s one of the best places to live in Iceland for those who value these qualities in their daily life.
Can I live in Iceland permanently?
Yes, it is possible to live in Iceland permanently, but there are certain procedures and requirements to be followed, particularly for non-EU/EEA citizens:
- Residence Permits: To live in Iceland for more than three months, you’ll need a residence permit. There are different types of permits, such as for work, study, or family reunification.
- Permanent Residency: After living in Iceland for a certain number of years with a legal residence permit (usually four years), you may apply for a permanent residency permit. This status allows you to stay in Iceland indefinitely and enjoy more rights, similar to Icelandic citizens.
- Citizenship: After living in Iceland for seven out of the last ten years, you can apply for Icelandic citizenship. This gives you the right to vote in national elections and a passport that allows for extensive visa-free travel.
- Integration and Language: While integrating into Icelandic society, learning the Icelandic language can be beneficial, even though many Icelanders speak English.
Living in Iceland permanently is an achievable goal, especially for those who appreciate the country’s lifestyle, culture, and environment. It’s an opportunity to be part of one of Iceland’s best places to live, with a strong community, beautiful landscapes, and high quality of life.
Do they speak English in Iceland?
Yes, English is widely spoken in Iceland, particularly in tourist areas, businesses, and urban centers. While Icelandic is the official language, most Icelanders speak English fluently:
- Education: English is a mandatory subject in schools, so most Icelanders start learning it at a young age.
- Tourism and Business: Given Iceland’s robust tourism industry and international business relations, English is commonly used in these sectors.
- Daily Interactions: In daily life, especially in larger towns and cities like Reykjavik, Akureyri, and others that are considered the best places to live in Iceland, English speakers will rarely face a language barrier.
- Local Media and Entertainment: English-language media is readily accessible, and many Icelanders enjoy English-language entertainment, further strengthening their language skills.
For tourists and expatriates, this widespread proficiency in English eases communication and helps with integration into Icelandic society. However, learning some basic Icelandic phrases is appreciated and can enhance the cultural experience.
Final Thoughts on the Best Places to Live in Iceland
Iceland, a country of stark beauty and resilient spirit, offers a living experience as unique as its landscapes. From the vibrant city life of Reykjavik to the tranquil shores of Húsavík, each corner of this island nation has its own charm. Whether you’re seeking the cultural heartbeat of the city or the serene embrace of nature, Iceland caters to a diverse range of preferences.
For those mindful of budget and tranquility, towns like Akureyri and Egilsstaðir strike a perfect balance, proving that living in Iceland can be both affordable and fulfilling. Meanwhile, if you thrive in an environment rich in art and history, places like Seyðisfjörður and Hafnarfjörður are cultural gems waiting to be explored.
Well-being and happiness are not just buzzwords in Iceland; they are a way of life. Communities like Vik and Laugarvatn, often highlighted as some of the best places to live in Iceland, exemplify this, offering a lifestyle that harmoniously blends outdoor adventures with the comforts of modern living.
So, what are the best places to move in Iceland? The answer varies as much as the landscapes of this beautiful country. It depends on what you cherish most in your ideal living environment. Whether it’s for the dynamic urban scene, breathtaking natural settings, or the rich cultural tapestry, one thing is certain: Iceland is more than a destination – it’s an experience.