Hafnarfjörður is a town in Southwest Iceland with a population of 25,000. It has a long history as a town (by Icelandic standards) but has today become a suburb of Reykjavík and the westernmost town in the contiguous urban area of the capital.
Hafnarfjörður is in many ways dominated by its neighbour Reykjavík. However, it is also a separate town with its own centre and independent town spirit. It forms a sort of second centre of gravity in the greater Reykjavík area (or the greater Hafnarfjörður area as some locals call it), with most of the suburbs having formed between these two towns. The name of the town means harbour-fjord and Hafnarfjörður has a large harbour, used both for imports/exports and fishing. It also has some of the most important industrial areas around the capital.
The old town of Hafnarfjörður is what most people come to see. Despite its growth and becoming part of the much larger capital area, Hafnarfjörður retains a village charm in its heart, with small wooden buildings and narrow winding streets. You get the feeling of a place where everybody knows their neighbours.
One of the things that has helped Hafnarfjörður retain this status is how the town is planned and built around nature. It sits in the middle of a lava field, and in many places the lava formations have remained untouched, giving the town a very organic feel to it. This is what gives Hafnarfjörður the nickname "the town in the lava," and it is also partly because of this that the town has become increasingly associated with legends of the Icelandic elves in recent years.
There are two main ways of reaching Iceland, by plane or by boat. Keflavík international airport is situated 39 km from Hafnarfjörður.
- Flybus offers regular service from Keflavík Airport and it can stop in Hafnarfjörður if requested. One way trip takes 45 minutes and costs 2,800 ISK. Tickets can be bought either at the airport or online.
- Strætó operates buses from Keflavík International Airport. Route 55 operates between Hafnarfjörður and Keflavík Airport every 2 hours. One way trip takes 76 minutes and costs 1,600 ISK.
Strætó operates buses from North, West and South Iceland, stretching from Egilsstaðir in the east to Höfn in the south-east. The main terminal for Hafnarfjörður is Fjörður. Long distance busses travel from Mjódd in Reykjavík. Strætó also operates buses to the Reykjanes peninsula including the town of Keflavík.
Hafnarfjörður can be reached from Keflavík Airport by following road 41.
In order to get from other parts of the country to Hafnarfjörður, drive Road 1 to Reykjavík. Road 1 connects to all regions of the country, except the interior and the westfjords. Once in Reykjavík turn into road 49 and turn left into into road 41.
Several cruise liners stop in Hafnarfjörður each summer, arriving close to the city centre.
Hafnarfjörður itself is not served by any ferries, but if you have an abundance of time it is possible to take the Smyril Line from Hirsthals in Denmark to Seyðisfjörður (a small town on the east of Iceland), via Tórshavn. This service is on the expensive side, and puts you on the other side of the country. From there, follow road 93 to Egilsstaðir and then turn into road 1. You will have an choice of taking an 658 km northern route or an 700 km southern route.
The centre of Hafnarfjörður isn't too big and it is easy to walk between the local attractions. Bus routes are available, with route 1 connecting the town with other towns in the capital area. Route 1 operates every 15-20 minutes. The main interchange is called Fjörður. Bus prices are 400 ISK within the capital area.
Spend a day walking around in the old part of Hafnarfjörður. See the old houses and visit Hellisgerði, a popular public park where the natural lava formations of the area can be observed. In the park you can also find the only collection of Japanese bonsai trees in Iceland. As a part of your walking tour you can walk along the beach in the heart of the town. Five minutes away is a magnificent cliff from the top of which there is a view over the town. Hafnarfjörður has one of the only monasteries in Iceland and is home to a few museums.
- Hafnarborg, Strandgata 34, ☎ +354 587 5590, e-mail: email@example.com. 12-5PM F-M and W, 12-9PM Th. An art gallery and venue run by the town. Free.
- Hafnarfjörður Museum (Byggðasafn Hafnarfjarðar), Vesturgata 8, ☎ +354 585 5780, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Variable opening hours (different houses are open at different times). A collection of old houses in the centre of town, some of them have simply been renovated and demonstrate their original use, others contain different exhibitions relating to the history of Hafnarfjörður.
In recent years, Hafnarfjörður has marketed itself well as the town of the Icelandic elves. This is understandable, given the local nature and the close proximity between human habitation and lava rocks. Several companies offer tours visiting the homes of the elves and listening to stories about them. The town is also becoming increasingly popular in December for its Christmas Village, open in the centre of town during weekends that month. People frequently come from Reykjavík and other towns in the Southwest to do some of their Christmas shopping.
There are several good options for outdoor activities around the edges of Hafnarfjörður. You can go hiking on the town mountain Helgafell or take a walk around the lake Hvaleyrarvatn. Íshestar offer horse riding tours from their stables on the outskirts of town.
There are two annual festivals in Hafnarfjörður that can make for an interesting visit:
- Bjartir dagar (Bright Days). An arts and culture festival held annually for a weekend around the beginning of June to coincide with the national celebrations of the Seamen's Day (the first Monday in June).
- Viking festival (Víkingahátíð). Every summer Hafnarfjörður is host to a Viking festival, where people dress up in viking costumes, fight with viking weapons, etc. There is a market with craftsmen selling their viking-like wares.
- Seaman’s Day Festival (Sjómannadagurinn). ‘Sjómannadagurinn’ means seaman’s Day. The day is a public holiday in Iceland and a celebration of the fishing industry.
Hafnarfjörður has three swimming pools, two outdoors and one indoors:
- Suðurbæjarlaug, Hringbraut 77, ☎ +354 565 3080. 6:30AM-8:30PM M-F, 8AM-6PM Sa-Su. The main swimming pool in Hafnarfjörður, just outside the centre of town. Includes an outdoor pool, several hot pots, a steam bath and a water slide.
- Ásvallalaug, Ásvellir 2, ☎ +354 512 4050. 6:30AM-9PM M-F, 8AM-6PM Sa, 8AM-5PM Su. The newest pool in Hafnarfjörður, part of a larger sports complex on the way out of town towards Keflavík.
- Sundhöll Hafnarfjarðar, by Herjólfsgata, ☎ +354 555 0088. 6:30AM-5PM M-Th, 6:30AM-7PM F, closed weekends. The old, indoors swimming pool - not a typical tourist pool. Today it is frequently closed, so it may be best to call first if you're planning a visit.
Hafnarfjörður is well known for its art galleries, e.g. Gallerí Thors , , boutiques and goldsmiths, Fríða and Sigga og Timo and some small galleries and shops in downtown Hafnarfjörður. During weekends in December there is a Christmas village in the centre with a market place and free live entertainment.
There are several nice restaurants in Hafnarfjörður.
- Tilveran, Linnetstígur 1, ☎ +354 565 5250. Variable opening hours. Resturant in downtown Hafnarfjörður with seafood, pizza and meat. Meals in the range of 1,000 to 5,000 ISK.
- Viking village, Víkingastræti 1, ☎ +354 565 1213. Variable opening hours. Resturant with traditional icelandic food, meat and fish.
- Súfistinn, Strandgata 9, ☎ +354 565 3740. Variable opening hours. Café Meals in the range between 1,000 to 2,000 ISK..
- Gamla vínhúsið, Vesturgata 4, ☎ +354 565 1130. Variable opening hours price=Meals in the range of 1,000 to 5,000 ISK. All kinds of modern food.
- Viking village, Víkingastræti 1, ☎ +354 565 1213. Variable opening hours.
- Hotel Hafnarfjordur, Reykjavíkurvegur 72, ☎ +354 540 9700. 15,900 ISK for a single bed in the summer..
Safety concerns in Hafnarfjörður are mostly the same as in other towns and cities, but it should be noted here that Hells Angels have recently set up base in Iceland - in Hafnarfjörður to be precise. Their headquarters are in an industrial area in the southwest of town, and although it's unlikely anything will happen to you if you're not involved in criminal activities yourself, it's a good idea to stay away.
Apart from simply getting on the next bus to Reykjavík, there are several options to get out from Hafnarfjörður. You could take the road south towards the lake Kleifarvatn and Krýsuvík, a geotehermal area on the south coast of Reykjanes which in fact belongs to the municipality of Hafnarfjörður. You could also drive west on Reykjanesbraut towards Keflavík (about 20 minutes away) and the other towns on the Reykjanes peninsula, or even go on a trip to the Blue Lagoon.