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  • Writer's pictureEinar Páll Svavarsson

Grundarfjörður town Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Updated: Jun 25

Mt. Kirkjufell and Church
Grundarfjörður town church and Mt. Kirkjufell

Grundarfjörður is a small town along the northern coastline of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. As of January 2024, the population of the municipality is approximately 1000. Although the town was never part of the mainstream tourist traffic in Iceland—or in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, for that matter—it is now one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country since the mountain Kirkjufell made an appearance in the famous television series “Game of Thrones”. The mountain stands on the western side of the town, and it is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful mountains in Iceland—second only to Herðurbreið, the queen of Icelandic mountains. Close by, just south of the mountain, is the waterfall Kirkjufellsfoss. Together, the mountain and the waterfall form one of the most photogenic views you can find, and they display almost a perfect photo each time someone attempts a shoot with the waterfall in the foreground and the mountain in the background. Consequently, the mountain has become the icon of Grundarfjörður, and traffic in the small town has exploded in recent years. Grundarfjörður town is part of the Snæfellsnes Road Trip, which is described in more detail in a separate article.

Grundarfjörður is a beautiful old fishing town

Grundarfjörður town houses
Houses in Grundarfjörður town in Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Historically, Grundarfjörður is a fishing town like most of the towns around the coast of Iceland; its harbor is one of the best in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. But prior to becoming a fishing post, Grundarfjörður was a trading post for the many farms scattered over a relatively large area around the town. It was certified as an official trading post late in the 18th century by Iceland’s rulers, the Danish King, and Danish authorities after the trading monopoly was abolished. As a trading post, it only attracted a few people, and it didn’t start to take shape as a village until fishing and fish processing increased in the 1940s, when the government funded a project to develop the harbor. So, when you walk around the town, you will notice that most of the houses are from the early and mid-20th century. You might also notice that these are mostly the typical concrete single-family houses you see around Iceland, with very few old wooden houses of the kind found in Stykkishólmur.

A town with a French connection

Grundarfjörður twon center
Service and center of Grundarfjörður town in Snæfellsnes

At the turn of the 18th century, French fishing boats started fishing in Icelandic waters during spring and summer. They came in such numbers that the French government considered it necessary to set up some services there for the fishermen. They built a hospital and a church in Grundarfjörður, and some officials stayed through the winter. A similar operation was set up in Fáskrúðsfjörður village in the Eastern Region. In the decades after this French “invasion” started, suspiciously dark-colored babies started to pop up in the general population around Grundarfjörður—they looked more French than Nordic. Today, one can even see some possible descendants: people who don’t look Nordic at all but, nevertheless, trace their bloodline to ancestors a long way down their Nordic family trees. It was probably a good improvement to the genes that had marinated in hardship and hunger for two to three centuries in Iceland at the time. But when the French officials left Grundarfjörður, they took everything with them. Buildings, boats, furniture, and even coffins of people who had lost their lives were transported back to France. Consequently, nothing remains in Grundarfjörður that indicates or proves that the French were there for decades. This is very much in contrast with the other French town in eastern Iceland, Fáskrúðsfjörður, which is but a mini France.

Grundarfjörður has a good position in the fishing industry

Grundarfjörður town harbor
Grundarfjörður town harbor Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Despite its relatively long history as a place of inhabitation hardly larger than a farm, Grundarfjörður didn’t begin to develop as a town until the early 19th century, and a real village formed only by the 1940s. Therefore, the town and all the houses are relatively new, with most of them built in the sixties and the seventies.

Today, Grundarfjörður has a solid economic base in the fishing industry. With the increase in tourism, other industries and services connected to tourism and education are also growing. The town offers a variety of places for accommodation, including hotels and guesthouses, as well as a good campsite. A considerable portion of the population also works in schools and healthcare.

Living in Grundarfjörður

School Grundarfjörður town
Grundarfjörður town highschool Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Like most municipalities nationwide, Grundarfjörður offers its residents premium services. The town has good preschools, primary schools, and elementary schools. It also has a high school/college that educates all the Snæfellsnes Peninsula communities. The town has a library, a sports center, a swimming pool, and a community center. Grundarfjörður also offers excellent social service to those in need and cares for the young and the elderly. It is a family-oriented small town offering a good-quality life right in the midst of the spectacle and wonders of nature.

If you're planning to tour Iceland in a rental car, make sure to read this article about the type of car that would be best for your trip.


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