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  • Writer's pictureEinar Páll Svavarsson

Vesturbær district in Reykjavík the capital of Iceland

Updated: Mar 24, 2023


Melabúðin grocery store is an iconic place in Vesturbær
Melabúðin grocery store is an iconic place in Vesturbær

Vesturbær, or the West Town in Reykjavík, is mostly residential, with increasing tourist-related commercial activity in the harbor area and Grandi. When Reykjavík was growing as a town at the end of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th century, the logical direction was west of the city center, by the shoreline. At that time, houses popped up without any plan or organized land development. It wasn’t until 1927 that the growing town introduced a development plan for the city of Reykjavík.

Reykjavík on the map of Iceland
Reykjavík on the map of Iceland

The West Town in Reykjavík was a center for the fishing industry


Vesturbær district has one of the best swimming pools in Iceland
Vesturbær district has one of the best swimming pools in Iceland

Historically a large portion of the district was utilized for industrial activity, in particular for the fishing industry. As the harbor in Reykjavík demanded more space, part of the harbor moved towards the district Vesturbær. Concurrently a fair chunk of the fishing industry and fish processing companies built their operation in Vesturbær in the area around the harbor at that time. During WW2, the British occupying forces created neighborhoods of barracks, which Icelanders moved into after the war, as demand for houses was extremely high, and established the first ghettos. The first street developed as the main road for traffic was Hringbraut, running from the west shore eastward. The old part of Vesturbær is on the north side of Hringbraut, and later when demand for housing development increased, it was logical to develop the area south of Hringbraut.


The West Town is also the home of many University faculties and homes of students and teachers

Old house in Vesturbær District in Reykjavík
Old house in Vesturbær District in Reykjavík

When Reykjavík was growing rapidly after the war and up until the end of the 20th century, much of the industrial and commercial activity in Vesturbær moved to other districts, and more and more land was utilized for residential buildings. Since many buildings belonging to the University of Iceland in the City Center are on the edge of the Vesturbær district, it was only logical to build new buildings for the University in Vesturbær. It was also convenient for teachers and students attending the University to live in Vesturbær, so the district became highly connected to the University.


Vesturbær is the most expensive and sought-after district in Reykjavík and Iceland


Condo buildings in vesturbær district in Reykjavík
Condo buildings in vesturbær district in Reykjavík

Vesturbær is today considered by many the coolest and most interesting community in Reykjavík. The neighborhoods in Vesturbær are also the most expensive real estate in Iceland. Vesturbær has always offered a high quality of life and living. The district has good schools for children as well as good kindergartens. One of the most popular swimming pools in Reykjavík, Vesturbæjarlaug, is in Vesturbær. It is a great outdoor recreational area and has the city's most popular walking path, Ægissíða. It is within walking distance of downtown Reykjavík and the University area. The district has been developing for decades, and new residential buildings are still being built in some neighborhoods.


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