Ísafjörður is the center town of the West Fjords in Iceland. It is also the largest town in the Westfjords, with a 2016 population of 3.623 people. Like many of the towns and villages around the coastline in Iceland, Ísafjörður was mentioned in the Book of Settlement; that, of course, is huge in Iceland. However, from the time of early settlement until the 16th century, there wasn’t much activity in the area, at least not in any historical sense. It wasn't until the second half of the 16th century when merchants started trading that Ísafjörður became the largest trading post in the Westfjords.
Ísafjörður is a significant part of Iceland's history
The town maintained this status during and throughout the Danish-Icelandic trade monopoly, until it was abolished in 1786. The houses the merchants built on the sandbank that stretches into the fjord from the roots of the steep mountains are still standing and have been renovated. Soon after the trading monopoly ended, Ísafjörður became a booming and prosperous town, as both trading and fishing laid a solid economic base for the town. Ísafjörður became one of the most interesting towns to live in for decades, operating more decked vessels and doing more trading than most other places in Iceland, with great business people running profitable businesses for many years.
A victim of the Icelandic quota system implemented in the nineties
In the 20th century, fishing and fish processing became the most important lines of business and for a large portion of the population, the main livelihood. In the eighties, Ísafjörður was one of the strongholds of the fishing industry in Iceland. At one point, the biggest and most technologically advanced fishing vessel in Iceland had its home in Ísafjörður; Guðbjörgin was the pride and trophy of Ísafjörður, but that all ended when the Icelandic government introduced and implemented the fishing quota law in the nineties. As for many or almost all of the towns and villages in the West Fjords, this was a huge drawback for development.
Ísafjörður is a town of culture and impressive history
Despite all the man-made and government-initiated obstacles, Ísafjörður has always been a highly attractive community. The town has an interesting political and economic history; it has always been a highly cultural town in the forefront of music and education. Like most towns and villages, great emphasis was laid on building good infrastructure for the residents. Ísafjörður has good schools for children, a great music school, good sports facilities, and a beautiful library. Since the town is very old in Icelandic historical terms, there are more old and interesting houses in Ísafjörður than in any other town in Iceland of comparable size. Fortunately, people in Ísafjörður have taken greater and greater interest in renovating the old houses.
A place you don't want to miss if you are visiting Iceland
In Ísafjörður, you will also find one of the best and most original restaurants in Iceland, Tjöruhúsið, which is one reason you do not want to skip the West Fjords if you travel to Iceland. It is a restaurant operated in one of the oldest houses in Ísafjörður built in 1781 by the merchants who operated their business soon after the notorious Danish-Icelandic trade monopoly was abolished. Ísafjörður has all the other necessary services for people traveling in Iceland, like accommodation, a gas station for those traveling in a rent a car, a bakery and convenient store and a fabulous camping site.
If you are going to visit the Westfjords in Iceland you might be looking for a places to stay. Here you can book from a selection of accommodationin the Ísafjörður region.