Iceland Mag

-1 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag


Photos: Reykjavík in the 1970s was a miserable, bleak place

By Staff

  • Lækjargata street in 1974 Looking at photos of Reykjavík in the 1970s the first thing that strikes you is that the streets seem wider and there are fewer trees: Reykjavík wasn't a particularly pedestrian friendly city. Photo/Christian Bickel, Creative Commons

  • Corner of Austurvöllur square in 1974 Downtown has undergone dramatic changes: The house in the photo was moved to a new location. Photo/Christian Bickel, Creative Commons

  • Downtown Looking west from the intersection of Laufásvegur and Bókhlöðustígur streets. Photo/Christian Bickel, Creative Commons

  • Some things don't change In 1974 Icelanders celebrated the 1100 year anniversary of the settlement of Iceland at Arnarhóll hill. Photo/Christian Bickel, Creative Commons

  • At the harbor Reykjavík was still very much a fishing town in the 1970s Photo/Christian Bickel, Creative Commons

  • The harbor The shacks on the left stand where Harpa Concert hall now stands. Photo/Christian Bickel, Creative Commons

  • Downtown Reykjavík Notice that the Reykjavík City Hall has not been built. Photo/Christian Bickel, Creative Commons

  • Looking north from Hallgrímskirkja The Highrises along the north shore have not been built. Instead we see parts of Skuggahverfi neighborhood, an industrial area. Photo/Christian Bickel, Creative Commons

These photographs, taken in Reykjavík in 1974-1977 provide us with a glimpse into a Reykjavík of a bygone era. This is not the booming small fishing town of the early 20th century Reykjavík, a picturesque little town of beautiful wooden houses. Nor is it the min-metropolis of the present day, a bustling town, full of people from all corners of the world, cafés and culture.

Read more: Gorgeous images of Reykjavík in 1910s and 20s: A charming small town

No, this is the grimy Reykjavík of the 1970s and 1980s. Downtown Reykjavík had begun a long decline and humiliation which only ended at the turn of the century. The beautiful wooden homes of Þingholtin neighborhood and the areas around Hallgrímskirkja church were falling into disrepair as young families moved to newly constructed suburbs. 

There was no TV in Iceland on Thursdays or in July back in those days, dogs were banned in Reykjavík and beer was banned in all of Iceland. 

Read more:  April 3 marks the 33rd anniversary of Reykjavík lifting its ban on dogs in the city

Anyone who remembers this Reykjavík will tell you it was always stormy and rainy.

The blogger Egill Helgason notes that the director Roman Polanski, who visited Iceland during the 1970s, commented that Reykjavík wasn't all bad. Asked his opinion on the city Polanski answered "It´s probably ok if you are raised here and know nothing else." 

Reykjavík 1974, Grettisgata

Reykjavík 1970s Grettisgata Christian Bickel, Creative Commons


Reykjavík 1974, Bókhlöðustígur

Reykjavík 1970s Bókhlöðustígur Christian Bickel, Creative Commons


Reykjavík 1974, Frakkastígur
Reykjavík 1970s Frakkastígur, by Christian Bickel, Creative Commons


Reykjavík 1974, Frakkastígur
Reykjavík 1970s Frakkastígur looking north Christian Bickel, Creative Commons


Reykjavík 1974, Skúlagata
Reykjavík 1970s Skúlagata Christian Bickel, Creative Commons


Reykjavík 1974, Spítalastígur, Þingholtsstræti
Reykjavík 1970s Corner of Spítalastígur and Þingholtsstræti Christian Bickel, Creative Commons


Reykjavík 1974, Lækjartorg
Reykjavík 1970s At Lækjartorg square. Christian Bickel, Creative Commons


Reykjavík 1977, harbor
Reykjavík 1970s A storm and the harbor Christian Bickel, Creative Commons


Reykjavík 1974, Laugardalslaug
Reykjavík 1970s Some things haven´t changed all that much. Laugardalslaug, by Christian Bickel, Creative Commons


Keflavík 1975

Keflavík Airport in 1975 Loftleiðir is the predecessor of Icelandair Christian Bickel, Creative Commons


Related content

Editor's Picks