top of page



Reykjavík is the capital, and in fact Iceland’s only city, and as such it plays a vital role in all cultural life in the country. The city is home to Iceland’s main cultural institutions, boasts a flourishing arts scene and is renowned as a creative city with a diverse range of cultural happenings and dynamic grassroots activities. Most of the country’s writers live in the city, and it also provides the setting for the majority of contemporary Icelandic literature.

Reykjavík is home to Icelandic medieval literature, including the Sagas of the Icelanders and the Poetic Edda, landmarks of world literature still widely read and translated today. The Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies in Reykjavík is the centre of this heritage. It preserves manuscripts, conducts research on them and publishes texts for the public. The Arnamagnean Manuscript Collection was added to the UNESCO Memory of the World Register on July 31st 2009.


Several Reykjavík writers have received international and Nordic awards. Halldór Laxness was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1955 for “vivid epic power which has renewed the great narrative art of Iceland.”  A number of writers have won the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize, among them are Thor Vilhjálmsson, Einar Már Guðmundsson and Sjón, and authors such as Guðrún Helgadóttir, Kristín Steinsdóttir and Ragnheiður Gestsdóttir are winners of The Nordic Children’s Literature Prize. Crime writer Arnaldur Indriðason has won prizes abroad, including The Golden Dagger Award. Among other prizes awarded to writers from Reykjavík are the Kairos Preis (Andri Snaer Magnason), the Swedish Academy’s Nordic Literature Prize (Guðbergur Bergsson) and the Prix de Page (Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir). Contemporary Icelandic writers are published in increased number in translations throughout the world.

Literature is celebrated in Reykjavík with programmes and events counted in the hundreds all through the year. Various cultural and educational institutions, associations and publishers organize these events, often in cooperation with one another. Public participation in cultural events is high in the city, as surveys show that over half the population attends cultural events of various kinds.

One of the main reading promotions in Iceland is not really an organized programme, but one that has grown out of tradition – the Icelandic habit of publishing books primarily in the months leading up to Christmas. This is called the Book-Flood-Before-Christmas, which may sound strange and even horrific in English, but the Icelandic word “jólabókaflóð” is a term familiar to every Icelander. It is no exaggeration to say that in Reykjavík, the time from early October until Christmas is dedicated to books in a massive way, publishers put out new books in large numbers, bookstores, libraries, cafés, bars, schools, workplaces and the media promote them in various ways and the public takes part by flocking to events and discussing what the books of choice might be. Writers become shop assistants in bookstores for the occasion and readings take place all over town. Books are the single most popular Christmas gift item in Iceland and this is the time of year when books are quite literally the talk of the town.



The Drop the Mic Project embraces the diverse worlds of poetry in an effort to support emerging poets working in participative, performative and kinetic literary arts. The network encourages the interdisciplinary interplay of poetry with spoken word, slam, rap, songwriting and music in general, which traverses linguistic, cultural and artistic barriers and develops infinite narrative possibilities that are often more ‘democratic’ and approachable to audiences.

The project aims to connect artists from the participating cities that will share experiences and

work together in creative ways. It starts in Reykjavík (Iceland) in November 2018, followed up by meetings in Tartu (Estonia; May 2019), Krakow (Poland; June 2019), Reykjavík (November 2019), Lillehammer (Norway; May 2020) and Heidelberg (Germany; June 2020). The project will finish at the end of 2020 when the participating cities will introduce its artistic outcome. All the cities are UNESCO Cities of Literature. 



The Alþjóðleg Bókmenntahátíð í Reykjavík  (Reykjavík International Literary Festival) takes place in cozy venues in downtown Reykjavík every two years. The festival offers interesting and entertaining programs for literature enthusiasts. Over a span of more than 30 years, the festival has welcomed Nobel-prize winners, novelists, historians, political activists, philosophers, cartoonists and more to take part in lively

programs. The agenda is ripe with readings, panels, and lectures, all of which are free and open to the public. The works of the festival‘s diverse international guests are available or forthcoming in Icelandic translation. All programs are in English and there’s no admission fee to the events.



During the festival, Orðstír, an award given biennially to two foreign language translators for their work with Icelandic literature, will be presented for the third time since 2015. The award is made possible by the support of Islandsstofa, the Icelandic Literature Centre, the Icelandic Translators‘ and Interpreters‘ Association, and the Office of the President of Iceland.



In 2019 a new international literary prize, named after Halldór Laxness, will be awarded for the first time at the festival. The Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Education and Culture, Promote Iceland, the Laxness Museum (Gljúfrasteinn), the Reykjavík International Literary Festival, and Forlagið—Laxness’ publisher in Iceland— teamed up to found this new prize, which carries a 15,000 euro award. 


Reykjavík, a UNESCO City of Literature offers a one month residency at Gröndalshouse writer’s residence for a visiting writer from another UNESCO City of Literature. The offer is open to published fiction writers from, or affiliated with, any of the other 27 Cities of Literature,writing in any genre. Writers from or with strong ties to any of the 27 other UNESCO Cities of Literature can apply. The applicant must have published at least one work of fiction (poetry, prose, play or screenwriting). Writers of all ages, gender, nationalities and languages can apply as long as the affiliation with a UNESCO City of Literature is strong.

Travel cost, free lodging in Gröndalshús (Gröndal‘s House) residence flat and a sum of 800 Euros are included. The flat in Gröndalshús is a fully furnished one bedroom flat with a full kitchen located in the Reykjavík city centre close to cultural venues and the main city attractions. The living/dining area can also be used as a work space. The flat has free wifi. The guest will be responsible for meals and other day to day needs. Medical coverage is not included and therefore the guest should have medical insurance/coverage of their own. The Reykjavík City of Literature staff will be of help in connecting the guest with the local literary community and other relevant parties related to literary work. Presentation of literary works will also be possible for the guest, be it by an open event, media presentation or other channels and if the guest should be able and willing to take part in the literary life of the city. The offer is meant for the writer only.

Applicants must use this month in Reykjavik for literary work and have an interest in getting to know Reykjavík and Iceland and its culture and literature. Whereas the hosts do not make any restrictions on the nature or content of the work being written during the stay, they do ask that the author writes a short text (1-2 A4 pages; prose, reflection, poem etc.) about Reykjavík and/or the stay or the author‘s home city‘s ties to Reykjavik or Icelandic literature. The piece may be translated to Icelandic and used by the Reykjavík UNESCO City of Literature, on the programme‘s website, social media channels and/or in a publication dedicated to the residency in the future without further compensation. Proficiency in English is required.

Designated: 2011

Population: 126,000
Languages: Icelandic, English

Contact Reykjavik

Gröndal's House of Literature

Grondalshus_photoVigfusBirgisson (Medium
bottom of page