City of Literature and The Literature Web

Ráðhús Reykjavíkur

Reykjavik was designated a UNESCO City of Literature in August of 2011 – the fifth city in the world to receive this honorary title. It was also the first non-English speaking city to become a City of Literature, which is a permanent title. UNESCO's Cities of Literature are a part of the larger UNESCO Creative Cities Network, of which Reykjavik was the 29th member. Since its induction, the constantly expanding Network has grown extensively.

Reykjavík’s official letter of nomination from UNESCO states that: “The City of Reykjavik boasts foremost an outstanding literary history with its invaluable heritage of ancient medieval literature, the Sagas, the Edda and the Íslendingabók, Libellus Islandorum (Book of Icelanders). This longstanding tradition has naturally cultivated the city’s strength in literature education, preservation, dissemination and promotion. For a city of small population, approximately 200,000 habitants, Reykjavik is especially appreciated for demonstrating the central role literature plays within the modern urban landscape, the contemporary society and the daily life of the citizens. With the support of the central government of Iceland, the city continues to pursue its development plans in support of languages, translation initiatives as well as international literary exchanges.”

Reykjavík City of Literature is managed as a part of the Department of Culture and Tourism and the venture's offices are to be found in Reykjavík City Hall. The City of Literature hosts an annual book fair in November in cooperation with the Association of Icelandic Publishers. It also oversees various literary projects and programmes in Reykjavík, marks the literary history of the city with signs around the city and runs the literary house and residency Gröndalshús (Gröndal's House); dedicated to Icelandic writer Benedikt Gröndal.

Reykjavík City of Literature's goal is enhancing literary life in all forms within the city; an endeavour that it undertakes in cooperation with local partners in the field of literature. The bearing that Reykjavík holds as a City of Literature is first and foremost down to communal efforts of the city's inhabitants and as such that honour belongs to them. The City of Literature also stresses international cooperation, especially within the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, through which Reykjavík takes part in numerous international events and festivities relating to literature and literacy.

From the annual meeting of UNESCO Creative Cities in 2017


As a UNESCO City of Literature, Reykjavík emphasises the central role of literature in the cultural life of the city and the nation, both in terms of historical significance and contemporary value. Together with its partners, the City of Reykjavik will reinforce literary infrastructures within the city and make literature a visible and accessible aspect of the city's urban landscape, thus ensuring that literary life remains one of the founding pillars of creative activity in the city.

Freedom of expression is a core value of Reykjavík City of Literature. City of Literature is committed to the ideal that individuals and societies cannot thrive unless all citizens are able to express themselves freely and the venture's slogan is "The Word is Free" (Orðið er frjálst).

Our goals

  • Support and promote literary activities in Reykjavík and increase awareness of Icelandic literary heritage.
  • Forge connections between local literary fields, peoples, groups, and institutions and encourage their cooperation.
  • Promote Reykjavík internationally as a literary and cultural destination with the aid of the local tourism industry.
  • Encourage international collaborations regarding Icelandic literature and take an active part in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

See also the UNESCO Creative Cities Mission Statement.


The literature web

The Icelandic Literature Web contains copious information regarding contemporary Icelandic authors and their work. It was launched in the year 2000 as a part of Reykjavík's position as one of that year's European Capitals of Culture. Since then the Literature Web has grown extensively under the supervision of the Reykjavík City Library, which is in charge of the web in cooperation with the Reykjavík UNESCO City of Literature.

On this web you can discover contemporary Icelandic writers of fiction; be it poetry or prose, children's authors or playwrights. You will also find literary criticism addressing the works of Icelandic authors (this part is in Icelandic only), personal essays written by the authors for the Literature Web, biographical and bibliographical information and lists of translated works.

The Web's aim is to support Icelandic literature at home and abroad by providing accessible information on contemporary Icelandic literature to the public as well as to students and scholars of Icelandic literature. We hope it will be of good use to you and we welcome all comments. 

Editor in Chief: Úlfhildur Dagsdóttir.

Editorial board: Guðrún Baldvinsdóttir, Kristín Viðarsdóttir, Lára Aðalsteinsdóttir, Maríanna Clara Lúthersdóttir.