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Iceland Mag

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How Reykjavík has changed: The City Center before tourism

By Staff

  • Austurstræti street Reykjavík wasn't very lively back in the 1980s. Photo/Sigurður Stefán Baldvinsson

The rapid growth of tourism in recent years has brought all kinds of challenges to locals. Airbnb has contributed to rising rents and real-estate prices which have priced many young and low-income people out of the market, while the so-called "Puffin Shops" (the term used to describe souvenir and tourist stores) have multiplied as well as cafés and restaurants. 

Read more: Nine in ten Reykjavík residents positive toward tourism, foreign visitors

Some people have lamented this development. Others, however, have argued tourism has helped breath life into downtown Reykjavík, filling the streets, shops and cafés with people.

Sigurður Stefán Baldvinsson shared the above photo on Facebook, prompting a lively discussion about the development of the city center. The photo was taken sometime in the mid 80s. The bookstore Eymundsson was one of the few stores which catered to foreign visitors at the time: To ensure tourists knew where to buy their souvenirs and postcards a large banner stretched across the street beckoned foreign travelers in. It seems that those who argue tourism has added life to downtown are correct.

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

Note also the hot-dog stand at the western end of Austurstræti. It was one of four downtown hot-dog stands in the 1980s. All but one, the legendary Bæjarins Beztu, closed down in the late 80s and early 90s.

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