All the Reasons We Want to Visit The Old Bookstore in Flateyri, Iceland

All the Reasons We Want to Visit The Old Bookstore in Flateyri, Iceland

Tuesday, 3 May, 2022

Iceland’s Westfjords are just what you want in otherworldly beauty: craggy mountains, impossibly dark blue water, and a coastline that looks like a few millennia ago, a dragon took a big bite out of the shore.

It’s mostly unpopulated except for puffin colonies and a few fishing villages. And on Önundarfjörður, a particularly pretty fjord under a hulking mass of stone called Hestfjall, you’ll find the tiny town of Flateyri — home to Iceland’s oldest store.

an outside view of the gray building and an interior view of the bookshelves

Opened in 1914 by Jón Eyjólfsson and his wife Gudrún Arnbjarnardóttir, the shop initially sold food and other household necessities. But in 1920, they officially became licensed, and a corner of the shop was devoted to books.

Today, the space is a second-hand bookshop, charming museum, and cozy B&B — all hosted by tweed besuited Eyþór Jóvonsson, the founders’ great-grandson.

two photos of booksellers inside the shop

The Bookstore

All of the furnishings and decor in the shop have been almost unchanged since it opened more than 100 years ago. Even the accounting books are still around; vintage ledgers filled with tidy, handwritten entries document details about every penny made in the shop.

The wooden bookshelves are stacked with second-hand titles of all genres, including Icelandic authors and English translations of the sagas, as well as English-language bestsellers. Books are sold by weight, and shoppers are encouraged to weigh the books themselves on the vintage scale.

The shop also sells high-quality stationery and other goodies for word nerds: fountain pens, journals, embossers, and (our favorite) Blackwing pencils.

The Museum

Eyþór’s great-grandparents lived in the attached apartment their whole lives, starting in 1915. The space is now a museum with every detail preserved. Period wooden furniture has a warm glow. Photographs adorn the walls and tabletops. And everywhere, books, along with a box of old bookbinding tools. Eyþór explains, ‘Museums have reconstructed homes in the way they think people lived—but this apartment is how it was.’

The Bed and Breakfast

One look at the photos of the accommodations will have you packing your bags. So stunning is the view of the fjord through the windows, it looks like a practical joke — as if someone taped travel posters over the glass.

Painted in cheery shades of yellow and green, the apartment is rich with mid-20th-century charm: a vintage typewriter, old suitcases that double as a bookshelf, ocean-inspired art, and more books.

After reading for a while on one of the comfy couches, you can stroll on main street to restaurants, bars, a café, a grocery store, and a swimming pool — with the postcard-perfect view of the fjord ever-present. Book it here.

Bonus Fun

You can send a postcard from The Old Bookstore anywhere in the world. Eyþór will write a personal message on a postcard and mark it with The Old Bookstore wax seal. It will, of course, be mailed with an Icelandic stamp. Send a bit of Iceland magic to your favorite reader.


If you go…

The Old Bookstore is open daily from 15 May until 31 September. If you want to visit another time, you can call to request that Eyþór let you in. Admission to the bookshop is free, but there’s a recommended donation of 500ISK if you also visit the apartment musem next door. Follow the shop on Instagram and visit The Old Bookstore website.

  • The Old Bookstore
  • Hafnarstræti 3
  • London W1U 4QW
  • Flateyri, 425 Iceland

Top image courtesy of Vitalii Matokha/Shutterstock.

Want to keep up with our book-related adventures? Sign up for our newsletter!

keep reading

The sales pitch for Iceland could just be a list of awesome words: Emo Horses, Elf Houses, Warrior Poets, Northern Lights, Torquoise Hot Springs. It's the Land of Fire and Ice — and friendly people and great books.
The flavors of Iceland reflect its terrain: tangy skyr, silky smoked salmon, grassy herbs; everything is fresh, vibrant, and local. Inspired by Icelandic breakfast, this dish brings a taste of Iceland to your table.
One of our favorite ways to mingle with locals in new-to-us cities is among the shelves of a neighborhood bookshop — it's even better when they include English-language books. These two in Stockholm are must-visits.
One of the treats of travel is browsing the shelves of a bookstore in a far-flung locale. It feels both completely foreign and blessedly familiar all at once. Add Atlantis Books on Santorini to your must-visit list.
It's a readers' paradise: buttery scones and shortbread and tea, a windy landscape with the scent of the sea, and bookshops. Oh, the bookshops! Every genre, new and used, and a bookstore cat. What else could you need?
Pssst... how'd you like to sleep INSIDE a bookshelf?! That's exactly what you'll get to do at Book and Bed Tokyo, a collection of six hostels devoted to reading (and a little bit of sleeping).
The Brattle Book Shop has been in business since 1825, and today, the unassuming three-story brick building is packed with more than 250,000 used books, maps, prints, postcards, and other paper collectibles.
The Waterstones in Bradford, England is a cathedral of books. You can browse the stacks of carefully curated books under soaring ceilings and stained glass windows, then enjoy a cuppa in the balcony café.

sharing is caring!

Can you help us? If you like this article, share it your friends!

our mission

Strong Sense of Place is a website and podcast dedicated to literary travel and books we love. Reading good books increases empathy. Empathy is good for all of us and the amazing world we inhabit.

our patreon

Strong Sense of Place is a listener-supported podcast. If you like the work we do, you can help make it happen by joining our Patreon! That'll unlock bonus content for you, too — including Mel's secret book reviews and Dave's behind-the-scenes notes for the latest Two Truths and a Lie.

get our newsletter

Join our Substack to get our FREE newsletter with podcast updates and behind-the-scenes info join in fun chats about books and travel.

no spoilers. ever.

We'll share enough detail to help you decide if a book is for you, but we'll never ruin plot twists or give away the ending.

super-cool reading fun
reading atlas

This 30-page Reading Atlas takes you around the world with dozens of excellent books and gorgeous travel photos. Get your free copy when you subscribe to our newsletter.

get our newsletter
Sign up for our free Substack!
follow us

Content on this site is ©2024 by Smudge Publishing, unless otherwise noted. Peace be with you, person who reads the small type.