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.
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.
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.
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.’
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.
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.
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.
Top image courtesy of Vitalii Matokha/Shutterstock.
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