SOURCE: Visit Iceland

Visit Iceland

August 24, 2011 14:05 ET

Reykjavik, Iceland Named UNESCO "City of Literature"

REYKJAVIK, ICELAND--(Marketwire - Aug 24, 2011) - Iceland's capital of Reykjavik has just upped its cultural cache with a new title, "City of Literature," designated by the UNESCO World Heritage Organization as part of the Creative Cities Network.

The project "Reykjavik City of Literature" will be officially launched at the Reykjavik International Literary Festival, Sept. 7-11, featuring an extensive list of international authors appearing throughout the capital city. It's part of an effort to enhance literary life in the city, including establishing a Center for Literature ( The UNESCO designation will also be promoted internationally at the Frankfurt Book Fair, Oct. 12-16, where Iceland is the Guest of Honor.

"We find it especially rewarding to be recognized on such a global scale," said Sif Gustavsson, Area Manager of North America for Visit Iceland. "Literature is a way of life in Iceland. We publish more books per capita than any other country and enjoy a 99% literacy rate."

Reykjavik boasts an outstanding literary history with its invaluable heritage of ancient medieval literature, the Sagas, the Edda and the Íslendingabók (Book of Icelanders), an historical work dealing with early Icelandic history. This longstanding literary tradition plays a central role within the city's modern urban landscape with a strong presence of writers, poets and children's book authors.

It's no small wonder Reykjavik has been given the distinction of UNESCO "City of Literature" considering these interesting literary facts:

  • Icelandic is the oldest living language in Europe. Modern Icelanders are still able to read the 1,000-year-old sagas written by the Vikings, which are on display at The Culture House in Reykjavik.
  • To preserve the Icelandic language, the country has a special government agency that creates new Icelandic words instead of taking on foreign words, as is often the practice with technological terms.
  • Icelanders are among the most literate people on earth -- 99% of residents age 15 and over can read and write.
  • Iceland has one Nobel Laureate, Halldor Laxness, who won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1955.
  • Icelanders publish more books and newspapers per capita than any other country.

In addition to the new UNESCO designation, Iceland has two other UNESCO World Heritage Sites -- Thingvellir National Park, site of Iceland's first parliament, and the volcanic island of Surtsey, also known as "The Youngest Place on Earth."

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Contact Information

  • Media Contact:

    Sif Gustavsson
    Visit Iceland
    646 282 9361
    Email Contact

    Jeff Blumenfeld
    Blumenfeld and Assoc. PR
    203 655 1600
    Email Contact