What is there to do and see in Torshavn? Are there any good restaurants in the capital? Wondering if you should stay at a Torshavn hotel while you are in the Faroe Islands?
The capital in the Faroe Islands lies in the heart of the island group and is a delight to explore. Tórshavn is named after Tór, the god of weather, strenght, and growth in the Norse mythology. This far-flung Nordic city is home to just over 20.000 inhabitants. But despite the tiny population, Tórshavn is an appealing spot in the North Atlantic Ocean with plentiful of culture, nature and good food.
Tórshavn translates to Thor’s Harbour. The islanders call the town Havn meaning simply Harbour. The city centre is protected by the port and by the long island Nólsoy, which lies outside of the capital. You can take the ferry to Nólsoy from the ferry port just beside the Tórshavn bus terminal where you will find the public blue busses owned by Strandfaraskip Landsins and which connect the different islands and villages to Tórshavn.
The ferry to the most southernly island, Suðuroy, also departs next to the bus terminal. If you come to the Faroe Islands by airplane, which all arrive at Vagar Airport, then you will terminate at the bus terminal in Tórshavn if you decide to take public bus transport from the airport.
The city centre is quite compact and lies only a 5-minute walk away from the bus terminal. There are lots of exciting things to see and explore in this quaint Nordic capital city. Everything in Torshavn can be easily reached by foot.
The Tinganes buildings in the oldest part of Tórshavn. Photo by Dominique Bertine on Flickr.
When the first settlers came to the Faroe Islands, they chose Tórshavn for their annual parliament assembly known as Ting. The place is well situated in the middle of the archipelago. This was in the 9th century in the Viking Age. Back then a few chieftain families ruled the islands. The historic headland Tinganes divides the port of Tórshavn into an eastern and a western creek. Here the Ting assembled in the open.
Due to Tórshavn's central position in the islands, it early became the trading centre. The bailiff and senior deputy judge were residing here and the Faroese came to this place from all over the islands to bring their ground rent and various other duties.
Tinganes was also the shopping area with its office and gallery, three blockhouses, brewery, a cooper's shop and the banquet hall where the Ting assembled when it was stormy out of doors.
The far right building is the Prime Minister's office. Photo by 1tomm on Shutterstock.
Tórshavn is nestled on the south-east coast of Streymoy, the largest of the 18 islands that make up the marvellous and windswept Faroe Islands. Tinganes is now home to the Faroese government. The charming constructions date back to the Viking Age. This is the historic centre and also the oldest part of town. Here you can go for a stroll between red houses most of them covered with grass on the roof.
Before you reach Tinganes, you will walk through the Reyni district where most houses are painted black and turf-roofed too. The area is quite small but you can easily spend an hour here soaking in the unique atmosphere.
Skansin is a popular vantage point. The place is easy to find as there is a lighthouse perched on top of the old fort from the 16th-century. Again, Skansin is only a short walk away form the city centre.
Every Faroe Islander has great childhood memories from trips to the local Viðarlund and the pond there. Viðarlund is the Faroese word for plantation. Here you can feed ducks with breadcrumbs. The ducks are a popular draw but you will also get close to pigeons and small birds such as the robin. This is a great option if you travel to the Faroe Islands with kids or if you simply want to chat with locals in peaceful settings.
Sea views are amazing in the Faroe Islands. This is a room at Hotel Havgrím in Torshavn.
As tourism in the Faroe Islands is on a rise, the capital is becoming steadily more accessible for travellers. New Torshavn hotels are popping up too.
Two new hotels opened in 2020, the 4-star Hotel Brandan with high environmental standards and the 4-star Hilton Garden Inn. Both hotels are less than 20 minutes from downtown and are a good choice for those who want to explore the islands in a car as you will hit the roads to unbelievable attractions after only a couple of minutes.
There are lots of Airbnb options if you like a more personalised stay. When renting an apartment or house, you want to be near a Torshavn supermarket. Luckily you will find supermarkets in most districts and grocery stores are never more than a 10 minutes walk from your accommodation.
The newly renovated boutique hotel Havgrím is also a good choice for those who want something extra. The hotel lies next to the ocean and has an unforgettable atmosphere and a tranquil seaside view from some hotel rooms and from the beautiful space on the ground floor where you will enjoy breakfast.
Sea view from Tórshavn sea side. Photo by Saviour Mifsud Photography on Shutterstock.
Due to its northernly position, Tórshavn is a cold and windy place. Summer temperatures will reach 15 °C and during winter, the temperature will usually be between 2-5 °C. The Faroe Islands weather is unpredictable and so is the weather in Tórshavn.
You might enjoy some sunny spells and only minutes later there can be rain and wind. The weather is most stable in summer from May to August but this is also the period when Tórshavn can be submerged in morning fog. The fog can also hide the entire capital throughout the day on some days.
The fog is extra thick in July. You will be surprised if you head out of Tórshavn on foggy days in summer, as the weather is often totally different only a 10 minutes drive out of the capital.
Langoustine is a delicacy in the Faroe Islands. The Langoustine in the waters around the Faroe Islands is widely know to be the best in the world.
There are numerous great restaurants and cafes in Torshavn. Make sure to drop in at Áarstova, which serves amazing local sheep leg and the restaurant Katrina Chritiansen where you will taste tapas inspired by the traditional Faroese kitchen in a vibrant atmosphere. Another good choice is Barbara Fish House that serves seasonal fish and seafood.
Most shops and cafes open at 10am on weekdays and typically close somewhere between 5pm and 6pm. The opening hours are shorter on Saturdays and most shops and cafes will be closed on Sundays. You will find the best place for local remembrance at Öström at the Tórshavn marina.
Faroe Islanders have always been coffee lovers and a number of good cafés have sprung up in the past years. Travellers say Paname Café is the best one in town.
Fermented fish hanged up to dry. This is an old and still glowing part of the local cuisine. Photo by Sarah Good.
When you think of the small number of people living in Tórshavn, there is an astonishingly vibrant city centre. And you are never far away from the outskirts of town. It takes around 45 minutes to reach the city’s limits in the suburbs Argir and Hoyvík on foot.
Tórshavn is for those who want to visit a place experienced by very few people. The Faroe Islands capital is recommended when you are looking for relaxation and for memories to last a lifetime.