Last updated

Tinganes 57.jpg
Tinganes, Tórshavn old town
Torshavn Insigna.svg
Coat of arms of Torshavn.svg
Coat of arms
Faroe Islands location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location in Faroe Islands
Coordinates: 62°0′42″N6°46′3″W / 62.01167°N 6.76750°W / 62.01167; -6.76750 Coordinates: 62°0′42″N6°46′3″W / 62.01167°N 6.76750°W / 62.01167; -6.76750
Constituent CountryFaroe Islands
Municipality Torshavn Insigna.svg Tórshavn Municipality
Founded9th century
Town rights1909
  Mayor Annika Olsen (Fólkaflokkurin)
  Land172.9 km2 (66.8 sq mi)
24 m (79 ft)
  City19,165 [1]
  Density75.7/km2 (196/sq mi)
21,078 [1]
  Metro density125/km2 (320/sq mi)
 population-ranking: 1st
Postal code
FO-100, FO-110
Climate Cfc
Website www.torshavn.fo

Tórshavn (Faroese:  [ˈtʰɔuʂhaun] ; lit. 'Thor's harbour'; Danish : Thorshavn, pronounced  [ˈtsʰoɐ̯ˀsˌhɑwˀn] ) is the capital and largest city of the Faroe Islands. It is in the southern part on the east coast of Streymoy. To the northwest of the city lies the 347-meter-high (1,138 ft) mountain Húsareyn, and to the southwest, the 350-meter-high (1,150 ft) Kirkjubøreyn. They are separated by the Sandá River. The city itself has a population of 19,165 (2019), and the greater urban area has a population of 21,078.


The Norse established their parliament on the Tinganes peninsula in AD 850. [2] Tórshavn thus became the capital of the Faroe Islands and has remained so ever since. All through the Middle Ages the narrow peninsula jutting out into the sea made up the main part of Tórshavn. Early on, Tórshavn became the centre of the islands' trade monopoly, thereby being the only legal place for the islanders to sell and buy goods. In 1856, the trade monopoly was abolished and the islands were left open to free trade.


Early history

It is not known whether the site of Tórshavn was of interest to the Celtic monks who were probably the first settlers in the Faroes. The Viking settlers in the 9th century established their own parliaments, called tings , in different parts of the islands, it being the tradition in each case to hold the ting at a neutral and thus uninhabited place, so no one location gave anyone an advantage. The main ting for the islands was convoked in Tórshavn in 825, on Tinganes, the peninsula that divides the harbour into two parts: Eystaravág and Vestaravág.

The Vikings would thus meet on the flat rocks of Tinganes every summer, as the most central place on the islands, although there was no settlement at Tinganes at that time. The Færeyinga Saga says: "the place of the ting of the Faroese was on Streymoy, and there is the harbour that is called Tórshavn". The Viking age ended in 1035. The ting was followed by a market which gradually grew into a permanent trading area.

All through the Middle Ages, the narrow peninsula jutting out into the sea made up the main part of Tórshavn. It belonged to the outfield of two farmers. Unlike other Faroese villages, Tórshavn was never a distinct farming community. During the 12th century, all trade between Norway and the Faroes, along with other tributary islands to the west, became centralised in Bergen.

In 1271, a royal trade monopoly was established in Tórshavn by the Norwegian Crown. According to a document from 1271, two ships would sail regularly to Tórshavn from Bergen with cargoes of salt, timber and cereal. Tórshavn therefore had more contact with the outside world than did the other villages. Under the Norwegian, and then Danish rule, government officials made Tórshavn their home. All of these things, combined with the fact that Tórshavn was the seat of the ting of the islands, influenced the town's development.


Skansin fort has been rebuilt several times since it was first built in 1580. The current building dates back to 1790 Torshavn skansin 8.jpg
Skansin fort has been rebuilt several times since it was first built in 1580. The current building dates back to 1790

Sources do not mention a built-up area in Tórshavn until after the Protestant reformation in 1539. In ca. 1580 a small fort, Skansin, was built by the Faroese naval hero and trader Magnus Heinason at the north end of the harbour. Later small fortifications were built at Tinganes.

In 1584 Tórshavn had 101 inhabitants. The population was divided into three equally large groups made up of farmers, their families and servants, trade and government officials and people who owned no land and therefore not much else; this included the landless proletariat from the villages that during this period came to Tórshavn in search of work. They were set to guard duty on Skansin without pay, and for clothing and food they depended on the bounty of the farmers.

In 1655 king Frederick III of Denmark granted the Faroe Islands to his favourite statesman Kristoffer Gabel, the rule of the von Gabel Family, 1655–1709, is known as Gablatíðin. It is the darkest chapter in the history of Tórshavn. Gabel's administration suppressed the islanders in various ways. The trade monopoly was in the family's hands and it was not designed for the needs of the Faroese people. People across the country brought products into town and had to be satisfied with whatever price they were given. At the same time imported goods were limited and expensive. There came considerable complaints from the islands' inhabitants of unjust treatment by the civil administration in Tórshavn. These not only included the persons in charge of the monopoly trade, but also the bailiff and others. It was during this period, in 1673, that Tinganes was ravaged by a fire after a store of gunpowder kept at Tinganes had blown up. Many old houses burnt to the ground and old Faroese records were lost as were Gabel's documents.

Conditions improved in Tórshavn when the trade monopoly became a royal monopoly in 1709. The Danish royal trade monopoly was supplied with goods from Copenhagen three times a year. However, in 1709 Tórshavn was hit by a plague of smallpox, killing nearly the entire population. The town had by this time reached a population of 300 and 250 of the inhabitants died. Still, it was during the latter half of the 18th century that Tórshavn started to develop into a small town. This was while Niels Ryberg was in charge of the trade monopoly. From 1768 and during the next 20 years onwards Ryberg was allowed to carry on an entrepot trade which was mainly based on smuggling to England. Because of the French-British conflict there was room for this kind of operation. In Tórshavn his warehouses filled up with goods. Ryberg was the first person who thought of making a financial profit from fishing, which later became the most important economic factor to the islands. He experimented with salted cod and herring but at this point in time nothing much beyond this happened.

Tórshavn Cathedral was first built in 1788 and partly rebuilt in 1865. Since 1990, it has been the seat of the Bishop of the Faroe Islands (in the Church of the Faroe Islands).


Torshavn in 1839, by Barthelemy Lauvergne Recherche Expedition 1839 Torshavn.jpg
Tórshavn in 1839, by Barthélemy Lauvergne

On 30 March 1808, during the Anglo-Danish Gunboat War, the Cruizer class brig-sloop HMS Clio entered Tórshavn and briefly captured the fort at Skansin. The fort surrendered without firing a shot as the landing party approached. The Clios men spiked the fort's eight 18-pounder guns and took all the smaller guns and weapons before leaving. Shortly after 6 May a German privateer who had assumed the name "Baron von Hompesch" plundered the defenceless city and seized the property of the Danish Crown Monopoly. The Admiralty Prize Court, however, refused to condemn it as a lawful prize. [ citation needed ]

Torshavn in 1864, the Logting (parliament) is at top left Logting 1864, faroe islands.jpg
Tórshavn in 1864, the Løgting (parliament) is at top left

In 1856, free trade came to the Faroe Islands. By opening the islands to the world, it transformed the economy, with Tórshavn at its centre. The farming land was rented to townspeople who could later buy it if they wished. These small plots of land enabled people to keep cows and sheep. [ citation needed ]

In 1866, Tórshavn's town council was founded. The town has been the capital of the Faroe Islands ever since. Later, in 1909, Tórshavn became a market town with the same municipal charter as Danish market towns. In 1913, the Danish Folketing granted DKK 810,000 to construction of a harbour in Tórshavn. Local waves are 3m, the waters are icefree and have a tidal variation of 0.3m, and storms from the west are mitigated by the gentle eastwards slope of the mountains. Other harbours were also benefitted with an 80% grant to a total build cost of DKK 1.6 million. [3] In 1927, Tórshavn had a modern harbour built. This made it possible for larger ships to berth. [4]

During the British occupation of the Faroe Islands in World War II, Skansin was used as the headquarters of the Royal Navy Command, and two 5.5-inch guns used aboard HMS Furious before World War II were deployed. [5]

In 1974, the neighbouring villages Hoyvík and Hvítanes were made part of the town area. Later, even more municipalities joined the Tórshavn municipality. In 1978 Kaldbak, in 1997 Argir, in 2001 Kollafjørður, and finally in 2005, Kirkjubøur, Hestur, and Nólsoy.


Tórshavn, Faroe Islands
Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation totals in mm
Source: Danish Meteorological Institute [6]
Torshavn Harbour Ferry Terminal, view towards Tinganes and 'Vesturbyur' The Western Town Torshavn.2009.5.jpg
Tórshavn Harbour Ferry Terminal, view towards Tinganes and 'Vesturbýur' The Western Town

Tórshavn features a subpolar oceanic climate (Cfc) with average summer highs around 12 °C (54 °F) and average winter highs around 6 °C (43 °F), and with winter lows averaging just above freezing, and frequent cloudy skies. Average monthly precipitation is highest in autumn and winter, peaking in January, owing to frequent, intense storms crossing the area from the North Atlantic Ocean, while May and June are markedly drier months.

Because of the cloudy weather and the ice-free water surrounding Tórshavn, its winter temperatures are exceptionally mild for such a northerly location. However, summer temperatures are much lower than those found in continental Scandinavia on similar parallels. The temperature amplitude in the period from 1961 to 2010 is a mere 33 °C (59 °F) between the absolute warmest and coldest temperatures.

Climate data for Tórshavn (1981–2010, extremes 1961–2010)
Record high °C (°F)11.6
Average high °C (°F)5.8
Daily mean °C (°F)4.0
Average low °C (°F)1.7
Record low °C (°F)−8.8
Average precipitation mm (inches)157.7
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.1 mm)262326221918192023262627273
Average snowy days8.
Average relative humidity (%)89888887878889908989888988
Mean monthly sunshine hours 14.536.772.8108.6137.8128.6103.6100.982.753.421.17.8868.2
Source: Danish Meteorological Institute (humidity 1961–1990, precipitation days 1961–1990, snowy days 1961–1990) [6] [7] [8]

Politics and government

Tórshavn is the capital of the Faroe Islands, and as such is the seat of the Faroes’ self rule government. The government holds the executive power in local government affairs. Today a part of the government is located on the Tinganes peninsula of Tórshavn, the Prime Minister's office is here and the Ministry of Internal Affairs was here until it was closed in 2013. The other ministries are located in other office buildings in various places in Tórshavn, i.e. the Ministry of Health [9] and the Ministry of Social Affairs [10] are located near the Hospital of the Faroes in Eirargarður, and the Ministry of Finance is located in Argir in a building called Albert Hall on the street Kvíggjartún. [11] The parliament, the Løgting, which was originally located on Tinganes, was relocated to the town square, Vaglið, in 1856.


Torsvollur, the home stadium of the Faroe Islands national football team Torsvollur Football Venue in Torshavn Faroe Islands.JPG
Tórsvøllur, the home stadium of the Faroe Islands national football team
A boat race at the Joansoka Festival in Tvoroyri in June 2011. Drekin a Faroese Row Boat.jpg
A boat race at the Jóansøka Festival in Tvøroyri in June 2011.

Tórshavn, as the capital city, is the centre of sport in the islands; the largest sports centre is located in the Gundadalur district of Tórshavn. Also, the largest football stadium, Tórsvøllur, is located here, seating 6,000 spectators. The stadium serves as home to the Faroe Islands national football team. Around the city there are also two other football pitches, indoor tennis courts, badminton courts and a swimming pool.

The city has several football clubs, including three Premier League teams: HB Tórshavn, B36 Tórshavn and Argja Bóltfelag. Other football clubs with connections to the city are FF Giza (Nólsoy), FC Hoyvík and Undrið FF. Handball is the second most popular sport in Tórshavn. The city's handball teams are Kyndil, Neistin and Ítróttafelagið H71 and the Faroe Island's national handball team practice in the city. Tórshavn city has several popular rowing clubs, including, Havnar Róðrarfelag and Róðrarfelagið Knørrur. [12]

Every year in July the Tour of Faroe Islands, which is a road bicycle race, is held around the islands. The race is called Kring Føroyar (Tour de Faroe / Around the Faroes), it starts in Klaksvík and ends in Tórshavn. [13]


The Tórshavn Jazz Festival has been held annually since 1983. It attracts musicians from all over North America and Europe and has become a popular tourist event.


A map of Torshavn showing road links Torshavn.png
A map of Tórshavn showing road links

The harbour is served by the Smyril Line international ferry service to Denmark and Iceland. The harbour is also used by domestic ferry services of Strandfaraskip Landsins within the Faroe Islands, chiefly on the route to Tvøroyri.

The town is served by Bussleiðin – a network of local buses, with the service identified by its red livery. Tórshavn's Bussleiðin has five routes and is operated by the Tórshavn municipality. Buses within Tórshavn have been completely free of charge since 2007. This is a green initiative intended to persuade people to use public transportation rather than drive their cars. Like Bygdaleiðir, the actual buses are privately owned, but contracted to Bussleiðin. Buses also depart to villages throughout the islands.

There is a helipad in Tórshavn; the nearest airport is Vágar Airport.

Sites of interest

Torshavn Cathedral and Bryggjubakki street (left) and Undir Bryggjubakka street (right) at the centre of the city Faroe Islands, Streymoy, Torshavn (5).jpg
Tórshavn Cathedral and Bryggjubakki street (left) and Undir Bryggjubakka street (right) at the centre of the city
Listasavn Foroya on a national stamp, 1995. Faroe stamp 272 national art museum.jpg
Listasavn Føroya on a national stamp, 1995.

Institutions in Tórshavn

Notable natives and inhabitants

The writers William Heinesen and Jorgen-Frantz Jacobsen, 1918 (both at the age of 18) William Heinesen og Jorgen-Frantz Jacobsen.jpg
The writers William Heinesen and Jørgen-Frantz Jacobsen, 1918 (both at the age of 18)

Twin cities

Tórshavn is twinned with:

See also

Related Research Articles

The early details of the history of the Faroe Islands are unclear. It is possible that Brendan, an Irish monk, sailed past the islands during his North Atlantic voyage in the 6th century. He saw an 'Island of Sheep' and a 'Paradise of Birds,' which some say could be the Faroes with its dense bird population and sheep. This does suggest however that other sailors had got there before him, to bring the sheep. Norsemen settled the Faroe Islands in the 9th century or 10th century. The islands were officially converted to Christianity around the year 1000, and became a part of the Kingdom of Norway in 1035. Norwegian rule on the islands continued until 1380, when the islands became part of the dual Denmark–Norway kingdom, under king Olaf II of Denmark.

The politics of the Faroe Islands an autonomous country of the Kingdom of Denmark, function within the framework of a parliamentary representative democratic dependency, whereby the Prime Minister of the Faroe Islands is the head of government, and of a multi-party system. The Faroe Islands are politically associated with the Kingdom of Denmark, but have been self-governing since 1948. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Løgting. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature and the responsibility of Denmark. As of October 25, 2007, the Faroe Islands became one electoral district.

Transport in the Faroe Islands Faroe Islands internal transport system based on roads, ferries, and helicopters

The Faroe Islands is served by an internal transport system based on roads, ferries, and helicopters. As of the 1970s, the majority of the population centres of the Faroe Islands have been joined to a single road network, connected by bridges and tunnels.

Niels Ryberg Finsen Faroese physician and scientist

Niels Ryberg Finsen was a Danish-Faroese physician and scientist, the first and currently only Nobel laureate from the country.

Løgting parliament of the Faroe Islands

The Løgting is the unicameral parliament of the Faroe Islands, an autonomous territory within the Danish Realm.

Klaksvík Town in Faroe Islands, Kingdom of Denmark

Klaksvík is the second largest town of the Faroe Islands behind Tórshavn. The town is located on Borðoy, which is one of the northernmost islands. It is the administrative centre of Klaksvík municipality.

Tvøroyri Town in Faroe Islands, Kingdom of Denmark

Tvøroyri is a village on the north side of the Trongisvágsfjørður on the east coast of Suðuroy island in the Faroe Islands. Together with Froðba, Trongisvágur, Líðin and Øravík it forms Tvøroyri Municipality.

Hoyvík Village in Faroe Islands, Kingdom of Denmark

Hoyvík is a town in the Faroe Islands. Politically, it is not actually considered a town or city in the Faroe Islands - it belongs to the city of Tórshavn. It has grown in size for many years, and is now merged with Tórshavn becoming a northern suburb of the Faroese capital.

Hvítanes Village in Faroe Islands, Kingdom of Denmark

Hvítanes is a village in the Faroe Islands. It is on Streymoy's east coast, northeast of Hoyvík and Tórshavn. Its name means "White Point" in Faroese.

British occupation of the Faroe Islands 1940–1945 occupation during World War II

The British occupation of the Faroe Islands in World War II, also known as Operation Valentine, was implemented immediately following the German invasion of Denmark and Norway. It was a small component of the roles of Nordic countries in World War II.

Inni í Vika

Inni í Vika, currently known as Skansi Arena for sponsorship reasons, is a multi-use stadium on the sport site in Argir, Faroe Islands. It is currently used mostly for football matches and is the home ground of Argja Bóltfelag. The stadium holds 2,000 people and is the southernmost stadium of Streymoy island.

Uni Jógvansson Arge is a Faroese journalist, writer, musician, singer, and a former international football striker. He is also a former handball player. He played 105 matches for the handball club Kyndil from Tórshavn and scored 693 goals for the club.

Jógvan Poulsen was the Prime Minister of the Faroe Islands twice, from 1654 to 1655, and from 1662 to 1677.

Balzer Jacobsen was Lawman of the Faroe Islands from 1655 to 1661.

The Cabinet of the Faroe Islands has been the chief executive body and the government of the Faroe Islands since the islands became self-governing in 1948. The cabinet is led by the Prime Minister (løgmaður). There are around 7 members of the Cabinet, known as "Ministers", all of whom are also heads of specific government ministries. The ministers are appointed by the Prime Minister. The Faroese government currently consists of seven ministers including the Prime Minister.

The levels of education in the Faroe Islands are primary, secondary and higher education. Most institutions are funded by the state; there are few private schools in the country. Education is compulsory for 9 years between the ages of 7 and 16.

Bárður á Steig Nielsen Faroese businessperson and politician

Bárður á Steig Nielsen is a Faroese politician and businessman who serves as leader of the Union Party since 2015 and as Prime Minister since 2019. He is also goalkeeper of the VÍF handball team and a former handball player of the Faroe Islands national team.

Hans Mortensen Faroese entrepreneur and handball player

Hans Mortensen, was a Faroese businessman and entrepreneur. He was famous for founding and managing the biggest department store in Tórshavn, SMS, and was also recognised for his contribution in introducing trade and business terminology into the Faroese language. Between 1963 and 1976 he was part of the Faroese national handball team, first as a player and in 1976 as head coach.


  1. 1 2 Fólkatalið – Tórshavnar kommuna
  2. "Tórshavn Municipality". Tórshavn Municipality.
  3. Jagd, N (27 September 1913). "Havne paa Færøerne". e-pages.dk. Ingeniøren. p. 505—513.
  4. Gregoriussen, Jákup Pauli (2000). Tórshavn, vár miðstøð og borg II. Tekningar úr Havn (in Faroese). Velbastaður: Forlagið í Støplum. pp. 11–15. ISBN   99918-914-4-7.
  5. British 5.5"/50 (14 cm) BL Mark I
  6. 1 2 "Monthly means and extremes 1961–1990 and 1981–2010 for air temperature, atmospheric pressure, hours of bright sunshine and precipitation–Denmark, The Faroe Islands and Greenland" (PDF). Danish Meteorological Institute. pp. 16–19. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
  7. "DMI Report 18–19: Climatological Standard Normals 1981–2010 Denmark, The Faroe Islands and Greenland Based on Data Published in DMI Reports 18–08, 18–04 and 18–05" (PDF). Danish Meteorological Institute. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 February 2019. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  8. "The Climate of The Faroe Islands with Climatological Standard Normals, 1961–1990" (PDF). Danish Meteorological Institute. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 February 2019. Retrieved 10 February 2019.
  9. "Ministry of Health Affairs". The government of the Faroe Islands. Archived from the original on 11 July 2015.
  10. "Ministry of Social Affairs". The government of the Faroe Islands.
  11. "Ministry of Finance". The government of the Faroe Islands.
  12. "ISF.fo Faroese confederation of sports and Olympic committee". Ítróttasamband Føroya.
  13. "Effo Kring Føroyar (Tour de Faroe)". Tórshavnar súkklufelag (Bycycle club of Tórshavn) (in Faroese).
  14. Maye, Brian (14 December 2014). "Daniel J Danielsen – a pioneering humanitarian who helped Roger Casement expose the horror of Belgian rule in the Congo". The Irish Times. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  15. "Torshavn.fo, Vina- og samstarvsbýir". Tórshavn Municipality (in Faroese).
  16. "Mariehamns stads vänorter". Archived from the original on 1 December 2008.

Other sources