Unleash Your Inner Explorer: A Guide to Tórshavn, Faroe Islands

Terri Marshall Avatar

The Tórshavn City Centre
Tórshavn City Centre. Photo credit: Terri Marshall

Situated midway between Iceland and Norway in the North Atlantic Ocean, the Faroe Islands beckon to adventure-seekers looking for a less populated place to explore. Comprised of 18 islands connected with a series of sea tunnels, bridges and ferries, this far-flung archipelago filled with Nordic history reveals awe-inspiring vistas at every turn.

Although the Faroe Islands are under the Kingdom of Denmark, the country remains quite independent. Located on the islands of Streymoy, the capital city of Tórshavn is the cultural heart of the Faroe Islands. Tórshavn is home to approximately 20,000 of the country’s 54,000 residents, making it one of the world’s smallest capital cities.

Free-roaming sheep cover the Faroe Islands landscape and you’ll even find some of these wooly residents in Tórshavn. In addition to the loveable sheep, here are some of the must-see sites in the capital city.

Red buildings with turf or thatched roofs in Tinganes in Tórshavn
Tinganes in Tórshavn. Photo credit: Terri Marshall

Walk through the History of Tórshavn in Tinganes

Despite being one of the world’s smallest capital cities, Tórshavn – which is Danish for Thor’s Harbor – has functioned as a government seat since 850 AD when the Norse established their government there. In the heart of old town Tórshavn, the Tinganes peninsula was chosen as the location for the Old Norse parliament. Tinganes developed into a major trade center and as Tórshavn grew up around it, the city became the parliament for all of the Faroe Islands.

Today, the charming old town displays the charms of yesteryear with narrow winding streets flanked by small red-painted wooden houses with turf roofs and traditional stone bases. Tinganes still serves in a government capacity as home to the office of the prime minister of the Faroe Islands.

A stroll through Tinganes is a walk through time surrounded by those uber-charming grass roofs. Several of these historic homes now serve as guest houses so it is possible to base yourself in history when visiting Tórshavn!

Tórshavn Cathedral in the Faroe Islands
Tórshavn Cathedral. Photo credit: Terri Marshall

Visit the Tórshavn Cathedral

The second oldest existing church of the Faroe Islands, Tórshavn Cathedral sits at the edge of Tinganes. Painted white with a slate roof, this picturesque church dates back to 1788. Since 1990 it has served as the seat of the bishop of the Faroes earning it the title of cathedral. An interesting feature, the church’s bell originated from the ship ‘Norske Löve’ (Norwegian Lion), which went down in Lambavík on New Year’s Eve, 1707. The bell tower features a golden spire.

Tórshavn Harbor at Sunset.
Tórshavn Harbor at sunset. Photo credit: Terri Marshall

Explore Thor’s Harbor and Fort Skansin

A highlight of Tórshavn’s city centre, the harbor teams with activity. From charming sailboats to cargo ships and fishing boats to car ferries delivering tourists and residents to other Faroese islands including Nólsoy and Sandvoy, there’s always something happening here. Day tours to other islands depart from here as well.

Fort Skansin and the Skansin Lighthouse in Tórshavn.
Fort Skansin and the Skansin Lighthouse. Photo credit: Terri Marshall

Overlooking the harbor, the Skansin Lighthouse stands within historic Fort Skansin. Built in the 16th Century, the fortress now serves as a monument and recreational area. A short walk up the grassy hill to the Skansin Lighthouse is worth the effort for the stunning views of the surrounding waters of the North Atlantic Ocean and nearby Nólsoy Island.

Inside Listasavn Føroya – The National Gallery of the Faroe Islands in Tórshavn.
Inside Listasavn Føroya – The National Gallery of the Faroe Islands. Photo credit: Terri Marshall

Experience Faroese Art at Listasavn Føroya

The National Gallery of the Faroe Islands –   Listasavn Føroya in Faroese – is a must-see while visiting Tórshavn. Housed in a striking building with a multi-gabled roof and surrounded by landscaped gardens and lovely city park, the gallery exhibits a sizable collection of modern art along with expressionism and abstract pieces.

Celebrate Centuries of Nordic Culture at The Nordic House

The Nordic House exudes the history and folklore of Scandinavia even in its architecture. Boasting an award-winning design, the Nordic House features a 21,000-square-foot turf roof and includes a rolling serpentine form evoking ancient stories of fairies and elves known for making their homes in hillside caves beneath the earth.

Exhibits within the Nordic House bring to life the culture and history of the Faroe Islands and the Nordic people with a focus on how the two are connected.

Traditional Faroese Clothing at The National Museum of the Faroe Islands in Tórshavn.
Traditional Faroese Clothing at The National Museum of the Faroe Islands. Photo credit: Terri Marshall

Take a Deep Dive into Faroese History at the National Museum of the Faroe Islands

As far-flung as the Faroe Islands seem, it’s hard to imagine arriving there long before they were discovered. The hearty souls who experienced this first hand. The exhibits at the National Museum of the Faroe Islands take you back to prerecorded history and the roots of the Faroese, into the Viking era and continuing through the formation of the Faroe Islands through the Middle Ages. Additional exhibits delve into the importance of the fishing industry, Faroese customs and into the modern era.

Scenes from the drive between Vágar Airport and Tórshavn in the Faroe Islands.
Scenes from the drive between Vágar Airport and Tórshavn. Photo credit: Terri Marshall

Getting to Tórshavn

Located on Vágar Island, Vágar Airport serves as the Faroe Islands’ only commercial airport. Atlantic Airways and Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) fly into Vágar Airport from Paris (France), Reykjavik (Iceland), Edinburgh (Scotland), Oslo (Norway), and Bergen (Norway). Atlantic Airways recently added a direct flight from Stewart International Airport in New York’s Hudson Valley.

Vágar Airport is well connected by taxis and bus service into Tórshavn. Route 300 on the public bus picks up passengers at the airport and drops them off at the Tórshavn harbor near the city centre. A taxi can be booked at a fixed rate of $35 USD. If you plan to explore beyond Tórshavn during your stay in the Faroe Islands, a rental car provides more flexibility. There are several companies to choose from. We chose a local company, RentYourCar.fo and were very pleased with the rate and customer service. However you choose to get to Tórshavn, enjoy the ride because you’ll be treated to jaw-dropping vistas along the way.

It’s also possible to take a ferry to the Faroe Islands. Smyril Line’s ferry, M/S Norröna, sails to the Faroe Islands from Hirtshals in the north of Denmark and from Seyðisfjørður in Iceland. Frequency of departures varies according to season.

Read More: When’s the Best Time of Year to Visit the Faroe Islands?

Man in stocking cap petting sheep through the window at The Green Pearl Guesthouse in Tórshavn.
Our daily visitor at The Green Pearl Guesthouse! Photo credit: Gregory Holder

Where to Stay

Depending on your travel style, Tórshavn offers several lodging options. For those who prefer to stay in a full-service hotel, Hotel Føroyar presents the true essence of the Faroe Islands. Tucked into a valley overlooking Tórshavn, the panoramic views from this 4-star property captivate guests. An easy walk into the city center via a secret path down the hill adds to the authenticity of the experience.

Hotel Føroyar features 200 rooms and suites, two restaurants and a spa under its grass roof that blends into the serenity of the surrounding countryside. Guests of the hotel benefit from day trip packages to top attractions including a guided tour to Mykines to see the adorable puffins.

For our visit, we chose to book a guesthouse through AirBnB to have a full kitchen and access to a laundry room. On the ground floor of a residence, our guesthouse is known as The Green Pearl and sits in a lovely neighborhood within easy walking distance of the city centre and the harbor. As a bonus, sheep graze in the park just outside of the residence and a mama sheep and her baby came to visit through our bedroom window every morning. Absolutely magical!

Terri Marshall Avatar
Based in New York City, Terri Marshall is an award-winning writer covering cultural travel, multi-generational travel, road trips, soft-adventure, camping, cars and characters. From hanging out with penguins in Antarctica to fishing for piranhas in Peru to road-tripping through the jungles of Belize, Terri’s always up for an adventure. Drop her into a landscape filled with mountains, towering evergreens, waterfalls and a glacier or two and she’ll be in heaven. But what thrills her most of all is traveling with her teenage grandkids. Terri serves on the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Committee for the North American Travel Journalist Association (NATJA). She also serves as the First Vice-Chair of the Eastern Chapter for the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW). In addition to writing for SheBuysTravel, Terri’s publication credits include AARP, Island Soul, Girl Camper Magazine, A Girls Guide to Cars, CHILLED, World Footprints, North Hills Monthly, Alaska Business Monthly, Alaska Contractor and more. Follow her on Instagram at TrippingWithTerri.
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