Tórshavn: Wikis


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The title of this article contains the following characters: ó. Where they are unavailable or not desired, the name may be represented as Torshavn.
Nickname(s): Havn
Tórshavn is located in Denmark Faroe Islands
Location in Faroe Islands
Coordinates: 62°0′42″N 6°46′3″W / 62.01167°N 6.7675°W / 62.01167; -6.7675
Autonomous Province  Faroe Islands
Municipality Tórshavn municipality
Founded 10th century
 - Mayor Heðin Mortensen (Javnaðarflokkurin)
 - Land 158 km2 (61 sq mi)
Elevation 24 m (79 ft)
Population (2007)
 - City 19,000
 - Density 78/km2 (202/sq mi)
 - Metro 20,000
 - Metro Density 125/km2 (323.7/sq mi)
  population-ranking: 1st
Postal code 100
Website http://www.torshavn.fo/

Tórshavn (IPA: [ˈtʰɔuʂhaun]; Danish: Thorshavn) is the capital and largest town of the Faroe Islands. It is located in the southern part on the east coast of Streymoy. To the north west of the town lies the 347-metre (1,140 ft) high mountain Húsareyn, and to the southwest, the 350-metre (1,100 ft) high Kirkjubøreyn. The city itself has a population of 19,000 (2008). The city was founded in the 10th century and may well be the oldest capital in Northern Europe.

The Vikings established their parliament on the Tingenes peninsula in Tórshavn 825, thus Tórshavn was made capital of 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. Sources do not mention a built-up area in Tórshavn until after the Protestant Reformation in 1539. Early on, Tórshavn became the center of the monopoly trade, 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. The town has grown rapidly ever since the turn of the 20th century into the undisputed administrative, economic and cultural center of the Faroes.



The name of the Town means Thor's Harbour, and it may be named after the god of thunder and lightning in Norse mythology; thus the Town's coat of arms shows Thor's hammer Mjolnir. Another, maybe more logical explanation, is that the Town takes its name from the first man who settled in it, given that his name was Thor. This was common practise among the settlers of Shetland and Iceland, to name bays and fjords after the first man who settled in them, and is also known from Faroese names, such as Haldórsvík, Sølmundarfjørður and Haraldssund. The Faroese usually refer to their capital as Havn - harbour.


Early History

The Tinganes peninsula, in Tórshavn, is the seat of the Faroese government.

According to the earliest source to the Faroe Islands, Færeyinga Saga, emigrants who left Norway to escape the tyranny of Harald I of Norway settled in the islands about the end of the ninth century. The Viking settlers established their own parliament called ting. Local tings where established in different parts of the islands. The main ting was established on Tinganes in Tórshavn 825. Tinganes is the peninsula that divides the harbour into the two parts Eystaravág and Vestaravág. Færeyinga Saga says: "the ting stead of the Faroese was on Streymoy, and there is the harbour that is called Tórshavn". In the Viking Age it was a tradition to hold the ting at a neutral and thus uninhabited place, so nobody had an advantage of the location. In fact, there was no settlement at Tinganes to that time, but it was the most central place of the islands. The Vikings would meet on the flat rocks of Tinganes every summer. The Viking age eventually 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. Although, unlike the rest of the Faroese villages, Tórshavn was never a distinct farming community. In 1271, a royal trade monopoly was established in Tórshavn by the Norwegian Crown. During the 12th century, all trade between Norway and the Faroes, along with other tributary islands to the west, became centralised in Bergen. 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 the other villages. Under the Norwegian and then later Danish rule, the government officials made Tórshavn their home. All of these things put together with the fact that Tórshavn was the thingstead of the islands influenced the town’s development in a different direction.


Sources do not mention a built-up area in Tórshavn until after the Protestant reformation in 1539.

When pirate attacks became quite frequent in the Faroes it became a priority to protect the town and its trade. 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.

Skansin has been rebuilt several times since it was first built in 1580, the last time rebuilding took place was in 1790. This picture is from 2004.

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 imposed guard duty on Skansin without pay, for clothing and food they depended on the bounty of the farmers. Because of this poor people from Tórshavn were often contemptuously referred to as beggars and considered of no account. Fishing became their livelihood.

In 1655 king Frederick III of Denmark endowed 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 wasn’t 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. A store of gunpowder kept at Tinganes had blown up. Many old houses burnt to the ground and old Faroese records where lost as were Gabel's documents.

Conditions improved in Tórshavn when the trade monopoly became a royal monopoly in 1709. The royal 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 1864, the Løgting in the top left


On 30 March 1808, during the Gunboat War, the Cruizer class brig-sloop HMS Clio entered Tórshavn and briefly captured the fort at Skansin. The fort surrendered without solving a shot as the landing party approached. Clio 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 defenseless city and seized the property of the Danish Crown Monopoly. The Admiralty Prize Court, however, refused to condemn it as a lawful prize. Later, after the Jørgen Jørgensen affair (see also HMS Talbot) Britain declared the the Faroese, the Icelanders, and the settlers in Greenland as "stranger friends" who were to be left in peace.

In 1856, free trade came to the Faroe Islands. It opened the islands up to the world and transformed the economy and Tórshavn forged ahead. The farming land was rented out to townspeople who could later buy it if they wished to. These small plots of land eased people’s existence considerably, as they now could be able to keep a cow and perhaps some sheep. The population grew considerably.

In 1866, Tórshavn's town council was founded. The town has been the capital of the Faroe Islands ever since. And later, in 1909, Tórshavn became a market town with the same municipal charter as Danish market towns.

In 1927, Tórshavn had a modern harbour built. This made it possible for larger ships to berth.

During the British occupation of the Faroe Islands in World War II, Skansin was used as the headquarter of The Royal Navy Commands and two 5.5" guns, used aboard the HMS Furious before World War II, were deployed. [1]

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

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 national Evangelical–Lutheran Church).

Politics and government

Tórshavn is the capital of the Faroe Islands, and as such is the seat of the Faroes’ home rule government. The government holds the executive power in local government affairs. Today the government is located on the Tinganes peninsula of Tórshavn. The parliament, the Løgting, which was originally located on Tinganes, was relocated to the town square in 1856.




Football teams in Tórshavn: Havnar Bóltfelag, B36 Tórshavn, Argja Bóltfelag, FC Hoyvík, Nólsoyar Ítróttarfelag, and Undri.

Handball teams in Tórshavn: Kyndil, Neistin and H71


Map of Tórshavn

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. Buses also depart to villages throughout the islands.

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


Sites of interest

  • Tinganes, the old part of town, it is still made up of small wooden houses covered with turf roofs. The oldest one dates back 500 years.
  • Tórshavn Dome, the second oldest church in the country.
  • Tórshavn harbour.
  • Skansin.
  • Listasavn Føroya, the Faroese art museum.
  • The church, Vesturkirkjan, with outside art work by Hans Pauli Olsen.
  • The Nordic House in the Faroe Islands, the most important cultural institution in the Faroes.
  • The historical museum in Hoyvík, with all its treasures.
  • The museum of Natural History, with a small botanical garden with 150 Faroese plants.
  • Kirkjubøur, the country's most important historical site.
  • Niels Finsens gøta, Tórshavn's only pedestrianised street.

Institutions in Tórshavn

Notable natives and inhabitants

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



See also


  1. ^ British 5.5"/50 (14 cm) BL Mark I
  2. ^ Mariehamns stads vänorter. Accessed May 27, 2008

External links

Coordinates: 62°0′N 6°47′W / 62°N 6.783°W / 62; -6.783

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Tórshavn Cathedral
Tórshavn Cathedral

Tórshavn is the capital of the Faroe Islands.


The city was founded in the 10th century and named after Thor, the god of thunder and lightning in Norse mythology. In the early history of the Faroes Tórshavn became the political center of the Faroes and still is today. The first settlers established their own parliament called "ting" around 800. The main thing was established on Tinganes in Tórshavn and local things where established in different parts of the islands. Tinganes drew people to trade and to attend court meetings etc. Currently the city has a population of around 20,000.

Get around

City buses opererate 4 routes which reach the most of the city. They run every 30 minutes from the city centre on weekdays, hourly on Sunday and Saturday and weekday evenings. There is no bus service during Saturday or Sunday evenings.

  • Faroese løgting (The Faronese parliament), Tinganes. An impressive dark red structure with a green roof located on the water front. The parliament has been meeting at this site since 900AD.
  • Tórshavn Cathedral. An attractive white building with clock tower - established in 1788.
  • The Nordic House. The main cultural institution on the islands.
  • The Historical Museum. Well worth a visit.
  • Brasserie Hvonn, Hotel Tórshavn, Tórsgøta 4, FO-100, +298 350000, central location and non smoking inside, american style menu and salad bar
  • Restaurant Glasstovan, Hotel Føroyar, Oyggjarvegur 45, FO-100 Tórshavn, +298 31 75 00, Located on a hill above Tórshavn with great views (if there is no fog), non smoking, buffet on Mondays evenings with traditional Faroese foods.
  • Burger King, SMS Shopping Center, FO-100, +298 32 34 20, a burger restaurant in the SMS Shopping Mall.
  • Sunset Boulevard, SMS Shopping Center FO-100 +298 32 34 22, a danish chain of sandwich restaurants located in the SMS Shopping Mall.
  • Baresso Coffee, SMS Shopping Center FO-100 +298 23 34 32, a danish chain of cafés, located in the SMS Shopping Mall.
  • Hotel Streym, Yviri við Strond 19, FO-110, +298 355 500, [1].
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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Proper noun

Tórshavn f.

  1. Capital of the Faroe Islands

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