As capital cities go, Tórshavn is on a modest scale. Very modest. It’s about the size of an average UK town, which means it’s easy to explore on foot.
The historic area of Tinganes sits on a rocky promontory separating two harbours. The picturesque turf-roofed buildings house the ministries of the Faroese government. This was the site of the original Viking meeting place that was one of the oldest parliaments in the world.
Nearby is Tórshavn cathedral, built in 1788 and the seat of the Bishop of the Faroe Islands since 1990. Outside it is painted white, with a slate roof. Inside is colourful, with yellow wooden box pews and bright blue ceiling with stars, and model boats hanging over the nave.
On a hill beyond the ferry terminal can be found the remains of the sixteenth-century Skansin fortress and a lighthouse, with excellent views. Another good viewpoint is the Kongaminni (King’s Monument) – an obelisk erected to commemorate the visit of King Christian IX of Denmark in 1874.
A walk through the park will take you to the National Gallery of the Faroe Islands. The permanent collection mainly comprises modern Faroese art, although it also includes some bird images from the early 19th century, painted by a farmhand from Sandoy, who was inspired by illustrations in a bird guide owned by a priest, at a time when art and artists were unknown on the islands. One particularly striking exhibit is an installation by Trondur Patturson called The Blue Deep – a mirrored room with blue glass walls which enables the visitor to see 700m up and down, as if beneath the ocean.
Tjodsavnid – the National Museum of the Faroe Islands is a bit further afield, and best reached by one of the excellent local buses. The permanent exhibition aims to provide ‘a journey through the natural and cultural history of the Faroe Islands.’ Exhibits include stuffed birds and fish, geological samples, the original Faroese rowing boat, beautifully carved wooden pew ends from the church at Kirkjubour, national costumes, knitwear patterns, whaling knives and archaeological finds. There is also a modern felt artwork depicting the history of the coming of Christianity to the Faroe Islands.
The nearby Open Air Museum had closed for the winter by the time of our visit, but the lady at the main reception desk said we could still go down there to have a look, so we did. We were able to get into the site and wander around the turf-roofed buildings and enjoy yet another wonderful view.
Sightseeing can be tiring, so it is fortunate that Tórshavn is well-endowed with cafés. Our favourites were Kaffihúsið, by the harbour and Gomagott in the Visit Tórshavn building. The former does excellent coffee, cakes and light lunches, and the latter is good for tea, cake and chocolates. Cake fans will not be disappointed.
Note: We had been fortunate enough to win a trip to the Faroe Islands in a competition run by Regent Holidays at the Destinations Travel Show in 2019. The prize had to be taken before the end of the year and we had already booked two other foreign trips, hence our October visit. It was still definitely worth it.