Who ever heard of a capital city having barely more than 12,000 residents? Can you imagine what parliament looks like in such a city? Are the parking lots paid for? Will we eat fresh fish here? These were not our most important questions before the trip, yet for some reason they are worth mentioning.
Thorshavn (far. Tórshavn) is the largest city in the archipelago, its capital, the center of culture and entertainment, and one of the few cities where you can feel at least a little anonymous. And this is extremely difficult to find in the Faroe Islands.
The village we wrote about last time, Gásadalur, is an extreme inhabited by a dozen people, but it gives a picture about the communities here. Closed, close-knit and dependent on each other. Visiting the various villages in the archipelago, one has the impression that one is just entering a large family living in one small territory.
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The smallest capital in Europe?
Things are different in Thorshavn. It resembles a miniature Reykjavík, and the population is only 10% of that of Iceland’s capital. Yes, the capital of the Faroe Islands, is one of the least populated capitals in the world, but it is here that as many as 1/4 of the population of the entire archipelago lives.
The capital is located on the island of Streymoy in the southern part of the island and to get here from the airport you have to drive through a toll tunnel (yes, we still recommend renting a car).
Our accommodation was in this very village, and we by no means wanted to spend the night in the capital. When looking for accommodation, we wanted to find something in the middle of nowhere, in a typical Faroese house, preferably with a roof covered with grass. That was the plan, and it worked out as always ;) In the end, we spent the night in modern, newly built blocks of flats in the southern part of the city, and right outside our windows were hillsides with…. sheep.
The plus points were the price and the panoramic view of the entire city. However, if you are planning to stay in the Faroe Islands and want to spend your time in a more atmospheric place, we recommend you start getting your bearings early, preferably a year in advance, seriously! :)
However, let’s return to the capital itself. While in the Faroe Islands, it is worth at least one day to come here. You won’t find many monuments or architectural wonders here. Instead, we find several places that are unique, surprising or even charming. It is worth parking the car somewhere in the center and just walk both through the streets with stores, cafes, around the port, but most importantly go to the oldest part of the city – Tinganes.
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Parking here is free, but there are restrictions on standing time (e.g., only up to 30 minutes). Set the time of parking on a special cardboard clock in the car. At first, we thought that parking here was paid, but we didn’t see any parking meters anywhere.
We were also surprised by the number of traffic lights – all three of them! And it’s the only one in the entire archipelago. To live not to die. But let’s go back to sightseeing
Tinganes is the oldest part of the city. As we climb slightly uphill on this peninsula, we enter another world. Although tiny enough that we are able to walk it in a few-or-so minutes, you can actually spend up to an hour here wandering the narrow streets among red and black painted wooden houses, with white frames and traditional grass on the roofs. It is a historic old city.
Here we pass almost miniature houses that could serve more as homes for dwarves than for people, and interestingly arranged spaces between houses. In front of many of them you can see a bench or table with chairs, just waiting for the owners to come out with a hot mug of coffee or tea and quietly observe the surroundings. Unfortunately, not once did we see anyone using such a place, although we saw them in front of houses not only in the capital.
Surprisingly, the place has another quite important function (let the first be the tourist function) – it is the local parliament (Løgtingið)! Passing a few houses, we saw placards with the names of departments, but other than that, nothing else stood out! It is probably the most original seat of parliament we have seen :)
The peninsula is also home to the Havnar Kirkja Cathedral.
Port of Thorshavn
The capital is home to the main Faroese port, which receives ferries from other countries (mainly Denmark and Iceland). It might seem to be a bustling, noisy and fishy-smelling place, but nothing could be further from the truth. As many times as we’ve come here we’ve never had the opportunity to see what major ports are associated with.
There was even a shortage of fresh fish! Fishing and fish processing is now the backbone of the Faroese economy, and accounts for 98% of exports
. However, we expected to get fresh fish in the port without any problem, but it turns out that we can only find such in the market.
Instead, you can sit in one of several atmospheric cafes just off the harbor and watch the yachts bobbing gently on the water, the few tourists slowly strolling around the marina or the unloading of large container ships in the distance.
After a stroll in the historic center and harbor, head to Niels Finsens gøta street. There is tourist information here, but also many local stores where you can stock up on gifts for the family, such as woolen goods. There is also a market with a cafe.
However, if you want to stock up more it is worth going to one of the markets: Bonus (yes, the same one as in Iceland) or FK.
The largest shopping center in the Islands is the SMS, located in Tórshavn. The market there is actually quite sizable, but as for the rest, don’t expect large spaces there ;)
We will definitely write more about the Faroe Islands shopping itself :)
Thorshavn is one of the smallest capitals in the world, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to include this city on your Faroese itinerary. It is worth it, if only to compare how differently life flows in small towns and the capital of the archipelago.
Besides, the parliament here is one of a kind! :)
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