Infobox Settlement
official_name = Tórshavn
native_name =
nickname = Havn

imagesize = 300px
image_caption =

seal_size =
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mapsize = 125px
map_caption = Location in Faroe Islands

pushpin_label_position =
subdivision_type1 = Autonomous Province
subdivision_name1 = flag|Faroe Islands
subdivision_type2 = Municipality
subdivision_name2 = Tórshavn municipality
government_type =
leader_title = Mayor
leader_name = Heðin Mortensen
leader_party = Javnaðarflokkurin
leader_title1 =
leader_name1 =
leader_title2 =
leader_name2 =
leader_title3 =
leader_name3 =
leader_title4 =
leader_name4 =
established_title = Founded
established_date = 10th century
area_magnitude =
unit_pref =
area_footnotes =
area_total_km2 =
area_land_km2 = 158
area_water_km2 =
area_total_sq_mi =
area_land_sq_mi =
area_water_sq_mi =
area_water_percent =
area_urban_km2 =
area_urban_sq_mi =
area_metro_km2 =
area_metro_sq_mi =
population_as_of = 2007
population_footnotes =
population_note = population-ranking: 1st
settlement_type =
population_total = 19000
population_density_km2 = 78
population_density_sq_mi =
population_metro = 20,000
population_density_metro_km2 = 125
population_density_metro_sq_mi =
population_urban =
population_density_urban_km2 =
population_density_urban_mi2 =
latd = 62 | latm = 0 | lats = 42 | latNS = N
longd = 6 | longm = 46 | longs = 3 | longEW = W
elevation_footnotes =
elevation_m =24
elevation_ft =
postal_code_type = Postal code
postal_code = 100
website = http://www.torshavn.fo/
footnotes =

Tórshavn (IPA2|ˈtʰɔuʂhaun) is the capital 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 convert|347|m|ft|sing=on|spell=us high mountain Húsareyn, and to the southwest, the convert|350|m|ft|sing=on|spell=us high Kirkjubøreyn. The city itself has a population of 19000 (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 AD. 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, therefore 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 city means "Thor's Harbour", named after the god of thunder and lightning in Norse mythology. The city's coat of arms shows Thor's hammer Mjolnir, which tells people that Tórshavn dates back to pre-Christian times. The Faroese usually refer to their capital as Havn - harbour.


Early History

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 AD. 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.

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 where 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.


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 WWII, were deployed. [ [http://www.navweaps.com/Weapons/WNBR_55-50_mk1.htm British5.5"/50 (14 cm) BL Mark I] ]

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, FRAM Ítróttarfelag and Undri.

Handball teams in Tórshavn: Kyndil, Neistin and H71


The harbour is served by the Smyril Line international ferry service to Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Scotland. 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.


*Tórshavn Jazz Festival -held annually since 1983

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, Tórshavns only walking street

Institutions in Tórshavn

* Løgtingið and Landstýrið, is the Faroese parliament and government with all its national institutions.
* Faroese television and Radio Faroe Islands, both publicly owned.
* University of the Faroe Islands, situated next to the national archives, a navigational college, a teachers college, etc.
* Postverk Føroya is the postal service of the Faroe Islands.
* 12 countries have a representative Consul in Tórshavn: Brazil, Finland, France, Greece, the Netherlands, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Russia, Britain, and Sweden.

Notable natives and inhabitants

* Niels Ryberg Finsen (1860-1904), winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology 1903.
* William Heinesen (1900-1991), writer, poet, composer and painter.
* Jørgen-Frantz Jacobsen (1900-1938), writer.
* Ingálvur av Reyni (1920-2005), painter.
* Janus Djurhuus (1881-1948), writer.
* Janus Kamban (1913), sculptor.
* Zacharias Heinesen (1936), painter.
* Katrin Ottarsdóttir (1957), filmmaker.
* Teitur (1977), singer-songwriter.



See also

* List of towns in the Faroe Islands


External links

* [http://www.faroeislands.dk/pages/TorshavnIndex.htm faroeislands.dk: Tórshavn] — Images and description of Tórshavn
* [http://www.visiteuropes.com/ccm/vacation/weather/?p2258_country=dk&p2258_city=Torshavn&p2258_url=forecast&nav_cat=260&lang=en_US Torshavn] Weather Guide

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