Have you ever even heard of Torshavn? I get a mixed response when I ask this question because it’s not as well known as the Faroe Islands. Torshavn is small, but is actually the largest city and capital of the Faroe Islands, which is a territory of Denmark, sitting about half way between Norway and Iceland. I had the opportunity to spend just one day in Torshavn as part of a cruise on my way to Iceland. I probably would not have known to visit Torshavn without that cruise stop, but I’m glad I experienced the islands and a different way of living. Let me share some tips for day tripping in Torshavn, so you can make the most of your time there, whether stopping on a cruise or travelling through the islands.
Not Just a Port
First of all, whether you come in on a cruise or not, you should stop to admire the port. It’s not just a port, but a colorful display of architecture.
With colorful buildings and boats everywhere you look, you can see an array of blues, reds, yellows, and definitely the green turf rooftops. And then with the fjords out in the distance, it’s just a unique and beautiful scene before you even head into the city.
If you choose to stay within the main part of the city around the port, most things to do are really within walking distance, so bring your walking shoes. I even saw quite a few people biking. But there are some great views and sites a little further out, so it doesn’t hurt to go exploring. Definitely take advantage of the free transportation options if needed. Just remember that red buses are free. And it doesn’t matter which direction you head in first because they don’t go very far, and all of them come back to the same central location in town. You will also find an information center right in front of the bus stops so you can pick up a map and ask for some directions before you head out.
I took the bus because I wanted to see what else was out there. There was plenty of space on the bus, and the route takes you into the hills, giving you a much better view of the landscape and the way of living.
It’s worth it to take the short bus rides in both directions because you get these excellent views of the residences, fjords, and water, which just look so peaceful, and always so colorful. Plus, there’s another hidden gem on the bus route, but more on that later.
Exploring on Foot
As I mentioned, most of the sites in town are within walking distance, so you should definitely explore the city. One of the first things you will notice just to left of the port is a section called Tinganes, which is made up of the red parliament buildings with the green turf rooftops. It’s one of the oldest parliamentary meeting locations in the world, and some local government employees still use it today.
And then, on the hill to the right of the port, you will immediately see Skansin, which is a historic fort originally built in 1580 to protect against pirates.
When you’re finished exploring the fortress, and start walking into the town, you will see so many different buildings, and not one looks alike. There are a lot of colorful buildings, as you can probably guess.
There is also this cool stone building…
…with a huge bench sitting outside in the courtyard. It was really big. I wanted to get a picture sitting in it, but I was too short to get myself up there.
And, of course, there were plenty of buildings with turf rooftops. Someone explained to me that the turf rooftop is actually planted with a water proof layer, and then it absorbs the rain and provides insulation; very cool!
Once you’ve spent enough time admiring the architecture, like me, there are a bunch of shops, restaurants, and cafes to enjoy along the main street in town. I did plenty of shopping and then stopped at this cute cafe that has excellent baked goods and a little store attached.
I also hear that the Torshavn Cathedral is a great place to visit. I did not get to see it because access was blocked by construction while I was there, but you should probably check it out.
No matter which way you walk, there is so much color, cute architecture, and lots of shopping to keep you busy. Plus, you can walk down some of the residential streets to see the houses, which are just as interesting and colorful.
Make Time for the Nordic House
The Nordic house is a must-see, so be sure to make time for it. I heard you can walk there, but the walking route looked pretty confusing and would definitely take much longer. This is where the free red buses come in handy. I found that most people spoke at least some basic English in Torshavn so it was easy to navigate there. The bus driver was very helpful in letting me know which stop I needed, plus I had that helpful map from the information center in town. The bus stop was not far at all, pretty much just across the street, which gave me a great view of the very unique and interesting exterior.
The Nordic House is basically a cultural center built to support and promote the culture both locally and throughout the Nordic region. It is designed to house multiple cultural events and exhibitions. As you first enter, there is a cafe and then a lovely open view of the amphitheater area.
And here’s a closer look at the pictures hanging in the windows of the theater…
As you walk to explore the other areas of the building, there are more unique pathways, with great lighting from the windows, and even plants that are planted indoors.
There are a few rooms with some different types of art. First, I saw a room with several paintings.
And there was even a room with just glass art hanging near the windows.
You can also walk out to the terrace where there are benches for enjoying the outdoors.
When heading out of the Nordic House to catch the bus back to town, you get a great view of the city, including a little bit of the stadium where they hold sporting events.
I think I only waited for about 10-15 minutes for the bus, which was not too long at all, and headed back into town with all those great views again along the way.
Explore Outside of Torshavn
If you have a little more time or are spending multiple days exploring the islands, there are a few other activities that are available to book from Torshavn. You can book road trips to the coastal villages of Saksun and Dúvugarðar, which is now a heritage museum. You can also drive through an underground tunnel to the Island of Vagar with more amazing scenery and villages. Or, you can take a boat out to the Vestmanna Sea Cliffs, cruising along the cliffs into a narrow gorge, enjoying some great views.
Torshavn is a very unique and colorful town, and I love experiencing new places and cultures. I would not recommend visiting Torshavn just for one day unless it is part of a cruise stop. However, I would definitely recommend spending several days exploring all that the Faroe Islands have to offer, including Torshavn. It’s such a beautiful area!
Have you ever heard of Torshavn? Be honest.