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Tórshavn: the Friendly Capital

Tórshavn, or Havnin – the harbour – as we usually call it, is the capital of the Faroes and by far the biggest town, though probably the world’s smallest capital. It was named after the old Norse god Tór, who among other things was in command of the weather, strength and growth.

Even if the town is tiny by global comparison, it has everything associated with a modern capital, and the Løgting (the national Parliament) meets here, as it has for more than a thousand years.

The national government runs the country from Tinganes, the rocky point where the ancient parliament met and which juts out and divides the bay into two harbours. The one to the east is for ferry passengers and the western one is the fishing harbour. Both have very charming marinas.

Tórshavn is a treasure trove of houses and relics from the past, and it is the place where old meets new. It is possible to stroll between the past and the present within metres and minutes.

The town blends the historical and picturesque with all the features of a modern city with its many different activities: shops, museums, exhibitions, hotels, pubs, and many fine restaurants.

The Art Museum is an artistic experience showing masterpieces of Faroese paintings and sculptures. We can even boast an outdoor art gallery as you’ll see surprisingly many fine statues on your walk through the town. The Nordic House is a culture centre of great importance and to the Faroese people.

In late July the population of Tórshavn doubles. People come from far and wide including many Faroese who live abroad and return home to celebrate the national festival, Ólavsøka, held in memory of the Norwegian king, Olav the Holy, who died at Stiklastad near Trondheim on 29 July 1030.

The town has grown considerably in the last few years. If we go further out from the town centre, we come to the main residential areas and the industrial zone. The residential areas are arranged as hamlets with open areas, and many of them have a day-care centre which also functions as a community hall. Most of the dwellings are still detached houses, but experiments with terraced housing have also been successful.

A few smaller neighbouring municipalities have joined Tórshavn and merged into one town council in the past twenty years. This has given more opportunity to co-ordinate developments, including construction of infrastructure, public service and recreational facilities.

Nowadays more than one third of the Faroe population lives in and around Tórshavn, which with only 19,000 inhabitants must still be considered a small town by foreign standards. But it is bubbling with all sorts of activities. Tórshavn has never been a dull place, and it is certainly more vibrant and growing faster than ever before.

Tórshavn’s central geographic location and its well developed road and ferry system mean that visitors can stay overnight and still visit any part of the country and return on the same day.

In spite of all the modern changes, the same undisturbed, pristine surrounding nature and town character remain. Welcome to the prettiest, smallest and oldest capital in the world.

Poetry

Modern Faroe poetic creation has its roots in ancient verbal poetry and narrative art. William Heinesen is the most famous writer and one of the most widely translated Nordic authors. He received the Nordic Council Literary Prize in 1964. The poet Rói Patursson was awarded the Nordic Literary Prize in 1986. In 2006 Bárður Oskarsson got the North-Western Children and Youth Book Prize.