Torshavn » City Info » History

The beautiful city of ‘Torshavn’ and its central location has received the honor where ‘Faroes’ first Ting i.e. parliament was set up there in AD 1000.

The Viking trail from Scandinavia to North America and the Faroe Islands is still home for birds and animals where the place is magnificently taken care of by many islands as well.

Due to poor soils the town has remained a small identity until 1856. But soon with the Danish trading monopoly it was replaced by free trade. As a result it quickly evolved into the islands’ main trading hub that has been growing till date.

Early History


This period saw many constructions and fortifications as pirate attacks were common during that period in Torshavn. A small fort, ‘Skansin’ was built by the Faroese naval hero and trader ‘Magnus Heinason’ at the north end of the harbor. Many inhabitants came in search of work to Torshavn where fishing became their livelihood.

In 1655, king Frederick III of Denmark gifted the Faroe Islands to his favorite statesman Kristoffer Gabel, the ruler of the von Gabel Family. This Gablatíðin was actually the darkest chapter in the history of Torshavn that covered up the islanders in various ways.

As the trade monopoly was in the family’s hands, it greatly affected the lives of the Faroese people. They faced real bad times even to sustain their day-to-day living. Also the imported goods were limited and costly to afford.

The unfair conduct by the civil administration in Tórshavn, the monopoly trade, and a major devastation due to a fire outbreak burnt many houses to the ground, where old Faroese records and Gabel's documents were lost.

With 1709, conditions improved in Tórshavn when the trade monopoly became a royal monopoly where goods were supplied from Copenhagen thrice a year. The same period did face a plague of smallpox that considerably reduced its population.

Tórshavn truly started to develop into a small town during the latter half of the 18th century. The era of Niels Ryberg stabilized its trade and economy and filled the warehouses with goods. Besides this, he even made profit from fishing, which later became the most important economic factor to the islands.

1800- Present

Free trade came to the Faroe Islands in 1856 that opened the islands up to the world. It was the beginning of transformation for Tórshavns economy. In 1866, the town’s council was founded and later, in 1909 it became a market town with the same municipal charter as Danish market towns. With the modern harbor built in 1927 large ships come in.

Tórshavn slowly flourished where in 1974, the neighboring villages Hoyvík and Hvítanes were made a part of the town area. Afterward even more municipalities joined the Torshavn municipality. Torshavn’s Cathedral, first built in 1788 and then rebuilt in 1865 has been the seat of the Bishop of the Faroe Islands since 1990.