Faroe Islands - Attractions
Tórshavn is high on picturesque charm but low on much action of any kind, so if you're looking to party you'll be disappointed. But a stroll around Tinganes, the small peninsula where the town began a thousand years ago, is enough to endear it to just about anyone. It has narrow streets and is very busy, conjuring up the heyday of 'wonderful Copenhagen' at the height of its maritime trade. The modern town centre is focused on the area between Tinganes and Wintersgøta, just up the hill from the harbours on either side of the peninsula. On the far end of Tinganes stands Skansapakkhúsið, an impressive building that once served as an artillery depot. During the war with Britain in 1808, the British emptied it and threatened to destroy Tórshavn if the town did not surrender.
Munkastovan is a heavy stone-walled former monastery, built in the 15th century and one of the few buildings to escape a devastating fire in 1673. The other building to escape the flames was Leigubúðin, the king's storehouse, where agricultural goods paid as taxes were stored before shipping to the mainland.
The most impressive museum in town is probably the Historical Museum. It displays religious and maritime artefacts, boats, and household, fishing, navigation and farming implements from the Viking age to the present. Nordic House is an architecturally interesting building with a turf roof, and its interior is used as a theatre and a conference, concert and exhibition hall. It houses visiting exhibitions from around Scandinavia, and has a library and cafeteria. On Tuesday nights in summer, it hosts 'Faroese evenings' for tourists. On the northern edge of Viðarlin Park is Listaskálin, the Faroese Museum of Art, with a fine collection of works by Faroese painters and sculptors. The museum also hosts theatrical and musical performances and special exhibitions.
Kirkjubøur is on the south coast of the island of Streymoy, which encompasses 25% of the land area of the Faroes and has over 40% of the islands' population. Kirkjubøur is not a town as much as a collection of impressive ruins. It was the episcopal centre of the island in medieval times, and the largest and most striking of the ruins is the Magnus Cathedral, begun in the 13th century but never finished owing to the ruthless methods of fund collection employed by Bishop Erlendur and an avalanche in 1772 that destroyed its western wall.
Nearby is St Olav's Church, built in 1111, and dedicated to the king who had formulated Norway's Christian code during the previous century. It served as the Faroes' religious centre until the Reformation, but several renovations in the 19th and 20th centuries have robbed it of some of its original character. All that remains of St Brendan's Church is a small mound of stones and a crumbled wall in a horse paddock, about 100m (330ft) south of the Magnus Cathedral. The original church was built in the 11th century, but it was seized by the Catholic church around 1100. In about 1420 another church was built on the site and dedicated to St Brendan and Bishop Erlendur, but the building has since collapsed under assault from the sea.
Roykstovan is a 900-year-old farmhouse with a turf roof, the timber for which came unintentionally from Norway. The ship that was carrying it to another destination sank, and its cargo was washed up at this natural collection point by the Gulf Stream. The building has been occupied by 18 generations of the same Faroese family, and the farmhouse museum is open daily in the summer. The tiny seaside village of Syðradalur lies 12km (7.4mi) north of Kirkjubøur, and it gives you the best view of nearby Koltur Island.
Mykines village is Mykines Island's single village, and it's a beautiful little place with bright houses with turf roofs. With only 18 inhabitants there's not a great deal to see, but the countryside around is ideal for walking. Lundaland ('the land of puffins') is on Mykineshólmur, an islet connected to the main island by a footbridge over a 24m (115ft) deep gorge called Hólmgjógv. The walk is one of the best in the Faroes, with magnificent scenery and some of the world's densest bird colonies. If you have more than a few hours, it's worthwhile climbing to the island's summit, the 560m (1837ft) Knúkur, for the fantastic views, or visiting Steinskógurin ('the Stone Forest') near the northern coast at Korkadalur. East of Knúkur, the terrain becomes precipitous and the walk to the eastern end of the island is treacherous.
In the north of Streymoy island, Saksun's unusual setting makes it something of a tourist destination. It is a hillside village of typical farmhouses, and is divided in two by the River Dalsá. Downstream from the village is the beautiful and almost perfectly round tidal lake Pollur ('Pond'), which has excellent fishing. There's a great walk above its southern bank to Ósin, the outlet to the sea. The Saskun Church, which overlooks Pollur, was moved from Tjørnuvík in 1858.
At the end of the northern road is the 19th century turf farmhouse Dúvuvarður, with a folk museum displaying the harshness of Faroese life from the medieval era to the 1800s. About 1km (0.6mi) along the Dalsá above the village is Lake Saksunarvatn, which is also good for trout and salmon fishing.
Skálafjørður is the name given to both the long, sheltered fjord enclosed by the southernmost peninsulas of Eysturoy, and to the village at its head, which has the Faroes' best harbour. The towns on the western shore are becoming a kind of Faroese megalopolis as they keep growing, but there is plenty to see in the area. The Folk Museum in Glyvrar is furnished as a 19th-century Faroese home. From the nearby hamlet of Runavik, it's a pleasant half hour walk up to the mountain lake Toftavatn, a popular place to try your luck with rod and reel.