Faroe Islands: Sagas, sushi and street art

1000 year old Kirkjubøargarður, once home of a Viking king. One of the oldest inhabited wooden houses in the world.

Faroe Islands: land of sagas

Have you been to the Faroe Islands? If not, maybe you have an idea of what you will find on these Viking isles? Perhaps you’re thinking steep green hills, wooden houses, grass roofs…? You would be right.

The photo above shows Kirkjubøargarður, once the home of a Viking king. The oldest part of the building is 1000 years old, so it’s actually one of the oldest inhabited wooden houses in the world. The Patursson family has lived here since 1557, now on the 17th generation.

Sagas abound in the Faroe Islands. Tórshavn, the tiny capital, is home to the world’s first parliament, established by Vikings in 850 CE. However, the islands are older than that. When the Norwegians stopped by for the first time in 795, they stumbled upon hermit Irish monks. The monks probably arrived in 625, hoping to find natives to save. No such luck! Instead, they occupied themselves with keeping sheep and growing oat. The monks are said to have moved on towards Iceland about the time the Norwegians came along.

So much for sagas. Perhaps more surprisingly, Tórshavn is also home to a fabulous sushi restaurant and some colourful street art.

Sushi in the Faroe Islands – North Atlantic fish meets Japan

The only sushi restaurant in Torshavn, Faroes
Perhaps you thought the Faroese mostly ate puffin and whale meat? Not so.

With funky decor, location in the heart of Tórshavn, excellent food, and a sleek wine bar, Etika is a local highlight. As you might guess from the name, Etika is also an ethically and environmentally aware establishment, offering locally sourced fish and green gift items for sale. Freshly caught North Atlantic fish meets Japanese philosophy.

The only sushi restaurant in Torshavn, Faroes

I’m hardly a raw fish connoisseur, but my daughters adore sushi above all else. During our three days in the Faroes, they visited Etika four times!

Faroe Islands public art

Glass statue of horse in Vidarlundin, Torshavn, Faroes

So you thought street art was a big city phenomenon? The 13 000 residents of Tórshavn might disagree. Here’s a small selection.

Torshavn, Faroe Islands Bird sculpture at the harbour in Torshavn, Faroes

Brightly coloured housefront at the entrance to Vidarlundin park in Torshavn, Faroes

Street art in Torshavn, Faroes

Street art in Torshavn, Faroes

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55 Comments

  1. Martia 25 April 2012 at 1537 - Reply

    I’m not so good with history so I am not familiar with Vikings. But the home of their King looks scary to me. Don’t you think it’s scary? The street art is really good. We have those here too, but not as good as the ones in the photos.

    Thanks for sharing!

    -Martia

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 26 April 2012 at 1201 - Reply

      These are quite typical Scandinavian houses, so not scary. Unless you mean because of its age and the possibility of ghosts 🙂

  2. ItalianNotes 25 April 2012 at 1641 - Reply

    I’ve never been to the Faroe Islands, but they look more colourful than I’d imagined.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 26 April 2012 at 1202 - Reply

      Just a quick boat trip from Denmark, you know… well, maybe not so quick. 18 hours, I think it took.

      • Michael 28 April 2012 at 2131 - Reply

        It’s actually 33 hours sail trip from denmark ^^ but its cheaper and way faster to fly there, only 2hours and well worth the trip !

        • Anne-Sophie Redisch 29 April 2012 at 2153 - Reply

          Wow, was the journey that long? It’s been a year and a half… but you’re right. We left Hanstholm in the morning and arrived the following day, late afternoon. Thanks 🙂

  3. Natalie 25 April 2012 at 1803 - Reply

    This sounds like my kind of place – Also obsessed with sushi, I am quite sure if it was named something else that I would not be because the word just sounds so swish!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 26 April 2012 at 1202 - Reply

      Yes, raw fish doesn’t sound as sexy, does it…

  4. Andrea 25 April 2012 at 2057 - Reply

    It always cracks me up when I hear that youngsters love sushi! Shows my age – I didn’t try it until college. So many contrasts in the Faroe islands by the look of your photos – old and historic, yet modern with the restaurant style and all the graffiti. I like it!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 26 April 2012 at 1204 - Reply

      Well, Norwegian kids are used to eating lots of fish. Not such a big step to sushi, I suppose.

  5. Vi 26 April 2012 at 1005 - Reply

    What does “Vikar” mean?

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 26 April 2012 at 1206 - Reply

      Vikar means temporary worker in Norwegian, and I imagine it’s the same in Faroese. I think that might be a protest mural, perhaps by a labour union, against the EU’s Temporary and Agency Work Directive. It’s been hotly debated here, at least.

  6. Bob R 26 April 2012 at 1145 - Reply

    It’s much more colorful than I expected. Although I must admit I didn’t know what exactly to expect. How did you get there? Boat or plane?

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 26 April 2012 at 1207 - Reply

      We took the boat from Hanstholm in Denmark. There are flights from Denmark as well. Much quicker, of course 🙂

  7. Adam @ travels of adam 26 April 2012 at 1156 - Reply

    Hmm… the Faroe islands look really interesting. I kind of thought it would be all nature and outdoorsy stuff. Love that they seem to have some good street art and sushi!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 26 April 2012 at 1208 - Reply

      I was a bit surprised at that myself 🙂

  8. Laurel 26 April 2012 at 1439 - Reply

    I don’t know much about the Faroes, but never would have associated it with Street Art, looks like an interesting place.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 29 April 2012 at 2155 - Reply

      I wouldn’t either. But nothing like being surprised 🙂

  9. TravelWorldOnline 26 April 2012 at 1450 - Reply

    Thanks for sharing this, Sophie. I love places like this. They are so “out of this world” and not your run-of-the-mill travel destinations. Places that are worth to be discovered in the true sense of the word.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 29 April 2012 at 2212 - Reply

      Thanks, I like the world’s curious places, too 🙂

  10. InsideJourneys 26 April 2012 at 1626 - Reply

    1,000 years old and 17 generations? Wonder if they’ve renovated. I love the funkiness of it.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 29 April 2012 at 2213 - Reply

      I expect they’ve put in indoor plumbing 🙂

  11. Lisa 26 April 2012 at 1747 - Reply

    The first photo is how I would have imagined the Faroe Islands. The following photos – not so much. Very enlightening!!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 29 April 2012 at 2213 - Reply

      🙂

  12. Vera Marie Badertscher 26 April 2012 at 1751 - Reply

    I have no concept of what the Faroe’s would be like. Love the grass roofs and green hillsides, though. I’m curious as to how a wooden house would survive so long in what must be a very damp climate?

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 29 April 2012 at 2232 - Reply

      Constant maintenance, I suppose. At least, that’s the case in Northern Norway.

  13. Leigh 26 April 2012 at 1821 - Reply

    The Faroe’s look like a great place to visit. I think the Nat’l Geographic has given the islands high marks for preserving their environment and culture – if I remember correctly.
    Very interesting post Sophie and I feel like I’ve learned something today.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 29 April 2012 at 2217 - Reply

      That’s right. National Geographic awarded the Faroes world’s best island destination-status a few years ago.

  14. Cathy Sweeney 26 April 2012 at 2112 - Reply

    History, food and art — I’m sold on the Faroe Islands! Love your photos. Amazing that part of Kirkjubøargarður is a thousand years old!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 29 April 2012 at 2220 - Reply

      Isn’t it? Something about standing at a homestead that has been there for 1000 years. Makes time seem unimportant, somehow.

  15. I really have never given the Faroes much thought. Looks like I should change that! I love that you had the Kings old house which is 1,000 years old and then the very modern looking sushi restaurant. I actually really liked the Kings House!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 29 April 2012 at 2221 - Reply

      That’s the Faroes – a very interesting mix of ancient and modern.

  16. Dick Jordan 27 April 2012 at 0143 - Reply

    Big things found in a small place!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 29 April 2012 at 2231 - Reply

      Sometimes small places come with the most unexpected surprises…

  17. Wow – this is cool – the art is spectacular – especially the knight & the dragon in the water.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 29 April 2012 at 2222 - Reply

      I like that one as wel.

  18. Jessica 27 April 2012 at 0507 - Reply

    I love grass covered roofs!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 29 April 2012 at 2223 - Reply

      Me too. Especially with goats grazing on them 🙂

  19. Mary @ The World Is A Book 27 April 2012 at 0639 - Reply

    I love the first picture and fit my image of the Faroe Islands more (since I’ve never been) but I am finding the street art very interesting. That Etika must have been really good or they really really love sushi =)

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 29 April 2012 at 2223 - Reply

      Both, I think!

  20. Francy R 27 April 2012 at 1242 - Reply

    I’ve never been to Faroe Islands, but look great! The last picture is amazing, love its colours!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 29 April 2012 at 2224 - Reply

      Yes, some bright and colourful public art in that little town.

  21. Sabrina 27 April 2012 at 1645 - Reply

    The grass covered houses look exactly like what you’d imagine about that area. So beautiful!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 29 April 2012 at 2226 - Reply

      Yes, that’s the image I had before we were there.

  22. Jenna 27 April 2012 at 1839 - Reply

    More inspiration to travel to a new place… The first photo is gorgeous! I would love to visit that house.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 29 April 2012 at 2227 - Reply

      So full of history.

  23. Denise 28 April 2012 at 0323 - Reply

    I am ashamed to say that this is the first time I’ve heard of these islands…but they look really quirky and interesting

    • Michael 28 April 2012 at 2136 - Reply

      No need to be ashamed! Most people I meet in the world never heard of it, and if they have they know nothing about it ^^ even in Denmark they don’t know enough about it, which is funny since we belong to them ^^

      • Anne-Sophie Redisch 29 April 2012 at 2230 - Reply

        That’s probably right. It isn’t a major tourist destination. All the better… 🙂

  24. Allthingsicelandic 28 April 2012 at 2101 - Reply

    This blog is amazing, I really want to go to the Faroe Islands now! I’ld be so hapy, if you stop by at my blog. Best regards from Iceland!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 29 April 2012 at 2150 - Reply

      I do like our neighbours to the west, and always enjoy visiting Reykjavik. I’ll have a look at your blog 🙂

  25. Thora 12 May 2012 at 1051 - Reply

    Thank you for sharing this with us 🙂 being from the Faroe Island and working in the tourism for years I find it very interesting to read what our guests find interesting about our Island. It gives me inspiration to think about the islands in new ways. Specially the lines about the street art.

  26. susan 19 May 2012 at 0512 - Reply

    Can,t imagine how in humane the people are that live in the faroe islands. They are relentless when it comes to killing the defensless pilot whales. WHAT GOES AROUND, COMES AROUND. SHAME ON THEM.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 20 May 2012 at 1236 - Reply

      Hi Susan,
      I was wondering when a commenter would bring up the Grindadrap. While I think the time has probably come for the Faroese to give up this ancient tradition (as the need for food is no longer a relevant reason), I strongly disagree about the Faroese being more inhumane than others. In fact, I’ve found them to be kind and generous and very ecologically aware. Even National Geographic agreed when they rated the Faroes the world’s best island destination a few years ago.

    • Michael 20 May 2012 at 1542 - Reply

      here we go again.. everytime someone talks about the faroe island, someone has to bring up the whaling..
      So susan..sure, it’s sad that we kill the whales, it’s always sad to take another life.. but what about every other country in the world? Yeah, we kill whale, but what about the pigs, cows and chicken that are killed every day? isn’t that wrong as well? people should really look at their own country before they try to control another 🙂
      And sorry sophie, for talking bout this on your blog, just pisses me off that people can’t talk about the faroe islands, without someone commenting about whaling 🙂

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