Culture and Society
The Faroe Islands are a modern society with a high standard of living and the Faroese have a strong sense of local identity and social cohesion.
The culture of the Faroe Islands has its roots in the Nordic culture. The islands were long isolated from the main cultural movements in Europe and have maintained a large part of their traditional culture. At the same time the Faroese live a modern European life with cultural events, new technology and a well developed infrastructure.
The Faroese are well-educated. Many Faroese study and work abroad in a wide range of fields. The mobility and flexibility of the Faroese people maintains a broad international perspective.
The Faroe Islands are located half way between Scotland and Iceland in the Northeast Atlantic ocean. The country is a self-governing nation under the external sovereignty of the Kingdom of Denmark. It is not a member of the European Union but has agreements on fisheries, trade in goods, and research cooperation with the EU.
The language of the Faroe Islands is Faroese which is a Nordic language deriving from the Norsemen who settled the islands 1200 years ago.
Out of a total population of around 54,000, more than 22,000 live in the capital, Tórshavn.
There are in about 120 towns and villages scattered over 17 islands. The largest town is Tórshavn. The second largest is Klaksvík with around 5,000 inhabitants.
Fishing and fish farming are the most important industries in the Faroe Islands. In recent years tourism has also become increasingly important.
The Faroese weather is moist, changeable and at times windy. Due to the influence of the Gulf Stream encircling the islands, there is little variation between winter and summer temperatures. The average temperature ranges from 3°C in winter to 12°C in the summer.
The Faroe Islands are a self-governing nation within the Kingdom of Denmark with extensive autonomous powers and responsibilites.
The Faroe Islands have exclusive competence to legislate and govern independently in a wide range of areas, including taxation and customs, management of fisheries and other utilisation of natural resources, social security, education and research.
The Faroe Islands are not part of the European Union, despite Denmark’s membership of the EU.
The Faroese political system is a parliamentary democracy, with a democratically elected legislative assembly, Løgtingið, and an executive government, Landsstýrið, headed by the Prime Minister, løgmaður.
The Faroe Islands are believed to have been discovered and inhabited in the 8th century or earlier by Irish settlers. The Norwegian colonization began about a hundred years later and developed throughout the Viking Age.
Norway and Denmark joined in a double monarchy in the late 14th century. When Norway was seperated from Denmark in 1814, the Faroe Islands remained under the sovereignty of Denmark.
Due to the large geographical distance to Norway and Denmark the Faroe Islands have always maintained a special jurisdiction.
The status of the Faroe Islands within the Kingdom of Denmark was defined in the Home Rule Act of 1948. Amendments were made in 2005.
The Home Rule Act defines the political competence and responsibility transfered from Danish political authorities to Faroese political authorities. The Faroese authorities enact legislation and have the economic responsibility for the areas taken over from Danish authorities.
The Faroe Islands have taken over the exclusive competence to legislate and govern independently in a wide range of areas. These include the management of living marine resources and underground resources within the 200-mile economic zone, fiscal and taxation politcy, social security, education and research.
Matters regarding Danish citizenship, defence and foreign policy as well as monetary policy cannot be transfered to Faroese jurisdiction according to current legislation.
Faroese autonomy in foreign relations is provided by a treaty between the Faroe Islands and Denmark. This treaty allows the Faroe Islands to represent themselves and negotiate treaties under international law with other states and international organisations concerning all matters administered by the Faroese authorities.
Although Denmark is a member state of the European Union, the Faroe Islands have chosen to remain outside the Union. Trade with the European Union is governed by a special trade agreement between the Faroe Islands and the EU.
The Løgting is the legislative assembly for Faroese affairs.
The Løgting is believed to be one of the oldest parliaments in Europe. Its origin can be traced as far back as shortly after the first Norse settlement of the Faroe Islands in the early 9th century. The settlers established their own parliament in Tórshavn where all major decisions affecting the whole country were taken.
In 1816 the Faroe Islands became a Danish administrative district and the Løgting was abolished. In 1852 the Løgting was reestablished as a consultative body for Danish authorities concerning the governing of the Faroe Islands.
In 1948 the Home Rule Act invested all legislative power within branches taken over from the Danish Parliament in the Løgting.
The Løgting has 33 members who are elected for a period of four years. Election of the Løgting can take place before the end of an election period if the Løgting agrees on dissolving itself or the Prime Minister decides to call an election. All Faroese and Danish nationals over 18 years residing in the Faroe Islands have the right to vote and to stand for election for the Løgting.
At present seven political parties are represented in the Løgting.
The session of the Løgting begins on 29 July (Saint Olaf´s day) with a procession from the parliament building to the Cathedral where a service is held. After the service the procession returns to the parliament, and the Prime Minister delivers his Saint Olaf’s address, in which he gives a general description of the state of the nation.
The sittings of the Løgting are public.The Løgting debates between 150 and 200 various items in one session.
The Social Democartic Party - Javnaðarflokkurin
The Republican Party - Tjóðveldi (in Faroese)
The People´s Party - Fólkaflokkurin (in Faroese)
The Union Party - Sambandsflokkurin (in Faroese)
The Independence Party - Sjálvstýri (in Faroese)
The Centre Party - Miðflokkurin (in Faroese)
The Progress Party - Framsókn (in Faroese)
The Faroese Government – Landsstýrið - has the executive power in all areas for which the Faroe Islands have assumed responsibility.
Landsstýrið consists of the Prime Minister - løgmaður - and a number of ministers - landsstýrismenn. The Parliament appoints the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister appoints the ministers.
The Government elected in September 2019 consists of the Union Party, the People´s Party, and the Centre Party. The Government is headed by Mr Bárður á Steig Nielsen and has seven ministers.
The Faroe Islands are administratively divided in 29 municipalities - kommunur - with about 120 towns and villages. The municipalities vary in size from around 22,800 inhabitants in Tórshavn Municipality to around 40 inhabitants in Fugloy Municipality.
The municipal councils are elected for a period of four years. All Faroese/Danish nationals over 18 years registered in the Faroe Islands and citizens of other countries who have been residing in the Faroe Islands for three years prior to an election have the right to vote and stand for election in municipal elections.
Two Faroese representatives are elected for the Danish Parliament - Folketinget. All Faroese and Danish nationals over 18 years residing in the Faroe Islands have the right to vote and stand for elections for the Danish Parliament.
The Faroe Islands have a modern infrastructure with roads, tunnels, bridges and subsea tunnels connecting most of the islands.
Regular flights and car and cargo ferries are available all year round for transport of people and goods to and from the Faroe Islands.
The roads are the main transport artery of Faroese society. The public transport system is well established but the preferred means of transportation is still the car.
Buses and ferries
The public transport system consists of an extensive network of buses and ferries connecting towns, villages and islands throughout the country. The public transport company, Strandfaraskip Landsins, operates the bus and ferry service.
Regular helicopter service to the outer islands is operated by the Faroese airline company, Atlantic Airways.
In Tórshavn and Klaksvík there are urban bus services free of charge.
Bussleiðin - Tórshavn Municipality (in Faroese)
Bussleiðin - Klaksvík Municipalty (in Faroese)
There are several daily flights to the Faroe Islands from Copenhagen, and regular flights to other destinations in Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Scotland, Spain and France.
There is a direct ferry link to Denmark (Hirtshals) and Iceland (Seyðisfjørður) throughout the year.
The Faroe Islands have a highly developed communication network – from telecommunication and mobile phones to the internet and media.
The National Faroese Broadcasting Company - Kringvarp Føroya - transmits Faroese radio and TV programmes as well as Danish and Norwegian TV programmes and other TV programmes with Danish subtitles.
The National Faroese Broadcasting Company also has a news portal in English.
Televarpið offers a wide range of Nordic and international TV channels broadcasted via digital terrestrial network and via internet.
Televarpið (in Faroese)
The Faroese media landscape also includes a number of private radio stations, news portals, and newspapers.
The telecommunications networks are of a high standard offering services at competitive prices.
Mobile telephones using the GSM standard are operational in the Faroe Islands. Subscriptions for fixed line telephones and mobile telephones as well as Pay-As-You-Go telephones are available from Faroese telecommunication companies.
Broadband internet subscriptions are also offered by the Faroese telecom companies. Nearly all the islands have an excellent broadband connection, with 3G and 4G networks fully functioning.
There are two telecommunication companies in the Faroe Islands:
Føroya Tele (in Faroese)
Nema (in Faroese)
Religion plays an important role in Faroese culture. According to the constitution, everyone is entitled to associate in communities to worship according to his or her convictions.
The majority of the Faroese population, about 85 percent, belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church which is the official church of the Faroe Islands.
There are several organisations and associations attached to the Faroese Lutheran Evangelical Church, among them KFUK and KFUM which correspond to YWCA and YMCA, Inner Mission and Evangelical Mission.
The Plymouth Brethren are the second largest religious community in the Faroe Islands. About 13 percent of the population belong to this community. The community has houses of worship in towns and villages around the islands.
Other religious communities in the Faroe Islands include Pentecostals, Catholics, Salvation Army, Seventh Day Adventists and Jehova Witnesses.
The Faroe Islands have a rich and thriving contemporary culture. Traditional culture lives along with modern cultural events, and all kinds of sports and music activities are very popular.
The pleasure derived from music is immense in the Faroe Islands. Almost every occasion is an opportunity to sing and play.
Singing in choir is very popular. There are several excellent choirs around the islands for male, female and mixed voices.
The Faroese chain dance with epic ballads about heroes and legends was popular in many European countries in the Middle Ages but has survived only in the Faroe Islands. Here it is still a prominent part of the Faroese cultural and musical life and is refered to as Faroese dance.
Music schools are very popular, and many children are learning to play a variety of musical instruments. There are 13 music schools located around the islands.
Read more: Faroese music schools (in Faroese)
The Faroese art history is comparatively young but the quality of Faroese art is remarkably high, and the Faroe Islands have fostered several great painters.
The National Gallery of the Faroe Islands - Listasavnið - features a permanent exhibition of older and modern Faroese artists as well as traveling exhibitions of foreign artists and special showcase exhibitions of Faroese artists.
Read more: The National Gallery of the Faroe Islands
Professional and amateur actors perform Faroese and international theatre plays at a high standard.
The National Theatre of the Faroe Islands (in Faroese) - Tjóðpallur Føroya - performs Faroese drama and the best of modern and classic drama from abroad. It stages an average of 4 productions a year, and has managed to stage new Faroese plays on a regular basis.
The people of the Faroe Islands are very fond of sports, both as a way of exercising and for leisure.
Football, handball and gymnastics are amongst the most popular sports activities.
Boat racing - kappróður - is the national sport of the Faroe Islands. Rowing competitions are held in different towns and villages at festivals in June and July, and the final competition is held in Tórshavn on St Olaf´s Wake.
There are several recurring cultural events that are very popular amongst the people of the Faroe Islands.
Several music festivals and concerts are held in the summer with a variety of local music in all genres and internationally acclaimed artists.
Local festivals - stevnur - with sports, concerts, and various other activities for all ages are held around the country during the summer. These festivals take place annually starting in Klaksvík, Runavík, Sundalagið and Suðuroy in June and in Fuglafjørður, Vágar, Skálafjørður and Vestmanna in July. The traditional rowing competition is a main attraction at these festivals.
St Olaf´s Wake
The national holiday of the Faroe Islands, St Olaf´s Wake - ólavsøka - is held in Tórshavn on July 28th and 29th. People from all over the islands gather in the capital to celebrate the national holiday which is also a cultural and sports festival with rowing, football matches, art exhibitions, concerts, and chain dance.
St Olaf´s Wake starts on July 28th with a procession of sports people and horse riders and an opening ceremony in front of the parliament building. On July 29th the Løgting opens it session after the summer holiday with a procession and a service at the Cathedral in Tórshavn.
Evening schools under the administration of the municipalities around the country offer a wide variety of courses, such as cookery, photography, sewing, arts and crafts, creative writing, acting and genealogy studies. Some schools also offer courses designed especially for people with various disabilities.
Read more: Tórshavn Evening School
The Nordic House - Norðurlandahúsið - is a cultural organisation under the Nordic Council of Ministers with the objective of supporting and promoting Nordic and Faroese culture. It offers a wide range of events all year round, including concerts, exhibitions, and theatre performances.
The National Museum - Tjóðsavnið - is a cultural and natural history museum. It offers displays on geology, archeology, folk life and history. The museum has an open air branch located close to the permanent exhibition.
The National Gallery - Listasavnið - features a permanent exhibition of older and modern Faroese artists as well as traveling exhibitions of foreign artists and special showcase exhibitions of Faroese artists.
The National Theatre (in Faroese) - Tjóðpallur Føroya - performs Faroese plays, as well as classic and modern plays from other countries.
The National Library - Landsbókasavnið - is the national depository and library of the Faroe Islands. It collects, registers and preserves examples of Faroese literature, as well as books and articles discussing the Faroe Islands.
Important elements of the Faroese cuisine are lamb, fish, whale meat and seabirds.
The taste of the traditional food is primarily determined by the preservation methods used, which especially include the maturing and drying of meat and fish. The most popular treat is well-aged wind-dried mutton - skerpikjøt. Other traditional foods are semi-dried mutton - ræst kjøt, and matured fish - ræstur fiskur.
Dried lamb and fish and other traditional products are still very popular in the Faroe Islands. At the same time popular taste has developed to become closer to the European norm.
The Faroese restaurant culture has changed drastically within the last decade and new restaurants are consistently emerging.
Restaurants reflect different styles offer a variety of local food as well as cuisine from around the world.
Read more: Visit Faroe Islands - dining
Visitors to the Faroe Islands are generally impressed by the beauty of the nature.
The landscape is characterized by green valleys engulfed by steep dramatic mountains. The ocean is never far away as no place in the Faroe Islands has a distance of more than five kilometres to the coast.
Hiking in the mountains has become an increasingly popular activity in the Faroe Islands. Even a short hike offers numerous vantage points overlooking magnificent and untouched nature.
There are only few restrictions as to access to the mountains, the shoreline and the beaches. It is prohibited to trespass through fields as the grass is intended for winter fodder.
It is also possible to join hiking clubs.
Saltwater fishing at the pier or the coast is generally free for everyone.
Fishing wild salmon and trout in rivers and inland lakes can require a permit and is not always free.
Fishing in lakes and streams is permitted from May 1st until August 31st. Fishing permits are required and can be purchased in most tourist information offices.