Among Bornholm’s chief industrial activities are dairy farming and arts and crafts industries such as glass production and pottery using locally worked clay. Tourism is also important during the summer months. The island is home to an especially large number of Denmark’s round churches.
The island is known as Solskinsøen (Sunshine Island) because of its weather and Klippeøen (Rock Island) because of its geology, which consists of granite, except along the southern coast. The heat from the summer is stored in the rock formations and the weather is quite warm until October. As a result of the climate, a local variety of the common fig, known as Bornholm’s Diamond, can grow locally on the island. The island’s topography consists of dramatic rock formations in the north (unlike the rest of Denmark, which is mostly gentle rolling hills) sloping down towards pine and deciduous forests farmland in the middle and sandy beaches in the south.
Strategically located in the Baltic Sea, Bornholm has been fought over for centuries. Usually it had been ruled by Denmark, but also by Lübeck, Germany, and Sweden. The ruin of Hammershus, at the northwestern tip of the island, is the largest medieval fortress in northern Europe, testament to the importance of its location. This island and Ertholmene is what remains in Denmark of Skåneland east of Øresund, having been surrendered to Sweden in 1658 but with Bornholm regained by a local revolt in 1660.
This scenic and sunny island is home to an outsized, vibrant food scene where the back-to-the-roots locally-sourced philosophy kickstarted by the New Nordic movement is taken to a whole ‘nother level. And the island’s long history of making do with whatever they had around them has met a sophisticated generation of talented chefs putting Bornholm on the culinary map. Today Bornholm has two Michelin stars and some well-known dishes that are a must-try when visiting the island.
Smokehouses of Bornholm. There is a long tradition of smoking or curing fish on Bornholm. Usually, herring, mackerel, and salmon, the fish are often smoked over alder wood for hours under special, characteristic chimneys, which make for a charming sight (and delicious pit stop) as you travel around the island.
“Sol Over Gudhjem”. The so-called “Sun Over Gudhjem,” most likely named for the richly colored fresh egg yolk in the dish, is a must-try delicacy unique to Bornholm. This DIY smørrebrød consists of smoked herring, raw egg yolk, chives, and radish, served on freshly baked rye bread. Other specialties from the island include blue cheese, rye biscuits, rapeseed oil, and even Bornholm roosters!
Local Produce. Bornholm is said to get the most sunlight out of any region in Denmark, making it especially suiting for growing produce. Locals make the most of this by growing all sorts of fresh produce that you can taste at local restaurants or cafes or purchase at roadside stands around the island.
Michelin-Starred Cuisine. The wonderful produce and local seafood of Bornholm has set the stage for chefs to make their food shine. While there was always great smoked fish, oils, cheeses, and other food, the award-winning restaurant Kadeau put the island officially on the foodie map, winning its first Michelin Star in 2016. Since then they’ve inspired a growing food scene on the island.
Striking White Towers. The round churches are striking whitewashed buildings, with upper stories designed to double as shooting galleries against enemy attack. Originally, they had flat roofs built to better support fortification against invading pirates. The largest round church is in Østerlars, with others found in the villages of Olsker, Nylars and Nyker.
Experience the Nature. For a relatively small island, Bornholm has quite a variety of geography and ecosystems. In the north you’ll find rocky beaches and stunning cliffs. In the south are beaches with sandy so fine that the sand was once used in hour glasses. In between you have forests, caves, fields, and more. Off the coast you’ll find the historic islands if Christiansø and Frederiksø. All of these waiting to be explored.
The Rugged North. The northern part of Bornholm is particularly dramatic, with cliffs and rocks lining the coast. Just 5km north of the pretty seaside village of Gudhjem, rise the 22 metre high granite Sanctuary Cliffs (Helligdomsklipperne). Between Hammerknuden crag and the town of Hasle, you’ll find the unique rock features of the Lion’s Head and Jon’s Chapel (Jons Kapel).
Rock Formations. Hammerknuden is Bornholm’s northernmost point and it consists of one giant rock formation which rises vertically from the sea. The formidable castle ruin Hammershus is located at the top, and to the south is Bornholm’s largest lake, Hammersø Lake. Granite was extracted from the Hammer until the 1970s and today, the quarries have been converted to nature areas, with the idyllic Opal and Crystal Lakes at the centre.
Open Caves. Along the coast and in the middle of the island, you can walk through large and small valleys and open caves, called Ovens (Ovns), which are popular amongst sightseers.
Inland Scenery. Almindingen Forest in Bornholm’s interior is Denmark’s third largest forest. Here, you will find the largest fault valley on the island, Echo Valley (Ekkodalen), and the island’s highest point, Rytterknægten. The Paradise Hills (Paradisbakkerne) are a unique natural area, where you can walk in high heather moorland, forests and valleys in undulating, rocky terrain.
Soft Sandy Beaches. Dueodde Beach is located on the southern tip of Bornholm and is the largest sandy beach on the island. The sand is so fine that it was once used to fill hourglasses. There are also many smaller beaches on Bornholm, from which you can swim.
Ertholmene Islands. Ertholmene is a small group of islands situated 18 km north-east of Bornholm. The main islands are Christiansø and Frederiksø. The nature is rough and beautiful and everything on the islands is protected; the fortress buildings from the 17th century, nature, and the many birds living on the rocks. The islands are a nice day trip by boat from Svaneke or Gudhjem, and take an hour to reach.