The sunshine island in a nutshell
Photographs: Erin Gustafson
Text: Erin Gustafson
Reasons to see Denmark’s Baltic island beauty
Plop yourself on this rocky dot of Danish land far to the east from the rest of Denmark for a wonderful week or long weekend away. Want to take in some idyllic rural countryside? Bicycle along paths to sugar fine swaths of white sandy beaches? Learn a little about your Viking past? Taste innovative and delicious Danish cuisine? This little beauty of an island in the brilliant blue Baltic Sea may very well be - Denmark in a nutshell.
Bornholm hasn't always been Danish
Bornholm is an island strategically located in the Baltic Sea. The evidence here points to early settlements by Danish Vikings and Germanic Vandals. Because of the island's strategic location, it was the furthest eastern point of Denmark. Back when the Danish monarchy controlled Norway and much of southern Sweden, Bornholm made sense to be within Danish borders.
As a base for Danish Viking defences and trade routes, Bornholm had vital significance in the region. So much so that Germany took over the little island during WWII. But when you look at a modern map, the little island mid-Baltic seems better suited for waving Swedish flags. And while Bornholm has been passed between Denmark, Germany, and Sweden over the years, it has been part of the Kingdom of Denmark since 1660 (save for occupation years during WWII.) Nowadays, you can get to Bornholm by ferry from Ystad in Sweden.
Lots of lovely little villages to explore
The island itself isn't so large, less than 600 square meters, so it is easy to pick a base and then beeline in and out from there. Arrivals by ferry and air disembark at Rønne, the island's main port, but lacking in charm. You’ll probably pick up the keys to your rented summer house here. Look for lodging in the likes of Gudhjem, Svaneke, for adorable village magic. If the weather is warmer pick places near Balka Strand or Dueodde for time at the beach. You’ll wonder if you’re in Denmark or the Caribbean when you’ve made your way out the boardwalk to Dueodde Strand to wiggle your toes in the softest white sand.
Plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors
With wild rocky coasts and largely untouched forests, Bornholm offers many ways to get back to nature. Bring your bikes or rent some wheels when here and ride along the 230 kilometres of paved paths that weave around the island. Take to the water and see the unique landscape by kayak or try windsurfing in one of the protected bays. Rock climbers, runners, and hikers too will find plenty of pretty places to practice.
Foodies will find fantastic cuisine
Blessed with a bounty of locally sourced and sustainable ingredients, Bornholm can boast one of the world’s best restaurants. Book a table at Michelin starred Kadeau for innovative and delicious seasonal fare with views of the water. Or sample some of the seafood from a local røgeri (smokehouse) for a traditional taste of the island. Try the “Sol over Gudhjem,” which translates to sun above Gudhjem - a classic Bornholm dish of smoked mackerel, chives, sliced radishes topped with raw egg yolk served on rye bread. The infamous dish inspires one of Denmark’s biggest cooking competitions each year, bringing chefs from all over the country to the cute harbour of Gudhjem, but you can try it any time of year. Wash it all down with some Danish snaps, as they say in Bornholm, “fisk skal svømme!” Fish should swim!
Soak up some history at Hammershus Castle Ruins
Sitting on a high cliff above the sea, Hammershus Castle on the north end of the island was once the largest medieval fortress in Scandinavia. Built in the 13th century, you can walk the grounds around the ruins with stunning views of the water. Don’t miss the interactive museum for reconstructions of the castle and displays depicting what life was like back in the day. Children, large and small, will love trying on the traditional garb to get a better sense of who may have lived here so long ago.
From Vikings to Kings and now modern day, Bornholm is about as perfect as a precisely wrapped package. Come here. Slow down. This present is best unwrapped slowly. Savoured. Spend at least a few days here. A week would be better. There is a little something to satisfy everyone. It is the ultimate taste of everything Danish outside the big cities. Have you been? For more information: www.bornholm.info/en