Bornholm is quintessential Danish island idyll – and it is not without reason that the island is nicknamed the ‘Sunshine Island of Denmark’. Sunshine hours seem to be plentiful on Bornholm, and there is a wealth of possibilities to explore the special nature on the only rock island belonging to Denmark, located in the Baltic Sea. Here you will find anything from enticing white beaches, iconic rock formations and legendary locations to food specialities, art museums and exciting ancient history.
Inspiration: Explore Copenhagen’s Cultural Sights
We are finally off to Bornholm! Circumstances mean that we will only have one full day on Bornholm during our trip. As we want to explore as much as possible of the island, we plan to cover all the main sights in one long day!
Arriving at Rønne at 8 a.m., we are more than ready to take in the whole island!
Rønne is essentially a modern town with only a few old streets still preserved – for instance Storegade with its half-timbered yellow and other pastel-coloured houses – and a hollyhock in front, here and there. There are not many historical streets left today, since the Soviet bombings in 1945 damaged the vast majority of the houses and left most of Rønne in ruins. Therefore, the town had to be significantly rebuilt after the World War.
Moreover, it is an important harbour town that together with Nexø handles most of the ferry, ship, and fishing vessel traffic to Bornholm.
St Nicolai Church, located atop a small hill near the harbour, is the first landmark we spot after arriving – it is a beautiful church dedicated to the patron saint of seafarers with a remarkable ‘half-timbered’ tower. Other sights in town include Bornholms Museum, teaching the history and culture of Bornholm, as well as Bornholm’s Defence Museum, which elaborates on the German and Soviet occupations.
Anyway, we leave this for another time and set off for the island’s great nature experiences.
We turn left at Aakirkeby, a small town that exists since the Middle Ages. This is also where you can visit NaturBornholm, a centre giving insight into the nature and history of Bornholm. That will also be for next time.
Our first stop is Ekkodalen, or the Echo Valley, in the Almindingen forest. This is the largest rift valley in Denmark – 15 kilometres long, and it is definitely one of the highlights on Bornholm due to its special property: the echo. Of course, we need to try the echo effect and shout towards the cliffside – waiting for the echo to come back. It is there! However, we have read that it used to be better, probably because there was earlier not that much vegetation along the vertical cliffs.
Almindingen also features a couple of castle ruins (Lilleborg & Gamleborg), as well as great hiking trails – perfect for a morning hike! In the past, Almindingen was actually a heath where the island cattle were grazing, but from 1800 onwards the area was planted with trees.
We continue on foot to Rokkestenen which is not too far away. It is a gigantic erratic boulder, weighing 7 tons, that rocks when you push it. Rytterknægten, the highest point on Bornholm, is also in the immediate vicinity. With its 162 metres above sea level, it provides from the tower a scenic view of the surrounding landscape.
A bit before noon we find ourselves back on the main road towards Nexø and Dueodde. Nexø is a busy harbour town with a focus on the fishing industry. You will even find Swedish, Finnish and Baltic vessels here. Moreover, Nexø is famous for being the town where the Danish author Martin Andersen Nexø, known for the novel Pelle the Conqueror from 1910 – later made into a film by Bille August, had his childhood home. As a writer, he took ‘Nexø’ as an appendix to his name to reflect his origin. His childhood home can today be visited in Nexø.
Without question, Nexø is a charming town with a beautiful, whitewashed church, a smokehouse, and a most lively atmosphere. The Swedish houses delivered by the Swedish state to Nexø (225 to Nexø in addition to 75 to Rønne) at the end of World War II have still left their mark on the town (at Kong Gustafsvej, Svenskerbyen). They were received after the Soviet bombings on May 7th and 8th 1945, resulting in the Soviet occupation of Bornholm.
Nevertheless, we have decided not to stop at Nexø today, but continue towards the southern tip of Bornholm – passing Balka Beach on the way before approaching Dueodde.
Dueodde Beach is one of the finest beaches both in Denmark and Northern Europe with stretches of pristine white sand on both sides of the tip – definitely a highlight on Bornholm! It is lovely to walk in the sand dunes and on the snow-white beach.
Entering the lighthouse will provide you with panoramic views of this part of the island. Moreover, there is the Bornholm Tower, a former listening post previously belonging to the Danish Intelligence Service, now showing an exhibition from The Cold War on Bornholm.
Returning and continuing past Nexø and Paradisbakkerne (a rocky and hilly area that is also former heathland with several rift valleys, as well as another even larger erratic boulder with a weight of 35 tons!), we arrive at Svaneke around 1 p.m.
This is our chance to enjoy a late lunch at Svaneke Smokehouse. They serve smoked herring, mackerel, salmon, and a lot more fish specialities. To our delight the smokehouse itself is an interesting construction consisting of five authentic chimneys.
Bornholm has earlier had a plethora of smokehouses – up to 135 in its smokehouse heyday! The first smokehouse on the island is believed to having been founded already in 1866! Now there are barely a dozen left on the Sunshine Island!
Another architecturally interesting structure in Svaneke is the famous water tower, designed by the Danish architect Jørn Utzon in 1952 with inspiration from traditional seamarks used for navigation.
Svaneke is a charming small town just like most other of the island’s towns and hamlets. Another attraction is the red church, Svaneke Kirke, which underwent a total reconstruction in 1881. Again in 1955 a comprehensive renovation of the chuch took place.
It is also just off Svaneke that you will find the amusement park Brændegårdshaven.
After Svaneke we continue to one of the four round churches on the island, Østerlars Kirke. There is a unique concentration of these phenomenal round church constructions on Bornholm since four of the seven round churches in Denmark are situated here.
Østerlars Kirke is the largest and presumably the oldest of the round churches on Bornholm. It was dedicated to St Laurentius and likely dates back to 1150.
It is claimed that there is a connection between Østerlars Kirke and the French Knights Templar. However, there is no historical evidence of this.
Gudhjem is next and on the way we drive past Bornholms Middelaldercenter, the Medieval Centre of Bornholm, where various activities from the Middle Ages come alive.
Late afternoon, slightly before 4 p.m. we drive into Gudhjem – just in time for a museum visit. A cultural top attraction here is the Oluf Høst Museum which is housed in his former home in Gudhjem. Inside there is a comprehensive collection of Oluf Høst’s paintings – and outside you can visit his studio and the rock garden which used to be a quarry. Oluf Høst was one of the ‘Bornholm Painters’ at the beginning of the 1900s.
In addition to the Oluf Høst Museum, Gudhjem features numerous other interesting sights: Gudhjem Museum (an art and cultural museum), Gudshjem’s old redoubt, as well as a historical, large rotating disc where the old locomotives used to be turned 180 degrees around.
It is also from Gudhjem that you can take the ferry to the islands Frederiksø and Christiansø (part of the Ertholmene Archipelago – Denmark’s easternmost point) just off Bornholm. In fact, the world’s earliest naval base was located here on the small islands as a fortress back in 1684.
Of course, also Gudhjem has a fascinating smokehouse history – it used to be nicknamed the ‘town of the 100 chimneys’. Gudhjem has also given its name to a dish. A famous plate, smoked herring served on rye bread, is named ‘Sun over Gudhjem’.
After spending a couple of hours in lovely Gudhjem, we continue towards Allinge. On the way we make a short stop to catch a glimpse of Helligdomsklipperne, a famous rock formation. On the other side of the main road we see Døndalen (The Thunder Valley) signposted – that is where you can experience Denmark’s highest waterfall (20 metres).
After passing through the hamlet Tejn, we make a detour to Olsker where one of the other round churches is situated (Sankt Ols Kirke).
Towards 6:30 p.m. we drive into Allinge where we intend to try the large fish buffet at the local smokehouse. Before entering Allinge Røgeri, we just spend half an hour walking up to Madsebakke, an important site with ancient rock carvings that are about 3000 years old! The Bronze Age petroglyphs include some very impressive ships and other symbolic carvings.
We have a super delicious dinner with many smoked fish specialities at the Allinge Smokehouse restaurant, a very cosy and popular place with both indoor and outdoor seating options and an entirely nautical interior. Afterwards we stroll around in the harbour area which is a charming and quaint part of Allinge.
Around 8 p.m. we are ready for some ‘evening sightseeing’ – it is summer and we will have day light for probably another 2-3 hours.
The top sight on Northern Bornholm is unquestionably Hammershus, the ruins of the largest castle in Northern Europe and one of the top attractions in Denmark. It was previously believed that it was a 12th-century castle, built by the Archbishop of Lund. Nevertheless, recent research shows that it was probably not erected until around 1300. For several centuries it was taken back and forth between the Danish King and the Archbishop, until King Christian II finally demanded Hammershus back in 1522. The castle then served to defend the island until the end of the 17th century.
Another purpose Hammershus served was to be a prison for King Christian IV’s daughter Leonora Christina and her husband Corfitz Ulfeldt in 1660-61. They ended up here after being imprisoned for treason.
Before reaching Hammershus, we hike from Sandvig around the natural lake Hammersø, located 9 metres above sea level, as well as the beautiful lake Opalsøen (Opal Lake). The creation of this lake is part of the comprehensive quarrying history, where a loading dock was built at Hammerhavn at the foot of Hammershus, and quarrying took place on Hammerknuden. The entire site was made up of pure granite and a huge quarry industry was established in the 1880’s. At that time it was one of the most modern quarrying projects in Europe.
In 1971 the quarrying came to an end here, and the scenic lake, Opalsøen, was created as the old quarry was filled with water.
Today, there is both a quarry museum, Moseløkken Stenbrudsmuseum, the ruins of a medieval chapel, Salomon’s Chapel, as well as a lighthouse up here at Hammerknuden.
A few hours later we hit the road down the west coast where famous rock formations and sites can be found all along the road towards Rønne – from Løvehovederne (the Lion Heads) right beneath Hammershus, to Pissebækken and Jons Kapel (Jon’s Chapel) north of Hasle.
24 Hours on Bornholm – Sunshine Island of Denmark
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24 Hours on Bornholm – Sunshine Island of Denmark:
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