We (that is Adéla and me) have been to the Danish island of Bornholm a couple of times now. The following recommendations, tips and pieces of advice are based solely on our summer trips there and therefore cannot be exhaustive. But they could be useful for anyone who longs for a week or two in this beautiful place.
There are lots of reasons for visiting Bornholm. For us, the key arguments are as follows.
A pleasant climate with plenty of sunshine and constant mild wind means temperate (and pleasantly cool) temperatures. Nice people who speak English (and German and understand Swedish) and who will greet you on the street with a smile but will be happy to skip the small-talk (although they will gladly explain anything you may be interested in). Beautiful small towns where you can easily find inspiration for your own home. Smokehouses offering herring and other fish. Food in general, because there are plenty of farms, cafés and bistros, some of which are truly amazing. Shops with mostly modernist antiquities from Danish households. And beautiful white sandy beaches with pine trees and dunes.
When to go
Early summer. All cafés, bistros, shops and sights are already open but Scandinavian and German tourists are still few. And the prices for accommodation are more reasonable. (The high season really begins in early July and lasts until mid-August.)
If you don’t care about dining that much and enjoy nature, the end of summer is also worth trying out - the sea is warmer (though it is still the cold Baltic). But don’t be surprised if the opening hours are different than advertised or if you come across the „See you next year!“ sign on the door.
Where to stay
There are plenty of summer houses on the island that you can rent. They are fairly well equipped and nicely decorated. Often for six or more people. Opt for a house near the southern coast, possibly between Boderne and Dueodde. The closer the beach, the better. Do not be afraid if the house is in the woods. We had only good experience with Novasol but you could also try Airbnb.
Getting there and getting around
We prefer to travel by car. Yes, the ferry is a bit slow but the car gives you much more opportunities on Bornholm. The island is small (it takes around forty minutes to drive from one coast to the other) but the sights are all over the place. We took the ferry from Sassnitz, Germany which is less expensive on weekdays. Tickets need to be bought well in advance.
There are also frequent and inexpensive flights to Bornholm from Copenhagen.
Some houses come with bikes that you can use, or you can easily rent one. Bornholm is mostly flat and there are bike lanes.
What to wear
Bornholm has the highest number of sunny days in the whole of Denmark. Earlier in the summer, the weather is more stable. That usually means plenty of sunshine and a constant gentle cooling breeze. (Be careful if your skin burns easily!) Short pants/dress and some light jacket or sweatshirt is usually enough.
A light tent or a screen may come handy on the beach but a second bath towel might also be enough.
Bread costs around 30 Danish crowns, you can get a cup of coffee and a piece of cake under 90. A decent meal will cost around 130. Most places (including food trucks and stands) accept cards.
Where to eat
A fish smokehouse - røgeri - is in almost every larger town and you can easily find it because of the distinctive shape of its chimneys. The offer is mostly the same in all of these places: smoked herring, mackerel, salmon or shrimp, Danish potato salad, rye bread. Local specialities include roast salted herring and Sol over Gudhjem - smoked herring on a slice of rye bread with raw egg yolk, chives and often also radish and red onion.
Kalas-Kalas / Is Kalas is a family-run double feature in a simple seaside house in Sandvig. From one side it is an ice cream shop, from the other a café with outdoor seating and a beautiful view of the sea. Norresan in Gudhjem has similar atmosphere and style - it is in a former smokehouse.
Visit Fru Petersens Café only if you have time to spare. Situated in a beautiful old house just outside the town of Østermarie, it has a lovely garden and charming atmosphere of old-world salons. For 145 Danish crowns you can drink as much coffee, tea and cocoa and eat as much cake as you like - and there is plenty to choose from. (There is similar all-you-can-eat smørrebrød from noon till three.)
Hallegaard serves as a base for one of the local butchers. You can buy meat, sausages, delicious dried ham and also get a hotdog or freshly prepared smørrebrød.
Lykkelund Goat Farm offers both fresh and mature cheese and goat milk ice cream.
The Flæskestegen in Svaneke harbor is named after the pork roast with a crispy skin which you can get here in a bun - with red cabbage and pickles.
Svaneke Ismejeri is an ice cream parlour that is gradually expanding beyond its hometown. The original establishment is worth a visit not only because of the frozen dessert, there is also a beautiful garden.
Torvehal is a miniature market in the building of former slaughterhouses in Rønne. On the stands, there are local agricultural products (including meat and sausages from Hallegaard), beer from several of Bornholm breweries and a few imported delicacies. You can have a salad, fish, meat or sandwich. Also on the premises: coffee roasters and a gardening shop.
For those who appreciate top quality food, there are also a few truly stellar restaurants: Kadeau (Michelin Star) is not only stunning for its cuisine based on ingredients from Bornholm but also its location just above the beach; Nordlandet which is a part of a hotel of the same name and has both a restaurant and a bar (called Underbar); Stammershalle (Michelin Plate) is in an old-timey hotel on the northern shore.
Also, buy fresh vegetables, fruits, honey or jam in the boxes that farmers place alongside roads. It is a self-service system based on trust: take the goods and leave the money. A sack of new potatoes is usually for 30 crowns.
Sights, nature and architecture
Svaneke is probably the most beautiful town on Bornholm. Stroll around, buy something at the local market, eat at the brewery or take a short walk to the lighthouse that you can also rent.
Gudhjem can be very lively and touristy during summer. Still, it is well worth your time.
Rønne may look a bit boring at first but its charm is very unpretentious. Make sure you visit the church. And don’t be afraid to get lost for a while in the streets of this old town.
There are four round churches on the island, each one a bit different. They date back to the 12th and 13th centuries and they also served as fortresses. Each has a richly decorated column in the very centre: breathtaking.
The ruins of the Hammershus fortress are the largest of their kind in Scandinavia. Located on a cliff overlooking the Baltic Sea, nowadays surrounded only by tourists and sheep. Take a walk to the nearby Hammer Havn and back.
The Helligdomsklipperne cliffs are just a few meters from the remarkable Bornholms Kunstmuseum. Well worth the many steps that you need to take on your way down and back up. That is also true of Jons Kapel which is near the town of Vang.
The remarkable Hasle Havnebad (Harbor Swimming Pool) has its own sauna which is open to public.
Swimming & sunbathing
Ah, those white sandy beaches lined with pine trees! You could basically stop anywhere on the shore between Boderne and Snogebæk and go for a swim. That is if you don’t mind cold water and some wind. Dueodde and Balka Strand is where most people go - but don’t expect crowds, this is Denmark.
Also worth seeing and/or doing
Rent a bike. Or an electric bike. Or a kayak.
Visit any of the local glassworks - such as the Baltic Sea Glass near Gudhjem.
See what a design store looks like when it is on a farm - Storms Rum near Nexø is open on weekends.
There is also most - organic fruit juice from Bornholms Mosteri. Rhubarb is especially refreshing.
Take a hike in the Almindingen forest (the largest in Denmark) - to the lookout tower at Rytterknægten, the Ekkodal valley, or to the ruins of the Viking fortress of Gamleborg. Don’t forget to pick mushrooms on your way.
Take a walk around Hammerknudden near Sandvig: there are sheep, two lighthouses and the largest lake on the island - Hammersø.