Marathon on the Rocks

25 June 2022

Travel to Bornholm

Denmark's rocky island Bornholm offers an exquisite taste of the history and culture of Denmark. Expect to encounter an idyllic archipelago, picturesque harbors and “hygge” towns.

Bornholm, also known as the sunshine island, is probably one of Denmark’s best kept secrets until now. While the Danes have always been attracted to the island, it has remained relatively unknown to the rest of the world. This small island is home to many treasures, from its coastal cliffs, to its medieval fortress to its culinary wonders. 

You will not cease to be amazed by all the wonders Bornholm has to offer.

 

How to get to Bornholm

To book your flight to Bornholm (RNN), use this link.

To book tickets for the bus from Denmark to Bornholm, use this kombardoexpressen. The bus will pick up people from several places in Denmark. From Copenhagen you can enter the bus from DGI-byen (Copenhagen City Center) or Copenhagen Airport.

Drive yourself: If you bring your own car to Bornholm, you can choose ferries from Denmark (Køge), Sweden (Ystad) or Germany (Sassnitz). You can find info about bornholmslinjen here.

 

The Location 

You may be surprised to learn Bornholm is a Danish island by looking at its location, lying in the Baltic sea between Sweden, Poland and Germany. Although it may seem far away, the island is closer than you think to Copenhagen, the Danish capital. You can either hop on a 35-minute flight or drive across the famous disappearing Oresund bridge to Sweden and take a ferry from Ystad to Rønne.

The northern tip of Bornholm is home to Northern Europe's largest Medieval ruins, Hammershus. In Gudhjem we can find a fishing port and steep, picturesque streets. Svaneke is known as Bornholm's gastronomical center. Here, beer is brewed, licorice is made, gin is produced and much more. 

 

History and Culture 

Vikings on Bornholm

Although there is great uncertainty regarding the whereabouts and date of the Vikings' realm of Bornholm, historians have managed to put pieces of the puzzle together. 
The first time Bornholm appears in written sources dates back to c. 890, from the travel descriptions of Norwegian Seafarer Ohthere and Wulfstan. This was around the time of Gorm the Old, the first well-known ruler of Denmark. The two men were sent out on a voyage of discovery along the Baltic Sea and the North Sea by Anglo-Saxon king Alfred the Great. At the time, the explorers wrote that Bornholm still had its own king. In other words, Bornholm remained outside the Danish realm of Gorm the Old. The island is believed to have lost its independence in the late 10th century.
In fact, the second time we hear of Bornholm is in Adam of Bremen's description of Scandinavia in 1070; it is referred to as part of the Danish Kingdom. By this time, the people of Bornholm moved away from old pagan beliefs and transitioned into Christianity; this can be deduced by the treasures found on the island. 
To this day, traces of Vikings are plentiful on the island, from menhirs and runestones to burial sites. Bornholm boasts over 1,000 menhirs scattered around the island, more than any other part of Denmark. Bornholm is also home to numerous burial sites such as Bøgebjerg, just south of Østerlars, the most prominent one. The island has over 40 runestones, these replaced menhirs (which had no inscriptions) and were used as a tribute to the deceased. 
However, many will argue that the most glorious relic of the Viking Age in Bornholm is Gamleborg (Old Castle) in Almindingen forest. Gamleborg, as implied by its name, is the oldest stone-built wall not only in Bornholm but in the whole of Denmark. 
You can truly breathe the Viking culture on Bornholm, you just need to keep an eye out for the traces they have left behind for us to explore. We hope that running along the settlements of these skilled sailors will bring you one step closer to them.
 

History 

Bornholm is located in the middle of the Baltic Sea, which made it an important trading point. It was once a Viking stronghold, the island was independent until the 10th century. Bornholm was then controlled by Sweden, and sometime around the 12th century, the archbishop constructed Hammershus and the famous round churches. In the 16th century, Bornholm was pawned to Lübeck (a German city) for 50 years. In 1645, Sweden regained control of the island but left again the same year. In 1658, Bornholm was awarded to Sweden by the Treaty of Roskilde but was turned over to Denmark in 1660. 

Bornholm remained a Danish island until World War II, when the Germans occupied the island. It served as a lookout post and listening station during the war. Bornholm was heavily bombarded by the Russians in 1945 to hasten German surrender. After the evacuation of the Soviets from the island, Danish troops remained on the island to protect it from foreign invasions. 

Government 

Bornholm Regional Municipality is the local authority covering the entire island, it is the result of a merger between the five former municipalities of the island. From 2007, Bornholm became part of the Capital Region of Denmark whose main responsibility is the health service. 

Language 

The official language of Bornholm is Danish. However, they also have their own dialect, Bornholmsk dialect. 

Culture

Today, 15 medieval churches can still be visited in Bornholm. Four of the churches are round with unique architecture, the largest church is Østerlars. After the bombings, Sweden donated 300 wooden houses to help rebuild the towns of Rønne and Nexø, these “Swede houses” make up a significant part of the town’s charm and history. 

Bornholm is known as the sunshine island because it gets the most hours of daylight in all of Denmark. This, along with its breathtaking landscape, may be the reason it has attracted so many artists in the past. In fact, Bornholm was the first place in Europe to become a World Craft Region in 2017. The island’s light and scenery has inspired the vibrant creative culture, which in turn, has led to the emergence of a handicraft mecca. 

Art is not all it has to offer; the culinary scene of the island is also blossoming. Bornholm is not only famous for its smokehouses and fishing villages, but also for its fertile land. So, it comes as no surprise that this charming island is becoming the next foodie destination. 

Bornholm and its people are known for their laid-back way of living. They like to disconnect from the hustle and bustle and live by the mantra “less is more”.  

Cuisine 

Following a collapse of the fishing industry in the 1900s, due to overfishing, the locals had to turn to their fertile land and sunlight for farming. The island quickly gained a reputation for their local ingredients, and demand from Copenhagen restaurants has been growing ever since. Kadeau, a Michelin-starred restaurant on the island, is known as one of the pioneers of the Nordic trend for the use of local ingredients.   

Today, the island is best known for their smoked herring and licorice. 

 

Nature & Environment

Geography and Geology 

Bornholm is sometimes referred to as the rock island, due to its geology. The northern two-thirds of the island is composed of granite and a dramatic coastal cliff with high-lying forests inland. Some of its best-known cliffs are Sanctuary Cliffs and Jon’s Chapel. Bornholm is home to Denmark’s third largest forest, Almindingen. The southern part of the island is made up of sandstone, limestone and shale and is better known for its sandy dunes. You may have heard of Dueodde Beach, famous for its fine white sand and clear water. 
 

Flora & Fauna

Bornholm’s wide variety of natural habitats includes pastures, woods, wetlands, moors, beaches and rocky heaths. Due to its unique positioning and climate, Bornholm is very rich in its flora and fauna. 

In Hammershus alone, there are more than 300 species of plants – over ten percent of all Danish species are found here. About 50 species of plants can be traced back to the Middle Age when monks would import and grow these plants for medical purposes.  

Some of the larger animals on the island are deer, pheasants, hares and partridges. There are also some bison, seven of these were originally imported from Poland in 2012. Several bat species have also been found on the island, including the Bechstein's bat, it is so rare that it is considered to be an endangered species.  The bogs and lakes are home to countless amphibians, reptiles and insects. 

Bornholm is also a great place to watch migrating birds. The nesting cliffs are home to razorbill and peregrine falcons. It is a breeding ground for raven and goshawk. Winter visitors include the sea eagle and osprey. 

The absence of carnivorous predators has greatly influenced the island’s wildlife; allowing birds to nest on the ground and resulting in the densest population of deer in Denmark.