Bornholm, Denmark.

Bornholm, Denmark.
© Göran Henckel

Bornholm: the gastronomic island

Bornholm is renowned for its smokehouses, where herring, salmon, shrimp, and mackerel are transformed into culinary delights. Yet, the island off the coast of Skåne offers a rich gastronomic experience beyond its smokehouses. Local ingredients, culinary expertise and restaurants converge to create an enticing culinary landscape.

The iconic tall white chimneys stand tall against the backdrop of a blue sky, emitting wisps of smoke barely visible to the eye. At the heart of this tradition stands Niels Kowsky, a third-generation smokehouse master. Despite learning the craft from his family at a young age, Niels opted not to continue the family business after the passing of his parents. Instead, he found solace as a smokehouse master at "Hasle Smokehouse", the sole establishment on the island still employing traditional hand-operated methods. Niels' day begins at dawn, delicately kindling the fire with small shavings to prevent the fish from falling into the flames. The choice of wood, once dictated by geographical location, now favors beech as the preferred fuel.

Herrings sway gently on long rods over the fire, while salmon, mackerel, and shrimp rest on steel grates. Nearby, a bucket of water and a long-handled scoop await to quell any sudden flames caused by dripping fat. Niels' meticulous attention ensures that the smoked fish emerges with a golden skin and tender flesh, ready to be savored in the adjacent restaurant.

The island's smokehouse tradition dates back to 1866 when the first smokehouse opened in Gudhjem. In Gudhjem alone, there were once so many smokehouses that the town was called "the city with a hundred chimneys". Once a thriving industry, herring smoking was Bornholm's economic backbone a century ago. Today, the decline in herring population from the Baltic Sea has shifted the primary sourcing of herring to the Kattegatt.

Gudhjem, nestled on the east coast, is the birthplace of smokehouses. Here, the classic dish "Sun over Gudhjem" beckons, featuring hot-smoked herring fillet, red onion, and egg yolk atop an open-faced sandwich. Raw egg yolk, a customary accompaniment, adds richness and texture to the smoked herring. Another Bornholm staple is salt herring paired with rye bread, caramelized onions, beetroots, and Bornholm mustard, a flavorful delight for those craving robust saltiness.

The smokehouses have become a focal point for tourists, offering all-you-can-eat buffets or à la carte menus showcasing the mastery of smoked fish. A kilometer from Gudhjem lies Bornholm's Food Culture House, serving as a nexus for culinary exploration. Here, Thomas Guldbæk, a native of Bornholm, runs, among other things, a development project with the Bornholm Regional Municipality to promote local producers, define the island's terroir, and create a community both among producers and between producers and restaurants.

Svaneke, south of Gudhjem, charms visitors with its picturesque fishing village ambiance and its brewery dating back to 1750. Svaneke Brewery, housed in a historic merchant's house, produces organic, unfiltered, and unpasteurized beer, inviting patrons to savor its unique flavors. The village is a haven for food enthusiasts, offering attractions such as Svaneke Chocolaterie, which produces exquisite flødeboller with a marzipan- or hazelnut bottom and a thick layer of chocolate around their fluffy and sweet interior. Once in Svaneke, you can also easily stroll over to Bornholm's Ice Creamery stop by Svaneke Torv for a meal or a glass of natural wine at the bistro Vinøst, which also has its own wine sales.

Further south lies restaurant "Kadeau", the island's sole Michelin-starred fine dining establishment. With its beachfront location and exquisite cuisine rooted in Bornholm's terroir, "Kadeau" entices gastronomes from around the world. This year, the restaurant has obtained accommodation through a collaboration with Eco Beach Camp, featuring spacious canvas tents in a unique location on the beachfront, just a 10-minute drive from "Kadeau". Nearby, Hotel Nordlandet, overlooking the sea cliffs in Allinge, offers a classic Nordic menu showcasing local ingredients. And the best pizza and pastry is found at Brødre Bageri in Tejn.

Bornholm's rich culinary tapestry extends to "Det Røde Pakhus", known for its various open-faced sandwiches, and Torvehallerne in Rønne, where a myriad of Bornholm specialties await discovery. From pasta made with locally grown durum wheat to sea buckthorn jam and traditional rye biscuits, these establishments offer a taste of Bornholm's unique flavors, inviting visitors to take home a piece of the island's culinary heritage.


Restaurant Kadeau,
Torvehallarne in Rønne,
Smokehouse in Hasle,
Smokehouse in Gudhjem,
Gaarden, centrum för Bornholmsk matkultur,
Svaneke Bryggeri,
Sveneke Chocoladeri,
Bornholms ismejeri,
Svaneke Købmandshandel,
Vinøst, bistro, vinbar och försäljning,
Brødre Bageri, Nordre Strandvej 57, Tejn
Restaurant Nordlandet,


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Tove Oskarsson Henckel
Tove Oskarsson Henckel
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