The town of Svaneke was awarded with the title of Denmarks most beautiful town in 2013 competing with 14 other towns in Denmark. Bygningskultur Danmark focused in their rating on the qualities of the historical city centres. Svaneke preserves the townscape very well – and was already in 1975 awarded the European Gold medal for perpetuation of the town. Today Svaneke has a population of 1,044 (2017).
In 2018, the association Svanekes Venner marked architect Jørn Utzon’s 100-year-anniversary with several events through the summer. Jørn Utzon drew and designed the famous watertower in Svaneke.
In Svaneke you’ll find many preserved half-timbered houses and farmhouses, who raise from the rocky cliffs by the harbour and up along the streets of the town and side by side with stone walls. Behind many of them there are unique rockeries with mulberry and fig trees. The houses themselves are chalked-up – often in a warm-yellow colour.
The town of Svaneke and its harbour open up to the East, which is why the mornings are the most beautiful hours in the town. The sun still stands low over the sea and sends its rays into the town with the colourful house fronts and green gardens.
The market square in Svaneke is the town’s midpoint with a supermarket and a pub. You could visit the candy store at the market square, where you can see how the candies are made the old way, and you can also taste them. Every Saturday in summer there is a cosy market day here – often with music and enterntainment. Svaneke has even a horse tram, that stops at the market square and offers cosy tours through the old town.
During the summer the parking lots next to Svaneke Harbour can experience congestion. We recommend that you use the two parking lots at Korshøje or Sydskovvej when you visit Svaneke during the summer holidays. These two parking lots offer free parking and lovely scenic walking routes through the cosy small streets of Svaneke town. The parking lots at the harbour can then be utilized for people with difficulty walking or wheelchairs.
There are a lot of galleries, glass bloweries, ceramicists and other craftsmen in Svaneke – a lot of them with studios that are open to visitors. Take also a unique short walk from the harbour through the so called “Brænderigænget” to the Glass market, where quite a few of the local artists and craftsmen together have created a shared environment for their arts and crafts. Close to the Glass Market is also Svanekegaarden – a cultural center for exhibitions, music, theatre, debates and much more.
Originals and unique ideas just grow in Svaneke. One of the islands micro-breweries, Svaneke Bryghus, is situated at the corner of the Market square. Another rather unique idea is the “Chicken poo competition” in the “Brænderigænget”. Play on one of the squares from 1-100 and the all you can do is hoping that the chicken will go to the right square and poo on it. Other unique projects are the handmade caramels, licorice, wine gum, chocolate, ice cream and the candies.
When you walk along the harbour to the North, you’ll pass the little house, in which the famous Danish painter Oluf Høst was born in 1884. By the way – the Oluf Høst Museum is situated in the painter’s former studio in Gudhjem. A little further down the path, you’ll reach the beautiful smokehouse with its five shining white chimneys and the old artillery emplacement. In the smokehouse you can enjoy a tasty smoked herring – or take them home for a delicious lunch or dinner. When you walk further, you’ll reach the Vige havn, a little harbour for yawls and other smaller boats.
If you want to walk southwards from the harbour, you’ll pass another small harbour for yawls and the former lighthouse of Svaneke. Passing the lighthouse, you come to Hullehavn beach – a little sandy beach with both cliffs and diving board. There’s also a kiosk, a camping site (Hullehavn Camping) and the café “Sydøst for paradis” (Southeast of Paradise). At the other side, there is another camping site. The hostel of Svaneke is also situated in the southern part of the town, just a few minutes from the harbour.
The town is said to have existed already since around 1200 – as a little fishing village. Svaneke is also said to have been visited frequently by the Hanseatic tradesmen. It is unsecure, when exactly Svaneke became a town, but in 1543 several historic sources say, that the town had both mayor and reeve. But Svaneke was a little town back in 1769, when it had a population of only 562 inhabitants and it was struggling to keep the merchants to the town through the 17th and 18th century. There were populated surroundings to the town, but the fishermen and farmers preferred to go to Nexø – or illegal trading from the many small natural harbours along the coast. Svaneke lost a lot to Rønne, but a modernisation of the harbour helped and also helped to attract several shipyards to the town.
Through the 18th and 19th century the town of Svaneke grew and also trading, seafaring and shipbuilding created raising earnings – at that time the large merchandising estates were built. When the railway was established on Bornholm in the early 1900’s, however, it never came to Svaneke. Therefore the town never experienced the same changes to modernity, that other towns on Bornholm experienced. Therefore it is only natural that an association like “Svanekes venner” (The friends of Svaneke) was formed in order to preserve the old town’s “face” and townscape for future generations. Thanks to part of the association’s work Svaneke was awarded with the honour of being Denmarks most beautiful town in 2013.
When you visit Svaneke on St. John’s Eve (June 23rd) – then go with the locals in the torchlight procession to the lighthouse, where there is a large fire, community singing and fire speech at the coast beneath the lighthouse. Svaneke celebrates both St. Hans Aften and the Well Festival, an old Svaneke tradition to honor the town’s young confirmees.