Malmö, Sweden – a cultural hub for gastronomy, history and innovation
- The average age of Malmö residents is 36, making it one of Sweden’s youngest cities.
- A local artists collective, Anonymouse, has built miniature mouse houses, restaurants, shops and amusement parks around the city. So, when walking the streets, make sure to look down.
- Malmö’s Turning Torso was the world’s first ‘twisted’ skyscraper.
Malmö – in the far south of Sweden, just across the Öresund strait from Copenhagen in Denmark – is the third largest city in the country after Stockholm and Gothenburg. A swirl of diversity, a mishmash of old and new, Malmö is one of the most eclectic cities in Scandinavia. Spiraling skyscrapers loom above bustling centuries-old squares, and unassuming brick facades house a treasure of modern artistic creations. This incredible city will capture your heart and leave you wanting more.
Founded in the late 1200s, Malmö originally belonged to Denmark, only becoming Swedish in 1658. Today, the city is home to over 316,000 people, a true melting pot of cultures, with residents hailing from over 170 countries.
Belonging to the Skåne province, which covers the southernmost tip of Sweden, the Malmö weather is slightly milder than in the rest of the country. Located at the edge of the sea, it is a fairly windy city. But in general, you’ll find warm, pleasant summers and relatively temperate winters.
A stunning Old Town filled with old-world charm
Walking along the cobblestone streets of Old Town (Gamla Staden), you’ll get a taste of life in years gone by. That is, until you stumble upon one of the many funky galleries, trendy boutiques or stylish cafés that line the narrow streets.
The Old Town is an island in the heart of the city, split into two parts: the Gamla Väster district in the west, filled with historical buildings, and the eastern district, which was revitalized in the 1960s. Wandering the picturesque streets, you’ll inevitably end up in Stortorget, the oldest and largest square in Malmö, encircled by beautiful 16th century architecture. Stortorget remains a centre of activity and is a good place to orient yourself when exploring this vibrant neighbourhood.
One block northeast of the square, you’ll find Malmö’s oldest building, Saint Peter’s Church (St. Petri Kyrka). This 14th century Gothic church is a brick masterpiece and its ceilings are covered with some of the finest late-medieval paintings in Scandinavia. Just southwest of Stortorget, you’ll find Lilla Torg, with its quaint restaurants, bars and cafés – a favourite meet-up spot for locals for over 500 years.
Lilla torg in Malmö. Photo: Werner Nystrand
A cultural centre for art, history and design
In keeping with its identity as a city of contrasts, just south of the historic Lilla Torg, lies the Form/Design Center. Hiding in the guise of an old tenement building, the Form/Design Center is an exhibition space celebrating modern art, design and architecture, complete with a lovely courtyard and café.
And if you’re a museum lover, you’ll want to make your way to Malmöhus Castle. Surrounded by a medieval moat, this fortress was built in the mid 16th century, making it the oldest preserved Renaissance castle in Scandinavia. Pay a visit to this stoic red brick building and discover it houses an aquarium, a natural history museum, Nordic art exhibitions and a variety of temporary expositions. One entry ticket gives you access to everything.
If you’re looking to take in even more culture during your visit, head to the Modern Art Museum (Moderna Museet), Malmö Konsthall – one of Europe’s largest exhibition halls for contemporary art – or enjoy a performance at the Malmö Opera.
Modern marvels showcasing daring feats of construction and engineering
A hub of Scandinavian ingenuity, Malmö boasts some of the most impressive modern structures in Northern Europe. The Öresund Bridge, made world famous thanks to the Swedish-Danish hit television series The Bridge, is an 8 km railway and motorway bridge that runs from Malmö to Copenhagen across the Öresund strait. It’s the longest bridge of its kind in Europe. The 10-minute drive involves crossing the bridge to the island of Pepparholm, where you’ll descend into the 4 km Drogden Tunnel that runs underwater to Copenhagen’s Amager Island. The total trip is 16 km, many people commuting daily to work from one country to the other.
Another feat of modern engineering that’s well worth a visit is Malmö’s Turning Torso, the tallest building in Scandinavia (though several higher buildings are now under construction). This neo-futuristic skyscraper is residential, its 54 floors twisting 190 metres into the sky in the centre of the city’s trendiest new neighbourhood, Västra Hamnen (Western Harbour, a sustainable urban hub run on 100% wind/solar energy and biogas). Snap a shot of this towering marvel before exploring this hip district with new boutiques, restaurants and cafés popping up every day.
The Turning Torso is the highest skyscraper in Scandinavia with its 190,4 m and 25 floor. It is a residential building and was designed by Santiago Calatrava Photo: Silvia Man/imagebank.sweden.se
Things to do in Malmö
Malmö is a small, friendly city with a good choice of cultural attractions, including the new Moderna Museet Malmö. Look out for Malmö’s many quality restaurants and bistros and great cafés. And the shopping isn’t bad either, especially if you’re looking for Swedish design-ware and hip, new Swedish fashion labels. Things to do in Malmö
“Malmö is pushing the boundaries of Swedish design”
Jenny Ekdahl is the industrial designer who, through her own Studio Stoft, has been part of transforming Malmö to an obvious design destination. This is her guide to Malmö’s thriving design scene.
A healthy dose of green can be found in Malmö’s many parks
In the midst of all this urbanity, you’ll find several green oases. Slottsträdgården, just west of Old Town surrounding Malmöhus Castle, is a 12,000 sqm garden resplendent with ornamental plants, an orchard garden, a rose garden, a Japanese garden as well as edible crops. Meander along the verdant pathways and enjoy a coffee at the garden’s café.
Folkets Park is a quick 10-minute bus ride or 20-minute walk south of Old Town. It hosts a wealth of activities like carnival rides, playgrounds, a children’s theatre and mini golf. And for the adults, it is home to concerts, events, restaurants and cafes.
Other popular parks include: Kungsparken – Malmö’s version of Central Park that provides 34 hectares of green space across the canal from Slottsträdgården – and Pildammsparken that lies a little further to the south.
If you want to swap the green for a dose of the deep blue sea, head to Malmö’s city beach, Ribersborgsstranden (known to locals as ‘Ribban’). A short 6-minute bike ride from Västra Hamnen, or less than 10 minutes from Old Town, this sandy stretch of coastline is perfect for cooling off on a warm summer’s day. Luxuriate with a spa experience or just take a dip in the sea at the historic Ribersborgs Kallbadhus (outdoor bath house).
Flavours of the world
The culturally diverse makeup of the city means the international food scene in Malmö is top notch. Head to Pink Head Headquarters for a modern take on traditional Asian cuisine. Or, go on the hunt for Malmö’s best falafel, testing local favourites like Värnhems Falafel and The Orient House of Falafel No 1.
If you’re more interested in sampling local delicacies, Lyran won’t disappoint. Chefs expertly combine ingredients from local farmers, fishermen and hunters to create their daily 4-course menu that changes based on available fresh ingredients.
Whatever your tastes, Malmö has a culinary experience for you. And for the more daring foodies, a visit to the Disgusting Food Museum will test your limits and expand your palate in ways you never thought possible.