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Norra Hamnen, Helsingborg
View of the marina Norra Hamnen (North Harbour) in Helsingborg.
Photo credit: Feras Jarghon

Helsingborg – a fusion of history, innovation and coastal beauty

The Swedish city of Helsingborg is a coastal gem. Recognised as one of Europe’s most innovative cities, it also boasts historical significance and spectacular nature.

A city of compelling contrast, the southern Sweden city of Helsingborg is steeped in history while it’s also celebrated for its innovation-driven spirit – so much so that it won second prize in the European Capital of Innovation Awards 2020. Also known as “iCapital”, this annual prize is awarded to the European city best able to demonstrate its ability to harness innovation to improve the lives of its residents – something Helsingborg excels at.

In a joint effort, academia, businesses and associations have come together with residents to develop smart, sustainable solutions, resulting in projects targeting everything from food waste and loneliness to integration, equality and eco transport – such as electric, zero-emission ferries from Helsingborg to Helsingör.

There’s a lot more to Helsingborg than innovation, though. This charming city, located on the west coast of Sweden in the idyllic province of Skåne – right across the Öresund strait from Denmark – has a fascinating past, much of which is immortalised in its remarkably well-preserved old town. Add to that a wealth of culture and magnificent coastal nature and you have a dream destination offering something for everyone.

Helsingborg Town Hall

Helsingborg Town Hall seen from Stortorget. A bronze statue depicting Magnus Stenbock in the foreground.

Photo: Freddy Billqvist

Helsingborg’s must-see historic architecture

Helsingborg’s status as a town was first recorded in 1085 and due to its political and military importance, it rose to prominence in the Middle Ages. Wandering the picturesque streets of the city’s old town, you’ll come across a string of significant buildings, including the medieval Kärnan tower. This fascinating edifice is the only remains of Helsingborg Castle, which was built under Danish rule at the beginning of the 14th century. On the opposite side of Öresund stands the fortress of Kronborg, and these two historic landmarks guarded the entrance between Kattegat and Öresund. Discover Kärnan from the inside by climbing the spiral staircase all the way to the roof terrace, where spectacular views across the cityscape and sea await.

Kärnan in Helsignborg
The medieval tower Kärnan in Helsingborg, Skåne. Photo: David Lundin

A stone’s throw from Kärnan nestles another architectural highlight – Mariakyrkan (St. Mary’s Church). Dating back to the 12th century, it was later rebuilt in gothic style. The neo-Gothic Town Hall – inaugurated in 1897 – is hard to miss with its decorative façade, beautiful stained glass windows and tall clock tower.

Mariakyrkan in Helsingborg
Mariakyrkan (St. Mary’s Church) in central Helsingborg. Photo: Sandra Sjöberg

Mariakyrkan in Helsingborg
Inside Mariakyrkan (St. Mary’s Church) in central Helsingborg. Photo: Måns Fornander

Biking in Helsingborg

Biking along the waterfront and the cold bath house Pålsjöbaden in Helsingborg, Skåne.

Photo: Martin Sörbo

Natural beauty spots and outdoor adventures

Helsingborg is surrounded by magnificent nature incorporating idyllic coastline and lush nature reserves. Take in acres of this natural wonderland on two wheels by cycling along the well-established routes running along these shores – and much further afield. Kattegattleden stretches across 395 kilometres, from Helsingborg and all the way to Gothenburg – via the beautiful province of Halland – further north. Along the way, you’ll experience cosy fishing villages, historic sites, sandy beaches and breath-taking viewpoints. Also consider the coastal trail, Sydkustleden (the south west trail), a 260 km stretch running from Helsingborg to Simrishamn on the southeast side of Sweden. Skåneleden and Öresundsleden are also great hiking alternatives.

View of Kattegattleden in Halland
The bike route Kattegattleden stretches between Gothenburg and Helsingborg, on the west coast of Sweden. Photo: Region Halland

Kullaberg, located 40 kilometres north of Helsingborg, is one of Sweden’s most cherished nature reserves and it’s easy to see why – it’s a dramatically beautiful peninsula. Set off on a hike along the many trails that snake through the varied terrain – spanning forest, cliffs and caves – or take in the natural beauty from the waterside in a kayak.

Hovs Hallar Nature Reserve
Hovs Hallar nature reserve in Bjäre Peninsula in south Skåne. Photo: Timo Julku

Hovs Hallar nature reserve in Bjärehalvön (Bjäre peninsula), with its beautifully rugged cliffs, is another must-visit spot. Located about 61 kilometres north of Helsingborg, it’s well worth the 50-minute car journey. Further inland, Söderåsen National Park spreads across an elongated bedrock ridge, and this is where you’ll find Skåne’s highest point at 212 metres above sea level.

National park Söderåsen, east of Helsingborg
Just east of Helsingborg you encounter ridges covered with beech forests, dramatic valleys and flowing streams: the Söderåsen National Park. Photo: Mickael Tannus

If you fancy going for a swim, try the local 150-year-old custom of ‘kallbad’, cold bathing, in one of the three open-air bath houses of Pålsjöbaden, Kallis or Rååbaden. Helsingborg also offers several fine sand beaches, one of which also has its own palm trees, the Tropical Beach in the city centre.

Beach cafe at the Tropical Beach in Helsingborg, Skåne
A beach cafe by the sea at the Tropical Beach in Helsingborg, Skåne Photo: Carolina Romare

Sofiero Castle

Prince Oscar and his wife Sophie bought and refurbished Sofiero Castle in the late 19th century. It has a beautiful garden and is now a popular tourist destination in Helsingborg, Skåne.

Photo: Apelöga

Helsingborg’s cultural top spots

Helsingborg has a distinctive cultural identity and this is celebrated to the full at Dunkers Kulturhus (Dunker’s culture centre). Named after local industrialist Henry Dunker, this museum and art centre charts the history of the city from the Ice Age to the modern day and puts on all manner of exhibitions and events. The building, designed by Danish modernist Kim Utzon, is worth a visit in its own right.

A short walk from the city centre you’ll find the Fredriksdal museum and gardens. The biggest of its kind in Sweden, it will have you immersed in local agriculture and historic villages via authentic experiences and genuine environments – complete with farmyard animals and performers sharing stories of historic characters’ everyday lives.

Fredriksdal outdoor museum
Fredriksdal museum and gardens in Helsingborg. Photo: Anders Ebefeldt

Fifteen minutes by car or one hour’s walk from Fredriksdal, you’ll find Sofiero Castle and Gardens, with panoramic views of the Öresund strait. Built in 1864, and a former royal summer residence, its garden was voted the most beautiful garden in 2010.

North-West Skåne is known as Sweden’s ceramics district, home to a talented community of potters, sculptors and craftsmen using clay as their medium. Keramiskt Center Höganäs and Mölle Krukmakeri are among the most famous and both are well worth a visit, but also consider Wallåkra Stoneware Factory that has been making pottery on-site for over a century and invites you to witness the process and buy their wares. All potteries are reached by car in 20-40 minutes from Helsingborg.

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Exterior of Dunkers Kulturhus, Skåne

Dunkers Kulturhus in Helsingborg offers several art exhibitions, and you can even create your own music or art during your visit.

Photo: Sydpol.com

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Exterior of Dunkers Kulturhus, Skåne

Photo: Sydpol.com

Dunkers Kulturhus

Photo: Martin Olson, Momedia

Sunset over Dunkers Kulturhus, Skåne

Photo: Beatrice Stiernstedt

Sofiero Castle

Photo: Apelöga

Buffet at Sofiero Castle, Skåne

Photo: Carolina Romare

Sofiero Castle and Garden, Skåne

Photo: Carolina Romare

Owner Lisa Wohlfart at Mölle Krukmakeri

Photo: Frits Meyst / MeystPhoto.com

Mölle Krukmakeri

Photo: Frits Meyst WideOyster.com

Höganäs ceramics

Photo: Carolina Romare

A taste of Helsingborg – where to eat and drink

Helsingborg’s culinary culture focuses on local, seasonal produce. Restaurant Bara Vara bases its diverse menu on the ingredients available at any given time – think local lamb, freshly caught mussels and a medley of vegetables – and it’s a popular spot for a drink in the evening.

Restaurant Bara Vara in  Helsingborg
Bara Vara is a restaurant and bar in central Helsingborg. Photo: Bara Vara

Perched on an elevated position at Landborgen with spectacular views across the water, with Denmark visible in the distance, Möllebacken Restaurang & Café is one of Helsingborg’s most cherished restaurants – and has been since 1912, when it served up its first waffle.

Möllebacken Restaurant & Café in Helsingborg
Möllebacken Restaurang & Café located on Landborgen with a fantastic view of Helsingborg. Photo: Möllebacken Restaurang & Café

In the same area, you’ll find the White Guide-listed café Conditori Två Systrar (Patisserie Two Sisters), brimming with homemade baked goods – sweet and savoury – as well as lighter meals, such as salads and the Swedish classic prawn sandwich.

Conditori Två Systrar
Conditori Två Systrar (Patisserie Two Sisters) is a cosy café in Helsingborg. Photo: Två Systrar

If you have a sweet tooth, make sure not to miss the award-winning pralines of Chocolatte chocolate factory, in central Helsingborg, and the premium liquorice of Lakritsfabriken, 2 kilometres from the city centre.

Don’t leave Helsingborg without sampling the local specialty “bulle med bulle” (bun with bun). This delightfully quirky snack consists of a bread roll stuffed with an oat-based chocolate ball – a much-loved Swedish treat. Ever the innovator, Helsingborg has never shied away from trying something new. This eccentric custom dates back to the 1930s.

Practical information before your trip to Helsingborg

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Rusthållargården in Skåne

Rusthållargården is a family-owned hotel beautifully located by the sea in Arild, Skåne.

Photo: Carolina Romare

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Rusthållargården in Skåne

Photo: Carolina Romare

The Vault Hotel in Helsingborg

Photo: The Vault Hotel

The Vault Hotel in Helsingborg

Photo: The Vault Hotel