Sweden’s third biggest city is awash with outdoor life and many historical and cultural gems, says Chris Stauvermann.
Travellers have ogled some iconic road bridges over the years: the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, US; the Forth Bridge in Edinburgh, Scotland; the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia, and many more.
But another has joined that estimable array thanks to one of the most charismatic TV detectives of them all.
Saga Noren, the Malmö-based cop and hero of TV’s ‘The Bridge’ has driven her Porsche 911 over the Oresund Bridge to Copenhagen more times than she can count.
But she would surely tell her Danish work colleagues that her home can offer the traveller just as much as their town can.
Malmö is Sweden’s third biggest city, the coastal capital of the county of Skane, and is home to 312,000 residents.
While it once lagged behind its larger rivals, it has benefitted hugely from the Oresund Bridge, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. The bridge’s impact on the city’s cultural and business life has been considerable, with several architectural marvels making their presence felt across the cityscape.
One gem to point your phone at is the Torso Tower, the city’s tallest building. You can view the lobby of this 190m marvel in summer for a few weeks only, as it is, in fact, a 54-storey apartment block.
It’s just one jewel of a city replete with architectural, cultural, and historical treasures, and one in which its citizens see their city as no poor relation to its larger rival across the water.
My favourite place- The Oresund Bridge. Yes, the engineering marvel starts as a tunnel on a man-made island in Copenhagen, rises up in the middle of the Oresund (the expanse of water separating Sweden and Denmark) and turns into a bridge which, on a fine day, can offer one of the most spectacular views in Scandinavia. You can, of course, do the trip in reverse, i.e. from Malmö. A 20km car journey takes about 25 minutes but you can take the train if you prefer. There’s also a guided tour for devotees of the cop show that includes a trip across the bridge, which is about 15 minutes’ drive from the centre of the city.
Highlights- Who doesn’t love a medieval castle to explore? Malmö Castle dates from the 15th century but was rebuilt in the 1530s, and became the HQ for Sweden’s Royal Mint. But its walls have seem some life: some of the royal princes down the years have been fervent party animals, the courtyard has seen a fair number of executions and some infamous prisoners have graced its gables, such as the Scottish James Hepburn, the Earl of Bothwell and the third husband of the legendary Mary, Queen of Scots. The castle’s museum is packed with vintage artefacts and an illuminating collection of torture instruments.
After a good morning’s touristing, it might be time for some sustenance. The Swedes like their coffee, even if their consumption is a bit less than that of their neighbours in Finland who drink more than any other nation (12kg per person, per year). Still, Malmö’s Lilla Torg (Little Square) is one of the best spots to sit down at a café, order a coffee and a cinnamon bun, and watch the world go by. This resplendent square has some buildings too, dating from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.
If you prefer to eat al fresco or on the hop then ambling around the Saluhall food market is a must. You’ll find it in a cavernous warehouse near the city’s main station. Cheeses, oysters, and charcuterie are all here. Come hungry to make the best of it.
But if you want to feel really Swedish then do as the locals do: have a sauna and go swimming in the Oresund. Head off to the open-air public baths at Ribersborgs Beach. It all sounds very Victorian but the facility offers a sun deck, a beach, a café, and restaurant and massage facilities. To reach the baths, you must wander down a very long pontoon. Then, after you’ve roasted yourself in the sauna cabin, the Oresund is right there for you to dive into. It’s wonderfully invigorating and is open all-year-round. There are separate ladies’ and gents’ areas, and towels are provided.
Lowlights- None, but this is Sweden so it will be expensive.
Souvenirs- While handmade clogs, Sami handicrafts and jewellery, and red wooden horses may be first on your list, why not splash out on some cool lamps or ornaments that you definitely wouldn’t get at home or in a retail outlet housed in a royal-blue warehouse.
Getting there- The best option is to fly from Dubai to Copenhagen in Denmark, with Norwegian or Emirates. Both airlines offer direct, regular services. From Copenhagen Airport, it’s a 25-minute train ride to Malmö… across the bridge!
Where to stay- There’s no shortage of hotels to suit every budget. All the world’s top hotel chains are represented here, and you can look for options online on Booking.com, Kayak, Expedia, Hotels.com, and Trivago.
1. Visit one of the many bike rental outlets to sight-see on two wheels.
2. Inspect the contemporary art on offer at Malmö Art Gallery.
3. Help the kids let off steam in the peaceful oasis of The King’s Park.
4. Enjoy some genuine Swedish fare with a smorgasbord.
5. Recoil at some of the samples on offer at the Disgusting Food Museum