Malmö may be the third-largest city in Sweden but is arguably the biggest in terms of charm.
The harbour-side city is located at the southernmost tip of Sweden and is a handy 20 minutes by train from Copenhagen airport.
The easy-to-navigate city centre is small enough to explore and get a good feel for, even with just a few days to hand. It’s best seen by foot or the ubiquitous bike – cycling is the main mode of transport here and even visitors who haven’t travelled by two wheels since childhood will feel comfortable on the copious cycle paths and the flat terrain. Locals quite happily chat away on their mobiles as they cycle around helmet-free, making it seem as safe as walking. The fact that almost everyone speaks fluent English adds to the ease of the visitor experience.
There are two fairly distinctive parts of Malmö. In the old town area Malmöhus Castle and St Peter’s Church are worth a visit. The Western Harbour area is markedly more modern, with the iconic Santiago Calatrava-designed Turning Torso building – the tallest skyscraper in the Scandinavia – an appropriately contemporary landmark here.
Once you’ve done some sightseeing, you might want to take part in the quintessential Swedish experience and go to a spa. There are plenty of places to enjoy the typically indulgent pampering session that the word spa might conjure up in the Kiwi mind, but if you want to be authentic, be warned, a traditional Swedish spa is not for the faint-hearted! At Kallbadhuset at Ribbersborg beach after heating up in the wood-fired sauna you’re off outside for a dip in the chilly waters of the Öresund Strait – and all this is generally done totally naked!
If that sounds a bit too goosebump-inducing for your liking there are oodles of beautiful design shops to peruse (be prepared for your credit card to take a beating), or enjoy a pre-dinner drink in one of the city’s squares; Lilla Torg (Little Square) is particularly well equipped for such a pastime with various restaurants and bars all around the edges, many with outdoor tables.
Swedish food is fashionable right now and there’s a burgeoning food scene in Malmö. Malmö has a large immigrant community – non-Swedish inhabitants account for around 40 per cent of the population – so there is an international slant to its cuisine, particularly north African and middle-eastern. There are plenty of places to enjoy traditional Swedish fare too, which has a focus on fish, especially herring and eel, various meats and root vegetables. If you want to try the lot in one go, find a restaurant serving smorgasbord, a buffet of traditional food.
If you’re visiting around Christmas then indulging in a julbord, the Christmas version of a smorgasbord, is a must. Other traditional goodies to enjoy around Christmas time are pepparkakor, a Christmas gingerbread biscuit – you’ll find tins of these on offer in many shops, the perfect fuel for your Christmas shopping – and lussekats, delicious saffron buns that are best enjoyed with a glass of glögg (mulled wine) before dinner.
Malmö really is at its best at Christmas with the snowy landscape made all the more magical by the lantern-strewn trees and decorations everywhere. As you while away some time admiring the trinkets at the Christmas markets or taking in live music in the Gustav Adolfs Torg you can always keep yourself warm with mugs of hot chocolate or cups of glögg.
If Christmas isn’t on the cards then you might want to consider booking your tickets post haste and making it there for mid-May in time for the Eurovision – the annual song competition among European countries. The Eurovision is famous both for the variable standard of the songs and the days of partying that goes on in the host city around the festival. Malmö is bound to step up the challenge.