A brief guide to Malmö, Sweden

We recently spent a couple of days in Malmö, Sweden prior to departing on a cruise of the Baltics. That brief visit certainly didn’t make me an expert on this charming city, but I will share what I do know as well as a few observations that may make your trip there easier.

What I do know about Malmö is that it’s an easy 20-minute, approximately US$20 train ride from Copenhagen, and a whole lot less expensive, especially when it comes to hotel prices. Our two nights in Malmö cost us what we’d have paid for a single night in Copenhagen.

If you arrive at Malmö Centralstation, you’ll be in the heart of the city. The station itself has an extensive food court with everything from smørrebrød to sushi, an adjacent grocery market, and outside has easy connections to the local bus system as well as rental bicycles.

The city is less than a third the size of Stockholm. Slightly more than 300,000 people live there, compared to over 900,000 in Stockholm, but don’t let the smaller size dissuade you; there are a fair number of things to see and do, no matter whether you’re a typical city dweller like us, or the outdoorsy type.

One city feature visible even from Copenhagen is the skyscraper called the Turning Torso.

Located in the Västra Hamnen neighborhood, it is a neo-futurist residential skyscraper and the tallest building in Scandinavia. It is also regarded as the first twisted skyscraper in the world. The skyscraper is divided into nine segments of five-story pentagons, which rotate 90 degrees as the height increases.

Pretty cool, right? But not worth a visit just to see that.

So don’t. The Lilla torg, or Little Square, is located just off the big square, and is home to a number of bars, restaurants and shops. The big square, or Stortoget, also has shops and stores and the statue of Karl X Gustav, the King of Sweden from 1654 until his death in 1660.

Fountain on Lilla torg

We had a delightful dinner of steak, sides and wine at a restaurant called Mando on Skomakaregatan off the Lilla torg. Price including a tip? US$60.

As a modest sized city, Malmö has a network of rental bicycles, a tram, buses and taxis, but is also eminently walkable. Our walk to the Västra Hamnen neighborhood took us by the Malmö Inre fyr, or Old Light House, opened in 1878.

Malmö Inre fyr

Bike, walk or use public transit to get to the Disgusting Foods Museum, just a few minutes from Malmö Central Station. The museum boasts 80 “disgusting” foods, and makes the point that, “While the emotion [of disgust] is universal, the foods that we find disgusting are not. What is delicious to one person can be revolting to another.”

Are you brave enough to try urströmming (fermented herring from Sweden), casu marzu (maggot-infested cheese from Sardinia) or durian (infamously stinky fruit from Thailand)?

The city also offers the Ribersborgs Kallbadhus, or cold bath house. Located by Malmö’s beach, this is where both locals and visitors experience cold water bathing and sauna – a beloved tradition in Malmö and in Sweden.

Outdoor life is widely embraced in Malmö. Just behind Malmöhus Castle is Slottsträdgården, a beautiful little garden, and Slotssparken where visitors can enjoy a walk or a picnic in the leafy surroundings. The city canal also runs through the park so those who enjoy such things can rent a paddle boat or a kayak to go through the park.

Baboushka stautue near Norra Valgatten and Hjälmarbron

Parents may want to take their kids to Folkets park, which translates to ‘the people’s park.’ There’s a fun playground for kids, and popular restaurants and bars nearby where mom and dad can enjoy an adult beverage.

Museum fans will enjoy Malmö Museer, which offers a wide variety of exhibitions from the Nordic region´s oldest surviving Renaissance castle to a real submarine, a new aquarium and fantastic vehicles. The museum´s permanent exhibitions focus on history, natural history, technology and seafaring. There are also about a dozen temporary exhibitions every year.

Möllevången (or Möllan, as the locals call it) is the city’s popular multicultural area. It includes the square called Möllevångstorget that has a lively and very popular fruit and vegetable market. The area also has numerous restaurants, bars and various types of international shops.

Things to note

There are terms you’ll see that don’t have a precise English translation.

One is “Fika,” and it generally means, “To take a break.” The coffee and pastries, however, aren’t the important part of such a break; the rest, relaxation and interaction with fellow human beings is the greater point. An excellent place to enjoy fika is the Slottsträdgårdens Kafé, which adjoins the royal garden behind Malmöhus Castle.

Another term is “Lagom.” It generally means, “Not too much, not too little. Just the right amount.” Lagom is a significant part of the culture in Sweden. It is also translated to mean, “The right amount is best”, “Enough is as good as a feast”, and “There is virtue in moderation”.

Dining out is practically a given when traveling. However, in Sweden, servers and bartenders are paid a living wage and do not depend on tips to make their living. Certainly, rounding up a bill is appreciated but not at all expected. At Mando, where I felt we got particularly good service, I rounded up our 575 SEK bill to 600 SEK, then asked the server to tell me honestly whether that was sufficient. Her response: “That’s a GREAT tip.”

Finally, it will be helpful to know that Sweden is practically a cashless society. Yes, you can get physical Swedish Krona, or Crowns, but we had a tour operator, a banker in Stockholm and others advise us that cash is not only unnecessary, you may have a challenge getting rid of it at the end of the trip. MasterCard and VISA cards are widely accepted – even at pay toilets that dot the areas. For reference, one Krona equals about US$0.10, so an item that is 99 SEK would be a shade less than US$10. And in Sweden, tax is already included in the price.

More information is available from Malmö Tourism.

Visit my main page at TheTravelPro.us for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.

Photos by Carl Dombek
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