An oft-overlooked fact by travelers visiting Scandinavia is that Sweden sits just half an hour from Copenhagen. Malmö, the third largest city in Sweden, is a 25-minute train from Copenhagen. From Copenhagen Airport Kastrup, you can take a direct, inexpensive train across Øresund Bridge to Malmö City Center—tickets are easily purchased through the Skånetrafiken App. It’s so straightforward that plenty of Swedes work in Copenhagen by day and commute home to Malmö—and the exchange rate works in their favor. (Can you imagine getting a currency-raise just for commuting from Park Slope to midtown?)
Take a Swedish fika at Atrium Kaffe Bar
The concept of taking a fika is pretty much just going out for coffee and a pastry. Something the English language truly lacks is a specific word for “let’s go to the local coffee shop and have a cinnamon bun.” Fortunately, the Swedes are the people who coined cozy Fridays (“fredagsmys”) and candy Saturdays—those are both very real treat-yourself days of the week observed in Sweden. Being that this country is clearly made of self-care visionaries, it should come as no surprise that “taking a fika” is such a crucial pastime. (And P.S., fika functions as both a noun and a verb.)
Fika at Atrium Kaffe Bar, which capitalizes on that light, airy Scandi design. It’s amazing that wood, whites, and greens, a generally cooler color palette can exude such warm energy, but Sweden makes it work. Fika mandates a sweet treat, so try Atrium’s meringue-topped carrot cake with a latte.
Hang with the creatives at Formargruppen
Malmö is very much a creative enclave, with some of the best designers in Scandinavia taking up residence here. The designers behind Kauppi & Kauppi, the studio responsible for the Icehotel’s 2019 seasonal ceremony hall, live in Malmö, for example. There are numerous galleries and creative outposts around Malmö where you can experience the city’s artistic energy; Formargruppen is an artists’ co-op doubling as a shop and gallery for their work. In downtown Malmö, Formargruppen exhibits new work each month, and in addition to shopping, you can meet many of the artists in their on-site studios.
Kayak or pedal boat on Malmö’s canal
Malmö’s city center lines their canal, and taking to the water is one of the best ways to see the city. You can rent kayaks or pedal boats to explore the canal or take a guided boat tour of Malmö. Regardless of the season, getting outdoors and communing with nature is a big part of Swedish culture. While in the countryside that means spending time amidst their lush forests, in the city it could be as simple as spending time on the water. For an hour-long guided urban boat tour of Malmö, book through Stromma. Their tour will contrast the classic facades of the city’s older neighborhoods with the modern parts of Malmö that feature more envelope-pushing design. Alternately, rent a pedal boat with City Boats for a self-guided tour of the canals.
Have a glass of wine and stroll in Gamla Väster
Gamla Väster, Malmö’s old town, is one of the most picturesque areas of the city. The aesthetics in the residential area of Gamla Väster is a bit Jaipur-meets-San Francisco, though with a hefty dose of Scandi-chic energy. One of Malmö’s best wine bars is in Gamla Väster: Julie. From the husband and wife team who run innovative, hyper-local restaurant Horte Brygga farther south, Julie is a wine escape with meticulously sourced bottles and a knowledgeable wait staff ready to find the right varietal for your taste buds. At Julie, you can order a full meal (they do a great Sunday brunch) or opt for a cured meat and cheese platter tailored to your palette.
Escape to the Swedish spas along the Baltic Sea
You can’t find hygge in Sweden, because it’s a Danish word. However, in Sweden, the semi-equivalent word for the act of coziness is “mys.” Mys is the new hygge. Tell your friends. Cozy traditions in Sweden are not unlike the ones you might encounter in Denmark or Norway, with friends gathering for relaxation and good conversation, preferably while surrounded by candles and easy access to a sauna. While there are great venues for mys in Malmö proper, an hour south in Ystad is a spa that goes all out: Ystad Saltsjöbad. Sitting along the Baltic Sea, Ystad Saltsjöbad is an award-winning spa hotel with hot open-air baths in view of the sea, and a collection of warm and cold indoor baths, saunas, and cozy, well-decorated rooms filled with candles and roaring fireplaces. Those staying in Malmö can just come to Ystad Saltsjöbad for a few hours and get a morning, evening, or full-day pass to their Salt Creek Spa.
Visit Malmöhus Castle and take in the adjacent gardens
For those interested in learning more about Southern Sweden’s history, Malmöhus Castle is a must. Malmöhus is the oldest standing Renaissance castle in Scandinavia—it was most recently restored in the 1930s. Among other history lessons you’ll encounter within the castle, Malmöhus sheds light on the Danish influence in Southern Sweden, an important topic because the south was once part of Denmark. Behind Malmöhus Castle, you’ll see Slottsträdgården, a picturesque little garden, and Slotssparken where you can picnic and stroll through the scenic grounds.
Explore the famed academic town of Lund
From Malmö, it’s no more than a 30-minute drive to Lund. Visiting Lund is not unlike touring Cambridge, Massachusetts or Oxford, England. It’s a Swedish academic hub—a town full of intellectuals who have distinct pride for Lund University. Beyond the university, Lund is known for their cathedral, the most-visited church in Sweden. One of the loveliest spots in Lund is their Grand Hotel—they serve a beautiful afternoon tea in the Piraten foyer complete a glass of champagne and live piano.
Dine at Malmö Saluhall
The saluhalls of Sweden are not your average tourist-crowded food halls. They’re well-designed foodie hubs featuring some of the city’s best eats, an amalgamation of street food vendors, open-concept restaurants, and artisanal food shops selling quality ingredients for the home cook. In the saluhalls of Sweden you’ll find amazing bread, great pastries (like kardemummabullar), smoked and pickled fish, handmade sausages and pâtés, and an overall display of goodness for the passionate foodie. At Malmö Saluhall, find the best baked goods at St. Jakobs Stenugnsbageri or visit Söderholmens Fisk for their oyster Fridays. For pan-Asian, try Pink Head Noodle Bar, a gourmand take on street noodles. If you have a chance to visit Lund for a few hours, they also have a terrific Saluhall. At Lund Saluhall, head to Malmstens Fisk & kök for a steaming bowl of their signature fish soup.
Where to Stay in Malmö
Reserve your room at MJ’s, walking distance from Malmöhus Castle. MJ’s has a charming light pink courtyard and three “xtra large” rooms that face Master Johan street, a quaint cobblestone street running through Gamla Staden neighborhood. MJ’s lobby bar serves chic cocktails and their on-site restaurant specializes in Meditterean-inspired small plates.