Do you know where in the world would you find:
- a building called the Turning Torso
- a museum featuring pacemakers and toothpicks
- 400km of bike paths and cycle infrastructure
- a restaurant called, erm, Bastard
Why in the Swedish city of Malmö, of course!
As I have mentioned in my previous two posts (a crayfish feast and our dinner at Bastard restaurant), last August I was invited to visit Malmö together with Su-Lin and Denise. After a slightly bleary-eyed meeting at Gatwick airport, we all arrived in Malmö on Friday morning, ready to spend a weekend exploring the most culturally diverse diverse city in Sweden. We stayed at the Scandic St Jörgen Hotel, literally a stone’s throw from Gustaf Adolf market square, which is where a lot of the festival action was happening. The lobby is sleek and modern and reception generally friendly (except the lady who wanted to put Su-Lin and Denise together in one room when she realised that double rooms had been booked and paid for for each of them – an annoying and thankfully isolated incident). The rooms have also been recently refurbished and are serene spaces of a huge size by European standards – far more like American hotel rooms – and the beds are massive and comfortable. The only meal we had at the hotel was breakfast – but oh what a breakfast it was. Whatever your heart might desire, and then some – from pastries to cereals and yoghurt; from all sorts fresh fruit to cucumber, tomatoes and bell peppers; from a smorgasbord of cheese to eggs, bacon, tiny sausages, a plethora of crispbreads and (of course) shrimps and half a dozen kinds of herring! I was in herring heaven. Also, my new favourite breakfast detox drink: blueberry “soup”. I need to find a London supplier, or a recipe. The hotel also helpfully has a number of bicycles available to borrow but beware, they are mostly enormous, so petite people might struggle – I certainly did!!
If you time your visit correctly, late August (16-23 August in 2013) is the time when Malmö hosts the Malmö Festival – a week long celebration of music and culture – and of course food. We had picked a good weekend to arrive as it was the last night of the Malmöfestivalen – an annual festival of music, art, cinema and culture that was started in 1985 and now attracts 1.4 visitors per year. What I loved most about the festival is that it is a street festival – attendees are not sequestered in some muddy field outside town – all the action, food stalls and music stages can be found on Malmö Stortorget Posthusplatsen, Gustav Adolf Square and Raoul Wallenberg park in the heart of the city. We really loved strolling around and soaking up the atmosphere, listening to some music (in a marquee draped with IKEA fabrics, of course!) and indulging in some snacks. Malmö is the most ethnically diverse city in Sweden, and nowhere is it more apparent than in the food at the festival. After dumping our bags we strolled out onto Gustaf Adolf Square where the festival was in full swing, only to have our senses assaulted by an eye-popping range or street foods offer. From every form of Turkish kebab, to the usual candyfloss and sweets, to Swedish herring, to Asian food, to curry, to a bunch of very jolly singing South American blokes selling barbecued goods… you name it, it was there. And what did we choose to eat out of all this bounty? Well, fried food, of course! We chose a Hungarian langos – a flat piece of fried pastry (kind of like a small fried pizza base) topped with sour cream, prawns, caviar and red onions. Messy, unhealthy, but incredibly good! I suspect we would have had more, had there not been the small matter of a Swedish crayfish party later… We also spotted rather a lot of examples of, erm, yarnbombing – everything from ceremonial statues to traffic bollards to road signs covered in colourful knitting.
So other than the festival, what is there to do in Malmö for a long weekend? Well, there’s the charming Malmö farmers’ market on Drottingtorget on a Saturday morning, which is where Su-Lin and I went on foot while Nick and Denise got on their bicycles and headed down to the Kallbadhuset at Ribbersborgs beach. This uniquely Swedish institution is like a lido, bath house and pier all rolled into one. Situated in a picturesque wooden building on stilts at the end of a long pier off Ribbersborg beach, you will find separate swimming areas for men and women, as well as two female, two male, and one mixed sauna. Skinny dipping is positively encouraged (!), and the bathhouse is open all year round. What is most unusual is the fact that you don’t swim in a pool – you simply descend the steps into the waves and have your bracing dip in the Baltic sea! There is a café and a restaurant on site with views across to the impressive Øresund bridge which joins Malmö by road to Copenhagen in Denmark. And if you look back towards the shore, you also get a good view of the graceful Turning Torso, one of Malmö’s most iconic buildings by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and at 190m, the tallest building in Sweden.
One of my favourite buildings that’s well worth a visit is the Sankt Petri Kyrka (Church of St Peter) in the centre of the old town. Built in 1319, the church is a beautiful example of early Baltic Gothic and the austere exterior hides a surprisingly light and airy interior, as well as an unexpectedly delicate and beautiful chapel. The Tradesmen’s Chapel has been restored (like the rest of the church) but still features the intricate and rich jewel-coloured original artwork from the 1300s on the walls and vaulted ceilings. For local history buffs, there are also a number of graves of important townspeople buried below the floor of the church.
Grab a map and make time to walk or ride around the Gamla Staden, Malmö’s old town, exploring the various squares and their architecture. Stortoget (built in 1536) is considered to be the city’s central square where you can find the statue of King Charles X (covered in knitted goodies when we saw it!) as well as the Rådhus, Malmö’s town hall. Also look out for the fountain in front of the city hall which depicts various historic Malmö scenes, including what appears to be a Moorish chap and a two-faced monkey (of course!). From the southwest corner of the square, a short walk connects you to neighbouring Lilla Torg (literlally “little square”) which is the centre of Malmö’s nightlife surrounded by restaurants and bars. If you fancy a little walk away from the old town, Slottsparken (Castle Park) is a 225-acre green oasis which also houses the Malmöhus Castle, built in the 16th century and still surrounded by an impressive moat. Today, however, it houses museums rather than royalty – the The Malmö Art Museum (Malmö Konstmuseum), Stadsmuseum (City Museum), the Museum of Natural History and the Science and Maritime House Museum are all housed there. As our time was limited, we only visited the art museum which houses the largest collection of 20th Century Nordic art in Sweden, including some rather fabulous moulded wire pieces featuring human torsos – so graceful! And if you like to find your art in more unexpected places, do as we did and take a sunset stroll along the canal on Norra Vallgatan. As we were admiring the goden reflections of the buildings in the still water, I was thrilled to spot a cat – but I soon realised that it was not a real cat but a bronze – one of two bronze cats respectively patrolling and gazing over the canal. Public art at its most enchanting!
If you have a bit of time on your hands, you may also want to take advantage of the excellent Swedish rail network and do a day trip or two to the surrounding villages and towns. Two options that we explored (and that I will blog about separately) were Ystad, a pretty coastal town and home of fictional detective Walllander ; and Lund, a historic university town, both within easy reach of Malmö. And of course, no holiday would be complete without food! On our first night we enjoyed a trditional Swedish crayfish party; and on our second night we visited Bastard. One afternoon we also attended a private cooking class with Peter J. Skogström at Mat & Vin in Slottsparken – the venue is mainly open for functions but you can book group or individual cooking classes there too. By the last night I wanted something plain and traditionally Swedish, and my search had led me to Bullen, an old-school pub dining room serving home-style Swedish cooking (and you can dine under the watchful gaze of a portrait of what appears to be Henry VIII on the one wall!). Nick chose the veal meatballs with whiskey cream sauce, lingonberries and pickled cucumber served with mashed potatoes (192 skr) which was nicely presented and packed with complementary flavours and textures. I chose the creamy fish soup with salmon and hand-peeled shrimp with a sourdough baguette (169 skr) which was thick, rich and sinfully delicious.
Other posts in my Taste of Skåne series:
We flew direct on Ryanair from London Stansted to Sturup airport 33km southeast of the city and Easyjet also operates direct flights from there. SAS operates up to eight nonstop flights to Stockholm Arlanda dfrom Malmö daily. There are regular trains between Malmö and Copenhagen Kastrup airport or Copenhagen central station and trips take 20 and 35 minutes.
GETTING FED & WATERED
Tel: +46 40-12 12 41
GOOD TO KNOW
DISCLOSURE: I travelled to Malmö as a guest of Malmo Tourism and Visit Sweden, who paid for all transport, accommodation and meals except our dinner at Bullen which I paid for myself. ANo further remuneration was received in exchange for this post and all opinions are my own.