Majestic Malmo – A Scandinavian City Explored by Rail

Experience Scandinavia’s northern wonders with this unique train adventure. Seek out the Midnight Sun in Lapland and learn about its Sami people.

Embark on a rail journey that spans two countries in a single day. Start in Copenhagen and then cross over to Sweden to visit Malmo. Discover a city that bridges the gap between Denmark and Sweden with its cobblestone streets and modern skyscrapers.

The Old Town

The heart of Malmo lies in Gamla Staden, the old town, which is an architectural treasure trove. The pedestrian streets are lined with historic buildings, edgy new developments and cosy cafes and restaurants. Stortorget, the city’s big square, is home to an equestrian statue of King Karl X Gustav and houses the town hall, Apoteket Lejone (Sweden’s oldest pharmacy) and Sankt Petri Kyrka.

The quaint little square Lillatorg is another highlight. It’s packed with cosy cafes and restaurants, especially during the summer when tables spill out onto the cobbled street. From here you can stroll past a range of other historic sites including Kockska huset, the city’s second oldest building, and the impressive cast-iron fountain on St Knuts torg.

One of the most eye-catching structures in town is Santiago Calatrava’s Turning Torso – a “twisted skyscraper” that was inspired by a sculpture and has put Malmo on the international architecture map. This 190-meter tall landmark is both a residential, office and conference skyscraper and is a fascinating piece of urban planning.

It’s also worth checking out Moderna Museet in a former power station. This contemporary art museum features an incredibly diverse range of works, with everything from film and design to paintings and photography on display.

Art enthusiasts should also head to the other two main museums, Konsthallen and Malmo konstmuseum – all three are housed in striking buildings that have been re-purposed for cultural purposes. If you’re lucky, you might be able to catch the city’s renowned Art Days or Gallery Open Night events.

If you’ve got some extra time, take a walk along the quayside beside Citadellsvagen where you’ll find more beautiful old and new buildings. There are some great examples of where old meets new, such as the glazed brick facades of Stortorget and the modern orange-red annex of a 19th century electricity plant. You’ll also see the 17th and 18th century gravestones at the imposing brick Gothic church of St Peter’s. There’s even a small museum dedicated to the history of the church.

The New Town

If you’re a fan of Scandinavian design, then Malmo is the place to be. The city’s new-build apartment blocks and skyscrapers are a feast for the eyes, while local designer shops sell sleek furniture and contemporary clothing in abundance. It’s also a culinary hotspot, with three Michelin-starred restaurants to choose from (try Bastardplanka for a carnivorous meal platte). Immigration has given the city an exciting multicultural flavour and cafes, such as Kulturen and Espresso House, serve delicious coffee with a side of Nordic inspiration.

Across town, the western harbor area is being transformed into a completely new city part characterized by modern and experimental architecture. Among the most eye-catching developments is Turning Torso, a building that seems to be more sculpture than structure. This spectacular tower has already become a landmark of the city and when it’s completed it will be the highest residential skyscraper in Europe and the tallest building in Scandinavia.

For a glimpse into the past, visit the old harbor and walk around Stortorget, the main square in the center of town. The equestrian statue of King Carl X Gustav is in the middle of the square and there are some pretty half-timbered houses painted yellow and red lining the streets, making this an extremely beautiful spot for photos.

The city’s thriving port has left its mark on the city’s culture, and there are numerous museums to explore. The city’s museum of art is one of the best in the region, and it’s home to a collection that spans several centuries. Its collections include works by some of Sweden’s most famous artists, including John Bauer and Franz Marc.

Another must-visit is the city’s oldest pub, Den Gamle Port. The historic restaurant has been in business for over 100 years and serves up classic open-faced sandwiches, Swedish meatballs and their own beer.

The city’s many boutiques are a joy to explore, selling clothes and accessories that are stylish yet affordable. You’ll find everything from well-known brands to Scandinavian design masterpieces, and if you’re looking for outdoor gear then stores like Stadium and XXL are good places to start. For eco-friendly shopping, the city’s Naturkompaniet and Loplabbet are your best bets.

The Fjord

The landscape that inspired August Palm hasn’t changed, but the complexities of a modern urban life have. Today’s Malmo is a living laboratory, demonstrating how to handle the opportunities and traumas of an on-demand economy unfolding amidst global instability and inequality. The city is still a port, and its citizens are a diverse group from all corners of the planet.

Malmo’s urban core contains traces of the industrial streetscapes that characterized the city before its transformation into a university town. The old shipyards are recast as the ultra-modern, high-density Vastra Hamnen district. Here you’ll find the 190-metre sculptural Turning Torso building, and a new neighbourhood with housing, work, education and leisure areas, all powered by wind and solar energy. It’s the highest density neighbourhood in Scandinavia.

The new district also houses a museum dedicated to Edvard Munch, and it’s a great place to begin your exploration of his brightly colored landscapes, rural scenes and portraits. Then head out on the fjord to Holmenkollen, a huge Olympic ski jump that towers over the city’s picturesque waterfront. From here you can see down into the icy tongue of Briksdal Glacier and admire the majestic mountains that hem in this sapphire-blue fjord.

From Malmo, you can make the short journey over the Oresund Bridge to Copenhagen in Denmark. This is another UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it offers a glimpse into a Danish lifestyle that’s influenced by a mix of Nordic influences and an international workforce. You can visit Kronborg Castle, a Renaissance treasure that’s famous as the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet, or explore the city’s green parks and verdant beaches.

If you want to go further afield, you can hop aboard a train that will take you to Norway. From here, the scenic Sognefjord takes you past a series of cascading waterfalls and mountain-fringed lakes. And the Flam Railway, one of the most spectacular rail journeys in the world, winds up and down steep hills, passing through a fjord landscape that’s as stunning as it is awe-inspiring. It’s the perfect way to experience Norway’s breathtaking beauty.

The Nightlife

Malmo abounds in after-dark diversions. The area’s newest club, Moriska Paviljongen, is not only a dance floor but also a cultural hub, featuring a varied program of live concerts and DJ-driven nights. It attracts a discerning crowd that prefers to see and be seen. You don’t need to speak Swedish to experience the nightlife here, either; English is widely spoken and music is a universal language.

Malmo’s pretty cobbled streets date back to the 1500s, but sleek and soulful modern buildings have also risen alongside them. A stroll around town will reveal acres of parkland that serve as the lungs of the city, while wide beaches beckon even on the busiest summer weekends. Go between May and the end of September to find the place at its most spirited, when the gloom of Sweden’s long winter lifts and the sun shines brightly.

You’ll also discover a lively scene at Lilla Torg, the city center’s dining and drinking hub. Moosehead is a friendly-but-loud Swedish bar with lots of rustic wood and moose memorabilia, while Big Bowl is something between a bowling alley and a nightclub. The former KB is a legendary venue that features both national and international acts, while avant-garde clubs like Inkonst push boundaries.

The city library is an impressive sight, too; a cathedral-like sense of space is illuminated by daylight pouring through its soaring glass façade. The new wing of the building perfectly blends old with new and serves as a focal point for the stylish central core.

If you’re more of a casino-type, head to Kungsparken and try your luck at one of the many tables. Or, for a club and casino in the same spot, check out Etage.

The city’s parks are a haven for relaxing, too, and several are dotted with playgrounds, cafes and restaurants (some devoted to fast food). Families might want to head to Folkets Park, where a battered compound that resembles a B-rated Tivoli draws locals with kids in tow. The park is also home to a small zoo, reptile center and puppet theater.

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