Fabulous architecture, a castle, pavement cafes, great pubs and restaurants, Malmö - where old conflicts have given way to the modern vision of European cooperation
When TS Elliot said "The journey not the arrival matters", he could almost have been thinking about the railway from Denmark’s Copenhagen Airport to the Swedish town of Malmö. My inner geek loved the idea of a train journey bridging two countries over the sea.
Both sides of the Oresund Straight are within Europe’s Schengen region so there is no fuss with passports, we just purchased our tickets (160 DKK return) at Copenhagen Airport’s railway station and boarded the train. The journey taking a mere 25 minutes, we settled into our seats as the train entered the four kilometre undersea tunnel. After emerging onto the artificial island of Peberholm for four kilometres the track then rises above the waves for the final eight kilometres of bridge that deposited us in the Skåne county of Sweden. Incredible to think that there was a four lane motorway overhead most of the way too.
Today Sweden’s third largest city, Malmö was up until the mid-seventeenth century part of Denmark, so much of the architecture shows a distinct Danish influence. Most city sights, like the castle, Rådhuset (town hall) and the fourteenth century St Peter’s Church are within an easy walk from the railway station. Cosmopolitan city life revolves around the restaurants and bars that fringe the many squares. Even in the sub zero winter chill, pavement dining is popular, giving the place a delightful European atmosphere.
What to see
Built by the Danes in the 1530s, Malmö Castle (Slottet Malmöhus, Malmöhusvägen; 040 34 44 37; admission 40 SEK) has been a fortress, a royal residence and up until 1937, a prison. Today it’s the place to discover Malmö’s history from the stone-age settlers onwards. The gun tower with its portraits and weapons neatly illustrates the struggle for Skåne. There is also a very fine collection of Swedish art including some exquisite art deco silverware, and a natural history collection with live fish and reptiles.
A haven for boys of all ages can be found at The Museum of Technology and Seafaring (Teknikens och Sjöfartens Hus, Malmöhusvägen; 040 34 44 38; admission 40 SEK). Pride of place must go to the U3, a Swedish coastal submarine built during the Second World War, but there is also a Saab Draken jet fighter and historic cars, trucks and motorcycles. The thing that caught my attention was a submarine’s toilet complete with operating instructions. I never knew how complicated it could be to spend a penny.
Lund is a 20 minute rail journey from Malmö (tickets 59 SEK each way), and it’s worth the trip if only to see the cathedral (Kyrkogaten11). Lund was the seat of the Bishop of Denmark so the cathedral was the most important ecclesiastical building in Scandinavia up until the Reformation. A small amount of the original decoration (that was painted over when it became a Lutheran church in1536) has been recovered and there is a fine astrological clock by the door. A trip into the crypt takes you head to head with the mysterious Finns, stone figures carved into the pillars supporting the crypt ceiling.
After the history and culture we decided it was time to see fashionable modern Malmö as it emerges from the Oresund’s new prosperity, as a de facto suburb of Copenhagen. From Malmö station the number 2 bus (fare 18 SEK) dropped us at the foot of West Harbour’s Turning Torso skyscraper. Designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, the aptly named tower is Scandinavia’s tallest building as well as the European Union’s highest residential building. After boggling at the crazed architecture it was time to get the camera out to capture that essential Oresund Bridge photo as the sun went down.
Food and Drink
Despite Sweden’s expensive reputation, eating out was good value because of the food quality. Our favourite Malmö restaurant has to be the Steakhouse (Centrum Lilla Torg 7; 040 97 34 97; www.steakhouse.gastrogate.com). Swedes love meat so portions were truly heroic. I enjoyed a starter of three different kinds of gravadlax, followed by a divine entrecote steak with potato wedges and roast winter vegetables all for around 300 SEK. A bottle of house wine was 269 SEK.
Top place for lunch was the Café Gustav Adolf (Gustav Adoff Torg 43; 040 11 22 72; www.gustavadolf.com) where I had a mountain of chicken in a paprika sauce and salad for 79 SEK.
Booze on the other hand proved to be expensive with beer clocking in at around 65 SEK for a pint. My top bars were the Czech themed Czechpoint in Lilla Torg, close to the Steakhouse and Fagans Irish Pub (Per Weijergaten 4) - both were friendly boozers with a relatively wide selection of beers.
We stayed at the Ibis Hotel Malmö (stadiongaten 21, 21762). Not bang in the middle of town but known to offer decent accommodation for 620 SEK a night.