One of the best things about visiting Copenhagen is the ability to hop across the sea over to Sweden. Set just 30 minutes by train across the water is Malmö, Sweden. As the third largest city in Sweden, it has the quintessential European vibe along with modern touches, like the tallest building in the country. I have to tell you, I didn’t know much about Malmö upon visiting. But what I found were great restaurants, cool coffee culture, and the best open-air bath I’ve ever been to, ever. Whether you’re into history, architecture, or just want to see how the Swedes live, you’ll want to add Malmö to your bucket list.
Below you can find a map of all the places discussed in this post:
How to Get to & Around Malmö
Getting from Malmö is easy, especially with Øresund Bridge. This 2.6 million Euro bridge connects Denmark and Sweden across the water and a one-way ticket costs around 179 SEK (18 Euro). They even made a TV show about the bridge, aptly named “The Bridge” which is a crime drama following the story of a body found at the midway point of the structure.
Getting around the city is very easy since it’s clean and bike friendly. I recommend renting a bike (or getting one from your hotel, more on that below!) or walking.
Where to Stay
I’ve stayed in many hotels but there is something special about Story Hotel in Malmö. Maybe it’s the cascading staircase that leads you not only to hotel rooms but alternative office and meeting room spaces. Maybe it’s the funky shop and coffee house. Maybe it’s the open floor-plan design that makes you feel like you aren’t just entering another hotel, but a place to hang out. Story Hotel is just, well, cool. Plenty of hotels try to be modern but miss the mark when it comes to comfort and accessibility. This is not the case with Story Hotel. Comfortable rooms with seriously commanding views are just the tip of the iceberg.
The rooms come with free WiFI and smart TVs so you can easily hook up your computer to watch Netflix or scroll through the images you took that day. I loved this aspect so much, I have started to try and look for hotels that offer this feature! (Note, it’s hard to find. So making a trip back to Malmö is in the works!) A free breakfast buffet is served on the top floor and you can also venture out onto the roof for drinks at night or to catch the crazy beautiful sunset.
Free bike rental is included, which is one of the biggest perks. You’re only a five minute walk from the Malmö Central station. And biking around town was our favorite way to get around. I think this hotel represents Malmö so well. It combines traditional charm: well equipped, comfy rooms with modern Swedish design: open floor plan, exposed concrete walls, and raindrop showers. I think one of my favorite things to “do” in Malmö was staying here! It was just the right mix and one of the best hotels I’ve stayed in.
What to Do
Take a walking tour of the main sights. If you know me, you know I’m a huge fan of walking tours (see my 5 things you MUST do every time you travel) because it gives you a feel and understanding for the city. You learn so much about the culture and its people. Such as…. did you know that 79% of Sweden is forest?! Me either. Or how about the fact that many people live in Sweden, but work in Denmark? The tour started in the “Big Square” or Stortorget which was built in 1538 and guides you through time and the city’s landmarks. Elements from old times still remain in Malmö – such as the painted commercials on the buildings from 1900, which give it a historical look.
You’ll also see beautiful City Hall (where you can grab lunch) and the Skåne County governor’s residence which dates back from the 1600s. Of course, when you get to the “Little Square” or Lilla Torg, you’ll see very old buildings that have been restored to their 1590s heritage. Again, this city is one of the best examples of a perfect mesh of old and new. This is the perfect place to grab a bite to eat or marvel at the beautiful, half-timbered buildings.
Next, you’ll head to Gustav square, the second largest, where they still sell flowers and vegetables like they used to. This is also the scene of the Christmas market.
One thing I would have never thought to go through the Apoteket Lejonet, but this lovely old pharmacy on Stortorget is worth the visit. It has carded wooden shelves and antique medicine bottles with a glass enclosed ceiling.
Malmöhus Castle is one of the city’s most famous sights. Built in 1436, it was actually still part of Denmark. What I loved about this castle is that it explains a great deal of the history between Denmark and Sweden. The lines were not always so clear-cut as to who owned which part of the land. The rivalry between the two countries makes more sense when you explore Malmöhus and learn about their interesting past. Though it’s certainly not the prettiest castle, it’s been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times, it’s shown over time just how important of a landmark it’s been for the country. It’s gone from being used as a war fortress, a prison, and then a shelter for the people coming from concentration camps. Included in the museum is the Tropicarium aquarium. I highly recommend the aquarium! It was a pleasant surprise of something fun to do on a rainy day.
Hit up a local park and take in the scenery. There are many local parks that are well manicured and make for the perfect spot to relax. I was in awe of the amount of green space in one city. Ribersborgsstranden has bike paths and leads over to the water with a small beach area. Slottsträdgården is lined with gardens and puts on many festivals.
Then there’s Kungsparken, the oldest park here started in 1869, which is best known for the large windmill. Slottsmollan was a working windmill and the interior is fully furnished to show the working conditions of a miller in the 19th century.
Turning Torso is not something you can miss, it’s the largest building in Sweden and it towers above all the rest in Malmö. Built in 2001, it’s named “torso” because it looks like an actual torso that is being turned. You can’t actually go up here for a view, so head over to the Clarion Hotel for a good view of the city.
The oldest building in the city is Sankt Petri Chruch (Saint Peter’s Church) which dates back to the 14th century. The church has an interesting history – the tower actually feel twice. Make sure to go inside for beautiful limestone images and grab a free cup of coffee.
If you didn’t get your fill of museums from Mamohus Castle you can also head to Moderna Museet Malmö, the modern museum. We didn’t venture inside but the building is cool to look at from the outside. Alternatively, if you’d like to duck in from the rain or check out a beautiful library, Stadsbibliotek is the perfect spot.
I had to save my absolute favorite for last: the Swedish bath, Ribersborg Kallbadhus. I hadn’t been to a Swedish bath before, but the idea made me feel really uncomfortable. Set on the Baltic sea, you undress completely, then head to one of the steam rooms. After sitting in the lovely wooden rooms for 15 minutes or so (more or less depending on your stamina) you jump butt naked into the Baltic Sea. I felt like this would not be fun, that I would feel self-conscious, or that there was just really no point. But it was one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever done. You get an incredible adrenaline rush from being in the steamy hot sauna to the freezing cold sea. I can’t quite put into words just how much I enjoyed this.
There are separate sections for men and women, with one room being co-ed (where most people cover up). So you don’t have to worry about running around naked. Ribersborg is absolutely beautiful and is the perfect slice of traditional Swedish culture. Don’t forget to bring a towel or robe and a lock for the lockers. They do have them on sight but you’ll have to pay a small fee to use theirs.
Where to Eat
The Swedes are very serious about their food, they have a day set aside just to celebrate cinnamon buns and are the 2nd biggest consumers of coffee (just after Finland).They have a whole movement for having coffee with friends, called “Fika“. And even the king, Gustav had a favorite pastry. They believe eating can occur at any time of the day, so you won’t go hungry in Malmö.
Pronto – When in Sweden, you need to try a cinnamon bun. Pronto is known for their cinnamon buns and coffee.
Solde Kaffebar & Kafferosteri – Coffee and pastries are an everyday part of life in Sweden. Solde is highly recommended and their artisanal coffees make for delicious and pretty pictures. You really can’t go wrong for coffee or pastries in Malmö, there’s one on every corner.
Bullen – This is my favorite restaurant we went to in Malmö. With a great menu of authentic Swedish food, this comfy restaurant was the perfect spot. It’s got a home-style feel and cuisine with lots of options for beer.
Restaurant Laziza – I know what you’re thinking, Lebanese food in Sweden?! Yes. This Lebanese buffet is phenomenal. It’s an all you can eat, casual fare that’s perfect to have a hearty, delicious meal.
Korvkiosk – Looking for a quick, cheap bite, you can head for a “korvkiosk” aka, a hot dog stand.
Bastard – This hip restaurant and gastro-pub serves small plates and all types of food. It’s not cheap, but it’s a fun and funky place to try.
How long to stay
I recommend 2 days in Malmö, though many just make a day trip from Copenhagen. But to really get a feel for the city, have some “Fika” and enjoy the Swedish bath, two days should do the trick.
Read this next: Top 15 Things to Do in Copenhagen
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