Why Malmö, Sweden makes for a great summer holiday…
As the long winter gloom settles in over what is arguably the cruelest part of the year, the post-holiday doldrums, it’s perhaps the best time to start dreaming about what summer vacation might look like.
Christmas trees may have only come down recently, but no matter: we can still dream of dipping our toes in the sand and enjoying a fruity frozen cocktail surrounded by the odour of sunscreen and the shrieks of splashing children.
And while it might not be the first place you think of when planning your next summer holiday adventure, the lovely city of Malmö, Sweden should definitely be on your list of places to consider, for a whole lot of often surprising reasons.
Scandi summer in Malmö, Sweden
Scandinavia isn’t likely to be among the first places people typically think of for summer holidays.
However, first time visitors are often pleasantly surprised to learn that things to do in Malmö in summer actually include sunbathing on wide, clean beaches alongside pristine, blue-rated water, incredible outdoor recreation and camping, a rocking music festival scene, and one of the loveliest city centre areas in northern Europe for café dining, nightlife, and just strolling around.
While visiting Malmö in summer is no guarantee of hot sunny days—this is still Scandinavia, after all, and gray gloom and rain are never far off—when this southernmost of Swedish cities is firing on all cylinders, it’s surprisingly gorgeous.
The average temperatures in the third-largest city in Sweden run between 22° and 29° C (70s to mid-80s in Fahrenheit) during the summer months, and the record high here is actually 34° C (93° F), so make sure you pack that sun hat and sunscreen!
From sunbathing at the beach known as the “Scandinavian Copacabana” to seeing the wonder of the longest combined bridge and tunnel system in Europe, to visiting Malmö sightseeing attractions like the 15th-century cobblestone city center, the oldest Renaissance castle in Scandinavia, and enjoying the nightlife and tremendous array of upscale, bohemian and experimental restaurants and bars, you won’t run out of things to do in Malmö.
Here are a few places to get you started on your adventures in exploring Malmö, Sweden!
1. Malmöhus Castle
Perhaps the best place to get started on your list of what to do in Malmö is the famous Malmöhus Castle. The oldest surviving Renaissance castle in Scandinavia, the fortress was originally built in 1434.
After it was partially demolished in the seemingly interminable wars between the Swedes and the Danes, it was rebuilt by King Christian III of Denmark—back when Denmark held this region known as Scania in what is now modern Sweden—and became a key stronghold for the Danish kingdom.
The castle has served as a prison, a royal palace, and a mint over the centuries, but these days it’s host to an aquarium, the City Museum and Natural History Museum, and Malmö’s Museum of Art.
Taken all together, the castle complex could easily take up half a day or more and is a top-rated destination on anyone’s list of what to see in Malmö.
The lush, green Kungsparken adjacent to the castle is deserving of mention of its own as a “things to do in Malmö” destination, despite technically being part of the castle grounds. You could wander here for hours through the stunning collection of gardens which explode with greenery every summer, as well as checking out the veritable army of statues and arresting sculptures that are arrayed along the winding paths.
There are also a pair of lakes and an adorable community garden within the park.
3. Have a fika
Be sure to stop at the café in the centre of the Kungsparken before heading back out into the bustle of the city, to enjoy a little taste of the Swedish tradition of fika. When you’re trying to think of what to do in Malmö—or anywhere else in Sweden for that matter—popping in to a cafe for a brief respite from the day’s worries is a great option.
This is fika, which can be loosely defined as a coffee break with a bit of something sweet to go along with it like a cinnamon bun or other pastry, but there’s actually much more to it than that. Many Swedes in attempting to explain fika hasten to point out that built into the coffee break and snack—and just as important—is a state of mind or an attitude, one that involves sharing some off-work time with your office mates or friends and family, and taking the time to socialize and commune together.
It is such a part of the culture that even massive international corporations like Volvo build in daily fika time for their employees!
4. Malmö’s Maritime Museum
Also near the castle is Malmö’s Maritime and Technology Museum, a wonderful, modern-era counterpoint to the Renaissance history that permeates the castle and the surrounding grounds. Here you can learn all about aviation and other forms of modern transport, and young, prospective engineers can see the inner workings of a number of airplanes, including a cross section of the nose and cockpit from a Vickers Viscount, a British plane from the 1940s and 1950s.
But perhaps best of all—at least for those who aren’t claustrophobic—you can climb inside the extremely tight quarters of a real U3 submarine, built by Swedes for use in World War II. Seeing how a real World War II-era submarine toilet works is definitely a unique addition to Malmö tourist attractions that you’re unlikely to find in many other places!
The Stortorget is Malmö’s main square, and no proper list of what to do in Malmö is complete without at least passing through. In fact, you’ll likely find yourself passing by there again and again, and with the equestrian statue of King Karl Gustav X at its heart, it’s a great landmark for orienting yourself as you navigate a number of nearby Malmö sightseeing highlights.
Make your way around the square to Malmö City Hall, with its stunning curved gables, plasters and pediments, a remarkable example of Dutch Renaissance building techniques from the earliest days of Malmö.
You’ll also want to check out the house built by Malmö’s 16th century mayor Jörgen Kock, and the Kramer Hotel. While you wander Malmö city center, you can always fit in time for a fika break at any number of outdoor cafes that border the square.
6. Lilla Torg
Nearby the Stortorget, you’ll find Lilla Torg, another charming old world square near the city centre. When you see its 17th century cobblestones and half-timbered houses from nearly that long ago, you’ll want to wander Lilla Torg for a while, and probably count it among your favorite places to visit in Malmö.
Originally a market square for Malmö residents, here you can get a feel for what city life in Malmö is like today, as the area is bustling with popular cafes and restaurants. Be sure to visit Saluhallen while you’re there, an indoor market that features tons of Scandinavian dishes as well as food from all over the world.
7. Sankt Petri Church
No list of things to do in Malmö, Sweden would be complete without a visit to see the city’s oldest building, the 14th century Sankt Petri Church.
This incredible Gothic church is impressive not only for the history it embodies, but also for the construction additions later city fathers and church leaders added.
The high altar has to be considered the pinnacle of any visit to the church, as it is the largest wooden altar in Northern Europe and dates to 1611. The sculpted baptismal font and pulpit were also crafted in that same epoch, and are equally awe-inspiring.
Be sure to also check out he Merchant’s Chapel that is still standing to the north of the main tower of the church. History buffs will note that it dates back to the 1400s and features incredible original frescoes painted on the ceiling, making it a highlight among Malmö tourist attractions.
8. Öresund Bridge
It’s unlikely you could spend any amount of time in Malmö sightseeing without at least gaining a passing knowledge of the Öresund Bridge.
For starters, the bridge is unmistakable in the skyline over the Öresund, the waterway that separates Sweden and Denmark. Not only that, if you fly into Copenhagen on your way to visit Malmö, you will almost certainly cross the bridge/tunnel combo in order to reach your destination.
It’s worth noting how impressive a feat of engineering the Öresund Bridge really is. It’s the longest combined railway and roadway bridge in all of Europe, stretching nearly 8 kilometers across the Öresund waterway separating Denmark from Sweden before descending into the man-made island of Peberholm in middle of the strait and tunneling another 4 kilometers to Amager Island in Copenhagen.
It was engineered in this unique bridge/tunnel combo in order to avoid interfering with the high-traffic Copenhagen airport and to provide a clear passage for ships. Built over the course of 4 years and to the tune of €2.6 billion, it appears to have been well worth the effort of connecting Malmö to the European mainland, and passing over/under it is a surefire hit on your list of things to do in Malmö.
9. The Turning Torso
In the area known as the Vastra Hamnen, or Western Harbor, you’ll be sure to take note of the distinctive Turning Torso building, just a five-minute walk from the Malmöhus Castle.
This unique architectural achievement is among the top Malmö tourist attractions, a twisting, 190-meter (620-foot) tall skyscraper that holds the crown of being the tallest building in all of Scandinavia. Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava modeled the eye-catching structure on a white marble statue said to depict a human torso twisting to look backward over its shoulder.
When looking for things to do in Malmö, you should plan to spend some time wandering the rest of the Vastra Hamnen district also, especially if you are interested in Scandinavian architecture and the sustainable design for which these designers are known.
The entire waterfront area here underwent a conscious makeover over the course of the past several decades, transforming it from a polluted, disused industrial wasteland into a modern wonder. The area is dotted with other architectural marvels, all of which were built with a forward-thinking, green, sustainable model in mind.
Design considerations were also incorporated to benefit people as well as the environment and aesthetics, featuring housing above and shops below, and pedestrian-friendly, liveable, open spaces interspersed throughout, making it an important destination when you visit Malmö.
10. Hit the Scandinavian Copacabana
Ribersborgsstranden is the city’s main beach and is easily accessible in just few minutes walk from Malmö city center, putting it at the top of the list of things to do in Malmö.
Wildly popular for those who visit Malmö during the all-too brief Scandinavian summer months, locals and visitors alike enjoy fine white sand, broad grassy verges that are perfect for picnicking or beach games, miles and miles of winding bike and walking paths, and a nearby 9-hole golf course.
But the most famous selling point for those who want to visit Malmö like a local is the open-air Ribersborgs baths located at the end of one of the piers. Visitors delight in the funky wooden buildings housing the baths, first constructed in 1898 and home to a pair of clothing-optional seawater baths and traditional Swedish saunas — in which only towels are allowed, no bathing suits, but they’re separated by gender for those who aren’t quite ready for the full-on nudist thing. (You can wear a bathing suit in the outdoor pools if you wish, but typically bathers here go for the birthday suit look instead.)
Hey, and if you want to get the true Scandinavian experience, don’t let a winter visit prevent you from enjoying the baths; they’re open year-round for the brave — or foolhardy!
11. Malmö City Library
When it comes to listing Malmö attractions, a perhaps unlikely-seeming addition is the Malmö City Library.
This impressive building was first constructed in the 1940s and features a brick stepped gable and spires in a conical shape inspired by Renaissance castles. An equally inspiring glass wing was added in 1997, designed by Danish architect Henning Larsen, and seeing it illuminated at night is truly awe-inspiring.
Even if you don’t read Swedish, it’s a great place to take refuge for a few hours if the weather turns bad during your Malmö visit, as it is home to a generous collection of English-language publications and has tons of nooks and crannies inside where you can stay snug and warm.
12. Shop till you drop on the Södergatan
If you want to know about shopping when it comes to things to do in Malmö, then you must hit Södergatan.
This avenue is one of the main arteries running from Malmö city center and actually predates Stortorget Square and all the other city squares you see when you visit Malmö, for that matter, and in 1978 became the city’s first pedestrian-designated street. You can shop at upscale international stores, Swedish department stores, and all manner of smaller shops in between.
Be sure to check out the street’s oldest building while you’re there, the 16th-century Flensburgska Huset with its distinctive red brick and white stone design.
Also stop for a selfie with the Optimistorkestern or Optimist Orchestra, an eclectic and charming abstract sculpture of a marching band led by a drum major that was installed in 1985, a must-see for Instagramers interested in documenting their Malmö visit.
When you get tired of the hustle and bustle of the shopping district, head over to one of Malmö’s awesome green parks for a little respite in natural surroundings.
Pildammsparken is one of the most popular places to visit in Malmö for both tourists and locals alike, and offers visitors a perfect place to have a picnic, enjoy a glass of wine with friends, or just have a nice stroll or a sit among the avenues created by carefully trimmed hedges.
This 45-hectare park to the south of the Malmö city centre is the oldest one in Malmö, and in the summer months has outdoor movie nights, concerts and much more, making an important addition to your list of things to do in Malmö.
Speaking of concerts, one of the biggest draws for Malmö tourist attractions for younger people isMalmöfestivalen.
Billed as the largest music festival in Scandinavia, this sprawling festival claims 1.4million visitors each year and features all kinds of music, art, cultural experiences and multicultural food offerings.
And it’s not just a festival for the overgrown type of kid — there are plenty of family friendly activities on offer as well.
15. Folkets Park
Speaking of kid-friendly, be sure to include Folkets Park on your list of things to do in Malmö, especially for the younger set.
Folkets Park, or The People’s Park is an amusement park along the lines of Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, and bills itself as the oldest public park in the world. There are amusement park-style rides of course, but also a number of skateparks, expansive green areas and lovely ponds where you can sit and relax, as well as a large wading pool that gets transformed into a skating rink in winter. There are outdoor grills provided for cooking out, but if you forget your picnic lunch, never fear as there are a wide variety of food stalls and even a bar within the park.
16. Malmö Konsthall
Another must-see on any reasonable list of things to do in Malmö is Malmö Konsthall, an art gallery that has one of the largest exhibition areas in all of Europe.
The building was designed by architect Klas Anshelm and opened in 1975 featuring bright open spaces that maximize natural light. Also built into the design is a multi-leveled ceiling and additional artificial lighting that adds multiple new dimensions to the various collections of classic art as well as modern installations.
Best of all for budget travelers: admission is free!
17. Mitt Möllan
Be sure to take the time to visit Mitt Möllan when you are planning out what things to see in Malmö.
This former drab 1960s-era strip mall has been taken over by innovative, creative minds and converted into a haven for artistic, unique endeavors. You can find do-it-yourself jewelry, handbound notebooks, high-end prints, and all manner of design, art and other artisanal work for sale.
In keeping with the theme of being a sort of anti-mall, Mitt Möllan also features an incredible food court where you won’t find any McDonald’s or Burger King. What you will find in this perfect gastronomical example of all the unique things to do in Malmö is poke bowls, Vietnamese noodles, and genuine Indian curry.
There’s even a vegan ice cream place featuring unique flavors like a balsamic, strawberries and vanilla ripple, as well as an IPA watermelon and citrus-flavored offering!
18. Form/Design Centre
While we’re on the subject of eclectic Swedish design—not to mention what to see in Malmö that you won’t see anywhere else—be sure to check out the Form/Design Center located on the southern edge of the Lilla Torg Square.
This cobblestone courtyard was designated by King Gustav VI Adolf in 1964 as a place where a series of outdoor exhibitions and installations would be supported by the state. It has sponsored over 1,200 exhibitions over its lifetime, featuring everything from pottery to sculpture to fashion, and it has a special remit to highlight sustainability and environmentally-friendly practices and lifestyles.
After you get done perusing whatever the current exhibition is, stop off for a snack at the on-site cafe, and check out the adjacent shop that features some wonderful original Swedish design.
19. Moderna Museet
While you’re exploring Swedish and Scandinavian design and art on your tour of Malmö attractions, you must stop by Moderna Museet, Malmö’s unique modern art museum.
Featuring art works from the 20th century up to the present day, this orange-washed building features a wide variety of eclectic exhibitions and installations, as well as hosting symposia, tours (including an occasional fika tour, if you want to get the inside scoop on this venerable Swedish tradition).
The museum also has an ongoing collaboration with Lund University to explore ways we can overcome binary divisions among humans, and between humanity and the rest of nature.
To top it all off, this small but challenging and innovative museum is always free, so one of the perfect things to do in Malmö for the budget-constrained.
20. Visit Malmö by bicycle!
Much like its neighboring city Copenhagen, Malmö has a well-developed bicycle culture which makes exploring the city that much more fun for visitors.
In fact, for those who harbor trepidations about hitting the bricks via two wheels in a strange city, never fear: Malmö is ranked in the top ten most bike-friendly cities in the world, and pedestrians and motorists alike are quick to yield to pedaling passersby.
Plus, one advantage of adding a bike tour to your list of things to do in Malmö is that given the city’s smaller size in comparison to that of Copenhagen or Stockholm, you can actually manage to hit the majority of Malmö attractions in a day or two, if you’re pressed for time.
Renting a bike is easy, and at €8 a day, staying in shape while on your Malmö sightseeing tour is affordable as well.
Finally, when you’ve built up an appetite from all that riding around as you tour Malmö attractions via bicycle, stop off at the market in the multicultural Möllevången neighborhood.
The locals refer to the district as simply Möllan, and here you can find a wonderful outdoor market at the neighborhood’s largest square, Möllevångstorget, where you can buy farm-fresh fruits veggies, cheese, meat, and virtually anything else you can think of, making it a must-see addition to things to do in Malmö for the traveling foodie.
There are also a number of food stalls and cafes offering great fare from around the globe, including some of the best examples of Malmö’s signature international dish, falafel.
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