The magnificent city of Malmö is playing host to this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. The fifth time Sweden has staged this illustrious event, many expected Malmö to be buzzing with excitement and anticipation. Though there are hints all over town that an important and lively event is in the pipeline, eurosong fever has not matched that of Baku last year.
Indeed, the streets of Malmö are quieter, more akin to Düsseldorf which hosted the event two years ago. For Azerbaijan, it was a chance for that country’s oppressed people to lose themselves in a rare moment of cosmopolitan ecstasy. For Malmö, it is a chance to demonstrate its qualities and excellence to hundreds of millions of television viewers in Europe and beyond.
So what kind of research does one need to carry out before going on an expedition to this northern pearl, perched at the Öresund? Just find a way to get there and let Malmö do all the work for you. It is the kind of city that embraces you and makes you its own. Both Malmö airport and Copenhagen airport have excellent bus connections to the city centre.
The train ride from the Danish capital lasts a mere 25 minutes and you arrive in the very centre of Malmö. The city is a pleasant size with a population of around 300,000. The entire metropolitan area has a population of roughly 660,000 people.
Disembarking from the train and leaving the station, you will find yourself in an extremely modern district, full of stylish glass and concrete buildings. It is very easy to go wrong with this type of architecture but Malmo makes a magnificent first impression. Old buildings straddle one side of a wide canal, while newer ones stand opposite, the glass panes reflecting their forebears whenever the sun shines.
At the very end of the water, a white and red lighthouse juts out from the scenery, imposing itself on the cityscape. The best mode of transport in Malmö is the bicycle and it is possible to rent one from several locations around town. The infrastructure is very cyclist friendly, as are the drivers.
Crossing the bridge onto Norra Callgatan, it is a short walk or bike ride to the Big Square (Stortorget), a place full of beautiful old multi-coloured buildings. There is statue of King Karl X Gustav of Sweden in the centre of the square, resplendent on horseback. He was responsible for freeing Malmö from Danish dominion. The City Hall was built in 1546 and can be found on the eastern side of the Stortorget – it is a grand and imposing structure.
The northwest corner plays host to Kockska Huset. This is the house of Jörgen Kock, a German immigrant who became wealthy by taking over the city mint and becoming mayor. The Stortorget is a great place to take a break and pause for a coffee during the summer months. In the dark and cold depths of winter, the square turns into a large ice-skating rink.
Another great place to relax in the sun with an espresso or cappuccino is the Little Square (Lilla torg), a few metres away through a small pedestrianised street. It is a pleasant area, packed with pavement cafes and half timbered buildings. It is the primary spot for socialising in Malmö and tends to get very busy during the evening hours.
Any expedition to the city is not complete without a visit to the Malmöhus Castle. This beautiful old fortress was built by Erik of Pomerania in 1437 and can be found just west of the city centre. It was inhabited by the kings of Denmark way back in the 16th century before becoming a prison, a role it fulfilled until 1914. These days, it plays host to various different functions, containing a history museum, art museum, aquarium and terrarium.
The Fiskehoddorna is just adjacent to the castle. This small complex of red, brown and blue wooden buildings contains a traditional fish market and the food is absolutely exquisite. It is well worth a visit after exploring everything the castle has to offer.
The Slottsträdgården is located directly south of the castle. This spacious and beautiful park area is a relatively new addition to the city. It is divided into eight different gardens, full of wild flowers and glistening lakes. The people of Malmö flock here whenever the sun shines. The pubs and restaurants of Sweden are expensive and of course, Malmö is no exception. If you are trying to save some money and still have a great time, buy some wine or beer from the supermarket and visit the Slottsträdgården for a nice picnic.
If you happen to find yourself in Malmö during the weekend, head towards the square at Möllevångstorget where you will come across a bustling market. It is loud and the prices are reasonably cheap – you can find some great bargains there. The side streets are full of African, Asian and Middle Eastern shops and restaurants. The whole district really forms the cosmopolitan heart of Malmö and walking around the busy streets is an enjoyable weekend activity. If you want to experience the polar opposite, visit Gamla Väster, a hip and upper class area full of expensive boutiques and restaurants. It is soulless, yet relatively fascinating all the same.
The Tekniska och Sjöfartsmuseet or Technology and Maritime Museum, is one of the very best museums in Malmö. It is primarily dedicated to various forms of transport, particularly aviation and maritime travel. One of the most notable displays is a Swedish U3 submarine dating from 1943. It is fully accessible, though its size means most visitors will have to crawl through its low and narrow passages. The major downside of this museum is that all of the displays are labelled in Swedish. Nevertheless, it is a great place to spend an afternoon, particularly if it rains.
Every major city has its own major landmark – Berlin has the Fernsehturm and Paris has the Eiffel Tower. Malmö has the Turning Torso, a 190 metre tall skyscraper. It is the tallest building in all of Scandinavia and mainly contains apartments, along with some offices. Unfortunately, there is no observation deck, a major disappointment considering the beauty of the landscape surrounding Malmö.
If you want to blur the lines between the Mediterranean and Scandinavia, head towards Ribersborgsstranden at the height of summer. This sandy beach stretches for two kilometres and provides an excellent point of escape for those seeking a way out of the urban bustle. During winter, it turns into a having for ice-swimming, ideally combined with a hot Swedish sauna.
When the evening arrives, hit Kulturbolaget, Malmö’s premier rock club and a great party hotspot when the weekend rolls in. Fagans is the city’s quintessential Irish pub, though like most places in Malmö, it is very expensive. If you want to dine on a budget, head for La Empanada where you can dine on Latin American and Swedish meals. If the cost really gets to you and you are looking for a cheap place to eat, why not visit the most famous Swedish institution of all? IKEA.
So Malmö is a fantastic host city for Eurovision 2013. Old cobble squares meet modern boulevards, creating a city packed with personality and atmosphere. Seagulls glide above the streets, while the cool refreshing breeze blows in from the Baltic Sea. The very best thing about Malmö is that it is completely devoid of stress. Hire a bicycle and make your away around the compact city-centre before venturing out beyond it in the direction of the castle and sandy beaches. It is an exciting and carefree choice for an expedition – a trip here certainly will not leave you disappointed.