A walking tour of Sweden’s design capital: Malmö

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Sweden’s third largest and southernmost city is a hotspot of activity and attractions for lovers of Scandic design, art and architecture. A wealth of well-preserved late-Gothic buildings surround the city’s two ‘Old Town’ squares, Stortorget and Lilla Torg, giving the city a distinctly medieval feel, while further afield a clutch of ultra-modern marvels, ranging from private and commercial buildings to public spaces, reflect Malmö’s positioning as a multicultural city with a focus on the future. Dotted around town you’ll find an impressive collection of galleries, bars and cafés bursting with inspiration and some fantastic local boutiques, brimming with obejts d’art for you to take back home.

Gothic buildings in Malmö square © Rolf_52 / Getty

Central Station Area

Most international visitors arrive at Malmö’s Central Station, whether coming by train via other parts of Sweden, or flying into Denmark’s Copenhagen Airport and using the convenient rail links into the city. It’s a great place to begin your explorations of Malmö, either on foot or by bicycle. Malmö prides itself on being a green, bike-friendly city, and you can find yourself on two-wheels in no time using the easy Malmö by bike service.

Since opening in 1856, the station complex has undergone many transformations, the latest being the 2010 addition of the ultra-modern 130m-long Glass Hall with its sleek, clean lines, glass panels and sharp angles, contrasting magnificently with the elegant domes, old-brick walls and herringbone tiles of the original terminal building’s Central and Green Halls. As you wander around the old and the new, pay attention to the finer details, like the lettering chosen for the station signage: you’ll soon realise you’ve arrived in a city with a keen eye for great design.

Lingering for a moment in the present, with your eye to the future, cross the Suellsbron bridge and continue west for a few hundred metres until you reach the un-missable Malmö Live complex. Opened in 2015, the beautiful boxy buildings that make up this mixed-use, world-class entertainment venue have won critical acclaim and a number of design and architecture awards.

Malmöhus Slott (Malmö’s castle) © Holgs / Getty

Gamla Staden

Cross the Hovrättsbron bridge to find yourself on Slottsgatan on the fringe of gorgeous Gamla Staden, Malmö’s medieval Old Town. From this point, you can duck across to the imposing ruins of Malmö’s castle, Malmöhus Slott (now a museum), take a stroll through Kungsparken, or proceed directly into the heart of old Malmö to the lively, much-loved Lilla Torg (Little Square), whose selection of excellent restaurants, bars and cafés will leave you a little spoiled for choice.

A hop, skip and a jump south of the square, you’ll find the must-visit Form/Design Center, whose historic half-timbered houses have been converted into a microcosm of galleries and boutiques selling Scandi-cool art, fashion, crafts, toys and homewares. Window shoppers can stock up on design tips and inspiration, while those more willing to part with cold, hard cash can find original pieces that will induce the envy of your friends back home. If you’re a die hard art-lover, you may want to trade a few stops on this tour for a sidetrip to the Malmö Konsthall to see one of Europe’s largest contemporary-art spaces.

Once you’ve finished depositing in your design bank, head back to Lilla Torg and across the way to Stortorget, Malmö’s massive main square, making a beeline for the statue of King Karl X Gustav in the centre. Casting your gaze clockwise from the northwestern corner, you’ll see Kockska Huset dating from 1524, the robust former residence of one-time mayor and politician Jörgen Kock, who’s governance led Malmö into a period of great prosperity. Then, Länsresidenset i Malmö is a rather grand affair built in a Renaissance style, next door to the Rådhuset (city hall) originally built in 1546. At the southeastern corner of the square, you can pop into the city’s oldest pharmacy, Apoteket Lejonet, whose exquisite art-nouveau interior boasts carved wooden shelves, antique medicine bottles and a glass-plated ceiling.

If it’s more modern art and architecture you crave, head towards Moderna Museet, which, like the Central Station complex, effortlessly blends the old and the new: inside, there’s likely to be an exhibition to whet your appetite. If you’re time poor, you might elect to head straight to the city’s massive Gothic church, Sankt Petri Kyrka, to round off your medieval musings.

Turning Torso, the tallest building in Sweden © klug-photo / Getty

Västra Hamnen

Crossing the Mälarbron bridge, you’ll find yourself back where you started, at Central Station, where you might wish to call it a day, saving this last bit for tomorrow. But, if you’ve got more life in you, head north on Skeppsbron until you reach the Universitetsbron bridge; cross it, then head west, until you find yourself in the city’s revitalised port area, Västra Hamnen, a popular recreational area known for its modern buildings, waterfront promenade and vibrant café and restaurant scene.

Here you’ll find Sweden’s tallest building, the Turning Torso, and from the waterfront, you’ll be able to see the Öresund Bridge, linking Sweden to Denmark. Both are marvels of modern engineering and design and a fitting place to conclude your tour – after of course, a refreshing beverage or delicious meal deserving of all that activity. Make sure to jot down all your design inspirations before you sleep!

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