As we look ahead to Eurovision 2016 in Stockholm, we’ve been looking back to Eurovision 2013 in Malmö. Hoping to re-live the fun and indulge in a bit of “We Are One” nostalgia, we headed to the Second Semi-Final of Melodifestivalen 2016 in Malmö in February. We filmed our escapades — from riding the trains to hanging with the stars in Malmö Arena to standing on the red carpet — and compiled them into a one-off travel video.
As it turns out, we aren’t the only ones with Malmö on our minds. After our video went live, our readers flooded our inbox with questions about where to stay and what to do in Sweden’s third biggest city. So we’ve compiled a brief travel guide with some of our favourite places in the city. Whether you’re going to tack on a visit to your trip to Stockholm, or are already planning for Melodifestivalen 2017, there’s plenty to keep you busy in Malmö town!
Our weekend in Malmö
Hotels in Malmö
As the official hotel of Melodifestivalen, the Elite Hotel Savoy (Norra Vallgatan 62) has a special relationship with the contest and the many Melfest stars it has hosted — from Samir & Viktor to Wiktoria to Charlotte Perrelli. Situated opposite Malmö Central Station and just around the corner from Malmö’s historic Stortorget (Big Square), it’s in the heart of the city and you can really feel the buzz. The building has a long history — it dates back to 14th century — and the Old World glamour unfolds throughout its many suites and public spaces.
If you need to refuel or let loose, the hotel has you covered. The Savoy Grill is super posh and offers everything from truffle chips and oysters to Texas barbeque ribs and ribeye steaks. The Bishop’s Arms pub stocks an impressive selection of whiskies and beer from around the world. We were thrilled to bump into Wiktoria at the after party inside the restaurant (after she splashed celebratory champagne). We were sad not to bump into Anton Ewald in the hotel’s popular sauna, but thankfully we did see him in the bar, along with Arash and Ellen Benediktson, and they both later watched Krista Siegfrids and Isa dance up a storm. During Melfest the hotel throws some amazing parties for accredited press. But there’s a fun, buzzy atmosphere all year round.
Timeless, elegant, opulent — if you want to experience the high life then head straight to the Hotel Scandic Kramer (Stortorget 7). The building dates back to 1875 and there are 19th century touches throughout — including a stunning staircase set before a series of stain-glass windows. But don’t let the history fool you — this hotel has plenty of modern touches and caters to everyone from pop stars to aristocrats to Sweden’s hot young things. Back at Eurovision 2013 this was the place to see and be seen. SVT’s brightest stars — including Martin Osterdahl and Christer Björkman — called it home, and we spotted Loreen inside its glassed terrace on the ground level. It’s the perfect spot to watch the world go by on Stortorget. The rooms are spacious and classic — think Swedish manor house.
Several years ago, during another Melfest heat in Malmö, we indulged at Hotel Mäster Johan (Mäster Johansgatan 13). It’s just 50 metres from Lilla Torg, perhaps Malmö’s most scenic square, which looks like it could have been plucked from a period drama or a Disney film. The rooms are elegant and understated, and have the feel of an expensive homestay (Bang & Olufsen flat-screen TVs, bathrooms with tiling by Paloma Picasso).
Malmö caters to every price point. A fantastic low-budget option is the STF Vandrarhem (Rönngatan 1), which offers single rooms and beds in dorms. It’s no frills but super clean — and has a five-star location next door to the Malmö Opera (where David Lindgren starred in “Singin’ in the Rain” back in 2010).
Ten things to do in Malmö
The Ark — perhaps Sweden’s best-known glam rock group — had their base in Malmö. And today their former guitarist Martin Axén is keeping both the glam and the rock going at two super-chic venues. The first is Grand Öl & Mat (Monbijougatan 17, in the garden), a sumptuous restaurant, bar and club space where day blends seamlessly into night (and, depending on how good your night is, the morning too).
They help take you on that journey with snacks like fried sourdough bread served with lingonberry dip and mains like potato dumplings with smoked Portabello mushrooms, hazlenut butter and pickled red cabbage. But don’t take our word — listen to Martin describe all during our full interview inside the club room at The Grand (which Måns Zelmerlöw has visited).
His other venue — Far i Hatten (Folkets Park, 214) — sits inside the People’s Park, which was home to the Eurovision 2013 fan cafe. It’s open all year round, but is perhaps best enjoyed in the summer. It includes a music stage, a beer garden and a small restaurant, where you can chow down on a more casual menu of soups, sandwiches and waffles, in addition to cocktails and microbrewery beers.
2. Go vintage shopping
Malmö may be a modern city, but it knows how to honour the fashions of yesteryear. MANI (Davidshallsgatan 8) is a must-visit for both men and women who love vintage, one-off clothing. Their focus is on clothes made in Sweden from the late 1800s to the early 1970s, and we’re pretty sure your friends in London, Madrid, New York and Paris won’t have these threads. You can check out some of their new arrivals in their online gallery.
You can find more retro (and less historic) threads at Popolino (Davidshallsg 15), whose curated collection focuses on British, European and Scandinavian clothes. They lean toward designs with their roots in 60s mod and clothes are typically well-fitted. Think Fred Perry, Ben Sherman, Ljung and Mademoiselle Yéyé, among other labels.
Malmö — which is a short train ride from Copenhagen — attracts creatives from both sides of the Oresund Straight. So it’s no surprise that it’s a hub of cutting edge design. Set inside a medieval warehouse in the middle of the city, the Form Design Center (Lilla Torg 9) is a temple to art, architecture and design. Part exhibition space, part education centre, it is home to a popular shop on the third floor that sells locally produced artisanal crafts — candle holders, cat sculptures, decorative storage boxes, knitwear and toys, among other things.
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Perhaps Sweden’s hottest and most frequently occurring schlager night takes place inside the fashionable Hipp Restaurant (Kalendegatan 12). Every Saturday evening people aged 25 and older turn up and turn out for live pop music from guests artists and a DJ who drops your favourite tunes (from 23:30 – 04:00). From recent-ish hits by Charlotte Perrelli and Alcazar to older tunes from Anna Book and After Dark, the DJs drop it like it’s hot and the crowds follow! A good alternative is WONK (Stortorget 11), a gay club that often features a bit of Melfest love (think “Cara Mia”, “Hope and Glory”, “Popular” and “Alcastar”).
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5. Western Harbour
When we asked Christer Björkman and David Lindgren about Malmö, they both jumped at the chance to discuss Västra Hamnen, the city’s western harbour. The ultra modern district was a thriving port for much of the 20th century, but fell into disrepair in the 1970s before morphing into something of an industrial wasteland. Thankfully major investment has turned it into a hotspot for working, living and playing.
In our interview below, musical theatre star David Lindgren suggests strolling along the beach and getting intimate with a loved one on that beach. And while we may not advocate such blatant PDA, we loved our walks along the shore, through Scaniaparken and Daniaparken. Canals, boats, ducks, bridges, cafés — it’s kind of stunning.
Walking along the shoreline also offers a glimpse of the amazing Öresund Bridge, which stretches for eight kilometres between Sweden and Denmark. Look up and you’ll see the Turning Torso, which rises like a phoenix (Conchita would approve) 200 metres into the sky. The neo-futuristic building is the tallest in the Nordics, and on special days you can visit the viewing deck on the 53rd and 54th floors. Check out the views from the top!
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6. Eat some more
Copenhagen has become a trendy culinary destination in recent years, and Malmö seems to have benefitted from its proximity to the capital. A spate of restaurants — from budget basement to Michelin star — have cropped up. Among the most talked-about is hipster hangout Bastard (Mäster Johansgatan 11), which has a gastro-pub feel and an edgy head chef —Andreas Dahlberg — who sports more than a few tattoos. The menu boasts expertly-made comfort food — pork neck with cannellini beans and greens, grilled mackerel and mussels and lamb’s tongue with potatoes and egg.
The staff is also insanely fun and quirky, as seen in how they deal with leftovers:
A video posted by Bastard (@bastardrestaurant) on
Another swish option is Smak (St. Johannesgatan 7), a chic canteen-style restaurant. We had steak on black beans with cumin cream and pickled red onion and orange baked carrots — and we are still talking about it.
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The whole world is in Malmö, and you can taste it in Möllevången, known locally as Möllan. This boho area is home to a thriving immigrant community and the streets are lined with Vietnamese, Swedish, Persian, Thai, Indian and Caribbean restaurants — to name a few. It’s known as the “falafel area” of the city — and Malmö is reputed to have the best falafel in Sweden.
7. Malmö Opera
Inaugurated in 1944, at the height of World War II, the Malmö Opera (Östra Rönneholmsvägen 20) remains one of the largest auditoriums in Scandinavia, holding more than 1,500 people. There’s an emphasis on classical opera and musicals, but the calendar also includes plenty of musical concerts and dance — so you don’t have to speak Swedish to enjoy. (And, in any event, how many Italian or German operas have you 100% understood?). Melodifestivalen stars including Sanna Nielsen, Charlotte Perrelli and David Lindgren have all performed here and will no doubt continue to appear here in the years ahead. Concerts and shows aside, it’s worth a visit to see its beautiful foyer with marble staircases and to indulge in pre-theatre three-course dinner.
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8. Malmö Live
From historic buildings we turn to the more modern ones at Malmö Live (Dag Hammarskjöld torg 4), a recently created stretch of concert halls and convention centres north of the Western Harbour. Inaugurated in 2015, it includes the Malmö Live Concert Hall, which is the home of the Malmö Symphony Orchestra and boasts world-class acoustics and design. There’s a lot more on show in the two concert halls than just strings. Jazz, folk, electronica, audio-visual concerts, stand-up comedy — the ever-changing list of performances is sweeping and impressive. For instance, in February 2016 Melodifestivalen and Idol veteran Darin performed some of his vintage material — and naturally he slayed! You can whittle away an entire day here if the schedule suits you — there are cafes, bars and restaurants. It’s no wonder the area has earned the nickname Malmhattan!
9. Malmö Museer
Malmö Museer — the largest Museum in southern Sweden — is the umbrella for a series of museums located in Malmöhusvägen, a gorgeous park-like area which is surrounded by canals. There’s an aquarium with plenty of cod, pike, reptiles and spiders — but also a nocturnal hall filled with bats and electric eels. If you’re into cars, planes, and steam engines, head to the Teknikens och Sjöfartens Hus, which is all about technology and maritime history. It includes a much talked-about ‘U3’ walk-in submarine. The highlight of the Malmö Museer, however, is probably the Malmöhus Slott — the oldest surviving renaissance castle in Scandinavia. Dating from 1434, it was completed in the 1500s. Crown Prince Fredrick of Denmark famously hosted wild parties here throughout the 16th century. By the 19th century the castle served as a prison and plenty of men lost their heads in the courtyard. Today it welcomes tamer visitors — and far less blood. The Power Over People exhibition summarises the history well.
10. Malmö Arena
If you’re attending Melodifestivalen in 2017, you’ll no doubt visit Malmö Arena (Hyllie Stationstorg 2). But you don’t have to wait until then for some fabulous events. The arena, which can hold around 13,000 people, has previously hosted Lady Gaga. And the schedule for 2016 looks just as hot, and includes famed horse show Apassionata, Dutch violinist Andre Rieu, British rock star Rod Stewart, R&B Queen Rihanna and piano man Elton John.
While you’re there you’ll want to stop off at the totally glam Emporia (Hyllie Boulevard 19) shopping mall, which is just across the street. Until recently it was the largest mall in all of Scandinavia, and it’s filled with Swedish labels (and some impressive and colourful escalators in green, yellow, blue and red).
Those are our top picks for Malmö. What are yours? Share your tips and comments down below and let us know what your lasting memories of Malmö are!