Over the bridge for a day in Malmö

Guidebook writer David Nikel takes a break from Copenhagen to spend a day in Malmö


Photo: David Nikel
Malmö turns on the charm right away. This canal is right outside the railway station.

David Nikel
Trondheim, Norway

Last month I took you on a quick trip around the history and culture of Copenhagen. You can extend your stay in the Danish capital with a super convenient day trip with a twist. That twist? You’re crossing the border into Sweden!

When landing at Copenhagen airport, you’ll easily spot the impressive Öresund Bridge, the longest combined road/rail bridge in Europe. It spans about two-thirds of the strait that keeps Denmark and Sweden apart. The Drogden Tunnel, a prefabricated reinforced concrete tunnel set into a trench in the sea bed, completes the journey.

While it’s a scenic way of moving between Denmark and Sweden, the bridge also has huge symbolic meaning and is a true icon of a peaceful Scandinavia. This southernmost part of Sweden (Skåne/Scania) played host to centuries-long struggles between the two kingdoms.

It’s symbolic also because of the cooperation it took to get the structure built. First proposed in 1936, the governments couldn’t agree on the project until 1973, but even then they didn’t sign a formal agreement for an additional 18 years. The bridge finally opened in 2000.

If you’re without a carand you really don’t need one in this part of Scandinavia—simply take the train from one of the train stations in Copenhagen or from Copenhagen Airport. It takes just 20 to 25 minutes to reach Malmö, and the cost is less than $10 one-way. You probably won’t be asked to show it, but take your passport just in case!

Although crossing the bridge is a bucket-list item in itself, does Malmö hold enough interest for a day trip? The answer is an emphatic yes.

Öresund Bridge

Photo: Pixabay
The famous Öresund road and rail bridge links Denmark and Sweden.

Since 2011, the transport link has achieved an even more elevated status, thanks to the wild success of the Scandi-noir TV series The Bridge. The first season opens with the discovery of a body halfway across the bridge, kick-starting a joint investigation between authorities in Copenhagen and Malmö.

The success of the series has sparked a huge interest in Malmö from visiting tourists, so much so that a 2.5-hour guided bus tour of the TV locations—from bleak to beautiful—complete with in-bus clips from the series is one of the most popular things to do.

Even if you’re not a fan of the series, it’s one of the best ways to orient yourselfthe city has a somewhat perplexing layout for first-time visitorsand to learn more about the area’s history and its relationship with its big brother Copenhagen just across the water.

Even with the photo stops, you’ll want to stretch your legs after a long period on a bus, and Malmö has several attractions of note within walking distance of the central area. To learn more about the city’s fascinating history, head to Malmöhus castle.

Because of its strategic location regardless of who held the crown, a castle has stood here since the 15th century. It was the Danes who built the castle as it stands today, but the Swedes added the deep moat. As with many Scandinavian castles, the building has served multiple purposes from a prison to a mint and even a temporary royal residence.

Today, the castle grounds are home to galleries displaying contemporary art, Nordic art, and various history exhibitions. You’ll need to grab an English-language leaflet at the entrance unless you think your Norwegian is good enough to understand the Swedish information boards!

While you’re on the castle grounds, it should be easy to spot one of the highest residential buildings in northern Europe, the Turning Torso. Despite its height, the iconic building is most famous for the incredible 90-degree twist of its walls. It’s a residential building so not worth the walk out there unless you’re an architecture buff or have timed your visit to coincide with one of the rare summer open days.


Photo: David Nikel
One of the charming old buildings lining Lilla Torg.

On your way to central Malmö, take a stroll through the charming Kungsparken gardens, the green lung of the city, on your way to Lilla Torg. This romantic square paved with stone and lined with charming old buildings is a popular meeting place.

A few steps away is the much bigger Stortorget, home to many outdoor events and the grand statue of King Karl X Gustav, who united the region with the Swedish Empire under the 1658 Treaty of Roskilde.

Around both squares there are plenty of spots to grab a meal or a coffee before you head back to the central train station to cross the bridge back to Denmark.

While I do enjoy spending time elsewhere in Scandinavia, it’s been several months now since I’ve written about Norway. It’s time to go home! Next month, I’ll be answering some of the most common questions I’ve had from those of you planning a trip to Norway in 2019.

David Nikel is a freelance writer based in Norway. He runs the popular www.lifeinnorway.net website and podcast and is the author of the Moon Norway guidebook, available now in all good bookstores.

This article originally appeared in the November 30, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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David Nikel

David Nikel is a freelance writer based in Norway. He runs the popular www.lifeinnorway.net website and podcast and is the author of the Moon Norway guidebook, available now in all good bookstores.