When we planned our visit to Copenhagen—my favorite city in the world—for New Year’s Eve, I somehow wasn’t surprised when Adam casually suggested we steal some time from our trip to visit nearby Sweden. Not about to negotiate, I reminded him that I had been dreaming of visiting Copenhagen again for years, and to lose a day there even to gain a way for him to see a new country just wasn’t something I wanted.
“What if we’re only gone for a morning?” Adam asked. Not possible, I told him. Stockholm, Sweden’s capital city, would take hours to reach by train. While it was a possibility, it would require us to miss out on some of the spots I wanted to visit in Copenhagen. Adam shook his head. “If we visit Malmö, we can be back in Copenhagen by lunchtime,” he told me. Intrigued, I studied Google Maps and discovered he was right. Just 40 minutes away by train, we could easily make it to Malmö and back in time for the lunch reservation I made. I decided to make an exception to my no-negotiation rule; we would wake up early, spend a few hours in Malmö, and return to Copenhagen to continue our sightseeing.
As usual, Adam was right. Malmö provided a tranquil pause in our otherwise fast-paced city break itinerary. Whether you’re hoping to add a new country to your own list while visiting Copenhagen or are looking for another stop on a Sweden itinerary, here are a few ways you can spend a morning in Malmö!
More a fortress and less a traditional royal residence, Malmö Castle was first built in 1434 by King Erik of Pomerania, subsequently demolished, and rebuilt by King Christian III of Denmark close to a century later. Although it was occasionally used as a home and sometimes as a stronghold, the castle was more frequently used as a prison. Between 1568 and 1573, James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell and third husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, was imprisoned there before being moved to another location. As the centuries wore on, eventually the structure became a homeless shelter before Malmö converted it into a museum in the 1930s. Today, the castle’s interior is home to the Museum of Natural History, the City Museum, and an aquarium.Although our early morning visit took place before the museum opened for the day, we didn’t need a tour to appreciate the importance of Malmö Castle—locally known as Malmöhus Castle—to the city’s history. The castle isn’t as ornate as many of the European castles we have explored, but there’s no denying how impressive Scandinavia’s oldest preserved Renaissance castle truly is. As we approached, we saw the sun glistening off the moat surrounding the castle and enjoyed a relaxed walk around it to see the castle from a few different angles. Joggers passed us on foot, and a few swans floated by on the water. It would be hard to visit Malmö without incorporating the castle into your day trip!
Located on Malmö Castle’s grounds, Slottsparken is a beautiful retreat from the city. Full of green space, Slottsparken contains Slottsträdgården, which seasonally produces fresh fruits and vegetables that are available for purchase. There are also several types of gardens more known for flowers than food. Our late December visit wasn’t exactly during the growing season in Malmö, but that didn’t stop us from visiting—or seeing the Slottsmöllan, or windmill, that is visible from several parts of the park. The windmill was built in 1851 and used regularly for almost a century, first under steam power before its conversion to wind power. It was decommissioned in 1945, and today it is more of a show piece within the context of the garden itself.
Our visit to Malmö was more about sightseeing and enjoying some time outside than anything else, and Slottsparken was the perfect addition to our quick day trip itinerary. The gardens are more extensive than we realized they would be; we enjoyed walking through them and realized we left plenty of corners unexplored, which means we’ll unquestionably need to visit again when the weather is warmer and the trees and flowers bloom.
Malmö’s historic market square is unmissable when planning a morning visit, and it has been central to the city’s activities for more than 500 years. Originally built in 1540, it used to be the largest market in Northern Europe. Today, the buildings that surround Stortorget tell the vibrant history of life in Malmö over the years.
A huge statue of King Karl X Gustav stands in Stortorget’s center, where the former ruler sits on a horse and oversees the city square’s activities. Malmö’s city hall, which was built in 1547, is also part of the cityscape. One of the most popular attractions is Apoteket Lejonet, an old world-style pharmacy that features some historic items including antique bottles. Each building has played a role in Malmö’s history, and while today many of them are working buildings that house offices, there are several that hold souvenir shops and restaurants. Just beyond Stortorget is Lilla Torg, which means little square; it was developed in 1590 when Malmö outgrew its main market square. Today, Lilla Torg is also worth exploring for restaurants and shopping.
Because our visit took place at the end of the year, we caught the very end of Malmö’s Christmas decorations, and a huge tree adorned Stortorget when we arrived in the early morning. Surrounded by the old buildings, Stortorget’s charm and holiday cheer were undeniable. Coupled with the fact we were the only visitors there (a benefit of being early risers!), the experience was among our favorite during our morning in Malmö.
Less a place than an experience, fika is the Swedish concept of taking a break to enjoy coffee and a sweet treat. More than just a coffee break, fika is often social and typically enjoyed with family or friends, and many people enjoy fika several times during the day. As avid consumers of both coffee and pastries, we picked Solde to both escape the winter chill and put a name to the coffee and snack breaks we have been taking for years.
Solde is a wonderful café where they roast their own sustainably produced beans and brew delicious cups of coffee, and it ended up being a great place for fika. When we first arrived, we were alone in the shop, but that didn’t last long. Within 15 minutes there was barely a seat to be found, and the small space filled with the sound of laughter as small groups enjoyed their coffee break.
For as nice as coffee and pastries might sound, the most essential part of fika is the social aspect. Looking around, most people seemed very tuned-in to the people they were with as they held conversations and used the time to connect with others. In the digitally driven, fast-paced world we have created for ourselves, we appreciated fika for what it offered: a chance to pause and focus on the important things. It’s a tradition that far more of the world should embrace!
More Information: Solde.se
Malmö Art and CultureMalmö is an artistic city, and our walk took us past statues of cats by the water, boots on a pedestrian bridge, and even a marching band near Stortorget. The most memorable, though, were the talking trash cans.
Adam knew about the trash cans before we arrived, but I got to experience them without knowing they were ready to audibly thank me for not littering. At first glance, the receptacles look like any other we have passed during our travels. When opened, though, I was surprised to hear one offer thanks for what I tossed into it. Another made a smacking noise as if to say it enjoyed the taste of garbage. Take a look at this video, where Adam captured the gratitude expressed by the trash can.
Although there were once 17 talking trash cans in Malmö, today there are just two, which are located on the Davidshallsbron Bridge near the Disgusting Food Museum. They are worth seeking out for their novelty; the fact they encourage locals and visitors to keep Malmö litter free is a great bonus.
More Information: DisgustingFoodMuseum.com
Getting to Malmö from Copenhagen
From Copenhagen’s central station, Malmö is just a 40-minute train ride away. It’s easy to buy tickets before the journey, and because trains run frequently (often every 20 minutes) there’s no reason to purchase in advance most of the time. If you have a car, driving to Malmö is also quite easy and includes using the stunning Øresunds Bridge, but it can take longer with traffic and requires paying a toll. We found the train to be quick, efficient, and very convenient.
More Information: SwedenTrains.com
Back in Copenhagen, we had no trouble making our lunch reservation after returning from our morning in Malmö. As our server set a round of beers in front of us, she asked us if we had done anything fun that day. When we told her we spent the morning in Malmö, she laughed. “It’s barely lunchtime and you’ve already left Denmark!” she mused, a fact that made us smile as well. Malmö is an easy day trip from Copenhagen, and it’s well worth a visit. Malmö has its own unique culture, quirks, and sights to see. We appreciated how different it felt from Copenhagen despite its proximity, and we were surprised to realize we plan to prioritize a second visit when we are back in Scandinavia. Planning for how you’ll maximize your vacation time is a great way to make sure every moment counts, but our morning in Malmö highlighted why flexibility is just as essential: you never know what fun opportunities could be a quick train ride away!
Want to discover more interesting cities around the world? Check out these posts from our archives!