Blogging is really fun. You never know who you might meet on the internet.
Erika and I were approached online by students at Lund University, who are doing a research project about tourism. They asked if we would mind us answering a few questions about Malmö, both from the perspective of living there, and visiting. We were of course more than happy to be part of their research, and they have very kindly allowed us to post our response here.
If you would also like to assist them in their project, you can email email@example.com too, if you would like to reach out and participate.
Is Malmö a tourist destination for you? Why or why not?
Despite the bad reputation that Malmö has in the UK, which is largely created by slanted stories in the main stream media, Malmö for me is a city that has everything. Even though it was my first experience of Sweden and the home of my girlfriend, I was objective and judged it as I found it. I come from a small town in England, and any size city is huge to me, but Malmö is perfectly “lagom.” Approaching the city from the west side, eases you in gently with a walk through the park, past the beautiful Malmöhus with it’s deep red walls and imposing architecture. I was amazed immediately. The moat around the outside, with ducks and geese, and the small cylindrical towers jetting out over the river. It is a captivating site before even entering the city.
In the UK, if you haven’t been to Sweden before, you picture it as it’s stereotype. A place filled with snow, fisheries and large wooden dala horses, and while this is probably true in some of the tourist areas, Malmö has so much more to offer.
For those who enjoy city breaks, Malmö has everything. From the squares filled with bars and restaurants, to the shops selling designer clothes, the marina with yachts and fishing communities, to the parks and trees.
I walked through the city in awe of the choices of shops, staring through the windows at the pieces of Scandinavia on offer.
I sat on the grass in the park, watching the people walk past, business men in suits, mothers with their children, students drinking coffee and the old couples hand in hand. Ducks and geese carry on their lives nonchalantly as people stand to admire them.
There is such a diverse collection of restaurants, that if you fancy it, you can probably find it. Small Italian restaurants tucked away in the heart of the city, down stairs into the basement of a building to be presented with smoked hams, cheeses and olives, like a secret delicatessen, Vietnamese restaurants, no bigger than the kitchen itself, serving food smelling of ginger and spices. Falafel, burger grills and kebab huts around the city, pristinely clean with scents of flavour pushing up into the air. In the shopping centres, wraps, sandwiches, chinese food, indian takeaway, all within seconds of each other giving any tourist the chance to taste a variety of food before continuing with the exciting or mundane shopping excursions.
A short walk from the city centre, and you can be beside the sea, having fika with friends as you stare out toward the Öresund bridge. Across the blue water are the bright lights of Copenhagen, a busy and noisy town by comparison.
The Swedish culture and the diversity of Malmö, makes the place a friendly one. Although it is a city where people have a variety of jobs, and go about their daily business, an evening out in the bars soon gives you new friends. Native English speakers are everywhere, and the Swedes like to practice, so I was never alone. From the wine bars to the nightclubs, there is something for everyone, all a short walk apart. You can dance or you can sit quietly with friends, enjoying a vast array of beers, wines and food.
Malmö, for me is the perfect destination. It has everything. From it’s museums, to it’s shopping centres. It’s yacht havens to it’s nightlife. It’s large parks and it’s cobbled streets and historic architecture.
Are there any places in Malmö that you would definitely like to visit again? Why this place (or these places)?
I loved my visits to the square, and embraced the fika cuture head on. I had two favourite spots, and for very different reasons. Firstly, Lilla Torg is a wonderful mix of old beautiful buildings and snappy dressed business workers. Around the outside of Lilla Torg, is a variety of cafes and restaurants, decorated with their parasols, and varied seating. It is busy, and full of life, especially in the spring sunshine. People meet for lunch, coffee or just to walk through, but it is a vibrant and bustling part of the city. The old red and yellow brick farm houses still stand and make you feel that you are stepping back in time, the cobbled streets and street lamps only add to the myth of Sweden in days gone by.
The second, is Davidshallstorg but for very different reasons than the former. It is small, and surrounded by large buildings that focuses the sun into the very centre. The old police station looms on one side, and the shops are small. In the spring, before the trees have their leaves, one could mistake it for a back street, nothing more than a walkway to elsewhere. But there is a little diamond in the seemingly rough. “Lite Off” is the coolest little café. It is something totally different than the chain of espresso houses. Star Wars characters, both the original toys and a large storm trooper to greet you. There is wifi and plugs for those that want to work. The coffee is perfect and the staff are wonderful. I was told that there are two within the city, one a café and the other a salad bar, but the salads and cakes are on offer at Davidshall as well. I sat outside on their sofa like seats and watched the world go by. It very quickly became one of my favourite places, tucked away from the main bustle of the centre but still quintessentially Swedish.
Västra Hamnen is the place where I could spend those summer hours. The sea, the marina with it’s cafes and the large parks filled with dog walkers and runners. Looking out over the bridge with a coffee and an ice cream. I imagine picnics, games and laughter with friends. It has a distinctive British feel until you turn around 180 degrees. The new buildings are pure white in the sun, with the Turning Torso at it’s heart. A building that you simply need to see. A literally twisted version of the skyscrapers of London or New York.
When I return to Malmö, I wish to see and experience some of its history. The museums and forts are high on my list. Malmöhus must be the first stop, as within its walls are the Malmö Museum of Art, the City Museum, the Natural History Museum, and the Tropicarium.
And of course, the central city itself. The shops, the restaurants and bars with something for everyone. A true melting pot of culture and diversity.
What would you recommend others to do or see in Malmö?
If you are holidaying in Malmö there are a few things that I would recommend. As you journey around the streets, there are a number of buildings that you will be amazed by. The Turning Torso, it is 190 meters high and is dedicated to both residential accommodation and offices. It is fairly new, built in 2005 and prides itself on being supplied with locally sourced renewable energy. Making it a true Swedish thinkers paradise.
Hedman Yard and Faxeska House are a taste of days gone by. They are farmhouses on the edge of Lilla Torg. Dating back to the 16th century they are the buildings of a true old fashioned Swedish heritage. Yellow and red brick buildings with timber beams, the add a certain character to the square where you can enjoy the juxtaposition of the busy city life.
If you have seen the TV series, the you must travel on the “Bridge.” Sat on the train I felt like Martin Rohde staring out of the window contemplating the trials of my latest case. When Erika met me at Malmö central station, (being blonde and Swedish,) I hoped that I would be greeted with a “Saga Norén, trevligt att träffas.” Sadly, it was not to be.
Eat out as much as you can. The restaurants and cafés are fantastic. There is such a variety of food that you really can eat just about anything that you desire. The standards everywhere are really high compared to the UK. Everywhere is clean, fresh and with a selection of wonderful gastronomic delights. My advice is to go for the daily specials. Whatever it is, it is sure to please at any restaurant.
Finally, if you are British and missing home… Two places where you will fit right in. Firstly, the Pickwick Pub, is an English pub run mostly by British people. They have ale on tap and a formidable pub quiz. Do not expect to win it – I was told. It was the hardest quiz that I have ever experienced, but a lively bit of fun when the beer was flowing. The barmen are English native speakers mostly, and there are even pictures of the Queen amongst the horse brass and English paraphernalia.
Finally, the English shop. If you are looking for things that you struggled with in the supermarket, then I guarantee this is where it will be. Branstone pickle, peanut butter and marmite are all in stock, with real teabags as well. If you feel that you need that little piece of home while you visit then this is the store for you.
When you have been away from Malmö for some time (on a holiday for example) and finally come back, what is the first place in Malmö that you would really like to go? Why that place?
Coming home from a vacation or work, I think, is the same for everyone. “Borta bra, men hemma bäst.”
Going to the supermarket, feeling at home and being in your own house, surrounded by your own things, your own routines and other every-day things is probably what I enjoy the most. You are never really a tourist in your own town, so everything is routine, and you don’t really think about it. For me, being away as much as I am, I have two airports and two other cities as my “home”, as well as Malmö, so I guess I don’t really miss things as much anymore. When I started this job I remember coming home and all I wanted was to sit at Lilla Torg have lunch, dinner and drinks and enjoy with friends. However, now I have new routines. What I now enjoy first is being on the train and crossing the bridge to Malmö, leaving Copenhagen, and seeing the whole city from the bridge. It’s beautiful. The next thing that I do is sit on my balcony, looking out over Öresund and Turning Torso and taking in the familiar sights. Living close to the sea means so much to me. And there is a seafront all the way around Malmö, ish. The third thing is to get a good cup of coffee. Malmö’s coffee culture is something everyone should experience.
Are there any “must-do’s” in Malmö? Something that you should see or do, otherwise you haven’t really experienced the city?
When Eric came to visit me, I felt there were places I needed to show him to make him see the beauty of Malmö. Not all the rubbish that the mainstream media choose to portray. The best time to visit Malmö is spring and summer. Nothing beats a sunny Malmö. It’s not a big city and you can walk everywhere, which we did, and everyone should. Lilla Torg is a popular square that you need to see, and maybe not only see but experience too. Have lunch or a coffee (fika), and especially on a sunny day to feel how alive it is. Another popular square is Möllevångstorget, which is a different type of square and here I wanted to sit down with Eric at Ölkafeet to have a beer, and to show him the differences within the city centre. Parks! We have a lot of parks. Slottsparken and Kungsparken are in the city centre, and it’s peaceful to just walk around in them or just to sit with a picnic. Bo01, Västra Hamnen, Turning Torso and Ribban (our beach closest to the city centre) is a must see. Walk alongside the beach and the seafront, and walk through the small streets in between the houses at Bo01, close to Turning Torso. Some areas feel like Holland, some feels like you’re on holiday at the Canary Islands and some shows you the urban culture of Malmö. The city centre gives you more architecture, old buildings and history. Other must-do’s in Malmö is to experience the people and our food/fika culture. Restaurants that are not on the main street, like diPenco an Italian restaurant close to our opera, Njutbar at Stora Nygatan, Systrar & Bröder, also close to the opera, or Mando Steakhouse, which is close to Lilla Torg and is famous in Malmö for it’s “plankstek”, a steak on a wooden platter. Cafes like Espresso House, which is our Starbucks, can be found everywhere but smaller ones like Lilla Kafferosteriet and Lite Off Coffeeshop is the once you should visit. Gränden is a vibrant summer lunch restaurant in the city centre where you sit outside, like in a garden.
What is the current image of Malmö to you? How would you describe Malmö?
The current image of Malmö, to me, is the same as when I was younger. It’s a quiet city with friendly people. Not a lot of stress, an easy going feeling and a lot of different types of people that make you feel that you fit in, who ever you are. When I was younger we had problems in the same areas, as there is problems now, and even though Malmö is small you don’t notice those problems that media choose to portray. It’s not a dangerous city. My old apartment was still in a good area, where I grew up, but outside the city centre, and there I didn’t feel ok when it got dark. Maybe because it’s a quiet area. Nothing ever happened there, but I think I’m just more aware now as I’m older, of things that can actually happen. But now, back in the city, I feel much better and when it gets dark it doesn’t bother me.
What’s the future of Malmö for you? What do you want to see in Malmö?
I like Malmö and all its differences, and all the different mentality you can find there. As a city it is growing. A lot. And fast. I like the idea of bigger companies, and smaller, moving their headquarters to Malmö. It’s close to Copenhagen and Kastrup, it’s cheaper and easier/faster to get around. I want people to see what Malmö has to offer, and I think the city is working on that. It’s not only the inner city that is growing, but even the outskirts are growing. A lot of companies have moved out to the outskirts of Malmö and I can see a lot of positives with that. Less traffic in the city centre, easier for people to go to work via motorway and not to get stuck in traffic (even though getting stuck in traffic in Malmö is more of a joke if you compare…) and the companies can get bigger office buildings.
Tell us about a precious memory that is connected to Malmö (or a specific place in Malmö).
For me it would be the tiny little camera shop. A strange memory maybe, but it was where I bought a polaroid camera. The owner of the shop spoke little English, but insisted on taking the very first photograph from the camera. And unknown to him, the very first photograph of us.
In amongst the high brow designer shops, bars and restaurants, there is still those little places. Owned by the locals and run for many years, that add so much charm to the city. The camera shop was an Aladdins Cave of treasure with cameras vintage and new, piled up upon each other, and in boxes surrounding the desk. There were items dating from the 60’s and probably before, along with prints of local photographers on the walls. The first photo of us together, added with the 45 minutes that we spent talking in broken English about Sweden and its history, makes for a special memory of Malmö.
Since we are also looking into storytelling and how stories can make a place come alive then it would be helpful if you could somehow answer even these questions:
What does storytelling mean to you?
For me story telling is very important. It is the way that information has been passed down through the generations. Word of mouth, and written events has been the cornerstone of information for thousands of years. Without it, we would lose all the learning of life at the passing of each age. Original stories like Beowulf, The Illiad and even more recent times, give a glimpse into what life was like at the time of writing, as well as bringing entertainment and ideas to the listener. A story captivates the heart of the person being told and fires up the inspiration in them. We listen, we learn and we act. The stories of heroes give us courage to face our seemingly difficult lives, the stories of troubles make us see that others can too rise up and face the difficulties and the stories of each other, help us to walk a mile in another’s shoes. Stories provide a catharsis unlike any other. A release of our own worries and feelings by vicariously living through the lives and experiences of others.
What is the best means of telling a story (film, audio, pictures, just text, anything else)?
With the creation of new technologies, they say that a picture paints a thousand words, but movies, art and printed means are limited by the ideas and opinions of the “artist.” A film, based on a book, will lose the elements that the director feels are unimportant to the story. The way that he judges those things may be different from your own. A scene that did not “make the cut” may be your favourite moment from the book.
On the other side, each time a story is told it gets altered. Made bigger and better by the storyteller who twists and exaggerates its meaning.
There is a phrase, “History is written by the winners.” This means that stories can be biased and changed depending on the person that tells them.
The best way to tell a story, is to show it. Engage with the listeners feelings, and allow them to express and project their own views on to it. Each of us will take different things from a story, and fit it to our own lives. So, tell it. Either in pictures, in text or by spoken word, but allow the listener the catharsis that was intended. A personal and unique view of the story itself.
Which stories catch your attention? Can you explain why these stories?
People. Lives. Experiences. – Each story that becomes a favourite centres around real people in extraordinary situations. Even the stories from ancient times, put characters into their plots that are relevant to the readers. Main characters are often fallible, they make mistakes, nobody is perfect. We like that. We have to be able to accept the characters as one of us. A normal person. Who walks the same paths as we do. Any story that follows this idea catches my attention. The more that I love, empathize and care for a character the more I can become part of the story myself.
Add to that, some fantastic dialogue and a story has my full attention.