Sweden’s third-largest city was once a thriving port and shipbuilding centre, but since its heavy industry died out in the 1980s it has reinvented itself as an edgy, cosmopolitan place with a wonderful mix of cultures. It’s home to a pretty old town with half-timbered buildings and cobbled squares, all sorts of fascinating restaurants and bars, and a redeveloped waterfront that was Europe’s first carbon-neutral neighbourhood. But the main attraction for me was its vibrant design scene, which has been fuelled by cheap rents, a supportive atmosphere that lures start-ups, and a collaborative approach that often sees studios team up to showcase local talent.
Malmö is connected to Denmark by the famous Øresund Bridge and you could easily visit on a day trip from Copenhagen, but I reckon it deserves a longer stay as there’s plenty to see and do. Here are my favourite finds…
Our base was the newly opened Story Hotel, which occupies a tall grey building on the waterfront, just a short walk from the city centre. It’s very convenient and brilliantly designed, with opulent red-velvet curtains and sleek Scandinavian lamps against exposed pipework and concrete walls. What’s more, the rooms have lots of little touches that make them a joy to stay in – laptop trays for easy working, USB points by the bed, towel rails with handy shelves, good-sized toiletries (no uselessly tiny bottles of conditioner here!), Apple TV, and cushioned benches by floor-to-ceiling windows. Mine was on the 13th floor and I loved wallowing in the super-comfy bed, watching ships heading out to sea far below.
I was also impressed with the hotel’s 14th-floor restaurant and bar, Grilljanne, which serves up Asian-Swedish fusion food (yes, that’s a thing) and excellent G&Ts. I tucked into Japanese gyoza, grilled halloumi with a trio of spicy dips, and salted caramel and chocolate ice cream – all delicious. There’s also a panoramic roof terrace where you can dine in summer.
Set in a converted warehouse on the dockside, this buzzing canteen-style restaurant is a great place to go for lunch. It only serves two options each day – one meat or fish and one vegetarian – but everything is locally sourced, seasonal and very tasty. I loved the décor: raw grey walls, bikes hanging upside down from rails, long communal tables, and a wall of windows looking out over the water.
Saltimporten, Hullkajen, Grimsbygatan 24, Malmö
Founded by Jenny Ekdahl, Ola Nystedt and Joel Herslow, this design studio is an excellent example of Malmö’s creativity. ‘Stoft’ is a Swedish word for millions of small particles, constantly moving and re-arranging themselves into new and surprising formations, and this very much reflects the trio’s ethos. They often use traditional crafts as a starting point, but break them down and reinvent them in unexpected ways. The resulting pieces include the ‘Minor Flaws’ glass lamp, whose bulging shape was inspired by muffin tops protruding over tight jeans, the ‘Canvas’ chair, which is based on embroidery hoops, and the ‘Whittle Away’ wooden lightshades and cupboards, both reminiscent of peeling bark. There’s also a beautiful range of handmade ceramics in muted pastel shades, produced in collaboration with Vietnamese pottery studio Dong Gia.
Stoft Studio, Nobelvägen 90, 212 15 Malmö
This innovative textile studio was set up by Hanna Butler and Karin Olu Lindgård, who both studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts’ School of Design in Copenhagen. The duo work closely together, often sketching on the same pieces of paper to produce joint works. Many of their designs are intended to challenge conventional ideas about beauty and how the female body should be represented, so there are motifs inspired by hairy legs, nipples and more; they’ve also collaborated with Stoft Studio to produce a tactile weave for the ‘Canvas’ chair, which is based on the goose bumps found on ageing skin. My favourite, though, was ‘Traces’ – a series of flowing patterns created by a dancer performing choreographed movements with paint.
Butler/Lingård, Ehrensvärdsgatan 6, 212 13 Malmö
Occupying a traditional timber-framed building in Gamla Staden (the old town), the Form/Design Centre is a meeting point for the city’s creatives. There are several floors of free-to-enter exhibition spaces, plus a shop selling homewares, clothing and jewellery from local designers (I spied pretty ceramics from Camilla Engdahl, whose work I covered recently, among other temptations). It’s well worth a browse, followed by fika in the ground-floor café.
Form/Design Centre, Lilla Torg 9, 203 14 Malmö
I could have spent hours browsing this sprawling lifestyle store, which focusses on green living. Its handpicked range encompasses everything from sustainable home accessories to plants to ethical fashion, and many of the products are recycled or organic – the textured ceramics, soft grey linens and L:A Bruket skincare instantly caught my eye. It also encompasses workshop spaces, plus a laid-back café where I indulged in a huge cheese, apple and avocado salad.
AB Småland, Södra Förstadsgatan 26/27, 211 43 Malmö
Located next-door to AB Småland, this tardis-like boutique stocks a fantastic range of fashion and homeware by some of Scandinavia’s best-loved brands. There are lamps and candleholders from Danish companies Hay and Muuto, minimalist leather bags from Sweden-based Sandqvist, and beautiful photographic prints of Swedish landscapes by Low Key. It’s also a great place to pick up lifestyle books and independent magazines – I came away with a copy of Susanna Vento’s Green Home Book and the latest issue of Kinfolk.
Grandpa, Södra Förstadsgatan 25, 211 43 Malmö
I was keen to visit this lovely little floristry shop after seeing these beautiful photos from Jeska of Lobster & Swan, and I wasn’t disappointed. Painted in a dark, moody blue, it’s brimming with wild-looking bunches of locally grown, sustainable flowers, along with potted plants and a few vintage finds. If you’re lucky, you might also get to meet the owner’s gorgeous dog Farfar, who often helps out behind the counter.
FLORISTA, Kärleksgatan 4, 211 45 Malmö
This bustling food hall occupies a former railway shed near the city centre and you could easily lose a whole day hopping between its many delis and stalls. There’s a butcher, a baker, a florist, a chocolatier, an Asian street-food bar, a pizzeria using only local produce and much, much more. My favourite was Tea Junkie, an innovative tea specialist (complete with a resident ‘tea sommelier’!) where I discovered the delights of velvety-smooth matcha latte. I also loved the sensitive restoration of the building, which mixes industrial beams and exposed brick walls with modern metro tiling, contemporary lighting and weathered steel cladding.
Malmö Saluhall, Gibraltargatan 6, 211 18 Malmö
Once a gritty industrial area, Malmö’s regenerated western harbour is a lovely place for a stroll. There are striking contemporary apartment blocks, waterfront cafés overlooking the Øresund Bridge, and a marina crammed with bobbing yachts. It’s also home to the ‘Turning Torso’, a 54-storey skyscraper designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava to resemble a human figure twisting to gaze out over the sea.
For more information on Sweden and Malmö, see Visit Sweden and Visit Skåne. You can also find further tips on stylish places to eat, stay and shop in this post by Malmö-based blogger Niki of My Scandinavian Home, who kindly joined us for dinner and design chat during the trip.
I visited Malmö as part of a hosted blogger tour with Visit Sweden and Visit Skåne, but as ever all words and opinions are my own.
All photography by Abi Dare