If you’ve got a spare 24 hours in Sweden, there’s no better town to spend it in than Malmö. Small and full of charm, there are plenty of historical landmarks, examples of modern architecture, green spaces and places to eat that are easy to reach on foot. For the perfect snapshot of this cultural hub, these are the best things to do if you’ve only got one day.
With its surprisingly diverse food scene that embraces both hyper-local and international cuisine, historical landmarks that demonstrate the variety of Scandi-architecture and an abundance of lush green spaces and parks, you’ll be hard pressed to find another Scandinavian city that offers so much in such a small space.
Closely linked to Copenhagen via the Øresund bridge, Malmö is a fantastic layover if you’re city-hopping between Denmark and Sweden. Just in case you only have time for one day in the city, these are the best experiences travellers can have in just 24 hours.
Start your day the Scandi way at Ribersborgs Kallbadhus
The best way to kick start a day in Malmö is by plunging into the Øresund at Ribersborgs Kallbadhus open-air baths. Quickly follow your swim with a trip to the sauna at this 19th-century bathhouse, located on the west coast of Malmö. The rush of endorphins from winter bathing will wake you up and bolster you for a day of exploring in Malmö. And if you’re lucky enough to be there during the summer when it’s warmer, there’s really no excuse not to swim in the sea.
Pro tip: Try not to squeal when you hit the water. There is sauna etiquette and nothing gets a dirty look faster than yelping as you descend into the cold.
After a bracing dip sure to wake you and your appetite up, head to Atrium on Skvadronsgatan which is a 20 minute walk away. A light-filled café on a quiet street in Slottsstaden, Atrium has a small but mighty menu that offers everything you could want for breakfast, from pastries to eggs benedict.
Pro tip: Malmö is small enough to explore on foot, but it is also worth trying a rental bike for a well-rounded experience. Apps like Donkey Republic allow you to start and end rentals anywhere in the city, meaning you can pick up a bicycle whenever the mood takes you.
Walk off your breakfast with a stroll around one of Malmö’s parks
From Atrium, head north for 20 minutes on foot towards Malmöhus slott where you can wander around the Slottsträdgården. There, you’ll find a large functioning garden where crops and rare plants are grown and sold, and an impressive historic windmill. You can also check out the Renaissance castle, built in the 16th century and now home to a few of Malmö’s most significant museums and exhibitions.
Explore Malmö Art Museum’s impressive collection
One of the museums housed in Malmöhus slott is Malmö Art Museum, a leading art gallery in Scandinavia with an impressive collection dating from the 16th century to modern day. Prominent Nordic artists represented include Olafur Eliasson, Elmgreen & Dragset and Annika von Hausswolff.
If you walk 10 minutes towards Malmö Saluhall and get there by noon, you’ll meet throngs of hungry Swedes enjoying the indoor market and pop-up restaurants. There are plenty of options for any taste or budget, from fresh salads to filling pasta dishes.
After lunch, walk 12 minutes to St Peter’s Church in the old town, a loving testament to the nation’s Gothic movement. The 14th-century building has undergone multiple restorations, but is nevertheless considered to be the best example of Gothic church architecture in Skåne county.
Pro tip: Once inside the whitewashed walls, keep an eye out for the church’s famous interiors, like the oak altarpiece which is the largest in Scandinavia.
Stop for a fika coffee break
St Peter’s Church places you five minutes from Lilla Torg, a quaint historical market square with plenty of shops to browse in and spots at which to grab a coffee. For an impressive fika (the Swedish word for coffee and a chat), head south from St Peter’s (taking a detour via Lilla Torg) to reach Lilla Kafferosteriet. The coffee roastery based in Claus Mortensen’s house – a 17th-century townhouse belonging to the Reformation-era priest – serves baked goods from fika heavyweights like Olof Viktors, St Jakobs Stenugns Bakery, Patisserie Katarina, Joel Lindqvist and Madame Marzipan, alongside its superior coffee.
Pro tip: If you are travelling around Shrove Tuesday, don’t miss out on semla season. Be sure to order the sweet bread with whipped cream and almond paste.
Rummage for bargains and Scandi-chic homeware in Trianglen
Rejuvenated and reinvigorated, walk 10 minutes to browse some Scandi design and Swedish vintage clothes in Trianglen. The area is a densely populated shopping area, with plenty of boutiques like Småland – a homeware and design store with an Instagrammable plant shop and café – and the quirkily named clothing store Grandpa on its doorstep. You’ll also find multiple thrift stores like Emmaus, uber-cool Humana and a Swedish institution, Myrorna, nearby.
Make the most of after-work drinks
Scavenging through piles of vintage clothes is tiring work, so when the clock strikes 5pm, indulge in the Swedish “after work”, also known as happy hour. Bullen, located only a three-minute walk from Trianglen, is a traditional Swedish restaurant and bodega where after work runs from 4pm to 6pm.
Enjoy a New Nordic dinner
There are plenty of restaurants to choose from in Malmö, which has an incredibly diverse food scene for such a small city. Bastard, only a 12-minute walk from Bullen, is a great example of the New Nordic principles that underpin so many eateries in Sweden. Its commitment to ethical animal husbandry and nose-to-tail butchery sees a menu filled with respect for high-quality ingredients – and some of the most delicious charcuterie outside Italy.
If you’re looking for something less meat focused, hyper-local restaurant Lyran (a 20-minute walk away) offers an eight-course vegetarian tasting menu that lets the exceptional raw produce shine. Alternatively, if the weather is nice, you can walk 20 minutes to Folkets Park, pick up a pizza from Far i Hatten and enjoy the final hours of a long Swedish summer day surrounded by nature.
Pro tip: Make sure you’re dining with someone who doesn’t mind sharing. Many restaurants opt for family-style menus, meaning they serve small plates that are intended to be split by the table.
Stop for a nightcap and take in the views
Next, head to Kitchen & Table Malmö’s sky bar at the Clarion Hotel, which has uninterrupted views of the city, the sea and Scandinavia’s tallest building – the Turning Torso. It’s conveniently located by Malmö central station, so a great place to skål (toast) to a day well spent before catching a train to your next destination. Head to the glass-walled cocktail bar on the 25th floor and see which landmarks you can spot; the windmill at Slottsträdgården is an easy win.
Pro tip: Sweden is strict when it comes to public drinking, but you’re allowed to consume alcohol bought from the train’s refreshment cart on board – just remember, don’t take it with you when you disembark.