Founded in the late thirteenth century, MALMÖ was once Denmark’s second most important city, after Copenhagen. The high density of herring in the sea off the Malmö coast – it was said that the fish could be scooped straight out with a trowel – brought ambitious German merchants flocking; their influence can be seen in the striking fourteenth-century St Petri kyrka in the city centre.

Today, with its attractive medieval centre, a myriad of cobbled and mainly pedestrianized streets, full of busy restaurants and bars, Malmö has plenty of style. Beyond its compact centre, it’s endowed with the stunning and dramatic skyscraper, the Turning Torso, a string of popular beaches and some interesting cultural diversions south of the centre around Möllevångstorget square.

Brief history

Eric of Pomerania gave Malmö its most significant medieval boost, when, in the fifteenth century, he built the castle, endowed it with its own mint and gave Malmö its own flag – the gold-and-red griffin of his own family crest. It wasn’t until the Swedish king Karl X marched his armies across the frozen Öresund to within striking distance of Copenhagen in 1658 that the Danes were forced into handing back the counties of Skåne, Blekinge and Bohuslän to the Swedes. For Malmö, too far from its own (uninterested) capital, this meant a period of stagnation, cut off from nearby Copenhagen. Not until the full thrust of industrialization, triggered by the tobacco merchant Frans Suell’s enlargement of the harbour in 1775 (his jaunty bronze likeness, on Norra Vallgatan opposite the train station, overlooks his handiwork), did Malmö begin its dramatic commercial recovery. In 1840, boats began regular trips to Copenhagen, and Malmö’s great Kockums shipyard was opened; limestone quarrying, too, became big business here in the nineteenth century.

During the last few decades of the twentieth century, Malmö found itself facing commercial crisis after a series of economic miscalculations, which included investing heavily in the shipping industry as it went into decline in the 1970s. But recent years have witnessed a dramatic renaissance, reflected in the upbeat, thoroughly likeable atmosphere pervading the town today. Since the opening of the Öresund bridge linking the town to Copenhagen, the city’s fortunes have been further improved, with Danes discovering what this gateway to Sweden has to offer, as opposed to the one-way traffic of Swedes to Denmark in the past.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Sweden features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

You’ll soon be able to stay at the ICEHOTEL throughout the year

You’ll soon be able to stay at the ICEHOTEL throughout the year

The ICEHOTEL, constructed from snow and ice each year, has long been Swedish Lapland’s blockbuster attraction. It features in our list of the top 21 things to…

19 Apr 2016 • Eleanor Aldridge insert_drive_file Article
Trail-running in the stunning Swedish countryside

Trail-running in the stunning Swedish countryside

Ros Walford goes leaping over granite rocks to give you the lowdown on Sweden’s only coastal trail-running race.  What is this strangely named Icebug Xperie…

09 Nov 2015 • Ros Walford insert_drive_file Article
Scandinavia for first-timers: 7 ideas for short breaks

Scandinavia for first-timers: 7 ideas for short breaks

On the face of it, Scandinavia isn’t a very sensible place for a holiday. For one thing, it’s almost always going to be colder than the place you’re leavi…

09 Oct 2015 • Steve Vickers insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month