When Sweden won last year’s Eurovision Song Contest in far-flung Azerbaijan with haunting tune Euphoria, Malmö was the lucky city to be chosen as host for this year’s contest. The final, on the 18th of May, will take place at Malmö Arena, seating over 15,000 spectators and opened as recently as 2008. Participants from 39 countries will descend on Malmö mid-May, for the semi-finals and they’ll undoubtedly be joined by hoards of fans from across Europe. Love it or loathe it, as kitsch as Eurovision has become over the years, it still pulls in the crowds and remains unrepentantly popular.
Hard times lead to green thinking
Sweden’s third city in size, Malmö might seem a slightly peculiar choice of host for such a major international event, but after a period of severe decline in the 1980s, it’s re-emerged a vibrant city with a strong green, organic and sustainability focus. Malmö, which dates back to the 13th century, was one of the first cities in Scandinavia to be industrialised and owed much of its prosperity to the great Kockums shipyard. The city’s biggest employer, it was closed down in the mid-1980s and Malmö fell on hard times. By the mid-1990s unemployment had rocketed, crime rates were high and there was a general air of despondency about the place – it was high time to try and turn things around. A number of politicians and individuals banded together to make the transformation of Malmö possible and a decision to give the city a sustainable focus was taken early on. Malmö today, although proud of its industrial heritage, has a very different approach and outlook to the Malmö of old – biotechnology, culture and architecture all feature high on the current agenda. As a city break destination it has a lot to offer and those visiting for the first time to coincide with Eurovision are in for a pleasant surprise.
The square route – part one
Arriving from Copenhagen by train across the 5-mile long Öresund bridge, linking Denmark and Sweden, I opted for a walking tour of Malmö starting out from the Central Station on the Inner Harbour. From here it’s a short walk to the Old Town, surrounded by canals on all sides. Originally a herring fishing port and a part of Denmark, Malmö, along with the rest of Scania, reverted to Swedish rule in 1658 and by then Malmö was already one of the largest cities in Scandinavia. Walking south into the Old Town, my first stop was Stortorget (Big Square), flanked by a number of grand buildings including the 16th century city hall, Rådhuset. Just to the southwest lies its more boisterous “sibling” Lilla Torg (Little Square), home to many bars and restaurants – perfect for al fresco dining in summer. In many parts of Malmö innovative, green thinking is evident with several shops in the centre focusing on sustainable practices and renewable sources. Turning the corner from Lilla Torg I ventured into one such place, Formargruppen shop and gallery (www.formargruppen.se), a lovely space for design and handicrafts, where local artisans have got together and formed a cooperative creating and selling everything from woodcraft to glassware.
The square route – part two
Pedestrianised streets connect three of Malmö’s picturesque squares and from Lilla Torg it was only a short amble to pleasant Gustav Adolfs Torg, surrounded by grand renaissance-style buildings. Crossing the square and the nearby canal, I left the oldest part of the city behind and continued towards Möllevången, an up-and-coming area in the south. Past Vendel organic baker, I headed over to visit a rather tasty-sounding part of Malmö’s industrial heritage, Malmö’s Chocolate Factory, dating back to 1888 (www.malmochokladfabrik.se). The factory’s 100-year-plus history is explained in their “mini-museum” inside the factory, they do excellent chocolate tastings in the shop and there’s a pleasant café as well. The enterprising family running the chocolate factory has also opened up a microbrewery in another part of the vast building and have cocoa-porter available on tap, for those who prefer their calories with alcohol (www.malmobrygghus.se). Continuing south, Möllvångstorget, yet another Malmö square, is the city’s most multi-cultural and that’s saying something – Malmö is Sweden’s most ethnically diverse, with as many as 1/3 of the population hailing from different parts of the world. Restaurants and food shops line the square, while the local weekend market sells groceries from near and far, giving the whole area a cosmopolitan vibe. On the square’s outskirts, Möllans Ost cheese shop (www.mollansost.com) sells locally produced cheeses among many other products and organise tastings, so that’s worth a stop too.
Feeling quite stuffed after so much delicious sampling, I turned back north again, walking through the area of Davidshall, complete with square of course, Davidshallstorg, full of interesting and unusual designer shops, also with a green focus. One woman is even turning second hand clothes into brand new creations. The area of Malmöhus, to the east, is lovely for a stroll, home as it is to several delightful gardens, with lakes, canals and a somewhat rickety-looking windmill. Nearby Malmöhus Castle houses two museums and, also on the castle grounds, lies the Commandant’s House, an 18th century building , now mostly used for photography exhibitions. Fiskehoddarna, traditional fish market stalls, can be visited a short walk west. These brightly red-painted huts mark the end of old Malmö architecture and turning the corner north into Västra Hamnen (Western Harbour), I was faced with a different Malmö altogether.
Västra Hamnen, built on the site of the old Kockums shipyard, is Malmö’s most recent residential development and it’s well worth a visit, not least to view well-known architectural wonder the Turning Torso. Designed by Spaniard Santiago Calatrava, this 190-metre tower was opened in 2005 and is the third highest residential building in Europe. Oddly enough, it doesn’t look out of place in Västra Hamnen, where all the surrounding buildings are of a sleek, modern design. Environmental issues and sustainability have played a key role in this major building project; much of the area is pedestrianised; all amenities are close by; great use is made of its waterside location, with waterfront promenades and a nearby beach, Ribersborg. I took a stroll along the waters and managed to fit in a quick peek at the Turning Torso, before heading back down to the old docks, now home to trendy bars and restaurants, overlooking the sea, inner harbour and old town. Following the inner harbour I came full circle at the Central Station after my day’s walking tour of Malmö. I may have only scratched the surface of what the city has to offer, but Brits heading for Eurovision in May are in for a treat – or actually many treats, from chocolate and beer to cheesy schlager schmaltz.
Several airlines fly direct from the UK to Malmö, including Norwegian (www.norwegian.com) and Ryanair (www.ryanair.com). It’s also possible to fly to Copenhagen and hop on a train for half an hour’s transfer (www.oresundstag.se).
Further information Eurovision: http://www.eurovision.tv/page/malmo-2013
A Slice of Swedish Hospitality offers visitors the chance to watch Eurovision in a Swedish home, the next best thing if all the tickets for the live event are sold out. They also organise meals with Swedish host families year-round. www.mication.se
Images © Malmo Turism
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