The coolest bars, restaurants, shops, and music venues in a hip and upcoming little corner of Scandinavia
Malmö, Sweden’s third largest city and long the poor cousin to Stockholm’s studied chic and the laid back, cosmopolitan Gothenburg, has become something of a hip destination in its own right. With the opening of the Øresund Bridge – yes, that bridge – in 2000, the city has slowly shed its industrial past and embraced the 21st Century, becoming a mecca for startups and young urban professionals, with the culture and social scene to match. The old and the new sit comfortably side by side; get lost in the the rich history and charm of Gamla Väster (Old Town), or explore the redeveloped waterfront featuring Europe’s first carbon neutral district.
There’s much to see and do here, so check out our picks of the best bars, restaurants, shops, and, of course, music venues to make the most of your time spent exploring the city.
Words: Derek Robertson
Where to drink
Malmo Brewing Co. & Tap Room
“We brew beer!” is the self-explanatory slogan of the Tap Room, currently Malmö’s only microbrewery bar. This cosy, stylish space has 42 beers on draft, around 20 of which are their own creative creations (think rhubarb and sea salt ale, or a whisky barrel aged chocolate stout), and there’s decent American-themed food to help mitigate the effects of some of their stronger brews.
If you’re looking for the height of Scandi night time chic head to Belle Epoque, the stylish haunt where Malmö’s beautiful people gather to sip deluxe, innovative cocktails and nod their head to hip, downtempo house. It’s not cheap, but there’s no better place for living it up and a spot of people watching.
The genteel sport of pétanque is the name of the game at this converted 19th Century riding house, with a number of indoor and outdoor courts. Naturellement, the theme is French – there’s plenty of pastis, cidre, and vin alongside moules marinière and steak frites – and it’s the perfect place to chill and while away a few hours with friends.
Where to shop
Rightly considered the best record shop in town, the three rooms at Rundgång contain all manner of genres and curios, and are a haven for crate diggers. The owners really know their stuff, and they also stock a great range of 7”, cassette tapes, and pin badges – leaving here without a bag full of music is all but impossible.
This huge space is a throw back to record shops of old, and has been serving Malmö’s music lovers for nigh on 40 years. Racks upon racks of classic vinyl and CDs, reasonable prices, and super friendly staff make it a great spot whether you’re looking for something specific or just fancy a browse. They even have a fine selection of books and comics.
For the ultimate in hipster Scandinavian fashion and design, head to Grandpa, a concept store that’s all about ‘lifestyle’. Uber-cool clothing brands like Wood Wood and Portuguese Flannel sit next to kitchenware, stationary, and the type of casually expensive, designer bric-a-brac that screams good taste. If you don’t want to splash out, pick up a notebook or one of their own brand beanie hats – you’ll look just like a local.
Scandinavian design is all the rage, and while it might be a little impractical to buy some furniture while you’re in town, a wander around Designtorget is a must. A design enthusiast’s dream, it showcases the best in modern interiors and homeware – the stuff here makes IKEA look positively ugly – and if you are after a souvenir or gift, the kids’ toys, jewellery, and kitchenware are a great place to look.
Where to eat
A meat eaters’ paradise, ‘nose to tail’ dining is the concept at this industrial-chic hangout for tattooed twenty-somethings and bearded hipsters. Pig’s head terrine, grilled quail, and deer liver are just some of the delights you might find on their seasonal, ever-changing menu, while live DJs – and potent, flawless cocktails – up the pace at weekends.
Concrete floors and lashings of unvarnished wood are the perfect setting for Mineral’s modern vegetarian delights. Cabbage tacos, beet cecviche, and mushroom-stuffed potato dumplings make a mockery of the notion that veggies are missing out on flavour or variety, while their extensive natural wine list – most of it available by the glass – is one of the best in the city.
Badrans Super Falafel
Malmö has a booming falafel scene, thanks to its huge immigrant population. And while one can sample Turkish, Lebanese, Egyptian, and Iraqi variations in the streets around multicultural Möllevången, many people swear that this unassuming little shack at the edge of picturesque Kungsparken – where you can have yours with halloumi, tzatziki, or any number of exotic additions – does the best.
There’s almost too much choice at Saluhall, a redbrick former train warehouse that now houses a trendy food hall. You can shop for produce here – the fishmonger and butcher are particularly great – but the real stars are the food stands. Pizza, burgers, poke bowls, organic salads, huge sandwiches, and a noodle bar are just some of the options catering to a buzzy day crowd.
Casual Street Food
Competition for Malmö’s best burger is fierce, but Casual Street Food is just about winning. With locally sourced meat and buns freshly baked everyday, there’s a simple, no-nonsense quality to their short menu of classics. Not in the mood for a burger? Snack on fish tacos or fish and chips instead, and wash it down with one of their moreish milkshakes (go for the vanilla with added bourbon).
If you’re after the best culinary experience the city has to offer, Vollmers currently sits top of the pile. Winner of not one but two Michelin stars, the fixed, eight-course tasting menu comprises dishes titled things like “Childhood Memories” and “2011 In Retrospect” that also come with their food miles indicated. This is cutting edge cooking as a philosophy, and if you’re after something special, it’s worth every krona.
Where to watch live music
KB’s, as it’s known locally, has long been the city’s epicentre of late night revellery and rock’n’roll. A boisterous night out at the best of times, their music policy leans towards the heavier end of the spectrum – upcoming gigs include the likes of Godsmack and Satan Takes A Holiday – and that includes their legendary club nights. Take cash though; this is one venue that’s yet to embrace the 21st Century.
Formed in 2015 as a non-profit cultural association, Plan B’s ethos is to provide a “space where people can meet, connect, and create…where artists are not perceived as products and the audience wouldn’t feel like consumers”. This community approach extends to their label and roster of artists, all of whom are fiercely independent. As for their booking policy, think quirky, leftfield indie and alternative – garage rocker Mike Krol and singer songwriter Lala Lala are both scheduled for March.
Malmö Live Konserthus
A custom built music hall and event centre opened in 2015, the rather grand, elegant Malmö Live is the go to venue for acclaimed, established acts that aren’t quite ready for enormodomes and arenas – Robyn just played here, and both Yann Tiersen and The Tallest Man On Earth are scheduled for later this year. The sound is incredible, and despite the rather polished nature of the place, it doesn’t feel overbearing or sterile.
If music is a higher power, then Babel should be your place of worship. This former church was completely renovated in 2008 and refashioned as a vibrant cultural hub, with theatre performances and documentary screenings just as frequent as shows by the likes of Fever Ray, Lykke Li, and 2 Many DJs. It’s a great space for gigs, and reasonable bar prices make for a cheaper night out than one might expect from Sweden.
“Innovative and contemporary culture” in all its forms is celebrated at this former chocolate factory – seriously, the Swedes love re-purposing old buildings – which is now a three-room venue capable of hosting 600 people. You won’t see much mainstream art here, but if you want to be challenged – to “step outside yourself”, as their website puts it – this is where to head for some genre-bending weirdness. The great little kitchen and bar is worth spending time in too.