Malmö has just been named the happiest city in Sweden and the seventh happiest city in Europe, according to a survey of residents across hundreds of European cities.
As a Malmöite born and bred I have had an ambivalent relationship with the city. Like many people, I only began to appreciate the beauties of my hometown after several years studying and working in other cities and countries. Having left as a teenager thirsty for new places and adventures, I returned as an adult to a vibrant and developing city.
No, it doesn’t have the nightlife of London or the alternative scene of Berlin. But with less than half a million residents, Malmö is manageable both in size, transport and rent. And if you want a night out in a bigger city, just hop over to Copenhagen (Denmark is less than 20 minutes away by train).
The European Commission survey obviously used other parameters, but I thought I’d share seven reasons to be happy here – and why you should include Malmö in your next Scandinavian visit.
1. Outdoor life (even in the city)
Any Swedish kindergartener will tell you: there is no bad weather, only bad clothing. (It rhymes in Swedish though.)
Wander along the seafront promenade over to the city beach, known as Ribban. Go jogging in Torup‘s forest and recreational grounds.
Go swimming in the sea – naked, of course – all year round at Ribersborgs kallbadhus, and freshen up with a sauna visit before and after. Camp in the city’s camping sites, including beach-side Sibbarp.
Or visit one of the dozens of parks around the city. From the more overgrown Beijers Park to the well-trimmed Pildammsparken, or the historic Slottsparken with its windmill, castle and moat.
There’s even a churchyard transformed to a park (graves intact!). If you have kids, they’ll enjoy the many playgrounds dotted around the city, including themed ones like the huge Theatre Playground.
The amazing Folkets Park (“People’s Park”) offers more activity-based park life, with festivals, gigs, picnic areas, ice skating rink, paddle pool, playgrounds, rides, cafés and bars. It’s free to visit and a very inclusive place where it’s hard not to feel welcome.
2. Cycling everywhere
Malmö’s bike network is extensive and will take you both near and far (expect signposted routes to nearby cities). And we’re not talking rubbish painted lines on the road (I’m looking at you Portsmouth!) or weird cobbled unlit paths (Berlin, why you let me down?). Many are even gritted and cleared from snow in winter so you can ride your bike all year round.
3. Vintage shopping
Whether you’re bargain hunting or looking for designer items, Malmö offers a wide range of second hand shops. The shops are often clustered making your life even easier. My favourite cluster for clothes shopping is around Södra Förstadsgatan / Friisgatan / Möllevångsgatan / Claesgatan, which happens to be 10 minutes from my house. Luckily they accept donations too – otherwise my wardrobe would have no space left by now.
I love most markets – farmer’s market (hello Drottningtorget), fruit and vegetable markets (my beloved Möllevångstorget), and of course flea markets (my favourite being Drottningtorget, Sloppis in Slottsstaden and courtyard flea markets around Möllegången).
And I haven’t even mentioned the more or less market stalls at St Knuts torg, Gustav Adolfs torg, Lilla torg and around the city.
Nope, not just the parks. Malmö city council focuses heavily on sustainability and environmental issues, and constantly focuses on improvement projects around the city.
On a daily basis, they offer excellent city-wide recycling facilities, as well as separate containers for e.g. bio waste. (So don’t be surprised if you’re visiting and your apartment has 5 compartments for trash…)
6. Public transport
No need for a car in Malmö, as there are regular bus and train services all around the city. Green buses serve the local area, while yellow coaches serve the whole region. Train links to both Sweden and Denmark are frequent and comfortable (free wifi, plug sockets, comfy seats, etc.), and the newly built City Tunnel functions like an underground subway service.
Malmö is home to people of more than two hundred nationalities, and some areas have an international vibe similar to major cities like London. While the city’s multiculturalism has given it both a positive and negative reputation, but also a rich culture life. And – of course- among the tastiest falafels in Europe (I do not say that lightly!) for only 25 SEK / €2.80 / £2.
Now excuse me while I head out for a falafel roll. And cinnamon bun…