Malmö, Sweden: Border Jumping For Twenty Bucks

If you’re a day-trippin’ travel junkie who loves the rush of entering a new country, Malmö, Sweden is the bomb. 

Feed 105 Danish Kroner (about $19 US) into the ticket machine at Copenhagen’s Central Station, jump on the train for a pleasant ride across the Öresund Strait, and 30 minutes later you’re in another country.


Walk out of Malmö Central Station and make a beeline for the tourist information office directly across the street. With a free city map in hand, saunter the two blocks into the center. It couldn’t be easier.

Malmo Train

Like most cities in this part of the world, Malmö (pronounced Mahl-mer) is centuries old, and has 16th to 19th Century buildings to prove it. But on the Saturday we were there, the high street was buzzing with activity, and the town was showing off its vibrant, modern city side. Malmö is considerably smaller than Copenhagen, and with its relaxed atmosphere, it’s the perfect place to wander aimlessly.

City Hall

Just three blocks south of the train station, you can’t miss the main square (Stortorget) with its collection of historic buildings. The 16th Century Town Hall dominates the square with typical Renaissance style details, but the weathervane atop the clock tower sent a unique message.

Scales & Axe of Justice

The shiny, gold spike includes both the scales of justice as well as a battle axe. Methinks that in the 16th Century, city officials supplied a full-service justice package; scales to measure justice and the axe . . . well, I guess to dispense it.

We spied a restaurant on the square with the unlikely name of “The Shawarma King,” serving kebabs (not typical Swedish fare, but one of our faves nonetheless). The spicy meat was authentic, and the garlic sauce protected us from Swedish vampires for rest of the day.


Yellow Half-timber house

One of the smaller city squares, Lilla Torg, has a group of medieval farm buildings. The half-timbered houses were built from 1600-1700, and today are home to restaurants, shops, and art galleries. The contrast of the bright colors with the timbers was striking.

Malmo Griffin 2

We took a break on a bench in Gustav Adolf’s Square, where a political meet n’ greet was being held. As the candidates wrangled votes (with the sharp-beaked Malmö Griffin looking on, hopefully keeping them honest), we listened to a gray-haired duo sing a few Dean Martin tunes. The lead singer, an obvious Dino fan, had Martin’s voice down cold. They changed to music from the The Jungle Book, and played a few bars of one of my favorites, I Wanna Be Like You. But honestly, it just wasn’t the same in Swedish.

Turning Torso

On the train back to Copenhagen we saw, in the distance, another of Malmö’s famous signature buildings: the ultra-modern “Turning Torso.” Built in 2005, it’s the pride and joy of the city, and it’s part of the combination of old and new that make Malmö such a fun day trip.

Twenty bucks, 30 minutes, and two countries. Now that’s a day trip.

Happy Trails,

Turning Torso Closeup


We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

51 thoughts

  1. What a fun day out. I love it. It looks really pretty from your shots. I love the colourful timbered buildings. Don’s son used to live in Malmö but we never got there. By the time we first visited they’d moved further north. Apparently Malmö is infamously windy.

    1. Interesting about the wind Alison. The day we were there, the weather was picture perfect. But, this is why we normally travel in Europe in September. The tourist hordes are gone, and the weather is still nice (with delightful, cool nights). The Medieval buildings were a surprise, and very neat. ~James

    1. Thanks M-R. I hadn’t heard of this series, but checked it out online, and will have to see if it’s available in the US. I see that the first episode involved a dead body on this very bridge. N’est pas? ~James

      1. Exactement. And there are two series, now (I have both on DVD), both centred around it, you might say. It’s truly top class drama, I promise.

    1. Thanks for the repost on FB Martha. That’s interesting about Gunilla, because it’s not everyday that you bump into someone in the US that’s from Malmo. It’s a cool place. ~James

  2. Is that one of the wonderful perks of living in Europe. You can take a side trip to another country and feel you’ve been away away?
    I Love all the bright colors and the mixture of the old and the new. Enchanting. Free city map, you say? A wonderful idea. We don’t get anything free here. 🙂

    1. Tess, as you know, the logistics of travel introduce a good deal of the stress that all travelers feel – which train, where’s the hotel, will the bus arrive on time, etc. So when I have a pleasant, easy trip to a new and interesting place, I don’t take it for granted. Malmo was one of these places. Easy and cheap to get to, interesting, and hassle-free. If the beer had been free, I would put it in the Hall of Fame. ~James

  3. Haven’t yet been across that bridge but it makes travel so easy. Malmo was the setting for some of the Scandinavian noir drama screened on our television channels recently, one of the series actually called The Bridge. Danes and Swedes don’t let a strip of water hinder lifestyles.

    1. As I said to M-R in another comment Dorothy, I haven’t heard of this series, but from my research, it seems popular. I’m sure that it’s right up there with the “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” for putting Scandinavia on the world stage. At least, now if I manage to see the series, and they have a scene shot in Malmo, I can say to Terri: “Check that out. That’s Gustav Adolf’s Square.” ~James

  4. Oh the thought of two countries in two days makes my list ticking gene go wild! Sounds perfect. Glad to hear the vampires were kept at bay and you didn’t fall into the hands of the justice minister. 🙂 Also looks like one might not want to mess with the Malmo Griffin!

    1. Sue, it’s probably easier than crossing the Canada/US border, and certainly more interesting. And I wasn’t joking about the garlic in the kebabs. It seems that each culture and restaurant has a slightly different sauce (or sauces) on their kebabs. This one was HEAVY on the garlic, but the positive thing was that I remembered the meal for hours and hours … buurrrp. BTW, is your passport in your purse and your suitcase by the front door? ~James

      1. James I would like to say that we are that organized but let’s say most everything is laying out on the floor in the guest room. Dave has been busy making maps for future blog posts so readers can find us, or possibly so we can figure out where we are ourselves. 🙂
        Your journey definitely sounds easier than a border crossing here. You crack me up with the details of the kebabs. One can never be too cautious around those Dracula types.

  5. One of our ‘adopted’ sons spent a year in Malmo in high school and is very excited about our trip next year to Sweden, Finland and Denmark. He’s put Malmo on our must-see list. I’m glad to hear you concur! Great pictures 🙂

    1. We’ve only been to Stockholm Joanne, and Malmo has a totally different feel. Of course, because it’s considerably smaller, but it also has a more “seaside village” feel. It has a delightful, small train station that is very near the water, and a few grand, old hotels as well. You’ll enjoy it. And BTW, for travels anywhere in Scandinavia, bring money, and I mean lots of money. You’ll go through a bit of sticker shock. ~James

      1. Thanks for the warning!
        I remember the first time we went to France almost 20 years ago, we didn’t have much money so food was bumped to the bottom of the priority list in favour of doing stuff.
        We survived the 10 days on baguettes and hunks of cheese.

  6. A day trip to Malmö from Copenhagen sounds really appealing, and most importantly it’s cheap! Thanks for the ‘enlightenment’, James. 🙂 You have sharp eyes for noticing that unique weathervane. Such an intriguing relic from the past.

    1. Bama, travel in Denmark and all the other Scandinavian countries is very expensive for travelers, so it’s nice to have cheap rail fares. The city hall in Malmo had that dark patina that they get in Europe, so the shiny weathervane stood out and caught my attention. It certainly was an odd combination. ~James

  7. I visited there on my first European trip many years ago. I have distant relatives there and they drove me around showing me graves of relatives and towns where ancestors lived. It was a cool experience. That train ride across the straight is pretty cool.

    1. Jeff, I’m sure that being given a tour by relatives must have been rewarding and fun. No matter how thorough our research, as tourists, we never see a place the way locals do, and their insights to the place and your ancestors had to be interesting. ~James

  8. We’ve never traveled to this part of the world, but now that you’ve focused on the affordability as well as the charm, we just may have to add it to our ever-expanding bucket list. Thanks for another enticing post!

    1. Thanks Rusha. Scandinavia has lots of charm and is very different from Western Europe, but one thing that it isn’t is cheap. Train travel is affordable, but everything else requires a – gulp- how much does that cost? It’s very charming, but I hope that I didn’t give the impression that it’s cheap. It’s a fun and interesting destination, but cheap it ain’t. ~James

  9. That Griffin is a great old beastie. And wandering aimlessly is the best way to travel. Glad you have learned the secret to scaring off vampires.There are a lot more in Europe than elsewhere. Finally, love the twisted building. –Curt

    1. Malmo was the perfect day trip Curt. You just never know what you’ll stumble onto. Imagine a Dean Martin crooner in Sweden … singing in English. The food was tasty, the beer cold, the town vibrant and interesting. Very cool. ~ James

    1. It’s a relaxed, and interesting place, and easy to visit. As you know Chris, anytime you can get on public transport and in 30 minutes be somewhere cool, it’s a good deal. ~James

  10. Your photos make it seem bright and really appealing – the first time I heard of Malmo was through Henning Mankell’s detective novels and he always made it sound dark and gloomy!

    1. I don’t know Mankell’s work, but it my business days, I spent a fair amount of time in Northern Europe, and when winter sets in, it can be dark and gloomy … for days. Rain, fog and overcast skies are common. But, late spring, summer, and early autumn are wonderful. This explains why on good weather days, the locals are so manic about being outside, and I would be exactly the same. ~James

    1. Marie, pretty soon you may be crossing the border into Scotland, your separatist neighbor to the north. Hopefully, they won’t require a passport (or party affiliation) check. ~James

  11. I’m one of those travel junkies who loves to claim each new state. I can’t imagine how I’ll feel when we start our international travels. I will just talking to Terry today about how much I admire the two of you and want to be like you two within the next two years.

    1. That sounds like a great plan LuAnn. Because you two have been road warriors for so long already, you’re already really well prepared for a long international trip. And given the internet, mobil computing, and services like Skype, international travel is so much easier than it has been in the past. We’ve done this a few times, so when you get to the planning stages, let us know if you have questions, or maybe we can provide a few tips. ~James

    1. Thanks Lily. Malmo has such a relaxed feel, and it was particularly fun to see it on Saturday when all the locals were out and about. I think that cities show their true colors on weekends. If you get to this part of the world, check it out. ~James

    1. Malmo was a day trip Jean, and there was a weekend festival of some sort going on, so it was a marvelous time to walk around. When we visit Europe we don’t travel with our bike, but I can believe that it would be good fun. I love it that it’s so easy to transport your bike on buses, trams, metro and trains in Europe. We have a lot to learn in North America. ~James

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