Sitting just across the narrow Oresund strait from Copenhagen, Denmark is the port city of Malmo, Sweden. The Danes and Swedes fought for control of this strait for years. It is the entrance to the Baltic Sea, and whoever controlled it controlled regional commerce. So, don’t skip the city’s history. But there are a couple other things to see in Malmo that you might want to consider as well.
Saint Peter’s Church
You’ll rarely find a Gothic cathedral as magnificent as Saint Peters Church in Malmo. I’ve seen a good number of great cathedrals, including Westminster Cathedral, Milan Catedrali, St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Paris’ iconic Notre Dame, the incredible Strasbourg Cathedral, and other less notable ones. Saint Peter’s in Malmo stands out to me. It’s not the tallest or biggest cathedral I’ve seen, but the brick construction is lovely. And there’s just something about Gothic architecture.
Saint Peter’s is quite large. The spire dominates the old town. The church was my first stop during my self-guided walking tour of the old city after briefly wandering through the Lilla Torg. Unlike many other famous European churches, it’s not Catholic. St. Peter’s was built after the Protestant reformation swept through Sweden, and the inside is far more plain that I expected. But don’t skip it. It’s a highlight of the city.
Disgusting Food Museum
You’ll either love or hate this place. The Disgusting Food Museum isn’t large, and I initially wondered if I made a mistake paying nearly $20 USD to visit a tiny museum. But the compactness doesn’t mean it isn’t interesting. You can easily spend an hour looking at the disgusting foods and reading all about them. Even better (worse?), you can also smell some of the exhibits. Canisters are provided that let you catch a whiff of the more pungent samples.
Things go from mildly gross to downright awful as you progress. It took until the kiviak for my gag reflex to kick in. After that, it became more and more difficult. Eating lunch just before my visit was either the best or worst choice, depending on how you look at it. I forced myself to take a whiff of many of the foods. But I stopped short of the complete experience.
Yes, the Disgusting Food Museum provides samples. With two dozen some odd options, they give Costco a run for their money. I didn’t want to puke up the delicious pizza, so I elected not to try more than one item, salmiakki, from the disgust-o-bar you’re presented with at the end. It was a safe choice, given that I’d already eaten it in Finland. The samples and staffing are what drive the cost. Even though I opted out, I didn’t regret visiting.
To top things off, they have a puke counter. People do try the foods and routinely retch. At time of visit, the Disgusting Food Museum had just passed the 300 puke count, with only one day since they hit that milestone. My money is on the hakarl, shark that purportedly tastes like a “urine soaked mattress.” It has the honor of being the “worst thing” Anthony Bourdain ever tried. Now that takes some doing.
I’ll be the first to admit that Malmohus doesn’t possess curb appeal. It’s not your storybook castle. But it was a highly practical one. Inside you can explore the history of why Malmo was fortified, and learn about the long Danish-Swedish conflict for control of Malmo and the rest of the southern tip of modern-day Sweden. The lengthy video in the historical section of the museum is well worth watching. It is even offered in English.
The art exhibits were far less interesting, although the permanent exhibit was certainly the best. It houses some excellent Baroque pieces. The temporary art exhibit was terrible. Don’t waste your time. Stick to the history and exploring the preserved section of the castle, take in the art if you want, and then head out. I’d say Malmo castle is worth 1.5-2 hours to see the whole thing. If you love history, it should top your list of things to see in Malmo.
Final Thoughts on Things to See in Malmo
I know there are more things to see in Malmo. Make sure you hit up a couple of great restaurants and cafes, as the city is filled with options. Spend time wandering the streets of the old city. This is always a given for me, no matter where I travel in Europe. Some buildings are quite old, dating from the 1500s. The main square and Lilla Torg are both excellent. However, I found that if I got more than a handful of blocks away from the main section of old town, the city’s appeal really dropped off. The best things to see in Malmo are are all in the same general area. At least a visit is extremely walkable.
Finally, I want to address the “danger” aspect. Malmo is an industrial port city, with the grittiness you’d expect of such. This doesn’t really present an issue. However, it doesn’t make the list of safer European cities due to violence over the past decade due to gang-related violence. Crime rates are very high for a Nordic country. Compared to other places, including U.S. cities, it’s not that unsafe. Like most places, it’s specific neighborhoods that are a problem. I constrained my brief visit to the Gamla Staden (Old City), port area to the north, not venturing further than the Triangeln area south of the old city. And I didn’t stay out late into the night.