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Devotees of Sweden's brilliantly unsettling Nordic noir television series The Bridge will associate Malmo with industrial streetscapes, glowering skies, wind-whipped seas and the Oresund Bridge which links Copenhagen in Denmark with Malmo in Sweden. In the first series, a body that has been severed in two is discovered lying on the bridge, directly across the border between the two countries.
Oresund Bridge runs for about seven kilometres from the coast of Sweden to an artificial island in the Oresund Strait. The final four kilometres connecting it to Denmark are in the Drogden Tunnel. The double-track rail and motor bridge, the longest in Europe, has seen an increase in Swedish and Danish commuters since it was built in 2000. People daunted by Copenhagen real-estate prices shuttle happily between cities and the bridge has elevated Malmo from crepuscular blue-collar city to multicultural metropolis.
It is with a frisson of anticipation that we cross the bridge by train on our way towards Malmo, having disembarked a cruise in Copenhagen. The crossing takes about 20 minutes and includes a courteous Scandinavian border immigration check. We thread between two massive offshore wind farms – Sweden's Middelgrunden and Denmark's Lillgrund – with their environmentally responsible ranks of whizzing wind turbines.
Malmo is a bit standoffish when it comes to tourists. Woe betide those who arrive at Malmo Central Station without Swedish currency. The station toilets charge 10 Swedish krona and those in need who don't have local currency must scuttle outside to the cycle racks to use the free toilet.
Malmo also has no official tourist office. It used to, but it closed. We eventually find a shop masquerading as a tourist centre, which charges 20 krona for a standard hotel-style map. "And we only take cash." Our Swedish Basil Fawlty only grudgingly accepts Euros.
The city, however, transforms as we walk from the station into the historic medieval old town of Gamla Staden. The canal-ringed precinct offers leafy squares lined with gorgeous buildings that give way to charming cobbled streets and, eventually, green parks with ponds and fountains.
Malmo's oldest square is the 1540s Stortorget, once Europe's largest market square, with its King Karl X Gustav equestrian statue and 1544 town hall boasting an impressive renovated Dutch renaissance facade.
We enjoy a seasonal Swedish meal in Malmo's handsomest medieval building, Kocksa Huset on Stortorget's northwest corner. The former palace of the master of the king's mint now houses Arstiderna restaurant in its vaulted brick cellar where diners can enjoy the likes of herb-baked fillets of reindeer or local duck with chanterelles. There's a daily lunch menu and interesting Game of Thrones-style death masks for decoration.
Close by is Lilla Torg (Little Square) with its tiny buildings, restaurants and wonky half-timbered buildings. Malmo's shopping street, Sodergatan, connects Stortorget with the city's second largest square, Gustav Adolf Torg. Our Airbnb apartment overlooks the square and is half the price of Copenhagen's offerings.
Sprawling nearby Kungsparken, with its gorgeous cast-iron fountain, leads a curious explorer to Malmohus Slott, Sweden's oldest preserved Renaissance castle.
Malmo is not all quaint medieval squares and it would be a shame not to venture south through Davidshall and Triangeln into Malmo's Soho – Mollevangen or Molle, with its vibrant nightlife, multicultural food scene and daily fruit and vegetable market on Mollevangstorget.
Malmo University renders the city a vibrant university town and those who can afford to stay near campus choose the ultra-modern, high-density district of Vastra Hamnen (Western Harbour) which housed shipyards until the mid 1980s. Home to Malmo's 190-metre sculptural Turning Torso building, the highest in Scandinavia, the new district re-energised the reclaimed area. Vastra Hamnen combines living, working, education and leisure areas, and is carbon neutral, using 100 per cent wind and solar energy, and biogas.
Malmo is also a culinary stronghold, with three Michelin-starred restaurants. Hip eatery Bastard offers snout-to-tail seasonal regional produce with a daily changing menu. Try the Bastardplanka signature meal platte – it's carnivore heaven. Immigration has provided an exciting multicultural flavour to many of the city's restaurants. It also has excellent coffee (try the Espresso House cafes) and artist co-ops abound, producing modern Scandinavian design masterpieces and Malmo chocolate, which is hand-made in a historic chocolate factory, is exquisite.
The Bridge, however engrossing, is only a tiny part of Malmo's story.
Alison Stewart travelled to Copenhagen as a guest of APT but on to Malmo at her own expense.
Trains run regularly between Copenhagen and Malmo Central. One-way tickets cost $A17. See www.dsb.dk
APT's 15-day Majestic Norwegian Fjords small ships expedition cruise from Tromso to Copenhagen starts from $16,895 a person twin share (price based on standard suite forward), including $900 a couple air credit. Based on an August 22, 2019, departure. See aptouring.com.au or call 1300 196 420.