Sweden has been making headlines quite a bit recently thanks to award-winning environmental activist Greta Thunberg. The Swedish 16-year-old’s impassioned campaign about the climate crisis has earned international recognition. But the Scandinavian country has also built a successful reputation with the international jet set for its picturesque scenery, charming cities, sharp design focus, and eclectic culinary scene. And while bustling cities like Stockholm and Gothenburg tend to attract the majority of visitors, don’t make the all-too-common mistake of overlooking Skåne.
Skåne is the southernmost county (or län) in Sweden. It’s just a quick train ride from the Danish capital of Copenhagen and its international airport. Here, travelers will find a utopian combination of rural countrysides cozied up to cosmopolitan pockets teeming with award-winning restaurants, fascinating museums, top-notch hotels, and more. The region’s laid-back lifestyle is almost palpable upon arrival, and offers a breath of fresh air that you won’t find in other Nordic hot spots. Full of creative minds, entrepreneurial spirit, and proud locals, Skåne is all about collaboration versus competition, and it’s common to find its most innovative movers and shakers working together to launch new products and one-of-a-kind experiences for locals and tourists alike.
With so many things to do and see, you’ll have trouble squeezing everything into a four-day visit; but it’s possible. Here’s how to eat, drink, stay, and play in one of Sweden’s most underrated travel destinations. But just a warning―you probably won’t want to leave.
Malmö: A cultural hub of makers and doers, Malmö offers something for everyone. The capital of Skåne, this city is bursting to life with up-and-coming designers, celebrated chefs, and all of the other lures you’d expect from a world-class city. It’s also the perfect place to use as a home base during a visit, no matter how long.
Lund: Marked by its cobblestone streets and half-timbered houses, Lund offers a thousand years of history, all within walking (or biking) distance. Home to Lund University (founded in 1666), the city has become an epicenter for knowledge, tradition, and history.
Central Skåne: An idyllic respite in the heart of the great outdoors, Central Skåne is where to go for anyone looking to reconnect with nature. Brimming with sprawling forests, sparkling lakes, and abundant wildlife, this region once served as the rural playground for Sweden’s noble class―still boasting the grand castles and manor homes to prove it.
Northwest Skåne: Adventure-seekers looking for an adrenaline-infused escape should head toward the Northwest. Here, staggering cliffs, expansive cave systems, and dramatic coastlines lend themselves to days spent surfing, mountain biking, rock climbing, kayaking, trekking, camping, and more.
Österlen: Better known as Southeast Skåne, this romantic region is noted for its undulating hillsides, flowering meadows, and unspoiled white sand beaches that rival those of the Caribbean. A longtime retreat for Sweden’s esteemed artists and writers, Österlen offers a slowed-down way of life that makes it ideal for lovebirds or anybody seeking inspiration and solitude.
Where to Stay in Skåne
Story Hotel Studio Malmö: Book a room at the Story Hotel Studio Malmö, just a five-minute stroll from the city’s Central Station. The hotel features a modern Scandinavian design, and each room offers sweeping overlooks of the Öresund bridge or the lively city center. Take the elevator up to the 14th floor to grab Japanese-inspired cuisine at Kasai In The Sky, or sip cocktails at its rooftop bar. You can also rent bikes from the lobby and spend your mornings cycling through town.
Hotel Mäster Johan: For a more classic style, score a stay at Hotel Mäster Johan. Constructed in 1990, the property is known for its upscale digs outfitted with cozy touches like natural wood, exposed brick, and old-world furniture. Its location is hard to beat, just steps from Lilla Torg Square, which is lined with cafes, restaurants, and bars. Luckily, thirsty guests won’t have to travel far for a drink, since the hotel is also home to MJ’s, one of Malmö’s hottest cocktail lounges.
Quality Hotel The Mill: Aiming for the best bang for your buck? Then look no further than Quality Hotel The Mill. After recently undergoing a complete renovation, the clean and contemporary three-star hotel reopened its doors earlier this year. Located just a stone’s throw from Malmö’s popular Möllevången district (or “Möllan” to locals), this newcomer boasts 224 rooms, a full-service restaurant, and popular bar―even better, rooms typically start around $70 per night.
Where to Eat in Skåne
Malmö Saluhall: Make this indoor food market one of your first stops in Malmö. A smorgasbord of culinary delights, Malmö Saluhall is jam-packed with cafes, bakeries, cheese shops, ice cream counters, fishmongers, and more. Grab a quick bite at Hedvigsdal Vedugn & Vin for wood-fired pizza made with organic flour and seasonal toppings (many of which are actually grown on their own farm).
Saltimporten Canteen: In a sleek, industrial space overlooking the water next to Västra Hamnen, the restaurant serves up an ever-evolving menu of modern Swedish dishes with international influences. Two options are available daily (a meat/fish dish or vegetarian option) and the price-fixed menu is available for just 105 SEK (less than $11 USD). Make sure to grab a seat at one of the communal tables early on in the afternoon. The restaurant is only open during lunch hours Monday through Friday and packs out with legions of loyal customers.
Restaurang SPILL: Another popular lunch spot, SPILL specializes in imaginative Swedish cuisine with a sustainable twist. Approximately 90 percent of the menu is created using ingredients that local suppliers can’t sell to other restaurants or grocery stores (and would otherwise be thrown away). Chef Erik Andersson opened the restaurant with his wife, Ellinor Lindblom, to help combat food waste and change the way people think about consumption. The menu changes every day based on the shipments SPILL receives—and, needless to say, it’s been a smash hit.
Lyran: Prepare to be dazzled in the cozy confines of Lyran, a White Guide restaurant, and one of Skåne’s trendiest eateries. Dimly lit and impossibly romantic, dedicate a few hours to savoring each dish of their eight-course tasting menu. Every ingredient is sourced from local producers, and the menu tends to change daily, but never fails to impress. They also offer incredible wine pairings as well as non-alcoholic beverage pairings using fresh-pressed juices, locally made ciders, artisanal teas, and more.
Far i Hatten: This beloved restaurant is housed within an unassuming cottage (dating back to 1894) in the heart of Folkets Park. Here, it’s common to find families gathered around shared rustic dishes, or friends indulging in Sunday brunch or a weekday fika over coffee and pastries. In the winter months, curl up next to the fire and warm up with some natural wine―another Swedish specialty.
Johan P: Searching for the freshest catch in Skåne? Reserve a table for breakfast, lunch, or dinner at Johan P. The iconic restaurant has remained a staple for decades, known for their expertly prepared lobster, freshly shucked oysters, and other seafood plates. With its crisp, white table clothes, never-ending wine list, and attentive staff, it’s also a perfect spot for date night on the town.
Restaurant Västergatan: For a quintessential Scandinavian experience, don’t miss dining at Västergatan. The charming restaurant only opens for supper service Monday through Saturday, but has quickly developed a devout following amongst Malmö’s discerning locals and visiting gastronomes alike. The multi-course menu typically features locally inspired recipes with a global spin, and the main dish is usually updated each week. Guests can expect elevated pairings like slow-baked cod served alongside chanterelle, white onion, and dill—as well as wine or juice pairings for a few Swedish krona more.
Where to Drink in Skåne
Lilla Kafferosteriet: There’s no better way to start the day than with a fresh-brewed cup of coffee. Get your morning pick-me-up from Lilla Kafferosteriet, a haven for serious java nerds. Serving only the finest hand-selected beans, they take pride in their roasting process to preserve flavor and guarantee the best taste possible. Check out their very own line of canned and carbonated coffee varieties that are certain to wow your tastebuds.
Spirit of Hven Backafallsbyn: Nestled on the island of Hven (in the strait of Öresund between Denmark and Sweden), thirsty travelers will be excited to discover Spirit of Hven. Equal parts hotel, gourmet restaurant, and distillery, this destination is a feast for the senses. Schedule a guided tour of the facilities, where you can spend your afternoon sipping their award-winning lineup of organic spirits, including vodka, gin, and aquavit. Also be sure to sample their single-malt whisky and Organic Summer Spirit made with oranges, rhubarb, elderflower, and apples.
Malmö Brewing Co & Taproom: For the most impressive selection of beer in all of Skåne, pay a visit to the Malmö Brewing Co & Taproom. In addition to brewing their own beer, they also feature a diverse collection of suds from other local producers (ranging from fruit-forward sours to robust imperial stouts and everything in between). Officially launched in 2010 by Anders Hansson, the dream of opening his own brewpub was decades in the making. Today, it’s credited with igniting Malmö’s booming beer industry and remains a fan favorite.
Care/of: One of the more recent additions to the city’s ever-changing nightlife scene is Care/of. The bar first opened its doors in 2016 with the goal of mixing up innovative cocktails using only the finest ingredients. Already a local legend, don’t miss their signature tipples like Them Apples (made with duck fat-infused Woodford Reserve, thyme syrup, and rosemary bitters) or Last Bubbles (featuring Broker’s London Dry Gin, Chartreuse, maraschino, lemon, honey, and matcha foam).
What to Drink in Skåne
Secret Sisters Brewing: Secret Sisters Brewing is a small, independent, women-run brewery, located at the Minus-1 Brewers Collective at Bishops Arms Gustav Adolfs Torg in Malmö. The group (made up of Irina Carlénis, Natalie Eriksson, Paulina Nordling, and Erika Norén) is dedicated to changing the often-narrow view on who a brewer might be by churning out damn good beers. Sip on Our Space, a delicious wheat beer made with fresh chamomile and pickled lemons, crafted in collaboration with Rocket Brewing Company and Two Forks.
Hasse Fasan: This small but mighty local brewing operation was started by Patrik Norrlöf in 2016 and has been making waves ever since. Also part of the Minus-1 Brewers Collective, Hasse Fasan is known for creative concoctions like Coated (a mix of British and American Pale Ale, with a balance between earthy spices and fresh fruit notes) and peppery Belgian saison.
Hyllie Brewery: Hyllie Brewery is a microbrewery found in Malmö’s southern outskirts, which debuted in 2015 with the goal of creating artisanal beer with heart and soul. Today, their brews can be found in many of the bars throughout Skåne, as well as represented in the industry’s top beer festivals and events. Pyschopipes is also powered by Hyllie Brewery, known for putting whimsical twists on long-standing staples. Try their Blue Whale, a bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout that clocks in at a whopping 18.7 percent.
Gnista: Another prime example of a locally made, collaborative effort is Gnista Spirits. As the trend of nonalcoholic spirits continues to take the world by storm, Gnista was created to give people the satisfaction of enjoying a premium spirit, just without the alcohol (or the accompanying hangover). Made at SPILL in Malmö, it boasts a complex flavor profile using high-quality ingredients like wormwood, raisins, apricots, and almond extract. It’s launching stateside early next year, and the company is gearing up to debut its second product in the coming months.
Oatly: You’ve probably seen Oatly being served in your favorite coffeehouse or on the grocery store shelf, but you may be surprised to learn that the brand was born in Skåne. Based on Swedish research from Lund University, Oatly’s patented enzyme technology replicates nature’s own processes, transforming fiber-rich oats into a nutritional milk substitute that’s perfectly engineered for humans.
Flavour Forward: Nastassia Martin set out to create Flavour Forward as a non-alcoholic alternative for people in Skåne to pair with the region’s elevated culinary scene. Drawing from tropical ingredients like hibiscus (inspired by her Trinidadian roots), and local favorites like rhubarb, she developed the brand as a healthier, but tasty soda substitute, without having to lean on artificial flavors or colorings to do so. Order it by name at local institutions like SPILL, Lyran, and Hedvigsdal Vedugn & Vin.
FRUKTSTEREO: After spending years in the industry, Karl Sjöström and Mikael Nypelius decided to start their own company to spread the word about good produce and experiment with crafting their own line of beverages. In 2016, they began bottling their creations at Hällåkra Vingård, and have since opened their own place in Malmö’s old harbor area. Today, their celebrated ciders are made using 100 percent fruit and are fermented with natural yeast without any additives.
What to Do in Skåne
Hällåkra Vingård: For a rustic retreat, plan a quick trip to Hällåkra Vineyard, located in Southern Skåne. Here, rolling slopes meet far-stretching plains alongside the Baltic Sea to create a unique microclimate and privileged wine-growing region. Owned by the Hansson family for five generations, the vineyard comprises 6.5 hectares of land and approximately 20,000 vines. Sample a selection of their red, white, sparkling, and sweet wine varietals; try your hand at harvesting grapes out in the field; or enjoy inspired dishes from their innovative kitchen.
Absolut Experience Center: For another spirited day-trip idea, hire a rental car and make the trek out to Åhus. One of Sweden’s best preserved medieval cities and a beloved vacation destination for well-heeled Swedes, Åhus is also where Absolut Vodka is distilled. Absolut Home is a hands-on experience center where visitors can learn about the brand’s storied past and current production practices while also perfecting their bartender skills during an Absolut Cocktail Master Class.
Kiviks Musteri: Österlen is also known to locals as the “Apple Kingdom” because of the region’s numerous apple orchards. Kivik specifically is a quaint fishing village that has evolved over the generations into a holiday paradise, thanks to its pristine beaches and storybook charm. Stop by Kiviks Musteri, a picturesque cidery, where Henric Åkesson first planted the apple trees in 1888 that would go on to become Sweden’s first commercial fruit farm. Today, more than 200,000 people visit the orchard to taste their fresh-pressed cider and learn about the region’s rich past.
Malmöhus Castle: Take a trip back in time with a visit to Malmöhus Castle. Originally constructed in 1434 as a citadel, it was rebuilt in the 16th century by King Christian III of Denmark and Norway to be a defensive fortress, and serve as a home for the Governors of Malmöhus County. It now welcomes visitors as a museum, housing a fascinating series of historical exhibitions.
Disgusting Food Museum: On the hunt for a museum experience that’s a little less stuffy? Look no further than Malmö’s Disgusting Food Museum. It’s exactly what it sounds like—a permanent collection that pays homage to “disgusting” foods from around the world. Delicacies include surströmming (fermented herring from Sweden); hákarl (aged shark from Iceland); casu marzu (maggot-infested cheese from Sardinia); and durian (the notoriously stinky fruit from Thailand). But it’s not all gross―selections from the United States include Pop Tarts, root beer, and jelly beans. Daring visitors with iron stomachs can even sample a selection of the curiosities (just be sure to keep your barf bag, which doubles as the entrance ticket, close at hand).