Malmo is excellent for solos, especially women. Very safe and socially liberal – no one will even notice lone females. But my love of Malmö all boils down to two things – Nordic Noir film and lit genre, and the city being home to my favourite sauna in the world.
So firstly, along with Copenhagen, Malmö was the scene of the excellent and gripping Nordic Noir TV series ‘The Bridge'. The Öresund Bridge is a beautiful 8km structure connecting the two countries, and of course the scene of a gruesome fictional crime. I was determined to cross it one day.
For just £15 Ryanair got me from London to Copenhagen. Take a direct train from the airport, over the Öresund Strait into Sweden, in total just 20 minutes to Malmö Central, and the mere flash of your passport to border guards on the train from Denmark, no customs, no queues, no faff.
The other big pull factor for me is the much loved by local women's kalbadhus (literally, cold bathhouse). Sauna is at the heart of Swedish culture, so much so that it actually costs less than a pint of beer. There is no better place to rid yourself of body hang-ups than getting naked with the locals here.
I've been here four times and I noticed that almost everyone goes on their own. In any case, saunas are not places for chit chat, far too hot for that (though I imagine the Finns may beg to differ). Instead of a cold plunge pool that you may be more familiar with, here you cool down by jumping into the freezing Baltic Sea. For real! There are showers for those who can't hack it, but I thoroughly recommend it. The extremes of hot and cold make you feel oh so very alive.
This venerable wooden art deco structure is built at the end of a jetty. Men's on one side, women's on the other, though you can meet up in the sea if you wish. There is a licenced cafe should you need a little sustenance before taking the plunge. They also rent towels and can sell you a padlock. The last time I went there was a small hot tub outside on the decking. On sunny days the decking is strewn with women of all ages spending the whole day there.
So now you know how Swedes get their golden all-over tan. As an extra bonus, if you go late in the day, whatever time that happens to be, you can see the sun setting behind the distant Oresund Bridge. But you have to get in the water for that 😉
Note on etiquette:
Saunas, hammams, spas, etc, around the world, vary in their clothing requirements. I suggest finding out before entering. Just ask! Use sign language if you need to. I had an unfortunate experience of entering a hammam in a Berber speaking area of Morocco with not one word in common, far from tourist areas. But women are women everywhere and usually welcome a stranger and look after her. Here in the kalbadhus, public signs clearly indicate that any item of swimwear is prohibited and that you must sit on a towel.
Just 40 minutes away by train is the pretty little port town of Ystad, the scene of Wallander, more Nordic Noir. Stay one night at Stationen B&B, which in the TV version serves as police HQ. You can do a self-guided walk to see the places in the books and films. I once visited Ystad's film studios which were still set up for filming Wallander.
And here's the real confessional bit. I actually have photos of me sitting at his desk brandishing a fake pistol wearing the actual leather POLIS jacket as worn by the wonderful actor Krister Henriksson. Sad, moi?? Walk along the beach and eat great quality traditional meatballs at quirky Fritidsbaren, approx £10 (check seasonal opening times).
A Word On Budget
There is no escaping the fact that this is a very expensive country, but you CAN have a very worthwhile trip on a budget. For the south of Sweden, firstly find a cheap time to fly to Copenhagen (although in Denmark it is much the best option and locals commute it every day), not difficult as it's such a competitive route and big hub for intercontinental flights.
Check AirB&B. On my first visit I only paid £21 p/n for a room in a shared flat, above a supermarket and an alcohol shop*, and walkable to everything. The second time I stayed at Moments Hotel, central, opposite the train station. Tiny, perfectly formed rooms with all mod cons including cable TV make it perfect for solos, around £50.
Filling up a container at a supermarket salad bar (far superior to those in the UK) for around a tenner should do you for a couple of meals. Due to the large Middle Eastern population, there are a few kebab shops that do divine falafels and meat dishes at budget prices. Ubiquitous 7-11 shops will sell you filled baguettes at normal European prices. In cafes, open sandwiches or salads are delicious and healthy options. Many galleries and sights are free. Also free cycle hire.
Alcohol – Nordic countries do not have off licences, even in supermarkets. So if you like a tipple your options are to: Take duty-free, and/or locate a Systembolaget, the government alcohol monopoly shops. Note the limited opening times and get planning, and/or pay through the nose in licenced establishments, and drink very very slowly.
This article was written by Stephanie Henthorne, a solo female traveller from the UK who travelled to Malmo in June 2017 and October 2018. Four days is about the right amount of time for the above suggestions.