Cutting-edge architecture, medieval quarters and hip bars and restaurants make this Swedish city a mecca for designers, writes Tim Bryan
Sweden being synonymous with design, it's no surprise that it's home to, arguably, the world's most forward-thinking, thought-provoking urban development. Architects head to this once-derelict shipyard in Malmo's Vastra Hamnen (western harbour) to glimpse the future, paying homage to the first ecological city district, powered by wind turbines and solar panels, irrigated by ponds and channels, with all the homes built using sustainable materials ('bo' means to dwell). It's small, only a few city blocks, and home to 1,000 people. No two buildings are the same, in size, materials or hue, with each built by a different architect.
2 The HSB Turning Torso
This wild and wacky, 54-storey apartment building is the piece de resistance of Bo01. Built by Santiago Calatrava (Lisbon's Orient Station, Milwaukee Art Museum, Valencia's Opera House), its 190 metres make it one of the tallest residential blocks in Europe and the tallest in Sweden. Its nine cubic structures turn and twist like a drill. Sculpture or structure? You decide.
3 Stortorget main square
The 16th-century main square, once the largest in northern Europe, is home to luxury hotels such as the Baltzar, trendy cafes and bars, the R?dhuskallaren restaurant in a cellar, the Renaissance-style city hall and the red-brick home of architect and former mayor Jorgen Kock. The square also has a car park, which spoils it.
About 15 minutes' drive or train ride from Malmo lies the medieval home of Sweden's oldest university, whose streets and ecclesiastical heritage make it a dead ringer for Cambridge in Britain. Lund is vibrant during term time, when 15,000 students fill the cafes, bars and libraries. In summer, it's quieter. Lund is also home to a huge Romanesque cathedral, the Domkyrkan, with visitors massing at noon or 3pm to hear the astronomical clock chime.
5 Form Design Centre and City Library
With Malmo's recent history a depressingly common tale of industrial decay and urban meltdown, it's refreshing that the stunning City Library and Form Design Centre exhibit the best in design from Scandinavia. The centre is in a beautiful, sprawling 19th-century warehouse, just off Lilla Torg (Hedmanska Garden, 664 5150; www.formdesign center.com). Nearby is the library (Slottsparken, Regementsgatan 3), an amazing amalgam of old and new, rounded stone and angled glass. The old part dates from 1900 and was built to resemble a Renaissance castle; the new part was built by Danish architect Henning Larsen in 1997. Locals call the complex the 'calendar of light' because of the space and light within the glass and sandstone.
Not to be missed, Slagthuset is the biggest nightclub in Scandinavia, and attracts even Danes from nearby Copenhagen, such is its meat-market reputation - after all, it's housed in a former slaughterhouse, which is where it gets its name (Jorgen Kocksgatan 7A). One of the three giant rooms reverberates to rap and dance music and a second to rock. The beer hall, with large benches and pint pots, lurches to the rhythms of Scandi pop. Just don't request Abba. Slagthuset is located behind Central Station and is open on Fridays and Saturdays until 5am.
7 Oresund Bridge
The bridge spans the watery divide between Scandinavia and the rest of Europe. It's the world's longest at 15.4km, and it enables you to get to Denmark by rail or road in less than 30 minutes. Thanks to the bridge, Ryanair flies passengers from London to the Danish capital, via an airport in Sweden, Malmo's Sturup.
8 Lilla Torg
This is a charming square lined on three sides by lively bars, pubs and upmarket restaurants. From March to October, when the Swedish climate is most forgiving, the tables and reclining chairs spill onto the street. Even the chillier spring and autumnal Scandinavian nights are catered for, with al fresco diners given blankets and gas heaters. Try the trendy Klubb Plysch for cocktails - the fourth side has quaint half-timbered 16th- century buildings.
9 Ribersborg Beach
Known as Ribban, the former marshland stretching down to Oresund was drained to make a sandy beach in the 1920s. A pier and promenade were added later. The water may be too cold for non-Scandinavians, but the Swedes have a hardier constitution - hence, there's a nude bathing area and the beautiful 19th-century open-air swimming baths, Kallbadhuset. Half-pier, half-bath house, this wooden structure is built on poles 100 metres out at sea. Sunbathers lounge, as do some nudists. The bath house is split between men and women, and both sections include saunas and changing rooms (www.ribban.com).
Malmo has more green spaces than any other Swedish city, the prize examples being Slottsparken and Kungsparken, once part of Malmo Castle's grounds. Both are attractively landscaped, with fishermen selling their catches of the day from huts. Pildammarna, also known as the Willow Ponds, with its pines, lakes and fountains, is 10 minutes away.