When I was pregnant with my first child, one of my friends (who is admittedly a pessimist) told me that there is no such thing as a holiday once you have had kids. By which I think she meant I could kiss goodbye to the days of lounging around an infinity pool with nothing more pressing to worry about than where my next margarita was coming from and whether I had brought enough books with me to last the fortnight (#kindleluddite).
It is certainly true that the arrival of the trio of todgers has cut down the amount of time I spend horizontal on a sun lounger (it is hard to lounge when you are worrying about a toddler falling/pooing in the pool) and ensured that I am now more likely to go home having read the New Adventures of Spot rather than anything off the Booker Shortlist. However, I am a firm believer that you can still have a relaxing time on holiday with kids without handing over 3 months salary to Centre Parcs. If you are looking for a destination where you can lap up great design, interiors and impossibly beautiful blonde men named Lars whilst the kids experience premium playgrounds, sandy beaches and acres of open space then look no further than Malmö and Skåne County. Here are five reasons why it is the perfect place to holiday with kids and my top tips for things to do with them whilst you are there (none of which cost the earth).
It is fair to say that with 3 kids under 7 approximately 33% of my time is spent either in search of or in playgrounds. So I know my swings from my roundabouts when it comes to what makes a good one. Malmö has hands down some of the best I have ever experienced. There was not a dog poo, broken swing or treacherous slide in sight (I am looking at you Oakwood Park). In fact they are so good that you will need all your best parental negotiating skills to get the kids to leave them without the kind of reaction Donald Trump would have if he was served a quinoa burger.
Our favourites were one off Lillas Varvgatan near where we were staying at the OhBoy Hotel, the Slottsträdgårdens and Folkets Park but rumour has it Pildams Park is also well work a visit (we didn’t make it there on account of my 5 year old’s leg batteries running out that day). The Swedes are also great at combining their stellar playgrounds with instagrammable cafes. My favourite has to be the Slottsträdgårdens Kafè (@Slottsträdgårdens Kafè.) where we headed for for a cup of tea and some fika after a sphincter clenching hour of letting the boys climb the trees in the neighbouring park. I am not sure my Swedish vocabularly extends to "please could you call the fire service, my son appears to have climbed a tree the size of the Eiffel Tour and got stuck". You can recover your calm siting outside under the shade of rippling trees or duck inside the greenhouse strung with bunting and dotted with candles
I love almost everything about Scandinavia but if you are travelling with companions who turn their noses up at anything non beige/vaguely textured/potentially containing vitamins it’s cuisine can, at times, be a little bit of a challenge. FYI if you ever want your kids to tidy their bedroom just plop a herring rollmop down in front of them and tell them it is that or putting their lego away. However, take them to either Malmö Saluhall or Höganäs Saluhall and you can guarantee you will have no ryebread revolution on your hands.
There are a host of different stalls catering for all palettes and both are located in gorgeous old industrial buildings meaning you can lap up the bare bricks and rustic textures whilst they are tucking into ice cream from Favvo Glas, Pasta from Papi or cinnamon buns from St Jakob Stenugnsbageri.
If, like my kids, sitting down for longer than 10 minutes at time, you can grab the makings of a gorgeous picnic and head around the corner to Slottsträdgårdens where there is acres of green space and trees to climb to burn off some post lunch energy. If you have kids old enough to understand the concept that if you throw yourself out of a boat you will get wet and force your mum to make like a podgy Pamela Anderson to rescue you from the water, then you can also hire a boat to gently explore.
Malmö itself has a small sandy beach which looks out over the water to Copenhagen but hop in the car and within an hour you can be exploring impossibly pretty cobbled fishing villages with miles of unspoilt coastline to enjoy. Our favourite spots were Mölle, Torekov and Båstad. We spent a very happy morning exploring the dunes and rocks of Torekov where old ladies whizzed passed in dressing gowns on their bikes on the way for their daily swim. In the Summer you can catch a ferry across to Hallands Väderö an uninhabited nature reserve (thanks to @myscandinavianhome for the tip). If you are in Mölle head for Mölle Krukmakeri. You will initially think I am crazy telling you to take kids to a pottery but swerve the pots and head to the quirky café where they will be too distracted by quirky things like a giant stuffed tiger dressed as an airline pilot to cause any ceramic calmamities.
Our favourite beach of all was in the upscale resort of Båstad where the Swedish Tennis Open is held everyyear. There is a long flat golden sandy beach, shallow waters perfect for splashing around in and pontoons leading out to sea off which older/more proficient swimmers will love jumping off. In the Summer months there is cool beach club at the top of the beach and if you can hose them down and wrestle them back into their clothes then the swish Hotel Skansen is actually remarkably child friendly with friendly waiters and kids activitiy packs on hand.
Going round museums with kids can be somewhat of a hit and miss experience. Find a good one and they will be channelling their inner David Attenboroughs or Mini Monets but visit a dud and you will find yourself setting a new Guinness World Record for the number of times one person can say sshhhhh, don't touch that, don't climb that in one hour. Luckily Malmo has some great ones. Our favourites were the Malmo Hus which is a castle in the middle of a moat inside which there is a mini interactive aquarium and ramparts to explore. The aquarium was a particular hit with my kids because it had lots of things they could touch and climb on without setting off any alarms. Even Mr Malmo couldn't resist sticking his head inside a giant diving helmet in the middle of a tank of eels.
For an experience that doesn't involve eels then head to the Konst Hall. It is in a beautiful old orangery building and had a giant sculpture exhibition inside when we visited. It looks on first glance like the kind of place that might not love an invasion of sticky fingered noisy kids but it actively welcomes them, running free crafting workshops in a room off the main exhibition space. There is also a gorgeous courtyard cafe where they can be as noisy as they like and another brilliant playground literally right outside. If art is your thing then the Moderna Museum is also not to be missed.
Strolls by the Sea
If you are staying in Malmö with kids then I would recommend basing yourself in the Västra Hamnen area of the City, a former shipyard which has been transformed into a sustainable area of contemporary housing with a harbour bobbing with boats. There are stretches of wooden walkways looking out towards the sea dotted with beautiful Scandinavians (young and old) who have come to enjoy the sunset and a swim in the sea off bleached wooden pontoons. There is plenty of room for kids to run/scoot of some steam and then Vespa is a great spot to grab a pizza and watch the sun go down/watch the sun go down whilst also watching the kids to make sure they aren't about to attempt to swim to Copenhagen. This area is also home to the famous turning torso building which fascinated our kids. Questions they asked that I couldn't answer, how do they clean the windows, why does it look like a twiglet and why can't we live there (well I could answer that one, it is something to do with not having a spare 500 million Kroner down the back of the sofa)
I have never known a tantrum that can’t be quelled by a cinnamon bun (well apart from the one Mr Malmo had when I gave away to Oxfam a jumper which he loved by which I thought made him look like he was on day release from a juvenile detention centre). If you need a little cinnamon related bribery up your sleeve then there are numerous spots around the city to pick up a bun to stifle a toddler rebellion. . Some of our favourites were from Söderberg & Sara in the St Knut area of the city and on the other side of town the cardamon infused buns from Bagaren & Bonden were out of this world.
Thank you to Visit Sweden UK for hosting us whilst we were in Malmö and Skåne County. Whilst our stay on this occasion was in partnership with Visit Sweden UK, we have visited and loved Malmö as a family and will definetely be returning in the future. If you have any questions at all about travelling there with kids please feel free to ask in the comments below.