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Summer Rail Destinations: Halmstad

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Initially built by the Danes as a defensive fortress, Halmstad is now a popular coastal retreat with a sophisticated cultural scene and thriving nightlife, writes Nic Townsend.

Where

Halmstad lies on the mouth of the Nissan River on the southwest coast of Sweden, between Göteborg and Helsingborg.


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The Quick Pitch

For most of Halmstad's 700-year history, it has been a fortified Danish town on the border with Sweden, and many battles have taken place outside its old city walls. It wasn't until 1645 that it succumbed to Swedish control, where it has remained ever since.

As is the case with many Swedish cities, fires and battles have robbed Halmstad of most of their older buildings, but the Danish influence is still there. It was the Danes who built Halmstad Slott (castle) and many of the half-timbered houses on Storgatan. Norre Port, at the top of Storgatan, is the most notable fragment of the city's former walls. The medieval St. Nikolai Kyrka and the Tre Hjärtan (Three Hearts) building are also remnants of its Danish past, the latter inspiring the city's current emblem.

However these days the people of Halmstad have to adapt to a different kind of invasion. Every summer the town is inundated with hordes of tourists wanting to combine some of the best beaches in southern Sweden with Halmstad's vibrant summer nightlife. Situated in the south of the country, in a good year the beach weather can last into September.

By far the most popular beach is the 6 kilometre-long Tylösand, just west of the town centre. In summer the shores are crammed with sunbathers by day, and its surrounding bars are crammed with partygoers by night.

Further north other great beaches such as Haverdal and Frösakull provide respite from the crowds. South of Halmstad lies the long sandy Östra Stranden, where shallow waters make it ideal for small children. Further south one will find Hagön, the local nudist beach.

Regardless of where they spend the day, in the evening most of Halmstad's visitors retreat into town and straight onto Storgatan's numerous restaurants and bars. With the vast majority of revellers having nothing to do the next day other than continue tanning, the nightlife thrives each day of the week.

But Halmstad isn't a town content simply being a beach-and-party resort, and great efforts have been made to maintain the local cultural scene. The architectural highlights include the new glass-clad public library and the Martin Luther Church (made entirely of steel), while a good collection of public art, such as Picasso's Women's Head, ensure the town centre remains unique. Street names like Storgatan and Stor Torget might feel familiar to those who know Sweden, but Halmstad refuses to fit the mould of small provincial Swedish towns.

Modern art enthusiasts must also see the Mjellby Konstgård, which displays the works of the famed Halmstad Group. This collective of artists revolutionised the Swedish art scene in the 1920s and introduced the country to Surrealism and Cubism

And despite its small population Halmstad continues to produce note worthy Swedes, including footballer Fredrik Ljungberg, former Prime Minister (and current foreign minister) Carl Bildt and Roxette's Per Gessle.

Accommodation

STV Vandrarhem Halmstad – Clean hostel with large grounds and within walking distance of the beach. Offers both dorm beds and cabins.

Tel: 035 19 18 00

Grand Hotel Halmstad – Traditionally decorated and short distance from the train station.

Tel: 035 280 81 00

Hotel Amadeus – Clean and homely hotel in the city centre.

Tel: 035 166 000

Hotel Tylösand – Large upmarket hotel right by the beach, with restaurants, nightclubs and lots of activities.

Tel: 035 305 00

Take the train to Halmstad

Direct trains from Stockholm, Göteborg and Malmö...and connections from across Sweden and Europe.

For a complete timetable, please see:

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Useful links

www.halmstad.se

www.destinationhalmstad.se

www.halland.se

Nic Townsend

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