Ever the plucky underdog, Sweden's third biggest city can make a pretty good case for itself as an expat destination in its own right. The past 30 years have seen it rise from the wreckage of its ship-building industry and become a hub for creative industries such as game design, advertising, and tech start-ups.
The Öresund train links the city to the research-driven industries of Lund on one side and to the Copenhagen on the other and many international people living in the city commute to work in one of those two places.
The local government, meanwhile, has been working hard to bring culture to the city, with a packed schedule of events at the state-of-the-art new Malmö Live concert venue, and free activities for children and adults throughout the year.
The nearness to the continent makes Malmö Sweden's most European city — at times it can feel like a mini version of Berlin.
And the relatively lower cost of living compared to Stockholm and Gothenburg makes the city more relaxed, attracting Swedes from elsewhere who are a little less career-driven.
Malmö often feels like Sweden's most European city. Photo: Karolina Friberg/ImageBank Sweden
But what do local residents think?
When we spoke to our readers living in Malmö, the draw most commonly cited was that it is small enough for everything to be in reach by bus or bicycle, but still big enough to feel like a proper city.
“Malmö is extremely well organized,” says Carys Egan-Wyer. “Large parts of the city centre are more or less car-free and walking, biking and public transport are prioritized, making it a pleasant place to be.”
“There is always something going on,” she adds. “Especially in the summer, when there are tons of free events for kids and adults alike”
“Malmö is a “small big city”, so you get the perks of city life without feeling too overwhelmed by it,” agrees Priscilla Silva.
None of our readers felt Malmö was too small, quiet or parochial. Indeed, Ian Wilson said one of the things he liked most was “living in a cultural city, with many restaurants, concerts, and exhibitions”.
Other readers felt that the city's surroundings were an attraction, with Paul Rhys pointing out that it was “close to the sea on one side and to tons of woods and lakes on the other”.
The countryside inland from Malmö is full of luxuriant beech woods perfect for foraging. Photo: Miriam Preis/imagebank.sweden.se
Others thought the good transport links to Copenhagen and Lund were a key benefit.
But experienced commuters complained of the high prices of rail tickets, and also the transport's unreliability, with Ian Mark Wilson citing “stressful commutes because of the unreliable train service” as the chief downside of Malmö life.
Residents said it was important that you try to arrange accommodation before you arrive in Malmö as it can be hard to find rentals, especially in popular areas. Once you arrive, you should quickly put yourself down on the rental waiting lists.
Others recommended solving the housing problem by looking for places to live in nearby cities and villages.
Finally, residents recommended meeting other international residents, possibly by joining groups aimed at expats, to make friends and avoid getting lonely.
Lund Cathedral, opened in 1145, is one of Sweden's oldest medieval cathedrals. Photo: Per Pixel Petersson/ImageBank Sweden
Malmö's sister city is growing visibly as new office areas and industry clusters sprout to its north, a new tram network is built, and the Max IV and the ESS particle accelerators put it on the map for international Big Science, drawing expertise from across the world.
But it is still at heart a university town, much calmer than Malmö. And despite the international talent drawn to its high-tech industries and research centres, it often feels like there's not a lot going on.
The chief advantages of Lund life cited by readers were the beautiful historic city centre, with its medieval houses and cathedral, the lively student life, and the highly educated and international non-student population.
According to Shubhranshu Daebnath, it's an “intellectual town where almost half of the people have higher education degrees”.
On the downside, residents complained that when the students went home, the city could become too quiet.
“Lund is a university town and unfortunately, the city does not offer much if you're not a student,” said Charlton Leny. “Life is rather quiet and can be pretty boring.”
The stretch of countryside between Malmö and Lund was also flat and relatively unattractive, people complained.
The other defect was the difficulty securing housing in the city.
“If you want to be in Lund, be prepared to have to buy a house because of the lack of family-sized rental apartments,” says Bill Boyer. “Be prepared to pay a lot for housing if you want to be able to cycle to work, school, or Lund centre.”
Several residents were also tired of engineering works to build the city's new tram system.
“This fancy project has made people living in Lund really mad, causing so many problems to make their way around town,” grumbled Eva Hagen. “No one but them, the politicians, wants [the updates]. Very, very expensive as well.”
Bright yellow fields of rapeseed can be seen across Skåne in the early summer. Photo: Jerker Andersson/Imagebank Sweden.
The rest of Skåne
A third of our respondents lived in neither Malmö or Lund, and even some residents of Skåne's two main cities recommended looking further afield.
One resident of Helsingborg recommended the city, describing it as “beautiful and close to the sea” and, like Malmö, “is a city but feels like a town”.
Rachel Irwin, who lives in Dalby, a commuter village for both Malmö and Lund, said that she valued the sense of community.
“I actually know my neighbours. It's beautiful and very close to nature,” she said.
And Irwin, who moved down from Stockholm, said she felt the attraction of the Skåne countryside was often underrated.
“Skåne is fantastic. I lived in Stockholm before and I find Skåne much more relaxed,” she aid. “There are so many things to see and so in Skåne; so many castles, farm shops, beaches, hiking, museums and more.”
Several residents of Malmö and Lund also recommended that newcomers instead look outside the big cities to the villages and towns of Skåne.
Silva, who lives in Malmö, recommended that anyone considering a move should look at the smaller seaside towns on the West coast. “Don’t limit yourself to the big cities like Malmö or Helsingborg. There is charm in the small-to-medium sized towns like Ystad and Simrishamn,” she said.
Lund resident Eva Hagen recommended the south coast. “Find a home in a peaceful village or small town along the southern coast. The West coast is heavily populated,” she said.
Thank you to everyone who responded to our survey. All your comments contributed to this article, even though we weren't able to include each one.