Skåne, pronounced like this, is the most southerly county in Sweden and stretches from Malmo in the West to Simrishamn in the West. Absolut Vodka lives in Åhus where you can tour the factory for free, and the region is one of the richest areas of farmland in Sweden so is famed for its food scene. The endless flat fields, calm orchards, green landscape and beautiful coastline led me to put Skåne on my to-visit list a long while back but Sweden’s biggest-ever selling TV show The Bridge as well as Wallander have put Skåne on the global map, but for different reasons. Where Wallander revelled in the beauty of the region, The Bridge was much more gritty, with little need for gently waving fields of rape. If anything, this photo from the BBC Wallander could neatly sum up why I wanted to visit.
The bright colours and endless blue skies look so inviting, even grumpy Kenneth Branagh couldn’t deter me from wanting to see it. After Wallander’s Ystad charmed everyone senseless, visits by British tourists increased by nearly 20% so I’m far from alone in wanting a slice of Swedish life. From spending two days in Copenhagen where flights are far cheaper than to Malmo, we took a train to Ystad. Our accommodation was Our House, a fifteen minute walk from the centre of town. It’s a great choice in a quiet location – the rooms are well sized and spotlessly clean with our shared bathroom being shared by just us and our travelling partner. Breakfast in the morning allowed me to go overboard on eggs and coffee.
Just twenty minutes stroll away was the sea – when we went in late May it was empty but I doubt it’s ever overcrowded – and the Ystad Saltsjöbad Spa hotel and fantastic restaurant. We ate in the smaller, American-themed diner called Vitas and the burger was so good it destroyed my strong belief that you can’t get a good burger outside of London. Perhaps I’m unfair as it was Bristol that let me down with the world’s grimmest burger or as it should be called, a rubberised disc of meat. Bread and butter accompanied the food and it was a novel touch to have the bread skewered on a spike. While the cocktail cost upwards of £10, it was worth every kroner. With the choice to sit in the gorgeous bar or out on the terrace hearing the water lap against the shore, you can’t go wrong.
For our other meals, we weren’t so lucky, mostly because we were stuck with the notion that eating past 9pm is a thing. I can tell you, it’s generally not a thing in Ystad, even less so on a Sunday night. At Broderma M we ate pizzas from the posher end of the menu, but the service remained indifferent. When I asked a waitress if she had any local beers she flatly said “no” and poked her finger at the menu. Huh. But it was fine and stopped us from starving to death. It also had the bonus of having some genuinely hideous furniture that seemed like a hipster attempt gone horribly wrong. A real gem of a cafe was Soderberg and Sara, near Ystad train station. The cinnamon bun was outstanding, but even better was the cardamom bun which could only be described as life-changing. With this king of buns came a fantastic flat white. I was in paradise.
Ystad is a very pretty town that doesn’t need to have any outstanding features to make a visit worthwhile. Simply being in Skåne itself is treat enough, but the town and surrounding area offer plenty of attractions. If you’re a fan of Wallander, there’s the film museum and guided tours as well as this website of locations used in the films.
Forty minutes along the coast is Sandhammeren with beautiful white sand. Some say this is Sweden’s finest beach and pictures from there look more like a Caribbean coast than one facing the Baltic Sea.
We headed to Simrishamn on a grey day to pick up bikes and cycle around the coast and orchards. The first cycle place was closed but luckily Hotell Turistgården had plenty of ladies bikes with baskets we could use. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I loved that basket and the staff made hiring the bikes the easiest experience possible. No booking fee and a fee of 130 kroner per day (about £11) is a very fine deal. We headed north of Simrishamn towards the coast and found a stunning spot about 3km from the Hotel. The beach was completely empty, the sand soft and bright yellow, the waters freezing but intensely blue. I’d happily have spent the day here if time had allowed. Here’s our journey to the beach:
Sweden is home to some of the most peaceful moments of my existence, and this beach was no exception. Lying on the sand, looking up at the big sky I was getting into the relaxed state that almost always leads to falling asleep. Once I slept through a ferry dropping passengers off on a small island and setting off again.This time, I managed to move from the beach to the rocky outcrop round the corner where I spotted some picturesque boats and a deserted house.
After about 90 minutes of lazing about, we headed further north. I imagined that Vik would have a cosy cafe so we cycled onwards with grumbling tummies to find Vik was a beautiful village lacking any food whatsoever. As luck would have it, about half a mile north of Vik is the Österlens Golfklubb with a glorious cafe. Ok, I had half a pint, a banana and a cinnamon bun but it beat eating sand. The cafe served sandwiches but despite my numerous trips to Sweden, no sandwich sandwich with mustard, cheese or fish in is getting past my lips. Which is most sandwiches.
We took a more taxing route to Simrishamn, via back roads to Gladsax and onwards to the Hotel. Away from the coast, we were in a world of trees, open fields and the occasional tractor spraying muck on the fields. Yet again, the variety of the countryside in Sweden reminded me why my love affair with the place doesn’t weaken over time. I don’t think it’s possible to have a bad trip in Sweden.
Skåne is an ideal place for a short break, easily accessible from Copenhagen, one of Europe’s finest capitals and just 40 minutes from Malmo. It offers a different taste of life to what you might know from Stockholm or Gothenburg where the pace is slower but the pleasures of life are savoured. A long lunch, a brisk walk, idling on the beach are all enhanced by the natural beauty of the area.