If Gothenburg is the cradle of Swedish football, then Malmö is its successful late developer.
Home of flagship club Malmö FF, who have claimed more post-war titles than any other, Sweden’s third largest city was also a venue for the 1958 World Cup Finals and Euro ’92.
Both took place at the Malmö Stadion, at Pildamm, a park south of the city centre, the hub of football life in the city from 1896 to the present day.
The first game played in Malmö took place in 1890 at downtown waterfront Rörsjöstaden, organised by the pioneering Malmö Cyclists’ Club, MVK, against KB Copenhagen.
MVK also set up the Malmö Sports Ground, the Idrottsplats, aka Malmö IP. Opened at Pildamm Park in 1896, it hosted cycling, athletics – and football, until MVK folded its team.
IFK were then founded in 1899 and took part in the inaugural top-flight Allsvenskan in 1924.
Former football-playing members of MVK set up Malmö BI in 1904, based, like IFK, at the Idrottsplats. Local sportsmen gathered at the Idrottsplats restaurant then formed Malmö FF in 1910.
All three shared the same sports ground, Malmö BI nearly making the Allsvenskan in 1938. In modern times, they became FC Rosengård, currently in the fourth flight, and based in the south-east suburb of the same name. It was here that the young Zlatan Ibrahimovic first started playing organised football, as well as for nearby FBK Balkan. Formed by Yugoslav immigrants, Balkan share the same local sports ground as FC Rosengård.
Ideal for the needs of pre-war Swedish football, the Idrottsplats fell short of requirements once Sweden was chosen as a World Cup host in 1950. Though it staged a full international, Sweden’s 8-1 trouncing of Finland in October 1949, the Idrottsplats was more used to modest crowds at domestic fixtures.
Malmö FF had joined the Allsvenskan shortly after IFK, but had been thrown out in 1934 for under-the-counter payments – it is thought that it was IFK who had alerted the authorities.
When FF returned to the top flight in 1937, it was with Eric Persson as chairman. In his near 40-year stewardship, Persson made Malmö FF the major force in Sweden.
Malmö FF won their first title in 1944, and crowds rose as more silverware arrived – particularly for the Scanian derby with Helsinborg. At the same time, IFK were also enjoying their best period, culminating in league runners-up in 1960.
By then, the Malmö IP had been superseded by the Malmö Stadion, built for the 1958 World Cup. Set on the south side of the park, it first hosted the group match between holders West Germany and Argentina, forced to play in IFK’s yellow shirts.
IFK got through two rounds of the 1960-61 European Cup but then fell to Rapid Vienna in the quarter-final, the high point of the club’s history. It’s been lower-league football since 1963 – and now crowds in the hundreds.
Malmö IP fell into disuse but was renovated in the mid-1990s, and reopened in 1995. IFK and FF both moved in briefly, and still use it for friendlies.
After Euro ’92, Malmö Stadion began to look its age and a new arena was planned alongside. In 2009, Malmö FF moved into the Swedbank Stadion, which has since been used for a number of U21 and full internationals.
The Malmö Stadion remains in place, for concerts, athletics meets and, before a few hundred people, IFK games.
Malmö Airport is 28km (17 miles) east of town, connected by hourly Flygbussarna buses (99Skr, 189Skr return, 40min journey time). Prices are slightly cheaper if bought online. Buses stop at Triangeln, near the Swedbank Stadion, before terminating at Centralen.
A Taxi Skåne (+46 40 330 30) to town should cost around Skr400.
Almost as close is Copenhagen Airport, 37km (23 miles) away. From the rail terminal at Copenhagen Terminal 3 (connected by a free shuttle bus from Terminal 1), trains leave for Malmö from platform 1 every 20min, journey time 20min. The taxi rank for Sweden is also outside Terminal 3, fare around 500-600Dkr.
In Malmö, public transport consists of buses and a local train network run by Skåne. A 24hr city pass is 65Skr, 3-day 165Skr from the two Skåne offices in town. Note that cash is not accepted on board – single tickets (22Skr) are bought from machines at stops and stations, or from Copenhagen Airport.
Opened with a spectacular ceremony in June 2015, the Clarion Hotel & Congress Malmö Live near Malmö Centralen features the Zlatan Suite, themed after you-know-who, with a Zlatan-sized bed. Also in the same group and close to the station, affordable rooms are provided by the Comfort Hotel Malmö. Along with nearly 300 rooms, and late Sunday check-outs on request, the hotel is currently offering weekend stays for two at under 700Skr a night.
For the Swedbank Stadion, the nearest hotel is the business-friendly Mercure Malmö, with its own bar and restaurant. Also reasonably close is the 20-floor Scandic Triangeln, with a gym, sauna and conference facilities.
Something quite unique is the More Hotel Malmö, 68 studio apartments set in a former 19th-century chocolate factory, the Mazetti. It’s not cheap, but even the smallest studios come with a kitchenette. It’s east of the city centre, a stiff walk to the stadium.
By the waterfront, the prestigious Elite Savoy Malmö is set in a historic building, with its own pub, the Bishops Arms. Its restaurant was renovated in 2014. Close by, also upscale, is the design-forward, eco-friendly Mäster Johan.
Malmö contains a handful of pub-style venues, starting with downtown Fagans, open from mid-afternoons. Live music, TV sport and juicy steaks are the order of the day. Also central, Paddy’s, Mello Yello, Moosehead (both at Lilla Torg 1) and the Green Lion Inn are more restaurant-like. Paddy’s imposes a higher age limit at weekends.
More in the direction of the stadium, Sir Toby’s provides a full schedule of its TV matches, complemented by a range of foreign beers and signature burgers.
More sports bar than restaurant is newly opened Boomer’s, with Thai and pub food, framed Malmö FF shirts on the wall and affordable weekday lunches. There are also three branches of Boston-inspired Scando sport-bar chain O’Learys in town, including one at the stadium and one at Central Station.