Scandinavia’s biggest urban festival

So how many of you have actually been bothered to take the quick 20-minute train ride across the waters to Copenhagen’s little cousin, Malmö?

Probably not many. Traditionally, the appeal of Sweden is its vast natural beauty: the forests and lakes. But Scandinavia’s biggest urban festival, Malmö Festival, might just change your perception of all things Swedish as more than a staggering 1,000 events over eight days transform the streets, squares and parks of the town centre into a  buzzing hive of cultural activity. 

Once in Danish hands, Malmö resisted the claims of the territory-hungry Danes around 350 years ago and over the years developed into an industrial town, but recessions in the 1970s and 90s hit Malmö hard.  Boasting an impressively low average population age of 36, the town has gradually been able to reinvent itself as a Scandinavian centre of knowledge and culture. The bustling Malmö Festival gives the town a chance to showcase itself with 1.4 million visitors filling the streets for over a week of music, theatre, art, sport and food. The town centre is closed off and there are no entry charges. It’s one big Swedish street festival.

The festival kicks off on August 16 and closes the following Friday – just to give you an idea of the scale of the festival, there are an incredible 45 music concerts in Malmö alone on the opening day! Your best bet is to pick out your own programme, which is easily done at the official website, or just wander around and take pot luck. 

Malmö Festival  
Venues all over the city; starts Fri, ends Aug 23; free adm;

Top Picks:

Looptroop Rockers 
Stora Scenen; Wed 19:00,
The excellent Swedish hip-hop act have released their first album in Swedish and sound as fresh as ever after 20 years as an international name. Should be a fantastic party atmosphere in a packed-out square

Dr Cagliostro’s Cabinet of Curiosities 
There is truly something for everyone at the Malmö Festival. Enter into the bizarre world of the good Dr Cagliostro and witness his collection of oddities, which include mummified mermaids and shrunken heads as the whole Lilla Torg square becomes a shrine to the mystic arts of magic and wizardry.
Lilla Torg; performances on Thu & Fri Aug 23, 16:00-20:00

Sean Kuti and Egypt 80 
The son of legendary Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, Seun Kuti has carried on the family tradition and is one of the most exciting live acts at the Malmö Festival. Playing irresistibly funky rhythms that will have everybody on their feet, this is a chance to hear Seun’s interpretations of some old Fela Kuti classics.
Stora Scenen; Mon 21:30

La Tal presents ‘Carilló’ 
Spanish mime group La Tal perform the internationally-acclaimed Carilló around the clockwork of a giant timepiece. Mime at its very best.
St Petri; Mon 16:00, 17:30 & 19:00

Children’s land (Barnland) 
Plenty of activities all day and every day for the under tens including bubble blowing, building new toys from old, fishing and a toy exchange area.
Raoul Wallenbergs Park; daily 11:00-20:00 

Crayfish Party 
Maybe you haven’t brought your own crayfish to the party, but thousands of enthusiastic shellfish munching Swedes have and will once again try to smash not only the shells, but the world record for mass crayfish consumption. Don’t forget the traditional pointy crayfish hats, this is an unmissable event, one of the festival highlights, and a great place to watch the usually calm Swedes come out of their own shells.
Stortorget; Fri 19:00-22:45

Toughest Urban Obstacle Course
A tricky obstacle course to put your fitness and clambering skills to the test. For serious competitors, the best 16 compete in the final on the last Friday.
Central Park; daily until Thu, 16:00-22:00, final on Fri Aug 23

Concrete Farming 
Self-sufficiency co-operative Concrete Farming proves that absolutely everything can be used to promote biodiversity in towns and cities. Insect hotels and plantable paper flowerpots are just a few of its bright ideas.
EkoReko; Fri 16:00-18:00, Sat & Sun 12:00-14:00

Street Food Corner
Feeling peckish? In the EkoReko area, stalls represented by the Swedish chefs of Malmö’s best cafés and restaurants give you a chance to sample their wares. 
EkoReko; daily 11:00-20:00

Now in its 29th year, the Malmö Festival is a massive and diverse event with an emphasis on all things environmental. There is something for everybody, old and young alike, with all manner of musical and theatrical genres, sports, fashion, design and food represented. If you have never been to Malmö before, then the Malmö Festival is the perfect excuse for a trip to Sweden for eight vibrant days where the normally rather laid-back town centre of Malmö metamorphoses into a jam-packed colourful cultural cauldron.