Skåne is the best part of Sweden; you will find the most beautiful men here,” says the young officer checking my passport in Helsingborg, Sweden. “The Danes are only good at drinking. Write about us,” he adds.
It’s 9 a.m. and I’m looking forward to a rapid fire introduction to Sweden. Of the many perks of visiting Copenhagen, the most interesting has to be the ability to be in two countries within minutes. A hop, skip and 20-minute ferry ride later from Helsingør, a 40-minute drive from Copenhagen, I am in Sweden. The border encounter has whetted my appetite for the bounty offered by the southern tip of Sweden, Skåne (pronounced scorn-uh). The region is like a patchwork quilt, knitting together sandy beaches, natural beauty, culinary experiences and Swedish heritage. I have one day to soak it all in.
A 30-minute drive from Helsingborg, and I am in Höganäs, a city known for its salt-glazed earthenware. I head to one of Sweden’s oldest pottery factories, HöganäsSaltglaserat. A small prodcution unit of the factory remains today alongside the new Höganäs Saluhall, a market hall with old-world charm. The coal-fired brick kilns still function; they now bake bread too.
The market meanders around these kilns—a pottery store, a café, and a grocery store with fresh produce, baked treats, cold food (pickles, meats and cheeses) and gourmet preserves. I get to sample this upstairs, in the cavernous dining section. Lunch is served buffet-style and is a popular after-shopping activity, and I join the crowd gathered around a spread of salads, roast beef, and fish filets slathered with olive oil and herbs (hoganassaluhall.se).
A stroll outside brings me to Höganäs Bryggeri, formed five years ago in what used to be a garage. Behind the counter is Magnus Einarsen, who hands out testers of the Miss Behave IPA, one of their 10 brews. “The owners here had one goal: to start a brewery before they die. They started small but now the beer is winning awards, and it sells in U.S.A., Britain, and Dubai!” he says (hoganasbryggeri.se).
From the market, I am driven along the coast to the tip of the picturesque Kullen peninsula, where I find the Kullaberg Nature Reserve. It’s popular for outdoor activities like nature walks and hiking, cave explorations, and rock climbing, each with a view of dense foliage and the Øresund waters. My activity of choice is setting off in a boat in search of porpoises, which populate the waters around the reserve.
Our guide is marine biology student FilipStedt, who advises us to look for flocks of seagulls congregated at a spot—a sign that porpoises (who drive fish to the surface) are near. The water is choppy and the sun reflecting on the waves causes many false sightings. We spot only two porpoises in an hour. “Their numbers have been dwindling because of overfishing, poisoned waters, and fishing nets. This activity is safe though and doesn’t harm them,” Stedt says (kullabergsguiderna.se/en/porpoise-safari/; SEK 400/Rs3,500 per person for a 1-hr safari). Back on land, I climb the staircase of the century-old Kullen lighthouse for views of the Øresund strait (entry free).
A 10 minute drive away from Kullaberg, I find Flickorna Lundgren (The Girls Lundgren), a café whose origin story has to do with a dream. In 1938, seven sisters started to serve coffee and cake to earn enough to ensure their cottage doesn’t get sold. They were an instant hit. The ‘Girls’ caught the attention of King Gustav V who visited the café no less than 70 times; his black and white photographs and royal warrants adorn the walls of the cottage.
Flickorna Lundgren looks like a fairy tale. Two chestnut trees form a gate that leads to a cottage with a thatched roof and lace-curtained windows. Inside, low-ceilinged rooms house a museum and a collection of copper teapots. Beyond the house is a greenhouse, a pond, a restaurant and kitchen, and a farm where goats poke their noses through the fence seeking leafy treats.
I cannot imagine a prettier place for fika (Swedish coffee break). The royal favourite was vanilla hearts, heart-shaped treats dusted with powdered sugar and filled with vanilla custard. Also popular is Skåne rings, cardamom-flavoured nutty cookies topped with hazelnuts. I enjoy treats with strong coffee from blue patterned cups and saucers. The place is packed and yet, tranquil (flickornalundgren.se; SEK 50/Rs400 for coffee).
Skåne is part of Greater Copenhagen or Øresund Region, comprising of eastern Denmark and southern Sweden. The strait forms the Danish-Swedish border; I entered at one end and my return is at the other, over the Øresund Bridge. While it is quicker to take the ferry back, I choose the drive. The bridge starts from Malmö, a Swedish city an hour’s drive away from Flickorna Lundgren. An architectural marvel, the double-track bridge ends in an underwater tunnel on an artificial island, with the drive taking about 20 minutes (toll from SEK 540/Rs4,300). It is even the star of a TV show, Broen (The Bridge), but more importantly, it helped unite two warring nations.
Joanna Lobo is a freelance writer and journalist. A silent feminist (they do exist!), food snob, and Potterhead, she prefers canine company to that of humans. She actively seeks out cheap eating haunts, and weird and wondrous places, when travelling.