Malmö Festival

This past Friday marked the end of the Malmö Festival (Malmöfestivalen), an annual, weeklong party with free concerts, food stands, and all sorts of pop-up events. All over the city, streets were closed off, huge concert stages were put up, and amusement park rides were running all day and all night. Crowds appeared from who-knows-where, filling up the streets and restaurants throughout the festival.

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The kick-off event was a crayfish-eating party in Stortorget, the “big square.” This is also where the biggest music concert stage was. Unfortunately, though not surprisingly, it rained the first day!

The usually quiet town of Malmö totally transformed during the festival. I saw people drinking from vodka bottles in public spaces (which is illegal here, I think); trash accumulating in the squares; and cops putting drunk Swedes in their cars at the end of the night. It was a bit alarming to see everyone go so crazy all of a sudden!

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One of the music venues had a dance floor.
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The amusement park rides reminded me of the boardwalks on the South Jersey shore.
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Many popular Swedish artists performed at the festival. There were 3-4 outdoor concert areas like this set up, each one with multiple acts every evening of the week.

One city square was completely dedicated to food, with over 50 pop-up food stands and some tables for eating. I tried all sorts of crazy foods there at the most popular and recommended stands. Here is everything I ate at the festival:

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A “langos,” popular street food during the festival. It’s a fried, doughy flatbread that can come with different toppings. I got the basic set: garlic, sour cream, and cheese.
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A tasting portion of the mushroom wrap (kantarellklämma) from the Nordic Street Food truck.
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A chicken arepa sandwich from the Latin Truck. This was more substantial than the arepas I’ve had in NYC – I wasn’t expecting a full sandwich – but it was delicious!
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The “lomito burger” from Victor Jara. A simple but delicious pork-and-beef burger at a food stand that always had a long line.
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A whole deep-fried banana with vanilla ice cream and honey. Not my favorite, but worth trying!
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I realize this looks awful, but this is very popular street food here in Sweden: deer kabab with “orientdressing” (mild mayonnaise-esque sauce) and, of course, lingonberry jelly.
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I waited 20 minutes in line for this at one of the most popular food stands. This sandwich is crispy roast pork on an organic brioche bun with red cabbage, thin pickles, and crispy fried onion. It came with a skewer of apple slices covered in cinnamon-sugar and “mysvarma fläskevålar,” which apparently means fried bacon rind!

Finally, I also went to Bastard Restaurant, one of Malmö’s most famous (and fanciest) restaurants. It has nothing to do with the festival except that I ate there during that week, which was the first (and so far only) time that I have eaten a meal by myself in a full-service, sit-down restaurant. It was one of those things, like going to the movies alone, that I knew I would need a certain amount of self-confidence to do. I think it’s valuable to learn how to feel comfortable in those situations, especially as a solo traveler. I don’t want to miss out on anything this year simply because it feels “weird” to do it alone. As I’ve said before, the Watson is all about stepping out of your comfort zone and learning how to do the things you want to do by yourself.

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I got their signature dish, the “Bastardplanka,” filled with way too many random meats to name. I had it with the house bread and a wonderful cocktail named “Zeus,” and I finished with a lemon-elderflower sorbet.

As far as budget goes, yes, this meal might seem too expensive. But as a previous Watson fellow once said, it’s better to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for 3 days and then eat at the best restaurant in the city than to have four mediocre meals in a row. The budget is all about prioritizing; no matter how small it is, you can fit in anything you want if you prioritize. I decided that this might be my only time in Malmö and so it would be worth it to eat at Bastard Restaurant, even if that meant only eating pasta and cheap street food for multiple days before and after (which is exactly what I did). And it was worth it. The food was great, but more than that I was happy to conquer the weirdness of eating alone, sitting at a lovely table in a beautiful restaurant.

Now, the festival is over. I don’t think I’ve ever had as much meat as I did last week and I doubt I ever will again! The streets of Malmö have quieted and things are back to normal. It was fascinating to see the city get so wild, and I’m glad I was able to see so many music performances for free.

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