There are some major contenders, for sure, but our 11-minute video featuring the region known as Northwest Skåne in the south of Sweden represents some of our best efforts — if not the best. See if you agree.
We were fortunate to film in southern Sweden this past September, when the end of the summer was glorious, and even that descriptor is inadequate for the beauty of this region.
Gorgeous sunsets, stunning landscapes and engaging guests conspired to deliver perhaps our best video ever — particularly for cruise passengers aspiring to visit the region.
In the video we hit the highlights of south Sweden’s Skåne, from Helsingborg’s city center, with its bustling North Harbor and Sweden’s oldest pedestrian shopping street; to the open-air museum Fredriksdal, larger than Stockholm’s Skansen; to the gardens (named Europe’s most beautiful) and palace at Sofiero; and on to Mölle, the birthplace of Swedish sin. You were waiting for that last one, weren’t you? See the video for the raunchy details.
While visiting Mölle, we stop for a round of golf at nature’s playground, Kullaberg, which has been described as a compact New Zealand and is noted for hiking and biking trails, as well as the popular “porpoise safaris.”
We leave the Kulla peninsula to visit the home of one of the world’s greatest sopranists, Birgit Nilsson — and a museum dedicated to her — before continuing on to beautiful Båstad, Sweden’s riviera and home to the Swedish Open Tennis Tournament. Serena Williams won the tournament this past summer and will return to defend her title this coming summer.
We conclude our visit at one of Northern Europe’s most important weaveries, founded by seamstress Märta Måås Fjetterström(try pronouncing that one), before heading back to Helsingborg. (Actually, her name was so difficult to pronounce, even for Swedes, that she added “Måås” to give pause to those who dared to intone her full name.)
Where in the world? Helsingborg is situated one hour from Copenhagen and directly across from Helsingør (anglicized by Shakespeare as Elsinore and home to Hamlet’s Castle). Friends and foes throughout the years, Helsingborg and Helsingør sit at the narrowest part of the sound between Denmark and Sweden, which means you can easily visit Hamlet’s Castle when calling on Helsingborg.
Moreover, Helsingborg is an unspoiled cruise destination. When I spoke with passengers from a Princess Cruises’ vessel a few years ago, they told me that they had been to a few of the big cities along the Swedish coast, but in Helsingborg they felt as if they were seeing “The Real Sweden.”
Indeed, they were.
One of our favorite ships, Seabourn Quest calls on Helsingborg this coming spring. Hop on board to experience all that this rich region has to offer.
Visit Helsingborg On Seabourn Quest This Spring
Full video transcript follows …
Helsingborg: The Real Sweden
Ralph Grizzle: Welcome to Helsingborg, Sweden, not to be confused with Helsingør, Denmark, just minutes away across the strait. I’m an American journalist. I’ve been coming here for years, and I’d love to show you around. Let’s go take a quick look at Helsingborg, and then go explore all that this region has to offer.
One of Sweden’s oldest cities, Helsingborg was settled nearly 1,000 years ago. Though I love the history, it’s the active lifestyle and accessibility that brought me here. From the beautiful North Harbor, with its charming waterfront to the Dunkers Cultural Center designed by famed architect Kim Utzon, to the 14th century St. Mary’s Church, Helsingborg offers a lot in a small space.
Shop for international and brand names on Sweden’s oldest shopping street, just steps away from North Harbor. At the end of the shopping street is Helsingborg’s centuries-old medieval fortress, Karnan. Walk up to the top where the views are breathtaking. On clear days, you can see as far as Copenhagen, and you can always see beautiful Helsingborg down below.
Sofiero Palace & Gardens
Just three miles north of Helsingborg is a palace with a special story. Welcome to Sofiero. My host is Annika Malmgren. She’s the manager of the palace and its beautiful gardens, and she’s volunteered to show me around. Sofiero was named Europe’s most beautiful park in 2010, thanks to its more than 500 varieties of rhododendrons and abundant roses and dahlia. Sofeiro hosts garden festivals and outdoor summer concerts during the spring, summer and fall.
In 1864 Sweden’s Crown Prince Oscar purchased land here to build a summer castle for his wife Sophie. Sofiero looks across to Hamlet’s Castle, in Denmark.
So now we’re in the king’s former dining room, and this is an award-winning restaurant. In fact, it’s won many awards. And we’re about to enjoy some food produced with local ingredients from the Northwest Skane region. So bon appetit.
This part of Sweden is known for its farms and rich culinary heritage, and having lunch at Sofiero was the perfect way to end a few hours in this beautiful park and palace.
Fredriksdal Museum & Gardens
I’m in Fredriksdal. This is an open-air museum, and basically you’d come here to see and to experience how life has been lived in Sweden throughout the centuries. We’re going to go inside and meet our host Charlotte who is going to treat us to a traditional Swedish fika and to tell us stories about superstitions and how herbs played a role.
Only a few minutes from Helsingborg’s North Harbor, Fredriksdal allows you to see a variety of landscapes in South Sweden and to learn more about the region’s kitchen gardens.
Charlotte: We’ve have this basilica.
Ralph: Okay, so that’s basil. How was that used?
Charlotte: Yeah, well, you have the girl now. It’s 1850. And she’s so happy with this man, and she wants to keep him. Everyday before he goes to the fields, she takes the basilica and she puts it in his clothes, and he would always come back. And who is to say? It might work even today.
Charlotte and I continued our stroll Fredriksdal is actually larger than Stockholm’s well-known Skansen. It was a gorgeous September day. We found a lovely table along a path in the woods where we sat down for coffee and Swedish cinnamon buns, called kannelbolle. The Swedes call this tradition fika, and it’s certainly something you’ll want to experience. It’s basically taking time to appreciate life with other people.
Our next stop was the old town quarters. Historic buildings were brought here from Helsingborg’s city center for preservation. It’s like a stroll along nostalgia lane.
Ralph: Could I ask, what is it that you love about working at this place?
Charlotte: Wow, it’s a lot of things. Well, it’s pretty all year round. The nature is fantastic, and the culture is interesting. There is always some story you can tell, and I keep learning new things. That’s most important.
Ralph: Well thanks Charlotte for showing me Fredriksdal.
Charlotte: You’re welcome back.
Ralph: Thank you.
Mölle, The Grand Hotel & Kullaberg Nature Reserve
In the 1890s, tourists thronged to the Grand Hotel in Mölle for a simple reason: men and women could swim together – on a common beach. Mölle is the birthplace of Swedish sin. Our reason for coming here though was to experience Kullaberg, a nature reserve.
Kullaberg is an outdoor playground with one of the best golf courses – and with the best views – in all of Sweden. The expansive peninsula characterized by its rugged coast offers trails for hiking and for mountain biking. Described as a compact New Zealand, Kullaberg also offers a variety of watersports, including the extremely popular porpoise safaris.
The Bjare Peninsula, Birgit Nilsson Museum, Båstad & Beyond
From Kullaberg, we headed to the Bjare peninsula toward Båstad, stopping at the charming fishing village and now a popular resort town, Torekov; and at Havs Hollar, another nature reserve where the famous Swedish director Ingmar Bergman shot parts of the film The Seventh Seal. We had a fika at Flickorna Lundgren, where one of Sweden’s former kings enjoyed the Vanilla Hearts cake, and so did we, and then we headed to a special farmhouse where an opera singer once lived.
She once told an interviewer that she began to sing before she could walk …
Birgit Nilsson was a dramatic sopranist who performed operatic and symphonic works. Her voice was noted for its overwhelming force and its bountiful reserves of power. She was particularly gifted at hitting the high notes.
So Birgit was capable of hitting such high notes that she sometimes broke things.
Yes, she did. There’s a remarkable story about how she cracked the windows in a church in Sweden when she sang, but it’s not the only thing she cracked. Once she sang in Tehran and she had bought some beautiful earrings, and at the concert that evening when she sang, she cracked one of them, and it as her voice that made them crack.
The farmhouse where Birgit Nilsson grew up and loved to returned to all of her life is next door to the museum, and we went inside to see it just as Birgit had left it when she died on Christmas Day in 2005 at the age of 87.
Even if you’ve never heard of Birgit Nilsson, this is a place you can appreciate. It’s not often that you come to a museum and learn about a person’s professional career and then walk next door to the farmhouse where they grew up. Birgit Nilsson was a simple farm girl who went on to international acclaim, but this was a place that she enjoyed coming back to and spending time, and I know that you will too.
Our next stop was Båstad, one of Sweden’s most beautiful towns. WIth its iconic bathhouse at Hotel Skansen and its nearly always blue skies, Båstad is known for its gorgeous coastline as well as the Swedish Open Tennis tournament, attracting great players like Serena Williams since 1948.
I walked the town’s lovely streets to find another tradition that Båstad is known for, and that’s weaving.
Today, I want to tell you about a remarkable woman. Her name was Märta Måås Fjetterström, and she wanted her art to be appreciated on floors. I’m here in Båstad in one of Northern Europe’s most important weaveries. Let’s go see what it’s all about.
Works of art have been produced here since 1919. Today, the rugs and woven textiles are produced on specially built looms — and all by hand using designs and instructions that have been handed down from generation to generation. It’s part museum and part shop, with wonderful displays of colors.
In addition to the classical carpets there are also contemporary carpets. This one on my right for example, this is the audio waveforms of a trout transferred into the fabric of a carpet. And on my left, well this is the audio waveforms satellite landing on a planet.
There’s a saying here that these carpets are not expensive but they do cost a lot. Now this particular design is owned by Steven Spielberg, and guess where he has it? On his bathroom floor. That would have made Märta Måås Fjätterström very proud.
Make Sure Your Next Cruise Calls On Helsingborg
From beautiful palaces and sprawling gardens to nature reserves perfect for soft adventure to open-air museums that present the best of Sweden’s storied traditions and sites that celebrate her gifted performers and artists, Northwest Skane has a lot to offer. And it’s all easily accessible from one of the most charming towns in all of Sweden, Helsingborg, a beautiful seaside town just an hour from Copenhagen at the narrowest part of the strait that separates Sweden from Denmark.
We’ve only been able to show you a little of all that you can do when you visit this region in the south of Sweden. Make sure that your next cruise ship visit calls on Helsingborg, Sweden. I’m Ralph Grizzle, and I’ll see you next time.