Malmo History Facts and Timeline

(Malmo, Skane County, Sweden)

At the far southern tip of Sweden is Malmo, the country's third-largest city and one of Scandinavia's first industrialised powerhouses. There's plenty of history in Malmo, from grand Hanseatic merchant houses dating from the 14th century to the Stortorget, the city's main square.

Many of the beautiful buildings from its golden era still stand in the heart of city, creating one of Sweden's top tourism scenes. On a more local level, the city has a thriving university scene and a growing industry of small companies.

A Danish Market Town

It is believed that the history of Malmo began in 1275, when the Archbishop of Lund built a fortified ferry dock in the area, and this soon became Denmark's second-largest city. However, things really got going in the 1300s, when Hanseatic traders from Germany made frequent visits to its bustling marketplace that was famous for its herring. From their profits, these traders built magnificent homes, churches and eventually a castle.

King Eric

During this era, Pomeranian King Eric I ruled Malmo. He fortified this prosperous trading port with a new castle in the 1430s, called the Malmöhus. At the time, this was considered to be the kingdom's best-protected city, although only the Malmöhus castle remains today. With a permanent population exceeding 5,000 people, Malmo was one of the busiest and largest cities in Denmark during the 15th century.

Mayor Kock

The greatest period of expansion in the history of Malmo came a century later, when one Jorgen Kock became mayor in the mid-1520s. During his tenure, the city's central square (the Stortorget) was created and dozens of impressive buildings, houses and churches were constructed. An impressive number of those 16th-century structures still adorn the heart of the city today, adding much character and an impressive legacy.

The Swedes Take Over

In the 17th century, the Swedes made their move to claim the surrounding territory known as the Scanian Region. They won control of the city in 1658, after the Treaty of Roskilde was signed between Denmark and Sweden. The Danes didn't quite accept their defeat and subsequently plotted revenge. In the year of 1677, Danish soldiers surrounded the city of Malmo for roughly 30 days, cutting off supplies in order to force a surrender. However, this siege was largely unsuccessful and from that time on, the city was considered to be a part of Sweden. It enjoyed a boost in economy under the Swedes and its castle was expanded to its present-day incarnation.

Scandinavian Industrial Powerhouse

Malmo began its rise to industrial powerhouse after its harbour was modernised in the late 1700s. The Kockums shipyard opened in the year of 1840 and rapidly grew in size, becoming one of the world's biggest and most successful. When the Southern Main Line railroad was built in the early 1860s, the city found even greater access to the world market and expanded into manufacturing, textiles and other key profitable industries.

Recession and Hard Times

The mid-1970s saw the first of the city's recessions, which particularly affected its key industries in the shipyards and factories. This led to massive unemployment and the eventual closure of Kockums shipyard in 1986, marking the end of an era and causing faith in Malmo to bottom out. The Swedish financial crisis in 1990 drove the final stake into the heart of Malmo's identity as a prosperous industrial Swedish city.

Rebirth and Reinvention of the City

After hitting bottom in 1995, Malmo took its history into its own hands and refashioned itself as a centre of culture and academia. The Oresund Bridge was started, eventually to connect the city to Copenhagen, and the Malmo University College was opened in 1998.

With the completion of the Turning Torso skyscraper in 2005, Malmo gained Scandinavia's tallest structure as well. Today, the city enjoys popularity as a trendy urban scene with easy access to Denmark's capital, Copenhagen.