On Sweden’s west coast, Halmstad is a well-kept city that receives an influx of tourists in July and August. They come for the mild climate, golf courses and sandy beaches . The best of these, Tylösand Strand, has seven kilometres of white sand and a resort area full of fun in summer. In the centre of town there’s no lack of places to go for a meal or drink on Storgatan, the carefree pedestrian street.
Halmstad also has a captivating past, as it was under Danish control all the way up to the 17th century. There are a few monuments that date to the Danish days, like the castle, Nikolai Kyrka and traces of the old city walls.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Halmstad:
1. Nissan River
Halmstad wouldn’t be the same without the broad and beautiful Nissan River which empties into the north not far south.
The river is the boundary between the old city on the west bank and the newer quarters on the east where factories and workers’ cottages have disappeared in favour of bold glass apartment buildings and offices.
Joggers or anyone out for a ramble never have to leave the riverside in Halmstad.
In the centre there’s a sequence of parks on the east bank like Picassoparken, Kapsylparken and Filtparken, on the west side are lots of bars and restaurants.
Keep going north until you come to Laxön (Salmon Island) a favoured fishing spot and a place to grab coffee and watch live shows in summer.
On Halmstad’s northern fringe, you can get to this restful green space on foot in a few minutes from the centre.
Set on a hill, the park has rather grim origins, as it was the location for Halmstad’s gallows until the 19th century.
But in the middle of the 1800s beech trees were planted on the hill and a viewing tower was placed at the highest point in 1897. This 13-metre building is a kind of folly, designed like a Romantic castle with a viewing platform open in summer.
On the south side of Galgberget is a small outdoor museum created in 1925. A dozen historic buildings from around the Halland province were moved here piece by piece.
There’s a pleasing view of the city up here in what feels like a bucolic little hamlet made up of a farmhouse, windmill, sawmill, summer cottage, traditional sauna, schoolhouse and more.
May to September children will be thrilled with this place as the museum has a playground and farmyard animals.
4. Tylösand Strand
On clear days in summer there’s no finer place to be than on this sandy beach to the west of the city.
Tylösand has seven kilometres of silky white sand, traced by dunes and washed by rolling North Sea waves.
When the beach fills up in summer, the north end is calm and family-friendly, while the livelier southern end is more for teenagers and 20-somethings.
Around the southernmost point there’s a small resort, clustered around a cove known as Tjuvahålan (Thieves’ Hole). This was a hotbed for smugglers right up to the end of the 19th century and the beach here has still waters out of the wind and North Sea Currents.
5. Mjellby Art Museum
On the other side of the airport a few minutes west of Halmstad is a museum all about the Halmstadgruppen.
This was a circle of artists working in cubism and surrealism in the 1920s and 30s, mostly living and painting in Halmstad’s Söndrum area.
The museum was established in 1980 by a daughter of one of the members, and stages ever-changing exhibitions about the group.
There are also temporary exhibitions for contemporary Swedish and international art, and kids are never left out as there’s a workshop at the gallery where they can play and be creative.
6. Halmstad Castle
Halmstad was still under Danish yoke when the city’s castle took shape beside the Nissan River at the end of the 16th century.
It was intended as a residence for King Kristian IV, and instead of being a defensive building it was somewhere for the king to relax and enjoy himself.
The building has gone through a few changes over time, like in the 18th century when it was given its current mansard roof.
But the basic layout is exactly as it was when it was built, and the same goes for the slender, copper-coated tower.
The castle now houses administrative offices, but you can step through the passageway into the courtyard for photos.
Between Stora Torg and Norre Port, this north to south street deserves a detour, especially on the pedestrianised northern end.
On this part Storgatan has shops, restaurants, pubs and cafes, and a line of covered terraces running up the middle of the street.
At the upper end, Norre Port is one of the few remaining city gates in Sweden.
This was also raised during the reign of King Kristian IV in 1601 and was one element in a citadel that encompassed the centre of Halmstad and the castle to the south.
8. Stora Torg
This square at the southern end of Storgatan’s pedestrian zone is the largest in the city and is also integral to daily life, hosting a regular market.
There’s a branch of the Swedish department store Åhléns on the northwest corner, and if you’re feeling peckish all manner of food trucks are allowed to sell their fare on the square.
Sweden’s beloved 20th-century sculptor, Carl Milles, designed the Europa och Tjuren (Europe and the Bull) fountain in the 1920s.
When it was presented in 1926 a few people were upset that the statues of Triton were nude.
An on the south side of the square, see the old half-timbered mill house, dating to the 1700s and now a restaurant.
9. Sankt Nikolai Kyrka
On the south side of Stora Torg is one of Halmstad’s last medieval buildings, as this church survived the fire that took out most of the city in 1619. It was first mentioned in 1432, but could be up to a century older than that.
The yellow brick facade is from a restoration in the 1870s, while the interior was reworked in the 1930s and 40s.
In here, see the dominant circular brick columns, which were a trademark of Danish Renaissance churches and date to the 1500s.
Take yourself on a brief tour of the building to find some of the historic elements, like medieval ledger stones in the floor, the exquisitely carved Renaissance pulpit from the beginning of the 1600s and the baptismal font from 1474.
10. Halmstads Stadsbibliotek
There may be days when the weather isn’t on your side.
And if your idea of a perfect afternoon is spent buried in the pages of a good book you could do a lot worse than the modern city library.
This glass and metal construction is hard to miss, jutting out from the east bank of the river between Kapsylparen and Filtparken.
There are English language titles, magazines and newspapers and even couches if you want somewhere to take a load off for a while.
There library also has free Wi-Fi and a cafe where you can take part in that quintessential Swedish tradition of “fika”: Coffee, cake and a chat with a friend.
11. Garnisonsmuseet Halmstad
Also on Galgberget is a museum that deals with the history of Halmstad from a military perspective.
Known as the “91:an Museet” and open from June to August, this attraction has artefacts from the Västergötland and Halland regiments, which were both posted in Halmstad.
There are uniforms, medals, antique musical instruments and gramophone records, and a wedding dress that was tailored from parachute silk during rationing in the Second World War.
If you want to see some hardware, Galgberget remains Halmstad’s main air defence, and at Skedalahed you see modern anti-aircraft guns and communications units.
12. Hallands Konstmuseum
When this post was written in 2017 the regional art museum was closed for refurbishment, it will reopen again in 2019.
But ordinarily it would be one of the first places to go for culture in the city.
The museum is in an imposing hall by the Nissan, designed by 20th-century architect Ragnar Hjorth.
In the collection there are more works by the Halmstadgruppen, as well as subsequent 20th-century artists like the painter Torsten Billman and sculptor Edvin Öhrström.
The museum also has folk art from the Halland region, and Bonadsmålning, traditional hand-painted fabrics from the late-middle ages to the 19th century.
13. Danska Fall
For a rewarding excursion into the countryside east of Halmstad, make for this system of waterfalls at the southern end of Brearedssjön.
At this point, concealed in beech forest, the Fylleån river drops 35 metres in an short distance, cascading over jagged rocks in a dramatic scene.
The falls got their name from an event that supposedly happened here after the Battle of Halmstad in 1676, when a group of retreating Danish soldiers fell to their deaths in the falls.
The long distance Hallandsleden trail winds through the nature reserve that blends beech, oak and pine woodland, and information panels tell you about the history and nature of the falls.
14. Halmstad Arena Bad
Another rainy day activity is a day at one of southern Sweden’s biggest waterparks.
Almost all of the Arena Bad’s facilities are indoors, but there’s also an outdoor pool, which is bliss on sunny summer days.
There are slides, play pools, rapids and a whirlpool for kids, while adults can exercise in peace in the training pool and gym, and the hit the sauna afterwards.
A new section for the smallest members of the clan and has water umbrellas and floating obstacles and toys.
Maybe it’s the rich greenery and picturesque landscapes, but Halmstad has taken the title of Sweden’s golf capital.
There are ten clubs inside an easy drive of the city, and the climate keeps the fairways and greens lush.
For skilled players who don’t mind paying for quality there’s Halmstad Golfklubb, the “north course” of which is often ranked in the top five in Sweden.
Right on the coast at Tylösand, Halmstad Golfklubb has two 18-hole courses in deep woodland and there are lots of water hazards to contend with.
At the other end of the spectrum is Vilshärads Golfbana just up Tylösand.
This nine-hole pitch & putt is open to all, and also benefits from sea views.
In mid-summer, you could come after the beach and play until as late as 22:00.