Located on the southern east coast of Sweden, Kalmar was a major center for commerce and politics in the medieval times and is today a town of education, culture and trade. Reminders of Kalmar’s previous importance are present throughout the urban core in form of fortifications and renovated buildings, which are now home to restaurants, pubs and shops. With about 63,000 inhabitants Kalmar holds a small city status, yet attracts plenty of visitors thanks to Kalmar Castle with other sights, its attractive location between Öland and the Kingdom of Crystal, and, this year, as host of Scandinavia’s first full-distance Ironman on August 18.
While Kalmar could keep any shopping lover occupied for hours with its selection of personal shops, vintage stores and well-known clothing chains in Kvarnholmen (Kalmar City) and Baronen Shopping Mall by the guest harbour, I focused my visit on mainly art and exhibitions.
Kalmar Cultural Quarter
In Kalmar’s cultural quarter around Kalmar Art Museum and Kalmar Castle, you can dedicate days to art, exhibitions, architecture, music and food in the town’s largest park environment.
Kalmar City Park
The town park overlooking the water is a loved place among locals in Kalmar and offers a calm atmosphere to relax and enjoy summer. During less sunny days, the garden pavilion can give shelter to readers and picknickers. Restaurant Byttan serves good food in good company with views of the castle, and the nearby stage holds summer concerts Wednesday evenings plus children performances Sundays in July. On Kungsgatan in the Old Town, Söderports Café & Restaurant organizes concerts and theme evenings of blues, jazz, soul and global music. And further away on Stora Dammgatan 9, The Krusenstiernska Garden is a bourgeois home and museum from the 19th century with a tranquil garden of walnut trees.
Kalmar Art Museum
In the year of its reopening in 2008, Kalmar Art Museum earned Sweden’s most prestigious architectural award – the Kasper Salin Price – thanks to its bold design of a black four-level cube with large-scale wooden panels. A meeting place for discussion, reflection and insights, the art museum arranges artist talks, seminars and lectures in connection to exhibitions by regional, national and Baltic region artists.
Kalmar Castle originates from the 16th century and was once an important part of defence. Apart from permanent exhibitions of the history of the castle, daily guided tours, activities for children, and concerts, there are a number of chancing exhibitions throughout the year. During my visit last year “The Kings of the Art to Kalmar Slott” art exhibition focused on Picasso and the artists that got in contact with him, including Henri Matisse and Joan Miró. The current exhibition (until September 30th, 2012) features photos of famous Swedish tennis player Björn Borg.
Gallery Monica Strandberg
Since the summer of 2009, Gallery Monica Strandberg shows high quality contemporary art, mainly paintings, drawings, and sculptures, by Swedish and Scandinavian artists. Open Wednesday to Sunday from noon to 5pm. Saturdays from noon to 5pm, neighboring the Per Ekström Museum features colourful Swedish pop art inspired by American pop artists with a Nordic touch.
Artist Matz Nordell
Since 1967, recognized artists Matz Nordell has had his studio On Molinsgatan 7 in the Old Town. His variety of materials and techniques include oil and acrylic paintings, ceramics and sculptures.
Within walking distance from the cultural quarter and also well worth a visit for its exhibitions and old-fashioned café is Kalmar County Museum on Skeppsbrogatan 51.
Where to Stay
Although Kalmar Cultural Quarter is home to the Castle Hotel with its 45 rooms plus low-price accommodation across the street, as well as The Kapten’s House B&B, I decided to stay elsewhere. However much I loved to spend the day in this part of town, I liked a change of scenes by late afternoon, plus I’d found an affordable and comfortable place not far from the town center. I strolled toward Kvarnholmen to see another side of Kalmar and later dropped by Kama Sushi (Västra Sjögatan 13) for superb sushi and vegan miso soup.
Kalmar Low Priced Hotel and Youth Hostel Svanen
My lodging for the night, Kalmar Low Priced Hotel and Youth Hostel Svanen is located about 1 km, or a 15-minute walk from the center of town, in the area Ängö. Easy to find as the Ängöleden street passes right outside the hotel.
Youth Hostel Svanen has 21 rooms with 65 beds, rooms for one to six persons, some of them with TV and toilet. Shared showers are in the corridor. Hotel Svanen offers 39 rooms with 90 beds, single and twin-bedded rooms in different price classes.
For extra comfort, book the twin-bed room on the highest floor with views over the water drag outside. This spacious room has both shower and toilet and modern interior with small work desk, seating area with two armchairs, SAMSUNG TV, two red-squared bed tables from IKEA, light colored walls whereof one in forest green, and a large silver-framed painting next to the beds. A peaceful place to work, rest or sleep.
Facilities in the hotel include lobby with cable TV, showers, sauna, guest kitchen, IT-room with broadband connection, and laundry room with dryer and iron. Wireless Internet is available throughout the hotel for an extra fee.
The breakfast buffet, which is free for all guests, is a hotel breakfast with generous selection of breads, flakes, muesli and vegan alternatives. And, compared to certain cramped hostel brekfast rooms, the airy breakfast room with glass windows make it a real pleasure to eat here.
For sporty guests, Svanen offers golf packages in cooperation with Kalmar Golf Club and canoe rentals for a non-touristy perspective of Kalmar.