There are fans of Scandi noir dramas in the UK and there are fans. Proper fans. Real fans. People who want to immerse themselves in their favourite dramas – not by carrying out grisly murders of course, but by going to the places where they are shot. The age of screen tourism has come to Sweden.
So if you want to tread the same streets as Martin and Saga, the two detectives in The Bridge, or drink in the same coffee shop as Kenneth Branagh’s Kurt Wallander, you can.
Malmo (The Bridge country) and Ystad (the home of Kurt Wallander, his creator Henning Mankell and Ystad studios where the interiors are shot) are located in Sweden’s Skane region, the beating heart of Scandinavia’s drama revolution.
Sofia Helin as Saga Noren in The Bridge
Skane is flat country, spacious and relatively unpopulated (to English eyes, though not to the Swedish ones). The large sweeping fields will remind you of the long drives taken by the tortured Branagh as Wallander or Sofia Helin as single-minded Saga Noren from The Bridge.
Here’s our guide to the top spots.
In The Bridge, Saga is based in Sweden’s third biggest city after Stockholm and Gothenburg, Malmo. But the town depicted in The Bridge is very different from the much more beautiful reality.
That is because there was a conscious decision to use only modern buildings for the exterior shots in the drama. Every single building shown has to have been built since 1940 according to the strict vision of the show’s designer, which means that much of Malmo doesn’t get a look in.
In fact, it is worth a visit in its own right: a stunning medieval city with a beautiful city centre, ancient cobbled streets, fabulous bars and, for those so disposed, the world’s leading crayfish-tasting festival in August.
But for die-hard Nordic noir fans, a company called Travel Gallery offers a Bridge-themed guided bus tour, which includes the hospice used for the exteriors of the police station. (Some relatives have complained about insensitivity.)
Take another turn down a side street nearby and you can see Niklas and Linus’s flat from series two, igniting memories of the scenes involving the young orphan embroiled in the deadly plot of series two.
Also on the itinerary is newly built Western Harbour, a modern quarter of environmentally sustainable buildings that will also be familiar to The Bridge fans as the exterior for Saga’s modernist flat and the headquarters of the Medisobus company that was so important to series two.
Nearby is Santiago Calatrava’s stunning Turning Torso building, a skyscraper that will also be a familiar landmark for Bridge-philes and has an appropriately grisly name.
The Turning Torso skyscraper is located within Malmo’s Western Harbour
Another highlight of the city is the Ribersborgs Kallbadhus or Kallis, as it is known locally (the word translates as “coldy” as in chilly), where the plucky can take a dip in the ice-cool Oresund strait. Painted green, it is slightly larger than an English pier and will also be familiar from The Bridge. You may even bump into Sofia Helin: she swims there all year round.
Superfans can also stay in the three-star Hotel Scandic Segevang, the hotel used by Martin when he is thrown out by his wife. (It is meant to be in his native Denmark but the actual hotel is just outside Malmo.) You can even swim in the pool Martin retreated to on those lonely nights, where he was beset with visions of the man who killed his sons. I went and it was very spooky.
Let’s not forget the landmark that gives the show its name. Any fan of The Bridge – or Oresund Bridge, to give its full name – will want to drive along the actual bridge, the 11km engineering feat that connects Malmo and Copenhagen.
It’s expensive: around £40 more if you don’t pre-book, but the views are stunning. Alternatively, it takes 20 minutes and costs around £8 to cross by train to Copenhagen. Among the Danish capital’s many delights, you can visit the real-life Copenhagen police HQ at the centre of the city (and near the Tivoli Gardens) that is used for the exterior shots of the stations used in both The Bridge and Danish drama The Killing.
60km east of Malmo and a 50-minute car or train journey is Ystad, hometown to Kurt Wallander – the moody detective played by Kenneth Branagh – and his late creator, Henning Mankell. Mankell’s books record 300 murders in the town with a 16,000 population, which would surely make it the most dangerous city in the world.
Like Malmo, it’s also surprisingly picturesque to the Nordic noir fan, with streets steeped in history, an impressive medieval church and nice beaches.
A lifelong socialist, Mankell didn’t want his hometown to be swamped by the global success of his Wallander books and the Swedish and British adaptations, so wouldn’t allow the city’s tourist board to use the brand.
Mankell also insisted that the Wallander tour is not for profit. The result is a rather sweet service run by volunteers who ferry fans around in an antique fire engine (for no particular reason, simply that the vehicle is available). “You just pay for your petrol,” you’re told.
The Fridolfs Konditori tea shop in the town (which is the one Wallander uses in the books) was banned from marketing a Wallander cake (police-blue icing atop a creamy strawberry sponge filling) until the owners cleverly found a real-life family of Laplanders also called Wallander, who loaned the cake their surname.
Within walking distance of the town centre are Ystad Studios, where the interior shots of Branagh’s Wallander and The Bridge are shot. A converted barracks, they were opened in 1997 and visitors can book a guided tour during peak season.
The tour includes a ticket to Cineteket, Ystad´s interactive film museum, which is next door to the studios. Here, you can see how an episode is made, from the script to special effects. In low season, the museum and studios only open for group bookings.
Just outside Ystad is Sweden’s Stonehenge: Viking standing stones that continue to baffle experts (no one quite knows what they were and why they were erected) and have featured in many a Wallander story.
Sweden’s Stonehenge; Kaseberga
At the foot of the hilllocks that contain the stones is a beautiful fishing village and a gourmet bistro, Vendel Ale Stenar, with a bright spacious second floor overlooking the sea that was used as the office of Branagh’s Wallander in series one.
For more information about Skane, head to malmotown.com and visitsweden.com
Yastad Saltsjöbad, rooms cost from 2690 SEK (£202) per night based on two sharing. Book here.
Scandic Segevång, rooms cost from 1682 SEK (£126) per night based on two sharing.
Flights: Return flights to Copenhagen cost from £90 return with British Airways. To book, visit www.ba.com
You can book The Bridge Bus Tour here