Nordic Noir goes to the spa: Sweden’s Ystad Saltsjobad

It was Inspector Kurt Wallander, the fictional lead of the eponymous “Nordic noir” PBS/Masterpiece series, that interested me in Ystad in the first place.  Coastal, windswept, with a rich history dating back a millennium, it seemed an appropriate setting not only for crime stories but also as a place to launch a 5-day road trip through Skane, Sweden’s southernmost province.  I was determined to start with a spa. The venerable Ystad Saltsjöbad, with various packages and ad hoc services, was the perfect fit. The seaside location was a strong plus; to my mind, nothing is more restorative.  An easy reach by car from Copenhagen’s airport.  It was an inspired choice; I knew I would regret that my schedule allowed for only an overnight stay. 

I didn’t want to miss the experience of driving across the famed Østend Bridge, a rail/highway combination linking Europe and Scandinavia.fullsizeoutput_995

I meant to be there earlier in the day but the delay, due to an error on my part, resulted in the most lovely late afternoon light at the bridge. Sometimes it just works out. An hour or so later, I arrived at YSB.

The welcoming staff, warming fire at reception and the promise a good meal and restful evening, with enticing spa offerings, confirmed my hopes for a rejuvenating, although too short, stay.

But first, dinner:


Cured salmon starter with fennel and rainbow trout roe,  followed by a vegetarian dish of crispy broccoli, cabbage, and local Hällestad mushrooms. Of course, an array of accompanying wines.

Simply delicious: light, flavorful, in a delightful dining room with attentive service – what more can a road-weary traveler ask for?

Well, a great room:  lovely sea-view, a cozy robe, and slippers for padding down to the spa, wifi, tv, the works. img_2060


A brilliant sunrise over the Baltic, and I knew I was off to a great start as I headed out for a beach walk in the bracing October air…

Photo courtesy of YSB

Returned for coffee, a bit of breakfast and a glance around.

Photo courtsey of YSB

The vibe of YSB is a happy mix of  a Nantucket version of Ralph Lauren-meets-the-Kennedys with a more than a dash of Nordic good looks, zest for the outdoors and intergenerational fun.


Photo courtesy of YSB

It is casual chic, beautifully appointed with photographs and nautical detail,  suggesting your friend’s coastal family retreat. Lots of big spaces to read, enjoy the views, both inside and out.

I could have easily lingered with a book, but I wanted to check out The Creek, YSB’s acclaimed spa experience.

Photo courtesy of YSB
Photo courtesy of YSB
Photo courtesy of YSB

Alas, the two-hour program wasn’t available in my short timeframe, let alone the Champagne Bar, but believe me, it’s a reason to return. As is the waterfront yoga in the summertime.

Photo courtsey of YSB

As an alternative, I created my own, with soaking in hot water pools in breezy 45° (F)




A trip to the sauna flushed but followed by more toxin-releasing  steam.  Just to prepare for what was probably the best massage in memory, leaving me both energized and relaxed.

Just time for a quick lunch overlooking the sea.

By mid-afternoon, I had to be on my way to a very different destination, outlined in the next installment of this Swedish odyssey.

Surely in mid-summer YSB is at its height as a spa, resort, family gathering place. But certainly the Autumn has its magic, and it’s tempting to consider the winter beauty.

Spas know no season.


What’s your favorite spa experience?  Please share in the comments below.



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