In the town center, Stora Torg (the market square) contains Europa and the Bull, a fountain group designed by Carl Milles with mermen twisted around it. Flanking one side of the plaza is the St. Nikolai kykra, Kyrkogatan (tel. 035/15-19-00), a 14th-century church. It and the castle were the only major structures to survive from the era of Christian IV. The church contains some of the finest stained-glass windows in Sweden. The tall windows were created by Einar Forseth (1892-1988), who designed the golden mosaics in Stockholm's Stadshuset and the mosaic paving for England's Coventry Cathedral. Erik Olson (1901-86), part of the fabled Halmstad Group -- Sweden's first surrealists -- conceived the two smaller circular windows. The church is open daily 8:30am to 6pm and charges no admission.
The town's major landmark is Halmstad Slott, which King Christian IV commissioned Hans van Steenwinckel, a Dutchman, to build in 1620 as part of Halmstad's defense system. Currently, it is the residence of the county governor and with the noteworthy exception of the small area that's devoted to the city's tourist office , its interior is not open to the public. An exception to this occurs during a weeklong period in early June every year, when a limited number of guided tours of its interior are offered to the public. (Ask at the tourist office for information about this.) Most of the year, you'll have to satisfy yourself with views of its outside, and with walks through its gardens, which are open 24 hours a day free of charge.
Along the river stands Museet i Halmstad, Tollsgatan (tel. 035/16-23-00; www.hallmus.se), 2km (1 1/4 miles) north of the town center (to reach it, follow the riverfront promenade), which contains exhibits from local archaeological digs of only minor interest. The chief treasure of the museum is its painted wall hangings, known in Swedish as bonader, on the second floor. This collection of folk paintings mostly depicting scenes from the Bible is stunning and very typical of this part of western Sweden. Curiously, the costumes and the settings are not from ancient days at all but evoke the 18th and 19th centuries in which they were painted. In the upper-floor rooms are cozy home interiors from the 1600s through the 1800s; here you'll find an array of artifacts, from Gustavian harps to 1780s square pianos. On the top floor are paintings by the Halmstad Group, the Swedish surrealists, as well as a changing roster of temporary exhibitions. The museum is open Wednesday from noon to 8pm, and Tuesday to Sunday noon to 4pm. (It's closed Mon.) Admission is 45SEK ($9/£4.50) for adults and 25SEK ($5/£2.50) for children ages 7 to 9. It's free for children under 7.
Three kilometers (1 3/4 miles) northwest of the center of Halmstad (follow the signs to the airport), Mjellby Konstgård, Mjellby (tel. 035/13-71-95), also displays art of the Halmstad Group. This group was composed of six artists, including the brothers Axel and Erik Olson and their cousin Waldemar Lorentzon, along with Esaias Thorén, Stellan Mörner, and Sven Jonson. They were post-Cubists who first worked here in 1929. In time, they developed a Nordic form of surrealism that was deeply rooted in the landscapes of Halland. Many members of the group continued to produce until the 1980s. Set in the beautiful Halland countryside, the art center here was established by the daughter of Erik Olson. Along with permanent exhibitions from the Halmstad Group, the site is host to temporary exhibitions, often by great masters such as Le Corbusier. To reach the center if you're not driving, take bus no. 20, then change to bus no. 330, and ask to be let off at the nearest stop. (Warning: The museum is still a brisk 5-min. walk from the bus stop.) The hours are Tuesday to Sunday 1 to 5pm. Admission is 55SEK ($11/£5.50) per adult. Persons under 20 enter free.
The best sights are not in Båstad itself but on the Bjåre Peninsula. However, before leaving the resort, you may want to visit Mariakyrkan (Saint Mary's), Köpmansgatan (tel. 0431/787-00). Open daily from 9am to 4pm, it's one of Skåne's landmark churches. Saint Mary's was built between 1450 and 1500. Inside are many treasures, including a sculpture of Saint Mary and Christ from about 1460 (found in the sanctuary). The altarpiece is from 1775, but the crucifix is medieval. The angel with trumpet above the altar is from about the same time. The pulpit is from 1836, its hourglass from 1791. In the northern nave are various fresco paintings and a church clock from 1802.
Båstad is the site of the Norrvikens Trädgårdar (Norrviken Gardens), in Kattvik (tel. 0431/36-90-40), 2.5km (1 1/2 miles) west of the resort's center, the most splendid gardens on the west coast of Sweden. Founded in 1906 by Rudolf Abelin, these gardens have been expanded and maintained according to his plans, embracing a number of styles. One is Italian baroque, with a pond framed with pyramid-shape boxwood hedges and tall cypresses. A Renaissance garden's boxwood patterns evoke the tapestry art of 15th-century Italy; in the flower garden, bulbs compete with annuals. There is also a Japanese garden, an Oriental terrace, a rhododendron dell, a romantic garden, and a water garden.
At Villa Abelin, designed by the garden's founder, wisteria climbs the walls and blooms twice a year. The villa houses shops, exhibits, and information facilities, and there is also a restaurant and a cafeteria on the grounds.
The gardens can be viewed from May 1 to September 1 daily from 10am to between 5 and 8pm, depending on business and the hour of sunset. Admission is 90SEK ($18/£9) for adults, and it's free for children under 15.
With the time you have remaining after exploring the gardens, turn your attention to the Bjåre Peninsula, the highlight of the entire region, where the widely varied scenery ranges from farm fields to cliff formations. Before exploring in depth, it's best to pick up a detailed map from the Båstad tourist office.
The peninsula is devoted to sports, including windsurfing, tennis, golf, hiking, and mountain biking. It has white, sandy beaches reaching down to the sea, as well as riding paths and cycle roads set aside for these activities. You can play golf on at least five different 18-hole courses from early spring. The Båstad tourist office can provide more information.
If you don't have a car, public transport is provided by bus no. 525, leaving Båstad every hour Monday through Saturday. It traverses the center of the peninsula. The Skåneleden walking trail runs the entire perimeter of the island and is also great for cycling. However, the terrain is quite hilly in places, so you need to be in fabulous shape.
On the peninsula's western coast is the sleepy village of Torekov, a short drive from Kattvik. Here you'll find a beach and pier where early morning bathers can be seen walking down to the sea in bathing gowns and sandals. From Torekov, you can take a boat to explore Hallands Väderö, an island off the west coast of Sweden. Ferryboats, some of them old-fashioned wooden vessels used during part of the year for fishing, make the 15-minute crossing every hour between June and August. From September to May, departures are every 2 hours. The cost is 80SEK ($16/£8) round-trip, with the last departure at 4pm daily. For more information, call Hallands/Väderö Billettkassan (tel. 0431/36-30-20).
One of Sweden's few remaining seal colonies exists on Hallands Väderö. "Seal safaris" come here to view, but not disturb, these animals. In addition to seals, the island is noted for its rich bird life, including guillemots, cormorants, eiders, and gulls.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.