Inspector Wallander’s Ystad

Fans of crime thrillers most likely know the name of Henning Mankell (1948–), author of the bestselling Inspector Wallander series. The books are set in the small, seemingly peaceful town of Ystad. The gloomy inspector paces its medieval streets, solving gruesome murders through his meticulous police work…but at a cost to his personal life, which is slowly and painfully disintegrating. The first book is Faceless Killers, but it’s generally agreed that Mankell really hit his stride in number four, The Man Who Smiled. Impressively, Mankell’s nail-biting stories have been translated into 41 languages.

Between 2005 and 2006, 13 Wallander films were shot in and around Ystad, starring Krister Henriksson in the lead role. In 2008 a further 13 Wallander films were shot here, alongside a BBC-commissioned TV series starring Kenneth Branagh as Wallander.

Mankell spent much of his time in Maputo, Mozambique, where he juggled writing, running a theatre company and carrying out AIDS education work. He died in 2015 and is succeeded by his wife, Eva Bergman, daughter of the late film director Ingmar Bergman.

Interactive film centre Cineteket runs guided tours between 10am and 4pm Monday to Thursday and at weekends (adult/child 150/100kr) of the adjoining Ystad Studios, where sets include forensic detective Leif Nyberg’s laboratory and the inspector’s own apartment.

The Nightwatchman's Horn

Ever since 1250 a nightwatchman has blown his bugle through the little window in the clock tower of Ystad's Sankta Maria Kyrka (every 15 minutes from 9.15pm to 3am). The tradition was apparently introduced to help thwart fires, a hazardous side effect of the flammable thatched-roof houses. If a blaze started, the watchman would blow his horn repeatedly, which was a signal for locals to rush to the scene and extinguish the blaze. It was a serious role: if the nightwatchman had the audacity to doze off while on duty, he was unceremoniously beheaded. These days, the nightwatchman continues to take his ancient role seriously, though it is no longer likely (or legal) that he'll lose his head if his alarm doesn't go off!