When I think Stockholm, I think water, water, everywhere water. The pretty port city with its endearing combination of Renaissance buildings and modern skyscrapers is built on no less than 14 islands in Lake Malaren. Some 57 bridges connect the islands, and water is nearly always in view. It’s clean, too — there are places you can swim and fish right in the city center. If you have free time, take a boat to the beautiful surrounding archipelago with its 24,000 islands. From Stockholm, wilderness is only a 20-minute drive away.
The other thing that comes to mind when I think of Stockholm is a big city with a small-town feel. I’m reminded of an incident that happened a few years ago near the Royal Palace in Gamla Stan (Old Town): I saw a small crowd gathering and decided to see what was what. Making my way to the front of the pack, I nearly ran smack-dab into the royal carriages transporting the king and queen of Sweden and their family to the opening day of Parliament. Yes, the city is that intimate.
Stockholm is also surprisingly hip and trendy, its population young, educated and with money to spend. This translates into a plethora of cultural offerings (live music, theater, opera, 70 museums), fine dining and excellent shopping. In the winter, when daylight is limited to just a few hours, people tend to stay indoors. They make up for it in summer by getting out to enjoy the long, bright, sunlit days.
Swedes tend to be friendly and exuberant, no matter what time of year, and most will enthusiastically speak English. When it comes to business, Sweden has a notable presence in the fields of science and design. Movers and shakers of the science world focus their attention on the city each year on Dec. 10 when the Nobel Prizes in physics and chemistry are awarded in accordance with the will of Alfred Nobel, famous 19th century Swedish inventor (dynamite was among his inventions) and industrialist. Nobel Prizes are also awarded here for contributions to medicine and literature.
Also invented in Sweden, though not by Nobel, were ball bearings, the zipper, the Hasselblad camera, the safety match, computer color-graphics technology, the pacemaker, the three-point seatbelt, the Gamma knife, and jp Johansson–designed adjustable wrenches. Researchers continue to work on innovations in pharmaceuticals, biotechnology (Sweden has the highest number of biotech companies per capita in the world) and Internet technology.
On the design side, Swedish name brands include Volvo, Saab, Ikea, h&m, Ericsson, Electrolux and truck manufacturer Scania. Swedish style also includes glassware standouts Orrefors and Kosta Boda.
And let’s not forget the country’s contributions to the worlds of sports and entertainment, which include the iconic pop group abba and tennis star Bjorn Borg.
Grand Hotel Stockholm
The leading hotel in the city since 1874, the Grand is located on the harbor overlooking the Old Town and Royal Palace. The luxury property offers 301 elegant, individually furnished guestrooms, including 21 lavish suites. Everything is first class, including the modern gym and the dining (see Dining). A double room runs about $490, a suite about $1,090.
Grand Hotel Stockholm
Södra Blasieholmshamnen 8
tel 46 8 679 3500, fax 46 8 611 8686
This boutique property is in a 19th century building in center city that also serves as an entertainment venue (there are clubs, bars, restaurants and a theater). The intimate 65-room hotel, opened in 1989, is a sister property to the Grand Hotel. Accommodations include singles, doubles, junior suites and suites (the largest with its own sauna). Rooms on the top floor have private balconies. Guests get access to the fitness center at the Grand. A double room costs about $400; suites run from $625 to $850.
tel 46 8 566 322 22, fax 46 8 566 323 23
Radisson S AS Strand Hotel
Most of the 152 guestrooms at this conveniently located center city property boast water views (the hotel’s Tower Suite has panoramic views). All have wireless lan Internet connections. Business-class rooms have sitting areas and such niceties as free movies. The hotel’s Strand Restaurant & Lounge serves Swedish and international cuisine. There’s a sauna on the top floor, and guests can use an exclusive fitness club a short walk away. A double room costs about $200, a suite $250.
Radisson SAS Strand Hotel
tel 46 8 506 64 000, fax 46 8 506 64 001
Scandic Hotel Sergal Plaza
Opened in 1984, this 403-room chain property is right near the main shopping and business districts. Guestrooms come in standard ($250) and superior ($265). Some of the bigger rooms have sofas and armchairs. The hotel’s Mowitz Restaurant & Bar serves Swedish and international cuisine, including a popular lunch buffet.
Scandic Hotel Sergal Plaza
tel 46 8 517 26 300, fax 46 8 517 263 11
You can find everything in Stockholm from great street food (Swedish hot dogs anyone?) to world-class gourmet cuisine. Fresh local ingredients appear on many menus and include salmon, herring and other fish, game (including elk and reindeer), wild mushrooms and berries. Swedish oysters and other shellfish are particular delicacies. Many of the city’s upscale restaurants, as well as some less expensive ethnic choices, are concentrated in the Old Town (Gamla Stan) and Ostermalm. Hot spots for the young and trendy are concentrated in Sodermalm (the south island) and Ostermalm.
This classic restaurant is part of the historic Royal Opera Complex. The menu emphasizes fresh fish but also offers meat and vegetarian choices. The wine cellar is extensive. Reservations are required. The main dining room is open for dinner only. Main courses cost $37 to $55. A four-course Menu Gastronomique costs $117.
Operahuset, Karl XII’s Torg
tel 46 8 676 5800, fax 46 8 209 592
Serving Swedish cuisine, this venue is the moderately priced offshoot of and shares a kitchen with Operakallaren. Menu choices include salmon in many varieties, Swedish meatballs, reindeer and elk. Dining is at narrow tables or a horseshoe-shaped bar (perfect for singles). There’s outdoor dining in summer. Open for lunch and dinner. Main courses cost $15 to $21.
Jakobs Torg 12
tel 46 8 676 58 09, fax 46 8 209 592
Franska Matsalen (The French Dining Room)
Located at the Grand Hotel, this truly elegant restaurant, acclaimed as one of the best in the city, dates to the 19th century, and today serves modern cuisine in a lovely setting with water views. On the menu are fine ingredients such as foie gras, Sevruga caviar, frog’s legs and fresh Swedish salmon. Main courses cost $29 to $61. Reservations required. A seven-course fixed-price dinner costs $121 to $170.
Sodra Blasieholmshamnen 8
tel 46 8 679 3584, fax 46 8 611 8686
If you like sipping martinis in the company of local celebrities, head for the popular restaurant/bar Halv Trappa Plus Gard (Lastmakargatan 3, tel 46 8 611 0277). Or check out the cool people at The Skybar (Vasagaten 1, tel 46 8 506 540 00) or the bars and dance club at the Berns (Berzelii Park, tel 46 8 566 322 22). Find a club scene that’s cool as ice at the Ice Bar at the Nordic Sea Hotel (4-7 Vasaplan, tel 46 8 21 7177) where the interior temperature really is 27°F all year round, and the décor — even the glasses — is all ice. Café Opera (Operahuset, tel 46 8 676 58 07) is a bistro by day and a popular club at night.
This city is hot, hot, hot when it comes to modern design, but be prepared to pay top prices. Glassware, being more portable than, say, furniture, is a popular take-home or ship-home item (don’t worry, they know how to pack it). Look for such name brands as Orrefors and Kosta Boda. Swedish designers are gaining recognition on the world scene, and fashionistas may want to bring home an item or two from Filippa K (Grev Turegatan 18), with clothing lines for both women and men. Sweden’s Fifth Avenue equivalent is the Biblioteksgatan. An excellent strolling street is Drottninggatan. The Old Town (Gamla Stan) and, in summer, the outdoor living-history museum Skansen are good places to find arts and crafts and souvenirs. Hand-painted horses and Swedish clogs are particularly popular. Ahlens City (Klarabergsgatan 50, tel 46 8 676 60 00) is the city’s biggest department store. Gallerian Arcade (Hamngatan 37) offers a bunch of individual stores geared more toward locals than tourists (which can be a very good thing). NK (Hamngatan 18-20) is the city’s prime upscale shopping destination, home of Prada, Gucci, et al. (also look for such Swedish brands as Tiger).
Gamla Stan, the city’s Old Town, is full of cobblestone streets, interesting restaurants and shops. The Royal Palace & Museums (Kungliga, Husgeradskammaren, Gamla Stan, tel 46 8 402 61 30) offers tours of the royal apartments and treasury.
Royal Warship Vasa Museum (Galarvarvsvagen, Djurgarden, tel 46 8 519 54 800) explores the fascinating story of a warship that sank in 1628 and was salvaged 333 years later.
The National Museum of Art (Sodra Blasieholmshamnen, tel 46 08 519 54 300), one of the oldest museums in Europe, boasts European and Swedish paintings, and Swedish handicraft and design collections.
Skansen (Djurgarden 49-51, tel 46 8 442 80 00), an outdoor living-history museum, offers insight into Swedish traditions.
Info to Go
The easiest way to get from Stockholm Arlanda Airport (ARN) into the city is on the new Arlanda Express Rail Service(www.arlandaexpress.com), which operates every 15 minutes between 5:05 a.m. and 12:05 a.m. The trip takes only 18 minutes, and the one-way fare is about $22.50. A cab ride from the airport to center city costs about $50 and takes 45 minutes or more depending on traffic. Another option is the bus (www.flygbussarna.com), which leaves from the airport about every 10 minutes from early morning to midnight. The trip takes 45 minutes and the one-way adult fare is $11. Once in the city, you can walk nearly everywhere or catch the subway (which boasts in its stations what’s billed as the “world’s longest arts exhibition”) or a bus. Some locations, including Djurgarden, are also accessible by boat.
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