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Stockholm for Cruisers

October 19, 2010 By: Jena Tesse Fox Travel Agent


The view from Hilton Slussen, which is located right on the waterfront near a metro station.


Much like Venice, Stockholm is a city built on islands connected by bridges. As such, it is a great spot for a pre- or post-cruise visit, or even an excursion on a Scandinavian cruise.

To help me learn about the city’s potential for cruisers, the Stockholm Cruise Network invited me to spend a few days exploring the sites and sights. All of the hotels and attractions I visited were connected with the city’s cruise industry, and agents can contact the network to arrange for excursions or longer stays for their clients.

What to See, What to Do

I landed early in the morning at the Arland Airport and took the Arlanda Express right to the center of town. Encourage your clients not to waste time or money on a taxi to and from the airport: Public transportation is remarkably convenient in Stockholm—buses and trains run frequently, and visitors can get passes and maps to help them get around.

I began with a tour of the city’s canals with Stockholm Sightseeing, which led us to great views of the different islands and various attractions on each. Afterwards, I went on a brief walking tour of Biblioteksgatan—this is where your shopaholic clients will want to come—with Anna Alshammar of SeaScape Tours. Gucci, Rolex, Louis Vuitton and other name-brand labels have stores here. (Also, it’s a lovely walk.)

Enter Elisabeth Daude, a multilingual guide and city expert, for a walking and public-transportation tour of the city. Since Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who Played with Fire and The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest) are set in and around Stockholm, the sites from the books and movies have become popular tourist attractions. Once-quiet neighborhoods now get plenty of pedestrians looking for Lisbeth Salander’s apartment, or Mikael Blomkvist’s office. A plus side of this trend is that visitors are discovering beautiful parts of the city they might otherwise have missed. Daude and I walked around the city and caught buses and subways (the stations are beautifully decorated) to see some of the locations of “Millennium” trilogy fame. Daude knows the books cold, and can point out exactly where each scene takes place. From her, one finds out how the city of Stockholm is an essential character in the stories.

Beyond the “Millennium” attractions, we also visited the City Hall where the annual Nobel Awards banquet is held. The architecture is beautiful, and each room in the building is unique. Tour guides like Daude can take guests throughout the building and point out little details people might miss.

Cool detail: While we were stepping into the City Hall, Daude pointed out a gentleman walking by and said that he was the mayor of Stockholm. No guards, no entourage...just one of the crowd!


The apartment of Mikael Blomkvist
The apartment of Mikael Blomkvist, a fictional character from Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, draws fans of the books.

Stockholm has a great number of museums, and we explored a few of them. (Good to know: Most museums in the city tend to close early, so be sure to get your clients there early in the day.) The Vasa Museum was recommended by just about everyone I talked to in Stockholm, so we ran in to see Sweden’s answer to the Titanic. The Vasa was supposed to be one of the greatest warships of the 17th century, and most of Stockholm came to see its launch. It was built far too top-heavy, however, and less than 15 minutes after leaving its port, it was capsized by a gust of wind. The ship remained underwater for 333 years, preserved by the cold water, and today it is housed in a dedicated museum. It is a fascinating experience, and your clients will need at least an hour or two to properly explore it.

Skansen is an enormous outdoor museum that sprawls out over 75 acres—a combination of a historical community (much like Colonial Williamsburg), a zoo and a collection of antique houses. All of the buildings represent different times in Sweden’s history, and many of them are originals—homes that were picked up and physically brought to the museum to preserve the country’s heritage. We only had a few minutes to walk around, but we got to see how a bakery in the 1800s looked (it still makes bread and sweets) and what a hardware store and private home from the 1930s was like. There were plenty of other buildings we didn’t get to explore—suggest your clients spend several hours here, at least.

Fotografiska is a brand-new museum dedicated to photography, and is housed right on the waterfront. (Smaller ships can dock just across the street from the front door, making it very convenient for cruisers.) It has no permanent exhibits, so guests can return every few months for a completely new experience. (A recent presentation of photographs by Annie Leibovitz just ended.) The museum also has several meeting rooms for conferences, and on the top floor, with spectacular views of the city, is a little cafe serving sandwiches and coffee. (A proper restaurant is being built to accommodate larger groups and formal meals.)

Book your gaming clients an evening at the Casino Cosmopol, an intimate casino in the heart of town built in what was an old-fashioned movie house from 1918. The building had been a nightclub for years after the cinema closed, and by renovating the interior, the builders restored much of the theater’s elegance. (Think original artwork on the walls and ceiling.) The casino is not very big, but neither is it very gaudy or loud. Instead, it is a casual and comfortable place for visitors to spend an evening and enjoy some gaming, delicious food and music (live bands are featured on the balcony).

Where to Stay

My home base during the visit was the Hilton Slussen, the only Hilton in Stockholm. The hotel is built right on the waterfront near a metro station, making it easily accessible from the main part of town and also affording it terrific views of the city center. (The windows are soundproof, so trains going by outside do not pose a problem.)

The Executive Rooms come with access to a special lounge on the top floor, where guests can have breakfast in the morning and cocktails and snacks in the evening. The lounge is less busy than the main breakfast room downstairs, but the offerings are limited, so if your clients want to try an authentic Swedish pancake they should head downstairs.

The Scandic Anglais, part of a Scandinavian chain, is a hip and adorably quirky hotel. (The lights outside each bedroom door are uniquely colored, creating a pretty kaleidoscope in the hallway. Also, I heard that the weekend music scene at the hotel is very popular as well.)

The Grand Hotel Stockholm was originally housed in a historical waterfront building but, over the last century, it has expanded into the neighboring buildings. The rooms are huge, and have an Old World sense of elegance and style. While the hotel is classic, its Raison d’Etre spa is brand new, and quite lovely. (The decor is purely Scandinavian, consisting of blonde wood and plenty of light.) I’d been booked for a 90-minute facial and was already running late, so I didn’t get to try out all the rooms, but the Quiet Room (soundproofed, and with noise-canceling headsets) was a very nice touch, as were the numerous pools, saunas and steam rooms. Erika Lantz, my therapist, was so gentle that I napped through almost the entire treatment, and awoke feeling quite refreshed and with much smoother skin.

Hotel Stureplan used to be an apartment building that also housed several offices. The renovation respected the building’s heritage, and it still has many features from its 100-year history. (The molded ceilings are gorgeous, and the antique elevator is a must-try).

Bonus for families and groups: The hotel’s fourth floor has its own lounge, making it ideal for small meet-ups and gatherings away from the main lobby. Each of the hotel’s 100 rooms is uniquely designed, Director of Sales Amelie Stappe told me, and guests frequently return to see what different rooms look like.

Connected to Stureplan is Per Lei, an upscale (but still comfortable) Italian-inspired restaurant. I sampled the degustation menu, and so many courses were brought out that I had almost no room left for the main course, much less dessert. (The garganelli pasta with porcini mushrooms, ricotta salata and truffles was delicious, as was the roasted cod served with a ragout of artichoke, tomato and tiger prawns.)

Good to know: Just about everybody in Stockholm seems to speak English—even the taxi drivers. Speaking of the taxis, all of them take credit cards—a wonderful thing when you don’t have any kroner on you.

Advise your clients: Bicycles are one of Stockholm’s most popular modes of transport, and some hotels will rent or loan them to clients. Also remind them to be careful when walking around—you can hear a car coming from some distance, but bikes sneak up on pedestrians silently.


Saint James’s Church
Saint James’s Church (the red building at right) is just one of the historical structures along Stockholm’s canals.


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