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Stockholm By Design

March 31, 2008 By: Anne Sophie Guerin Travel Agent

Sweden's capital offers a lot more than Ikea, ABBA, Absolut and meatballs

Sprawling over 14 islands, where Lake Mälaren flows into the Baltic Sea, the hip Scandinavian capital of Stockholm is aesthetically magnificent. Steeped in history and Old World charm, the city also showcases smart design—as to be expected from the style-conscious, trend-setting Swedes. This floating city is centered around the medieval old town of Gamla Stan, a picturesque island of narrow streets, cobbled squares and church spires. However, just a quick hop over to the next island in the archipelago is the design-savvy SoFo district (south of Folkungagatan Street in bohemian Södermalm), where designer boutiques abound. Even Stockholm's subway system—with its dynamic art exhibits—is cool. But nowhere is the city's daring design more manifest than in its beautiful hotels.


A "De luxe" Room at the Hotel Rival.

The best time to plan a visit to Stockholm is during the summer months, especially in June when the sun barely sets. Sunlight dances over Stockholm's grand neoclassical structures, lingering late into the night and inspiring people to pack the sidewalk cafés. Thus, May through September is high season, and the most difficult time to book rooms. 

The newest hotel on the scene is the Clarion Hotel Sign, designed by the renowned Swedish architect Gert Wingårdh to resemble a giant sculpture of glass and black granite. When it debuted in early February on Norra Bantorget Square in the city center, the 558-room hotel became the largest hotel in Stockholm (with conference facilities to match). In light of the fact that Norra Bantorget Square used to be the setting for two prisons and an orphanage, the opening of the Clarion Sign, alongside a new park, has transformed the urban landscape. And the hotel's interiors are just as splendid as the outside. Each of the 10 floors is dedicated to a classic Scandinavian designer, with furniture and art provided by famous icons like Alvar Aalto, Bruno Mathsson, Erik Jörgensen and Arne Jacobsen. In addition to the clean lines and elegant decor, the guest rooms feature innovative lighting by FLOS, light-filled bathrooms with glass sinks and comfortable DUX beds.

Spanning categories from Moderate and Standard to Superior and Deluxe, the guest rooms are generously sized compared to other hotels in the city center. Insiders tell us that the Standard Park View category is popular because of the large windows overlooking the city and the park. The Deluxe Rooms and Suites also boast great city views. There are eight Triangle Suites, which are equipped with a spacious living room and separate bedroom, excellent workspace, two flat-screen TVs and floor-to-ceiling windows. Feel free to contact the general manager, Tobias Ekman ([email protected]; 46 8 676 98 01), with any VIP requests.


Pampering at the Spa

The Clarion Sign is also home to the Selma City Spa+, on the rooftop of the eighth floor, which provides panoramic views over the rooftops and boats lining the Karlberg Canal. The spa boasts a sauna, year-round heated outdoor pool, gym and terrace, and uses the Dermalogica product line. Insiders tell us that the Champagne Treatment and Chocolate Treatment are already quite popular among the hotel's clientele. It's best to book treatments in advance. Contact Spa Manager Martina Lindberg ([email protected]; 46 8 676 98 95) before your clients' arrival. You also may contact the guest services manager, Lina Personne ([email protected]; 46 8 676 98 00). 

Don't miss a meal at the hotel's talked-about restaurant, Aquavit Grill & Raw Bar. Chef Marcus Samuelsson created a Scandinavian legend in Manhattan and has now brought the famous restaurant to Stockholm. Specialties include NY Strip Steaks, seafood platters with lobster, wild boar ribs and bite-size appetizers, such as pickled herring tacos and Bleak Roe. At lunchtime, the GravLax sandwich is a favorite.

The Hotel Rival, owned by Benny Andersson of ABBA fame, is a design-infused boutique hotel that epitomizes Swedish chic. Hot since the day it opened in 1993, the Rival has become an exciting community hot spot with its onsite cinema and bakery, happening lobby and gorgeous bar. When Travel Agent visited the Hotel Rival, we quickly understood why it has attracted quite the devoted following—from pop stars to business leaders. The Rival is managed by Stefan Saager ([email protected]; 46 8 545 789 31), who ensures that service is warm and friendly, and the facilities are cutting-edge. The cinema motif runs throughout the hotel—from the bistro's wall paneling (a mosaic of 924 movie stars) to the guest room walls, each adorned with a scene from a vintage Swedish film, which is suspended above the bed.

Each of the 99 guest rooms is sleek and sophisticated without compromising comfort. Rooms are individually designed and are a perfect blend of form and function. Deluxe Rooms look out over the leafy square of Mariatorget, an animated neighborhood on the southern island of Södermalm, while Standard and Superior Rooms overlook the quiet interior courtyard. All rooms feature pillow menus, DUX beds with heavenly linens and Egyptian cotton sheets, a signature teddy bear from Debenhams, and 32-inch plasma screen TVs. Other fun perks: a Sony PlayStation and a free film and CD library at the front desk. The seventh-floor suites are particularly spacious, with added amenities like free wireless Internet. Rooms 704, 705 and 706 have furnished balconies overlooking the square.

Keep in mind that some rooms feature "peekaboo baths," where open-plan bathrooms with a windowed wall expose bathers to their fellow guests and visitors. Though touted by the press as the next big thing for hip hotels, this configuration might be unappealing for some clients.

Buzz: With a new ABBA Museum slated to open in Stockholm in summer 2009, the Hotel Rival is bound to grow even more popular.

Since its opening in 1874, the Grand Hotel has been the place to stay in Stockholm. The hotel of choice for Nobel Prize laureates, royalty and heads of state when visiting the capital, this imperial landmark joined InterContinental Hotels in January 2008. The Grand commands a prime position at the water's edge, next to the National Museum and opposite the Royal Palace. You can't beat this location. After a renovation in 2007, the hotel spiced up the design (and added some guest rooms) while retaining its historical grandeur.

It goes without saying that you should book your VIPs at the leading luxury hotel in Scandinavia. (The star-studded guest list includes the likes of Madonna, Elton John, the Dalai Lama and Greta Garbo—who considered the Grand her home away from home after leaving Sweden for America.) The Flag Suite and Nobel Suite both offer heart-stopping views from the seventh-floor, but the suite to book is the Princess Lilian. Measuring 3,552 square feet, the suite boasts a private cinema for 12 people, library with office facilities, two bedrooms and a lounge with a grand piano and bar. The spa bathroom has a sauna, which has five different scenarios, three variations of showers and a handmade mosaic bath for two. (Although most rooms feature toiletries by Molton Brown, all suites are currently testing L'Occitane amenities for a three-month period.) The water views from the two terraces are stunning. Note that you cannot book the Princess Lilian Suite over the GDS. Contact Guest Services (46 8 679 3575) or the general manager, Nils Axing ([email protected]; 46 8 679 3701), for assistance with VIP requests. The head concierge, Kerstin Pauls ([email protected]; 46 8 679 3571), is also helpful in fielding requests for your clients.

Stockholm Grand Hotel junior suite

A junior suite at the Stockholm Grand Hotel.

The Grand Hotel will open a spa and new fitness facility in Spring 2009. There also has been quite a bit of buzz about the hotel's new restaurant, which opened in May 2007, by Mathias Dahlgren, arguably Sweden's finest chef. At the Restaurant Mathias Dahlgren, the chef has combined two complementary eateries in one establishment: Matbaren (The Food Bar) and Matsalen (The Dining Room). Also, the lunchtime smörgåsbord at the Veranda Restaurant is not to be missed. It is the best in Stockholm and the only one served year-round.[PAGE-BREAK]


Getting Around: The city’s dramatic setting can be experienced on foot, bike (Stockholm provides bikes at stations throughout the city; visit Stockholm City Bikes) or by boat.  A cruise through the archipelago’s waters is an absolute must. Strömma Kanalbolag offers a variety of guided boat tours to some of the 24,000 outlying islets.  There are a number of impressive museums, including the Vasa Museum, housing the incredible salvaged warship dating from 1628; the Skansen open-air museum, where hosts in historic costumes show off 150 traditional houses and farmsteads and a zoological park; the National Museum, Sweden’s largest art museum; and the Moderna Museet, which is on the pretty island of Skeppsholmen. Catch a ferry to Drottningholm, home to the monumental Royal Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Eat/Drink: Café Opera, situated in the Royal Opera House, is the place to see and be seen. A meal at F12, which is in the Royal Academy of Art, is a must. A perfect option during the summer is a boat excursion to Fjäderholms Island for a crayfish party at the waterfront restaurant Fjäderholmarnas Krog. For breathtaking views, suggest cocktails at Sky Bar, on the top floor of the Radisson SAS Royal Viking Hotel. The Ice Bar at the trendy Nordic Sea Hotel is a hipster’s delight and the world’s first permanent ice bar.

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