Stockholm for Cruisers: Day One

Much like Venice, Stockholm is a city built on a bunch of islands connected by bridges (I haven’t seen any gondolas here yet, but my eyes are peeled). As such, it is a great spot for a pre- or post-cruise visit, or even as an excursion on a Scandinavian cruise.

To help me learn about the city’s potential for cruisers, the Stockholm Cruise Network has brought me over to spend a few days exploring the sites and sights. All of the hotels and attractions I’ll be visiting are connected with the city’s cruise industry, and agents can arrange for excursions or longer stays with the network.

I landed early in the morning at the 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 the airport: Public transportation is remarkably easy in Stockholm—buses and trains run frequently, and visitors can get passes and maps to help them get around. Bonus: This time of year, the water in Stockholm’s canals is warmer than the air, creating a beautiful fog that envelops the city (think San Francisco, but a bit flatter). By afternoon it’s burned off, but early in the morning it’s quite lovely.

After quickly cleaning up and changing at the Hilton Slussen Hotel (amazing view), I set off on a tour of Stockholm’s canals with Stockholm Sightseeing, getting a great view of the different islands and the different attractions on each. Afterwards, I went on a brief walking tour of Birger Jarlsgatan with Anna Alshammar of SeaScape Tours–this is where your shopaholic clients will want to come. Gucci, Louis Vuitton and numerous other name brand labels have stores here. (Also, it’s a lovely walk.)

For lunch, Anna and I joined Pia Nilsson of the Scandic Anglais, a hip and adorably quirky hotel that is part of a Scandinavian chain. (The lights outside each bedroom door are uniquely colored, creating a very pretty kaleidoscope in the hallway. Also, I heard that the weekend music scene at the hotel is very popular as well.) From there, we went to the Grand Hotel Stockholm, a historic building right on the waterfront that has expanded into its neighboring buildings over the last century. The rooms are huge, and have a very old-world sense of elegance and style. While the hotel is classic, its Raison d’Etre spa is brand new, and quite lovely. 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, studied my complexion down to the pores and went to work at making this old mug look like new. (I was so tired by this point that I began dozing as soon as my head hit the table, and Erika was so gentle that I napped through almost the entire therapy.)

From there, I walked back up Birger Jarlsgatan to the Hotel Stureplan, which used to be an apartment building and offices before it was converted into a hotel. 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 very tasty, as was the roasted cod served with a ragout of artichoke, tomato and tiger prawns.) I gave up trying to finish the cod (my waistline will thank me) and, exhausted after well over 33 hours of flying and running around two cities, caught a taxi back to the Hilton.

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 transportation, 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 a ways away, but I nearly got clobbered several times by fast-moving bikes as I scampered across streets.