A benefit of staying in the Executive Rooms at the Hilton Slussen is the private lounge guests can use for breakfast in the morning, cocktails in the evening, and whatever they like in between. The Executive breakfasts include cereals, fruits, bacon and eggs and sausages as well as tea and that wonderfully strong Swedish coffee. It’s a very nice way to start the morning, and the lounge’s views over the city are lovely.
After breakfast, I met up with Elisabeth Daude, a multi-lingual 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 Blomqvist’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--see above) to see some of the locations from the books and movies (Mikael Blomqvist's apartment is below), as well as other notable attractions cruisers generally visit. Daude knows the books cold, and can point out exactly where each scene takes place, and demonstrated how the city of Stockholm is an essential character in the stories.
Beyond the Millennium attractions, we also saw the City Hall where the annual Nobel Awards banquet is held, and visitors can tour the building and see the gorgeous century-old designs. (Cool detail: While were walking into 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.)
Stockholm has a great number of museums, and we got to explore 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, almost perfectly preserved by the cold water, and today it is housed in a dedicated museum where visitors can learn about the significance of the ship and its time and place. It is a fascinating museum, and your clients will need at least an hour or two to properly explore it.
Skansen is an outdoor museum—a combination of a historic community like Colonial Williamsburg, a zoo (with moose!) 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 cruise visitors.) The museum expected to see 230,000 visitors in its first year, Vice President Charlotte Wiking told me, and has already had 200,000 since its debut in May. It has no permanent exhibits, so guests can return every few months for a completely new experience. 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.)
We had only a few minutes to race through the History Museum before it closed for the day, but got to see some of the Viking exhibit (did everyone but me know that the Vikings didn’t actually wear horned hats? And I call myself a history nerd! For shame!) and the gorgeous Gold Room, which displays plenty of Viking plunder.
In between all the running around, I had lunch with Henrik Friskopp, sales manager at the Hilton Slussen, who told me about the hotel and its place in Stockholm. The hotel used to be part of the Scandic line, and became a Hilton when the global company brought the Scandinavian brand. When Hilton sold Scandic, the hotel became the only Hilton in Stockholm. Being slightly away from the main part of the city (and being right on the water’s edge) gives the hotel great views, and its location next to a major subway stop makes it easy for guests to get around the city.
For dinner, I met up with Jan Holmgren of 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 in 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 (frequently cruisers) to spend an evening and enjoy some gaming, delicious food and music (live bands are featured in the balcony).