Business trip: Stockholm
Skeppsbron, in the Old Town, is Stockholm's oldest dock. (Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.com)
Business travellers know they are in Sweden as soon as they step off the plane. Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport is – appropriately -- a clean, functional, Ikea-like space, complete with blonde wood flooring.
Smart Scandinavian planning and design are equally apparent on the easy 20-minute Arlanda Express train rides (with interiors by local tennis-star-turned-designer Bjorn Borg) from the airport to the city centre.
It is when travellers emerge from Stockholm’s Central Station into what civic leaders like to call “the Capital of Scandinavia”, that this 700-year-old city’s combination of old and new emerges. While neighbouring countries might disagree that Stockholm is indeed the region’s “capital”, consider these superlatives: it is the largest city in the largest Scandinavian country. The recently inaugurated Waterfront Congress Center is now the largest facility for meetings and conferences in Scandinavia. There are more multinational companies based in Stockholm than any other Scandinavian city. It is the region’s centre of finance, high-tech and biotech, and home to global brands such as furniture company Ikea, global clothing retailer H&M, technology giant Ericsson and appliance maker Electrolux.
Stockholm’s grande dame is the 300-room Grand Hotel, with a central waterfront location, elegant interiors and a long history as a high-profile haunt of celebrities and CEOs. The new 201-room Nobis Hotel offers five-star, low-key contemporary comforts inside the shell of two magnificent 19th-century stone buildings on Norrmalmstorg, the centre of the city’s fashion district. The modern, red brick 465-room Sheraton Stockholm is so proud of its gorgeous water views that it has installed a webcam on the hotel roof to show them off. When booking, be sure to ask for one of its 179 “view rooms”.
The brand new 414-room Radisson Blu Waterfront Hotel is conveniently situated next to Central Station and the new Waterfront Congress Centre. Architects and stylistas are drawn to the hip, modern surroundings at the 81-room Hotel Skeppsholmen where modern design inhabits a building dating back to 1699 — the hotel’s neighbours include the Museum of Modern Art and the Swedish Museum of Architecture. Budget-conscious business travellers with an eye for style (and a reasonable rate in a very expensive city) should consider the new 558-room, glass-and-granite Clarion Hotel Sign near Central Station, the 532-room Clarion Hotel in bohemian Sodermalm, or the 144-room Best Western Plus Time Hotel on Stockholm’s northern edge.
When dining out, keep in mind that Swedes prefer to eat on the early side -- lunch nearly always begins promptly at noon, and it is not unusual for evening meals to begin as early as 6 or 7 pm.
If you want to impress your guests (or be impressed) consider a meal at Mathias Dahlgren in the Grand Hotel, where Stockholm’s most celebrated chef offers sophisticated eight-course menus served in the elegant Dining Room. The restaurant’s more casual, fast-paced Food Bar has a menu that changes based on what is freshest from nearby farms. Popular dishes include sashimi of local seafood such as salmon, cod, oysters and scallops, or comfort food like toast with smoked beef marrow.
At Operakallaren, at the Royal Opera House, enjoy haute cuisine with local touches such as roasted Swedish wild turbot with fennel, milk-boiled white asparagus, watercress salad and oxtail sauce with foie gras, among chandeliers, mirrors and gilded oak panelling.
In the Gamla Stan (Old Town) area, the tiny but hugely popular Frantzen/Lindeberg restaurant recently earned its third Michelin star with an ever-changing menu of dishes based on only the freshest ingredients from its own garden and from local farmers and fishermen.
For solo diners, Food Bar at Mathias Dahlgren and the popular Hip Pocket at Operakallaren, which serves traditional fare like salmon with dill creamed potatoes or Swedish meatballs, offer a more casual atmosphere and counter seating.