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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
If you are
not up for lunch, then ask around for the location of the nearest “Lunch Beat”, a trend that started in
Stockholm in 2010 and is now spreading around the world. Instead of sitting
down for a heavy meal, thousands of locals spend the noon hour dancing and sweating
under disco lights in impromptu dance halls set up in parking garages,
warehouses or community centres. Then they quietly go back to work.
Off the clock
unusually exhilarating walk and birds-eye view of Stockholm’s Old Town, strap
on a helmet and clip on climbing gear for a guided rooftop tour of the Old Parliament Building. The
tour lasts approximately two hours, is available year-round and is best at dusk
when city lights begin to sparkle. If you are a fan of Stieg Larsson’s
thrillingly dark Girl with the Dragon Tattoo book and movie series, the Stockholm
City Museum offers a popular guided Stieg Larsson Millennium Tour
— or just buy a Millennium Map
at the museum and tour many of the shadowy spots frequented by character
Lisbeth Salander on your own.
Don’t do this
its popularity is diminishing, visitors still think of the traditional
smorgasbord (buffet) when they think of Swedish cuisine. When faced with such a
spread, do not pile as much food as
possible on a single plate. Following the lead of your Swedish hosts, begin
with various fish dishes such as herring, eel, salmon or anchovies along with
potatoes and crisp bread. Once you have completed that course, go back to the
smorgasbord, and -- using a new, clean plate -- sample meats like ham, sausage
or pate. For the third round, go back (with another new plate) for warm dishes
such as meatballs, roast beef or pork ribs.