Originally opened in 1874, the Grand’s neo-classical façade topped with fluttering flags is one of the city’s landmarks. Over recent years it has spruced itself up and reinforced its standing as the city’s most prestigious hotel. Its location and the calibre of the service are terrific, while the restaurant (Mathias Dahlgren, see EAT) and bar (see DRINK) are both superb and should be visited by anyone visiting the city. The waterfront setting opposite the Palace affords beautiful views. Needless to say, it’s only really worth staying here if you can afford a room with a water view; you’re better off in a good room at another hotel than a room without a view here. If money really is no object, the Princess Lilian Suite, named after a Welsh-born member of the Swedish Royal Family, has its own private cinema. This is where the Nobel laureates lodge before picking up their prizes from the King.
Mathias Dahlgren at the Grand Hotel
Since it opened in 2007, Mathias Dahlgren’s restaurant in the Grand Hotel has been collecting rave reviews. One Swedish newspaper, Svenska Dagbladet, gave it 6 out of 6 points. Another, Dagens Industri, awarded it 24 points out of a possible 25, the highest rating in the whole country. We see no reason to disagree. It is simply outstanding. There are two rooms with two distinct personalities. The Matbaren (Food Bar) is more casual, with wooden chairs and tables, a tiled floor, and stainless steel bar. It’s also more affordable than the Matsalen, which is classically elegant. Unlike his last restaurant, Bon Lloc, which had a Catalan name and a Latin-influenced menu, this venture is totally Scandinavian. Reservations are taken up to a month in advance. If it’s fully booked, you can sometimes find space to sit at the Matbaren’s bar. In the Matsalen, request the table for two in the window overlooking the Royal Palace.
Cadier Bar at the Grand Hotel
A few years ago the Cadier Bar was distinctly underwhelming. A fairly ordinary hotel bar with – the horror! – a television hanging overhead. Then it was closed for renovation and re-emerged as quite simply one of the most beautiful bars in the country. Service is friendly, attentive and not the least bit snobbish. The room, with its polished woodwork and sparkling crystal light fixtures, gleams. Purple upholstery adds a regal touch but the crowd is surprisingly mixed – hotel guests, local office staff having an ‘afterwork’ (as the Swedes call it), out-of-towners who’ve popped into the city for a night out… Go early to grab a seat by the window with a perfect view of the Royal Palace and order a glass of Champagne. While there’s no dress code as such, the smarter you look the more at home you’ll feel.
235 at Berns Hotel
In the past club nights regularly took over the public areas of the Berns, and occasionally still do. And when they do, they’re well worth attending. The opulent interior of the Berns makes the perfect setting for a decadent party. To stand on the balcony and watch the sunrise over Berzelii Park in the summer is always memorable. Sadly, though, the only regular club now is 235, located underneath the hotel. It’s a small club, with space for only about 200 people, and while there’s a different DJ each night that it’s open it’s more about the conversation than dancing. It’s known to be one of the most exclusive clubs in the city, and there’s the problem: it’s a private members club. Hotel guests may be able to secure entry, but it’s trickier for other visitors to make it inside unless they have some very good connections to call on. Skip the velvet ropes, though, and heady glamour awaits.
If you only visit one museum on your trip to Stockholm, visit the Vasa. It’s unique, it’s fascinating – and it’s utterly stunning. The warship Vasa sank in Stockholm harbour in 1628, moments after being launched for the first time. Its wreck was discovered in the 1950s and carefully salvaged. Despite being underwater for centuries it was in remarkable condition. This is due to the fact that the Great Shipworm, a hungry little mollusc that nibbles away most wooden wrecks, doesn’t like the low-salt waters of the Baltic. The experience of seeing the ship is enhanced by the intelligent design of the museum that surrounds it. It manages to bring the boat to life in a way that is fascinating for both children and adult. It’s a good idea to start your visit by watching the film (which has English subtitles) that is shown in the auditorium near the entrance way. Understanding how the ship was rediscovered and salvaged makes you appreciate just how extraordinary this museum is.
For information on these and many more great places in Stockholm, visit www.hg2.com/cities/stockholm.