More than a thousand people crammed into the Stockholm Concert Hall as the Nobel Prize award ceremony started at 4.30pm with a glitzy, televised Nobel Banquet at the capital's City Hall kicking off at 7pm.
The winners of the 2015 physics prize were the first to collect their awards – Takaaki Kajita from Japan and Arthur B. McDonald from Canada — followed by those being honoured for their work in medicine, chemistry, literature and economics.
Swedish chemist Tomas Lindahl was among the winners, celebrated for his work studying DNA repair. He beamed broadly as he was handed his medal by King Carl XVI Gustaf and was also given the chance to sit next to newlywed and former reality television star Princess Sofia during the evening meal.
Medicine prize winner Tu Youyou. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT
Each year the audience is treated to music performances in between each prize being handed out, with this December's programme including classics such as The Maiden under the Linden Tree by Wilhelm Peterson-Berger and Lensky’s Aria from Eugen Onegin by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
For the banquet, guests were promised a Scandinavian-themed locally sourced feast, spread out over more than 60 tables requiring some 7000 porcelain pieces.
— The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) December 10, 2015
The high-profile events got under way less than a month after Sweden raised its terror threat alert to historically high levels.
Police urged commuters in the Swedish capital to leave their cars at home as several streets were cordoned off ahead of the arrival of royals, international star academics and foreign dignitaries.
“Security is tighter than ever this year, considering what happened in Paris, and the raised terror threat level. (…) A person who behaves in a suspicious way could be arrested or a backpack left behind could lead to an area being cordoned off – police vigilance will be high this year,” an unnamed source told the Aftonbladet tabloid ahead of the ceremony.
But Sweden's national security police, Säpo, told The Local last week that it was not stepping up security any more than usual for the event, which welcomes more than a thousand guests including foreign ambassadors and top politicians.
“We have a very high security level every year. It's one of the most prioritized events of the year,” said press spokesperson Fredrik Milder.
Police outside Stockholm Concert Hall on Thursday. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT
Stockholm police spokesperson Lars Byström told Aftonbladet there was no specific threat directed against the Nobel Prize celebrations, and that the tight security would mainly affect traffic in the capital.
“We will have roadblocks and traffic measures, especially around the Concert Hall,” he said.
Earlier on Thursday the Nobel Peace Prize was handed out in Oslo to four human rights groups working in Tunisia.
The prizes have their roots in the late 1800s, when Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel offered his vast fortune to be shared each year with the best thinkers in literature, peace, physics, chemistry and medicine.
Full list of Nobel Prize winners 2015