After touching down at Stockholm Arlanda Airport, head to your hotel in style with a pre-booked chaffeur from Belair limousines (www.belair.se ). This well established company has been whisking people around Stockholm for the last 24 years and you can choose between a legendary Lincoln, a classic Chrysler or even a leopard print limo or stretch Hummer.
Five-star luxury or quirky cool? Stockholm has plenty of accommodation choices, but if it’s the former, Hotel Lydmar will impress with its contemporary, yet traditional Swedish charm. Adjacent to the National Museum, the hotel has fantastic views over the Old Town, the Royal Palace and the sparkling waterfront. Neither grandiose nor minimalist, the rooms offer a well-curated balance of sophistication and contemporary chic, and guests enjoy free access to the Grand Nordic Spa. As for the friendly staff, they forego uniforms in favour of personal attire to avoid stuffy formality. For something different, Miss Clara in downtown Stockholm is set in a 100 year-old Art Nouveau building. The hotel was originally a girl’s school, and takes its name from the former headmistress, Clara Strömberg. The design codes are very ‘Scandi cool’ (think stripped-back minimalism) but there’s no compromising on comfort. With parquet floors, industrial lamps and original tiling, the hotel has a wonderful restaurant to boot. Miss Clara’s fish and shellfish stew with chilli and sweet potato aioli is a must-try.
There are more than 100 museums in Stockholm, including a museum dedicated to one of Sweden’s biggest exports. And no, it’s not Ikea. ABBA: The Museum (+46 (0)8 1213 2860, www.abbathemuseum.com ) is essentially an excursion into the spangled world of the 1970s megastars. You can sing classic pop ballads in a recording booth, and wonder at the outfits of Benny, Björn, Frida and Agnetha. There’s even a piano linked to Benny’s home and when he plays, the sound is replicated in the museum. For a different kind of Swedish culture, The Vasa Museum (+46 (0)8 5195 4800, www.vasamuseet.se ) is the most-visited in Scandinavia, with an exhibition of the warship that sank shortly after setting sail from Stockholm harbour in 1628. It lay on the seabed for 333 years before it was salvaged, renovated and displayed in 1961. The exhibit includes everything from skeletons found on board, right through to weaponry and ornaments.
Stockholm is a great place for shopping, with a wealth of independent stores selling upmarket designer clothes to vintage hipster gear and everything in-between. Head to Biblioteksgatan 3 for the flagship Cos store, a Swedish brand known for its urban functional design, as well as other prestigious boutiques. NK (+46 (0)8 7628 000, www.nk.se ) is also well worth a visit; the Swedish equivalent of Macy’s in New York or Harrods in London, the cavernous interior houses an array of global brands alongside Swedish favourites such as J Lindeberg and Filippa K. Don’t miss the huge food hall.
After your shopping stint, recharge with caffeine. Stockholmers love having coffee and cake, so much so that they even have their own verb for it. To ‘fika’ is to have coffee and some kind of sweet pastry delight, such as ‘fikabrod’ - Swedish cinnamon buns filled with cream. A great place to fika and check out the ebb and flow of local life is Konditori Ritorno (+46 (0)8 32 01 06, www.ritorno.se ) at Odengatan 80. Hugely popular ever since it opened in 1959, this traditional cafe transports you back to the ‘50s, and is filled with antique posters, an authentic jukebox and various curiosities. As well as great coffee and pastries they also serve a classic Swedish meatball sandwich. For a longer, more sophisticated lunch head to the Grand Hotel and dine at Mathias Dahlgren’s Matbaren (+46 (0)8 679 35 84, www.mdghs.com ) restaurant. Dahlgren is one of Sweden’s most prominent celebrity chefs and this venue combines a relaxed atmosphere and stylish décor with sweeping views and cuisine based on natural produce.
Squeeze in some more culture at Fotografiska, (+46 (0)8 5090 0500, www.fotografiska.eu ) a vast space that collects and presents the best of the world’s contemporary photography in a large permanent exhibition and a rota of smaller shows. Be sure to check out the top floor café before you leave, as it’s one of city’s best viewpoints. If you have room for any more food, the award-winning restaurant run by chef Paul Svensson is adored by vegetarians for its ‘seasonal greens’ concept. Energy permitting, visit Stockholm’s old town, Gamla Stan, to wander the cobbled streets and soak in the charm. After your stroll, pop back to the hotel to freshen up for the night ahead.
From brasseries and bistros to fine dining – where to eat dinner? A reliable choice is Oaxen Krog & Slip (+46 (0)8 5515 3105, www.oaxen.com ) on the island of Djurgården. Set in a refurbished boatyard shed, you can eat in the ‘Slip’, a laid-back bistro, or opt for the ‘Krog’ for flawless gastronomy. Expect locally-sourced, expertly prepared meals in either. For a change from Swedish fare, follow the hip crowd to Hornstull on the Södermalm Island for a Pan Asian meal at Barbro. (+46 (0)8 5506 0266, www.bar-bro.se ). With an industrial cool interior, it even has a cinema bar downstairs for an après dinner cocktail.
Swedes love to let their hair down. Hornstull is a great place to bar hop, Stureplan is for those who feel at home behind velvet ropes, while clubs like Hell’s Kitchen are popular with fans of house and dance music. Spy Bar lures the media crowd and the aspiring hipsters, who party until 5am. How long you stay is up to you, but make sure to enjoy a few hours in that nice hotel bed.