Tel: 46 8 566 322 00
You can eat, drink, party, and sleep at the Berns. Originally built as a music hall in 1863, it remains one of the city's top entertainment hubs. The 65 guest rooms were added in 1989, but unlike in many such conversions, they don't feel shoehorned into the space. Hardwood floors and built-in wooden furnishings lend the rooms a nautical flavor, and regular spruce-ups have kept them among the most fashionable in town. You'll find the city's best brunch at the Berns Asian restaurant, while the Berns Bistro serves French favorites like beef bourguignonne. There are several bars, too, as well as a subterranean members-only nightclub (overnight guests are sometimes permitted, depending on the event) and an adjoining theater. Club nights, which often take place in the public salons, are worth attending just to see the stunning 19th-century interiors illuminated by a 21st-century light system. But don't think that this is only a hotel for party animals (although it is advisable to request a room removed from the club noise if you plan to turn in early). The location, close to the waterfront in the city center, is unbeatable: One of Scandinavia's best auction houses, which regularly holds art and antique sales, is right next door; NK department store is around the corner; and Svenskt Tenn (the famous interior design store) and Wedholms Fisk (the city's best fish restaurant) are also nearby. As an extra perk, guests get free access to the city's most exclusive gym, Sturebadet.
Tel: 46 8 674 1800
There's a minitrend in hotel land (check out the Fox in Copenhagen and Puerta América in Madrid), where different style arbiters are set loose on guest rooms to create either a showcase for a particular aesthetic or perhaps an inhabitable example of national pride—or, as in this case, both. Built in 1974 and named after the 13th-century founder of Stockholm, this 235-room place has been redesigned with bells on. Twenty-two Swedish designers have created wildly divergent spaces: One that's based on a group of late '30s Matisse interiors has tomato curtains, a black-and-white checkerboard floor, and walls decorated in leaf-green as well as black and white; another unit, in muted powdery green, blue, pink, and rust, with white sheers at the windows, is all about feng shui. The new additions are the wardrobe rooms, so called because they're windowless and decorated by fashion designers—they're wacky and less claustrophobic because of that, but there's nothing like a window to give you a view of a place. The hotel isn't all gimmick, though. The staff makes a concerted effort to keep you happy, and recent bathroom upgrades were a good idea. Less good is the attempt to charge for using the lobby WiFi.
35 Östra Järnvägsgatan
Tel: 46 8 676 98 00
Opened in February 2008, the 558-room Clarion Sign pairs low room rates with high design—a fitting combination in the homeland of IKEA and H&M. (We picked it as one of the world's most notable design hotels of 2008.) The striking building of black granite is the work of Gert Wingårdh, one of Sweden's most famous architects; the interiors are like a checklist of classic Nordic design, with furnishings by Alvar Aalto and Arne Jacobsen, among others. The standard rooms are quintessentially Scandinavian: white walls, white bed linens, wooden floors, and some modern furnishings to provide a splash of color. While the Clarion is primarily a business hotel, leisure travelers will do well here too, particularly given the excellent Selma CitySpa's heated rooftop pool. Unfortunately, the Aquavit Grill and Raw Bar (a Marcus Samuelsson spin-off) is skippable, but the hotel's town center location means you won't be stuck for alternatives. Rates can start as low as $125, and in July—when the Swedes take their national holiday and business travel grinds to a halt—room prices tend to fall.
Sweden SE-840 98
Tel: 46 684 230 30
After a mighty makeover that spruced up the original 1882 building and added two new guest wings, a wood-and-glass chapel, and a serene spa, this mountain hotel is a welcome sign of change to the Scandinavian hinterlands, where ski lodges tend to be more basic than beautiful. The 20 rooms are perfectly pared down in scrubbed pine and rough slate, with the vibrant color of Missoni towels, embroidered cushions, and green ceramic teapots. Solid craftsmanship in the wooden buildings ensures nary an Arctic draft. Each morning in winter (which is most of the year), one of Fjällnäs's super-cool guides takes guests cross-country skiing, charting a route to avoid head-on winds and, come lunchtime, building a snow sofa for a wintry picnic. This is not luxury per se (guests pack their own lunches, for example), but it is authentic Swedish stuff. In the spa, guests can leap from the hot tub into a sawed through the frozen lake, and then thaw out in the spacious saunas. The hotel even has a pack of friendly huskies to power traditional wooden sleigh rides. Food is locally sourcedthe salmon couldn't be fresher, and mushrooms and berries abound.
Sodra Blasieholmshamnen 8
Tel: 46 8 679 3560
The Grand, in continuous service since 1874, has the best location of all, fronting the harbor, with views of the Old Town and the Royal Palace. There are plenty of frequent travelers—some of them extraordinarily famous—who wouldn't think of staying anywhere else. Then again, if you're not a fixture of celebrity weeklies and are landed with the short end of the room stock, you may not like it quite as much. The best rooms, needless to say, overlook the harbor—for which you pay a premium. In 2006, 76 of the 376 rooms were opened in a neighboring 19th-century building—including the two-bedroom Lilian Suite penthouse (one of the largest hotel suites in Europe at 3,552 square feet, with a private screening room, library, and fully equipped kitchen). Facilities include a fitness center with sauna and spa; the Veranda restaurant (with its megabreakfast buffet); Swedish chef Mathias Dahlgren's eponymous restaurant; plus a bar that's one of the city's see-and-be-seen spots. All in all, you have the sense of being inside a great, big, slow Victorian machine, and it runs quite well, but you may need to squeak a bit to get attention.
Tel: 46 8 459 6800
Like its next-door neighbor, the Esplanade, the Diplomat is family-owned and has a prime waterfront location on this very desirable street, and while the former is all old-fashioned charm, the Diplomat is hip and modern. The T/Bar lounge hosts a thriving after-work bar scene, and decor in the most recently renovated doubles (there are 129 rooms total) have a Scandinavian bent with great DUX beds and lots of blond-wood furniture. Spend a little extra for a room in the front with water views. Bathrooms are well-stocked with L'Occitane products. The location is ideal for strolling over to Djurgården, the greenest of the city's islands, and exploring the fashionable shops on Östermalm.
Tel: 46 8 663 0740
If you've had it to here with design, take refuge in this cute-as-granny's-house, family-run (by the current brood since 1986) harbor-front hotel. The gorgeous 1910 Art Nouveau block holds 34 rooms that are resolutely faded, retaining their original Jugendstil decor, but overlaid with a veneer of random decorating decisions. This means frequent instances of '70s upholstery (often in French blue), bronzed chrome tables and dubious art mixed in with shabby Turkish rugs on parquet or plank floors, Edwardian glass lamps, and handsome oak desks. The best units, along with the cheery breakfast space, have huge, curvaceous Art Nouveau windows and harbor views. Many a film industry and boho guest prefers this not-trying-too-hard ambience to the self-conscious boutique thing.
Tel: 46 8 545 789 00
Bono owns a hotel in Dublin, sopop quizif a native rocker were to own a Stockholm hotel, who should it be? ABBA, you say? Correct! One of the B's of ABBA, Benny Andersson, bought the Art Deco Aston Hotel, did it up, and opened it in fall 2003. Two features from the 1937 building remain intact (though renovated): a glamorous circular cocktail bar and a 703-seat scarlet-velvet movie house. Otherwise, all is properly Swedish-modern, with pine-green, raspberry, or oatmeal floor-length velvet drapes, wood floors with thick rugs, pale birch, and the odd piece by Scand stars like Alvar Aalto and Mats Theselius. Above the headboard is a giant black-and-white photo mural depicting a Swedish movie scene (what Bergman's bleaker moments might do for a marital bed doesn't bear contemplating); cool glass-mosaic-tiled bathrooms have a window into the bedroom (with a privacy blind). Only deluxe rooms and up feature that quirkand only they have the view over Mariatorget; standards and superiors look into the internal courtyard. All rooms have Wi-Fi and wired broadband, 32-inch plasma-screen TVs, and a pillow menu. Instead of piped movies, there's a free DVD librarybut you can't easily counteract the dampening effects of Scenes from a Marriage: There's no erotica in the house.
1 Gröna Gången
Sweden SE-111 86
Tel: 46 8 407 23 00
Transforming a military barracks into a luxury hotel isn't an easy task, particularly when the building, dating from 1699, is so historic that structural changes are forbidden. Fortunately, the design firm of Claesson Koivisto Rune overcame the obstacles, producing a triumph of Swedish stylea modest, minimalist, yet supremely comfortable property housed in two low, long buildings. The sense of antiquity is preserved (stone staircases worn smooth by the centuries, wooden shutters in the bedrooms), but there's no shortage of modern amenities, from the amazing Duxiana beds to bathrooms with rain showers. The hotel takes its name from the island it sits on: Skeppsholmen is an easy walk to the National Museum, NK department store, and high-end shopping in Östermalm. It's an even easier ferry ride from the Old Town, visible across the water. By day, lots of people cross the bridge to visit the hotel's neighbor, the Moderna Museet, but at night the island is virtually soundless. As a result the hotel is perfect for those who want quick access to the best of the city followed by undisturbed sleep.
2 Södra Blasieholmshamnen
Sweden 103 24
Tel: 46 8 22 31 60
It's no small feat to open next to the illustrious Grand Hotel and promptly steal the crown of Stockholm's best hotel. The Lydmar feels like a country house in the heart of the city. The 46 neutral-toned rooms are wonderfully spacious, while the dining room/bar, with its walls lined with books and the sort of artfully arranged clutter that can be achieved only by a lifetime of luxury travel, feels like a living room. Public spaces are decorated with documentary photos, while the views of the harbor and the Royal Palace are superb. In 2005, owner Per Lydmar closed his first eponymous hotela property known for its live music and wildly decorated rooms. What sets his second venture apart is faultless style and an atmosphere of relaxed comfort that's made it the talk of the town.
Sweden SE 111 86
Tel: 46 8 614 10 00
In the Swedish version of Monopoly, Norrmalmstorg is the game's most exclusive square. Now a real hotel has opened here, and it's knocking the competitors off the board thanks to impeccable style and service, not to mention a dream location close to the city's best stores, the opera house, and the Old Town. White-hot interior design studio Claesson Koivisto Rune preserved the two nineteenth-century buildings' elegance but added a twenty-first-century sensibility to the 201-room hotel. The ceiling of the atrium lounge is painted to resemble a pixilated view of a forest canopy, and below it hangs a stunning 22-foot squid-shaped chandelier made from a thousand pieces of vintage Orrefors crystal. Large rooms have a beige-and-gray color scheme, inspired by the Nordic winter, that isn't the least bit chilly, and white-marble bathrooms with cool Byredo products. For dining or drinks, there's the superb Italian restaurant Caina; a neat little 24-hour bistro; and the Gold Bar, where the American manager mixes the cocktails. The hotel even has an odd place in history: Circular marks on the marble floor in the fitness center show where, in 1973, the police drilled into the bank vaults that stood beneath the hotel during the "Stockholm syndrome" hostage situation.
Tel: 46 8 5056 3000
A pair of sister buildings face off across a side street in what disconcertingly appears to be the business district. In fact, these lodgings are near everythingespecially shopping. Each hotel betrays its shtick by its name: The former is all about natural light, with shapes and colors dramatically projected onto its white walls. In its Mood rooms, you can completely bathe yourself in cobalt or aquamarine or fuchsia at whim (this long predated Schrager's version). Sea's theme is, yes, maritime, which translates to an all-blue-and-white palette with stylized porthole motifs and shiplike wooden built-ins, plus aquariums and wavy art. This place also has the world's coolest barliterally. You've heard of ice bars, but here's the first permanent one (sponsored by Absolut), with its subzero ice fixtures, fittings, and glasses made entirely of ice, and parkas handed out to would-be drinkers. Even if you think you're over it, it gets you. Despite that, the Light remains the cooler of the two hotels. There's also a third Nordic, by the way, the new Nordic Blue, perched on the northernmost tip of the Elfvik promontory in a grand, startling 1969 structure built by IBM to train European employees.
2 A Edeforsväg
Sweden S 960 24
Tel: 46 928 104 03
Just south of the Arctic Circle, this property not only enables guests to get away from it all but to do so from a unique perspective, between 6 and 40 feet up in the pines. The four rooms, each designed by a different Swedish architect, are literal tree-house fantasies. The Bird's Nest is accessed by a retractable ladder, the Blue Cone resembles a giant Lego block, and the Mirrorcube has reflective surfaces that blend into the landscape. Though small and sparsely decorated (there are no TVs), rooms are stylishly furnished, floors are heated, and picture windows in all but the Bird's Nest provide in-your-face forest views. Owners Britta Jonsson Lindvall and Kent Lindvall strive to stay "as green as possible," and as such, the guest experience is closer to an upscale camping trip than a luxury hotel stay: Eco-toilets incinerate waste, rooms have a hand basin rather than running water, and showers are taken in Treesauna, a five-minute walk away. The Lindvalls provide personal, friendly service, however, and will arrange Sami cultural tours, dogsledding, snowshoeing, kayaking, mountain biking, and fishing. The Treehotel's antiques- and memorabilia-filled restaurant specializes in well-prepared local fare, including reindeer and elk.