Stockholm hotels are influenced by the two certainties of Swedish life: style and taxes. The former is a national obsession, and so many hotels look lovely; the latter leads to high labor costs, so hotels can seem understaffed (at least to Americans used to lobbies full of eager bellhops). While room rates at the Lydmar—currently the city's finest hotel—start at $300 and soar upward of $1,500, it is possible to find a decent hotel room in Stockholm for under $200 per night. Given the recent reduction in business travel, many business hotels (such as the Clarion Sign) are offering bargain rates to fill empty rooms; you'll likely find availability even booking last-minute. As in so many cities, Stockholm's top hotels have become popular local hangouts. Bars at the Grand Hotel, the Lydmar, the Diplomat, the Nordic Light, and the Berns are among the best places in the city for a drink. The Esplanade has an old-fashioned air and, like its neighbor the Diplomat, stunning water views. The Nordic Light and Nordic Sea are ideal for quick trips—with the train link to the airport right outside, you can go from hotel checkout to airport check-in in less than half an hour. Since the lovely Old Town, Gamla Stan , gets clogged with visitors in the summer, the best base for sightseeing in Stockholm is a hotel in Norrmalm—the city's main downtown area.