23 July 2014

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City Focus - Stockholm



Exclusive Square Meal Offer at Hotel Stureplan

The Hotel Stureplan, an intimate hotel in the centre of Stockholm, has introduced an exclusive offer for Square Meal readers. A free upgrade, glass of Champagne and a late 2pm check-out is available when you make a booking at the elegant 19th century boutique hotel, which is great for incentives and executive getaways. To take advantage of this offer, call 00 46 8 440 6600 or go to www.hotelstureplan.se/en and quote 'Square09' when you make your booking.

Spread across 14 islands, interspersed with glittering water and leafy parks, the capital of Sweden works like a vitamin pill for events. Annica Wainwright came back all energised.

Just about any guidebook will tell you that two thirds of Stockholm is made up of water and parkland. What it can’t explain is the effect that has on people. Catch locals on a clear day in summer and you’ll think they’re the cheeriest bunch you’ve ever met. And who can blame them? When the sun shines on the Swedish capital, it is one of the most uplifting places in the world. The sky seems to go on forever – as, of course, do daylight hours – and you can’t help but smile with the crowds that come out to soak up the rays.

Swedes are outdoorsy folk and groups looking to join them will find thrilling activities at every turn. You can, for instance, go cycling, kayaking, fishing or sailing right in the heart of the city, but nothing quite beats experiencing this place from a height. If you’ve got the budget, treat guests to a hot air balloon ride. If you don’t, head for the old parliamentary building on Riddarholmen, where ‘experience specialist’ Upplev Mer Stockholm (tel: 0046 8 223 005) offers a rooftop tour, taking in the stunning views over the city’s medieval Old Town (Gamla Stan) and its surrounding islands.

Stockholm harbour.jpgSpeaking of islands, no trip to Stockholm is complete without a visit to one of the 24,000 or so that make up its sprawling archipelago. The best way to see them is perhaps over lunch or dinner aboard one of the traditional white cruisers – Strömma Kanalbolaget (tel: 00 46 8 1200 4000) has the largest fleet – but there’s now a high-speed option in RIB Sightseeing (tel: 0046 8 202 260), which also takes in city-centre sights before embarking on a hair-raising 45-knot journey out to Waxholm and back.

But it’s not all fun and games. Marketed as ‘The Capital of Scandinavia’, Stockholm is also serious about business. Located right at the centre of the region and home to more multinational companies than any other Nordic city, it is also one of the top 10 congress cities in the world, capable of hosting up to 25,000 delegates at a time. There are already some 400 conference venues – not to mention 22,000 hotel rooms – dotted around town and that number is growing all the time. 

With the completion of the Stockholm Waterfront development in 2010, the city centre will have a new 3,000-capacity conference venue with an attached hotel (the 418-bedroom Rezidor Park Inn), both featuring views over Riddarfjärden to City Hall. Also under construction is a new national football stadium, again with a 400-bed hotel adjacent, and a second indoor arena by the distinctive Globe, which itself will gain a new attraction with the launch of the Stockholm Skyview gondola in autumn this year.

Hotels, too, are investing in event space and they all like to offer something that little bit different. Sister properties Nordic Light and Nordic Sea (both on 00 46 8 5056 3000) are concentrating on stimulating meeting space, with features including daylight simulators and ‘wall-writes’ for scribbling. They will also be doubling the capacity of the original Absolute Ice Bar (located just outside Nordic Sea) and opening its invigorating chilled rooms up for – very brief – meetings.

Over at the Grand, delegates can take to the waters in a new floating event space. The so-called Sea Lounge Grand Hôtel (tel: 00 46 8 679 3500) has conference/dining space for up to 40 people, plus the obligatory sauna, outdoor Jacuzzi and cocktail bar. Even dedicated meeting venues impress with their character. Located on Strandvägen – otherwise home to millionaires and diplomats – 7A (tel: 00 46 8 5861 0700) serves up modern meeting space in a period building with stunning original features and space for temporary offices. If you’re looking for a provisional Stockholm base, you could hardly find a more impressive address.

Don’t go thinking this is all out of your price range. Sweden never joined the euro and the current pound/krona exchange rate is really quite favourable. With Stockholm now well behind London in the Worldwide Cost of Living index, you might even pay less than for an event on home soil. Just watch out for the crippling tax on spirits: this is definitely a place where it’s best to stick to beer and wine.

stockholm_night.jpgStockholm by Night
How do you entertain in a city that plays host to one of the world’s most famous parties? Well, you can always replicate that same event. The Blue Hall at City Hall (tel: 00 46 8 5082 9000) where the Nobel Banquet (pictured right) takes place each December, is not just available to hire as a venue; it offers organisers the chance to choose catering from the entire back catalogue of previous years’ menus. Those looking to recreate the full experience should also take the Golden Hall for after-dinner dancing and decorate the two spaces with some 10,000 flowers. If a 1,200-capacity dining room and dance floor surrounded by 18 million real gold mosaics sounds a little excessive, note that it’s possible to enjoy the same food in the Stadshuskällaren restaurant (tel: 00 46 8 5063 2200).

Private dining has a long history in Sweden and many of the capital’s best eateries offer beautiful banqueting suites. The most established is perhaps Den Gyldene Freden (tel: 00 46 8 249 760), where the Swedish Academy has been meeting since 1722. It serves traditional cooking in period surrounds and has space for up to 40. Other options include the Michelin-starred likes of Operakällaren (tel: 00 46 8 676 5800) and Mathias Dahlgren at Grand Hotel (tel: 00 46 8 679 3584). The former has a range of rooms, catering for anything up to 320, while the latter offers two: the 40-seater Private Dining Room and the Wine Cellar, which seats 12.

Our favourite has to be veteran restaurateur Erik Lallerstedt’s Gondolen (tel: 00 46 8 641 7090), perched at the top of Katarinahissen with spectacular views across the city from two formal dining rooms seating 90 and 30. There’s a lovely bar here too.
Some of the grandest entertainment space in town can otherwise be found at Berns Salonger (tel: 00 46 8 5663 2222), a multi-faceted venue that incorporates a hotel, theatre and nightclub, as well as two restaurants and several function rooms. The stand-out is the imposing 800-capacity Stora Salongen, whose giant crystal chandeliers have added extra sparkle to just about every top society event going.

Those looking for blank canvas space should instead check out München-Bryggeriet (tel: 00 46 8 658 0020). This striking former brewery was almost knocked down to make way for flats but venue manager Hans Ryberg saved it from destruction with days to spare and has since spent all his time, money and energy doing it up. Large enough to host award ceremonies, premiere parties and car launches, it features solid wood floors, impressive on-site kitchens and giant windows with breathtaking views towards City Hall.

Where to Stay

Hotel Birger Jarl
If you’re after Swedish design on a budget, check out this functional four-star just north of the centre, where we always seem able to score a great deal. All rooms apart from ‘the forgotten one’ (now a homage to the 1970s) are decorated in neutral colours and come with armchairs and generous desk space as standard (Business Rooms also have a fridge stocked full of complimentary soft drinks). The interiors were created by a team of local artists, who also use the lobby as a gallery space and continue to contribute to ongoing updates throughout the property. Currently under refurbishment is a 375-capacity conference space due for completion this autumn, until when organisers will have to make do with a range of smaller spaces.
Tulegatan 8, tel: 00 46 8 674 1800
BR:235  FR:8  M:60  D:150  R:150

Clarion Hotel Sign
Occupying a gleaming glass and granite structure next to Stockholm Central Station, Clarion’s new-build is not only a sleek celebration of Scandinavian art and design but also the city’s largest conference hotel. Its interiors are undoubtedly cool and there’s masses of event space, but you can sometimes feel a little lost in the meeting machine. The best bits here are the massive buffet breakfasts and the stunning views enjoyed by the rooftop pool and sundeck of the in-house Selma CitySpa+ concession, for which residents enjoy discounted rates (but not free access). Lofty views are also the main draw of the Champagne Bar and there’s a branch of Manhattan’s acclaimed Aqvavit restaurant on the ground floor. Ask to use the separate group check-in desk. 
Norra Bantorget, tel: 00 46 8 676 9800
BR:558  FR:10  M:700  D:500  R:500

Grand Hotel Stockholm
With beautifully refurbished interiors and a breathtaking location right on the water’s edge with head-on views of the Royal Palace, The Grand certainly lives up to its name. The hotel was originally opened in 1874 but enjoyed a major spruce-up just two years ago, when it also installed Swedish master chef Mathias Dahlgren in the kitchen. His two in-house restaurants have since picked up three Michelin stars (two for Matsalen and one for Matbaren) and a new spa looks set to complete the property’s transformation later this year. Again, breakfasts are a highlight and the in-house event space ranges from distinguished dining rooms to more functional meeting space. The main event suite, Winter Garden, has its own entrance.
Södra Blasieholmshamnen 8,
tel: 00 46 8 679 3500
BR:368  FR:24  M:650  D:600  R:800

Hotel Stureplan
It’s easy to love this new city-centre hotel – and it’s clear that its owners do too. None of the 101 bedrooms are the same and all (apart from a handful of minimalist attic suites and nautical ‘cabin rooms’) have been decorated in 18th-century Gustavian style, using new Swedish-made furniture from craftsmen who still use techniques from that period. To say that the interiors are stunning would be an understatement and the location, at the heart of Stockholm’s nightlife and luxury shopping district, isn’t half bad either. A small group can take over the ‘Stureplan Living’ floor, where the rooms are connected to a living room and library. A conference room, Italian restaurant, wine-tasting snug and the world’s first Bollinger bar are also on-site.
Birger Jarlsgatan 24, tel: 00 46 8 440 6611
BR:101  FR:1  M:12  D:70  R:120

For help with events in the Swedish capital, contact Meet Stockholm, tel: 00 46 8 5082 8500

Getting There
0807_July_194.jpgStockholm Arlanda Airport is served by 60 international airlines, including the national carrier SAS (tel: 0870 6072 7727), which runs eight daily flights to London Heathrow, and BA (tel: 0870 850 9850), which also has several daily connections. Not to be confused with either of the two Ryanair airports – both miles away – Arlanda may be a good 40-minute drive (or ‘eco cab’ ride) from the city centre but it’s also served by one of the world’s most reliable express trains. If the 20-minute service is even one minute late, passengers are invited to claim a full refund. Now that’s Swedish efficiency!

This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events magazine, Spring 2009.

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