Since 1969, restaurant, hotel, travel & other witty reviews by a handpicked, worldwide team of discerning professionals—and your views, too.

Stockholm, Sweden

Scintillating Stockholm
From Medieval to Modern

Stockholm Harbor cruise and City Hall (upper left)
A cruise through Stockholm Harbor


Wake up with literary aspirations and arrange to partake in the Swedish buffet breakfast at the upmarket boutique Berns Hotel, immortalized in August Strindberg’s novel The Red Room. Belly full, it’s time to feed the head. Continue on that course of scholarly intentions and trek back to the Stortorget, where the Nobelmuseet, or Nobel Museum, awaits in its imposing 18th-century building. Permanent features include an overhead moving track that continually displays each and every Nobel winner in rotation—the entire cycle takes eight hours to view—and a “sculpture” of tiny, twinkling lights that represent the patterns of brain waves.

The strikingly modern Kafe Satir
Kafé Satir

You can have lunch in the museum’s own strikingly modern Kafé Satir, which features numerous pastries, baked potatoes stuffed with chicken curry or tzatziki, and lovely salads and sandwiches. The café is modeled after Vienna’s Café Museum, a haunt of the cognoscenti; don’t forget to look under your café chair to find signatures from laureates who’ve visited the Nobelmuseet—they’re considered autographs, not graffiti. In the summer, the museum’s café opens onto an outside garden to take advantage of the fine weather. Or make a beeline across the square to the “symphony of smoked and cured salmon with sweet mustard sauce” that can be nibbled on the porch of Stortorgskällaren and washed down with a glass of Pinot Gris.

Stadhuset or City Hall towers majestically over harbor

Resume your Nobel quest via Stadshuset, or Stockholm City Hall. This impressive piece of architecture, a mix of Italian Renaissance and National Romantic, hosts the annual Nobel Banquets in its Blue Hall. Here, the marble floor resembles the waves of Lake Mälaren, while the sweeping staircase, named after the architect’s wife, was specifically designed to be kind to women’s high heels and ball gowns.

Upstairs, the Golden Hall is a treasury of priceless mosaics—yes, there are guards, so don’t give in to those urges to pry any of the 18.6 million pieces off the walls. You can also tour the Council Chamber, where policy decisions are made under a ceiling built to resemble an inverted Viking longboat. In the Oval Room, complimentary marriage ceremonies of less than a minute each are performed every Saturday afternoon for all couples—regardless of sexual orientation.

Dining in the City Hall Cellar or Stadshuskallaren

Before leaving the premises, stop in at Stadshuskällaren (or City Hall Cellar) and make reservations for dinner. At this restaurant located directly under, you can enjoy the exact three-course, wine-paired meal (on the same Swedish-made china and linens) that was served to the Nobel Prize recipients of that year. A numbered souvenir menu indicates how many visitors dined on the meal before you. Hint: If you want to be numero uno—or at least in the top 100—try booking the restaurant for as soon as possible after Dec. 10, the date of the annual awards banquet. You also have an option, as long as you make arrangements a week in advance, of requesting the menu used in any given laureate year. So if you’ve been inspired by the Italian poet Eugenio Montale, you can dine on the same meal of shellfish in aspic with mustard vinaigrette, roast snow goose with mushroom sauce and beetroot, and lingonberry parfait that he savored as a prize winner in 1975. It’s really quite an experience, and one you can only have in Stockholm.

If your synapses have started to misfire after a day spent pandering to so much intellectual curiosity, investigate the bistro-type offerings at Rolfs Kök in the Norrmalm district. These sumptuously satisfying dishes, highlighted by entrées like red wine-braised cheeks of ox with Gotland truffled mashed potatoes, don’t require forethought—they just need forks. Nearby, you can get a full-circle thrill to your day by walking down Drottninggatan Street engraved with Strindberg’s quotes. If you’re a true fan, reserve a night’s stay in the August Strindberg Hotel, an amiable lodging next door to the writer’s Blue Tower residence. Breakfasting at this lodge, centrally located near the prime Drottninggatan shopping areas, would give you a head start on the next day. Unless you decide to dance off your meal at the city’s latest white-hot clubs, which could keep you out until the wee hours.

A boulevard mall that caters to pedestrian consumers, and street artists and musicians alike, Drottninggatan, in fact, is where you’ll find the duo of classic Scandinavian department stores: beauty-and-fashion depot Ahlens and PUB on Hötorget. If IKEA has been your only introduction to northern European home wares, PUB in particular—the Swedish equivalent Sears—will pierce those preconceived notions. Interspersed among these old pros are children's boutiques, ethnic shops and souvenir stores that provide plenty of window-shopping and walk-in temptation.

Continue to Day 3


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* Stadhuset photo by AlphaMedia
Top and bottom harbor photos by Richard Ryan, courtesy of
Stockholm Visitor's Board. Kafé Satir photo by

(Updated: 10/20/08 SG)

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