I travel a lot, far more than the average (sane) person. As a result, it takes something really special to knock my socks off. And this week, I found it.
I’d been to Stockholm once before, but my visit consisted of a very long meeting in a charmless hotel meeting room, a quick walk around the block and a long business dinner. Its charm escaped me, to say the least.
Many years later, Stockholm was back on my agenda. This week I planned to be here for one night for a series of meetings. Lucky for me, the British Airport Authority went on strike and I had to stay an extra night. And I am so glad I did.
Here are my top five reasons why you should visit Stockholm during the holiday season:
1. Holiday Cheer
As a born and bred New Yorker, it takes a lot to wow me at Christmas time. Consider me officially wowed! The elegant white lights on the trees, the electric candles in the windows and the giant, tastefully decorated tree on the river (pictured above), officially have me in the Christmas spirit. It would take a real Grinch to not feel festive here.
2. Haute Hotel
I could write a very long missive on my stay at the Lydmar. It is warm, cozy, fashionable without being snooty, and somewhere I’d like to spend many, many more than two nights. The artwork is eclectic and interesting, the staff welcoming and efficient, and the location fabulous.
3. Easy English
They speak perfect, almost accent-less English. I’m not one of those travelers who is only comfortable in places where people speak English. In fact, I really enjoy being in very foreign lands. But let’s face it, sometimes it’s just really convenient. When I got into my taxi at the airport frantically searching for where I had written the name of my hotel, I said “It starts with an L and is quite trendy.” My impeccably attired, lovely taxi driver said “Of course! That’s the Lydmar. I think you’ll be quite happy there.” Stress over.
4. Spectacular Shopping
In the interest of full disclosure, this is a fairly expensive city. That said, you can actually buy unique, interesting things here that will always remind you of your visit with impeccable Swedish style. The SoFo district (South of Folkungagahatan) offers a huge range of stores and cafes. I find these days in many cities it’s always the same big name stores. There are uniquely Swedish stores here that will make you wish you had more than a suitcase in which to tote things home.
5. To-die-for Dining
No, Swedish cuisine is not all herring and reindeer. This is a top-notch city for restaurants. Last night I dined in a fabulous French café, and tonight I had dinner at the Lydmar. There is nothing better than piping hot moules-frites in a cozy warm space on a cold winter’s night. That is, unless they also happen to be playing amazing music that makes one want to linger far, far after the meal is finished. If it weren’t for that 7 a.m. flight tomorrow, I’d be enjoying another fine Chablis while listening to a broad array of classic tunes and doing some really entertaining people-watching.
For Europeans, this is a great weekend destination (GBP 129 on BA!). And for those further afield, how about a tour of great European Christmas cities? Come to Stockholm, and enjoy some Christmas cheer.