Smorgasbord in The Grand style
Beauty on Water
HAT struck me about the Swedish capital of Stockholm is that it is made up of 14 islands, in the midst of an archipelago of 24,000 islands. So you can take a floating taxi to go to work. I was also impressed by the architecture, classic and historic. Yet many of the buildings are ultramodern.
On my first visit I bunked at the landmark Grand Hotel, Stockholm’s finest lodging house. This five-star deluxe hotel, which dates back to 1874 in the golden age of great hotels, has not lost its luster. It defines luxury. (www.grandhotel.se)
The Grand Hotel
Best place to enjoy the legendary breakfast smorgasbord is at the hotel’s Grand Veranda. In this glass-enclosed terrace you will enjoy a magnificent view of the Royal Palace, a lumbering stone castle across the water.
Everywhere you look you get an amazing view of a vibrant city. People on the street are dressed in the latest style. After work, the bars and restaurants are packed with youthful singles chatting and drinking.
My luxurious room was quite comfortable as befits a grand old hotel. I started each day sitting by the window, gazing at the ships docked below. I marveled at the huge expanse of the Royal Palace, which was built in 1754 in the Italian baroque style.
The Royal Palace
At noon I walked across the bridge and into the royal courtyard just in time for the traditional changing of the guard. The Royal Guard has been stationed here since 1523.
The dramatic performance draws outsiders and locals alike who applaud the scene, full of pomp and circumstance.
The marching band and the royal uniforms of the troops thrilled the hundreds of onlookers. All military units take turns on guard duty. This very impressive ceremony is held at 12:15 every day, an hour later on Sunday. Afterwards, take a tour of the palace and marvel at the regalia, treasury and exquisite apartments.
After the changing of the guard, you should explore this island, called Gamla Stan. Stroll through Old Town, whose narrow streets have remained virtually unchanged since the 13th century. Walk along the picturesque streets and the vibrant town squares bouncing with outdoor lunchtime crowds. You’ll find countless hip shops and tourist stops to engage your curiosity and hone your shopping instincts.
Changing of the guard at the
This is a good time to be in Stockholm, for this year marks its 750th anniversary. There are celebrations around the country.
You will have a tremendous choice of fine high-quality places to eat. One of the best is Sturehof, a Swedish-French brasserie that attracts a hip crowd from early morning till after midnight. The menu offers a huge selection, but specializes in fish and shellfish.
One unusual find is Lydmar. This is an interesting combination of a tres chic boutique hostelry and bar/restaurant for trendy Stockholmers.
|This Is Sweden!
Actually it’s become a Stockholm hangout where young people, dressed in the latest gear, gather to enjoy each other and the latest trends in music, from acid-jazz to jungle, R&B and soul.
I walked into the hotel and found myself in the middle of a lively bar, filled with fashion-conscious young people nursing their drinks and having a great time. Live entertainment consists of regularly scheduled jazz acts.
The bartender is stationed at one end of the bar, fronting a fantastic selection of liquor and wine arrayed on the wall behind him. At the other end is the hip desk clerk, ready to check you in.
I was duly impressed with one superior room—ultramodern Scandinavian furnishings, sophisticated ambience, right out of a Hollywood movie set. You even get a floor model telescope to peer at the urban landscape. Tom Cruise would love it.
Dining al fresco in Old Town
Each of the 62 rooms is furnished differently, but very modern and funky. The halls are decked with contemporary art. They hold major events to exhibit art and installations.
Perhaps the most popular attraction in the city is the Vasamuseet (Vasa Museum), home of the world famous warship Vasa. You’ll find it on another island, Djurgarden, full of parks and gardens.
Vasa was the brainchild of King Gustavus Adolphus, who ordered the construction of a fearsome battleship, armed with two decks of 64 guns and 300 marines, to serve as his flagship in an invasion of Poland.
Treading cobbled pathways of 19th
century village in Skansen
The ship was stupendous, a floating art gallery of 500 wooden sculptures. But highly unstable.
The overweight battlewagon, launched with great fanfare in 1628, sailed proudly for 1,500 yards and then sank. For centuries the magnificent warship languished at the bottom of the Baltic, and receded into the history books as one of the world’s major seagoing blunders, later to be joined by the Titanic.
The Vasa was finally salvaged in 1961 and is now on display to amaze you.
Salu Hall food market
Up a ways from the Vasa Museum is Skansen, the world’s first open-air museum, founded in 1891. There are 150 historical buildings depicting life in Sweden through five centuries. Tread the cobbled streets and peek into various artisan workshops, taste the bread at the old-time bakery, see the print shop, and marvel as the glassblower creates works of art.
The Skansen zoo houses bear, wolf, elk and exotic animals. You tread paths where African monkeys scurry at your feet. The aquarium features flesh eating piranha and crocodiles among other such attractions. You can spend an entire day with the family, and come back to see more.
Shopping at Nordiska Galleriet
Stockholm has it all: museums, sightseeing on the water, opera, theater. Don’t miss the magnificent City Hall where its Blue Hall is the venue for the Nobel banquet on December 10 each year.
There is so much more to report. I’ll have to spend another week in Stockholm. Check out www.visit-sweden.com, then call SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System) (www.scandinavian.net or call 800 221-2350) and get your ticket to a city you will never forget.