SWEDEN is traditionally regarded as an expensive country to visit, but recent changes in exchange rates means it is presently more affordable than usual. For many tourists visiting for the first time, it may come as a surprise that the country has so many beautiful hotels. Often these have been converted from historic buildings such as castles, mountain lodges, medieval inns and 18th-century manor houses. They can provide excellent accommodation in beautiful surroundings. Many of the best places are members of two hotel marketing organizations: the Countryside Hotels and the Historiska Hotell groups. In Stockholm – which was European City of Culture in 1999 – we also have some exceptional entries.
Food and Drink of Sweden
Boar and Berries are the traditional staples of Swedish food, the former roasted or made into sausages, the latter, hjortron (cloudberry),served with fresh cream or ice cream. Meatballs with gravy and cranberry sauce, and gravad lax – raw salmon marinated with dill and served with mustard dressing – are also delicious.
The standard of food in the hotels listed here is generally very high, and will include game in season, along with international dishes.The only drawback is the expense. You may find that after a few days of hotel ining that stocking up for a picnic lunch becomes a necessity. Lunch at a restaurant is usually not as expensive as dinner, especially if you go for the set menu (dagens rätt).
Another economical option is the smörgåsbord served at lunchtime in restaurants or hotels – a mouthwatering all-you-can-eat collation of herring, cooked meats, hardboiled eggs, potato, salads, desserts and fruit.Alcohol is also notoriously expensive in Sweden. The beer served in bars is classed according to strength. Class III or starköl is the strongest, weaker is class II or folköl,and the class 1 beer, lättöl,is virtually alcohol-free –and great for drivers. There is zero tolerance of drink driving in this country and a few glasses of wine with dinner followed by a brandy could take you over the limit to drive, even the following morning. Outside bars and restaurants, class III beers can only be bought from government liquor stores – whose Swedish name is Systembolaget.
Akvavit, a herb-flavoured spirit, is traditionally served ice-cold with beer chasers –a potent combination.Swedes eat lunch from 11am onwards (generally finishing by 2pm). Dinner starts from around 6pm and restaurants close from around 11pm to midnight.
Splendid Places to stay
Here is some of our top picks for places to stay in Sweden.
Hotel Diplomat: This long-established family run hotel sits on Stockholm’s most fashionable street, Strandvägen, overlooking an inlet of the Baltic Sea. Inside is all old-style elegance, with tasteful bedrooms and a pleasant street-front restaurant. International cruise ships dock here and boat trips are available.
Grand Hotel Saltsjöbaden: This stylish hotel on the edge of the Baltic Sea bathes in 19th-century tranquillity. Original bathing houses still stand on the private island, and a little train built to serve the hotel still does. The piano bar and elegant French dining room have views of the sunset over the marina.
Krägga Herrgård: Beauty is the keynote of this stylish manor house, filled to the brim with fresh flowers and lovely antiques. In the dining room, seasonal dishes echo the surroundings – each plate is a little masterpiece. Total seclusion,deep in the forest at the lake’s edge, yet only 40 minutes’ drive from Stockholm and the airport
Halltorps Gästgiveri:A unique country inn. Each bedroom is designed and decorated by craftsmen from the province it represents and has exquisite hand-made furniture. Enjoy walks by the sea or in the nature reserve. Return to cosy lounges, open fires and local speciality dishes in one of Sweden’s finest restaurants.
Yxtaholm: This sumptuous manor stands on a strip of land between two lakes. Patrick Arneke has built his reputation on the quality and simplicity of his restaurant. Relax in one of the two elegant salons with a vintage Calvados from his extensive collection, or a refreshing cider, another of the Yxtaholm’s specialities.
Thorskogs Slott: This gorgeous old castle offers a totally homely welcome. Numerous heads of state have enjoyed its exquisite Gustavian salons and dishes from its famous kitchen. After drinks in the flower room, step out onto the terrace for a barbecue, then enjoy boules on the lawn. One of the best breakfasts in Sweden is served here .
: Cancel all other plans in order to visit this delightful little pearl, in a hamlet near Nyköping. You are welcomed into the home of someone who understands the meaning of beauty and comfort. No detail is neglected. Delight in Vivaldi on the CD in your room before drinks and a dinner that lives up to the surroundings.