by Terence Baker | December 01, 2003

Stylish newcomer: Clarion Hotel Stockholm

Sweden is known for its long summer nights, stylishly functional furniture and tall blond citizens, among them tennis champion Björn Borg and three members of ’70s pop sensation ABBA.
   The country’s two major cities are Stockholm, the capital, and Gothenburg (Göteborg in Swedish). The former comprises a beautiful group of islands dotting the country’s eastern coast. The Gamla Stan (Old Town) island houses the royal palace.
   Gothenburg, on the western coast, has experienced a renaissance in recent years and is every bit Stockholm’s rival with regard to art and culture.
   English is widely spoken throughout the country; the hotels and service are excellent, and the cuisine recently has earned international acclaim. (Try to book a table at the famed Operakällaren restaurant inside Stockholm’s Opera House, or bring the whole crowd for a banquet
in one of the venue’s two stately halls.)

In January 2004, the Swedish chain First Hotels will open the 300-room First Hotel G, the company’s debut in Gothenburg. The property will have meeting space for 70, plus a bar and a bistro.
   The capital city’s largest hotel, the 532-room Clarion Hotel Stockholm, opened last May. The property has meeting space for 1,000 people and dining space for 700, as well as a pool and a health club; its bar is Stockholm’s latest hot spot.
   Also on Södermalm, the 99-room Rival Hotel opened in September in a building dating from 1937. A highlight is a reconstructed cinema that doubles as a conference hall for up to 700 people; it is available to private groups during the week, yet reserved for moviegoers on weekends. The hotel also features a restaurant and six meeting rooms.

Plans for a convention center and a concert hall are being discussed in Uppsala, a university town of 40,000 students 60 miles north of Stockholm. Several blueprints are being considered, with a final decision to be made in February. City officials want the center to be ready by the end of 2005. Groups coming to Uppsala should be sure to dine at Uppsala Castle, which was built in the 1540s.

Few visitors will soon forget an excursion to Swedish Lapland, with its indigenous people (the Sami), its reindeer and its famous IceHotel Jukkasjärvi. The hotel, in addition to 100 guest rooms made of ice, has traditional lodging for when the mercury plummets far too low for comfort. Also ice-free is a conference center hosting 50 people.
   Another ideal incentive idea is a four-day cruise along the quietly beautiful Göta Kanal, a series of canals, rivers and lakes linking Stockholm and Gothenburg. This is life in the slow lane, with small yet comfortable vessels holding 28 or fewer passengers. Every cabin in the fleet will be renovated this winter. A highlight is a stop at the Birka Viking City for a glimpse of how the ancient Swedes lived.
   By far the most fitting theme for an awards dinner in Stockholm takes the famed Nobel prize as inspiration, with the same venue, menu, dinnerware and immaculate service as is provided to Nobel prize winners. City Hall (Stadhuset) hosts up to 1,300 guests for the memorable gala.