European heavyweights Paris, Venice and Florence may grab all the headlines when it comes to romantic city break destinations, but for those yearning for something different Stockholm is one of the coolest European city trips you could make, that also serves as a surprisingly romantic weekend break for two. Not an obvious choice, sure, but the Swedish capital has a lot to offer with a relaxed pace of life and Scandinavian charm.
Straddling 14 islands where the Baltic Sea meets Lake Malaren, Stockholm is a cosmopolitan city boasting hip design, gourmet restaurants, grand art galleries and candy-coloured buildings, as well as cool inner-city forests, a course of picturesque waterways and the winding cobblestone maze of the Gamla Stan old town.
You may be looking for cult Scandinavian design, hot fashion and fine dining; you may want to cruise the Stockholm archipelago by boat; or you may want to take romantic strolls around this sparsely populated city; but ultimately you can’t go wrong, Stockholm has the lot.
Where to stay: Hotel Hellsten
Whilst staying in a city famous for its cutting edge design, why not check in to one of the hottest designer hotels in the capital. Hotel Hellsten is nestled on a quiet street in the heart of Stockholm’s commercial hub, Norrmalm and Vasastaden, and is just a short walk from a plethora of great restaurants, bars and shops, as well as one block down from the Radmansgatan underground station.
Hellsten is a boutique hotel delight that effortlessly fuses the heritage of the 113-year-old building it’s housed in with contemporary art, furnishings and design. The 4-star family-owned guesthouse boasts 78 rooms, each with its own unique sense of style. Anthropologist owner Per Hellsten has jam-packed the rooms with a mixture of treasures from his travels including Chinese art, African artefacts and Asian antiques, as well as modern Swedish furnishings, creating a romantic, colourful and quirky look that’s anything but boring. Wooden beams in the loft-style rooms, porcelain stoves, crystal chandeliers and sumptuous red sofas feature heavily too, and all the rooms come complete with flat screen TVs, telephone and free wireless broadband internet.
The bathrooms are all top notch too, and are furnished with cool grey slate stone on the walls, heated floors, towel dryers, hairdryers and walk-in showers. Some have bath tubs too and there are even private saunas in two of the rooms, with a communal sauna and massage pool in the basement of the hotel.
A scrumptious continental breakfast is served in a conservatory at the rear, and drinks can be enjoyed in the hotel’s colonial-style bar with a jazz night every Thursday. There’s also a small gym in the basement should you wish to exercise during your stay.
Cosy yet luxurious and charming with personal touches that make it stand out, Hotel Hellsten offers a unique experience with an exceptional standard of comfort, design and service that will have you yearning to return again and again.
Hotel Hellsten, Luntmakargatan 68, SE-113 51 Stockholm. Prices start at £75 to £150 per night for a small single room. There are five categories of room at the hotel: junior suites, superior, roof top, singles and cottage. Call +46-(0)8-661 86 00, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit hellsten.se to book.
Where to eat:
Note to all foodies out there: if you dine out in Stockholm, you really are spoilt for choice. A new influx of Michelin-starred chefs has sexed up the city’s culinary scene where you’ll find everything from classic Swedish dishes and French, Italian and Spanish fare all the way through to Ethiopian, Japanese and Korean – there really is something to suit all tastes.
In the Old Town alone you’ll find many superb eateries, including the opulent French restaurant Le Rouge (17 Osterlanggatan). Run by two of Stockholm’s hottest chefs, Melker Andersson and Danyel Couet, the menu features classic French bistro-style dishes such as steak and dauphinoise potatoes. The setting is worthy of a visit alone, with the arched underground carven decorated with red drapes, velvet furnishings and twinkling chandeliers for an old-school cabaret feel.
Another Stockholm favourite is Riche (4 Birger Jarlsgatan) in the Norrmalm and Vasastaden district that serves as a hip restaurant and bar. The menu is jam-packed with culinary delights including that yummy Stockholm classic: Swedish meatballs.
Also try Bakfickan (Karl XII’s Torg) on the southern tip of Norrmalm and Vasastaden set in the city’s opera house - think old school waiters and counter-style dining - for more scrumptious Swedish fare.
How to get there:
SAS airlines fly daily from London Heathrow to Stockholm’s Arlanda airport. One way flights inclusive of taxes in economy class from London to Stockholm start at £71.
Flying with kids? No problem. SAS is a child-friendly airline and great for families making the trip to Stockholm. SAS offers both on-ground and in-flight services specially suited for parents with children. Services include 25% off the price of children's tickets, a kids' corner in the airport lounge, free pram usage, special child meals and free toys onboard.
Visit flysas.com to book.