Land of the Noble
Ten thousand items of silverware, 7000 pieces of porcelain, 5600 glasses. 1300 place settings. Orrefors crystal, French wines, fine Swedish cuisine. Ladies in designer gowns, men in white tie and tails, pretty princesses sporting dazzling tiaras. Absolutely no room for sartorial disasters where protocol is paramount. The Nobel Banquet, never lacking for pomp and pageantry is Stockholm’s most prestigious dinner party held at the City Hall every December. Would dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel have approved of the splendour and fuss? We will never know. But for all of Sweden, the Nobel Prize ceremony and its accompanying glitz will always be prized.
Standing as we are in the very same space, bereft of a chair or a table at the moment, you have only to check YouTube to witness the transformation. The City Hall, with its curving staircases and distinctive arches, is one of the country’s best loved edifices and its 106-metre tower offers a really breathtaking view of the city.
Stockholm, built on 14 islands, connected by 57 bridges is a city with its nose in the air. Not without reason. White boats ply across rippling, blue waters that you can drink from; parks and green areas throw their lush mantles across cobblestone streets; gourmet restaurants jostle atmospheric coffee bars; winter nightclubs turn into summer cafes; unique rooftop tours beckon the adventurous; Fashion Weeks, Design Weeks, Art Weeks, abound; and for the diehard H&M follower, this is where the collections are cut!
Walking through the 13th century winding alleys of the golden-hued Gamla Stan, one of the best preserved Old Towns in the world, we find ourselves outside the 600-room, Baroque-style Royal Palace, official residence of King Carl XVI Gustaf, where we stop to chat with a petite, hazel-eyed Royal Guard. Twenty-three years old, she is one of a handful of females in the Swedish Armed Forces and loves her job because she gets to indulge in her passion for riding. Post our palace amble, we spot her atop a horse soundly playing her part in the daily ‘changing of the guard’ parade.
Then back to Nobel-spotting, we stop for respite and repast at Bistro Nobel, the Vienna-inspired museum café where among other notables, regular patron, Elias Canetti went on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. With its delightfully casual ambience, the café that spills outdoors in summer, serves up robust Scandinavian fare and the exclusively prepared, Banquet-anointed Nobel Ice cream. If you turn your chair upside down – and nobody will stare – discover a visiting Laureate’s signature scrawled across its bottom. The adjoining museum, while showcasing the obvious, is also home to a bubble chamber for children, a trivia hunt, workshops and a lovely, little shop which has select pieces of the Nobel dinner service and the ‘tippe-top’, the toy that was a real source of puzzle to Nobel Laureate Niels Bohr.
And who can leave Stockholm without doffing a hat to ABBA and saying thank you for the music? At the newly opened museum housed in the Swedish Music Hall of Fame, watch nostalgic videos of the rock stars of pop and sing along with holograms of Agnetha, Benny, Bjorn and Frida. Wander through hallways displaying their guitars and drums and marvel at the opulent over-the-top costumes. Definitely buy the fridge magnet.
As dusk catches us unawares and we gather our coats closer, our host leads us to a buzzing 19th century hall for our last supper in Stockholm. Berns Asiatiska, the first Chinese restaurant in the ‘40s, now encompassing a range of Pan-Asian flavours, piles on the platters of sushi, dim sums, roasts, meatballs, noodles and more, within sumptuous interiors that resemble a chaotic movie set. Listen to the sharp sounds drifting up from the dance floor, while nursing your wine and biting into ginger-infused dumplings. And feel inspired by a city which nurtured one man’s ideal of ideas that changed the world.
Home to the Royal Warship Vasa which went down on its maiden voyage just outside Stockholm in 1628. Salvaged after 333 years, the world’s only 17thcentury preserved ship, adorned with hundreds of wooden sculptures takes the viewer back into time.
Standing proud in downtown Stockholm’s business and shopping district, the 19th century original structure boasts chic, minimalist interiors by the celebrated design trio Claesson Koivisto Rune. View from the room: the most attractive square in the city.
At -5°C all year around, the world’s first permanent ice bar with interiors (and glasses) fashioned from northern Sweden’s Torne River. Slip into oversized hooded capes and gloves offered at the door and experience 40 minutes of chill. Do try the vodka-mango-chilli Lovikka and the pineapple-orange, blue curacao Northern Light.
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