Bastions of Hospitality for Nobel Winners and the Noble of Budget
During the second week in December, the Grand Hotel hosts the Nobel Prize winners and their entourages, but everyone can enjoy the same elite hospitality year-round at Sweden’s best hotel, standing proudly on the waterfront and in the very center of town.
Nonguests too should stop at this 1874 landmark of old-world ambience, if only for a meal in the glassed-in Grand Veranda overlooking the harbor (known for its legendary smörgåsbord and homemade pastries) or a tipple at the classic Cadier Bar.
The Grand is privately owned – a fact that seems underlined by the personable ambience and the management’s sacrosanct credo that each arrival be treated as a “holy guest.” Some of Europe’s most demanding palates return regularly to the hotel’s refined Franska Matsalen (French Dining Room), whose candelabra-lit setting is pure magic. Magnificent nighttime views across the water to the illuminated Royal Palace accompany an over-the-top dinner and Sweden’s most impressive wine cellar. If you still have any kroner left, ask for a room with a waterside view, then book your next meal at the nearby Operakällaren.
Unabashedly luxurious in its location within the Royal Opera House, right across from the Royal Palace, the Operakällaren is one of Scandinavia’s most famous restaurants, a landmark since it opened in 1787 by decree of King Gustav III (whose 1792 assassination in the Opera House during a fancy dress ball was the inspiration for Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera).
It has since evolved into a complex of many restaurants that vary in formality and price, but the main Belle Epoque dining room is the draw, overseen by co-owner Stefan Catenacci, culinary adviser to the king and queen of Sweden.
This is the city’s most theatrical venue for an evening’s repast, featuring plush Oriental rugs, carved oak wall and ceiling panels, once-risqué murals, extravagant crystal chandeliers, and service as impeccably polished as the silverware. A fillet of tender young reindeer and seasonal game dishes highlight the Swedish and international cuisine. The wine list is excellent, but consider toasting the long summer days with Stenborgare, the restaurant’s own schnapps.