One of the Swedish capital’s best known hotels has plenty of reasons why locals, including the royal family, go there to relax
It’s not often you see royals popping over for a local delicacy in your hotel, but at the First Hotel Reisen in Stockholm’s old quarter you just might.
Sweden’s King Carl Gustaf, Queen Silvia and close family sometimes drop in from the Royal Palace around the corner.
And it’s not just the royals that have a special place in their hearts for this hotel.
For many years, the First Hotel Reisen’s piano bar was the place to come if you wanted to see world-class musicians plying their trade. There’s now plans afoot to restore this feature.
It was also the favourite destination for the mother of the Norwegian developer who bought the hotel and is in the process of sprucing up the lounge area to reflect the diverse crowd that flock to this Stockholm institution.
One attraction of First Hotel Reisen is its fabulous waterside location which affords views across the Baltic Sea and Lake Mälaren or alternatively the alleys and rooftops of renaissance Stockholm in the Old Town on the other side.
The Vasa Museum, the contemporary photography gallery Fotografiska, and other attractions such as Abba The Museum are all nearby. Central Railway Station- with 25 a minute connection to the airport is only 15 minutes on foot.
Dating back to 1760, the hotel is actually two connected buildings that were used for loading and storing goods before they were shipped away.
It’s been a hotel since 1819 and in 1930 a grand façade, decorated with small sculptures, was added to give an imposing presence on the waterfront.
Enter into the lobby and you’re faced with sleek Swedish design, a hint of city chic that blends well with the older elements of the hotel.
From the restaurant you can watch various vessels plying back and forth while Stockholmers pedal furiously along cycle ways on the waterfront.
During my stay the atmospheric bar and lounge areas were filled with a crowd of New York culture seekers whose gregarious din filled every room.
Although Sweden was experiencing a heatwave in May it was quite possible to imagine how the wood-paneled rooms would be the perfect bolt hole on a snowy winter night, especially by the fireside in the old library.
For supper I had a delicious dish of meatballs with potato puree, lingonberries and pickled cucumber a local delicacy followed by cardamom baked rhubarb.
I then retreated to an extremely comfortable room, featuring polished wooden floors and exposed brickwork, and prepared for a run around the harbour the following morning.
Having lapped the nearby island of Skeppsholmen, which houses old fortifications and a modern art gallery, I arrived back at the hotel in time for breakfast which featured many Scandinavian specialties all the while taking in that view.
I then had time to explore the rest of the hotel including the spa found in a rustic double barrel vault that is actually part of Stockholm’s old city wall, dating back to the 1600s.
Elsewhere in the depths of the hotel you can find the handprint of one of the women that worked on the original building’s construction.
Perhaps the most extraordinary find of all is the dining room formed from the interior of SS Per Brahe, a ship that went under in 1918 taking all crew and passengers with her including the painter John Bauer and his family.
The ship was rescued in 1922, restored and brought back into service until the 1950s when its interior ended up at the First Hotel Reisen.
It’s in this hideaway that the Swedish royals come to discretely tuck into Scandinavian comfort food, something only a few locals were aware of. Until now, that is.