Perhaps the most remarkable statistic about Sweden is that the distance from the southern city of Malmö to the country’s northern border with Finland is slightly farther (1,250 miles) than that from Malmö to Rome (1,210 miles). Sweden is an unexpectedly big place — and yet has a population of just over 10 million people.
Stockholm feels unmistakably like a northern city, and indeed the Swedish capital lies at the same latitude (59 degrees north) as St. Petersburg, Russia. Afflicted with jet lag on the first night of a trip in early July, I was surprised to find that the sky was still quite bright at 2 a.m. and that the handsome buildings on the far side of the harbor were clearly visible from my bedroom window. A glance at a map, however, confirms that roughly two-thirds of Sweden — the vast, thinly populated region of Norrland — lies north of Stockholm. There you will find only remote ski lodges and a few one-of-a-kind properties, like the famous Icehotel, located inside the Arctic Circle, which is rebuilt each winter season from ice blocks hewed from the frozen river Torne. Then there is the Treehotel, located 610 miles directly north of Stockholm in Lapland, where seven architect-designed accommodations are set up to 30 feet above the ground in the forest canopy. (I briefly considered whether duty might demand a visit to the Treehotel, which styles itself a luxury property, but its communal shower block and the necessity of ascending to some rooms by a retractable metal ladder persuaded me otherwise.)
An exceptionally clean, stylish and attractive city, it is constructed on 14 major islands that are part of a vast archipelago stretching from Lake Mälaren to the Baltic Sea. The city’s landmark property is the venerable 280-room Grand Hôtel Stockholm, which has been at the center of the city’s social life since its debut in 1874. Today the Grand is deservedly famous both for the peerless lunchtime smörgåsbord at the Verandan restaurant and the Michelin-starred cuisine of chef Mathias Dahlgren. A one-minute walk away, the 46-room Lydmar Hotel provides an alternative for those who prefer smaller hotels. However, both properties are situated on the waterfront amid the downtown crowds, so on this trip I decided instead to go in search of tranquility and a degree of seclusion.