Different in a good way: getting to know Stockholm

Last week I attended the VQ Knowledge and Strategy Forum and had some business meetings in Stockholm. As usual, I squeezed in as many meetings as I could, and this meant I did a lot of walking around Sweden’s beautiful capital city, but no sightseeing! I was entertained by my wonderful Swedish business contacts, some of whom are becoming friends as well and had a proper girly catch-up with my lovely friend Mia.

I have written detailed reports of the event elsewhere, for example here http://www.theorangerag.com/blog/_archives/2011/10/11/4917503.html#1533750 

Therefore this posting focuses on Stockholm impressions: travel, shopping and restaurants.

Express train

There really is no point in taking a taxi from the airport to central Stockholm. The Arlanda Express  takes just 20 minutes from Arlanda Airport to Stockholm Central Station. You can buy a return ticket at the airport, on the platform, or on the train. The environmentally friendly electric train is fast, comfortable and luxurious. All the announcements are in Swedish and English – it feels luxurious and is a really great way to arrive in Stockholm!

When you get to Stockholm Central Station, the easiest way around is the metro or tunnelbana which has 100 stations. Again it’s pretty easy to navigate. You can purchase tickets and smartcards at SL centres – there’s one at Central Station – or even at the barriers. You can get one, three and seven-day travelcards or buy individual tickets. I bought a carnet of eight tickets, but I didn’t use them all as the weather was lovely and I walked nearly everywhere.

Hotel Rival and dinner in Mariatorget

I stayed at Hotel Rival http://www.rival.se/en/default.aspx which initially appealed because it is owned by Benny Andersson from ABBA!  It’s a converted cinema in Mariatorget, only four metro stops from Central Station. It is a nice walk, but too far with a suitcase. Hotel Rival is really lovely – classic Swedish decor with an eclectic, trendy twist. Hotel Rival has thought of everything – wireless internet connectivity, a destination bar and restaurant and even cuddles – there’s a teddy bear in every room.


Stockholm felt cold after London’s Indian summer, but Hotel Rival is warm in temperature and atmosphere. The rooms are spacious and comfortable and the staff are friendly, but not intrusive. I bought these stylish mugs and tray.


Mariatorget is Stockholm’s equivalent of Notting Hill Gate – cool, fashionable and full of wonderful shops and restaurants. I didn’t get a chance to look at the shops, but one of my lovely business contacts who I had met in London and his equally charming colleague took me out to dinner. It was great to have the opportunity to get to know them a bit better and I hope we will keep in touch We went to Sjogras, a friendly neighbourhood restaurant in a classy, elegant neighbourhood which serves modern Swedish cuisine. It was full – even on a Tuesday night – I recommend it, and it’s definitely worth booking http://www.sjogras.com/ 

VQ Knowledge and Strategy Forum

The following day I attended the VQ Knowledge and Strategy Forum conference at Stockholm’s Grand Hotel.


This is an excellent venue for an event and this one was attended by over 130 delegates from Swedish and international law firms. The keynote address by Professor Richard Susskind, raised many interesting questions and the subsequent heated panel debate was reported in the local press! However it was even better to be there – participants’ body language said it all. Thanks are due to Helena Hallgarn and Ann Björk of VQAB for an interesting and useful day with thought-provoking presentations and excellent networking. It was good to meet leading lights in Swedish law firms and catch up with legal IT providers including Autonomy (now part of HP of course), Recommind, OpenText, BusinessIntegrity and Millnet and hear presentations from Rob Ameerun of Legal IT Professionals and Chris Bull of Edge International, among others.

Villa Godthem – a destination restaurant in the woods!

I had to tear myself away from the post-conference reception to meet friends at Villa Godthem http://villagodthem.se/en/ one of Stockholm’s newest destination restaurants. This is a 19th century villa in a woodland setting in the city centre. It is a dark and glamorous place with a superb 1970s style bar. We drank champagne and lounged on big velvet sofas around an open fire – it felt like winter, but in a good way! The food is served on planks of wood! Steaks are a speciality – though the fish was also excellent. My host had read this blog – recognised my bracelet and we talked about irreality. Great conversation in a theatrical setting! Godthem made me think of Gotham, and Batman (in his Bruce Wayne guise) would not have looked out of place here!


Hotel Rival – cocktails and catch-up

The next day, after a full day of meetings, I had arranged to meet my friend Mia to sample the delights of the Hotel Rival bar and restaurant. My last interview was in the central shopping area and my charming interviewee suggested that I walk back to the Rival. He showed me a picturesque route around the harbour and through the old town. It was a sunny evening and I took some photos along the way. This one is an example of  Swedish English, or Swenglish, as it is known. English is widely spoken in Stockholm. You can ask for directions in almost any shop, cafe or station. Everyone I encountered was helpful and friendly. This restaurant sign shows that Swenglish can even include a charming sense of humour, which put me to shame as all I have learnt is hello – Hej (pronounced Hey!) and thank you – Tack (pronounced Tack!).


Mia and I had cocktails at Hotel Rival’s popular bar which has an eclectic cocktail list. I tried a rhubarb martini! Again, it was different in a good way! This is the view from our table on the gallery – there are bars on two levels.


I had a business lunch at Pontus! http://www.pontusfrithiof.com/useruploads/files/pt-bg1-eng.pdf a popular Swedish restaurant in the city centre which has just reopened after a major refurbishment. Although I was focused more on the discussion than the meal, I recommend Pontus! for its unusual and cool decor, extensive menu and lively, bustling atmosphere.


Coffee in Stockholm is excellent, which was good news for me as a coffee addict and because I was out on the town for three consecutive nights. Most cafes have good strong coffee and many offer a terrific selection of cakes and sweets. Here are some from the cafe at Central Station.


Waynes coffee shop chain is like Starbucks with an upgrade! Fabulous coffee – you can get espresso, cappuccino, mocha as well as different variations of latte, tea, smoothies and a wide selection of sandwiches, cakes and sweets. It even has its own branded chocolate.


Swedish design shops are found throughout the city centre. I particularly liked Stockhome http://www.stockhome.se/ which offers all sorts of stylish and colourful items. I noticed the multicoloured toilet paper…this photo is from Stockhome’s website.


As a technophile, I also loved the Urbanears multicoloured headphones. I couldn’t decide which colour and they are quite expensive, but I still might get some because you can buy them online here http://www.urbanears.com/headphones

Three days in Stockholm flew by and soon it was time to get back on the Arlanda Express. I sat on the train reflecting on a successful trip, excellent meetings and superb hospitality, meeting existing and new friends and contacts and being royally entertained, and feeling some regret at packing my schedule so tightly that I had little time to explore Sweden’s beautiful and classy capital city.

Here are some (arty?) photos I took from the train during a spectacular Nordic sunset.


One more travel tip

I discovered at the airport that you cannot bring Swedish duty free alcohol back to the UK. I was going to buy some vodka as a gift, and instead chose this. It may look like it says it’s not chocolate, but it definitely is!


Goodbye Stockholm – I hope it is au revoir, not adieu.


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