Abi Tottenham-Smith, SLH’s Head of Social Media, explores Scandinavia with four USA bloggers and Norwegian Airlines…
AT A GLANCE
In October, I took four USA bloggers to Sweden and Norway to experience some of the stunning hotels in our Scandinavian portfolio. The trip consisted of 2 nights in Stockholm, staying at the Bank Hotel on the city’s historic waterfront, and then 2 nights in Norway at Storfjord Hotel, a tranquil hideaway among the fjords of Alesund.
DAY 1: POPCORN SHRIMP & PIGGY BANK DESSERT
Landing on Monday afternoon, after a short flight with Norwegian from London Gatwick, I met the four bloggers (Krystal, Ana, Selena and Carley) in town for a delicious lunch at trendy restaurant, Asian Post Office (if you go, you HAVE to order a portion or two of the popcorn shrimp). Suitably stuffed, we couldn’t wait to start exploring the city- heading straight to Gamla Stan, the city’s old town, filled with cobbled streets and colorful buildings, the perfect backdrop for any photographer. A couple of hours of exploring the winding streets and getting lost in the antique shops of Gamla Stan, we headed back to our hotel, via the waterfront, of course, stopping for plenty of photo opportunities on the way.
SETTLE IN FOR THE NIGHT…
Bank Hotel is a grand, yet intimate former bank building which has recently undergone a full transformation into a vibrant hotel. The hotel’s piece de resistance is the charming Bonnie’s restaurant, situated in the former Bank Hall. Under the high glass ceiling, and filled with plush velvet banquette seating, parlour palm plants and the most epic chandeliers, Bonnie’s feels like it is straight out of a Wes Anderson movie. As dinner began on the first night, we soon realised that the food certainly paired well with the surroundings. The highlight, of course, was the piggy bank dessert, somewhat of a local attraction now. I won’t say any more… but make sure you order it.
DAY 2: HOME-FROM-HOME
The next morning, after a relaxed breakfast at the hotel, we headed to Fotografiska, the world-renowned photography museum which is one of Sweden’s most popular tourist destinations. We had a wonderful guided tour by Margita who gave us some incredible insights behind the exhibitions and was so knowledgeable about all the artwork. If you visit, make sure you download the museum’s app which brings the photographs to life and gives a whole different perspective to the art.
It was then time for lunch and this came courtesy of another very special SLH hotel – Ett Hem. Literally translating to ‘at home,’ Ett Hem is an early 20th century townhouse that has a relaxed and welcoming home-away-from-home feel. The 12 ultra-stylish rooms nail the Scandi design vibe and everywhere you turn is a picture-perfect spot. Lunch was hosted in the cosy conservatory room, looking on to the garden which was filled with autumn leaves – you can only imagine how idyllic it would be in the summer too. The food was another masterpiece, which began with homemade butter and a variety of homemade bread, ending with honey and bee pollen ice cream. Everything in between was sensational and all washed down with the hotel’s own white wine (I am not exaggerating – it was the best wine I have ever tasted).
A relaxed afternoon involved a bit more exploring of the city before heading out for dinner (even more food!) at L’Avventura. Another must-visit dining option- located on the premises of a former movie theater is Italian dining on a whole new level – think huge cheese wheels filled with pasta and show-y performance art. Certainly a place to experience and to spend a long winter evening.
DAY 3: FJORDS & FAIRYTALES IN NORWAY
The next morning, after a leisurely breakfast and a few photoshoots at Bank Hotel, we headed to the airport for the next part of the adventure – Norway. Our destination was Alesund and the beautiful Storfjord Hotel. Two very quick and easy flights with Norwegian (Stockholm to Oslo, Oslo to Alesund) and we arrived at Storfjord Hotel – a secluded Scandi-style hideaway on a wooded, fjord fringed hilltop, which felt like it was straight out of a fairytale. Arriving in time for dinner, we were treated to a 4 course dinner, complete with wine pairings which, paired with the cosy atmosphere and roaring fires, was the perfect combination for a peaceful night’s sleep.
DAY 4: GETTING INTO THE SWING OF THINGS…
Another day, another adventure. We were heading out on a boat trip through the fjords with our handsome guide for the day, Per Ove from 62 Nord. Once aboard the ‘Fjord Adventurer’ boat, we sped across the water taking in the breathtaking scenery and not believing our luck with the sunny weather, having been forecast rain. First stop on the adventure was an old goat farm, Christian-Gaard, only accessible form the water and a destination which has apparently become somewhat of an institution, hosting some of the best local festivals and parties in Alesund. From the rock festival to the ‘divorce’ festival… apparently there is something for everyone. But most exciting of all on this stop, had to be the swing. Forget swinging out onto the rice paddies in Bali, this swing looking out over the mountains and fjords has to be the most spectacular swing around…
After far too long taking photos and videos on the swing, much to Per Ove’s dismay, we headed through the Hjørundfjord fjord and to the enchanting Hotel Union Øye for our lunch stop. Since its opening in 1891, the hotel has housed many discerning travelers, memories and a few ghosts… if you want to hear the full ghost story of the hotel, head over to Krystal’s story here. Fully spooked, we took the boat back to the hotel, just in time for a dip and glass of prosecco in the outside Jacuzzi before sunset.
HA DET (GOODBYE IN NORWEGIAN)…
The perfect day in Norway ended with the perfect evening, enjoying another spectacular meal at Storfjord Hotel before cozying up in our respective forest view suites by the fire with a cup of chamomile tea and a homemade chocolate cookie.
And just like that, it was the last day of the trip. We sadly bid farewell to our Storfjord family (did I mention how exceptional all the staff are at Storfjord? There are too many to mention by name but each and every staff member was a delight, all overseen by the joyful General Manager, Benthe). We couldn’t leave Alesund without a trip into the town. Alesund is a beautiful little port town known for its art nouveau architecture and some of the best local coffee in Norway. Lunch came courtesy of the very cool Apotekergata No.5 who provided delicious seafood and stylish interiors, before we hopped in the taxi to the airport.
As I began the flight home, I was treated to the most spectacular views over the Norwegian mountains and fjord from the airplane, reminding me what a vast and beautiful country this is – now I know why Norway is consistently voted as one of the world’s happiest countries.
Photo credits: @krystal_bick @finduslost @carleyscamera @ananewyork