Sweden offers something for everyone this winter
News from Åre for ski enthusiasts
Visitors to the popular ski resort of Åre in northern Sweden this winter will have more accommodation to choose from with a new design-led hotel, a great value hostel and a charming chalet opening for the 2008/9 season.
Copperhill Mountain Lodge is being built at the very summit of Mount Förberget by the same architect who designed Bill Gates’ home, Peter Bohlin, and is due to open on 8 December 2008 (copperhillodge.se). Already named as a member of the prestigious Design Hotels group, the lodge will be the first design-led offering in Åre and will boast 112 rooms and suites styled by interior design firm Koncept.
The design throughout the hotel has been inspired by the area’s copper mining history, with the exception of the spa which has a Sami theme. The hotel offers ski-in ski-out facilities, bars, restaurants, conference facilities, a helipad and its own ski lift. Double rooms start from 922 Euro per week, based on two sharing.
Also new for this season is the great value Hotell Åre Torg in the main village square (hotellaretorg.se). Ideally suited to independent travellers on a budget, each hostel-style room has four beds which can either be booked together as a room for four people or separately for individual travellers. Prices this winter start from only 240 SEK (approximately £20) per person per night.
Tour operator Neilson (neilson.co.uk) is the only UK tour operator to include Åre in its 2008-9 programme and has added a brand new chalet for this season. The Swedish-style Chalet Snowvilla, which sleeps 8 to 11 people, has a cosy, homely atmosphere and is in a prime spot just 500m from the centre of the village and 600m from the nearest lift. After a long day on the slopes, guests can relax in the chalet’s private sauna and enjoy a gourmet dinner served by the chalet’s live-in staff. Breakfast and afternoon tea are also included in the price, with one week starting from £505 per person, including return flights from London Gatwick to Ostersund.
Also new for the 2008-9 season, Skistar Åre has launched Snowflake Club (snöflingeklubben) which offers child-minding for young ones when their parents want to take to the pistes alone, making the resort more family friendly than ever before (skistar.com). Activities range from storytelling and drawing to tobogganing and snowman making as well as ski lessons.
News from Swedish Lapland
Visitors to the Icehotel in Swedish Lapland this winter can travel with an eased conscience as the hotel is working jointly with the Swedish energy provider Gavle Energi to make the hotel carbon negative by using wind energy, bio fuel and solar power.
What’s more, specialist operator Discover the World (discoverlapland.co.uk) has introduced a Traditional Lapland package for this season where guests spend one night in a snow room at the Icehotel and two nights in log cabins in the forest with views of the Northern Lights and enjoying Sami meals served by a roaring log fire. Prices for this package start from £1,138 per person for three nights, including direct flights from London Heathrow to Kiruna, transfers and accommodation.
More adventurous travellers might want to take part in Discover the World’s new self-drive Saab Lapland Explore package. Designed for those with a passion for driving and the desire for a challenge, the seven-night trip starts at the Icehotel and covers more than 800km across Lapland, passing forests and lakes en-route to the quaint Norwegian town of Henningsvaer. The package starts from £1,496 per person including flights and accommodation. Those who would rather sample a taster of the Saab Ice-driving can instead base themselves at the Icehotel and do a four-hour excursion in a Saab 9-3 Sport Combi for £297 as a driver or £104 as a passenger.
Other new excursions available in Swedish Lapland this year include ‘Ranger Racing’ in four-wheel electric buggies, ice fishing, ice diving, ten pin bowling on ice, curling and ice skating.
Discover the setting for the BBC’s autumn Kurt Wallander detective series in Skåne
Internationally acclaimed Swedish author Henning Mankell will become a household name in the UK when the new BBC adaptation of his bestseller crime novels featuring inspector Kurt Wallander hits our screens at the end of November. The series was directed by BAFTA nominated Philip Martin who was behind Prime Suspect and produced by and stars Kenneth Brannagh. Filming took place earlier this year in the picturesque town of Ystad in Skåne, the southernmost province of Sweden where Mankell fans can book a Wallander Break which includes accommodation, dinner and refreshments in well-known Wallander settings from SEK 810 (approximately £68) per person, per night. To book, visit ystad.se.
World’s first Jumbo Jet Hostel in Stockholm
For something more unusual, the world’s first Jumbo Jet Hostel is set to open at Uppsala, near Arlanda airport, in mid-December 2008 (jumbohostel.com). Businessman Oscar Diös has been given permission to operate the jet as a 25-room hostel, with the jet staying firmly on the ground. Just a ten-minute walk from the departure hall and with beds from as little as £22 per night, the hostel is ideal for guests with a very early flight the next day.
The three-bed rooms are approximately six square metres in size, and each one has a flat-screen TV where guests can watch TV or, if they choose, the departure times for all flights from the airport. All rooms offer a shower and toilet in the corridor, apart from a few rooms upstairs which boast their own en-suite shower and WC. The pièce de résistance of the hostel has to be the suite in the converted cockpit which offers panoramic views of the airport, with the controls left in tact, ideal for anyone who wants to pretend to be a pilot for the day.
For those who don’t want to stay the night, the hostel also offers a café serving breakfast, coffee and basic meals to visitors and guests, as well as tours where people can explore the plane and enjoy the view from the walkway on the jumbo jet’s wing.
Christmas in Sweden
A trip to Sweden in winter wouldn’t be complete without a browse at the Christmas markets in the country’s major towns and cities.
From 14 November to 23 December 2008, Christmas bargain hunters will find more than 80 rustic market stalls and shops selling arts and crafts and festive foods at Gothenburg’s Liseberg theme park - the largest Christmas market in Scandinavia (goteborg.com). What’s more, throughout the festive season the park will be decorated with almost five million twinkling lights and 700 Christmas trees, and will boast an ice rink complete with ice bar to add to the seasonal atmosphere.
The city’s architect-designed ‘Lane of Light’ which runs more than 3km through the city centre from the theme park to the city’s art museum will be bigger than ever before, with a film and light show displayed on the art museum throughout the festive period.
There will be several Christmas markets throughout Malmö this winter, such as the children’s Christmas at Malmöhus Castle on 30 November with music and entertainment for the whole family or the open-air traditional Christmas market at Gustav Adolf’s Square, selling handicrafts, food and Christmas confectionary from 30 November to 23 December.
For those in town between 5 and 7 December, the traditional Christmas market at Katrinetorp manor house is well worth a visit, with stalls selling gifts and handicrafts as well as dancing around the Christmas tree, live entertainment and choir music. For more information visit malmo.com.
From the end of November there will be nine Christmas markets throughout Stockholm and the archipelago with treats on offer including Swedish Christmas sweets, smoked sausages, reindeer meat and traditional glögg (mulled wine). Arguably the two most popular are the traditional market in Stockholm’s old town (Gamla Stan) which runs from 24 November until 23 December and the Christmas market at Skansen, the world’s oldest open-air museum, which will take place on 29-30 November and 6-7 December 2008. For more information visit stockholmtown.com.
Meet Father Christmas at Santa World in Dalarna
Set deep in a snowy forest and surrounded by frozen lakes, Santa World (tomteland.se) is a magical winter wonderland in Dalarna where children can visit Santa in his house, see the elves at work in the workshop and even meet Santa’s Reindeer.
The park will open for the winter season on 15 November and visitors will be likely to bump into other magical characters during their visit such as a living Christmas tree, a witch, trolls, the lady of the wood, Dusty the Snowman and the King and Queen of Winter. Dalarna is situated about four hours north of Stockholm, easily accessibly by train or car.
Ski in central Stockholm
Visitors to Stockholm this winter will be able to enjoy a spot of skiing thanks to the opening of Skistar’s Hammarbybacken skiing complex last season (skistar.com). Conveniently located by Hammarby Sjostad station, it’s a case of hopping on a train from the centre of the city and walking to the lifts with your skis under your arm. Thanks to the new snow-cannon system for the 2008-9 season there will be enough snow to open the slopes as soon as there have been a few days with temperatures five degrees below zero.
There are four slopes in the complex named after Skistar’s ski resorts in northern Sweden: Åre, Vemdalen, Trysil and Sälen, and the centre has capacity for 2,400 people per hour on the 750m-long slopes. First-timers can learn in the beginner ski-school and all ski equipment can be hired on site. Skiers and boarders can take a break from the action at ‘Cliff on the Slope’ which serves waffles, simple hot meals, buns and cakes.
Mercer’s 2008 cost of living index proves Sweden is not too expensive
Contrary to people’s perception, Stockholm is now the cheapest Scandinavian capital city, according to Mercer’s 2008 cost of living index (mercer.com/costofliving). Stockholm is ranked no. 31, down from 23 last year, with London at no.3, Oslo at no.4, Copenhagen at no.7 and Helsinki at no.21. Sweden’s other major cities, such as Gothenburg and Malmö, do not even feature in the list of the World’s top 50 cities, smashing stereotypes that Sweden is a prohibitively expensive place to visit.
For more information about travel to Sweden, log on to Visitsweden.com.