Story and photos by Bo Zaunders
Can you imagine a hotel greeting you with kayaks and bicycles the moment you enter? Or where are you likely to find a large net with pillows high above the reception desk on which you can stretch out in utter comfort and reboot yourself after a strenuous day of sightseeing? Or where - this being Sweden - can you anticipate being expertly guided by a lifestyle concierge from Australia?
Say hello to Downtown Camper by Scandic, a new hotel in the middle of Stockholm, declared to be the perfect base for intrepid urban explorers. It may seem an incongruity: a hotel celebrating nature and camping in the heart of the Swedish capital. But there it is, and it appears to be working very well, indeed.
Getting off the elevator to go to our room, Roxie, my wife and I were not altogether surprised to see a large wooden ping-pong table. We later discovered that there is one on every floor. As for our room, it was cozy, comfortable, and quite roomy, with walls and fabrics in dark smoky colors. It even had a sizeable window seat, soon to become Roxie’s favorite spot for curling up with a book.
It may have been off-season - late October - but there was no indication of such at Downtown Camper. Lots of people had gathered at the Campfire Bar & Grill inside the main entrance. Casual and lively, serving modern European brasserie food, it appeared to be something of gathering place for locals as well as travelers. This being Wednesday, we would later meet there for a Camper Dinner, a weekly event during which a small group of people would congregate around a community table for a special presentation of food and drink.
Before that I visited a Downtown Camper highpoint - literally and figuratively. It’s called The Nest and is described as a rooftop wellness area. Located on the ninth floor, it features a long outdoor terrace with a heated pool from which you have a stunning view of the city. Here you can also treat yourself to yoga classes, Swedish massage, or to a sauna, which on the outside, looks like a giant bird’s nest. Lingering next to the pool I saw people enjoy themselves to the fullest. Soaking in water, which is kept heated to a comfortable 38 degrees all year, they not only savored a bird’s view of the city, notably of the City Hall and the Old Town, several of them indulged in wine and tidbits from the Nest cocktail lounge.
As for washing away stress and make you feel on top of the world, Downtown Camper was doing a good job.
It was 6 pm, and time for the Camper Dinner. Eight of us sat together at the group table. Champagne and truffled popcorn, presented by Niclas, our special host, began our 5-dish meal. Delicious Vendace roe with smoked sour cream, dill, and onion followed. Then came chanterelles with thyme, egg yolk, and – very Swedish – Västerbotten cheese, served with a glass of Sonoma Coast Chardonnay.
We continued with a generous common platter of venison, enhanced with corn, kale and Jalapeno pepper, and with it came a bottle of Chianti Classico. By the time we reached the cloudberry dessert, everybody was having a great time. Designed to be not only an exquisite dining experience, the Camper Dinner is meant to offer an opportunity to meet new friends.
And so it did.
Bicycles, skateboards and kayaks could be rented at the reception. In a conversation with Kristian Hell, the lifestyle concierge, I was also told of daily activities, such as group walks, workshops, movie and DJ nights. Much of his work involved giving interesting inside tips on happenings in the city. Which is a reminder of how much in the very center of busy Stockholm this hotel is. Despite this being not exactly high season, a lot was going on - theatrical productions, concerts, the reopened National Museum, new cafés and restaurants; the streets were not overcrowded but full of action, and then there are all those waterways.
As we checked out of the hotel, I fantasized about our next visit to the capital. Maybe I’ll take a kayak through some of the waterways that make Stockholm the “Venice of the North.”
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