We had economy class (SAS GO) tickets on a non-stop flight LA to Stockholm. At the airport they offer upgrades to SAS PLUS – their premium economy – for $117. (Business class was sold out but if available can be purchased upon check in too, for about $500.)
The upgrade provided noticeably more leg room, better meal service with better presentation, and free WiFi (not that we could really get it working).
Meals on SAS were edible – not bad, not great… The entertainment screen on the back of the seat was a good size and easy to navigate. (Our return flight, via Chicago, had no screens in Plus, and iPads were handed out.) Selections were not very esciting (not as good as many of the better airlines). There was a US plug at each seat for charging devices in SAS Plus.
Upon arriving in Arlanda Airport, it’s a breeze to whisk through Customs (the agents seem to enjoy meeting visitors and returning citizens, and had laughs with them and gabbed here and there – they made a warm welcome I haven’t seen to this degree before from Customs clearance.
You can then take the elevator down to the Arlanda Express train station underground. Luggage carts are readily available. The train is very easy to get on and off with luggage, and takes about 20 minutes, making one stop enroute. The train runs a few times each hour and the seats comfortable. There are electric sockets at each seat to charge your devices.
I purchased tickets for the Arlanda Express train online in advance (tickets are good for the day on any train), and the earlier you purchase the more of a discount you can get – I believe up to 30% off. The train ends at the Central Station downtown, convenient for anyone staying in the city center. Taxis are easy to get from there to your hotel.
When we jumped into our taxi, the driver insisted on giving us each a chocolate! I think it’s the first time a taxi driver has offered me a gift! Nice welcome!
We transferred to the Radisson Blu Strand Hotel, which is literally just behind the famous Grand Hotel, facing a harbor. (Stockholm is on a series of islands surrounded by water.) The hotel opened in 1912 for the Summer Olympics that was held here, and they are presently beginning some major upgrading.
We were given room 901 in the Tower near the top floor, which we thought was great, until we got into the elevator which only went up to the 8th floor. Little did we know. We headed up a narrow spiral staircase – with luggage in tow -- to the rooms on the 9th and 10th floor. (Ours was the only room on the 9th, on a landing, with the entry to the 10th floor rooms just three steps beyond, with another stairwell! )
The hotel should have advised us of the stairs to the 9th floor and taken our luggage. However, there were a a few interns working in the hotel, just hired for the summer season, who were not on top of things. Staffing at the front counter was limited, and there was no valet on duty at 3PM, the usual check-in time for the hotel.
Our deluxe room was very spacious with a king bed two chairs, a small writing desk, and a decent closet area. Even better was the view on two sides, overlooking the harbor and Stockholm’s attractive old buildings. The hotel’s location is quite fine. It’s three long blocks from Old Town, two blocks to the National Museum (presently closed for major renovations), and about four long blocks to the Modern Museum. The bathroom was a bit dated, and had a shower/tub combo. Bath amenities were simple, and one very small soap bar was provided. I’d rate the hotel 4-star+.
The restaurant area was spacious, and the breakfast service was very good, with plenty of choices, attentive service and great coffee.
Stockholm, of course, is a fabulous city to visit, and with all the interest and travel to the European continent, it’s a shame more Americans don’t head up to Scandinavia. There may be some “drawbacks,” such as dealing with local currencies (Finland is on the Euro but Denmark, Sweden and Norway are not), and prices are generally somewhat higher than on the Continent. But likewise, there’s many reasons to visit: for foodies, the current Nordic cuisine craze is worth the visit, with the world’s best restaurant, Noma, based in Copenhagen, and a number of other fine dining establishments, some featuring former Noma chefs, available. Our splurge was at Frantzen, in Gamla Stan (Old Town), and which will be covered separately.
There is a lot to see and do in the city, depending on one’s interests. My top draws in Stockholm are the incredibly well done Vasa Museum (with the 17th century restored galleon), the Modern Museum, the National Museum, the City Hall with its Gold Room, Fotografiska, the fine Photography Museum and roaming about Old Town and the Royal Palace. The Scandinavians have a very fine sense of design and it’s evident throughout, and a few cities have Design Museums. On the nearby island of Djurgarden is the ABBA Museum as well as Skansen, an outdoor park that recreates Swedish life in a bygone day. Families with younger children may consider Grona Lund, the amusement park. Art lovers should consider a day trip to Millesgarden, the home of the great sculptor whose work can be found here and there in the States. Ferries offer transport between islands and are a nice way to view this beautiful city on the water. A day trip to an island or two in Stockholm’s archipelago would also be a fun trip.
Stockholm has a city card that provides reduced or free admissions and transportation in the city, and may be worth it if you plan to do a lot – it’s best to calculate costs, but even if it doesn't represent a savings, the convenience can be well worth it.