Last year we traveled extensively through Denmark and Norway, so our recent Scandinavian trip took us primarily to Sweden. Safe and well-organized, with handsome cities, delicious New Nordic cuisine and friendly English-speaking inhabitants, it is not a country that is difficult to like. However, huge tracts of northern Sweden are sparsely inhabited tundra, while south of Stockholm much of the land is densely forested and dotted with innumerable lakes. Civilization is found primarily around the coast. And in general, due perhaps to Sweden’s famously egalitarian society, there are surprisingly few luxury hideaways of the type found in other European countries, most notably in France and Italy.
We began our journey in Stockholm, a stylish city set in the heart of a vast, unspoiled archipelago. Rather than staying downtown, we went in search of tranquility on the island of Skeppsholmen, a serene enclave joined to the city center by a bridge. The Hotel Skeppsholmen is contained within two creamy-yellow 17th-century buildings, which once served as housing for naval officers and their families. Though not without failings, this proved to be a true hideaway in a beautiful setting with an agreeably bohemian atmosphere. Our next stop was across town in the upscale residential neighborhood of Östermalm. There, Ett Hem (“A Home” in Swedish) was built in 1910 as a substantial private residence on a quiet street, a 30-minute walk from the Old Town. Now a 12-room boutique hotel shielded by high brick walls, it provides exceptionally stylish public areas, individually furnished accommodations, an engaging young staff and delicious food. In many ways, Ett Hem is the definition of a modern urban hideaway.
A trip to Visby on the Baltic island of Gotland proved memorable, but, alas, we failed to discover a property of sufficient quality. However, our luck changed in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second city. There, we greatly enjoyed a stay at Upper House, a modern 53-room boutique hotel that occupies floors 18 through 25 of a tower. Aside from panoramic views and a Michelin one-star restaurant, the property’s chief distinction is its superlative spa.
Following a visit to the enchanting nearby island of Marstrand, a world-renowned yachting center, we headed south to Copenhagen. Located on a quiet side street, yet only a short walk from Kongens Nytorv, the city’s largest square, the stylish new 54-room Hotel Sanders is set within a row of townhouses and is owned by Alexander Kølpin, the former principal dancer of The Royal Danish Ballet. Copenhagen has long lacked a superior boutique hotel, but the deficiency has now been remedied.
This month, we also have extensive coverage of the unspoiled French island of Corsica. The “Île de Beauté,” as the French call it, offers picturesque towns, each with an intriguingly different personality, an astonishing variety of landscapes and ecosystems, magnificent beaches and superb food and wine. During a road trip from Cap Corse in the north to the southern city of Bonifacio, we stayed in several delightful properties, two of which, the 29-room Misincu hotel in Cagnano and the 41-room U Capu Biancu, located eight miles northeast of Bonifacio, we can now recommend with enthusiasm.