Now that it's linked by the Øresund Bridge with Denmark, Sweden is becoming more closely allied with the Continent. It's a trend that began when it entered the European Union and one that has continued aggressively postmillennium. Stockholm in particular no longer seems isolated in the remote north -- it's become a cosmopolitan city in its own right.
Immigrants are also changing the face of Sweden. Interspersed among all those light-skinned blond and blonde locals are newly arrived visitors from such places as Turkey, Eastern Europe, and even the Sahara. Immigrants are spreading out and settling not just in Stockholm and Gothenburg but also in some of the country's smaller villages and towns.
As it moves deeper into the millennium, Sweden still clings to its krona as a mode of currency, although more and more commercial concerns are lobbying for Sweden to fall under the euro umbrella. Who knows what results will be revealed whenever the currency issue is put to a vote again?
Hotels -- Reopening after 2 years of a major restoration, Scandic Anglais, Humlegardsgatan 23 (tel. 08/517-340-11; www.scandichotels.com), has been given a new lease on life. The highlight of the hotel is now the seventh-floor terrace bar overlooking a panoramic view of Stockholm, which is especially dramatic at night. Rooms are decorated in warm earth tones and wood-laminated floors have been installed throughout.
The top furniture designers of Scandinavia, both past and living today, are represented in the decor of the Clarion Hotel Sign, Östra Järnvägsgatan 35 (tel. 08/676-98-00), a chic bastion of taste. Bedrooms are showcases -- yet also imbued with grand comfort -- and on the eighth floor is one of the finest spas in the city.
Pärlan, Skepparegatan 27 (tel. 08/663-70-70), in the Östermalm district, may have been a girls' school in the 1950s, but now it's a boutique hotel on the second floor of a restored building that dates from the 19th century. Furnishings are a bit funky, a mishmash of antiques or flea-market specials, and bedrooms are furnished in a homelike and comfortable way.
Just 5 minutes from the Central Station, the Hilton Hotel Slussen, Guldgränd 8 (tel. 08/517-353-00), has many luxurious touches in spite of the fact that it was built over a traffic tunnel. On the island of Södermalm, it is easily accessible from the center of Stockholm. Most of the rooms are spacious, and all of them are attractively and comfortably furnished.
Restaurants -- Media attention has focused on the opening of Mathias Dahlgren, in the Grand Hotel at Södra Blasieholmshammen 8 (tel. 08/679-35-84). Two different dining experiences await you here, in the formal dining room or at the bar. Chef Dahlgren has on several occasions been named chef of the year in Sweden. His six-course tasting menu is perhaps the finest in Stockholm.
A famed New York restaurant, Aquavit, has opened Aquavit Raw Bar & Grill in the Clarion Hotel Sign, at Östra Järnvägsgatan 35 (tel. 08/676-98-50), near the Central Station. Its Swedish fare is refined and made with some of the finest of regional produce. The raw bar is the best in town, and you can order a platter of "seven tastes" in seafood.
A hip new address for dining is East Restaurant & Bar, Stureplan 13 (tel. 08/611-49-59), with its Asian-inspired menu and sophisticated young clientele. Recipes from all over Asia are used in the imaginative dishes prepared with quality ingredients and robust flavors.
Inferno, Drottninggatan 85 (tel. 08/20-16-50), is a bar, restaurant, and club patronized by an artsy crowd. Many of the recipes are modern versions of those served at the time of August Strindberg, the writer, who used to live in this restored building. The place is patronized by a hip scene of actors and artists, who stay late at night listening to some of the best DJs in the city.
After Dark -- Fashionistas go to Laroy, Biblioteksgatan 23 (tel. 08/545-076-50), in the Arnoldshuset. A skilled DJ sets the mood for the young and beautiful who show up here to be entertained until 3am. A comparable club on the hot list is the White Room, Jakobsbergsgatanm 29 (tel. 08/545-076-00), with its all-white interior and theatrical lighting. In the early morning hours, this club becomes the wildest party in Stockholm.
Hotels -- In 2008, Hotel Flora, Grönsakstorget 2 (tel. 031/13-86-16), burst onto the scene and became one of the most desirable addresses in town, with a modern design and much comfort. The staff is friendly and welcoming, and the entertainment street of Avenyn lies only a stone's throw away.
Restaurants -- One of the best restaurants in Sweden has opened, and it's unpretentiously called the Basement Restaurant & Bar, at Gotabergsgatan 28 (tel. 031/28-27-29). The continental cuisine is creative and wonderfully delicate, the ingredients market fresh. The staff serves the best tasting menu in Gothenburg, and it is changed daily.
The old Grand, the finest hotel in the city, is now the Clarion Hotel Grand, Stortorget 8-12 (tel. 042/38-04-00), following a recent takeover by the multinational chain. The new managers have made many improvements in their update of this classic. The golden oldie is still old, but not so creaky anymore.
A chain has also taken over management of another classic, now called the Best Western Hotel Helsingborg, Stortorget 20 (tel. 800/780-7234 or 042/37-18-00). It still has much of its antique appeal, though modern amenities have been installed and rooms updated.
Best Western has also taken over one of the top hotels of Sweden's "third city." The Best Western Mäster Johan Hotel, Mäster Johansgatan 13 (tel. 800/780-7234 or 040/664-64-00), still remains our favorite hotel. It still has the same beautifully furnished rooms, although it seems more modern and up to date following a recent renovation.
In an expansive mood, Best Western has bought Noble House, another Malmö landmark. It is now the Best Western Noble House, Gustav Adolfs Torg 47 (tel. 800/780-7234 or 040/664-30-00). Recent improvements and refurbishing have kept it at the top of the list of the best hotels in Malmö.
In this university city, Oskar, Bytaregatan 3 (tel. 046/18-80-85), is expensive but worth it for those who want the intimacy of a small boutique hotel. It was created by restoring two town houses from the 19th century in the heart of Lund. A sophisticated sense of Scandinavian design prevails here.
In this historic port city in Eastern Sweden, the Best Western chain has continued its takeover of Swedish hotels. The Best Western Kalmarsund Hotell, Fiskaregatan 5 (tel. 800/780-7234 or 0480/48-03-80), has been subtly improved and refurbished; it continues to offer affordably priced and quite decent rooms that are standard rather than exciting.
In the heart of Värmland, the Clarion Hotel Plaza, Västra Torggatan 2 (tel. 054/10-02-00), is now running the former Radisson SAS Plaza Hotel, one of the finest of the province's hotels. Modern comforts and chain-hotel efficiency rule today, and the dining facilities, including the new Plaza Restaurant, have been considerably upgraded.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.