The fashionable clutch of private townhouses on Brunkebergstorg square in downtown Stockholm was bulldozed in the 1970s to make way for boxy new builds: tall offices built in grey and black. The area’s fortunes dwindled, visitors began avoiding it and before long the square in Norrmalm became known as the “backside of Stockholm”.
But there’s no looking back today. There’s a bright mood in the lobby of the At Six, one of two newly opened hotels from Norwegian investor Petter Stordalen. The finishes at the At Six are granite, marble and tinted mirrors but the overall impression is cushy and calming. Kitted out by UK firm Universal Design Studio (of the Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby stable), the lobby features a vast sculpture of a marble head by Catalan artist Jaume Plensa and a granite staircase framed with wrought-iron balustrades wrapped in leather.
Upstairs there are 343 rooms, 43 of which are suites. Each smoulders with the same sooty palette, plus long peacock-feather-green Carrara marble desks and wardrobes that the designers were briefed to make capacious enough to hold a “Nobel Gala gown”. That’s the intended-audience questions answered then.
Next door is the Hobo hotel, the At Six’s smaller and more bohemian sibling. Berlin-based designer Werner Aisslinger is behind the colourful and quirky interior, which features his own sofas for Cappellini beside books, globes and fig trees.
The 201 rooms, one a suite, are kitted out with lamps from Wästberg and comfy Malmö-made beds from Hilding Anders. The fancy roof restaurant Tak is perfect for sunny days but the ground-and-first-floor bar and bistro is excellent for holing up during a cold snap.
The Hobo may be more playful than the At Six but don’t let the tongue-in-cheek artwork or frivolity throw you: service is equally solicitous and the rooms are superb – if bijou on occasion.
What’s not small, however, is the effect that these openings are set to have on Stockholm’s hospitality scene. It has long been dominated by past-their-prime hotels but complacency will continue to be squeezed by new and better openings: At Six and the Hobo join the Haymarket and the Winery hotel in Solna, both of which opened last year. From our perch on the 10th floor of the At Six we’re comfortable with how this competition will play out for the visitor.
This month we place our hospitality crosshairs on a trio of smart operators that are adding to their line-ups. Hamburg-based 25hours opens a second Zürich premises on Langstrasse (its ninth in Europe) this spring. Meanwhile, Sydneyside group QT will add a Queenstown outpost to its growing Antipodean roster come September. Over in Toronto, The Drake has moved into food with the sprawling bakery, larder and shop Drake Commissary.
25hours-hotels.com; qthotelsandresorts.com; thedrake.ca
The refurbished Anvil Hotel features cosy interiors courtesy of New York design firm Studio Tack: think warm wood panelling, brass features, rugs and throws. As well as getting snug in one of the 49 rooms, you might want to consider visiting the hotel’s restaurant, Glorietta Trattoria, which doles out wonderful wood-fired Italian dishes.
Hotel nacional:[Rio de Janeiro]The Oscar Niemeyer-designed Gran Meliá Nacional Rio reopened in December after three years of renovation. Built in 1972, it had a short time in the sun before being closed for more than 20 years. We feel that the hotel’s best days are ahead of it.
The 150 rooms in this eight-storey steel-and-redbrick tower have floor-to-ceiling views of Brooklyn or Manhattan. The Michaelis Boyd-designed bedrooms sport distressed wooden walls, brushed-bronze fittings and rich blue tiles. The hotel has tuk-tuks manned by dapper staff in uniforms from menswear designer Ovadia & Sons, who are happy to whisk you away to the nearest subway station or restaurant.
The lower levels of the 1950s-built Torre de Madrid skyscraper – once Spain’s tallest building – have been reborn as a colourful hotel by Spanish firm Barceló. Celebrated by General Franco as a symbol of strength, the building now has a fearlessly flamboyant style thanks to Valencian designer Jaime Hayon. The 258-room hotel features bright furniture and playful Spanish motifs. A restaurant on the second floor offers a glittering night-time view of Gran Vía.
The Japanese capital has been longing for a refreshing new hotel to alleviate the ubiquity of business and luxury offerings. Thankfully the new Trunk Hotel in Shibuya (open in May) is an exciting and welcome addition. The four-storey, 15-room hotel also has restaurant Trunk Kitchen, a shop selling tableware from the ceramic hub of Mino, plus Tokyo-made chocolate by Minimal. Word to the wise: the rental bikes are reassembled from abandoned frames found around Tokyo and are a great way to explore surrounding Shibuya.
Reopened in December, this nine-room guesthouse has an interior by Madrid-based Ábaton Architects and almost every room comes with a view. At the heart of the design is a staircase made of Viroc, a Portuguese material that mixes concrete and wood dust. Owner María Ulecia’s hospitable touches – fresh flowers, homemade breakfast and leisurely chats over aperitifs – elevate the experience immeasurably.
“There are books and objects in every room so that you don’t feel as if you’re in a cold hotel,” says Ulecia. “It’s as if you are at a friend’s house surrounded by things that have their own lives and stories.”