Luxury digs and Michelin-starred meals sex up Alicia Vikander's home city in Sweden while a Finnish high-tech sauna launched by a 'Vikings' star also brings the heat.
Just a three-hour hop from Nice (or 10½ hours direct from LAX to Stockholm), two Northern capitals offer high-design hotels, Michelin-starred cuisine and cultures uniquely committed to relaxation (Sweden's fika means a time-out from life, and the Finns make a ritual of "aloneness with one's thoughts"), progressive values and unisex nakedness — the perfect blend for a post-Cannes sojourn.
The brief burst of Swedish Alicia Vikander unleashed during her cut-glass English acceptance speech at the Oscars this year was a reminder that the London-based actress was brought up in Stockholm, which has become a serious scouting ground for Hollywood. Though the population hovers at less than 10 million, Sweden boasts four prominent acting schools, and English immersion begins in third grade.
No wonder, then, that Joel Kinnaman could run for president on House of Cards or Rebecca Ferguson could play a British royal in The White Queen, though both were born and raised in Stockholm (each had one native English-speaking parent). "Sweden punches above its weight in the entertainment field," says Pelle Almqvist, lead singer of The Hives. "There's a certain energy, combined with progressive values and a rigid Lutheran work ethic." Stockholm-born superproducer Max Martin has helmed more than 20 Billboard No. 1s and lures talent like Adam Lambert to the Swedish capital. And starting June 9, Spotify founder Daniel Ek and Avicii manager Ash Pournouri will host their second annual Stockholm Symposium, a TED-like festival that will draw Eric Schmidt and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
Meatballs for the People offers salmon and falafel meatballs along with classic meat.
Overnighting in the city, a few of those entertainment and tech influencers will opt for the newly opened Ett Hem (Skoldungagatan 2, from $625), a 12-room converted art nouveau townhouse with its own marble hammam, or the 2-year-old, 92-room Miss Clara (Sveavagen 48, from $499). But the established industry favorite is the 300-room Grand Hotel (Sodra Blasieholmshamnen 8, from $640) a Victorian pile (think Grand Budapest Hotel) dating back to the 1870s. It's been a staple for Hollywood since the days of Bergman, Hitchcock and Chaplin, all of whom stayed there; more recently, Adrian Grenier and director David Sandberg have been spotted drinking in the bar.
The Grand also hosts two of Sweden's top restaurants, both under the auspices of Michelin-endorsed chef Mathias Dahlgren. Matsalen is the tonier, two-star fine-dining spot, kitted out in muted grays and yellows and serving classics like reindeer and game. But ex-Focus Features exec Anna Bohlin recommends the more casual sibling spot Matbaren, which holds a single star and saves a few tables in its brightly tiled dining room for walk-ins. "Dahlgren and his magnifique staff manage to provide it all — they make anyone feel at ease," she raves. Bohlin likely will be a regular at Matbaren alum Adam Dahlberg's new spot, too. He just turned his pop-up dining space into a permanent fixture, Adam/Albin (Radmansgatan 16). The 50-seat cafe, with a five-course set menu of Swedish classics for about $100, will open in late May.
It will jostle for industry crowds with the 2-decade-old P.A. & Co (Riddargatan 8), a candlelit hideaway that producer Philip Westgren calls "one of the tiniest yet most influential restaurants in Stockholm and still the dining place for power players." And don't dismiss Swedish meatballs as just an Ikea gimmick: Check out the "ecological" version at Meatballs for the People (Nytorgsgatan 30) or sample the classic at old-school bistro Prinsen (Master Samuelsgatan 4). "I know vegetarians who secretly eat meatballs there," says music manager Cyndy Villano.
Ett Hem offers just 12 rooms in a 1910 townhouse.
The cafe-bar at postproduction/VFX house The Chimney Group (Skeppsbron 38) — one of the firms tapped to help create Beyonce's Lemonade — also is an insider hangout, according to producer-manager Pelle Strandberg. "That lounge is the closest you'll come in Stockholm to L.A.'s Soho House or a studio backlot," he explains — mingle after work over a schnapps or beer.
To best experience fika, the beloved time-out-from-life ritual revolving around coffee, cake and chatting, head to the rising hood of SoFo (or South of Folkungagatan); the Silver Lake-like district, just south of old town where Chimney is based, is where Alexander Skarsgard grew up. Il Caffe (Sodermannagatan 23) recently opened an outpost in Acne Studios' downtown L.A. flagship; pull up a curbside stool at the original and try a cardamom- scented bun. Expect to see scripts piled on the tables at nearby Urban Deli (Nytorget 4), a cavernous juice and java shop that acts as a companionable work space for Stockholm creatives. "Swedes are great collaborators," says Westgren. "The open-minded culture makes boundaries disappear with ease, whether business-wise or creatively."
Finnish actor Jasper Paakkonen is forgiving whenever anyone mentions the name of his new project: Loyly. "Don't worry, not a single foreigner can ever pronounce it," says the Helsinki-born actor, a top box-office name at home and now starring in History's Vikings (for the record, it's LOW-loo). "Loyly is the word for the steam that comes from the sauna heater when you throw water on the hot rocks," he adds. "If you have a good loyly, a sauna is measured by that, but it's a mystical as well as a physical thing."
Either way, it's a fitting name for Paakkonen's high-design complex, slated to open May 23, that combines a public sauna with a sprawling restaurant. Paakkonen, whose partner on the project is seasoned restaurateur and longtime friend Antero Vartia, an entrepreneur and member of the Finnish parliament, cites Sunset Plaza's The Church Key as an inspiration for Loyly's restaurant, which will offer Finnish classics like salmon soup and reindeer — "the best meat there is."
Ask offers a daily, small farmsourced set menu for 89 euros (about $100).
The real draw, though, will be the complex's 7,000-square-foot sauna space, the first such facility to open in the city in decades. Saunas are central to the Finnish psyche — the word is borrowed from their language — and once were plentiful public amenities across the country. As plumbing improved after World War II, though, families opted for private hotboxes (with a population around 5 million, Finland boasts 3.3 million saunas, more than one per family) and civic saunas began shuttering, leaving a handful like Helsinki's palatial Yrjonkadun Uimahalli (Yrjonkatu 21) from 1928 as beloved curiosities. In saunas, says Paakkonen, Finns practice omissa oloissaan, or aloneness with one's thoughts. "We're not religious and rarely go to church, so saunas are the replacement — a place of peace to go to purify your mind, body and soul." Traditionally, sauna culture is both naked and unisex; Loyly will allow swimsuits in season, but come wintertime, it hopes to offer clothing-optional days.
Loyly is part of a raft of new attractions in the Finnish capital, which was World Design Capital in 2012. Take Ask (Estnasgatan 8), a sleek, 26-seat, Michelin-starred eatery from chef-owner Filip Langhoff, whose wife, Linda, acts as sommelier. Another recent arrival is Helsinki's first high-design boutique hotel, Fabian (Fabiansgatan 7, from $180), with 58 monochrome rooms featuring touches like bedside tables made from whitewashed stepladders.
Alen (center) in Finnjavel’s kitchen.
But the biggest buzz centers on Finnjavel (Etelaranta 16), a two-year pop-up that opened in April from chefs Henri Alen and Tommi Tuominen. The duo, who named their haute-cuisine spot after the Swedish slang term for "dirty Finn," commissioned 20 artisans to craft everything from lights to flatware — even a composer to create a custom soundscape.
Paakkonen may not have a chance to sample his city's new standout: As Loyly opens, the actor will be back in Ireland to shoot the next 20-episode season of Vikings, a nearly yearlong commitment. "I will be back every single weekend," says the actor, who hopes that Loyly's sleek, spaceship-like building — designed by a pair of wunderkind local architects and faced in sustainably sourced local wood — will become an emblem for the city. "We want to leave a footprint or a handprint on the city that in 100 years will be known as one of the things that defines Helsinki."
Paakkonen (left) and Vartia were photographed April 27 outside of their upcoming Loyly Spa in Helsinki.
For their next red-carpet turn, Norwegian helmers Espen Sandberg and Joachim Ronning (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) or Oscar-nominated Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) might consider a patriotic tux from Moods of Norway. Founded more than a decade ago by three friends in the tiny town of Stryn, the Scandi men’s and women’s brand operates 16 stores back home and a U.S. flagship on Melrose, steered by founder Stefan Dahlqvist. “People looked at Norway like that little, quirky, weird faraway country,” he says. “It was famous for three things: hot chicks, expensive gas and good salmon.” Moods now is known for its bold colors and witty labels (“Made with love by really, really pretty blonde girls”), with suits in maroon or hot pink favored by the likes of David Beckham and Terrence Howard.
Moods of Norway’s standout men’s jackets range from $399 to $599.