Film tourism, which made New Zealand a top destination for The Lord of the Rings fans, is having a similar effect on Stockholm. The 14 leafy islands that make up Sweden's capital city have experienced a tourism influx fueled by Stieg Larsson's 30 million-selling Millennium book trilogy and its three 2009 Swedish film adaptations, all of which were set there. In 2010, foreign tourists accounted for 3.3 million overnight stays in Stockholm, up 200,000 from two years earlier.
The Dec. 20 stateside release of David Fincher's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo likely will lure more people following the trail of Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara). But even if you aren't looking to find the coffee shop where journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) hung out -- or, for that matter, gruesome spots like the fictional office where Salander is first raped -- there are plenty of reasons to visit the city.
Two five-star hotels are mentioned in the novels and films: the 289-room waterfront HILTON SLUSSEN (rooms from $380, Guldgrand 8), where some of the crew stayed, and the mod SHERATON STOCKHOLM HOTEL (from $320, Tegelbacken 6) in Old Town. But Craig and Fincher ditched the chain hotels for the harbor views and Italian bed linens at the sexy boutique LYDMAR HOTEL (from $486, Sodra Blasieholmshamnen 2) in central Stockholm. Other crew opted for the cozy HOTEL SKEPPSHOLMEN (from $246, Grona Gangen 1) on the island of that name, built in 1699 to house Sweden's Royal Marines but pared to modern standards when it became part of Design Hotels in 2009. Downtown's year-old NOBIS HOTEL (from $385, Norrmalmstorg 4), a renovation of two late-19th century buildings, has its own dark history: The term "Stockholm syndrome" originated after robbers held bank employees hostage there for six days in August 1973.
On the island of Sodermalm -- a bohemian, cobblestoned area where Fincher shot most of Dragon -- is MELLQVIST KAFFEBAR (Hornsgatan 78), known for its strong coffee and as Blomkvist's hangout in the trilogy. The neighborhood has gone considerably upscale since the 1990s, when Larsson, who died in 2004, often could be found there. The coffee bar is surrounded by upscale clothing shops like designer Filippa K's ETC KLADER (Hornsgatan 64), which exclusively sells her designs, and HERR JUDIT (Hornsgatan 65), a curated vintage men's boutique where you can nab Comme des Garcons V-necks and Barbour field coats.
Stockholm's dining scene is in the midst of a Nordic food renaissance, with homegrown Scandinavian produce, local fish and whole-grain breads giving the traditional meatballs in cream sauce a run for its money. Mara loved the OSTERMALMS SALUHALL, a giant covered food market where you can buy crayfish, reindeer meat and oysters or dig into a heaping smorrebrod, the iconic Danish open-face sandwich craved by Swedes, too.
But if you can't resist meatballs, check out KVARNEN (Tjarhovsgatan 4), an old-school tavern and beer hall where young Stockholmers, soccer fans and nostalgic regulars mingle over schnapps, pickled herring cake and plates of its signature Swedish meatballs. Kvarnen also is frequented by Salander, who visits the bar Tuesday nights to watch the all-girl band Evil Fingers. (Among the many Millennium tours that hit this spot and others is a popular one run by the Stockholm City Museum.)
Stockholm's most-talked-about foodie destination is the minimalist two-Michelin-starred MATHIAS DAHLGREN (Sodra Blasieholmshamnen 6), located in the GRAND HOTEL and offering unrivaled views of the Royal Palace. Its namesake chef has won numerous awards such as the prestigious Bocuse d'Or and continues to dish up modern takes on Swedish classics like smoked reindeer with whitefish roe. Another can't-miss restaurant is DJURET (Lilla Nygatan 5), which means "animal" in Swedish. The carnivore-centric spot features the meat of only one animal on its menu at any given time.
For nightlife, hit the unique ERIK'S GONDOLEN (Stadsgarden 6), a 1940s-style bar suspended from a pedestrian bridge, where you'll plunk down $18 for cocktails but take in fantastic views. "It has the best bartenders in Sweden and also a great kitchen. This is where I take my mom to lunch," says Stockholm native and True Blood actor Alexander Skarsgard, whose father, Stellan, stars in the new Dragon. Or check out the neon-blue-lit OCH HIMLEN DARTILL (Gotgatan 78) on the 26th floor of an office building in Sodermalm. The bar's equally panoramic views are rivaled only by its selection of Swedish artisanal spirits.
And don't be afraid to poke your head into the odd hole-in-the-wall. "A place called ELEFANTPOJKEN [Ringvagen 151] became my living room last time I was in Stockholm," says Skarsgard. "It's a super-casual Vietnamese/Thai restaurant. It's pretty tiny but with a DJ booth, and if the mood is right, it turns into the world's smallest nightclub."
STOCKHOLM'S ABSOLUTE MUSTS
Alexander Skarsgard: The Swedish actor recommends touring the STOCKHOLM ARCHIPELAGO, a collection of about 24,000 islands in the Baltic Sea. "It's my favorite place in the world and a quick boat ride from the city," he says.
David Fincher: The director and Craig dined with friends at the elegant LE ROUGE (Brunnsgrand 2-4) in Gamla Stan (Old Town), a red-velvet-draped brasserie known for its coq au vin blanc and sole meuniere.
Christopher Plummer: Says the actor, who plays Henrik Vanger in Dragon, of the Grand Hotel's MATHIAS DAHLGREN restaurant: "I was getting sloshed and eating marvelous 10-course meals. The food is unbelievable."