Our Stay at Vår Gård Saltsjöbaden in the Stockholm Archipelago

Sponsored by Vår Gård Saltsjöbaden

Is it me or do the first few months of the year always feel a little intense? Take last week, for example: work, food shopping, children's activities, a car that needed fixing, by the time Friday arrived I was completely dishevelled! And then I remembered Per and I had a weekend trip planned. it couldn't have come at a better time! As our train pulled out of Malmö and raced through the Swedish countryside, my pulse lowered with every lake, forest and river we passed. So much so, that by the time we stepped off the train at Vår Gård Saltsjöbaden in the Stockholm archipelago with the sea and islands stretched out before us, all the stress of the week completely fell away.  I couldn't think of a more peaceful place to varva ner (unwind). Here are a few snapshots from our weekend, in the hope that it might inspire you to travel to this wonderful part of the world too! 

Located directly on the shore of the Baltic, 30 to 40 minutes train ride from Stockholm City centre, Vår Gård was built in 1924 and is well known as a conference hotel (evidence of which lies in the modern accommodation block). In recent years, however, the hotel has re-invented itself as a wonderful design hotel, attracting couples and families alike, who are looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the capital, and relax surrounded by nature, art and design, board games and books - as well as great food and wine!  

The slumber! 

I was happy to discover Vår Gård offers rooms for every budget - from single and twin rooms to magnificent waterfront suites - with the same attention to 'design' detail no matter which you choose. It's also a very down-to-earth environment where everyone is made to feel welcome. 

Keen to explore the design, on the first night we checked into a junior suite with nature-inspired wallpaper, cosy wood finishes, Serge Mouilles lamps and the softest Himla bedding. I was happy to find several design books on the shelf - which I read while half watching the Winter Olympics with Per (we're so sociable aren't we - te he he!). Needless to say, we felt instantly at home! 

On the second night we excitedly moved into the Suite LOVE (see what they did there with the name?) - one of three waterfront suites (after all it was St Valentine's weekend!). I'd heard so much about this room and couldn't wait to see it in person. 

Despite a library of books and a stack of board games - nothing could distract us from the ever-changing view over the water (not even Sweden's Winter Olympic medal bids!). The seascape was simply breath-taking. 

The suite also had a droolworthy bathroom complete with sage green subway tiles, a heated white herringbone floor and aged brass fixtures. But to me, the showstopper was the bath which I luxuriated in with a cup of tea and a book (after all, you can take a girl out of England, but you can't take England out of the girl, right?).  

Are you a fan of bubble baths too?  

Bada bastu (sauna / dip) 

What would a getaway in Sweden be without a traditional 'bada bastu' (sauna - bathe)? Every room includes a dressing gown and slippers so you can wander down to the sauna in comfort. 

A dip in the frozen sea after a sauna sounds crazy - especially when there's a dusting of snow on the ground, but trust me, nothing makes you feel more relaxed. It's a ritual many Scandinavians swear by, and scientists have proven it to have many health benefits including pain relief, stress busting and improving circulation as well as cardiovascular to name a few. 

Per, among other Swedes gracefully enter the water, remaining completely still for a few moments before exiting. My plunge, on the other hand is somewhat quicker! Blink and you'll miss it. I like to blame it on my lack of Viking genes, but a lady at our local Malmö sauna told me the other day that it's a skill you develop over time. She has reached the point where she can swim out to a buoy 10 metres way in 2 degrees Celsius (35.5 degrees Fahrenheit) temperatures. I kid you not! 

Food for thought

Feeling more relaxed than ever after our bada bastu - and a lovely walk, we headed to the restaurant for supper. I have to say, Vår Gård has pulled out all the stops on the gourmet experience and offers several mouth-watering packages including everything from lunch and a 'casual tea' to a '24-hour taste experience'. For the more laidback, there's also the option to grill your own sausages over a fire on the shore. Love that!

The main dining area overlooks the water, and when we strolled in, the candlelit room and soft babble of voices and laughter felt like a big warm hug. We tucked into fresh oysters, scallops with poached eggs and winter truffle, Cod with caviar and flower cress and chocolate mousse with raspberry and elderflower. The staff were unbelievably friendly, buoyed by the newly lifted restrictions. Their joy that Vår Gård was thriving once again was palpable throughout our stay! 

The Northern Lights

On our way back to our room we were rewarded by the magnificent sight of the Northern Lights. It was a first for us, living in the south - and although faint, the unmistakable shaft of green light that pierced the darkness was simply magical. Apparently a very rare sighting - which we owed to the crystal-clear night sky. 

The in-house bakery 

Imagine my delight when I discovered the Vår Gård bakery is well known in the area for its sourdough bread, croissants, cinnamon buns and other delicacies (I do have such a sweet tooth after all, how about you?). 

Locals flock here for the 'casual afternoon tea' (a relaxed take on English high tea) - before picking up a loaf of sourdough bread or cinnamon buns to take home. If you're a fan of patisserie, you'll also love the homemade pastries (I can highly recommend the truffles!). 

An in-house bakery also lends itself to a great breakfast. And in my mind, there's nothing better than waking up to warm bread straight from the oven and a perfectly brewed coffee. Such a luxury compared to the morning mayhem back home! 

I might just have tucked into sausages, eggs and bacon - as well as smoked salmon. Although I noticed others managed to refrain themselves and indulge in more healthy fare including fruit and chia seeds with a shot of detoxing cucumber and spinach (perhaps they were booked into the 'dance and workout weekend'), I wasn't quite sure! 

We eked out the final moments of our stay relaxing in the communal area, surrounded by design pieces as well as paintings and sculptures - and stacks of newspapers and magazines. All in all, a perfect end to a magical weekend. 

We were sad to step back on the train, but also excited to see our girls - energy restored!

I hope this post has inspired you to visit the Stockholm archipelagos one day, and if you do, I can highly recommend Vår Gård Saltsjöbaden - either for a longer stay, or simply tapped on to the end of a Stockholm City break so you can koppla av (unwind) before you return home. 

Best of all? You might be visiting sooner than you think as I'm holding an instagram give-away to win a one-night stay in Suite LOVE with a three-course dinner and breakfast for two (travel not included) right now. Hop on over to enter

A big tack så mycket (thank you very much) to Vår Gård Hotel for a wonderful stay! We'll be back! 

Niki

Photography: Per & Niki Brantmark 

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A Heavenly Stay On Sweden’s West Coast

// Paid partnership with Carpe Diem Beds, all words are my own and I only ever work with brands I love

Have you been able to travel recently? This time last week I made my way up to Fiskebäckskil on the West coast of Sweden - and although it wasn't far away, boy did it feel like luxury! I consider the Gothenburg archipelagos one of Sweden's best key secrets. Characterised by a rugged coastline dotted with hundreds of islands and skerries (see my island hopping guide!), the natural beauty of this part of the world has inspired many a poet, artist and design idea. And it's the latter which brought me here this Autumn. 

Around 120 kilometres from Gothenburg (and a short rib boat ride from where I was staying) you'll find the tiny, picturesque island of Stora Kornö. Accessible by boat, the harbour was once a thriving fishing port, with fishermen and other locals residing in one of the 52 houses. Today, no one lives here year-round. Instead, it's a popular summer destination for those who own cottages, sailors (like Per and I) and day trippers. Locals also flock to the island in the Autumn to celebrate the start of lobster season, and as we pulled up in the rib, many had gathered in the harbour ready to lay their pots. 

But we were here for a different reason: to walk in the footsteps of the brilliant Carpe Diem Beds founder, chiropractor Börje Thuleskär!

Story has it that Börje was relaxing on a bed of heather on the cliffs on the Southwestern shore, feeling happy and relaxed - and most importantly, supremely comfortable. He'd been disappointed by his inability to find a comfortable bed and marvelled at how the heather moulded to his body and gave him an incredible feeling of weightlessness. He immediately struck upon the idea of building his own bed - and the idea for Carpe Diem Beds was born. 


Today, the Swedish brand offers a range of luxury made-to-order, supremely comfortable beds (I'm not just saying that, I've had one for years and slept like a baby ever since!). Hand-built in nearby Lysekil, each bed is named after a local island and individually signed by the crafstperson - high quality Swedish design at it's finest! 

Back on the island of Skaftö and relaxing in my room at Gullmarsstrand Hotel, I marvelled at how a local business, has grown into a globally recognised brand, and sold in over 20 countries. You'll likely know someone who owns one of their beds - or might have been lucky enough to sleep in one at a design hotel as far and wide as Mauritious and the USA - or even the magnificent Ice Hotel (a dream of mine - have you ever been?). 

But this time, I didn't need to travel far. 

My room was heavenly! Sheer curtains bellowed in the fresh Autumn breeze and I could make out the church spire of Lysekil across the sound. Centre stage was the magnificent Vindö (AKA 'The Flying Bed') - the Carpe Diem Bed pièce de résistance, featuring several vibration massage programs, an automatic neck and lumbar support as well as adjustable head and foot rests! 

And best of all, I had it completely to myself. It was the perfect place to unwind, catch up on some much needed sleep surrounded by luxurious comfort and stay in bed on a Tuesday, with a coffee and a good book! How heavenly! 


All in all, a blissful few days and so hard to tear myself away from the wonderful rawness of the nature at this time of the year - and the cosiness and comfort of my room! Thank you Carpe Diem Beds and Gullmarsstrand Hotel

I only wish I could have stayed for lobster season. 

Next year!

If you're planning on visiting Sweden at some point, make sure you come to this part of the country - it's staggeringly beautiful! In the meantime, keep a look out for my post in the coming weeks about how to turn your own bedroom into a lap of luxury for the winter. I mean, if we're going to hibernate, we might as well do it in style, right?

Niki

This post is brought to you in paid collaboration with Carpe Diem Beds. All words are my own and I only ever recommend brands I love and think you will too. Thank you for supporting the Scandinavian businesses that make My Scandinavian Home possible. 

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This Magical, Remote Swedish Design Hotel Is Included the Oscars 2021 Goodie Bag!

I know that I said I wasn't going to post today, but then something intriguing popped up which I had to share with you! I was fascinated to read that a Swedish lodge has been included in the Oscars 2021 goodie bag, and it's one I've known about ever since my trip to the area last summer. Located on a rocky outpost in the far reaches of the Swedish west coast archipelago, you'll find Pater Noster, the Father of lighthouses. Once home to a lighthouse keeper and his family as well as a small community, today Lightkeeper's Lodge on the small island of Hamneskär has opened its doors as a design hotel. Guests arrive by helicopter from Gothenburg or rib from nearby Marstrand. Once on the island, they are treated to beautiful, yet understated design, breath-taking nature, world-class seafood and the opportunity to relax in a hot tub or a secluded corner of the island. What a dream! Little wonder, it's been included in the Oscars 2021 goodie bag! 







Could you imagine staying here? 

Can't quite stretch to the cool 5000 SEK (€500 euros) per guest per night fee? Don't worry, speaking from personal experience, you don't need to be a superstar to enjoy these magical islands! 

I've travelled around this area by boat many times (it's one of my favourite places in the world). Here are my ten favourite islands to visit! 

The east coast is also home to some incredible islands, including the Blekinge archipelago and Gotland! Well worth a visit. 

I hope you can make your way here one day once the dust has settled! Sweden is waiting for you! 

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

Niki

Photography courtesy of Pater Noster Lightkeeper's Cottage - with thanks 

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Travel Diaries: Design Hotel Villa Copenhagen


Unpaid Press trip*: 
Living a short hop over the famous Öresund bridge from the Danish capital city, I'm used to day trips to Copenhagen - but staying the night is something of a major luxury! Especially when it involves a design hotel (you know me!). Housed in the century-old former Danish post and telegraph office, the magnificent Villa Copenhagen is a short hop from the central station - making it easily accessible from the airport - and wait for it, Malmö! Hooray! When Per and I were invited to visit on a press trip a while back, we had grand plans for the weekend, but once inside the lobby, these quickly fell by the wayside in favour of seem R&R. Think incredible architecture, drool worthy interior design and a rooftop lap pool (warmed with the excess heat from the hotel's cooling system). Read on to discover more about our stay at Denmark's latest 'conscious luxury' design hotel - maybe you'll be the next to visit?

Step inside the hotel and the frenetic sounds of the city fall away as you're transported into another world. Designed by Danish archive Eva Harlou, the former courtyard, has been transformed into a lobby under a magnificent glass dome, and serves as a reception (although there is also an option to check-in remotely which comes in handy in the current climate) and a gathering place for tourists and Danes alike. A perfect setting from which to start my stay - and await Per with a glass of Prosecco!

Unless travelling alone, I'm a little sceptical about eating in hotel restaurants - mainly because I feel I should be out discovering one of the city's many haunts. But KONTRAST, the in-house brasserie has a street entrance, giving the feel of an independent restaurant. Plus, executive chef Tore Gustafsson and his team have pulled out all the stops. The dishes take inspiration from the southern gastronomic world of Europe and North Africa and made using local ingredients (including some from the hotel's own hidden garden). True to Danish stye, the presentation, explosion of flavours and wine selection of our taster menu were absolutely impeccable - as was the 'masked' service! 

It also helped that the setting was beautiful too - combining the historic decadence of the building with the rawness of nearby neighbourhood of Vesterbro.

The interior design has been a strong talking-point since the hotel opened on 1st July, 2020 - not least because of the fabulous and sustainable Earth Suite - so I was falling over myself to get to our room (nothing to do with the Prosecco, I promise!). 

The hotel had appointed several design and architecture firms to ensure that the interior design matched the magnificent grandeur of the Neo-baroque facade. With 390 rooms to decorate, I can imagine this was no easy feat, but it quickly became clear to me, they had achieved that and more!  

With views out over Tivoli Gardens, we may have been in the heart of a vibrant city, but our room was a picture of calm and serenity - and somewhere I could imagine actually living! It was beautiful. 


The rooms are blessed with high ceilings, herringbone floors and a calming muted colour scheme. Danish decadence at its finest! 


For the design, interior design firm Universal Design Studio took inspiration from grand Copenhagen residences and the work of Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershøi to create spaces that combine the past and the present. Natural materials, custom-designed furniture, smooth marble surfaces and touches of brass help to bring the rooms to life - and sent my design heart a flutter! 


After a trip to the hotel lap pool and a stint in the sauna, we returned to the room to find the bathroom stocked with hand soap, hand moisturiser and shampoo and conditioner from the SKOG - calm of the boreal forest - collection by Skandinavisk. Per was especially happy - it's been his favourite ever since our weekend at a friend's cabin in the woods. And he's not even the preening type! 


We woke up - incredibly well rested - to a sunny Autumn morning in Copenhagen and after enjoying the hotel breakfast (who doesn't love an omelette bar and a strong danish coffee? - But if a buffet breakfast isn't your thing, I noticed the hotel also has a wonderful in-house bakery) we headed out for a wander through the streets of the Danish capital before making our way back to Malmö by train. 


All-in-all, a heavenly stay in Copenhagen! 

If you could also use a little 'conscious luxury' and like the idea of surrounding yourself with fabulous Danish design - Villa Copenhagen is waiting for you! 

Definitely one for the travel files, for when we're free to roam again. 

Oh, and if you feel like splashing out, everyone is talking about the Suites. Next time, perhaps! 

Niki

All photographs by me except the first one which is by Stine Christiansen

*Disclosure: Villa Copenhagen covered our hotel expenses as part of a press trip, however I was not paid to write this piece and was under no obligation to feature the hotel on any of my channels. As always, I only ever write about interiors I love and think you will too. 

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Travel Diaries: Ästad Vingård, a Swedish Vineyard and Spa


Here's one for the Scandi travel files. Ästad Vingård. An ecological vineyard and spa in Halland county, Southern Sweden. Per and I were invited on an overnight press trip a while back and we're still feeling relaxed! If you love rolling hills, wine tasting, good in-season food and a whole load of pampering, this is your place! Read on to find out more about our stay - I hope it will inspire you to visit one day when we're all free to roam once again. 

We pulled up to find Ästad Vingård nestled between the gently undulating slopes of the Åkulla nature reserve, surrounded by lakes and beech forests, The rural farm is surprisingly extensive and made up of a cluster of smaller timber cottages, as well as larger dwellings that house the winery, restaurants and accommodation - against a backdrop of over 22,000 vines. 

Once checked in, we ambled through the vines, sampling the organic Solaris - a green grape that flourishes in a Northern climate - as we went. Ästad Vingård also offers daily wine tours which take you on a tour of the cellars and winery as through through the vineyard - something for next time! 

Our walk was followed by an organised wine-tasting with a knowledgeable Ästad Vingård sommelier, who talked us through their very own ecological crisp white wine. A relatively young winery, Ästad Vingård only harvests a limited number of bottles each year, which they then use in their restaurants. Even if they had bottles to sell, Sweden's strict alcohol laws mean we'd have needed to go to the state-owned monopoly to buy it. I'm super curious to know if this will change since Southern Sweden is becoming something of a wine hotspot and hailed as an up and coming wine region in the sommelier world! Who would have thought it? 

Ästad Vingård mainly produces sparkling wine but in a good year, they also produce wonderful crisp dry white wine - and we were fortunate enough to tuck into a bottle of Solaris 2018!  


Having relaxed over a glass or two (ahem), Per and I changed into our designated robes and slippers and headed off to sample the Sinnenas Spa

Meaning 'spa of the senses', Sinnenas Spa' is made up of a series of indoor and outdoor areas, inviting you to relax in a myriad of saunas, steam rooms, hot tubs, heated pools and hammocks. If you're brave enough, there's even a fresh-water lake for cooling off.  Word of warning: fellow spa-goers can see you from the underwater sauna, so make sure you've tightened your trunks before you dive in! 


You could spend several days floating in the wonderful indoor and outdoor pool - or even just sitting on a hammock or lounger looking out over the nature reserve! 

Ästad Vingård offer day trips for the tours and spa, however, if you really want to go all in, there are a large number of lodgings available - from luxury suites with a private spa, to cosy timber cottages with a turf roof.


As someone who has a bit of a thing for interiors, I was excited to find our room had been decorated with natural materials throughout  - from raw wood and leather to stone and iron. 

Another lovely touch: the mini bar had been kitted out with locally produced items such as gin from the Swedish island of Ven, Gårdschips (farm crisps) from Halland and Malmö chocolate! Yum!

The room was super smart too: at the flick of a switch, we could open and close the curtains, play music, control all the lights and probably a load of other things which are far beyond my (limited) technical skill. 

I've been wondering how to install electric curtains in my bedroom ever since - preferably with a timer set for lengthy lie-ins! Wouldn't that be wonderful? 

Perhaps best of all - our bathroom had an incredible stone bath and a little private sauna - just to ensure we felt truly relaxed. Pure bliss! 


In the evening, we headed to the in-house Restaurant Logen for a four course Swedish farmer's menu. Visitors also have the option to reserve a table at Restaurant Äng where the head chef Filip Gemzell prides himself on serving incredible dishes inspired by the local Halland nature and traditional Scandinavian fare - made with ingredients from the nearby forest, meadows and fields. 

Next time! 


All in all - a wonderful stay - and one for the travel files if you'd like too pamper yourself and sample some local organic Swedish wine the next time you're in Sweden!

I'd suggest going mid-week so you can enjoy the tranquil surrounding and spa a little more to yourself (it's a fairly big centre and can get pretty busy at the weekend). Oh, and pack your hiking boots if you'd like to wander through the nature reserve! 

More info about booking a stay can be found here

Skål to the upcoming Swedish wine industry and a huge thank you to Ästad Vingård for the press trip. We'll be back!

Niki

Photography: 1,2 3, 5, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15 Kristian Sahlberg. The rest: Niki Brantmark. 

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