Chic things to do in Helsingborg, Sweden [classic article]

Helsingborg’s is one of Sweden’s oldest cities: it boasts beautiful scenery, culture, history, arts and crafts communities, food producers and high society. Bruce Springsteen is even said to have a vacation home in the area.

Where to eat: As you walk along medieval, gaslight-lit winding streets in the shadow of the original town fort, you’ll come across Bistro G. Bistro G serves tempting small plates and gastropub fare in a casual, cool atmosphere. They serve a traditional Swedish veal dish, “Wallenbergare.” It’s a favorite dish of one of the ancient Wallenberg family members, a still-prominent Swedish (and global) banking family. The dish is comparable to a Salisbury steak in flavor and texture, with eggs and cream mixed into the patty. Raoul Wallenberg was one of the most famous Wallenberg descendants.  He saved many Jews during the Holocaust.

Sofiero Castle is the former vacation home of the Swedish royal family, now-turned outdoor concert venue favored by the likes of Bob Dylan. The castle also has a gourmet restaurant that takes the finest local products and serves them in masterfully presented, inventive ways. Duck liver, chanerelles and venison figure prominently on its Fall-time menu. The king and queen of Sweden do occasionally eat here, for old times’ sake, so dress up.

One might think that Sweden, being in Northern Europe, wouldn’t have much in the way of tomatoes. Vikantomater has changed that.  This family-owned business grows 83 varieties of tomatoes in a sustainable greenhouse that’s open to the public. Celebrity chef Thomas Keller – normally a champion of hyper-local produce — has been begging to be supplied by them, but Vikantomater wants to keep the business manageable.

Where to stay: Clarion has a luxury line of hotels, including the Grand Hotel right in the center of town. The Swedish king and queen clearly appreciate its vintage, refined atmosphere and stay at the hotel when in town. It’s not often that European hotels have bathtubs – but the Clarion’s is extra deep, with bath crystal salts set out each day.

The hotel has a program called “Inspiration” designed to help you find cool things to do when in town. Some of their ideas include classes to make the perfect latte, a personal jewel shopper, getting a total makeover and test-driving a Lamborghini.

The Grand Hotel’s breakfast buffet includes Swedish specialties like organic yogurt, herrings in mustard and gourmet organic cheeses, as well as items that appeal to British tourists like baked beans, soft-boiled eggs and squeeze-yourself orange juice.

Rusthållargården is an ancient resort with aristocratic origins dating from the 17th century in the fishing village of Arild. Private cottages cost the same as staying in the main lodge, and they have private indoor swimming pools. Their cuisine is work of love from an exacting chef, who makes his own butter and yogurt daily.

What to do: Magasin 36 is an eclectic, non-touristy collection of artisan boutiques in a former salt-glazing pottery factory selling indie-designed clothing, locally crafted food products, wild housewares, and yes, shiny salt-glazed pottery.  Upstairs is a restaurant with lounge sofas, perfect for an early happy hour (they’re only open during the day).

 Whether you’re a champion of independent women or covet gorgeous Swedish design, Märta Måås-Fjetterström was a revered carpet maker whose over 700 personal designs support a cottage industry for women today. With new designs always being added – including one by the artistic Queen Margrethe of Denmark – you’ll find rugs ranging from depictions of the ancient Icelandic sagas to ones representing broadband. Some people fly in from around the globe just to see the rugs being made and pick out their own custom-adjusted design.

If you can plan at least a year ahead of time, you can create quite the VIP experience for yourself at Sweden’s Tennis Open at the Hotel Skansen in Båstad. Its front door opens right onto center court; it’s no wonder that many of the rich and famous are spotted here. Even during non-tennis season, it’s a great place to visit, with its ultra-luxurious spa, tennis for mere mortals and a restaurant well known for its tasty lunch buffet.

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