A discreet sign that could easily be missed while strolling along Norrmalmstorg, a late 19th-century square in downtown Stockholm marks the entrance to the hotel. Once you spot it, however, you feel a bit silly for overlooking the two stunning 19th-century buildings that form Nobis. A lovely scent hits you upon entering the lobby, which, I later learnt, was from the only Sweden-based fragrance house, Byredo. The focal point of the lobby, a long and sleek sofa lit by a complicated installation made up of many intricate spherical lamps, invites you to join the hipsters sitting engrossed in their iPads (available free of charge to all hotel guests). The only disappointment was the cool attitude of the staff. No one offered to carry our bags or chose to impart any information about the hotel or the area.
Nobis is smack in the centre of Norrmalmstorg, incidentally the most expensive address in a game of Swedish monopoly (there are versions of the game's red houses adorning several of the tables in the lounge area). Although it's the capital's financial centre, there is fantastic shopping nearby, not to mention bistros such as Zink Grill within walking distance. A 10-minute walk from the central train station, the hotel is a great base from which to explore the interesting (if not a little touristy) old town of Gamla Stan. From here you can also easily wander to the island of Skeppsholmen, home to several museums.
There were bright spots of efficient and attentive service in the restaurant and bar areas but generally, staff seemed aloof and uninterested. Perhaps this is the Stockholm way? When coaxed for information, staff seemed to relax, open up and genuinely seemed to want to help, although the less patient may understandably have given up by this stage.
The standard rooms are decorated to evoke a Stockholm winter day in a dark blonde palette mixed with dark hues. The "Swedish-style" bedding (two separate duvets placed side by side, one for each person) is comfortable and ensures that no one takes more then their fair share of the covers. The well-proportioned bathroom in Carrara marble - where I was thrilled to find more Byredo products - provided an effective contrast to the rest of the room. A huge plus that I appreciated after a long day's travel were the 100-plus movies (new releases and old classics, stored on demand for 159 krona [Dh95] per stay, to watch on the large, flat-screen television). Best of all, we borrowed an iPad at reception and had complimentary Wi-Fi.
Do not miss starting your day with breakfast at Caina, which serves up a traditional Swedish buffet consisting of a wonderful selection of breads, cheeses, sliced meats, eggs cooked to your choice and homemade yogurt. Do not skip the homemade jams. Lunch at the Bistro is the smart option for a quick bite. With seating for only 25, it is designed to resemble an intimate French bistro. Although the seating was a bit too close for my own comfort, it's great for people-watching on a rainy, Stockholm day. The menu, although rather simple (mostly salads and sandwiches) is a cut above the norm in taste; the tomato, avocado and mozzarella salad (195 Swedish krona; Dh116) was super fresh. After 5pm, you can grab a cocktail in the Lounge (which is strictly kept for a quiet place for guests during the day) though I recommend heading to the Gold Bar (connected to the Lounge) instead, which has just won Bar of the Year 2011 in the Swedish restaurant bible White Guide. Here you'll find one of the most innovative drinks menus I've seen in ages, including vintage recipes from clubs and hotels around the world. At an average of 134 krona (Dh80) per drink, prices confirmed my preconceptions about Stockholm being a rather expensive city.
As befits its location, the hotel attracts too many local businessmen to be part of the "scenester's scene" for which Stockholm is known. Most people seemed to be there to utilise the hotel's business centre and the unpretentious, comfortable public areas to seal a business deal. And while the Gold Bar, one of "the" spots to have a cocktail in Stockholm, definitely had a hipster vibe, Nobis is not the kind of place you'd spend your entire night. Not mid-week, anyway.
The hotel's interiors are designed by the Swedish firm Slaesson Koivisto Rune and it was a treat to be surrounded by such classic style. My favourite room was the Lounge or "the living room for Stockholm" as the hotel calls it. In the original courtyard of what was previously a law firm, it is designed to resemble four living rooms pieced together. With a 28m-high ceiling, it made me feel like I was sitting in the comfort of a Swedish home. The fitness room and sauna were also well equipped but the fact that guests can borrow athletics shoes and clothes is a perk that you don't see very often.
Although rooms tend to be small in European hotels, particularly compared with those in the Middle East, the standard room at Nobis felt too snug for two people at 18 sq m. Staff need to try much harder to make guests feel welcome both at check-in and throughout the stay.
The attention to detail, quintessentially Swedish style and sense of comfort that the hotel's designers have created made my stay in Stockholm feel unique. It's obvious that the residents regard Nobis as a place to showcase their city and conduct business thanks to its low-key, don't-try-too-hard environment. The hotel has many perks that make a stay feel more worthwhile. They are streets ahead of most European hotels with their gadgets: for example, the safe in the room can charge your laptop while its locked away, making it ideal for businessmen and those who can't bear being offline.
The bottom line
A standard room costs from 2,190 krona (Dh1,305) per night, including taxes. Breakfast is an additional 175 krona (Dh104), Nobis Hotel, Norrmalmstorg, Stockholm (www.nobishotel.se; 00 46 8 614 10 00).