Big Night Out: Stockholm

In the first of a new series, Ian McCurrach tells you where to play hard in the Swedish capital
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The Independent Travel

The scene

The capital of Sweden is synonymous with all things cool, which is reflected in the city's vibrant nightlife. With long, light summer evenings and seemingly endless winter nights to fill, Stockholmers have developed a unique party scene.

Pick up a local newspaper on a Friday and look at the comprehensive nightlife guides and you'd be forgiven for thinking that Stockholm's clubland rivals that of London or Madrid. But you'd be wrong; while there is a sizeable scene, the country's stringent licensing rules and regulations mean that most clubs are housed in swish restaurants and bars, only beginning once they've stopped serving food. The result is a smart bar-cum-restaurant-cum-club hybrid.

Around 10pm out come the velvet ropes, queues begin to form around the block and fickle bouncers appear who will turn away would-be patrons solely on appearance. The trick to guarantee entry is to book a table for dinner first or make sure you are in the bar well before 10pm and dress to impress. But this is a scene to sample after that important business meeting, not before; Stockholm's nightlife works on a clock that is more akin to Spain than the UK and with the high price of alcohol, many people stay at home and have pre-parties (forfest), not venturing out to the clubs until well after midnight.

Drink

For high style, hotfoot it to Berns Salonger, at Berzelii Park (00 46 8 5663 2222). Built in 1863, this magnificent baroque mansion houses five bars on three floors, as well as a hip basement and ballroom club (see Party). East, at Stureplan 13 (00 46 8 611 4959), serves sushi during the day but after 6pm turns into a funky bar attracting a diverse but beautiful crowd who lounge in dimly lit booths drinking lethally strong cocktails. Out-of-towners and locals alike love the all-year-round Ice Bar, at Vasaplan 4 (00 46 8 5056 3000). Maintained at a chilly -5C, don a fur-lined coat and warm boots before hitting the vodka (the only alcohol available) served, of course, in glasses made of ice.

Eat

For a traditional Swedish restaurant offering a fusion of classic and modern dishes try Sturehof, at Stureplan 2 (00 46 8 440 5730; www.sturehof.com). Its central location and dishes such as lobster soup with shellfish and fried halibut with seafood risotto guarantee its success. Operakallaren, at Operahuset, Karl XIIs Torg (00 46 8 676 5800; www.operakalleren.se), offers what is arguably some of the finest fare in Sweden. The palatial dining room of the opera house dates back to the early 1900s and dishes on the Michelin-star menu include pan-fried scallops with lemon balm pesto and tomato tartare, fillet of monkfish wrapped in leek, potato terrine with pancetta and a Mediterranean clam sauce. With its sleek modern interior, Riche, at Birger Jarlsgatan 4 (00 46 8 679 6842; www.riche.se) appeals to a young and beautiful crowd who jostle for space at the elegant bar before dining. The cuisine is a sensible mix of Swedish and European fare.

See

The Opera House, at Stromgatan (00 46 24 8 24 8240; www.operan.se), offers an eclectic programme of modern and classical performances at prices much cheaper than Covent Garden. Stockholm has a thriving theatre culture and some of the best productions are found at Kungliga Dramatiska Teatern, at Nybroplan (00 46 8 667 0680; www.dramaten.se), Sweden's national theatre, and Kulturhuset, at Sergels Torg (00 46 8 5062 0200; www.kulturhuset.stockholm.se), which hosts theatre, dance and music. The Swedish dance scene raises the bar and some of the best is found at Dansens Hus, at Barnhusgatan 12-14 (00 46 8 5089 9090; www.dansenshus.se), and Kungliga Operan, at Gustav Adolfs Torg (00 64 8 24 8240; www.operan.se).

Party

Pose at Berns Salonger, at Berzelii Park (00 46 5663 2222). Dance beneath cut-glass chandeliers in this red-velvet and gold ballroom. Expect to queue, then groove until 4am and beyond. Café Opera, at Operahuset, Karl XIIs Torg (00 46 8 676 5807) is where Stockholm's cool crowd hangs out, especially on a Friday night though it is busy all week. The city's most famous club is Spybar, at Birger Jarlsgatan 20 (00 46 8 5450 3701), because it attracts local celebs and is frequently featured in the national papers.

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