Stockholm is an old city with a distinctly modern outlook, so it's a delight to find a hotel there that fits the same description. The Lydmar, housed in a former archive building (built in 1829) of the Swedish National Museum, announces its youthful sensibilities with a pair of faintly ridiculous moose-head-shaped lamps either side of the front door, which is otherwise unmarked. Sandwiched between said museum and the considerably larger and more conservative Grand Hotel, it's like the hipster offspring of these two doddery old dears.
In another life the Lydmar was located on Stureplan square and known by the city's in-crowd not just as a hotel but also as a great music venue, boasting impromptu lobby performances by the likes of Beastie Boys and Sweden's own The Soundtrack of Our Lives. When the hotel's lease ran out on the original site, the regulars petitioned the city to try to prevent it closing.
However, relocated to Norrmalm last September, the new Lydmar and its bar still manage to pull in the crowds on Friday and Saturday nights for some relatively polite partying. A Swedish friend pointed out one of Stockholm's fashion "it" girls, as well as the lead singer of Sahara Hotnights, one of the country's most credible bands, among the revellers. If this isn't quite your scene, never fear. From the sound-proofed privacy of your suite you wouldn't even know they were there.
Meanwhile, if you're the sort to take an entourage with you when you travel, then the enclosed, private atmosphere of each room seems ideally suited to a Bono, a Britney or a Blair, plus any managers, masseurs or handmaidens they might take with them on tour. The corridors and suites are decorated with a rotating exhibition of work by internationally recognised photographers. Recently this included James Nachtwey, a renowned war photographer, whose edgy images offset their luxurious surroundings.
The restaurant – which does a mean cheeseburger alongside some excellent, and rather more Scandinavian-sounding, seafood dishes – is decorated with bookshelves, wine-racks and mixed furniture, giving it a friendly, member's-club ambience. There's no bar as such, so knowing what you're supposed to serve yourself for breakfast, and what the staff are supposed to serve for you, can be confusing. Luckily, the hotel's employees are an affable, young and predictably stylish bunch.
The hotel's founder Per Lydmar has an impeccable record for conceptual "lifestyle" hospitality endeavours like this one, and putting his name to it suggests that the Lydmar is his favourite child. It's as modern as can be, and yet a classic establishment: you can mingle and make new friends easily, or keep quietly to yourself. Neither is frowned upon.
Lydmar Hotel, Sodra Blasieholmshamnen 2, Stockholm, Sweden (00 46 8 22 31 60; lydmar.com). The Lydmar is situated in the upmarket Norrmalm District of Stockholm, and looks out over the water to the capital's pretty old town. Some rooms offer a stunning view of the Royal Palace, and it's a short walk to the sights, the shops and the best restaurants.
Time from international airport: Arlanda, the capital's main international airport, is about 40km outside Stockholm. There's a 20-minute express train service to Stockholm Central, followed by a five-minute cab ride to the hotel which will cost around SK100 (£8.40). A taxi from the airport will take about 45 minutes and cost around SK500 (£42).
Each of the 46 rooms here is filled with individual furniture pieces from around 80 design sources worldwide, the idea being to give each room a homely, chic-but-unique feel. Those suites up on the fourth floor have charmingly low ceilings and exposed beams just to enhance the "attic room" effect. And, like an American fast-food joint, however a room is described – small, medium or large – you'll always find it bigger than you expected.
Freebies: a box of washgear from swish Stockholm cosmetics outfit Byredo awaits you upon arrival.
Keeping in touch: telephone calls are predictably pricey, but this being Sweden – one of the world's most wired societies – the hotel has free Wi-Fi. If you use Skype (a Swedish invention) those costly calls suddenly become free. Flat-screen TVs in all the rooms carry a limited selection of satellite channels.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Doubles start at Skr2,500 (£197) per night, including breakfast. If you want a "large" suite, you're looking at somewhere between Skr5,500 (£434) and Skr12,500 (£986).
I'm not paying that: Then don't bother with the Grand Hotel next door – doubles there start at Skr3,200 (£252) and that doesn't even include your cinnamon bun in the morning. Hotel J (00 46 8 601 3000; hotelj.com), another waterfront joint close to Stockholm's city centre, offers a spring weekend special – two-course dinner, one night in a double room and breakfast – for a very reasonable Skr1,175 (£93) per person.