A rooftop pool? In Gothenburg? You can't help thinking that the team behind Clarion Hotel Post must have made a mistake. After all, this is Sweden, not Spain. And when I saw the sunbeds getting coated by a fresh flurry of snow, stripping down to my Speedos wasn't exactly a priority.
But this is not the first hotel in Gothenburg's city centre to add a tropical touch to its top-floor terrace. The pioneer was First Hotel Avalon, a few streets away, so sleek that it could pass for a contemporary art gallery. However, the Clarion Hotel Post, which occupies a grand, former post office building, is, on first glance, less cutting edge.
From the cobbled square in front, the place looks a lot like it would have done in the 1920s, when it was built as a hub for the region's mail. Sturdy neo-classical pillars flank a façade that's 17 windows wide, and an elegant stone cornice clings to the roofline. It's only after stepping through the new entrance, inlaid with golden tiles, that you see what construction teams have spent the past two and a half years working on, and where a rooftop pool might fit into the equation.
In the lobby, polished black floor tiles bounce light around a wide, lofty atrium. Amid all the modernity (giant lampshades, piped pop music and free-to-use iMacs) there are only a few clues to the building's history. Most obvious is the full-size shell of a post van that's been flattened out and stuck to the wall above the lifts. Then, at the foot of the main staircase, there's a bright red pillar box embossed with the initials "ER". Such nods to Britishness have helped this city earn the nickname Little London.
Transforming the inside of the listed building would have been a challenge on its own, but planners also got permission to add an entirely new wing. Accessed via an enormous, glass-covered meeting space and clad in slate-grey panels, it climbs seven floors higher than the original brick part of the building.
Clarion Hotel Post has only one restaurant, Norda, overseen by local star chef Marcus Samuelsson. West coast Sweden meets east coast US: local salmon is served with bagels and cream cheese. Alongside is the barely altered old post office hall, where stamps were sold and letters weighed. I ordered a coffee in the Post Bar, where a honeycomb of bookshelves, topaz-coloured drapes and curvy green armchairs made me feel as if I'd stepped into a boudoir. Then the bill – £4 for a small latte – snapped me back to reality.
Although it's pitched as a luxury hotel, there's no dress code, and you're just as likely to share the bar with international executives as with locals, who drop in to use the spa and treatment rooms. Pampering aside, the real pleasure comes from being in a vibrant Swedish city and witnessing the fusion of two very different styles of architecture. And that rooftop pool? I hear it's lovely once you're in.
The Clarion Hotel Post is opposite Gothenburg's Central Station, which has connections to destinations across Scandinavia. A high-speed train from Stockholm takes just over three hours. Airport buses also stop here, serving Landvetter and Gothenburg City airport, both of which have direct flights to the UK.
The hotel is right in the centre of town, close to the city's main attractions, including the art museum (konstmuseum.goteborg.se) whose current blockbuster is on Francis Bacon and Andy Warhol.
All of the 500 rooms have wooden floors, insulated original panelled windows, charcoal-coloured furnishings and plush beds topped with plump Norwegian down duvets.
Whichever size room you choose, you'll get an iPod dock plus a huge flat-screen TV that allows you to surf the net: smart, but free Wi-Fi would be a lot more useful. The 13th-floor suite has its own dining and living area, and guests staying here can choose to hire the entire pool terrace privately.
Clarion Hotel Post, Drottningtorget 10, Gothenburg, Sweden (00 46 3161 9000; clarionpost.se).
Double rooms start at SKR 1,280 (£120), including breakfast.
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