24-Hour Room Service: Hotel Eggers, Gothenburg, Sweden

Amid the high-powered redevelopment of Sweden's second city stands the nation's oldest railway station. Every good terminus deserves a decent railway hotel; the first was built on this site in 1859. Seventeen years later, when the original was proving inadequate for the numbers passing through Gothenburg, mostly emigrants en route to North America, the present structure was created as the Hotel Christiania.

Amid the high-powered redevelopment of Sweden's second city stands the nation's oldest railway station. Every good terminus deserves a decent railway hotel; the first was built on this site in 1859. Seventeen years later, when the original was proving inadequate for the numbers passing through Gothenburg, mostly emigrants en route to North America, the present structure was created as the Hotel Christiania.

When first opened on Drottningtorget, its bulk must have been imposing; today, it is relatively low and understated. Underrated, too, at least for anyone who appreciates unreconstructed grandeur that is only slowly fading – and which is accompanied by top-class service.

Emil Eggers came on to the scene in 1879, when he was employed as a hall porter by the hotel's owner, LE Lindblad. He astutely married into the family, and four years later the Christiania was his. He set about upgrading the hotel, with electricity and even private bathrooms, and rebranded it in his name.

While Gothenburg was the main conduit between northern Europe and the rest of the world, everyone who was anyone climbed the curving staircase that leads from the lobby to the 82 large rooms. There was plenty of intrigue, too, besides the usual misbehaving celebrities. Towards the end of the First World War, rich Russians fleeing the Revolution stayed here before sailing to America. Sweden maintained neutrality during the Second World War and Allied and German negotiators met here to swap spies.

The public rooms are suitably conspiratorial. Breakfast is taken in a handsome bar area – all dark wood and chandeliers – looking out over the square. IKEA has not had a look in, and stained glass is prominent. The corridors are full of original art, with a small exhibition of hotel memorabilia outside the restaurant, including a 19th-century picnic hamper and a ledger from 1886. The hotel is now marketed as part of the Best Western consortium, but remains in private ownership – along with a sister property, the Hotel Terminus in Stockholm.

ARE YOU LYING COMFORTABLY?

Some swear that Scandinavian hotels have the most comfortable beds in the world. These are some of the best, with light, warm duvets. The curtains are heavy enough to exclude the near-continuous daylight of summer. Bathrooms are large, with fast-flowing hot water.

Freebies: the toiletries are anonymous and perfunctory. But if you include breakfast in your definition, the giveaways are grand, even by the usual standards of Swedish generosity: warm croissants, fresh fruit, muesli with attitude, all accompanied by taped Stravinsky.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

A 30-second walk from the railway station, at Drottningtorget 2-4, S-401, Gothenburg, Sweden (00 46 31 80 60 70, www.hoteleggers.se).

Time to international airport: the hotel is close to the stop where buses run to the city's main Landvetter airport, 25 miles away. They depart every 15 or 30 minutes and take half an hour, for a fare of SKr120 (£10). A taxi is something of an extravagance, at around SKr500 (£40). The second airport, Save (served only by Ryanair), is closer to the city, with a bus connecting with flights.

Keeping in touch: satellite TV in each room, though sometimes the signal is dodgy. The hotel boasts it has "every modern facility", but for internet access, you will be directed to a nearby cybercafé.

THE BOTTOM LINE

A double room with breakfast costs SKr1,790 (£133) during the week, almost halving to SKr980 (£73) at weekends.

I'm not paying that: just around the corner, the Hotel Opera advertises double rooms for SKr295 (£25); but on closer inspection, this price turns out to be per person. Instead, head for the trendy Haga area and the Lilton at Foreningsgaten 9 (00 46 31 82 88 08), where a double with breakfast costs SKr900 (£67) during the week and SKr800 (£59) at weekends; the lower rate also applies during the week if you stay for at least three nights.

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