Downtown Camper Stockholm
When you walk into the entrance of the Downtown Camper Hotel in Stockholm, the first things you notice are the pillars of wood, the reception desk made of polished timber, and an abundance of ferns. Then, in one corner, you find ceiling-to-floor corkboards pinned with maps of Stockholm. Nearby, moss runs down one side of a freestanding column like a drip. A line of skateboards sit perched against the wall by reception. On another wall, the words “Downtown Camper” are proudly splashed onto the wall in green foliage. The overall effect is like the lovechild of a park ranger and a hipster. In fact, it is the work of Swedish design firm Stylt, and the result celebrates nature and camping, but through a carefully—and comfortably—polished lens, right in central Stockholm.
For decades, accommodation in the Swedish Capital hung its hat on either stuffy Old World boutiques or simple hostels. In recent years, however, designers have been testing their boundaries around playful themes. Two other new hotels have opened nearby, the quirky Hobo and glamorous At Six, but it’s Downtown Camper that really shines. With its emphasis on hipster style, sustainability, and community, the Camper offers something innovative yet ruggedly familiar. And at around 200 euros per night, it certainly beats most other beds in central Stockholm in terms of bang for the buck.
The location is great, in Brunkebergstorg Square just 2 minutes from the Central metro station, around the corner from the main shopping street of Drottninggatan, and within 10 minutes’ walk to the Old Town.
At first glance,and especially in winter, Brunkebergstorg doesn’t look like much–concrete walls, fountains smothered by snow. But in the 19th century it was quite the posh neighborhood. Though it gradually fell into neglect, recently the city has been investing in this little slice of the city, installing new fountains, sprucing up the Galleria shopping mall, and hosting summer events in the square.
Five of the hotel’s six communal spaces are located on the ground floor, resulting in a place where guests and local Stockholmers alike intermingle. There’s the Game Room, with its handcrafted shuffleboard and seats resembling wooden park swings; Cocoon, with its round table and cushioned walls, perfect for intimate conversations; Nightwood Cinema with its documentary film screenings; the Board Room with its long table carved from a hefty wooden trunk; and the Camper Lounge with its silver sofas and bar. All in all, an economic use of space–and playful, as well. Kayaks hang from the walls and ceilings, bikes stand at attention at the entrance. Artfully arranged bookshelves line the walls. A neon light at the end of the hall reads, “Please smile at strangers.”
Speaking of playfulness, the hotel goes out of its way to cultivate it. Above reception, I found a criss-cross of thick rope in lieu of a ceiling. Groups meet regularly to climb stairs up to this knitwork of thick rope, where they pass their morning in yoga practice and meditation. It’s as much of a balancing act as a rejuvenating activity.
Every day there’s another activity, from lectures on holistic wellness to Sunday yoga with cocktails. I met the lifestyle concierge, Kristian, an Australian transplant whose job is to integrate locals from his network of skateboarders, runners and the like into the offering of local activities for guests.
Rooms at the Downtown Camper echo the “urban basecamp” idea manifested in the common areas, with stained wood furnishings and a handbook of offbeat activities to do around Stockholm. The Grand Double View room came with two huge windows on either side. In one of them, there’s a deep window niche, perfect for reading or working, or staring dreamily out over Stockholm. Sitting beside this window made me think back to my girlhood days, when all I wanted in life was a window nook. With warm chocolate colors and soft surfaces, the room felt calming.
In just 300 or so square feet, the hotel has managed to position a mini-fridge, electric kettle, reading chair, lamp, bedside tree stump, blackout curtains (for those bright midsummer nights), a desk with corkboard for notes, and a number of other knickknacks—the most notable of which for me was the 3-minute hourglass in the bathroom to keep guests mindful of the water they use in the shower. While cozy and comfortable, the room is definitely compact, which I imagine encourages guests to get out and about.
The highlight of my visit to the Downtown Camper was hands down the rooftop spa. The Nest is an all-inclusive wellness center, with a gym, sauna, heated window seats, outdoor pool and a space for workshops like yoga. At first glance, the sauna looks like a giant bird’s nest, stuck with all sorts of branches–hence the name.
In the spa area, you can recline on a beach lounger and sip cucumber soda water. Outside, I soaked my toes in the pool, looking out over the city’s skyline and drinking in my fill of church steeples, City Hall and the rollercoasters at Gröna Lund amusement park. As I was admiring the view, it suddenly started to snow–and let me tell you, there are few things as magical as soaking in a hot pool with your hair catching snow flurries.
Once the spa staff informed me of some practical how-to’s, they left me on my own, in keeping with Swedish traditions of self-sufficiency and autonomous service. I appreciated this, especially in a place designed to wash away my stress. Next to the spa at the Nest cocktail lounge, cell phone use is moderated as guests are encouraged to “look inwards.”
Back down on the ground floor, I sampled the lunch buffet. At 145 SEK ($17.50), the meal cost slightly more than a typical “lunch offer” in Stockholm, but included the best coffee I’ve ever had from a machine, plus tea, juice, fresh bread and salads. Dishes were varied and made with seasonal ingredients: pork cuts with horseradish, colorful beet salad, Swedish coleslaw, a cold garbanzo dish, lightly baked white fish. The only complaint I had was with the tomato soup, which had so many spices thrown in, I didn’t know which way my tongue was supposed to curl.
In one corner of the restaurant, there’s a fire pit and on one wall, blankets tied up with leather belts can be taken down for guests to bundle up in. It serves as yet another cozy, communal space, big and beautifully designed, in a hotel chock full of them.