Friday, June 5, 2015

Grythyttan, Sweden: The town that became a hotel

Winter in the tiny village of Grythyttan, Sweden where the entire town is virtually a restful inn  (wikipedia)
GRYTHYTTANSWEDEN One of the great joys of travel is the serendipitous magic of finding a destination that have been largely overlooked by the guidebooks. Grythyttan, Sweden is one of those  “treasures of discovery”; those indefinable little places, because it is quite literally “the town that became a hotel,” and therein lies its charm.   

Located approximately 200-miles NW of Stockholm, Grythyttan was virtually a ghost town until the mid-1960s. 

Wine cellar dining at Grythyttan  (Communities Digital News)
Originally Grythyttan prospered as a place to stable horses for travelers going to and from Stockholm since the once a thriving community in the 17th century was a midpoint along the road to the silver mines in the region. It was known as an “up-and-down” village because travelers would stop on their way up from Stockholm or on the way back down. The result, Grythyttan’s Gästgivaregård (roughly translated to mean “guest house”) became a popular inn that was known throughout the country for its hospitable charm, its gastronomic excellence and its exquisite wine list.

In 1641, Queen Kristina issued a decree that an inn be built every 55 miles along Sweden’s newly constructed country roads. Each inn was to provide separate accommodations for the three distinct social classes of the day as well a stable that could house a minimum of 24 horses.

Following Queen Kristina’s edict, Grythyttan quickly rose to prominence as the ideal model for the project.

Nightfall in the quiet streets of Grythyttan  (
Eventually, Grythyttan’s Gästgivaregård fell into disrepair and, by the end of the 1960s, the inn was in such a state of ruin that it was scheduled for demolition. At the 11th hour the local heritage society intervened and saved it with a one vote margin of victory.  Arthur Lindqvist and Yngve Henriksson were then assigned the task of renewing the spirit of the inn to its once elegant past.

Enter a flamboyant, 26-year old, antique dealer named Carl Jan Granqvist and the reputation of Grythyttan quickly returned to its former grandeur.

Lace curtains highlight a room at the inn  (Communities Digital News)
In the spring of 1973, Grandqvist reopened the hostelry comprised of 22 buildings with 60 rooms and suites.  Each was exquisitely filled with antique furniture and appointed with artwork created by local craftsmen. Even the inn’s former dungeon was converted into a candlelit wine and cheese cellar.

Despite a population of less than 1,000 residents Grythyttan has more or less returned to a semblance of its past thanks to the innovations of Grandqvist and the patronage of the pop singing group ABBA during the 1980s. Today Grythyttan is home to the chef and restaurant management school known as the Gyrthyttan School of Hospitality, Culinary Arts & Meal Science.

Each room is unique  (Communities Digital News
For 25-years Grandqvist managed the property with such style and flair that the town soon became the “inn” place to go for a relaxing respite for the rich and famous.  With his well-deserved reputation as one of Sweden’s finest gourmands and wine connoisseurs, the flashy entrepreneur frequently entertained guests during summer months with free chamber music concerts at his villa just outside of town.  To accomplish this, Grandqvist provided complimentary accommodations to members of the Stockholm Philharmonic who in return performed in the evenings for guests and villagers alike.

Grythyttan is roughly shaped like a large roundabout with roads radiating like the spokes of a wheel from the central section of town into other areas of the region.  The main inn is situated on a wide spot along one of the country roads leading into town.  Rooms are scattered throughout the property in more than twenty buildings which were once stables, haylofts, blacksmith shops or any one of a variety of buildings that made the town prosperous.

In summer the golden field of Sweden are so brilliant they almost hurt your eyes  (wikipedia)
Though Carl Jan Grandqvist no longer adds his personal touch to Grythyttan’s Gästgivaregård, his personality still survives in this tiny Swedish village that became a hotel.

Here’s a tip.  Arrive in mid-afternoon.  Enjoy the spa.  Wine and dine in elegance. Spend the night.  Savor the magic.