Usually when our family’s traveling and we need to stay by an airport for an overnight layover, we mainly consider price and practicality in a location. Sure, we don’t want to be in a dump, but we’re not expecting to be wowed by our accommodations or the area around it. After all, it’s just a layover. Well the little town of Sigtuna by Arlanda Airport outside of Stockholm, did wow us – so much so, I’ve been dreaming about going back ever since.
For such a small town – a village really – Sigtuna is big on charm and history. It is the oldest town in Sweden, dating back to 970 A.D. and has a number of interesting medieval church ruins, most notably St. Olaf’s, as well as over a hundred runestones from the Viking ages. Situated on the shores of Lake Malaren, it couldn’t be more picture postcard perfect, with Sweden’s iconic wooden houses, boutique shops, and pleasant cafes.
The word that probably best describes Sigtuna is peaceful, and the area of town that is most evocative of this label is the Sigtuna boardwalk. I spent my one and only morning there jogging along the boardwalk, making frequent stops to take photos and enjoy the tranquility that seems to elude me back home.
Along the boardwalk are green spaces for recreation, comfortable wooden benches, and cheerful homes, many with small boat docks so their residents can enjoy Sweden’s deep-rooted maritime traditions. As the boardwalk winds its way closer to the town center, there’s a wonderful restaurant and bar, Restaurant Vafflan Hamnkrog & Bar, where locals, many of them pilots residing close to Arlanda, gather to enjoy cocktails, good local food, and the company of friends.
During our night in Sigtuna, we stayed at the Sigtunastiftelsen Hotel & Konferens, a real gem that my husband discovered on Trip Advisor. About a 15-minute walk from the town center, the Sigtunastiftelsen perfectly evokes the town’s character. The grounds are lovely – relaxing and peaceful, as if you were staying at an Italian monastery, or, as I joked with my husband, the Betty Ford Clinic – the kind of place you’d go to get away from it all. Patio tables and seating are spread throughout a beautiful courtyard – perfect for enjoying the hotel’s breakfast buffet or afternoon glass of wine. Inside, the hotel has quiet and spacious areas throughout for reading, playing cards, doing some work, or just relaxing.
The guest rooms are on the small side, but are homey, with all the wonderful nostalgia of a weekend stay at your grandparents’ or maybe your great aunt’s house – no tv (just a radio!), antique furniture, pretty curtained windows, hardwood floors accented with worn rugs, and simple bedding. It definitely doesn’t have the feel of a chain hotel. Then again, nothing in Sigtuna feels overly commercial – probably the reason I’m still dreaming about going back, though not as layover but as my final destination!
Getting to Sigtuna:
From the airport, you can take a cab to the hotel for roughly $40, but we decided to take the public bus for about half that (kids ride free on weekends!). It stops right in the town center, which is fine if your hotel is there. The Sigtunastiflesen is about a 20-minute walk from the bus stop, if you’re staying here and you’ve got young kids, anyone with mobility issues, or lots of baggage, I would probably just splurge on the cab for door-to-door service.
Bus information: www.destinationsigtuna.se/en/partner/public-transport
Sigtunastiftelsen Hotell & Konferens: www.sigtunastiftelsen.se
General information on Sigtuna: http://www.destinationsigtuna.se/en