“ Absolut Icebar / Nordic Sea Hotel, Vasaplan 4, Stockholm. „
For those people who haven't been to Stockholm it is an amazing city and definitely in my top 5 favourite cities. It is absolutely beautiful and thanks to it being built on a series on islands it has the nickname of the Venice of the north and although I can see why it has this name in my opinion Stockholm is far more beautiful. As you would expect from a Scandinavian country it is incredibly clean and I don't think I saw one piece of graffiti in my time there. The people were friendly and their level of English was far better than I have experienced in some English cities.
Public transport is fantastic and the underground runs well and on time and is comfortable and quick to use.
Of course there is a price to pay for having such a beautiful clean city and Stockholm is far and away the most expensive place I have ever been where a cup of coffee can cost the same as a meal in some other European cities.
Because I had been warned in advance of the cost I made sure I bought a Stockholm card which gives free entry to over 80 museums and attractions and free use of the excellent metro system and other forms of public transport including the boats that are used to reach many of the sights. Although the card was quite expensive to buy I made really good use of it and ended up saving a small fortune by seeing as many sights as possible. I highly recommend the Stockholm card to people visiting the city but make sure that you are prepared to squeeze in as much as possible to make it pay for itself.
One attraction which was near the top of my list to see but was unfortunately one of the only things not included with the Stockholm card was the Absolut ice bar. I had seen ice bars on television and had always wanted to visit one and as the Stockholm ice bar was the original one the rest are based on I thought that it would be the perfect, fun way to end a long
day of sightseeing.
The Absolut ice bar in Stockholm was the world's first permanent ice bar when it opened in 2002. Although now synonymous with Vodka company Absolut is originally had nothing to do with them and they only took over the sponsorship after realising what a good branding opportunity it was.
The ice bar is made from ice that is shipped in from the Torne river in frozen Lapland and is so clean that it is graded by the Swedish government as safe to drink when melted and this is because when the ice freezes it squeezes out all the dirt and bacteria making it purer than the surrounding water.
To keep the ice frozen and ensure that it doesn't melt with the amount of people who are traipsing around the bar it is kept to a constant temperature of minus 5 degrees and this is controlled by a computerized system.
To visit the ice bar you can either book in advance through the website or just show up and hope that it is quiet or wait around for your turn to enter it. We chose to just show up as I didn't want to be forced into a set time to visit.
The ice bar is located in the lobby of the Nordic sea hotel and the hotel is really easy to find as it is located in the centre of town near the main train station.
When we entered I was a little disappointed to be faced with a rather plain boring hotel lobby and wasn't even sure that we were in the right place to begin with. I'm not sure what I was expecting but it was something more dramatic than what we experienced.
The lobby is quite large and there were no signs to say that we were in the right place but we spotted a line of people queuing so assumed that this must be the right spot.
We took out place in the queue and waited to get to the front. It didn't take long for the queue to go down and we were soon at the front where we paid our money to enter the bar. The price was SEK 190 per person which is around £18 but it is a few pounds cheaper if you book in advance.
We were told that the bar was full and we were looking at a half hour wait. This wasn't really a problem as it was a Saturday night and to be honest we were actually expecting a longer wait. They gave us a little stick that would change colour when they were ready for us and we went and got a drink in the hotel lobby bar.
When the stick told us it was our time to enter the bar we went back over to the queue and handed our tickets over to the lady behind the counter who was extremely friendly and she took us and a few other people into a changing room and told us what to expect.
In the changing room we were given large oversized parkas with fur trimmed hoods. These parkas didn't have buttons and instead they go over the head and are extremely heavy and snug. They also have gloves attached to them and these are nice and large but you will definitely need to remove them if you want to be able to use your hands for taking pictures etc.
Once we were dressed in our arctic gear we went to a door that is attached to the changing room and had to press a button which took us into a corridor and when the whole group was in the corridor the door then sealed shut and we were able to press the button to open the door to the bar.
Once we entered the bar it was like entering a different world. Gone was the boring interior of the hotel and before us was a cool, modern interior that was made entirely of ice. Although I knew it was all made of ice it still came as a little bit of a shock to see it in the flesh. There were ice columns, the bar was made of ice and there were sculptures everywhere.
Music was being pumped into the bar and this added to the atmosphere as I think without it the bar may have been eerie instead of funky as it was also a lot darker than I expected with only some low level lighting to illuminate the large room.
The cost of entry also included one free cocktail and being the Absolut ice bar all the drinks were made with a variation of vodka. The choice was quite extensive and they all sounded delicious. I forget the name of the cocktail I ordered but it was something to do with archipelagos and was really really good. There are also plenty of non-alcoholic cocktails for the under agers and the teetotallers. Even the glasses the drinks came in were made out of solid blocks of ice that had been hollowed out.
Once we had our cocktails we went to look round the bar.
Although the room is large it is not exactly cavernous so it didn't take long to look around but there is some fun to be had taking pictures with the sculptures and everyone else had the same idea if the amount of camera flashes going off is any indication.
Apparently every year the ice bar changes the theme and in the summer when I was there the theme was aquatic and I think this really suited the ice bar and I could definitely get the aquatic references when looking around.
There are no seats to be found anywhere in the bar and I can only assume this is to stop peoples body heat from melting the ice but it was still a little annoying as it meant we had to stand the whole time and I would have quite liked to have had a seat to just soak up the atmosphere.
When we first entered the bar I was pleasantly surprised to notice the temperature was cold but not uncomfortable but after about 20 minutes it did start feeling colder and although when you pay your entry it gives you access to the bar for 45 minutes I found that half an hour was more than enough time to drink my drink and experience the bar and just as important it was enough time to make sure I took plenty of pictures to document my experience.
Once we were ready to leave we just repeated the steps as when we entered and found ourselves back in the changing room and we removed our parkas and went to leave. On the way out you pass by a small and by small I mean tiny area where you can buy some souvenirs of your trip to the ice bar. I had a look and was going to buy something but it was just the usual souvenir items but they were extremely over-priced so I decided that my pictures would be enough to remember my visit by.
Once we left the hotel and stepped outside into the warm summer evening it really hit home just how cold the actual bar was.
I loved the Absolut ice bar and have no hesitation in recommending it as a must see to others as it is such a unique experience. If I wanted to be awkward then I could find plenty of things to complain about such as the slow service at the bar or the expense to enter but as this was something special that I probably won't ever experience again I can overlook these things. I have really fond memories of my trip to Stockholm and the ice bar was definitely a high light for me.
I am glad I did it even though now I have experienced it I probably wouldn't go again but that's only because it is not really something that needs to be experienced twice.
For those people who are thinking of visiting the Absolut ice bar the opening times are from 12:45pm to 1:00am in summer and from 15:00pm to 1:00am in winter but be warned that the last time for just showing up is 21:45 and after this time it is only for people who have pre booked.
The website address where you can book is: www.nordicseahotel.se.