The Swedes are tall. But not nearly as attractive as I imagined them to be. Which is not to say they were unattractive, but just common garden variety people. Anyway, it was just as well, as myself and friend G felt as cool, hip and attractive as the crowd which hung out at our chosen digs, the Hotel Rival. That is, everyone was pretty normal.

The Rival was set up by Benny of ABBA fame, clearly eschewing the principal that old pop stars need to wheel themselves out on tour to bring in some cash (yes I’m talking to you, Spandau Ballet). The Rival is an old 1930’s building, although honestly you wouldn’t know it. It is a little unprepossessing from the outside if you can see past the cinematic globe lighting at the entrance. This does add some theatre and detracts from the otherwise unremarkable facade. It’s not just pretending either – there actually is a cinema in the Rival showing arthouse films or hosting live shows from time to time. There is also a very popular bar, a large and plush dining room, a bakery (more on that later) and a bistro, all of which mean that (a) there are large crowds of very happy Swedes around at all hours and (b) you don’t really have to leave your hotel if you want to have a good time.

The rooms at the Rival are large and well designed, with lots of blonde timber and red or turquoise accents. I had requested a larger room as the "deluxe" rooms ranged from 25m2 to 35m2. We ended up with a room for the mobility challenged, which after all the pastries we ate was not entirely inappropriate. Beds were deliciously comfortable and facilities excellent (good minibar, free wifi, lots of ABBA cd’s and a bathroom sound system to encourage singing, excellent DVD menu and coffee stations on the floor below). My only complaints were that there was not enough reading light in the rooms (such a common problem – why is it that hotels can never distinguish between ambient lighting and near blindness?), and that the staff, although friendly, could have been more helpful. We had to struggle with our bags to the taxi rank outside, and although it was only a few metres, the lobby was packed and there were three burly staff on reception who didn’t seem to have much else to do.

The Rival is brilliantly situated in Sodermalm, on lovely Mariatorget square. Excellent shopping, cafes, and bars abound. I could easily have spent my few days in Stockholm wandering around Sodermalm, stopping every now and then to glance into a basement and watch a tattoo artist bent over his prone victim, admire a ceramicist at work in her urban timber barn, covet the entire contents of 1950’s homewares shops, or simply watch the tribes go by from my window perch in a sleek coffee bar.

However, it’s not far to walk into town and to do so you must pass through the cobbled streets of Gamla Stan, no bad thing. The harbour is beautiful, surrounded as it is by stately buildings, but part of the quirkiness that I loved about Stockholm was that amongst the postcard views, I also saw someone in waders standing under a bridge in the centre of town fishing for trout, and an imperious woman riding her horse down one of the main thoroughfares amongst the traffic.

But in the rapidly darkening autumn months, it was lovely to rush back to the hotel with red noses and cold hands, buy a vanilla butter pastry from the bakery (oh so good – little bronzed globes topped with snowflakes of white sugar and filled with the caramel residue from the butter) and then head to the coffee station to make a warm cup of tea or an espresso before sitting cross legged on our pillow top beds, surrounded by feather quilts and shopping bags. It was something of a wrench to go out for the evening.

But wrench we did, spending one evening at the rococo Bern’s to see Royksopp (actually from Norway, but Scandinavian enough for us). The room in which the band played was a dark and gorgeous frescoed affair hung with chandeliers and populated densely by an exuberant but hilariously polite crowd ("I’m so sorry, I believe I have jumped on your foot").

Berns also hosts several jam packed and stylish bars and restaurants and has hotel accommodation which is similarly luxe. I suspect the noise may be an issue depending on where your room is situated, but in all it is a slick if somewhat glittery package, brilliantly located in the centre of Stockholm.

However, my dream hotel here would have to be The Lydmar. Unfortunately we were on a budget but if my wallet had been a little fatter, I’d be there. The Rival was hard to beat in terms of comfort, style and location, but the Lydmar looks drop dead gorgeous. I bet they would help us with our bags too. But I’m not bitter.