From Northern Lights and thrilling winter adventures to UNESCO-listed Old Towns and award-winning cuisine, the city of Luleå, in Swedish Lapland, makes for the perfect base for a winter break in the Arctic. What's more, Luleå is also the gateway to some of Scandinavia's most iconic design hotels, and with new direct flights from London Heathrow to Luleå starting in December 2021, the region will be easier to reach than ever. So, we've chosen five of the best places to stay in and around Luleå – all of which have been tried and tested by our Scandinavia specialists – that make for the perfect base for a winter break in Lapland.
Top 5 places to stay in Luleå
1. Brandon Lodge
Overlooking the frozen Bothnian Bay, this stylish and family-friendly lodge is just 30 minutes from Luleå, making it an ideal base for exploring the archipelago. Staying in a cosy forest cabin, there's everything from wilderness skills in the forest and ice fishing to more thrilling adventures like hovercraft tours, snowmobiling and dog-sledding on offer, alongside, of course, searching for those illustrious Northern Lights. Alternatively, summer's Midnight Sun makes for a wonderful playground for kayaking and hiking. Warm up at the lavuu for hot drinks to await the aurora or relax in the lakeside sauna, the perfect prelude to local meals served in a cosy wooden cabin, complete with roaring log fire. Expect everything from champagne and Arctic caviar to home-smoked moose and reindeer meat.
One of Swedish Lapland's most iconic hotels, the Treehotel is set among a beautiful pine forest in Harads just 60km south of the Arctic Circle, with unique treetop cabins like the UFO, Bird's Nest and Mirror Cube all providing excellent views of – with luck – the Northern Lights. Each individually-themed treehouse is equipped with under-floor heating, while the Tree Sauna makes for a welcome retreat after a day exploring the surrounding landscapes. Winter offers up horse and sleigh excursions, dog sledding and skiing while trekking, mountain biking and fishing are ideal summer pursuits under the Midnight Sun. Finish off your days of adventure at Brittas Restaurant, showcasing the region's finest and freshest ingredients from Arctic char and Caviar of Kalix to salmon, moose and reindeer.
3. Arctic Bath
In the middle of Sweden’s Lule River – floating in summer and suspended in ice during winter – this retreat is Scandinavia’s latest hotel innovation. A spectacular selection of treatment rooms and saunas surround a central cold bath, offset by adventures like summer hikes and bike rides and, come winter, the thrills of husky sledding and snowmobiling. This is, first and foremost, a wellness retreat, with chefs creating gourmet, healthy menus in a display of seasonal and local ingredients – think river-caught fish and forest berries – before guests return to the contemporary delights and floor-to-ceiling windows of the ultra-modern guest rooms, an ideal spot for Northern Lights watching.
4. Arctic Retreat
The Arctic Retreat is another modernist gem and one of the best places to stay in and around Luleå, just 50km north of the city. With just three intimate guest cabins, expect a traditional log-cabin aesthetic mixed with a contemporary Scandi-chic vibe, with each cabin featuring its own deck, fire pit and hot tub. Just be sure to make time to head out into the wilderness for everything from husky sledding, moose safaris, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and Northern Lights tours to culinary experiences, sauna rituals and in-room massages. Lunches – from reindeer stew to fire-cooked salmon – are often taken outdoors by the fire, with locally-inspired menus come evening.
5. Elite Stadshotellet
Overlooking Luleå's Stadtspark and the North Harbour, Luleå's Elite Stadtshotellet is situated on the city's main street and lies just moments from the area’s shopping, cultural and historical areas. Luxurious, high-ceilinged rooms offer fabulous city views, and nearby, myriad award-winning restaurants offer everything form gastro pub fare to fine-dining dinners. Then, after days exploring with the likes of UNESCO-listed Gammelstad tours and ice skating on the city's famous frozen sea roads – or, come summer, bike rides, sailing, fishing and horseback riding – you can take full advantage of the hotel's gym facilities and health club, including yoga lessons and sauna sessions.