Monday, 9 August 2010

Gotland, Sweden & Hotel Furillen

Gotland is an island off Sweden in the Baltic Sea, and it's a really beautiful place to visit in summer, with its forests, and lush green farmland, and wildflowers, and beaches, and incredible coastal scenery. I often go on about how much of a 'city person' I am, but I actually love natural landscapes too, and connecting with nature; what I do not love about rural areas (in the UK, at least) is the lack of culture and of nice places to go, and the narrow-minded attitudes which you often encounter. In Gotland this is not a problem, partly because it is part of Sweden (which has got to be the hippest country in the world), and partly because it is the summer getaway of choice for Stockholmers, many of whom own picturesque summer houses on the island. This means it's a double-win situation: you get beautiful, wild countryside and quaint little fishermen's villages, but with a surprisingly cosmopolitan edge. There are great places to eat and to stay, and even when you pull up in the smallest towns, beside the huts selling smoked fish, you're likely to find tall, beautiful people, lounging around in Acne clothes, drinking coffee. Gotland is also home to one of the most extraordinary design hotels I have ever encountered, of which more later.

First we stayed near Visby, which is the capital of Gotland. It has a very picturesque old town, which is still surrounded by its Medieval walls.

First we stayed in the Tott Hotel, which is a perfectly decent - if not rather soulless - modern apartment hotel:

The best thing was the swimming jetty extending into the sea (so cold! so bracing!), which provided a great vantage point for the amazing Nordic light over the water:

Hotel pool area at night. It was not that warm, but all the Swedes were acting as if it we were in Ibiza or something, plunging fearlessly into the pool at all times of day and night, and relaxing on the big outdoor daybeds. I suppose if you're used to freezing winters, 22C is something to get excited about..

This little guy was running around on the lawn one evening:

Old fishermen's huts; the wooden frame is for air-drying fish:

If you think this is bad, you should have seen the one served with a huge dollop of shrimp in mayonnaise on top..

I cannot even articulate how much I *need* some giant Lego bricks and a giant Lego man:

As well as cool Stockholmers, the island attracts lots of wholesome, outdoors-y tourists, with bicycles, and camping gear, and caravans..

Amazing limestone coastal stacks:

Such serene beauty, with the quietness and the sort of white light. Gotland is a brilliant place to clear the mind.

I love Swedish funny. Whenever I visit other countries, I always like to check out the supermarkets.

This packaging gets me every time...last time we were in Sweden we brought back a can for our cat (#crazypetowners), but she was totally non-plussed:

Everything was so damn phallic..there was like an entire isle of jumbo sausages.

Rice pudding sausage:

Jam sausage:

These are really big in Sweden... crayfish, ham, bacon, and shrimp 'toothpaste' for making sandwiches. Personally I don't think I could find any use for squeezy bacon, other than for teaching a dog or cat to do tricks..

Giant crispbreads:



Gane Gård is a really nice interiors store near the town of Slite. They sell beautiful sheepskins from Gotland sheep, which are an amazing charcol grey colour...we brought some back.

We also visited Stina Lindholm's shop/studio. Lindholm is a really talented, acclaimed designer who works primarily in concrete. Her designs were absolutely amazing, and there was a really nice cafe and garden too.

Concrete bowls:

Love this bench, made of concrete and felt:

I wish I had a concrete topped table/desk..

Romanesco broccoli:

Brilliant outdoors furniture too:

There were loads of really cute cafes in Gotland:

Our new holiday companion, Får:

Not Gotland, but I loved this display of reindeer skins which I saw in Stockholm airport on the way home. So funny:

After Visby, we stayed in the north of the island. On the way we came across this vast quarry and cement works, which seemed to be a bit of a tourist attraction..there were loads of people eating ice creams and gawping into the quarry, which was actually a rather spectacular sight:

Beautiful landscape around where we stayed:

I was persuaded onto a bicycle for the first time in about five years:

Swimming in the sea was so refreshing, even if feelings of mild hyopthermia did begin to set in after about 15 minutes; rocking my
Primark beach towel and Ray-Ban Topman sungalsses:

In the north of Gotland we stayed in the Fabriken Furillen Hotel(website here), which was mind-blowing. It is situated in an abandoned limesone quarry, which means that it's surrounded by an incredible, almost lunar landscape left by the quarrying. The hotel is housed in the old industrial buildings.

They have this amazing silver Airstream caravan that is one of the rooms, which looks so brilliantly incongrous against the landscape:

The hotel is on a peninsula, and in the surrounding woodland they also have 'hermit cabins' which you can stay in.

The industrial-styled, minimal interiors are low-key luxury, with calm, muted colours, lots of soft, grey sheepskins, Alvar Aalto glassware and Bang & Olufsen electronics. It is all incredibly chic, largely thanks to the colours and the setting.

Furillen is the sort of hotel that you will either love or hate. It is not cheap, you are really paying for the design. At the price level, you would expect a lot more in other hotels (for instance, they didn't change the towels one day, instead leaving a damp towel in a ball on a chair..). The fact that they have an amazing £10,000 Bang & Olfusen TV in the lounge, with just 3 channels and no DVDs, kind of sums it up:

Food was excellent, and in the afternoon they put out tea and coffee for guests and then later alcoholic drinks, all included in the room rate. The whole place just had a really chilled-out vibe. Another cool thing is that they have loads of silver bicycles which you can ride around for no extra charge, which are perfect for exploring the beautiful forests and lakes nearby.

They have an obsession with wrapping everything in brown paper, like the cutlery for breakfast, and the potted plants outside. Someone ordered some Pringles, and the tube came wrapped in brown paper (because, you know, garish red packaging totally doesn't fit with the decor)'s absurd, but I love that dedication to the aesthetic concept. I also love the idea that somebody is employed to wrap everything in brown paper before it may enter the hotel.

The most delicious, home-made cinnamon buns EVER:

Edit: by popular demand (you know who you are!), I've added a picture of the guy who cleaned the rooms.

Housekeeping was actually the biggest let-down in this hotel, but when you look like a Calvin Klein model you can probably get away with it.


  1. Beautiful photos! Gotland has popped in past conversations when planning our holidays but never got the chance to do it. Now I have a clearer picture of Gotland and I'm liking it very much.

    Maybe next time you'll try the hotels in Norway I suggested. =)

  2. I would love to at some didn't work logistically this time, because we really wanted to go to Copenhagen, which was too far from Norway. Funnily enough there was a page about the Juvet hotel in the British Airways magazine.

    If you go to Gotland, you need to go in summer, and you really need to hire a car to get about.

  3. Will keep that in mind, thanks! I'm hoping to stay at Juvet Hotel one day, will have to arrange a long weekend there some time.

  4. The sexy housekeeper made me laugh. I like these non-fashion related posts. They're really interesting! Your knowledge of design history is impressive!

  5. Gotland! I've heard so much about it though am yet to visit. (However just so you know, small town Sweden can be just as bad - if not worse - than small town UK. I'm currently in a "city" devoid of culture, individualism and, well life in general.)

  6. Hey I know this might be an obscene request but can you post a picture of your shoe collection I have this obssesion with peoples shoe collections, And yours is a MUST SEE!!!

  7. Sweden has some weird looking food and signs. It made me laugh. But the furniture was beautiful. Would love to visit someday, except I hate like long flight trips from Australia.

  8. Very interesting place! And you're right, you either love it or hate it.

    on another note, I think you should watermark your pictures.

    Keep up the great posts.

  9. stunning post!! work, girl.

  10. I absolutely loved reading this. So amusing to hear a your take on everyday objects and habits which seem perfectly normal to me, a Stockholm suburbanite. (That tubed shrimp/toothpaste stuff is excellent on hot toast)

    Have you ever went to Sweden during winter?

  11. Your photography is beautiful! Everything is stunning. I absolutely love your blog.


  12. Hi I am Swedish and just moved to NY. No holiday this year since I'm working. I love Gotland and have spent a lot of time there. you photos mde my heart cry....
    thank you !