Cool Arlanda serves up quirky gift ideas

Stockholm Duty Free

  • Terminals: 4 (T2, T3, T4 and T5)
  • Airlines: 74
  • Destinations: 167
  • Passengers: 16.9m (2010)
  • Shops: 48
  • Restaurants/cafés: 35
  • Currency: Swedish Krona (SEK)
  • Airport Website: http://www.arlanda.se

If Stockholm conjures up depressing images of ice, snow and grey skies, it’s time to dust off your passport and book a trip. In recent years Sweden’s stunning capital city, already rightly famous for its cobbled Old Town and beautiful parks and waterways, has also developed a well-deserved reputation as an über-cool tourist destination, boasting chic hotels, swanky cocktail bars, award-winning restaurants and trendy fashion stores.

The same feeling of design-led Scandinavian cool hangs over the city’s airport, Stockholm Arlanda, which is located only a short, 20-minute ride away on the high-speed Arlanda Express. This quiet, clean and efficient airport hosts regular art exhibitions and arriving passengers to Terminals 2 and 5 are greeted by a series of portraits of famous Swedes such as 70s chart-topping supergroup ABBA, tennis legend Björn Borg and famous actresses such as Ingrid Bergman and Greta Garbo.

And for the seasoned traveller bored of seeing the same international brands at every major international airport, Arlanda’s idiosyncratic shopping offer is a welcome change. Browse the giant new duty-free shop in T5, for instance, and you’ll find excellent Swedish whisky brand, Mackmyra; a ‘Snusidor’ dedicated to Swedish chewing tobacco, and several organic cosmetic and skincare brands such as Organic Apoteke, John Masters Organic, Ila, Taer Icelandic and Nux unavailable elsewhere in travel-retail.

The store is not only enormous•it’s easily big enough to fit six tennis courts could inside it• but it also ranks as one of the best-designed shops you’ll find at any airport in the world. Products are grouped together into easy-to-find areas• so you can flit from The World of Cognac to the World of Cigars, and back to the World of Perfumes, and find useful background information on the products such as country or region of origin, ingredients, special features, tasting notes, and recommendations from independent experts.The most striking feature in the spirits selection is a 6.5m high arch dedicated to Absolut, the world’s best-selling premium vodka and Sweden’s most famous spirit. Every Absolut flavour is sold here, including hard-to-find rarities such as the higher strength Absolut 100, which makes a superb vodka martini.

The only trouble is Swedish law prohibits tasting promotions so if you want to try before you buy, we suggest heading for either of the two stylish Absolut cocktail bars in T5 and pick a creation from their extensive cocktail lists.

Elsewhere in the airport, we like the recently renovated Airport Fashion store in the SkyCity terminal. It features a pretty good range of youthful fashion brands for a small airport shop, including the likes of Sand, Long Island, Gant, Odd Molly, Pret and Paul Smith.Arlanda also boasts an enticing range of confectionery and fine food products, stocking everything from smoked salmon, jams and herring, to reindeer paté. Our pick in this sector is the beautifully packaged Swedish chocolate Venus Choklad, which can be found in the Fine Food stores in Terminals 2 and 5. Top sellers include Dark Cognac, a 70% dark chocolate praline flavoured with local Grönstedt Cognac, and Chili Heart, another dark chocolate praline, this time flavoured with red chili.

Caviar lovers should look out for whitefish roe, a local seafood speciality also available in the airport’s Fine Food shops. The whitefish hail from the salmon family and are caught along the northern coast of the Baltic and prepared by hand.

Another gift idea is a piece of Swedish crystalware• just make sure to pack it well in your hand luggage. Wasa Crystal in the SkyCity sells a great range of both foreign and local crystal, including popular brands such as Orrefors, KostaBoda and Iltala.

If all that shopping has worn you out and you have time for a bite to eat, our pick of the airport’s restaurants is Andersson Food & Akvavit Bar in T5. With a menu created by award-winning Swedish chef Leif Manerström, you can feast on a tapas-inspired selection of Swedish favourites such as fresh herring, salmon, anchovies, smoked wild game and local cheeses. The selection of akvavit ) Swedish vodka flavoured with different spices) is also excellent.