No doubt you’ve heard about the Nobel prize, but did you know that Alfred Nobel was a Swede and that the Nobel prizes (with the exception of the Peace prize) are awarded in Stockholm every December?

I did find out a lot about Alfred Nobel and his namesake prizes during my small group pre-TBEX tour entitled “In the footsteps of Alfred Nobel”. However, the main reason I picked this tour among several dozen others was the food. The tour was to end with the complete 2015 Nobel dinner, served on the original Nobel China. How often do you get to eat like a Nobel prize laureate?

Since this was a private tour designed for 10 lucky participants from the TBEX conference (on a first-come first-serve basis) you can’t just go to Stockholm and sign up for it. However, every attraction I describe below is open to the public, even the possibility of eating a Nobel dinner, so read on.

Learning at the Nobel Museum

Nobel Museum, Stockholm

Nobel Museum on Stortorget

Nobel ice cream at the Nobel Museum cafe, Stockholm

The first stop on the tour was the Nobel Museum, located on Stortorget, the main square in Gamla Stan (Old Town). The full admission fee is 100 SEK (US$12), but it’s also included on the Stockholm Pass. They offer guided tours in English every day (included in the fee). This is where you get to learn everything you may want to know about Alfred Nobel, the Nobel Prize, and the Nobel Laureates. The museum also has a café where you can savour the Nobel ice cream, perfect for a fika!

Large scale model of a Nobel medal on the floor of the Nobel Museum, Stockholm

Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) was a Swedish chemist, engineer, innovator, and armament manufacturer. He held a total of 355 patents, with dynamite being his most famous invention, and amassed a large fortune. It is not precisely known what led him to create the Nobel prize. Many believe that a premature obituary accusing him of being a “merchant of death” for manufacturing weapons could be the reason. It is also possible that he was trying to make amends for the death of his younger brother in a dynamite experiment gone wrong.

There are six Nobel Prizes: Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature, Economic Sciences, and of course the Peace Prize. Economic Sciences was not listed in Nobel’s testament but was added in 1969 in a collaboration between the Nobel Foundation and the Sweden Central Bank. The five other prizes have been awarded every year on the anniversary of Nobel’s death (December 10) since 1901. Except for the Peace Prize, which is presented in Oslo (Norway), the other prizes are bestowed in Stockholm during a ceremony at the Concert Hall (near the Hötorget metro station).

Discovering at City Hall

Our tour didn’t stop at the Concert Hall. After a short orientation drive around the city, we disembarked at City Hall, one of Stockholm’s most recognizable landmarks. Built in a style called “national romanticism”, its hefty silhouette, composed of eight million red bricks, can be seen from many parts of the city. (Photo tip: the best unobscured view I found is from the island of Riddarholmen near Gamla Stan – see below. )

City Hall, Stockholm

City Hall can be visited by guided tour only. Public tours cost 70 to 100 SEK (about US$8-12), depending on the season. Our group was given a private tour after hours, so we had the whole place to ourselves.

Our guide first showed us the so-called “Blue Hall” which hosts the Nobel banquet and its 1350 guests. At 1500 square metres and 22 metres high, it’s a massive room. It’s not blue though. The name came from the original plans that would have had the red brick walls plastered and painted blue to resemble the water of the bay, but the architect later changed his mind. I thought the hall had a vaguely Moorish appearance.

The Blue Hall, City Hall, Stockholm

The Blue Hall, City Hall

We visited the Council Chambers, then a long gallery decorated with a fresco painting by Prince Eugen called The City on the Water depicting the view that you can see through the windows on the opposite wall!

Finally, we came to the most impressive room of all, the Golden Hall, covered in more than 18 million pieces of gold leaf mosaics depicting scenes from Stockholm’s history. This is where the post-Nobel banquet dancing and festivities take place. My photos don’t do justice to this dazzling room.

The Golden Hall, City Hall, Stockholm

The Golden Hall, City Hall

The tour ended with a climb up the 106-metre tower, partly by elevator, and partly along steps followed by a narrow spiralling pathway. At the top you can admire the city and the shimmering waters sprawling below you in all directions.

Eating the Nobel dinner at Stadshuskällaren

By that point we had all built up an appetite and were eagerly anticipating the highlight of the tour: the Nobel dinner. We exited City Hall and then re-entered through a separate side door that led to a basement restaurant, the Stadshuskällaren. While the regular menu here is not outrageously expensive, the Nobel dinner is a different story.

After taking a thousand pictures (we’re bloggers after all) the ten of us sat down at the round table in the small intimate room and prepared ourselves for a feast. The numbered menu (a keepsake) showed three courses, each with a matching wine.

Table settings with Nobel china at Stadshuskällaren, Stockholm

Table settings with Nobel china at Stadshuskällaren restaurant

The Nobel 2015 menu

Turbot and scallop with sea plants, brown butter and bleak roe

Ember bed roasted veal wrapped in mushroom with celeriac and apple, roasted celeriac jus and potato pithiviers

Coffee and almond flavoured cherry blossom

The three courses from the 2015 Nobel dinner, Stockholm

The three courses from the 2015 Nobel dinner

As expected, everything was delicious, from the bread to the digestif. If you’re curious, you can find out the Nobel menus for every year since 1901. Ours was 2015.

The meal was served in the original china and glassware from the Nobel banquet, both designed and manufactured in Sweden. The glasses are from Orrefors and the china from Rörstrand. With each set worth around 5000 SDK (about US$600), needless to say we were very careful toasting our good fortune!

a Nobel dinner 2015 place set at Stadshuskällaren, Stockholm

I am very grateful to Visit Stockholm for sponsoring this activity, as the full price for the 2015 Nobel dinner is a gasp-inducing 1695 SDK (US$200). It could be worth it for a splurge though, or if you want to surprise your partner for a special anniversary perhaps. In fact, if you have a group of more than 10 people, you can pre-order the Nobel menu from any year, but it might cost you even more (depending on the availability of the ingredients I suppose).

About to dig into the main course, Nobel dinner 2015, Stockholm

About to dig into the main course!

Want to win a nobel prize?

If US$200 is too rich for you, you could always try to win a Nobel prize. What are the criteria? Although there is no clear formula for success, the prize favours those who seek to advance human knowledge or create solutions to the world’s problems, as well as people who create major shifts in thinking for a field, as Einstein did for Physics. For the Peace Prize, Nobel’s will states that the prize should be awarded to the person who, in the preceding year, “shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

So, what does the recipient of a Nobel prize win? Each laureate receives a gold medal, a diploma and a sum of money that has been decided by the Nobel Foundation. As of 2012, each prize was worth 8 million SEK or about US$1.2 million. With this much money, you could eat a Nobel meal every day for 13 years! Or perhaps just keep travelling around the world indefinitely. 🙂

Nobel medals at Nobel Museum, Stockholm

Nobel medals displayed at Nobel Museum

(Note: The “In the footsteps of Alfred Nobel” tour was sponsored by Visit Stockholm. However all opinions and photos are my own.)

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