Stavanger - Norway

Eilert Smith Hotel


Eilert Smith Hotel

As you step onto the softly sloping marble landing that guides you to the hotel’s front door, you get the first intimations of what to expect when you enter.

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The hotel feels like it was made to be held in your hand, like a perfectly shaped pebble. Everything about it invites you to reach out. You have the floaty, cloud-like character of the travertine stone underfoot, the solidity of the layered wall tiles and finally the porous, rough textures of the countertops and sinks that are nevertheless so, so soft to the touch.

As tributes go, the Eilert Smith hotel (named after the building’s original architect), is profound. Not only is this a careful restoration of one of the first functionalist buildings in Stavanger, but it is also a homage to the architect’s character. The hotel feels kind, gentle and easy going. Very much in the style that Eilert Smith himself liked to entertain, creating a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere.

Not only is this a careful restoration of one of the first functionalist buildings in Stavanger, but it is also a homage to the architect’s character.

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There is a confidence to Eilert Smith that’s difficult to describe, but very easy to love. It is not braggadocios or attention seeking. It is the kind of understated confidence that relaxes anyone that comes into its orbit, putting everyone at ease.

Not surprising then, that guests tend to spend time in their rooms, enjoying a pause from the everyday, the beauty in all the details, its comforts, the art, the music from the record player, and each other’s company.

If you are the kind of person who can obsess over the perfection of a cutlery drawer, the way a mug fits the hand or the sensual curve of a wooden chair, you’ll feel right at home. And that’s exactly the vibe the hotel is going for. A familial effortless comfort that is made possible by the hotel manager Tone Herigstad and her staff. They make it their business to anticipate, and pre-emptively cater to, each guest’s particular needs and wishes.

The hotel is utterly discreet. There is no reception area as such, but you will receive a warm welcome. The door is not open to everyone, but open to guests whenever they wish to come and go. It makes the place feel particularly safe, cosy and contained.

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Stavanger has burst onto the food scene over the past decade. Eilert Smith makes sure to curate the best of the best at exactly the best time. One day cherries, another a pear, depending on what is in season. The hotel houses the 2-star restaurant Re-naa on its first floor.

The restaurant manager Kristoffer Aga explains how every guest is special. “It is our job to create a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere so that everyone who comes to eat has an extraordinary experience”. That extraordinary experience includes artful dishes that sometimes feel familiar, sometimes unusual, striking the right balance between surprising and satisfying their guests. Re-naa is also responsible for the hotel breakfast, which is served to the room and perhaps best eaten leisurely in bed.

If you want to make a foodie weekend of it, Tone can probably help secure a table at nearby Omakase as well. However, book in advance, the place makes no exceptions, even famously turning International A-listers away when fully booked. It is an uncompromisingly egalitarian approach to luxury.

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Stavanger is an industrial, International small town on the southwest coast of Norway. From Eilert Smith’s windows you may be able to enjoy the working harbour right outside, supply vessels, tow boats and other ships coming and going. Less than a half hour drive southward, the ice that melted around 10 000 years ago left endless white sandy beaches. In contrast, heading northward, or out the Stavanger fjord, you will find steep mountains that drop just short of a kilometre into the water. Whether from the top of the mountain or from the fjord below – the sight is awesome in the true meaning of the word.

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