On a warm August day in 1964, a crowd gathered in a small town in the south of Sweden, as Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad stood atop the roof to make his announcement: Motell Ikea was officially open. But it wasn’t the accommodations that had the crowd so excited, it was the pool. The big sparkling aquamarine swimming pool would become the site of recreation and merriment in Älmhult — home to the first Ikea store — for almost four decades.
Unfortunately, that pool no longer exists. Some 40 years after its debut, the costs to maintain the ageing infrastructure outweighed the benefits, and the town’s beloved pool was filled in. But the twice-renamed and thrice-expanded Ikea Hotell still stands — and it remains the social hot spot of Älmhult. It’s also a one-of-a-kind place to lay your head: Even though Ikea has 460 stores across six continents, this 254-room property is the only Ikea hotel in the world.
“People are often a bit surprised when they find out about us,” Ida-Maria Rigoll, the destination sales lead at Ikea Hotell, tells Travel + Leisure. “They know what Ikea is, but they don’t know that we have a hotel. Of course, there are always people making fun and asking, ‘Oh, do we have to put our own bed together?’”
Jokes aside, Ikea Hotell is both a comfortable getaway and a living showroom. Rooms are refreshed throughout the year to highlight new furniture and decor and, yes, to perhaps entice you into a bit of shopping. If you see something you like during your hotel stay, you can be sure to find it at an Ikea store.
“It’s important for us that we are totally Ikea-decorated and that all the interior furnishings are from Ikea. We have designers come in and arrange everything so we can be an inspiring place,” Rigoll says. Anyone who has ever walked through an Ikea showroom and marvelled at the creative use of space will understand exactly what she means.
Here’s a look inside the Ikea hotel
Ikea Hotell may have shape-shifted over the years, but the inspiration for its core concept is thought to have come from Kamprad’s travels through the US in 1961. He found a certain charm — and practicality — in the roadside motels dotting the American landscape. With their easy in-and-out access, a place to relax (never forget the glistening waters of the Motell Ikea pool), and no-nonsense furnishings, such an establishment made perfect sense next to a busy showroom in Älmhult. It’s also especially fitting for a company with an ethos that has long prioritised value over profit.
“We try to run this hotel like an Ikea store,” Rigoll says. “We always put volume over price. It’s our strategy to offer a low price, so we don’t work with revenue in the same way as regular hotels. We sell the first room and the last room for the same price. If I have two rooms left for today, I don’t go in and increase the price; we want to have a room for everybody.”
You won’t find lavish suites or luxe minibars in your room at Ikea Hotell, but there’s a full-service restaurant (its famous meatballs are on the menu, of course), along with a gym and sauna. There is also an assortment of conference rooms and communal workspaces, and a garden with an “insect hotel” — the latter is cleverly called “The Buggingham Palace.” Plus, the hotel is more of a gathering place than you might expect from a small-town Swedish stay.
“It’s hard to imagine because Älmhult is a small town in the middle of the forest, but this is an international, vibrant place,” Rigoll says. “Ikea Hotell plays an important role in the community as well because there are no other hotels or large restaurants — this is where you meet if you’re a business traveller.”
While on-the-clock travellers are definitely a mainstay here, Ikea Hotell welcomes plenty of casual holidaymakers, too. Småland, the province surrounding Älmhult, is a haven of lakes and forests, attracting outdoor enthusiasts year-round for everything from hiking and paddleboarding to cross-country skiing and moose safaris. And if you simply must take a dip in a swimming pool instead of the nearby Lake Möckeln, you’ll find a community pool just minutes away in Älmhult.
The real can’t-miss attraction of Ikea Hotell, though, is the Ikea Museum. It’s located in the original Ikea store from 1958, effectively transporting visitors through the company’s history of furniture and design. And it’s just a two-minute walk from the hotel.
Despite the lesser-known location, getting to Ikea Hotell is easier than you might think. Rigoll says most guests travelling from afar fly into Copenhagen and then take a comfortable, two-hour train ride to Älmhult. The Ikea Hotell is a mere four minutes from the railway station. If you’re arriving by car, there’s plenty of free parking.
The glory days of Älmhult’s favourite party pool may be behind us, but when it comes to Ikea, there’s always something new to look forward to. With remote work on the rise, the hotel team is discussing options for larger rooms that invite longer stays.
“We’re increasingly being asked about long-term stays; even up to a month,” Rigoll says. “During the pandemic, people got used to working from home and commuting in another way. Now we’re seeing more of the ‘workcationing’ trend. We’ve changed our ways of working, and this is especially good for small towns like Älmhult.”
It’s good for travellers, too. Meatballs, museums, and more opportunities to get outside while working from chic, affordable digs? Yep, Ikea Hotell has always known how to make a splash.
Nightly rates start at USD 100 (INR 8,232). Learn more about Ikea Hotell and book your stay at ikeahotell.se.
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This story first appeared on www.travelandleisure.com
Main and Feature Image Credit: IKEA Hotell
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