Checking In: Seattle's Hotel Ändra
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Checking In: Seattle's Hotel Ändra

May 06, 2023

Scandanavian-infused design blends with fantastical foodie experiences in the heart of the Emerald City

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Editor's Note: This is the latest instalment in our Checking In series, which profiles hotels from both staycation and weekend getaway perspectives. Despite global travel turnstiles now fully opened to Vancouverites, many are still choosing to spend a night or two locally, and in the process rediscovering parts of the region they haven't visited in some time.

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I went to Seattle and got hygge’d. With apologies to my Scandinavian friends, as I probably butchered the usage of the word, but during a recent weekend at Hotel Ändra in the Emerald City's Belltown neighbourhood, I had the warm and fuzzies. Hygge is the Danish art of being consciously cozy, and the 123-room boutique hotel's recent extensive interior facelift that was heavily influenced by Scandinavian design creates a strong sense of comfortable coziness. As Seattle is home to one of the continent's largest Scandinavian populations, the inspiration seems fitting.

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The first thing that strikes you about Ändra — which is Swedish for "change", incidentally — is the near-century-old building it inhabits. Opened in 1926 as so-called ‘efficiency’ apartments, the historic corner building served as a Women's Army Corps transfer station from 1945 through 1947, and in the Seventies was converted to a boutique hotel. It became Hotel Ändra in 2004, and last year underwent that major remodelling. Seattle has an abundance of beautiful early 20th Century architecture, and this building certainly is part of that inventory.

According to hotel management, the vision of designer Sharilyn Olson Rigdon of Design Studio LTD was to highlight the Swedish baroque period through luxurious furnishings in velvet, wool, and linen, and Swedish cottage influences using warm wood, cane, stone, and glass tiling. One thing not mentioned there is colour, and for me the use of all that natural wood really conveyed that intended sense of calm and coziness. The lobby is a study in Swedish design, and regardless of the time of day, guests were hanging out there, working on their laptops on a narrow elevated table, sitting in bolstered chairs by the fireplace, and reading in a pair of armchairs in a recessed nook. I can't recall seeing a more well-used hotel lobby. And about that basalt-clad fireplace; it is full-height and influenced by the "walk-in" hearths common in historic Swedish palaces.

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There are so many reasons to visit Seattle — a vibrant local pro sports scene, an interesting and diverse range of galleries and museums, and it's very walkable downtown districts — but what always keeps me coming back is the food. As with all downtown cores, Covid had a debilitating effect on Seattle restaurants and bars, but its roared back to near pre-pandemic levels, particularly in the Belltown-South Lake Union neighbourhood. Anyone who knows anything about the Seattle food scene knows the name Tom Douglas, the godfather of Pacific Northwest gastronomy. The multi-James Beard Award winner oversees a food empire, including products — his rubs are a thing of legend — publishing, restaurants and a cooking school. That latter entity and one of his half-dozen restaurants figure prominently in the Hotel Ändra story.

Lolo is a Greek-influenced restaurant with an entrance right from the hotel's lobby, and like of all Douglas's creations there is a true story behind it. Essentially, the menu is created by the chef asking himself what would be "Grandpa Louie's Dream Greek Vacation Dinner"? Louie was his father-in-law, and along with mother-in-law Lola the couple came to America and lived the immigrant dream. But they never returned to their homeland, thus prompting Douglas to wonder about that fictional menu. Well, let's just Louie and Lola would be in Greek heaven. Particularly if they strolled in for weekend brunch (being family they probably wouldn't need a reservation, but trust me, you do). The place was hopping on the Sunday morning we made the trip from our room down to the lobby and into Lola. We’d been told to make sure to order pancakes, the in-house maple-pork sausage and the Greek scramble, and it just took a couple of bites to understand why Lolas is considered one of the best brunch spots in Seattle. Judging from the busy night trade, it's a hot dinner place too.

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Douglas's other contribution to Hotel Ändra is the Hot Stove Society cooking school, located on the second floor and every amateur chef's dream. Featuring a fully equipped, professional kitchen, the Hot Stove is somewhat unique in the cooking school realm as in addition to offering typical live demonstrations by pro chefs, there is also a hands-on program that sees groups from four to 45 prepare and cook a meal using all that pro equipment under the guidance of pro chefs. Think of it as team building that ends with a fantastic meal. Corporate groups make up a big part of that clientele, as do wedding rehearsal parties and friends and families. In addition to having a great time, you’ll come away with some great cooking tips from the pros and probably some insights to what makes your co-workers, bride-to-be or uncle Jack tick. And if you are coming to a class at the Hot Stove Society, Hotel Ändra offers a 20 per cent room discount. Visit for more details.

Hotel Ändra offers several package deals, with the most enticing one, for us above the 49th Parallel at least, called the Northern Neighbour. This includes up to 15 per cent off the best rate, 50 per cent off overnight valet parking and a complimentary upgrade (based on availability). Other packages include the Solstice Savings, Cruise Package, Urban Escape, Military & Veteran and the Free Parking package. For more details visit

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