Every year on December 10, the Nobel Prizes are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden and Oslo, Norway. Although most people's chances of ever winning a Nobel are slim to non-existent, the history and traditions of the prizes offer plenty of scope for exploration. Here’s where to go to experience Alfred Nobel’s rich legacy for yourself.
Stockholm: Nobel’s Hometown
Five of the six prizes -- in physics, chemistry, literature, medicine, and economics -- are presented at Konserthuset, the magnificent blue concert hall at Hötorget in the heart of downtown Stockholm. The home of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, it hosts classical music concerts throughout the year, including a special Nobel concert in early December. Nobel-themed tours are also available.
Stockholm’s distinctive red brick City Hall is the setting for the Nobel banquet and ball following the awards ceremony. The banquet takes place in the building’s Blue Hall (which isn’t actually blue at all, the architect having abandoned his intended color scheme in favor of exposed brick). After dinner, guests proceed upstairs for dancing in the Golden Hall, which is named for the golden mosaics that cover every inch of the walls and portrays people and events from Swedish history. Visits to City Hall are by guided tour only. 70 or 100 SEK (about $8 or $12) depending on time of year.
Inside the old Stock Exchange at Stortorget -- the main square in Stockholm’s old town, Gamla Stan -- you’ll find the Nobel Museum, which traces the history of the prizes and the work of past winners. The building also houses the Swedish Academy, which announces the Nobel Prize in Literature from this location each October. 100 SEK ($12).
Oslo: Home of the Peace Prize
Unlike the other Nobel Prizes, the Peace Prize is awarded at Oslo City Hall, overlooking the harbor in the city center. It’s worth a visit for its many large murals depicting scenes from Norwegian history and culture.
Nearby, the Nobel Peace Center focuses specifically on the Peace Prize and related topics. It houses exhibits about Alfred Nobel and the past winners, as well as temporary exhibitions surrounding peace and conflict resolution. 90 NOK ($10.50).
The Nobel Museum in Karlskoga
Alfred Nobel spent the last few summers of his life in Karlskoga, which lies just under three hours west of Stockholm, along the main highway route to Oslo. His home here is now a museum that gives a fascinating look at his final years and the challenges to his will that almost prevented the prizes from ever being established at all -- a dramatic story told in convincing fashion by a costumed guide portraying Alfred Nobel himself. Also on the grounds is Nobel’s laboratory, with exhibits about his inventions and other endeavors. 120 SEK ($14) for admission and dramatic tour.
Sleeping & Eating Like a Winner
Prize winners in Stockholm stay at the city’s most prestigious hotel, Grand Hotel, on the waterfront opposite the Royal Palace. Whether or not you book a room here, it’s worth stopping in for a meal at one of its award-winning restaurants.
For a true Nobel dining experience, head to Stadshuskällaren, a restaurant attached to Stockholm City Hall. It features the most recent year’s Nobel banquet menu as a special fixed-price option (1695 SEK, about $200), and three days’ advance reservation is recommended. Groups of 10 or more can pre-order any Nobel menu from 1901 and after.
In Oslo, Peace Prize winners stay at the luxurious Grand Hotel on Karl Johans gate, the city’s main boulevard. For a pretty penny, you can book the actual Nobel Suite, which has housed every winner to date. The hotel also hosts the banquet following the Peace Prize ceremony.