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The Magic of Ice

The Magic of Ice

One of the most famous sites in the beautiful Norrland region of Sweden is the unique Ice Hotel, close to the small town of Jukkasjärvi. The hotel is rebuilt every winter in a new style from ice hewn from the Torne River, as every summer the hotel melts in the 24 hour daylight that this region enjoys. 

Each of the rooms is individually designed, and carved solely from ice blocks - even the bed! To stay warm, guests are given thermal sleeping bags and reindeer-skin blankets at night. 

The building of the hotel is something of an art exhibition - with up to 40 artists each year travelling to Northern Sweden to design the hotel - combining snow, ice and light displays in original, unique and beautiful ways. The notion that several weeks’ hard work and months of planning and preparation culminate in something that only exists for a few months must in some respects be a bittersweet feeling!

The hotel was founded by Yngve Bergqvist, inspired by the Japanese ice sculpting tradition. With the help of two professional ice sculptors from Japan as instructors he invited artists to attend a workshop in Jukkasjärvi in 1989, and the idea for the ice hotel was born.

The first ever ice structure – a specially designed igloo built using mould techniques - was constructed on the frozen Torne River a year later. The 60 m² igloo was intended to as an art gallery and was named ARTic Hall. The following winters, ARTic Hall attracted considerable attention. It was used not only to display art, but also for church services and film show cases. Bergqvist and his associates also opened a bar inside the hall, and even tried sleeping in sub-zero temperatures. The igloo had grown to measure 250 m² in size; the building technique was refined and patented in Sweden and Norway. One night, a party of guests asked if they could stay in ARTic Hall. They were equipped with reindeer skins and sleeping bags, and woke up enthralled by the experience. It was never initially intended for ARTic Hall to become a hotel, but after this experience the idea to Icehotel was born.

Building the Hotel

Ice is harvested from the Torne River in early spring, when it is at its thickest, and stored until the next winter. When it is time to commence construction, a mixture of snow and ice made of water from the river is created. This mixture is sprayed onto moulds, and allowed to set firmly. It’s then finally time to continue the creative process inside the meter-thick walls. The aim is to use water from the Torne River as far as possible. The rooms are constructed in a classic, catenary arch shape, which is self-supporting and incredibly strong. Room after room is filled with snow and ice in the right amounts, so when the artists arrive they can get started and immediately turn their sketches into reality. Six weeks later it’s finished – with the work of many hands the river has changed shape and been transformed into art.

A stunning chandelier - made of glass of course!

What a feat of engineering - this elegant sweeping staircase is constructed entirely out of ice from the Torne River

Each room is individually designed by artists that travel to Northern Sweden from across the globe. The reindeer skin blankets provide some warmth for guests!

This is one of the best places in the world to catch a glimpse of the stunning Aurora Borealis - the Northern Lights! What a wonderful experience! 

Photo courtesy of

30s designer Josef Frank

30s designer Josef Frank

Cool, Calm and Contemporary

Cool, Calm and Contemporary