Britannia Hotel: An Arctic Star

By Mark Smith


By Mark Smith

22 August 2020

The owner of Norway’s Britannia Hotel has made a €140 million investment to realise a personal dream, reaffirm the property’s iconic status and bring spa excellence to the city of Trondheim

A member of the Leading Hotels of the World group, the Britannia Hotel reopened in April 2019 following a three-year €140 million (£122 million) programme of renovation. The totally re-imagined hotel and spa are now a celebration of cutting-edge Norwegian and Scandinavian art and design. While something of the hotel’s golden age has been recaptured, there is nevertheless a very contemporary look and feel to its 255 guest rooms, including 11 suites; six restaurants and bars, including its original Palm Court; plus a spa, a gym and an indoor swimming pool.

The hotel’s renaissance was the brainchild of Norwegian financier Odd Reitan, who was born in Trondheim in 1951 and is reported to be one of the richest men in Norway, featuring prominently in the Forbes and Bloomberg lists of global billionaires. Reitan founded the Norwegian grocery chain REMA 1000 in 1979 and today is co-owner and CEO of Reitangruppen, with business interests in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Lithuania and Latvia.

After visiting the Britannia as a teenager, Reitan, dreamed of one day owning it. “Every time I have discussed hotels and my experiences in them, my thoughts have always drifted towards Britannia,” he explains. “Everything starts with a vision – daring to dream big and committing to it. I’ve waited to welcome guests to the Britannia Hotel as an owner since I was 14, so it feels great to be able to do this and fulfil my dream.”

Image of Odd Reitan

“Britannia Hotel is a project which can affect the whole of Trøndelag as a region in many different ways. We are bringing a new market with high-end international guests to the area and putting Trondheim on the map.”

Odd Reitan

Owner, Britannia Hotel
The spa’s centrepiece is a circular mineral pool located beneath a striking Astral Lights Dome

The importance of spa

The hotel has high aspirations and its reopening has been greeted with both international recognition and local admiration. Naturally, its spa is a vitally important part of this mix and the newly refreshed facilities are proving popular with a wide range of guests.

The 1,400sqm spa and fitness area includes a heated 12.5m lap pool surrounded by oversized loungers and day beds under soft lighting. This spacious area is lined with mirrored walls to give a magnificent sense of space despite its subterranean location.

The spa boasts six treatment rooms, a sauna, a steam room, a laconium, an ice bath, a compact infrared cabin and a gym. A stunning centrepiece is the circular mineral pool, which is surrounded by a curved, blue and gold mosaic tiled wall. This is topped by an azure Astral Lights Dome that mimics the appearance of the night sky, encouraging guests to relax in the warm water as they enjoy a truly unique experience.

Circular mineral pool surrounded by a curved blue and gold mosaic tiled wall

The hotel’s midweek guest profile is comprised predominately of business people and conference “We didn’t expect this,” says Forselius, who was classically trained at the Grand Hôtel in Stockholm and formerly held a position as head of the Røros Hotel Group before joining Britannia in 2016. “We have obviously made something they want to come and experience. People are willing to pay to stay in their own town to enjoy the concept we have created. Instead of going on a city break around Europe, they now come here to us.

Image of Mikael Forselius

“The spa is so important as it’s a reason to visit the hotel, especially for the weekend market. We are the only hotel spa in the area and one of only a few city spas in the whole of Norway.”

Mikael Forselius

Managing director, Britannia Hotel

Things are hotting up

The majority of the work recently carried out in the spa has seen its entrance hall, reception and retail areas, pre- and post-treatment relaxation spaces and changing rooms completely revitalised with interiors by Metropolis Arkitektur & Design. Entrance to the spa is down a long mirrored corridor that features an artificial plant wall that creates an element of separation from the main hotel and helps to create a sense of expectation in the journey.

In the reception area, gold textured wallpaper adds a warm hue to the light, while wicker chairs, natural-toned sofas, Asian-style lanterns and tree trunk tables provide a contemporary look that evokes a sense of nature.

The treatment waiting room is adorned with low sofas, cane chairs and large copper lampshades while the light and spacious changing rooms feature Moorish-style floor tiles, textured golden walls, over-sized seagrass lampshades and weaved raffia framed mirrors. Chic low-level seating, private showers and separate saunas complete these contemporary, self-contained spaces.

A Norwegian company called Processing originally supplied the spa’s three Nordic saunas, including one in each changing room, and the thermal suite and wet area remain largely unchanged from when the spa opened in 2009.

Image of Emilie Skjennem

“Elemis offers a wide assortment of high-quality treatments and products with scientific innovation and ingredients sourced from nature. This aligns perfectly with the Scandinavian lifestyle as nature, the outdoor life and natural wellbeing are important elements of our culture.”

Emilie Skjennem

Junior brand manager at Dermanor

Elemis: The perfect partner

Elemis is the main product house at Britannia Spa and is seen as the perfect partner for a Nordic climate. Emilie Skjennem, junior brand manager at Dermanor, which distributes Elemis in Norway, explains: “Elemis offers a wide assortment of high-quality treatments and products with scientific innovation and ingredients sourced from nature. This aligns perfectly with the Scandinavian lifestyle as nature, the outdoor life and natural wellbeing are important elements of our culture.”


Skjennem says Elemis products are well suited to the unique Nordic climate and especially suitable for the long, harsh winter months. “Our skin can be sensitive and dry in winter, so we need treatments that protect and strengthen the skin’s barrier,” she explains. “Pro-Collagen Age Defy facial is a popular treatment to fight the lines and wrinkles that appear due to dryness from the harsh weather.”


In Norway, in addition to the Britannia Hotel, Elemis can be found at The Well, Oslo; Farris Bad Hotel & Spa in Larvik; and Dr. Holms Hotel in Geilo. In Sweden the brand is present at Hotel Skansen in Båstad; Copperhill Mountain Lodge in Åre; and Torekov Hotell in Torekov. Elemis can also be found at Långvik Congress Wellness Hotel in Finland.

A fledgling market

Nadine Drechsel was recruited as spa manager and concept developer during the pre-opening phase to curate the treatment menu, recruit staff and prepare the spa to welcome guests following its redevelopment. Drechsel has created a full menu of spa treatments, including signature rituals that embrace the benefits of Elemis from the UK, CND from the US, VITALIS Dr Joseph from Italy, and Germany’s PINO. The offering focuses on massage and this accounts for around 80% of bookings, including the speciality Stress Busting Massage, which also incorporates cupping and fungo mud.

Part of Drechsel’s new journey has been the realisation that spa is not a traditional part of the Nordic experience, especially in this region. “To spa is still quite a new concept here,” she explains. “Here in Trondheim there is no spa, or no equivalent. Most of our guests think the pool is the spa. Also, most people have never had a treatment before.”

This being the case, Drechsel and her international team of therapists are opening up a whole new world to visitors and classic massage and aroma massage have so far proven to be most popular. The team were recruited from the local area, but most are originally from across Europe and special emphasis was placed on their specialised skills. “The foundations of our success are laid in choosing the right staff, so we’ve focused on selecting practitioners with the very highest levels of excellence in massage, physiotherapy and beauty treatments,” says Drechsel.

Guests tend to book their experiences online and sales of gift cards have produced significant returns for the business. Over the weekend, however, Drechsel blocks out around 50% of the available treatment time, reserving this for hotel guests.

The reception area is decorated in natural tones and softly lit by Asian style lanterns

Fitness First Membership

The hotel’s 200sqm urban-style fitness room features the latest high-tech exercise equipment from Life Fitness as well as free weights, squat racks and specialised functional training kit. “We aim to be every bit as good as your preferred gym back home, but with even higher standards,” says members club and fitness manager Therese Koen Solli.


Cardio fans are catered for with treadmills, spinning bikes, cross-training and rowing machines, with small-group training and classes including Tabata, yoga, Pilates, HIIT, TRX and more. “We specialise in high-intensity, quick workouts that can be done by anyone,” continues Koen Solli. “This way, our hotel guests or busy members can come and get a good workout without having to spend hours in the gym.”


Hotel guests can make full use of the facilities, but it’s the exclusive Member’s Club that benefits most from this space. With a dedicated entrance and access to all facilities, plus body analysis and personal training, the €500 monthly membership fee also includes gym kit (and cleaning service), free parking, treatment discounts and free breakfast on weekdays in the Palmehaven restaurant. This premier service also includes access to special events, such as tickets to the Nordic Michelin Awards and participation in an annual trip.

The bigger picture

The hotel is seen as key to developing its home city into a magnet for overseas visitors and Odd Reitan has invested widely in the local region to facilitate this transition.

“The overall idea is to make Trondheim a tourist destination,” says Forselius. “You have to have something for the international tourist to come for – you have to start with something great to make the city great. The opening was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I love to start things – to make things happen. There are 150 years of hospitality history here and the Britannia is an icon in Norway.”

Reitan’s own vision for the hotel goes far beyond its impressive refurbishment. He aims to create a flagship for the city and the entire region of Trøndelag.

The Britannia now features fine dining options that include the Michelin-starred Speilsalen, headed by 2017 Bocuse d’Or silver medalist Christopher Davidsen. As well as gallery-like art displays, the hotel also has its own artist-in-residence programme and offers a live music calendar throughout the year.

“I want this hotel to give something to everyone, and that’s what matters to me,” says Reitan. “Britannia Hotel is a project that can affect the whole of Trøndelag as a region in many different ways. We are bringing a new market of high-end international guests to the area, and putting Trondheim on the map through the publicity and attention we have achieved after re-opening as a five-star hotel in a country that doesn’t have many of those.”

Spa Statistics

Britannia Hotel and Spa
+47 738 00 800


Owner: Odd Reitan
Managing director: Mikael Forselius
Spa manager: Nadine Drechsel
Fitness manager: Therese Koen Solli
Interior designer: Metropolis Arkitektur and Design, Oslo
Treatment rooms: Four single and two double
Spa and fitness staff: 14 in total
Treatment beds: LEMI
Software: TAC, RMS
Thermal suite: Processing
Fitness suppliers: Life Fitness, Eleiko, Skierg Machine
Other suppliers: Casall, Swims, Hästens, Beierholm, Nor Tekstil, Amet, Astral Lighting
Product partners: Elemis, CND, VITALIS Dr Joseph and PINO
Signature treatment: Aroma Relax Massage – an anti-stress massage featuring slow and rhythmic bodywork from head to toe


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