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Nobel Banquet 2017, Stockholm
Among the guests at the Nobel Banquet is members of the academe, government, cultural and industry sectors, diplomatic corps, and the Royal Family of Sweden.
Photo credit: Alexander Mahmoud © Nobel Media AB 2017

The Nobel Prize – over a century of innovation

The Nobel Prize and its associated events are celebrated globally, with all eyes on Sweden when the new Nobel Prize laureates are announced in October. Equally anticipated, December sees the Nobel Prize award ceremony taking place in Stockholm, followed by the elaborate Nobel Banquet.

A calendar highlight with international reach, the Nobel Prize has celebrated scientific, cultural and humanitarian achievements since 1901. It covers the fields of physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace – as well as economics via the Prize in Economic Sciences, established in 1968. As stipulated in founder Alfred Nobel's will following his death in 1896, prizes are to be awarded annually to those “having conferred the greatest benefit to humankind” the previous year. ‘Winners’ are called laureates, and Albert Einstein and Mother Theresa are among the most famous names to enter the Nobel Prize ‘hall of fame’.

So, who was Alfred Nobel? Born in Stockholm 1833, he was an inventor, entrepreneur, scientist and industrialist. With a father working as an engineer and inventor, Nobel grew up surrounded by Swedish innovation. As for his own achievements, he went on to invent dynamite in 1867 and was responsible for a raft of other inventions – amassing 355 patents in his lifetime. Alfred Nobel also wrote poetry and drama, and his diverse interests are reflected in the Nobel Prize's many categories. Determined to support innovations beneficial to humankind, he bequeathed all of his assets to what was to become one of the world's most significant prizes.

Fast forward to the present day, the Nobel Prize is a major event divided into two. Outing number one takes place in early October, when the new laureates are announced. The Nobel Prize announcements always start on a Monday, with one prize awarded daily. A number of Nobel-related events also take place across Stockholm during that very special week in October. Celebrating scientific advances, the “Nobel Calling” festival serves up a week of exhibitions, lectures and events about science, literature and peace.

Come December, it's time for Stockholm's Nobel Week, replete with events for both the public and selected guests only. On December 10 – the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death – the Nobel Prize ceremony is held in the Stockholm Concert Hall (Konserthuset), where the Nobel Prizes in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and economic sciences are awarded. Adhering to Alfred Nobel's wishes, the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo, Norway on the same day.

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The 2018 Nobel award ceremony, Stockholm Concert Hall

The Nobel Prize award ceremony takes place at the Stockholm Concert Hall.

Photo: Alexander Mahmoud © Nobel Media

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The 2018 Nobel award ceremony, Stockholm Concert Hall

Photo: Alexander Mahmoud © Nobel Media

James P. Allison receiving his 2018 Nobel Prize, Stockholm

Photo: Alexander Mahmoud © Nobel Media

Portrait of Alfred Nobel

Photo: © The Nobel Foundation Archive

Crown Princess Victoria at the Nobel Banquet, Stockholm

Photo: Alexander Mahmoud © Nobel Media AB

Queen Silvia at the Nobel Banquet, Stockholm

Photo: Alexander Mahmoud © Nobel Media AB

The Nobel Prize in a nutshell – this is how it works

The inner workings of the Nobel Prize, including its selection process, is conducted as per Alfred Nobel’s wishes. Selecting only those determined to make the world a better place, nomination is by invitation only, except for the Nobel Peace Prize, which may be submitted by anyone who meets the nomination criteria. A closely guarded secret, nominations for all the prizes are only made public 50 years after the announcement. If you're keen to delve into the archives, then lists of past nominees are there to be discovered.

As designated in Alfred Nobel’s will, the prize-awarding institutions responsible for selecting the laureates are: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for the Nobel Prize in Physics and the Nobel Prize in Chemistry; The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine; The Swedish Academy for the Nobel Prize in Literature; and, lastly, a committee of five people from the Norwegian Parliament – the Norwegian Nobel Committee – for the Nobel Peace Prize. Differing from the other prizes, the Nobel Peace Prize can also be awarded to organisations, rather than individuals only. Lastly, the Prize in Economic Sciences is awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Aside from recognition and, in some cases, overnight fame, each laureate receives a diploma and a medal adorned with the bust of Alfred Nobel, crafted in 18 carat recycled gold. The monetary award for the Nobel Prize 2022 amounts to 10,000,000 SEK.

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The Nobel Banquet 2019, Stockholm

Each Nobel banquet has a special theme that is reflected in the flower decorations. The tableware was designed for the 90th anniversary of the Nobel ceremonies and has since been used during the banquet. The china was designed by Karin Björquist and the glasses and silverware were designed by Gunnar Cyrén.

Photo: Clément Morin © Nobel Media

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The Nobel Banquet 2019, Stockholm

Photo: Clément Morin © Nobel Media

Chefs plating food at the Nobel Banquet 2019, Stockholm

Photo: Dan Lepp © Nobel Media

Entrée at the 2019 Nobel Banquet, Stockholm

Photo: Dan Lepp © Nobel Media

The dessert at the 2017 Nobel Banquet, Stockholm

Photo: Dan Lepp © Nobel Media

Nobel Banquet 2017, Stockholm

Photo: Alexander Mahmoud © Nobel Media AB 2017

Festivities at the Golden Hall, 2017, Stockholm

Photo: Alexander Mahmoud © Nobel Media AB 2017

The Nobel Prize on a plate

The Nobel Prize festivities are legendary. Following the award ceremony in the Stockholm Concert Hall, guests move on to the glittering Nobel Banquet’s venue at Stockholm City Hall. This towering landmark was completed in 1923 by architect Ragnar Östberg and the banquet is held in the generously proportioned Blue Hall, with its soaring ceilings. The number of guests has increased steadily over the years – today, some 1,250 attendees take their seats at the long tables, with the table of honour positioned in the middle.

Televised in Sweden and covered extensively in the press, the event's every detail is scrutinised and admired – from the attendees' formal attire to the place settings, replete with specially designed tableware by Swedish designer Karin Björquist. The colourful set was created for Rörstrand in 1991 to mark the Nobel Prize's 90th anniversary and has graced the tables ever since.

The Nobel Banquet menu is strictly under wraps until the moment the waiters emerge ceremoniously, carrying the platters. Resembling edible artworks, dishes are prepared by the top chefs of Sweden, including Sayan Isaksson, Sebastian Gibrand and Klas Lindberg.

In line with Sweden's push for culinary innovation, the 4-course menu centres on sustainable cuisine and Swedish produce – think Kalix vendace roe and chanterelles foraged in the forest. Pastry chef Daniel Roos – who has created the Nobel dinner desserts since 2014 – sourced raspberries from Trelleborg for his sweet treat of 2019. Minimising waste, he made a dusting powder from the raspberry leftovers.

Attendees will have their glasses filled with European wines, but there are non-alcoholic Swedish options too. Rudenstam fruit and berry farm, which you can visit in Huskvarna, has had its sparkling white currant drink grace a few Nobel Banquets, perfect for an alcohol-free welcome toast.

You don't have to be an award-winning scientist to experience a taste of Nobel cuisine. Stadshuskällaren restaurant, located in the City Hall, serves up past Nobel menus on the official Nobel dinnerware, the only restaurant in the world to do so. Another option is the traditional Nobel lunch on offer at the Nobel Prize Museum’s own “Bistro Nobel”. But be quick to book this three-course dinner with optional wine pairings – only 40 seats in a long table setting are available and it’s only held on 10 December.

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Nobel Week Lights on Stockholm City Hall 2020

The Nobel Week Lights of 2020 had a clear connection to the year’s physics prize and was displayed on Stockholm City Hall for everyone to enjoy. Space on Stockholm City Hall, produced by Lumination of Sweden, PXLFLD and Creative Technology in collaboration with the Swedish National Space Agency and the European Space Agency.

Photo: Clément Morin © Nobel Prize Outreach

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Nobel Week Lights on Stockholm City Hall 2020

Photo: Clément Morin © Nobel Prize Outreach

2020 Nobel Prize Award Ceremony, Stockholm

Photo: Dan Lepp © Nobel Prize Outreach

The Nobel Prize Museum, Stockholm

Photo: Hans Nilsson © Nobel Prize Museum

Exhibition at the Nobel Prize Museum, Stockholm

Photo: Dan Lepp @ Nobel Prize Outreach

Nobel Ice Cream at Bistro Nobel, Stockholm

Photo: Dan Lepp © Nobel Media AB

Flower decorations at the 2016 Nobel Prize award ceremony, Stockholm

Photo: Pi Frisk © Nobel Media AB 201

Get into the Nobel Prize spirit

The prestigious Nobel Banquet may be the reserve of a carefully cherrypicked guestlist – laureates, international academia, royalty and a good number of students – but you'll be able to get into the spirit, too. During Nobel Week 2022 – on 5-11 December this year – an array of public events take place across Stockholm.

The Nobel Prize Museum – located in Stockholm's Old Town – is a must-visit for anyone wanting to learn more about the legendary prize. The various displays and short films encourage you to reflect on society and creativity via the work and ideas of some of the key luminaries of our time and decades prior. The museum's current exhibition – “The Nobel Prize banquet – behind the scenes”– will have you discover everything about this world-famous festivity – from the menu and tableware to speeches and dress codes (open until March 2023).

Nobel Week Lights – running this year between 5-11 December – will brighten up Stockholm with a series of light installations, each of which is inspired by Nobel Prize laureates and innovations. Created by artists from Sweden and beyond, these inspiring lightworks beam across centrally located buildings, squares and museums.

A highlight of the musical sort, the annual Nobel Prize Concert is held on 8 December in honour of the Nobel Prize laureates. Performed by internationally renowned musicians at the Stockholm Concert Hall, tickets are available to the general public. If you get a seat, you’ll find yourself in the company of the laureates and their parties, maybe even some members of the Swedish Royal family.

Don't miss the opportunity to participate in the Nobel Week Dialogue event. Held alternate years in Stockholm or Gothenburg, always on 9 December, this educational all-day event is free of charge and invites you to join a series of talks – in digital and physical form – headed by laureates and other thought leaders.