July 19, 2018

Taking a Taxi at Arlanda Airport

New taxi station at terminal 5
Photo by Roger Malmgren
There are many ways to get from the Arlanda International Airport to Stockholm. You have public transportation such as busses and commuter trains, as well as a high speed train called the Arlanda Express. These are great options, depending on your budget and time constraints. But, by far, the most convenient way to get to the city is by taxi... mainly because this is a door to door service while the other types of transportation take you only as far as a train or bus stop.
There are, however, some things to consider when taking a taxi. Taxis aren't regulated in Sweden which means that the prices for taxis can vary quite a bit. The vast majority of taxis have similar fares, but a few small taxi companies charge up to double as much as the larger companies. Fortunately, you really don't have to worry about this when taking a taxi from the taxi queues at Arlanda. In order for their cars to use the queues at the aiport, the taxi companies need to sign a contract which states that the maximum price they can charge to downtown Stockholm is 675 SEK. But be aware- this is for taxis in the queues. Some unscrupulous taxi drivers will try and stop you before you get outside and ask if you need a taxi. They are not standing in the queues and are therefore not contractually obliged to take a maximum of 675 SEK and can legally charge what they want as long as they have their prices on a sticker (I have heard horror stories of people having to pay up to 3,000 SEK). So stick to the ones in the queues! This price is for a car that seats up to 4 persons and within a special zone (that includes central Stockholm). Each of the larger taxi companies has their own marked queue at the airport. These include Taxi StockholmTaxi Kurir and Sverige Taxi. These all take approximately 500-550 SEK (fixed rate) give or take, just double check with the driver before getting into the taxi to get the exact price. Then there is another queue marked "all other companies". Here you will find the smaller companies which will take a variety of prices. You can pay for taxis with your credit card. Just remember that they are not allowed to take more than 675 SEK if they were in the marked queues. Click here for more information about taxis at Arlanda.
Photo by Daniel Asplund
Another option is to book a taxi where the driver meets you in the Arrival Hall holding a sign with your name on it. There is an additional fee of 27 SEK (certain terminals) added for this service. If you are staying at the Hotel Rival, contact me to book this type of taxi service.

July 17, 2018

August- a Month of Festivals in Stockholm

Stockholm Pride
Photo by Yanan Li/mediabank.visitstockholm.com
July is always a quiet month in Stockholm when it comes to major events and festivals. This is because many Swedes have their vacation in July and leave the city/country, so organizers avoid placing festivals in this month. However, this just means there are that many more in August! And quite a few of them have free admission. Here is a quick calendar of the major events going on in the city. If you are staying at the Hotel Rival, contact me directly for more information about these or other smaller events. Keep in mind that even if you aren't interested in a certain event, it can still impact your visit (traffic, road closures, full restaurants, crowds).
Open air Concert
Photo by Jeppe Wikström/mediabank.visitstockholm.com

  • July 27th to August 5th- EuroPride (Europe's gay pride week). Each year a city in Europe hosts EuroPride and this year it is Stockholm's turn! Lots of fun concerts and events. Stockholm Pride is usually a huge event, but EuroPride will be even bigger!
  • July 31st- Justin Timberlake concert at Friends Arena
  • August 4th- The Pride Parade! They estimate over 60,000 participants and 600,000 bystanders lining the streets in this year's parade. Many streets in the downtown area will be closed to traffic in the afternoon.
  • August 4th- Football match between Arsenal and FC Sevilla at Friends Arena
  • August 11th & 12th- Let's Make Love Great Again. Two day free music festival in Gärdet in the theme of love and respect. 
  • August 12th- The Royal Philharmonic's annual free outdoor concert outside the Maritime Museum (Sjöhistoriska). 
  • Aug 14th to 19th- The Culture Festival (Kulturfestivalen) in the downtown area. Everything cultural... art, music, dance, circus, food, literature, show... all free! This year's theme is Canada (a different country each year). Click on "Meny" and then the globe for an English version.
  • 14th to 18th- We Are Sthlm. Youth festival in Kungsträdgården park, with music and shows. Free entrance.  
  • 15th to 18th- Stockholm Oktoberfest at Gärdet. Oktoberfest i August? I guess drinking German beer shouldn't be defined by the month! 
  • 15th to 19th- Outdoor Cinema, put on by the Stockholm Film Festival, in Rålambshovs Park. One movie each evening all from the 1990's (Piano, Wild at Heart, Terminator 2, etc.). Free admission, bring a picnic basket. 
  • 17th to 19th- Nytorgsfesten. Live music, theatre, carnival and a flea market in the square Nytorget in the SoFo neighborhood. 
  • 18th- Midnight Race (Midnattsloppet). One of Europe's biggest 10k races, run in the evening around the island of Södermalm. Festival atmosphere. 
  • 21st to 24th- Formex, the largest fair for Scandinavian design, held at the Stockholm International Fairgrounds
  • Aug 22nd to Sept 1st- Baltic Sea Festival. Classic music festival at Berwaldshallen
  • Aug 31st and Sept 1st- Popaganda. Popular pop music festival at Eriksdalsbadet
  • September 1st- Tjejmilen. Women's 10k race, with over 30,000 participants, around the island of Djurgården
    Stockholm Culture festival
    Photo by Emma Grann/ Studio Emma Svensson

July 13, 2018

Favorite Summer Bar: Mälarpaviljongen!

I have posted several times over the years about this floating bar but, as this weekend is supposed to be sunny and warm, I though a friendly reminder would be good. Plus, I just visited Mälarpaviljongen last week and took new pictures!
You never know what type of boat will drift by... 
Mälarpaviljongen is located on the waterfront on the island of Kungsholmen. In fact, most of it is floating on the water. This, along with the fantastic views, makes it an idyllic place to have lunch or an evening cocktail. Very popular with Stockholmers and a bit off the beaten path, so visitors really don't stumble on to it unless they know where to go. Lots of boats and kayakers passing by on the lake...
Mälarpaviljongen is gay owned and operated and does attract a large LGBT crowd, especially later in the evenings. But, generally speaking, the clientele is very mixed with everything from gay couples to young families to grannies with their lap dogs, all enjoying a drink and the views. All are welcome. This is, after all, Sweden where a big deal isn't made about a person's sexuality. If you are in Stockholm on a warm and sunny day, Mälarpaviljongen is definitely worth a visit!

July 11, 2018

Best Places to Eat Swedish Meatballs

Meatballs at the restaurant Tradition
Is there anything more Swedish than the Swedish meatball? It is up there with ABBA, Volvo and IKEA. Speaking of IKEA, this is probably where most people have tried Swedish meatballs outside of Sweden. Not to discredit IKEA meatballs which are quite tasty, but this is really a "fast food" (mass produced) variant of the Swedish culinary favorite. If you are visiting Stockholm then there are many great restaurants that serve meatballs with all of the traditional fixings so you can try and compare. I have done a similar article about restaurants serving traditional Swedish cuisine (often includes meatballs) but so many guests ask specifically for meatballs I thought it deserved its own article.
Classic accoutrements: lingonberries and pickled cucumbers
The first time "köttbulle" (Swedish for meatball) was used in text was 1755 in a cookbook written by Cajsa Warg, but they are obviously older than that. Classic Swedish meatballs are handmade with ground beef/veal, milk, egg, breadcrumbs, diced/fried yellow onion and salt & pepper... but certain variations of the recipe are often found (like adding allspice, nutmeg or other spices). One popular variation found on some menus is "wild meatballs" with ground moose. Click here for recipe.
Meatballs at Den Gyldene Freden
But what truly makes this meatball Swedish is the accoutrements (or fixings) that are served with the meatballs. Potatoes are a must, either mashed/puréed or cooked, as well as a cream sauce, lingonberries and pickled cucumbers (not pickles). The tartness/sweetness of the cucumbers and  lingonberriesis is great to offset the heaviness of the dish (cream, potatoes, etc.). Here are some Stockholm restaurants, in no particular order, that I recommend which have meatballs on the menu...

There are, of course, other good restaurants in the city with meatballs on the menu. And, hey, we also have the world's largest IKEA in Stockholm if you prefer their meatballs! If you are staying at the Hotel Rival, contact me directly if you want more information or help in booking a table. 
Meatballs for the People
Photo by Tina Stafrén/imagebank.sweden.se

June 23, 2018

2018 Summer Tips!

Photo by Helén Pe/mediabank.visitstockholm.com /
I am starting a two and a half week family vacation tomorrow and I thought I would post a blog article with some good summer tips and recommendations while I am away (linked to blog articles and helpful websites). You can also browse through my recent blog posts to find more advice and recommendations. Hopefully this can help you in planning your upcoming visit!

Getting Around the City
Sightseeing (multiple blog articles, but here are links to the individual company websites)
Stockholm views
Photo by Henrik Trygg/mediabank.visitstockholm.com 
Handy Tips and Great Websites
This is really just some highlights and top tips. If you are staying at the Hotel Rival while I am away these two weeks, my competent colleagues will be happy to help you with more detailed information!
Kayaking in Stockholm
Photo by Henrik Trygg/mediabank.visitstockholm.com 

June 21, 2018

Bergius Botanical Gardens

I was out on another adventure with my visiting parents the other day. This time we visited the Bergius Botanical Gardens (or Bergianska Trädgården). It was actually my first visit here... so it is perfect for a blog article! I recently blogged about taking a nature walk around Djurgården park and the botanical gardens are actually a part of the park, albeit in the northern part (not the island of Djurgården). The park is actually quite huge, stretching like an inverted, wonky C around the eastern part of the Stockholm.
The Japanese pond
Bergianska Trädgården is located on the shores of Brunnsviken, close to Stockholm University in an area called Frescati. This is north of the central part of Stockholm, 7 subway stops (red line) from the Hotel Rival to the station Universitet. While it isn't centrally located, it is good to note that, besides the gardens, you have acres of parkland as well as the Museum of Natural History in the area... so you can easily spend a full day here. 
Herb garden with Gamla Orangeriet
The Gardens were originally founded by the Bergius brothers back in 1791 and moved to its current location in 1885. The gardens themselves are free to visit and wander about. They do have two greenhouses which charge admission... the Edvard Anderson Conservatory and the historic Victoria House (open only May through September). They also have an old orangery (Gamla Orangeriet) with herb garden which has a nice restaurant & café for lunch.
Giant lily pads at Victoria House
We mainly wandered through the outdoor gardens. The theme this year is "around the world" and we enjoyed the Italian terrace, Japanese gardens and Rhododendron valley. We did visit the Victoria House which, while small, was pretty amazing... especially the giant water lily (Victoria). The lily pads are enormous and the flowers are really spectacular. The house itself is classified as historic and unique due to similar conservatories having disappeared across Europe.  
Brunnsviken resembles a lake, though it is actually an inlet of the Baltic. The park stretches around the entire inlet and you can walk the entire shoreline (10 kilometers). On the other side of Brunnsviken from the botanical gardens is´Haga Park which is full of interesting places to visit. The area around Brunnsviken is a popular recreational area for Stockholmers who enjoy coming here to swim, boat, jog, bike and picnic.
Brunnsviken seen from the Italian terrace.
Trails along the water
Victoria House from the outside
Italian terrace

June 20, 2018

Berns Asiatiska- Asian Fusion Restaurant

Entrance to Berns
I had the opportunity to dine at Berns Asiatiska last week with my fellow Stockholm Concierges. Berns is an historic Stockholm entertainment venue with restaurants, bars, concert stage and nightclubs. Built in 1863 by Heinrich Robert Berns (hence the name), it was actually the first restaurant in Sweden to serve Chinese cuisine (1940's). Some really famous people have performed here throughout the years, from Josephine Baker, Frank Sinatra, Marlene Dietrich up to Rihanna and Ryan Adams.
Beautiful interiors
They still serve Chinese cuisine here, though these days the menu is more "Asian fusion" with flavors and dishes from throughout the Far East. Berns also has another restaurant in the park out front that serves French cuisine and is called Berns Bistro. It is especially popular on sunny, summer evenings with a large outdoor area. But back to Asiatiska...
Berns Asiatiska, located in the downtown area, has probably the most beautiful restaurant interior in Stockholm with amazingly high, carved wooden ceilings, gold & red velvet interiors and enormous chandeliers. They have really been good at keeping the historic ambiance of the venue alive. As I mentioned, the menu is a fusion of Far East cuisines... with favorite dishes from China, Japan and Korea. We had the tasting/sharing menu for groups and it was all very delicious.
It can get a bit boisterous on late evenings during the weekends as they have a popular bar and nightclub as well. The easiest way to get there from the Hotel Rival is either by taxi (10 minutes) or by taking the subway (red line) to Östermalmstorg, exit to Stureplan and then walk 10 minutes to the restaurant. Otherwise the station Kungsträdgården (blue line) is quite close if you are coming from another part of Stockholm.
They also have a very popular brunch here on the weekends! You can book your table on their website which I have linked above or by contacting me directly if you are staying at the Rival. Click here for other restaurant recommendations.
Bistro Berns in the park.

June 16, 2018

Walk, Jog or Bike Around Djurgård Canal

Canal with pathways on either side.
Did you know that 95% of the population of Stockholm live within 300 meters of a green area (park, forest, etc.)? More statistics... the city has 1,000 parks, 7 nature reserves, 24 official beaches and 10% of the surface area of Stockholm is water (source). This means that, even though you are visiting a major urban area, you can easily get out and enjoy some nature while in Stockholm. One of the easiest ways to do this is to visit the island of Djurgården in central Stockholm, which is part of the world's first National City Park.
Now, chances are you will find yourself on Djurgården at some point during your visit as many of Stockholm's most popular attractions are found on the western edge of the park/island... like the Vasa Museum, Gröna Lund, Skansen and ABBA the Museum. Unfortunately, many visitors miss the fact that there are acres and acres of forest, park, waterways and fields beyond the museums which they can enjoy. Besides that you also have several smaller art museums, cafés, gardens and restaurants tucked away in the park and off the beaten path.
This park is a favorite place for Stockholmers to come to spend part of a summer day to partake in some outdoor activities... walking, jogging, biking or paddling. Or even less strenuous activities like just enjoying a picnic. My parents are visiting me right now and I took them for a walk on Djurgården the other day to enjoy the beautiful nature.
There are several options for trails or walking routes. For example, one of my favorites is to take bus #69 out to its final stop, Blockhusudden, on the very eastern tip of Djurgården and then walk back along the coast to the city. I even blogged about it here a few years ago. But on this day we didn't have enough time for that walk, so we chose a shorter route around the canal separating the island from the mainland. This is the same canal the popular Royal Canal Tour travels through.
Trippy artwork
With bridges on both ends of the canal, you can actually walk the whole circular route around the canal... 5 or 7 kilometers, depending on what bridge you choose to cross. You can even chose a shorter/different route by taking the same bus #69 out to the stop Djurgårdsbrunn and then walk back along the canal. If you do this, make sure you take the bus 69 marked "Blockhusudden" and not "Kaknästornet" (which doesn't go all the way).
It is an easy walk and well marked. It is a good idea to bring water if it is a hot day. Otherwise there are some cafés and restaurants along the way. For example at Djurgårdsbrunn. We opted to stop for lunch at one of my favorite places: Rosendals Wärdshus (location). Delicious shrimp sandwiches and rosé wine in the sun! Blog article about Rosendal.
Rosendals Wärdshus
The easiest way to get to Djurgård island from the Hotel Rival is by taking the Djurgård Ferry from nearby Gamla Stan which takes you across the harbor to the island. If you are interested in taking bus #69, as mentioned above, then the best place to pick that up is at Nybroplan. A good place to rent bikes on Djurgården is at Sjöcaféet, which is next to the Djurgården tourist office where you can get maps and more information about the park. So, take advantage of all of the green areas in Stockholm and get out and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine. .
Map with canal marked, click to enlarge.

Entrance to Royal Djurgården
Back to civilization... 
Bus 69

June 13, 2018

Mosebacke Torg & Söders Höjder

I was out this Sunday with family and friends for brunch at the restaurant Mosebacke Etablissement. The restaurant is located in a quaint historic neighborhood, just a 10-15 minute walk from the Hotel Rival. The neighborhood is called "Söders Höjder", which means southern heights, and is a nice place to wander about and soak up the history, check out the architecture & views and perhaps visit one of the restaurants and bars in the area.
Katarina Church
One of the landmarks is Katarina Church. Originally built in the late 1600's, it has been through two major fires with one as late as 1990. Located on the heights, the high church tower can be seen from most of the city. Several famous Swedes are buried in the church cemetery including politician Anna Lindh, actor Michael Nyqvist, musician Cornelis Vreeswijk and poet and Nobel prize laureate Tomas Tranströmer.
Just north of the church is a small neighborhood with cobblestone streets and older architecture from the 1600 and 1700's. I like walking around and looking at the beautiful buildings with a mix of architectural styles. One street that is popular with a certain segment of tourists is Fiskargatan, which was where the character Lisbeth Salander from the Millennium trilogy of books ("The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", etc.) bought an apartment. You will also find a great wall mural painted by the Brazilian street artists (brothers) Os Gêmeos, which plays  on themes from these books.
The square Mosebacke Torg is another landmark. This quaint square and park was actually named Stockholm's most beautiful square in 2006, and it is very charming. On the northern end of the square you have the entertainment venue Södra Teatern ("southern theatre") which houses a theatre, nightclub and a few bars and restaurants.
One of the most popular bars here during the summer months is their terrace Mosebackesterrassen which is an outdoor bar with great views of the city, often with live music. Another popular restaurant on the other side of the square is trendy Woodstockholm, an interesting combination of restaurant and furniture store.
Södra Teatern
On the northern end of the square you will find Katarina Hissen. This walkway leads out to an elevator (not in use now due to the construction at Slussen below) as well as the famous restaurant Gondolen. Here you have great views over the city which you can either enjoy from the walkway or at the restaurant. This area is located just in between the old town (Gamla Stan) and the shopping district SoFo in Södermalm... so it is easy to stop by while you are out discovering Stockholm. It is between two subway stations: Slussen (red and green lines) and Medborgarplatsen (green line).
Mosebacke Torg
Katarina Hissen, leading out to...
...views of Stockholm harbor.