December 1, 2016

Christmas Inspiration!

Stortorget Christmas market where you can try...
Ok... the next few weeks will be mostly dedicated to what is happening here in Stockholm over the holidays. I will posting articles about the opening hours for stores, museums and sightseeing tours as well as other articles about gingerbread competitions, Lucia, shopping and, of course, New Year's Eve. I have already written about Christmas markets as well as a general overview of the holidays. If your name is Ebenezer Scrooge, then let me apologize in advance for the deluge of Christmas information.
glögg or buy...
To start off with... a little inspiration! I took a long walk through the city with a friend last week and took some pictures of the decorations and holiday happenings. No snow at the time, but we have had a colder than normal November (with snow) and the forecast is for a snowy and cold winter this year. Fingers crossed that we have a white Christmas!
Christmas ornaments and more.
I started in Gamla Stan and made a visit to the city's main Christmas market, located on the square Stortorget. This popular market is open every day, from 11am to 6pm, until Dec 23rd. This is a great place to get yourself into the holiday spirit, buy some Christmas ornaments/delicacies and try glögg (hot, spiced wine).
The tree on Skeppsbron being decorated.
I then walked down to the Gamla Stan waterfront to see the preparations for the big official Christmas tree. Touted as one of the largest in the world (38 meters tall), it is lit up all season and can be seen from different points along the city's waterfronts. When I was there, they were still decorating the tree... but it is all lit up now.
Ice skating rink, fun for all ages!
Next I walked across the bridge to the park Kungsträdgården. This park is as central as you can get in Stockholm and is close to the main shopping districts. In the park you will find the popular outdoor ice skating rink. It is open daily, all winter, until 9pm. If you don't have any skates you can rent them there (70 SEK per hour for adults, 30 SEK for children). No skate rentals on Dec 24th.
People lined up to see the NK window displays...
Across the street from the park is the NK department store. Besides the obvious shopping possibilities, the store's holiday decorations are popular... both inside and in the store windows. The unveiling of the window decorations is a big Stockholm tradition and most families make a pilgrimage to see what this year's windows look like.
...especially popular wiht little ones.
We ended our walk looking at some of Stockholm's official Christmas light displays. Every year they decorate and light up the downtown area with thousands of LED lights. Some hanging over streets, some along bridges while others in the form of woodland animals. One of the most popular light displays come in the form of a herd of moose and can be found at Nybroviken. Here at the Rival Hotel we have a special map showing all of the Christmas lights and decorations. The map even has recommended walks to best view the light displays. Just pick one up at the Concierge desk!
The square Norrmalmstorg.
The street Biblioteksgatan.
Moose on the loose... 

November 26, 2016

A Visit to Fotografiska

Nick Cave and Johnny Rotten.
I had an extra day off the other day so I made a visit to Fotografiska (the Swedish Museum of Photography) to see some of their ongoing exhibitions. Specifically the Anton Corbijn exhibition (which ends soon- Dec 4th) and the recently opened exhibition on Diesel advertising campaigns (runs until Feb 5th).
A trio of 80's icons... Bowie, George and Idol.
Anton Corbijn is a Dutch photographer, mostly known for his work within the music world... portraits, promotional pictures, album sleeves and even music videos. He has worked closely with many major artists like U2, Depeche Mode, Rolling Stones and Nirvana to name a few and has taken many iconic images. This exhibition, "1-2-3-4", is a dive into the photographer's archives. This isn't a "best of" exhibition, in fact many of the 400+ images on display have never been shown before. Instead it is a captivating look at some of the music industry's biggest stars. I am glad I didn't miss it. Only one week left!
Kurt Cobain of Nirvana. 
Another exhibition I was excited to see was "Finally it all makes sense", a look at Diesel advertisements from 1991 to 2001. You would have to have lived under a rock during the 1990's to not have ever seen one of popular advertisements for the Italian fashion label Diesel. They were everywhere... in magazines, on billboards and TV. They were often controversial, always colorful and done with tongue-in-cheek humor.
Diesel exhibition.
During this period (1991-2001) their advertising campaigns were done by a Swedish ad company called Paradiset. These award winning campaigns elevated Diesel to a household name and helped them break Levi's stranglehold on the European denim market.
One of the more controversial ads (at least at the time).
The exhibition lays out the different campaigns in chronological order and explains the thought behind each campaign. Back in the 90's I just thought they were funny, bright ads... I was surprised to learn how each campaign actually looked at social injustices and other problems in the world, albeit always in a fun and colorful way. This exhibition runs until February 5th, 2017. Another exhibition is opening this week at Fotografiska: Charlotte Gyllenhammar "Natt" (until March 5th, 2017). Click here to see other art exhibitions going on in Stockholm right now.
Fotografiska is located on the Södermalm waterfront, about a 20 minute walk from the Rival Hotel. While this sounds pretty straightforward, it is a little complicated due to the major construction going on at Slussen which you have to pass on the way to the museum. I don't want to give any exact information on how to pass the construction as it is ongoing. The best tip I can give is to follow the signs (see picture below)! If you are staying at the hotel, stop by and talk to me for up to date information.
Follow the signs to avoid... 
...the Slussen construction site.


November 25, 2016

Stockholm's Narrowest Street

I am often asked by guests where this street, or alley, can be found. To be honest, I have never really understood the fuss... but the street has become a tourist attraction in itself and draws visitors, children and, sadly, graffiti vandals (don't want to call them artists in this case). There are many more interesting things to see in Stockholm, in my opinion, but in case you are curious...
The alley is called Mårten Trotzigs Gränd and is named after a German merchant who owned property in this area of Gamla Stan in the late 1500's. The alley contains 36 steps, is 90 centimetes at its narrowest point and connects the streets Västerlånggatan and Prästgatan. It is very easy to walk right by the entrance, so keep your eyes open. Click here for a map with location.

November 19, 2016

Restaurant Mother

Chefs Melker Andersson and Danyel Couet, as restaurateur partners, have been responsible for some of the best restaurants in Stockholm over the past 20 years or so... running one of the city's first gastronomy empires. A few years ago, they downsized and changed direction a bit, selling off quite a few of their restaurants and changing the concept of some others.
Market & Bar, heading to Restaurant.
Their latest restaurant venture in Stockholm is Mother, which opened earlier this year. The restaurant has a very central location in the downtown area, just in between the NK department store and the Mood shopping center. This makes it a great restaurant to combine with a day of shopping, whether for lunch or dinner. The space is quite large and they have tweaked the concept and design a bit since opening... so I was happy to dine there with my Les Clefs d'Or colleagues and see the changes.
Lounge area.
As I mentioned, the space is quite large. But it doesn't feel as large as they have split up the space into two main areas... one called Mother's Market & Bar and the other Mother Restaurant. In Market & Bar you can get a quick breakfast, lunch or take-away while in the restaurant you have a la carte lunch and dinner. They also have a nice bar with lounge area and the overall design is industrial but still warm.
Part of the Market.
When it comes to the restaurant's cuisine... the ingredients are a mix of local and Asian (following the latest trend: "Scanasian") and dishes are medium-sized and the idea is that you should order 2 to 4 dishes, depending on how hungry you are. We went full in and tried their 5 course tasting menu which was very good. They also have a few sharing dishes on the menu where you have to be a minimum of 2 persons.
Crab salad with avocado, yuzu, kamu kamu, tomato and chili.
But the main distinctive feature of the menu is that it is devoid of lactose and refined sugar. There is also very little gluten on the menu. They were quick to point out that they don't consider themselves to be a health food restaurant, but more a restaurant with interesting flavors and creative dishes yet with a healthy concept. To be honest, the food was very good and I didn't miss the lactose, gluten or refined sugar at all.
Peanut pancakes with marinated raw tuna, galangal, oat tahini and lime.
In December (up until the 22nd) they will, as many other restaurants, serve the traditional Swedish Christmas smorgasbord ("julbord"). They promise both traditional dishes on the julbord as well as new dishes playing with traditional holiday flavors. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me for more information or help reserving a table. To get to Mother from the hotel, it is either a 7-8 minute taxi ride or else a quick subway ride (4 stations on the red line to Östermalmstorg, exit to Stureplan). For more restaurant recommendations and reviews, click here.
Figs, red wine ice cream and flower honey.

Dining area.

November 16, 2016

White Guide Stockholm 2016-17

White Guide is the Nordic countries best guide system when it comes to restaurants and cafés. In many ways I consider White Guide better than other guides, like the Michelin Guide, as it is determined by local experts as opposed to outsiders. They also offer several annual gastronomy guides... including a White Guide Sweden and White Guide Nordic. The White Guide Nordic is especially good for visitors as it is in English (which is also good if you are travelling around the area and not just visiting one city/country). Not only did they just release the new edition of White Guide Nordic (2016-17), but they also released a new guide called White Guide Stockholm! Even better news... the White Guide Stockholm is in both Swedish and English. The guides can either be purchased/ordered in paper form or else you can purchase and download their app via their websites linked above.
In this article I will be concentrating on the White Guide Stockholm list as this is a Stockholm blog. After each restaurant I will add their placement in the Nordic guide (within the top 30) in parenthesis. Spoiler alert: a Stockholm restaurant also tops the list for best restaurants in all of the Nordic countries! If you are familiar with top Stockholm restaurants, you might notice two restaurants are noticeably absent from the list below. This is because two of Stockholms best restaurants have temporarily closed. Restaurant Frantzén has closed and will be opening in a new locale early next year and Mathias Dahlgren Matsalen is closing on December 22nd with plans to open with a new concept (after some renovations) also early next year. Mathias Dahlgren's Matbaren will remain open during this time and has made the list...

Global Masterclass

1. Esperanto (1!)
2. Gastrologik (6)
3. Oaxen Krog (7)
4. Operakällaren (19)
5. Adam/Albin (23)
6. Omakase Köttslöjd (26)
7. Imouto

Masterclass

8. Ekstedt
9. Aloë
10. Mathias Dahlgren- Matbaren
11. Spritmuseum
12. Volt
13. Shibumi
14. Lilla Ego
15. Punk Royale
16. Portal
17. Pubologi
18. Fotografiska

Please keep in mind that if you would like to dine at one of these popular restaurants... booking a table in advance is recommended if not required! If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, drop me a line ahead of your visit for any assistance. Do you wish to see other guides... past and present? Then click here! You can also read about my restaurant visits and recommendations, including some of the above listed restaurants, by clicking here.

November 10, 2016

Stockholm Christmas Markets 2016

As Stockholm digs itself out of a record breaking snowfall (39 cm!), it is time to turn our attention to the upcoming Christmas market season. The first one opens in almost a week from today. There are a wide variety of markets to choose from... from the traditional to the more modern. Some are open every day, some only on the weekends while others are just open for a couple of days. This means that you will be able to visit at least one Christmas market if you are visiting Stockholm any time starting on November 19th. But... the last day to visit any market is December 23rd! There are no Christmas markets open after that... like on Christmas Eve or Day (a disappointment for some visitors).

  • Gamla Stan- Stockholm's most famous and popular Christmas market. In fact it was recently named by the Telegraph as one of Europe's top 16 Christmas markets. Very traditional; I am sure it owes its popularity to its central location (15 minute walk from the Rival Hotel) and generous opening hours. It is open daily between 11am and 6pm from November 19th through December 23rd. 
  • Skansen- an historic market located in this open-air museum dedicated to Swedish traditions and pastoral life. Open between 10am and 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays (Nov 26th to Dec 18th). See how Christmas was celebrated in Sweden 100+ years ago!
  • Konstfack (College of Arts, Craft & Design)- Creative market put on by the students one weekend every year. Open between 10am and 5pm on November 26th & 27th. Located in the southern suburbs.
  • Kungliga Hovstallet (The Royal Stables)- Combine a visit to the stables with some traditional Christmas shopping. Open between November 25th and 27th (Fri- noon to 7pm, Sat- 10am to 6pm, Sun- 10am to 5pm). The stables are located in the downtown area.
  • Bondens Egen Julmarknad (Farmers' Christmas Market)- in the weeks leading up to Christmas, this popular farmers' market, located in SoFo, turns into a Christmas market. Laid back and local. Open between 10am and 3pm on the four Saturdays before Christmas (with start on Nov 26th). 
  • Beckmans College of Design- An annual popular market put on by the students. Location. Open on Saturday and Sunday, Dec 10th & 11th, between 10am and 5pm.
There are also a few good Christmas markets located just outside of the city and worth a visit. 
  • Sigtuna- the capital of Sweden before Stockholm took over in the 1200's. Location. Traditional market open on the four Sundays (11am to 4pm) leading up to Christmas, with start Nov 27th. 
  • Drottningholm- Royal palace, home of the royal family and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which has an annual Christmas market. Open Saturday Dec 5th (10am to 5pm) and Sunday Dec 6th (10am to 4pm). Location.
  • Steninge Slott- Castle located near the town of Märsta. They have a popular indoor market with design and gardening boutiques, which turns into a daily Christmas market between November 12th and December 23rd (11am to 6pm weekdays, 10am to 5pm weekends).

November 8, 2016

Snow in November

We have received a light coating of snow over the past few days and it doesn't look likely to melt for awhile. This is actually unusually early for snowy weather. It is still a couple of weeks before Christmas decorations and lights are officialy revealed (November 19th).
Winters in Stockholm are unpredictable. Some winters are filled with snow while others barely see a snowflake. This unpredictability is also the reason you won't find dog/horse drawn sleds and other activities that need guaranteed snow for economic viability. I do get requests every year for this! That being said, there are plenty of opportunities to ski and ice skate in and around Stockholm... but more on that in a later post when the season has really started.
In the meantime, if you are coming to Stockholm this winter season, make sure you check weather websites a few days ahead of your trip. This can be immensely helpful when planning on what to pack and what to do. Click here for a good website I use often. I will be back in a couple of days with a guide for Christmas Markets in Stockholm this season.

November 2, 2016

Renaissance Fashion in Paper at Livrustkammaren

What to do on a stormy afternoon in Stockholm? Visit a museum, of course! In this case, I went to see the new "Renaissance Fashion in Paper" exhibition at Livrustkammaren (The Royal Armoury). This exhibition opened in September and I have been waiting for the opportunity to see it (it runs until March, 2017).
The Royal Armoury is a museum dedicated to Swedish history shown through the clothes, uniforms, armour, weapons and carriages of the kings and queens of Sweden. The main part of the museum has free admission, but special exhibitions have a small entrance fee (50 SEK in this case).
Splitscreen showing the portrait on the left used for inspiration for the costume on the right.
"Renaissance Fashion in Paper" features the work of Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave who works with paper as her medium. This exhibition contains 28 life-sized opulent costumes (including hairstyles) made entirely out of hand painted paper. That's correct... paper! The intricate clothing is based on the costumes of the Medici family of Florence during the Renaissance Era.
Splitscreen showing detail.
I have always been interested in the Medici family, so this exhibit was an extra treat. The House of Medici was a powerful family of bankers and merchants in Florence, Italy. They became the hereditary Dukes of Florence, and then Grand Dukes of Tuscany, during their rise to power. The Medici family spawned several popes as well as two queens of France (including the famous Catherine de' Medici).
The Medici family produced popes and...
Their greatest accomplishment was their sponsorship of art... they commissioned many works of art by Renaissance artists such as Michelangelo, Raphael, Donatello and Leonardo da Vinci. If you have ever been to the amazing Uffizi Gallery in Florence, most of the works of art there were donated by the last Medici heiress.
...queens. 
All of this art and power is reflected in their elaborate costumes. While the actual clothing hasn't survived, the artist has instead used the multitude of portraits of Medici family members when creating her costumes in paper. It is a pretty incredible exhibition... especially when you look closely at all of the detail and realize that it is all made out of paper!
The museum is located in the southeast corner of the Royal Palace in Gamla Stan. It is about a 20 minute walk from the Rival Hotel. Otherwise you can take bus 43 or 55 and get off at "Slottsbacken" (10 minute trip). If you are interested in more royal fashion, there is also an exhibition on the royal wedding dresses from the past 40 years in the Hall of State at the Royal Palace (until March 12th, 2017). And click here if you are interested in other museums in Stockholm concentrating on history. Finally... click here to see a list of other autumn/winter art exhibitions in Stockholm.