June 24, 2016

Greta Garbo Exhibition at Fotografiska

Over the decades, Sweden has exported a lot of great talent to Hollywood... Ingrid Bergman, Ingmar Bergman, Lena Olin, Lasse Hallström, Stellan & Alexander Skarsgård, Alicia Vikander among others. But the original (and arguably most famous) Swedish cinematic export will always be Greta Garbo! She was actually born and raised not too far from the Rival Hotel on Blekingegatan. Besides Garbo's striking beauty and successful film career (both in silent films and then "talkies"), she is also famous for the fact that she retired in 1941, at the height of her career, removing herself from the public spotlight ("I want to be alone!").
A popular opening party...
I have been asked by visitors several times over the years why Stockholm doesn't have a Garbo museum. A valid question. Well, this summer we will at least have a Garbo exhibit here in Stockholm and last week I was invited to the premiere of the exhibition "The Image of Garbo" (at Fotografiska - the Swedish Museum of Photography).
If you have at all been reading this blog regularly then you know that I love the art of photography and am a fan of the museum which has had some great exhibitions throughout the years (Annie Leibovitz, David LaChapelle, Herb Ritts, Henri Cartier-Bresson, etc.). The Garbo exhibit is located on the ground floor in a space usually used for conferences and events and not exhibitions. This means that "The Image of Garbo" is an expansion of what is already being shown at the museum, meaning more exhibits and photographs to see at Fotografiska this summer.
I really enjoyed "The Image of Garbo", which probably contains the world's largest collection of unique images and memorabilia featuring Greta Garbo. Everything in the exhibit comes from the private collection of Lars Nordin, a Swedish advertising executive, who has been an active collector for 20 years. While I recognized several of the images, especially the stills from her most famous movies (Queen Christina, Camille, Ninotchka and Anna Karenina), many images were new for me.
The exhibit also contains other interesting memorabilia, some objects owned by Garbo as well as her autograph written with a goose quill. This last piece is apparently quite a rarity as Garbo never signed autographs and didn't like to even write her name.
The exhibition runs all summer (until August 21st) and is one of many great summer exhibitions at Fotografiska. Other ones include Bryan Adams and Nick Brandt. The museum has very generous opening hours which makes it easy to add to your itinerary, especially if you only have a short time in Stockholm. The museum is open from 9am to 11pm Sundays through Wednesdays and between 9am and 1am on Thursdays through Saturdays. The only days they are closed are Midsummer's Eve and Christmas Eve.
Fotografiska is located on the waterfront of Södermalm. The easiest way to get there from the Rival Hotel is to walk (15-20 minutes). The hop-on/off boats also make a stop there during the summer months. They also have a great restaurant, though in the summer months this closes and instead they have an outdoor grill restaurant called Växtgrillen.

June 22, 2016

Restaurants Closing During the Summer Months (2016)

This post may come as bad news, at least for "foodies" visiting Stockholm in July and early August. Many top tier restaurants (Michelin star, gourmet) close for a few weeks during the summer. This is mainly due to the generous Swedish vacation rules leading many top restaurants to feel that they can't offer excellent food & service with summer replacement staff. Another reason, perhaps, is that many Stockholmers leave the city during this period and there aren't enough visiting "foodies" to fill these types of restaurants to make it profitable. No businessmen in town either... wining & dining clients. At any rate, the good news is that there are a few which will be open all summer and several other top restaurants have some other options during these weeks... and you always have a plethora of other great restaurants in the city to choose from! Most of these restaurants are also closed during the big Midsummer holiday weekend (June 24th-26th).

Michelin star and Bib Gourmand restaurants:
  • Mathias Dahlgren- closed between July 15th and August 9th (both the Dining Room and the Food Bar).
  • Frantzén- closes on July 9th. Reopening at a new & better location in 2017!
  • Oaxen Krog- open all summer as normal.
  • Oaxen Slip- open all summer... every day for lunch & dinner.
  • Gastrologik- open all summer, though their more casual Speceriet will be closed until the beginning of August for renovations. 
  • Ekstedt- closed between July 17th and August 5th.
  • Esperanto- the dining room is closed between June 24th and August 5th. Instead, between June 28th and August 4th, they open up their lounge with what they call their Spanish Summer Salon where guests sit at a communal table. They have other restaurants in the house with different summer schedules... Råkultur is open all summer and Shibumi is only closed between June 24th and July 4th. Imouto however will be closed between July 17th and August 10th. 
  • Operakällaren- closed between July 17th and August 10th. Their more casual Bakfickan will be open all summer.
  • Volt- closed between July 17th and August 14th.
  • Rolfs Kök- closed between July 3rd and August 7th.
  • Den Gyldene Freden- closed for renovations between June 18th and August 19th. 
  • Lilla Ego- closed between July 10th and August 15th.
  • Nook- closed between July 2nd and August 8th. 
  • Proviant Östermalm- closed between July 9th and July 28th. 
  • Ulla Winbladh- open all summer.
Other top rated restaurants:
  • Svartengrens- closed between July 4th and July 31st. 
  • AG- closed between July 3rd and August 7th. 
  • Lux Day to Day- closed between July 16th and August 16th.
  • Farang- closed between July 10th and August 10th.
  • Djuret- closed between July 4th and August 10th. Instead they open up an outdoor pork barbecue restaurant called Svinet
  • Pubologi- closed between July 4th and August 2nd. 
  • Omakase Köttslöjd- closed between July 4th and August 2nd. 
  • Le Rouge- closed between June 24th and August 15th. 
  • SMAK- closed between July 10th and August 11th. 
  • Miss Voon- open all summer.
  • Publico- closed between July 3rd and August 8th. 
  • Spritmuseum- their high-end dinner service closes during the summer months. Instead they have a more casual restaurant (includes garden seating) as well as a great "beer pier" on the water open. 
  • Fotografiska- their indoor fine dining restaurant is closed between June 24th and August 17th. During this time they open an outdoor barbecue in front of the museum (from June 27th to August 14th). Their café is open as usual.
  • Wedholms Fisk- open all summer. 
What this all means is that you need to plan a little ahead if you wish to dine at a top tier Stockholm restaurant during your summer visit and be aware that your favorite (or the one you read about) might not be open. However there are still many great restaurants open during these weeks as well as some restaurants that are open only during the summer months that are definitely worth a visit... so you won't go hungry! If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me directly for help in booking any tables ahead of your visit. Our restaurant Bistro Rival is open all summer.

June 19, 2016

Midsummer Weekend 2016

Midsummer at Skansen,
photo by: Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se
I am back at work after my pre summer vacation and just in time for the Midsummer weekend here in Sweden. This year it falls on June 24th through 26th with Midsummer's Eve on Friday and Midsummer's Day on Saturday. This is arguably the biggest holiday in Sweden... on par with Christmas as a holiday celebrated with family and friends. It is a very old holiday, celebrating the summer solstice, with roots going back to Sweden's pagan past. Here is a handy video that explains the holiday! Unfortunately, most tourists are taken by surprise every year as parts of the city can resemble a ghost town with most Stockholmers heading to the countryside to celebrate. But don't worry... as long as you are aware of the holiday, there are still lots to see and do. Most places geared for tourists tend to be open or at least partially open. Here are some tips on what is open/closed and what to expect:

Museums-

  • Skansen- open every day, all weekend.
  • Vasa Museum- open every day, all weekend.
  • Fotografiska (photography)- closed on Friday, open Saturday & Sunday.
  • ABBA the Museum- open every day, all weekend.
  • Royal Palace- open every day, all weekend.
  • Drottningholm Palace- open every day, all weekend.
  • Moderna (modern art)- closed Friday, open Saturday & Sunday.
  • Nobel (Alfred Nobel and the Nobel Prizes)- closed Friday, open Saturday & Sunday.
  • Nordiska (nordic culture)- closed Friday, open Saturday & Sunday.
  • Historiska (history)- closed Friday & Saturday, open Sunday.
  • Medeltidsmuseet (medieval)- closed Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
  • Spritmuseum (drinkable spirits)- closes at 4pm on Friday, closed Saturday, open Sunday.

If you are travelling with children (or are young at heart) both the amusement park Gröna Lund and Junibacken, the home of Pippi Longstocking and her friends, are open all weekend.

Restaurants-

Here is where you can get into a little trouble. Many restaurants are closed for the whole weekend, while others will be closed at least on Friday. Higher-end, Michelin star restaurants are almost all closed Friday through Monday. Most hotel restaurants are open to the general public (like the Rival Bistro) all weekend. There are also some other restaurants that are open during Midsummer... your best luck will be with hotel restaurants, places in Gamla Stan as well as restaurants like Hard Rock Café. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me as soon as possible for help booking a table, as they will probably fill up and last minute reservations might be tough! 

Shopping-

Also a little tough. Many smaller boutiques will be closed for the whole weekend. Even large shopping centers, like Mood and Sturegallerian, will close on both Friday and Saturday (Sturegallerian is closed on Sunday as well). The two largest department stores, NK and Åhlens City, will close early on Friday (NK at 2pm and Åhlens at 4pm) and stay closed on Saturday. Officially, it is only Saturday which is a bank holiday... but Friday is about as close as you can come "unofficially", so expect many pharmacies, banks and liquor stores to be closed that day as well.

Sightseeing-

Large sightseeing companies like Strömma run as normal with bus, boat and combination tours available all weekend. Smaller, independant sightseeing companies may be closed. Public transportation runs as normal, though on a more limited "holiday" schedule, all weekend.

Experience Midsummer-

After all of this negativity, you may be wondering "but where do we experience the Midsummer celebrations?". Well, the best place to see how Swedes traditionally celebrate this holiday is at Skansen. Check their calendar for a program of what is going on all weekend long! While most Swedes do leave the city, the few that are left will celebrate with picnics and games in the different parks throughout the city. So, when in doubt, just head outdoors to celebrate. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel and need further information... contact me directly at the hotel!
Summer Night
photo by: Susanne Walström/imagebank.sweden.se

May 18, 2016

Mamma Mia the Party! This Summer in English.

Press photo by Mats Bäcker for Tyrol
Today is my last day before my pre-summer vacation. I am off to recharge my batteries before the busy summer season! I will be back in mid June but if you are staying at the Rival Hotel during my absence, fear not... my colleagues will be on hand to help you. But before I go I thought I would leave you with a real fun article about "Mamma Mia the Party!".
"Mamma Mia the Party!", a dinner-show-party-experience, has been playing to sold out crowds here in Stockholm since January and during this time the show has been in Swedish. However they will be performing the show in English during late July and August this summer for the tourist season. Last week, during the Eurovision festival, they tested the English version to select audiences... including me!
Looks and feels like a Greek taverna...
Do I need to explain the phenomenon that is ABBA and the subsequent juggernaut musical (and then movie) "Mamma Mia!"? Probably not. The Party is the next step in the Mamma Mia story. The plot is pretty clever. Basically, the story takes place directly after the Mamma Mia movie has just wrapped filming on the Greek island of Skopelos. A Greek taverna, run by a local man and his new Swedish wife (who stayed on the island after the movie wrapped), has an ABBA themed show designed to bring in the tourists. The audience plays the part of diners at the taverna. The main plot of the story revolves around the owner's daughter and his new wife's son who are in love and being discouraged by their families. Romeo and Juliette part 2?
...complete with grandma watching from her balcony.
The first thing you notice when you arrive is the amazing design of the locale. It really looks like a Greek island taverna, complete with fountain, bougainvillea plants and tourist shops in a side alley. I have been in this locale many times before and, trust me, this is quite a feat as its' name is Tyrol and it usually resembles a Tyrolean bierstube! You are warmly greeted by the staff and led through the taverna to your table.
No Romeo & Juliette plot is complete without a balcony scene.
The cuisine is Greek of course and the food comes to the table family style with sharing plates. The first round consists of "snacks" like olives, tzatziki and hummus. The next round, the appetizers, consisted of classic dishes like calamaris and Greek salad. The main course was a platter of meat... lamb racks, sausages and grilled pork shish kebab as well as grilled vegetables. Finally coffee and dessert which was a vanilla panacotta with Greek honey.
Press photo by Mats Bäcker for Tyrol
During the time the food comes and goes... the show takes place all around the diners. It really doesn't matter where you are sitting, though the bulk of the action takes place around the fountain. There is audience participation, but it isn't as bad as it sounds. I was terrified that they were going to be pulling up people on stage. One diner got a lap dance from the chef and another was twirled by a waitress. The owner of the taverna did put me on the spot by asking if I was single (for his daughter). But that was the extent of it... otherwise it was mainly eye contact by the actors singing and dancing around the tables.
The show contains singing, dancing, drama and... acrobatics!
The evening ends with the taverna's ABBA show. Tables are moved to the side and a real disco party begins with the waitstaff and actors coming out in full ABBA regalia and belting out a medley of the super group's most well known songs. During the rest of the show, the songs are a mix of well known and lesser known ABBA songs (like "Kisses of Fire" and "I'm a Marionette"). It's a nice touch using the lesser known songs... ABBA does, after all, have an amazing back catalogue.
The disco party starts!
Mamma Mia the Party is located on the island of Djurgården, in the Gröna Lund amusement park, just a stone's throw from ABBA the Museum. In fact, you can purchase tickets that include entrance to the museum as well just in case you want the full ABBA experience! And speaking of tickets, they can be purchased online through their website. The English version takes place between July 27th to August 21st, otherwise it is in Swedish. At first I thought the price is a bit steep (1340 SEK), but you really do get a lot for the price (four course dinner, show and party). It is basically a similar price for a night out in Stockholm with dinner, theatre and nightclub.
Thank you for the music!
It is quite simple to get to the Party from the Rival Hotel. Just take the Djurgårds Ferry from nearby Gamla Stan. It is a ten minute trip and the ferry drops you off 25 meters from the entrance to the Party.
Press photo by Mats Bäcker for Tyrol

May 10, 2016

Meet the Vikings this Summer at the Swedish History Museum

I am passing on some useful information sent to me from Historiska (Swedish History Museum). Located in Östermalm, a short walk from Djurgården, this museum has free admission, is very child friendly and has a great permanent exhibition on our Viking history as well as many other great exhibitions on Swedish history. During the summer they extend the Viking exhibition outside into the courtyard with special events. Fun for the whole family! Click here to read about a past visit to the museum and here if you are interested in other Viking activities and exhibitions in Stockholm.
Viking treasure from Gotland. Photo by Katarina Nimmervoll/SHM

Meet the Vikings
From the Baltic Sea to Baghdad – theme of tours in June­–September

Guided tours about the Vikings’ exchanges with the East
3–19 June: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, in Swedish at 14.00 and in English at 15.00.
20 June–28 August: Daily, in English at 12.00, 14.00 and 15.00 and in Swedish at 13.00.
2­–25 September: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, in Swedish at 14.00 and in English at 15.00.
Baking bread. Photo by Katarina Nimmervoll/SHM
Viking for a Day: 20 June–28 August, 11.00­–17.00
Join us in the courtyard for Viking crafts and games. Great fun for young and old alike!
·        Try out archery, tug-of-war, holmgang, nine men’s morris and the magic maze
·        Check out a trader’s tent
·        Step aboard a Viking ship
·        Try your hand at Viking crafts
·        Dress up in Viking outfits
·        Bake Viking bread
 
Viking for a day! Photo by Katarina Nimmervoll/SHM
The Viking Exhibition
Discover tales of mighty Vikings and their role in slavery, of voyages on rivers and seas, and of life in the trading port of Birka. We have the world’s largest collection of Viking artifacts.
The Swedish History Museum, Free admission, Narvavägen 13–17, www.historiska.se
Viking artifacts. Photo by Katarina Nimmervoll/SHM

May 7, 2016

Eurovision Song Contest 2016

The Eurovision Song Contest is being held in Stockholm this year. The contest itself will be held next week with the semi finals on May 10th & 12th and the grand final on Saturday May 14th. But the festivities have already kicked off with the opening of the Eurovision Village and Euro Fan Café as well as other events about the city.
Counting down at Norrmalmstorg.
So, what is the Eurovision Song Contest? If you are asking yourself this, you are probably not from Europe or Australia. But basically it is a song contest with participants representing countries in Europe as well as (recently) Australia. This year there are 42 countries taking part. What makes this contest really special is the history and size. The contest has been held annually since 1956 and last year 197 million viewers around the world watched Måns Zelmerlöw from Sweden win the grand prize in Vienna. The fact that Måns won last year is the reason the contest is in Sweden this year (the winning country hosts the next year). Sweden has actually won a total of 6 times and the only other country with more wins is Ireland  (7 wins). Maybe Sweden will win again this year?
The City Skyliner taking visitors up for views of the city.
This year the contest will actually be televised in the US on Logo channel. It is a little hard to describe to non Europeans the reason for the popularity of this televised contest... people generally love it or hate it. It is as famous for its bad acts as for its better acts. Several past winners however have gone on to bigger and better things (ABBA, Bicks Fizz, Celine Dion). Viewers vote for their favorite songs and there is always controversy with countries giving their neighbours their highest points, whether it is a good song or not (i.e. Cyprus and Greece). Complicated voting rules.
Ericsson Globe Arena (press image)
Here in Stockholm, the contest will be held at the Ericsson Globe Arena, which is located in the southern part of Stockholm. Interested in last minute tickets? Click here. There will also be a big viewing party in the neighbouring Tele2 Arena on Saturday night. Otherwise most of the other action will take place in the downtown area at Kungsträdgården (Eurovision Village) or Skeppsbron (Euro Fan Café and Euro Club). There will be many other "unofficial" events around the city. For example, the Hard Rock Café will have several performances with contest participants during the week.
The Euro Fan Café & Euro Club seen to the right, adjacent to the Royal Palace.
As I mentioned before, the festivities have already started even though the contest doesn't start until next week. Click here for a full schedule in English (downloadable pdf). At the Eurovision Village they will be having performances on both the main stage as well as on another stage ("Dammen") which is located under a glass ceiling each day (May 6th to 14th) between noon and midnight. They also have food and beverage tents as well as food trucks. Of particular interest... they will be showing the semi finals and finals on a large screen on the main stage. Free entrance! In the Village they also have erected a temporary 81 meter tall viewing tower called the City Skyliner. This tower gives you a beautiful 360 degree view of the city. It is open from 10am to midnight until May 22nd. It takes 60 persons at a time and costs 100 SEK for adults and 80 SEK for children.
The main stage in the Eurovision Village.
The indoor stage, or "Dammen", in the Village.
The Euro Fan Café is open daily from 11am to 8pm through may 13th (closed May 8th). Two floors, three conceptual rooms and four bars with great views over the water. Performances, food & drink as well as information about other Eurovision events. After 8pm the café turns into the Euro Club which is for delegations, press and accredited fans. Otherwise the city is decorated and pimped out for the festival... keep your eyes and ears open for the parties. The official after parties will be held at Operaterrassen (Tues through Sat). Tickets for the parties can be pre purchased online or at the door. Contact me directly if you are staying at the Rival Hotel and need more information. Click here for a full calendar of festivals and events in Stockholm during 2016.

May 2, 2016

Wine & Cheese at Gamla Amsterdam

Now for something a little different! Last week a colleague and I decided to go out for a drink after work to celebrate the end of another work week. We decided to try a place close to the Rival Hotel that had piqued our interest: Gamla Amsterdam Cheese Shop & Cheese Bar. I had purchased some cheeses there a couple of months ago for a dinner party and had seen that they had started with wine as well as lighter meals. I do enjoy a great cheese plate paired with a nice red wine...
It is a small space that manages to fit in a cheese counter, shop, tasting area as well a few tables and counters. Now that the weather is warming up, they have added a few tables outside as well. The aroma of cheese as well as the wheels of cheese displayed gives the place some great ambiance. I would say that the majority of their business is with people purchasing cheese to take home, but you are welcome to stay and enjoy your cheese there with a glass of wine.
We chose a cheese plate in order to try a variety of cheeses. It was delicious! The staff is very good at recommending cheeses as well as wines that pair well with your cheese(s). They do have other dishes on the menu. Of special note are their smørrebrød, which is a delicious Danish open-face sandwich with different toppings, and their fondues. No table reservations and you can expect to share a table with other patrons. Very casual. The shop is located in Södermalm just a stone's throw away from the hotel on the street Hornsgatan. Click here for other restaurant recommendations and reviews.

April 30, 2016

Valborg (Walpurgis) Celebrations in Stockholm 2016

Photo by Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se
Tonight, April 30th, is Valborgsmässoafton (or Walpurgis Eve) here in Sweden! This is a great, annual spring celebration where Swedes gather in the evening, light bonfires and sing traditional songs. Tomorrow, May 1st, is a bank holiday (International Workers Day) so younger celebrants can get a little rowdy. But it is all in good fun. There are official bonfires being lit tonight throughout the city (though mostly in the suburbs), but if you are staying at the Rival Hotel then there are two that are conveniently close to the hotel... if you wish to witness and partake in the festivities.
Valborg at Skansen, photo by Dan Larsson
The main celebration is at Skansen on the island of Djurgården. There will be things (concerts, speeches) going on all afternoon and early evening... but the all important bonfire will be lit at 9pm. Another place you can celebrate is at Evert Taube's Terrass on the island of Riddarholmen, just adjacent to Gamla Stan (old town). Here they will light the bonfire at 8.30pm (however it all starts with a torch parade from Stortorget in the old town at 8:10pm). Click here for a full list of bonfires (list in Swedish). Happy Spring!

April 28, 2016

Restaurant Delikatessen

Delikatessen, located in former fire station from the 1880's.
Last week I went to dinner with some fellow Les Clefs d'Or Concierge. We were invited to try a relatively new restaurant called Delikatessen... and it was especially interesting for me to try as it is located quite close to the Rival Hotel. I have visited their bar (Bar Hommage) a couple of times and really enjoyed the drinks and ambiance. In fact, they were awarded "best new bar" in Stockholm last year at the Bartender's Choice Awards.
High ceilings and vaulted windows.
What you first notice upon arriving is the interesting space. Delikatessen is located in a building that once housed an old fire station from the late 1800's. This gives the restaurant a unique feel with the high ceilings and vaulted windows. During the summer months they open up these windows and add some outdoor seating. Delikatessen is a French bistro in the old Parisian style both in the ambiance and cuisine, though the menu has more modern French flavors instead of traditional French dishes like bouillabaisse and cog au vin. Södermalm meets Paris!
Baked oysters.
Breast of duck.
For myself, I started a little light with two baked oysters served in the shell with soya infused cream. For the main course I chose the duck breast with endives, piment d'espelette, caramelized onions and blood oranges. Finally, for dessert, I had their play on a French Toast. It was made with brioche bread dipped in crème brûlée batter and then grilled and served with strawberries and Diplomat cream. All washed down with a wonderful Bourgogne. It was all very delicious, including the dishes my colleagues chose.
Their version of "French toast".
This restaurant is a great choice for both the cuisine and ambiance as well as decent prices. I would say that the only thing you should be aware of is that it is popular with locals which when paired with the high ceilings can make it a little boisterous. Not a problem at all, but maybe not optimal for a quiet, romantic dinner on a Saturday night. The restaurant is just three blocks from the Rival Hotel. If you are staying at the hotel, contact me directly if you need assistance in making a reservation. Click here for more restaurant recommendations and reviews.
Ambiance...
Award winning bar!

April 22, 2016

Culture Night in Stockholm 2016

Culture Night, or Kulturnatten, is an annual, popular event here in Stockholm with over 400 cultural events happening throughout the city and all with free admission! This year the Culture Night is happening on Saturday, April 23rd, between 6pm and midnight and, as it is every year, the theme color is purple (ironic considering the recent passing of Prince). The events are spread throughout the city and cover all types of culture,.. dance, film, photography, art, litterature, music, theatre and much more. Many cultural institutions and museums are open during the evening with special exhibitions and events. For example, the Nordiska Museet, Nobel Museum,  and Royal Palace among others. With over 400 events, it is hard to do any list here. But you can download a program in English with the highlights. Just click here and then scroll down for the link to the download. Otherwise, if you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me directly for more information and program. They will also have special informations desks open in the evening at both the Stockholm Visitor Center and Kulturhuset (both located at Segels Torg in the downtown area).