April 23, 2015

ABBA by Calvero

I recently wrote about a fun, new exhibition at ABBA the Museum. And now more news from the museum! I was there yesterday evening for the unveiling of a new mini-exhibition... 15 photographs by legendary Swedish rock'n roll photographer Torbjörn Calvero featuring the members of ABBA. Some which have never been seen by the public before! The pictures are from around 1978-79 and are some great images of the Swedish super-group in their heyday. Not only are the pictures beautiful & fun to look at, they can also be purchased (numbered and signed by the photographer). The images will be on display on the entrance floor of the museum all this summer.
The museum is located on the island of Djurgården and is easy to get to from the Rival Hotel using the Djurgård ferry from nearby Slussen. Tickets to the museum can be pre purchased (time allotments) on their website. If you are staying at the hotel, contact me directly for any help or advice. By the way, have you heard the exciting news? Coming in January 2016: Mamma Mia! The Party! Something to look forward to...
My original blog article about the museum.

April 18, 2015

Stockholm Culture Night (Kulturnatt) 2015

Kulturnatt Stockholm: www.kulturnattstockholm.se  
This Saturday, April 25th, is the sixth annual Culture Night (Kulturnatt) in Stockholm. It has become quite popular! So, what exactly is a Culture Night? Well, it basically is an evening devoted to all things cultural... and FREE! Different cultural institutions in Stockholm are open during the evening (6pm to midnight), including museums, art galleries, libraries, churches, palaces, clubs, theatres, cinemas and more. This festival will have almost 400 events taking place at different locations throughout the city! And, as I mentioned earlier, admission is free... so this is a great opportunity to get cultural without damaging your wallet.
A concert last year, at Gustav Adolfs Torg. Photo by Emma Svensson.
There is a lot to choose from... art & museum exhibitions, concerts, dance, games, guided tours, performances, viewings and parties. Something for every taste! You can find a summary to download/print in English (pdf file) on their website (click here), just scroll down a bit for the link. More detailed information in Swedish along with the full program with actual events can be found by clicking here. Of course, if you are staying at the Rival Hotel... you can stop by and talk to me and I can help you with more detailed information. You can also stop by the Stockholm Visitor Center or Visit Djurgården for more information about what is happening! In past years they have had one official After Party (with live music, DJ's, dancing), but this year they are splitting it up and holding parties at four venues in different parts of the city. Free admission and open until 2am or 3am depending on the venue.

April 14, 2015

Stockholm City Bike Season 2015 Has Started!

We have a bike stand just outside the Rival Hotel!
Stockholm is a fabulous city to bike around... lots of late evening sunlight, plenty of parks and bicycle lanes. This is all made easier (and inexpensive) with the Stockholm City Bike system. They have approximately 100 bike stands spread throughout the city, even out into the suburbs. You have the choice of buying either a 3 day card for 165 SEK or a season card for 300 SEK (250 online). Guests often comment that they only want the bikes for one day. Well, they don't sell one day cards... but the price for three days is often cheaper than renting a bike for one day at other commercial bike rental companies. If you are guests at the Rival Hotel then you can purchase a 3 day card at the hotel (we do not sell season cards). But if you are not a guest, either check with your hotel or else you can purchase your card at over 200 different 7-11's and Pressbyrån kiosks in the city or at an SL Center. Click here for a list of retailers.
Bike path around Djurgården island.
After purchasing a card, you can check out a bike at any of the bike stands by holding up your card to the computer display and following the instructions. You can check out a bike at any of the stands between 6am and 10pm daily throughout the season. If the stand is empty, the display will point you in the direction of the nearest stand with bikes. Otherwise they will be by shortly to fill up the stand with new bicycles. You then have that bike for 3 hours. You are welcome to check out a new bike right away, but you have to leave the bike at a stand before 3 hours is up... otherwise you receive a demerit. 3 demerits and your card will be cancelled. This system is to stop people from taking bikes home or into their offices all day long and keeps more bikes in circulation. Be aware that the bikes don't come with locks, instead use the bike stands to lock your bikes (over 100 stands in the city!). It is important to note that you have to be 18 years old to use the bikes. If you are a family with children under 18, just talk to me and I will point you in the direction of a bike rental company that rents out children's bicycles.

April 9, 2015

Festivals & Events in Stockholm - Spring, Summer and Fall 2015

National Day Celebration. Photo: Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se
Much anticipated, here it comes... my annual calendar of fun events happening in Stockholm with special appeal for visitors. As usual, keep in mind that this is a work in progress and I often add new events as they become known (or I stumble upon them). Not all events are listed, just the larger ones. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel and are looking for more obscure happenings, smaller events or more information on the events listed here, contact me directly and I will see what I can find. While some events listed might not be of interest to you, it is good to know that they are going on as some of them can cause traffic problems (marathon), high occupancy rates at hotels (concerts & matches) and/or closures of businesses (bank holidays). As I write this, several of the event websites aren't up and running yet or haven't been adjusted for 2015. Just check back when we get closer to the actual date.
I have noted the larger arena concerts taking place. There are also many concerts going on all summer long at the Gröna Lund amusement park. Below you will find some of the international artists performing there... but you can check their whole concert schedule with 45+ shows by clicking here (lots of great Swedish artists).

July (generally a slower month event-wise as most Swedes have their vacation then and leave the city)
Kastellholmen. Photo by Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se

April 3, 2015

Spritmuseum's Restaurant

I had the opportunity yesterday to try yet another great restaurant in Stockholm! This time it was the restaurant within the Spritmuseum. In English this has been translated as "The Museum of Spirits", though I like to call it "The Museum of Adult Beverages" so that people don't confuse it with the ghostly type of spirits. One highlight of this museum is the Absolut Art Collection, though they do have several other permanent and temporary exhibitions. Click here to read about my visit a couple of years ago.
The setting...
But back to the restaurant! This place is on point when it comes to several of the hottest trends in Swedish gastronomy... 1. New Nordic Cuisine, 2. restaurants located in museums and cultural centers 3. creative focus on vegetarian dishes/options and 4. great culinary experiences at more humane prices. New Nordic espouses the use of local, seasonal produce while using innovative techniques or reviving old, traditional techniques. And I do love the trend of combining food & drink with a cultural experience. Besides Spritmuseum, another great example of this in Stockholm is the restaurant at Fotografiska (photography museum) which I recently visited. More on the vegetarian trend and pricing a bit later.
The vegetarian dishes featuring winter spinach, blackened beet,
parsley root, pickled celeriac and much more.
Head chef Petter Nilsson and manager/Sommelier Erika Lindström are the creative force behind this restaurant and their combined culinary knowledge and experience is quite impressive. Currently (until the summer) the restaurant has their fine dining option on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings. They have a more casual a la carte menu on Tuesday evenings and lunch (daily). When summer starts they open up their outdoor garden terrace where they will serve an a la carte menu and the indoor restaurant will close for the season. Spritmuseum's location on Djurgården's waterfront, adjacent to other popular sites like the Vasa Museum, ABBA the Museum and Skansen, means that it is a great option for an al fresco lunch this summer. And soon, in time for the warm weather, they will open a floating pier in front of the museum where they promise to have Stockholm's largest assortment of beers on draft. Looking forward to that...
Omnivorous dishes with focus on lamb, langoustine and cod.
Last night we experienced their fine dining restaurant. Diners have a choice of three menus. A completely vegetarian 7 course menu, an omnivorous 7 course menu or you can go all out and try all 10 dishes... which we did! While I am a big meat eater, I love it when I am pleasantly surprised by delicious vegetarian dishes and this was definitely the case at Spritmuseum. As I mentioned earlier, focusing on vegetables as the main component of a dish is a growing trend here in Stockholm and it is wonderful that vegetarians have these fine dining options and don't have to feel like they are inconveniencing the kitchen (though they never should here in Stockholm). The prices won't ruin you either with the above menus costing 600, 750 and 1000 SEK respectively. This is quite good when compared to other similar restaurants and considering the culinary experience. We like this trend!
Desserts... buttermilk sherbert with dried blueberries, malt & porter,
apple compote with milk & meringue and bergamot genoise.
Don't miss Erika's wine pairings as well... they were interesting (focus on natural wines) as well as spot on. And keep in mind that, as they only use fresh, seasonal produce, the menus change often throughout the year... so check their website for current menus. It is easy to get to the restaurant/museum from the Rival Hotel, just hop on the Djurgård Ferry from nearby Slussen (10 minute ferry ride followed by 5 minute walk). If you are coming from the downtown area, then I recommend the Djurgård street car. If you are staying at the hotel, contact me for help with reservations. Click here for other restaurant reviews/recommendations.
Edit: The NY Times just wrote a postive review... so, speaking from experience, booking ahead is advised.

March 25, 2015

Restaurant Nook

Last week I had a Concierge colleague visiting from Denmark. She celebrated her birthday during her visit and she wanted to go out and eat somewhere special. I decided on the restaurant Nook! The restaurant hasn't been open very long, but has already garnered a lot of good press & rave reviews and I was eager to try it. One reason for the positive reviews is the fact that this charming, neighborhood restaurant manages to offer a great gastronomic experience at humane prices in a relaxed setting. Love that!
The kitchen's concept is also very interesting. While they do ride on the wave of the trendy New Nordic cuisine, they also add Asian influences to the dishes in an intelligent and interesting way. For example, in the dishes you will find ingredients like wasabi, nashi pear, rice noodles and hoisin sauce alongside seasonal, local produce.
Casual ambiance.
The menu is a bit limited. Besides "snacks" they have two set 3-course menus. You are, however, allowed to mix between the two or just order a part of the set menu. I opted for the menu that consisted of lightly seared scallop (with pickled daikon, hollandaise and Chinese spinach) as the appetizer, followed by lamb roast beef (with celeriac, crispy black kale and hazelnut butter) for the main course and licorice ice cream (with rasberries and roasted white chocolate) for dessert. Delicious!
Main course...
The restaurant is located on Södermalm, the same island as the Rival Hotel, near the SoFo district. Nook is not a large restaurant and is quite popular... so booking in advance is recommended. If you are staying at the hotel, contact me for help. Click here to see my other recent restaurant visits...
...and dessert.

March 14, 2015

Easter in Stockholm 2015

Easter Lunch!
Photo by Marie Andersson/Skansen
To start off with... the Swedish word for Easter is Påsk (good to know when visiting the city on Easter weekend). While Sweden is one of the least religious countries in the world, it has loads of bank holidays that are religious in origin. On Easter weekend (first weekend in April this year) we have two bank holidays, besides the obvious Easter Sunday, or Påskdagen: Good Friday (Långfredag) and the Monday following Easter Sunday (Annandag Påsk). Even Thursday (Skärtorsdag) is somewhat special as many office workers take a half day off ahead of their 4 day holiday. Once upon a time this meant that the city came to a standstill for 4 days... but these days it isn't that bad. Banks, liquor stores, cafés and smaller shops will be closed or have changed opening hours. Many restaurants, most larger department stores and shopping centers will be open as normal. Though perhaps with shortened opening hours. The Rival BistroBar and Café are all open all weekend long!
Children dressed up as Easter witches (påskkärringar)
Photo by Marie Andersson/Skansen
As for the museums, the big ones (VasaFotografiskaABBASkansen and Moderna) are open as normal. Some others are closed on Friday (April 3rd); these include the Royal Palace and Maritime (Sjöhistoriska) museums. The History Museum (Historiska) is closed on both Friday and Saturday. While these closures can be bad news, there is some good news as well. Monday is a day in Sweden when many museums are closed, however some of these museums are staying open on Monday, April 6th, as it is a holiday. They include HistoryMedievalMillesgårdenNatural History and Drottningholm Palace.  Keep in mind that I haven't checked ALL the museums in Stockholm... just the top 20 or so of the 85 museums in the city. Talk to me directly, if you are staying at the Rival Hotel, or check the individual websites if you are interested in other, smaller museums. Sightseeing tours operate as normal.

Scene from Skansen. Photo by me!

If you want to experience Swedish Easter traditions then you should definitely visit Skansen (open-air museum, park and zoo). Don't be surprised if you see little children dressed up as cute witches (påskkärringar)! Here you can learn about, watch, listen to or partake in traditional Easter activities. These are all of special interest if you have children with you. They also have an Easter Market, open (11am to 4pm) from Thursday to Monday, where you can purchase traditional Easter handicraft, decorations, toys and food. For a full calendar of activities at Skansen... click here. I did mention that Sweden isn't a very religious country, but that doesn't mean that it is devoid of religion! There are, of course, many churches (mainly Lutheran and Catholic) that have special Easter services and masses. Contact me directly, if you are staying at the Rival Hotel, for service/mass times at different churches. Several churches offer services in languages other than Swedish.

March 12, 2015

Goût de France - Good France

In 2010, French cuisine was added to UNESCO's intangible world heritage list... and rightly so! Very few nations have such a gastronomic cultural identity as France. On March 19th 2015, this cultural heritage will be celebrated in a big, big way: Goût de France. This exciting international gastronomical event will take place in 1300 restaurants in 150 countries on 5 continents. Each chef will offer their own French style menu... French digestive, a cold starter, a hot starter, fish or shellfish dish, meat or poultry dish, French cheese (or cheese plate) and a chocolate dessert along with French wines and digestives (naturellement!). All types of restaurants are taking part, from neighborhood bistros to gourmet establishments.
Good France. Photo by (c) Pierre Monetta
Sweden has long had a close relationship with France, even before the time of Axel von Fersen and Jean Baptiste Bernadotte, and is well represented in the Goût de France. 17 restaurants in Sweden are taking part, 7 of them in Stockholm, and all of these restaurants applied and their menus were approved by an international committee of chefs. The Stockholm restaurants are:

So, if you are visiting Stockholm on March 19th... book a table and help celebrate French cuisine. And if you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me if you need any help booking a table or translating a website (some are only in Swedish). You should be able to find their special Goût de France menu on their websites linked above, otherwise visit this website where you can search for ALL restaurants taking part and their special menu for the evening.
Good France. Photo by (c) Pierre Monetta

But you can enjoy great French cuisine year-round in Stockholm, not only on March 19th. Besides the fine establishments above, here are several other recommended French restaurants in the city: Pastis, Delikatessen, Bistro Bon, Á la Crêpe, Mister French, Naturligtvis, Chez Betty, Brasserie Godot, Napolyon and Grand Escalier. Bon Appétit!

March 10, 2015

Best Restaurants Awarded in the White Guide 2015

White Guide 2015
Hot on the heels of the Michelin Guide comes the White Guide. One big difference between the two is the fact that the White Guide is a guide for all of Sweden, by Swedes. This guide also looks at all different categories of restaurants and not just the most exclusive. While the White Guide for Sweden still is only in Swedish, they recently released a White Guide Nordic which is in English and for all the Nordic countries. But on to this White Guide. While many restaurants from other parts of Sweden did very well this year (including Best Restaurant to Fäviken Magasinet), for our purposes let's look at how Stockholm restaurants fared at the top of the lists in 2015...

Best Dining Experience of the Year: Gastrologik
Best Wine Experience of the Year: Operakällaren
Rising Star of the Year (awarded to young chefs with great potential): Lina Ahlin Olofsson at Frantzén.

The gang behind Gastrologik. Photo by Marcus Möller.
Stockholm restaurants that made the list of Swedish restaurants with the highest rating of International Master Class (number in parenthesis is their position on the list of Swedish restaurants):

Stockholm restaurants that made the list of Swedish restaurants with the rating of Master Class (number in parenthesis is their position on the list):
Click here for past guides and lists! 

March 4, 2015

Finally... New at ABBA the Museum!

And speaking of new museum exhibitions... I was invited yesterday to the grand unveiling of the new exhibition at ABBA the Museum. This is the biggest addition to the museum since they opened in May 2013. The museum has been a popular attraction in Stockholm and it is great with a new addition. Click here if you want to read my blog article about my original visit to the museum.
The figures arriving by helicopter...
Finally... together again! The new exhibition consists of life-size, silicon figures of the four ABBA members wearing exact replicas of their (Owe Sandström designed) stage costumes from 1979. In fact, the backdrop to the silicon figures is also a replica of part of their set decor from the 1979 North American tour. The idea for these figures has been around since 2011 when plans for the museum were being made. But it wasn't until the fall of 2013 that plans for the figurines started in earnest.
...before being unveiled to the international press.
Göran Lundström of EffektStudion was given the commission and it took him and a team of 35+ persons about a year to create the figures. I must say that they are eerily life-like... very impressive work. Though this is perhaps not surprising given that the four ABBA members actively participated in this project, helping with measurements, creative opinions and more.
So... another good reason to visit ABBA the Museum! Or revisit? The museum is located on the island of Djurgården, near other popular attractions like Vasa Museum, Skansen and Gröna Lund. It is quite easy to get to the museum from the Rival Hotel using the Djurgård Ferry. Entrance tickets for the museum can be purchased in advance (time allotments) on their website. If you are staying at the hotel, talk to me if you need help purchasing the tickets. And don't miss the fun museum gift shop when you are there...