June 23, 2018

2018 Summer Tips!

Nybroviken
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!

Arrival/Departure
Getting Around the City
Sightseeing (multiple blog articles, but here are links to the individual company websites)
Activities
Stockholm views
Photo by Henrik Trygg/mediabank.visitstockholm.com 
Restaurants
Archipelago
Museums
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.
Mosebackesterrassen
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. 

June 9, 2018

Where to Watch the 2018 Football (Soccer) World Cup in Stockholm?

The world's largest sporting event, the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Football (soccer for you Yanks), starts next week! It is being played in Russia and the first game will be on June 14th with the final match scheduled for July 15th. One whole month of amazing football. 32 nations from around the world have qualified, including Sweden, and football fans in Stockholm (both locals and visitors) always want to know where they can see the matches. To start off with, all matches will be shown live on Swedish TV (SVT1, SVT2, TV4) which you can see in your room at Hotel Rival. It is also being shown live on certain cable stations (CMore channels). But, it is always more fun to watch the matches with others! Just about every pub and sports bar in Stockholm will be showing the games, but below you will find a few more stand-out bars and restaurants that will be showing live matches to their patrons. Expect large crowds when Sweden is playing!

Outdoors (mostly)

Indoors
You also have a chain of sports bars called O'Leary's (with about 9 locations in the the central part of Stockholm) that will, of course, be showing the games at their bars. I composed this list from information from three Swedish websites (that contain even more options than the list above): Nöjesguiden, Stockholm Direkt and ThatsUp. Many of the websites linked above for the bars and restaurants are in Swedish. If you are staying at the Hotel Rival, contact me directly for further assistance.

June 5, 2018

Summer Pedestrian Streets 2018

For the fourth year in a row, the city of Stockholm is turning certain streets into (partial or complete) pedestrian streets during the summer months. Restaurants, bars and cafés put out outdoor seating into the streets (not just on the sidewalks) and locals stroll up and down in the late summer evenings. This has become very popular with locals and visitors alike, so much that they add more and more streets every year. This year they have more than doubled the amount of pedestrian streets from 4 to 9!
The pedestrian streets this year are Rörstrandsgatan and Norrtullsgatan in the Vasastan neighborhood, Gamla Brogatan in Norrmalm, Nybrogatan in Östermalm, Bergsgatan, Norra Agnegatan and Hornsbergs Strand in Kungsholmen and Skånegatan and Swedenborgsgatan in Södermalm. My favorites are Swedenborgsgatan, Skånegatan and Rörstrandsgatan... mainly as these were the original streets to become pedestrian four summers ago, so the establishments on those streets have learned to take advantage of this and locals have become used to these streets being pedestrian in the summer. I am sure the others will become as good with a little experience.
Swedenborgsgatan (both pictures in article from there) is of special interest for guests staying at the Hotel Rival as it is literally right around the corner from the hotel. The street starts at the square Mariatorget (where the hotel is located) and runs 4 blocks or so to the Stockholm Södra Station. On those blocks you will find several restaurants, pubs, cafés and wine bars. All with outdoor seating. For example: Morfar GinkoDryck Wine BarHalf Way InnBistro SüdJohan & NyströmPetrus Bakery and Da Luigi. More information in Swedish: click here!

June 1, 2018

Midsummer Weekend 2018

Picture I took last year at the pole raising ceremony at Skansen on Midsummer's Eve. 
Well, it is almost that time of the year again. Midsummer (June 22nd-24th)! With the exception of perhaps Christmas, Midsummer is the biggest holiday in the Swedish calendar. It is also the weekend where confused tourists and visitors wander the streets of Stockholm and wonder why many parts resemble a ghost town. Generally, they either have no clue it is Midsummer (or even what it is) or they expected a more festive holiday atmosphere with partying in the streets, like a Catholic festival. But this is a sacred holiday, much like Christmas, which Swedes spend with family and friends. Preferably in a summer home outside of the city. It is a very old holiday, celebrating the summer solstice, dating back to Sweden's pagan past. But as long as you are aware of the holiday and what it entails, you should be fine. Most places geared for tourists tend to be open or partially open. Here are some tips on what is open/closed, what to expect and where to celebrate:

Museums-

  • Skansen- open every day, all weekend.
  • Vasa Museum- open every day, all weekend.
  • Fotografiska (photography)- closed Friday, open Saturday & Sunday (change from earlier).
  • 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)- open every day, all weekend.
  • Historiska (history)- closed Friday & Saturday, open Sunday.
  • Medeltidsmuseet (medieval)- closed Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
  • Spritmuseum (drinkable spirits)- open all weekend, shorter hours.
  • Vikingaliv (Vikings)- open all weekend, shorter hours.

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.
Pippi Longstocking moves into Junibacken
Photo by Ulf Huett - Junibacken

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. The Mall of Scandinavia will close on Friday at 4pm and be mostly 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.
Midsummer
Photo by Clive Tompsett/imagebank.sweden.se

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. Raising of the maypole, dancing the little frog dance, etc. Check their calendar for a program of what is going on all weekend long! You can also check this funny video to get a crash course in how to celebrate like a Swede, While many 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 us directly at the hotel!
Midnight sun...