January 9, 2019

On Vacation!

Yes, even a Concierge needs to go on vacation from time to time. I will be back at the Hotel Rivaland blogging in the first week of February. In the meantime, here are some handy tips for you if you are coming to Stockholm in the coming weeks...

I hope that these tips help and that you have a wonderful visit in Stockholm! 

January 2, 2019

The Best Wine, Beer and Cocktail Bars in Sweden!

Happy New Year! Let's kick off 2019 on a high note... pun intended. The White Guide Nordic recently awarded the best bars in Sweden in the categories of beer, wine and cocktail. Good news for guests at the Hotel Rival as the winners of the three categories are all located on the same island/district in Stockholm as the hotel: Södermalm! While we do have our own fantastic cocktail bar at the hotel, it is nice to have a few other top options nearby. The winners...

  • Best cocktail bar: Tjoget. Linje 10 is the name of the restaurant & bar and Hornstull's Bodega is their wine bar, all found within Tjoget. Located on Hornstull. The motivation for the award names the high level of service and for constantly revolutionizing Sweden's cocktail culture. 
  • Best beer bar: Omnipollos Hatt. This cozy beer bar is located just a few blocks from the hotel and always has several great craft beers on draft as well as gourmet pizzas. The motivation for their award mentions their sense of humor, creativity and experimentation as well as how they have elevated all things beer related. 
  • Best wine bar: Folii. Fantastic wine bar located on the eastern part of Södermalm, close to SoFo. According to the White Guide, knowledge, ambiance, décor, food and wine selection all played part in their first prize. Everything you want in a wine bar!
Several other bars in our area made the list over top 20 bars in Sweden. Paradiso, Bar Hommage and Vänster på Häktet all made the top 10 and are just within three blocks from the Rival! A couple of others, Tweed and Corner Club, are just a short walk away in Gamla Stan. As I mentioned, the Hotel Rival has a great cocktail bar... and on January 16th we will be unveiling a new bar, called Watson's Bar, which will be open daily from 11am. Stay tuned! I am old enough to remember Stockholm bars in the late 1980's and early 1990's when a gin & tonic was considered a cocktail, wine selection was at a bare minimum and the only beer you could get on draft were from the three big breweries. So it is fun to see how it has evolved! Click here for more restaurant/bar guides and awards. Visit Stockholm has put together some guides for wine bars, beer & breweries and clubs & bars.
Watson's Bar... coming soon (Jan 16th) to the Hotel Rival!

December 27, 2018

Winter Art Exhibitions 2019

My final article for 2018? If you are looking for information regarding New Year's Eve in Stockholm... click here!
From Warhol 1968 at Moderna.
Are you coming to Stockholm this winter season? Indoor cultural activities are always nice if it is cold and snowy outside, and Stockholm has a wide variety of musuems to choose from! If history is your thing, we have many museums and attractions that concentrate on history and our royal family. More interested in art and design? Here are the main art museums and their exhibitions this coming season:

From "Feathers" at Etnografiska. 
Traveling with small children? Art museums might not be their favorite activity; Stockholm thankfully has many child-friendly attractions as well. And don't forget a visit to ABBA the Museum and learn all about Sweden's #1 pop export! 

December 22, 2018

"Wonderland" Exhibition (and more) at Fotografiska

I stopped by Fotografiska, the Swedish Museum of Photography, the other day to see their new exhibition "Wonderland" by Kirsty Mitchell. It was a chilly, snowy day in Stockholm and the perfect day for indoor cultural activities. Fotografiska is one of those great museums you can visit several times a year as they generally always have 3 or 4 beautiful and thought provoking exhibitions each season.
The photographs in this exhibition are stunningly beautiful, many with bright, vivid colors. The intricate details in the pictures were fun to study up close and, at first, I thought that the photographer had used a lot of photo-shopping to create all these details. Not a strange assumption in this day and age. But, in part of the exhibition, you learn how the photographer, Kirsty Mitchell, created all of these looks herself... making the costumes, head pieces, props and more.
Mitchell likes to refer to herself as an artist with a camera instead of as a photographer because of the weeks/months it takes to create each image before snapping the actual photograph. Her background as a fashion/costume designer and student of art history are very evident in her work. "Wonderland" started as a book and this is the first time all 74 images are being shown in an exhibition.
The story behind "Wonderland" brings an extra depth and poignancy to the images. Kirsty Mitchell's mother was an English teacher and loved literature, often reading fairytales aloud to her daughter when she was a child. When her mother passed away from cancer in 2008, Mitchell started this project a few months later as a way to work through her grief and get in touch with her childhood memories of her mother and the fairytales they shared. This exhibition runs until March 3rd, 2019.
I also visited another ongoing exhibition at the museum: "Smile and the rest will follow" with the work of photographer Jörgen Hildebrandt (in cooperation with Operation Smile). Operation Smile is an incredible nonprofit medical organization that provides free repair surgery for children and adults with cleft lips/palates around the world.
Before and after, "Smile - and the rest will follow"
It is a heart-warming exhibition which looks at the young patients before and after their surgeries through photographs, video and text, showing what a difference these relatively simple surgeries make in the lives of the children and their families. This is what makes Fotografiska so great, they always have a great mix of exhibitions: beauty, documentary, fashion, whimsy, news worthy.  "Smile..." runs until February 3rd, 2019.
Before and after, "Smile - and the rest will follow"
Fotografiska is located on the northern waterfront of Södermalm, just a 15-20 minute walk from the Hotel Rival. The closest subway/bus station is Slussen (10 minute walk from the museum). One extra special aspect of Fotografiska is their generous opening hours, closing at 11pm on Sun-Wed and 1am on Thurs-Sat. They are also open daily all through the holiday season, including Christmas! They also have a café and award-winning restaurant on the top floor with views of the harbor... well worth a visit.
They are doing some major construction in the Slussen area. But just follow the signs, like the one above, to get to Fotografiska.




December 17, 2018

Opening Hours for Stores This Holiday Season 2018-19

NK department store
Christmas is almost upon us! I have already written about special opening hours for museums and sightseeing tours. Now something for those of you who are interested in a little holiday shopping. Stores and boutiques all, of course, have their own individual opening hours during the holidays. But you can generally say that they close early on December 24th & 31st and are closed on December 25th and January 1st. There are always exceptions to the rule! Here are the special holiday opening hours (days that deviate from regular opening hours) for some of the larger department stores, markets and shopping centers. Take a look at their websites for information about other specific dates. Interested in Christmas markets? The last day for these markets is December 23rd. Click here for a full list of markets and their opening dates/hours. If you are staying at the Hotel Rival and want to know the opening hours of smaller independent stores, contact me directly!
Bibliotekstan, shopping district
  • NK department store: open from 10am to 9pm on the days leading up to Christmas. 10am to 2pm on December24th, closed on December 25th, open from 10am to 5pm on December 31st and closed on January 1st.
  • Åhlens City department store: open from 10am to 8pm on the days leading up to Christmas. 10am to 4pm on December24th, closed on December 25th, open from 11am to 7pm on December 31st and closed on January 1st.
  • Mall of Scandinavia: open from 10am to 10pm on the days leading up to Christmas, 10am to 4pm on December 24th, closed on December 25th, open from 10am to 4pm on December 31st and closed on January 1st. Keep in mind that certain parts of the mall (restaurants, cinema) may have different opening hours. 
  • Mood shopping center: Open 10am to 9pm on the days leading up to Christmas, 10am to 1pm on December 24th, closed on December 25th, open from 10am to 4pm on December 31st and closed on January 1st.
  • Gallerian shopping center:  open from 10am to 9pm on the days leading up to Christmas. 10am to 2pm on December24th, closed on December 25th, open from 10am to 4pm on December 31st and closed on January 1st (ongoing renovations in certain parts of the shopping center).
  • Skrapan shopping center: open from 10am to 8pm on the weekdays leading up to Christmas . 10am to 2pm on December 24th, closed on December 25th, open from 10am to 4pm on December 31st and closed on January 1st.
  • Barkarby Outlets: closed on December 24th and 25th, open from 10am to 4pm on the 31st and closed on January 1st.
  • Östermalms Saluhall (indoor food market): closed on Sundays and December 24th, 25th and 26th, open from 9:30am to 5pm on Dec 31st and closed on January 1st.
  • Systembolaget (state run liquor stores): They are closed on Sundays, December 24th, 25th and 26th. On December 31st they close at 2pm and are completely closed on January 1st. So... plan your booze shopping wisely! Especially this year when December 24th falls on a Monday (meaning Systembolaget is closed 4 days in a row). 
Åhlens City department store
The days in between Christmas and New Year's are called mellandagarna ("middle days") and are some of the biggest shopping days of the year. This is due to the sales! Keep your eyes open for signs saying rea ("sale") or mellandagsrea ("middle day sale"). Buying electronics is especially popular during these days. It is good to know that December 26th is a bank holiday here in Sweden ("Annandag jul" or second day of Christmas), though most stores are open on this day... but banks, liquor stores, smaller pharmacies will be closed.

December 13, 2018

Museums and Sightseeing During Christmas and New Year's 2018

Christmas in Stockholm
Photo by Henrik Trygg/mediabank.visitstockholm.com 
If you are planning on visiting Stockholm during the holiday season, you might be wondering which museums are open which days. There are, of course, a few closures, but there is always at least two museums open each day as well as a sightseeing tour, so you won't have to just aimlessly wander the streets without anything to do! Each museum is linked to their website so you can check exact hours and get more information. Stockholm does have around 80 museums and attractions. I obviously can't list them all so, if you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me directly for information about other museums. You will find some information about sightseeing after the list.
The Vasa Ship
Photo by Yanan Li/mediabank.visitstockholm.com 

  • Skansen (open air museum and zoo)- open every day, free entrance on Dec 24th.
  • Vasa Museum (17th century preserved warship)- closed on Dec 23rd to 25th and Jan 1st. Closes early (3pm) on Dec 31st. 
  • ABBA the Museum (self explanatory, no?)- open every day (for the first time)!
  • Fotografiska (photography)- open every day! 
  • Moderna (modern art)- closed on Dec 24th, 25th, 31st & Jan 1st, otherwise closed on Mondays. 
  • Center for Architecture and Design- closed on Dec 24th, 25th, 31st & Jan 1st, otherwise closed on Mondays. 
  • Nobel Museum (Alfred Nobel and the Nobel Prizes)- closed on Dec 24th, 25th, 31st & Jan 1st, otherwise closed on Mondays.
  • National Museum (classic/fine arts and design)-  Closed on Dec 24th and 31st 
  • Historiska (Swedish history/Vikings)- closed on Dec 24th, 25th and 31st. Closed on Mondays, but open on Jan 1st. 
  • Nordiska (cultural history)- open every day! 
  • Medeltidsmuseet (medieval history of Stockholm)- closed on Dec 24th, 25th, 31st and Jan 1st. Otherwise closed on Mondays. 
  • Stadshuset (city hall)- closed on Dec 24th, 25th, 26th and Jan 1st (though the souvenir shop is open on Jan 1st). Shorter hours on other days during this period. 
  • Vikingaliv (Vikings)- closed on Dec 23rd, 24th and 25th. Closes early (3pm) on Dec 31st. 
  • Spritmuseum (spirits, as in adult beverages)- closed Dec 23rd, 24th, 25th and 31st. 
  • The Royal Palace- closed Dec 24th and 25th. Closed on Mondays except Jan 1st when the Royal Apartments will be open. Check the website for the different museums within the palace (i.e. The Treasury). 
  • Livrustkammaren (Royal Armoury)- closed on Dec 24th, 25th, 26th, 31st and Jan 1st. Otherwise closed on Mondays. 
  • Millesgården (sculpture & art)- closed on Dec 24th and 25th. Closed otherwise on Mondays, but will be open on Dec 31st. 
  • Thielska Galleriet (art)- closed on Dec 24th, 25th, 31st and Jan 1st. Closed otherwise on Mondays.
  • Prins Eugens Waldermarsudde (art)- closed on Dec 24th, 25th and 31st. Otherwise closed on Mondays.
  • Sven-Harrys Konstmuseum (art)- closed on Dec 24th, 25th, 31st and Jan 1st. 
  • Naturhistoriska (natural history)- closed on Dec 23rd and 24th. Closed on Mondays but will be open on Dec 31st!
  • Drottningholm Palace- closed between Dec17th and 30th. Will be open daily between Dec 31st and Jan 6th during the Swedish winter school break). After that just on Saturdays and Sundays until April.
  • Junibacken (the world of Astrid Lindgren, for children)- closed on Dec 24th and 25th. 
In regards to sightseeing... Strömma will be offering different sightseeing tours during this period, like their Panorama bus tour (daily), Archipelago boat tour (most days, though not Dec 24th), Winter boat tour (daily from Dec 18th) as well as the Hop-On/Off bus (daily). Free Tour Stockholm will have daily tours... check website for tours and times. If you are interested in a private tour, check OURWAY Tours or book your own authorized guide

December 6, 2018

New Exhibition at ABBA the Museum

The other day I was invited to an industry event at ABBA the Museum, so I finally had the chance to see their new exhibition. It actually opened in May, but I never had the chance to visit this summer. The new exhibition is dedicated to the years following the band's break-up... their solo albums, musicals, movies and more. ABBA after ABBA, in other words. Finally, the whole story is now told. And, considering that ABBA is releasing three brand new songs in the spring of 2019, more is sure to come!
Costumes from Mamma Mia the Movie
ABBA the Museum is one of Stockholm's most popular attractions and is, obviously, dedicated to the Swedish pop-group phenomenon ABBA.... commercially the most successful act in the history of pop music. The museum takes you on a journey through the band members' history. First as solo artists, or in other bands, followed by the formation of ABBA and then all of their chart topping success. This journey at the museum used to end with the break up of the band, but now it continues with the new exhibition.
In this article, I will be concentrating on the new exhibition, but you can read about my other visits to the main part of the museum by clicking here, here and here. The four members of ABBA have indeed been very busy since the band's break up. While both Agneta and Frida released several solo albums, the gentlemen (Benny and Björn) have had a very successful second career writing/producing musicals... including Chess, Kristina from Duvemåla and, of course, Mamma Mia! (stage, movies and even a dinner theatre Mamma Mia the Party!).
Post-ABBA records by the members
All of these post-ABBA projects are covered in the new exhibition and they are, as with the rest of the museum, often presented with interactive exhibits. You can listen to and, in some cases, watch Agneta and Frida's solo songs, try your hand at directing songs from Chess, sing along with Kalle Moraeus (member of Benny Andersson's Orchestra) and even try your hand at creating your own music. Many of these interactive exhibits are recorded by the museum, which you can then download from their website using your ticket number. We do sell entrance ticket vouchers here at the Hotel Rival for our hotel guests which does help you skip any eventual lines.
Sing with Kalle Moraeus
ABBA the Museum is located on the island of Djurgården... close to many of Stockholm's main attractions like the Vasa Museum, Skansen and Gröna Lund. Even if you decide that ABBA isn't your thing, a stop at their gift shop is recommended to pick up some fun souvenirs. The easiest way to get there from the Hotel Rival is by catching the Djurgård ferry from nearby Gamla Stan. If you are in the downtown area, you can also catch a street car to the museum from, for example, the Central Station or NK department store. Both the ferry and the street car are part of the Stockholm public transportation system.
Create your own music
Agneta's section

December 4, 2018

Christmas Lights in Stockholm 2018

For the sixth year in a row, the downtown area of Stockholm is lit up with official Christmas lights and decorations. Using 700,000+ LED lights, 35 streets and squares in the downtown commercial district are lit up. Especially popular are the various forest creatures (like moose and reindeer), angels, hearts and other decorations created by these lights. It does make the city much more festive!
You can either just wander around on your own, or you can use their special maps where all the lights and decorations are marked out. We do have these maps at the Hotel Rival. Otherwise there is an online version you can download and use. There is also the option of joining their guided "walk of lights" which they offer every Saturday and Sunday in December. Buying tickets in advance is recommended as there are a limited amount of spots.


November 27, 2018

Christmas Market in Gamla Stan

I have already written about this year's various Christmas Markets around Stockholm... but I made a stop yesterday at the main market in Gamla Stan (old town) and I thought I would post some information and pictures to get you inspired! I call it the "main market" as it is the one that is the most well-known, open daily (11am to 6pm) and is very centrally located on the picturesque square Stortorget in the old town.
Being surrounded by the beautiful architecture of the medieval buildings that surround the square adds to the ambiance... with extra holiday atmosphere when it snows! Strolling around between the stalls, you will find ornaments, decorations, candies, toys, knitwear as well as food like herring, sausages, gingerbread, jams & jellies. You can also buy a cup of glögg (spiced hot mulled wine) and some candied almonds to snack on.
This market is open daily until December 23rd. It can get quite crowded in the late afternoons on the weekdays as well as during the weekends. I was there on a Monday early afternoon and there were no crowds! The easiest way to get there from the Hotel Rival is either to walk (15-20 minutes) or take the subway to Gamla Stan (two stops on the red line).
Ornaments...
...herring...
...candy...
...wreaths and...
...much more!

November 17, 2018

New Year's Eve in Stockholm 2018

Let us take a little break from Christmas and concentrate on New Year's Eve. It is just around the corner! If you are visiting the city during this holiday, then I hope you have started figuring out your New Year's Eve plans because some restaurants are starting to fill up already. This is not an evening when you want to "wing it" when it comes to dining & dancing! Here are some things you should be aware of when making your plans.
  • Restaurants- Quite a few restaurants are closed on the 31st. The ones that are open generally serve a traditional multiple course menu called nyårssupé and nothing else. It can be anywhere between 3 and 9 courses and cost anywhere between 500 and 1200 SEK, depending on the restaurant. This means that going out for a simple dinner or quick bite will probably be problematic unless you are looking at pubs or fast food establishments. These nyårssupé dinners are popular and the restaurants tend to fill up, so don't leave it to the last minute! Most of these restaurants have two seatings during the evening... an early (5-8:30pm) and a late (8:30pm-12am). There are actually a select few restaurants that serve a regular menu and it seems that there are more of these every year. If you are staying at the Hotel Rival, contact us as soon as possible for help in making arrangements! Every year we have guests that stop by around the Concierge desk at 7pm on New Year's Eve looking for help in making restaurant reservations and are surprised that almost every restaurant is fully booked. Don't make the same mistake! Our Bistro is open and we will be serving our popular seafood smorgasbord with two seatings. If you are staying at the hotel, you need to book this in advance as we have limited seating! Click here if you wish to book the hotel package with dinner. 
  • Nightclubs- Here it is important to plan ahead as well. Tickets to the parties at the nightclubs can be pre-purchased in advance. If you don't pre-purchase a ticket, you can end up standing in long lines in subzero temperatures! Here are some of the larger nightclub parties this year as well as a few restaurants: Stureplansgruppen (an umbrella group that runs several nightclubs), Café Opera and Södra Teatern. These are the more posh nightclub venues... there are, of course, many smaller parties going on at different venues. Click here for a list and more information about gay & lesbian parties on New Year's Eve.
  • Taxis- These are notoriously hard to catch on New Year's Eve... especially after 11pm. This is because of the huge demand. Most taxi companies don't accept prebookings because they don't want their cars tied up waiting for people who don't show up. There is also the option of Uber here in Stockholm. You don't have to worry about being stranded though... the subways will be running all night long. If nighttime subways aren't your thing, just make sure that you are within walking distance of your hotel. Stockholm isn't that big so this isn't that hard to accomplish. And remember... be careful when catching taxis in Sweden!
  • Fireworks- Locals will be setting off their own fireworks throughout the city, especially at midnight in the parks & squares. The official fireworks will be shot off above the harbor (eastern side of Gamla Stan). The best places to see the fireworks are along the waterfront, by the City Hall, on Fjällgatan or Monteliusvägen. Some places will be quite crowded but you will still be able to see the fireworks! These afrementioned places are all within a 5-20 minute walk from the Hotel Rival
  • Skansen- Once again, this is the center of Swedish holiday tradition. This is the countdown spectacle that is televised and shown around all of Sweden on TV... kind of like the Swedish version of the ball dropping at Times Square. There will be music and speeches and, of course, the official countdown. Skansen is also a great place to see the official fireworks! To be honest, I'm not sure how much someone who doesn't speak Swedish will get out of the event as most of the program is in Swedish... but it is an option. The program starts at 11:10pm and ends at 00:10am. Be aware that it is outdoors (see below)! 
  • Weather- Remember that it is winter in Sweden. Temperatures can vary between 5 and -10 degrees Celsius (41 and 14 degrees Fahrenheit) around this time. There might be snow or not. Dress accordingly when you are out. You can always keep your eye on the weather site a couple of days ahead of your arrival to get a better idea of what the weather will be like. 
The Hotel Rival- our Bistro, as I mentioned, is open. If you have dinner plans somewhere else, stop by before or after for a drink. The bars will be open until 2am. There will be a DJ playing and the square in front of the hotel is a popular place for the locals to light their fireworks. I am sure the DJ will play this song at some point during the evening...