July 13, 2019

Restaurant Riche

Press image from Riche. 
Riche is the grand dame of Stockholm restaurants and has been around in one form or another since 1896. Just about every Stockholmer has visited Riche at some point in their lives. I have been here many times over the years. Sometimes for dinner and other times just to meet friends for a drink in the bar ("Lillabaren"). I had written an article about Riche back in 2012 and I thought, as I recently dined here with a friend, that it was time for an updated article.
The name and interior design of the restaurant comes from its Parisian namesake, the storied Café Riche. Famed Swedish restauranteur, Tore Wretman (who created the Swedish signature dish Toast Skagen), ran the restaurant in the post war period. The menu today reflects the restaurant's history and namesake with classic Swedish dishes mixed with French influences and favorites. The bar is very popular with people of all walks of life, from after work drinks to late night partying. I especially like their generous opening hours... Riche is one of the very few restaurants open for a la carte breakfast (weekdays from 7:30am).
I was there a couple of weeks ago to have dinner with a friend. I had the classic Escargot, followed by the Schnitzel "Katsu-Sando style". It was all very delicious. As per usual, I ran into several friends and colleagues there at the bar and dining themselves. It is exactly that type of local restaurant, where you tend to run into people you know each time you visit. Riche is located on the street Birger Jarlsgatan in the upscale Stureplan district.
The easiest way to get there, from the Hotel Rival, is to take the subway (red line) four stops to Östermalmstorg and then exit to Stureplan/Birger Jarlsgatan. Otherwise, it is a 10-12 minute taxi ride. If you are staying at the hotel, contact me directly for help in reserving a table... or else you can book your table on their websiteClick here for other restaurant recommendations.

July 9, 2019

Seafood Restaurants in Stockholm

At the fish mongers in Hötorgshallen
One misconception, when it comes to restaurants in Stockholm, is that we have seafood restaurants on every corner. Visitors to the city assume that we are swimming in seafood (pun intended). This is not a strange assumption considering Stockholm is surrounded by water, with the Baltic Sea one side and Lake Mälaren on the other, and traditional Swedish cuisine is famous for its fish. Both are true, however, there aren't many major commercial fisheries in the Baltic, especially in the Stockholm area, due to overfishing and oxygen depletion. In fact, over 75% of commercial fisheries in Sweden are located away from the Baltic and are mostly found on our west coast, along the North Sea  (where Gothenburg is located).
This means that Stockholm doesn't have a fishing fleet or major fish market, like other large coastal cities have, and the majority of our "fresh" seafood is shipped daily from the west coast or rivers of northern Sweden. And keep in mind, while traditional Swedish cuisine does contain seafood, much of it is preserved... like cured salmon (gravad lax) or pickled herring. With this being said, Stockholm does have several great seafood restaurants and most other restaurants will have a choice of delicious seafood dishes on their menus. Below you will find a list of restaurants I recommend if you are looking for a seafood meal when in Stockholm.
Fresh halibut with shrimps and champagne sauce at Wedholms Fisk
  • Wedholms Fisk- high-end and considered one of Sweden's top seafood restaurants.
  • Sturehof- popular with locals. While they have meat & vegetarian dishes, most people go here for the seafood. 
  • Stockholm Fisk- "fisk" is the Swedish word for fish, so the name says it all... 
  • B.A.R.- their concept is that they resemble a high-end food market, where you go to the counter and choose your cut of meat or fish.
  • Stim- seafood prepared over a charcoal grill. "Stim" is the Swedish word for a school of fish.
  • Räkan- a Gothenburg restaurant that has opened up in Stockholm. Lots of fresh, west coast shellfish.
  • Fjäderholmarnas Krog- archipelago restaurant in idyllic setting, great seafood on the menu. 
Oysters and löjrom (bleak roe) at Sturehof
There are two main indoor food markets in Stockholm, Östermalms Saluhall and Hötorgshallen, where you will find fish mongers plying their trade. In both markets they also have several lunch restaurants where the fish comes fresh, directly from the mongers. Especially at Östermalms Saluhall where you have both Lisa Elmqvist and Melanders Fisk. When the food market closes in the evening, Lisa Elmqvist stays open with a special entrance from Sibyllegatan. Melanders Fisk can also be found at a few other locations in the city for dining in the evening. 
The restaurant Lisa Elmqvist has its own fish monger at Östermalms Saluhall.
More interested in traditional Swedish cuisine? Click here to find out the best Stockholm restaurants serving Swedish cuisine. More interested in the Baltic Sea, its fisheries and ecosystem? Then don't miss a visit to the new Baltic Sea Science Center at Skansen. Want to catch your own fish in Stockholm? It is possible! One company that also offers fishing excursions is Catch & Relax
From a hotel guest who went fishing himself in Stockholm

July 5, 2019

Child Friendly Activities in Stockholm

Museum of Natural History
I am back at work after my week long vacation. We have a few families with small children staying with us now at the Hotel Rival, so I thought I would do a repeat of an earlier article: Stockholm is a great city for children of all ages! Besides miles and miles of park lands and fun boat trips, there are plenty of child-friendly attractions and museums that should keep the small ones busy.
Bears at Skansen.

If animals (whether wild, tame or even extinct are of interest) then you have quite a lot to choose from:
  • Skansen- not only an outdoor cultural museum and park, it is a zoo with both Nordic animals (moose, reindeer, wolves, bears, etc;), exotic animals and a petting zoo. A good time to visit is in the early afternoon during feeding time. There are also daily activities for children in their calendar like pony riding for example. They recently also opened an aquarium/aquatic science center called Baltic Sea Science Center. Open year-round.
  • The Butterfly House & Shark Tank- an indoor tropical rainforest located in the Haga Park. Besides hundreds of butterflies, you will find birds, fish, insects and tropical frogs. And sharks! Open year-round.
  • Kolmården- Scandinavia's largest wildlife park located south of Stockholm with several attractions like Marine World, Safari and Tiger World. It is an hour and a half trip by car or train, so plan for a full day. It is open during the warmer months as well as weekends and during special weeks when children are off from school.
  • Museum of Natural History- if your children are more interested in dinosaurs and prehistoric mammals, then this is the place to visit. The museum has great exhibitions on Nordic animals as well and is also the location of the Imax theater Cosmonova. Open year-round.
Entrance to Junibacken...
Perhaps pure frivolity? Amusements parks, story-telling, outdoor fun and toys...
  • Junibacken- Indoor amusement park based on the writings of Astrid Lindgren (Pippi Longstocking, Karlsson on the Roof, the Brothers Lionheart, etc;). Rides, story-telling, shows and play areas. Open year-round.
  • Gröna Lund- outdoor amusement park with rides, games and shows. Generally open from May through September. 
  • Beaches- swimming in the water around Stockholm is not only possible but also popular with locals. One of the best and most family friendly beaches is located on Långholmen. Not far from the hotel! Some islands in the archipelago are popular with families to go swimming and have picnics. Of special note is the island of Grinda.
  • Parks and playgrounds- statsitically speaking, you are never more than 300 meters from a park when you are in Stockholm. Most parks have playgrounds, including Mariatorget and Ivar Los park near the Hotel Rival. If you really want to let the kids run wild, take them to Djurgården. The world's first national city park, this isn't only the location of many of Stockholm's top attractions it has acres and acres of park and forest to run around in. One really nice playground close to the hotel is at Ivar Los Park, with beautiful views of the city. 
Beach at Långholmen
And for those interested in science, space or history...
  • Medieval History Museum- see how Stockholm grew in the Middle-Ages. Many hands-on exhibitions which makes it a great place to take children. Open year-round.
  • Livrustkammaren- The Royal Armoury. Clothes, armour and weapons of the royal family through history. Perfect for future princesses and knights. They even have an area where kids can play dress up.
  • Museum of Science & Technology (Tekniska museet)- also a great museum for children with many hands-on exhibitions. Starting on July 17th, they will open a a new exciting exhibition called Robots.
  • Tom Tit's Experiment- located in the town of Södertälje, just south of Stockholm. Rides, experiments and experiences designed to increase knowledge and interest in science and technology.
Part of the new Robots exhibition at the Museum of Technology (Tekniska museet).
As you can see... plenty of fun activities for children of all ages and interests!

June 25, 2019

A Walk on Djurgården

I am off for a week long mini-vacation in Croatia. But, I thought I would leave some pictures from a recent walk around the island park of Djurgården as inspiration. The large, beautiful park is in the city and is a great place to explore to enjoy some nature and great scenery and get away from the crowds of tourists. Using the public transportation, you can either take "Bus 69 Blockhusudden" or the commuter boat 80, both which depart from Nybroplan, out to the very eastern end of Djurgården. From there you can just meander your way back towards the city, enjoying the scenery along the way!

June 21, 2019

Rosendals Wärdshus

The island of Djurgården in Stockholm is part of a larger national city park that attracts over 15 million visitors every year. The vast majority of these visitors keep to the small western corner of the island, where many of Stockholm's major attractions are located... like museums, zoo, amusement park, theaters, art galleries and restaurants. Most visitors don't know that there are acres and acres of beautiful parkland, forests and waterways just a few minutes walk from this area and well worth a visit.
One of my favorite places to visit for lunch in the park is Rosendals Wärdshus. Great Swedish food in an idyllic setting! It is located on a forested hill, just behind Skansen, and has been around for over a hundred years. Rosendal means approximately "valley of the roses" in Swedish and is the name of several establishments and attractions in this area of the park, like the gardens and café at Rosendals Trädgård and the castle Rosendals Slott. All great places to visit as well!
At Rosendals Wärdshus, you order your food at the counter and then you can either sit inside or outside in the park. They have simpler dishes like pastries, salads and sandwiches as well as warm dishes like Wallenbergare, herring, seafood stew and more. My favorite is their shrimp salad which is filled with things like avocado, egg, tomatoes and (of course) hand-peeled shrimp. Delicious with a glass of rosé wine. You can also use one of their sun chairs and just hang out with a glass.
If you are on Djurgården, visiting the attractions, the easiest way to get to Rosendals Wärdshus is to walk around the northern part of Skansen park. Just follow the signs. You can also take the Djurgård tram to the end station Bellmansro and then walk from there. The tram runs from the Central Station all through the downtown area out to Djurgården. The easiest way to get to Djurgården from Hotel Rival is to take the Djurgård Ferry from nearby Gamla Stan.

June 18, 2019

Day Trip to Birka

Are you interested in history? Or perhaps you are a Viking buff? Looking for a nice day trip with a boat in Stockholm? Well, then a trip to Birka is probably a good choice for you. The company Strömma offers a fully packaged excursion which includes boat trip each way, entrance to museum on the island as well as a guided tour on the site (English or Swedish). The boat trip out is also guided and they point out many interesting Viking Age and earlier sites, both factual and mythological.
Part of the town mock-up
Birka is one of three UNESCO World Heritage sites in greater Stockholm. Birka was an important trading center during the Viking Age and is considered the first town in what is Sweden today. It was active from around 750 AD until it was mysteriously abandoned around 975 AD, around the same time nearby Sigtuna rose to prominence. Many interesting artifacts (from as far away as Egypt, Ireland and Bagdad) have been found in the graves at Birka, showing how extensive the Viking trade network was.
Leaving Stockholm on the boat...
My parents are visiting right now so I took them to Birka yesterday. The boat trip itself quite nice itself. The trip takes 2 hours and the boat travels inland, through Lake Mälaren, first through the suburbs before getting more into the countryside. The boat is large and you can sit inside, outside or move around. There is also a café onboard, so you can have a fika, drink or lunch. As I mentioned, the boat trip is guided so learn a bit about the area and Stockholm history.
Cruising through the lake and suburbs
Once at the island (Björkö, where Birka was located), you have 3½ hours until the boat departs back to Stockholm. There are two set guided tours of the site at different times, one in English and the other in Swedish. These tours take you through the burial mounds (there are thousands of them here) and up to where the hilltop fortress was located. From this vantage point, you have a view over where Birka was once located and you can also see remnants of the city wall. The guides, usually archaeologists or archaeology students, are very knowledgeable and fun. Watch where you walk! Much of the area is a functioning farm and the sheep graze around the mounds.
Guided tour of the burial mounds
Besides the tour, you also have a great museum which explains about life in Birka and show, through wonderful dioramas, how the town looked during its heyday. There is also a life-size mock-up of what a town block would have looked like, which you can wander around in. Finally, there is a restaurant called Särimner which serves Viking inspired dishes and is great for lunch. The 3½ hours you have on the island are just about perfect for the tour, lunch and visits to the museum and town. I should point out that Birka is very child-friendly! Vikings, sheep and boats... enough to keep any child entertained.
Entrance to the museum
You can book your package through Strömma's website or, if you are staying at the Hotel Rival, stop by and talk to me for more information and help with making reservations. The boats depart from Klara Mälarstrand, near the Stockholm City Hall. If you want to see many of the artifacts and treasurers found at Birka, visit the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm (free admission). Want more Vikings? Click here!
The trip starts and ends next to the City Hall

Indoor seating on the boat with big windows

One of the dioramas at the museum
Cute houses and...

Sheep!


June 14, 2019

Watching Movies in Stockholm... in Style!

Sometimes, when traveling, it is nice to take a break from doing touristy things for an evening and do an activity that you would do at home... like go to the movies. Thankfully, visiting a cinema in Stockholm as a visitor is easy, as we don't generally dub movies here. That means movies are all shown in their original language with Swedish subtitles. In other words, French movies will be in French, American & British movies will be in English and so on. This is one of the reasons that Swedes are so good at English. The exception to this are movies geared for children, though even these will often have scheduled showings in their original language.
A new trend in cinemas has come to Stockholm, making movie watching even more enjoyable. As more and more people are enjoying movies in the comfort of their home through Netflix, HBO and more, the obvious way for cinemas to attract guests is to bring the comforts of home to the cinema. There are now a few new cinemas in the city with couches, plush armchairs and tables, along with a restaurant & bar on the premises. This means that you can enjoy a glass of wine and bite to eat while sitting comfortably and watching a movie... not just popcorn and a soda pop.
Last night I visited one of these cinemas, Bio Capitol, with family and friends to watch Rocketman. We had a great time. I had ordered a tapas plate, with cold cuts and cheeses, in advance and it was waiting at our seats when we arrived. We then ordered some wine at the bar and settled in to watch a great movie. Another unique feature at Capitol is that they show other movies besides the latest from Hollywood. They have "Musical Mondays", "Classic Thursdays" and "Genre Sundays". The latter is where they pick different genres to focus on that day, like horror or science fiction.
There are a couple of other similar cinemas in Stockholm. The larger theatre Rigoletto has a "VIP balcony" area that has a similar set up as Bio Capitol and the multiplex at Mall of Scandinavia has four VIP theatres connected to the restaurant Drama, so you can bring in food and drink to enjoy. But, I think Bio Capitol is smaller and therefore more intimate, with perhaps 60 seats, adding to the atmosphere. The websites for these cinemas are generally in Swedish, but, if you are staying at the Hotel Rival, contact me directly for help in booking your tickets!




June 8, 2019

Restaurant Tranan

I was invited with my colleagues from Les Clefs d'Or Sweden to try the restaurant Tranan earlier this week. Tranan is one of those classic Stockholm restaurants and has been located at the same address for 90 years, serving traditional Swedish cuisine with a French twist. Due to its history, most Stockholmers have heard of Tranan even if they haven't dined here. They also have a wine bar next door to the restaurant called Grus Grus which is very nice. At Grus Grus you can enjoy some great wines, and the food is served family-style (sharing plates).
Swedish meatballs
Tranan's menu is filled with a mix of classic Swedish and French favorites. This is a great place to try fried Baltic herring, Toast Skagen, Beef Rydberg and pickled herring. Another famous dish which isn't listed on the menu (a well-known secret) but can always be ordered at Tranan is Swedish meatballs with all the trimmings (potato purée, lingon berries and pickles) ! They also have French classic dishes like Escargot Provencale, Chevre Chaud and steak tartare if that tickles your fancy.
Herring served "housewife" style.
I opted for Husmorssill ("housewife herring") for an appetizer and then the fried green asparagus from the island of Gotland. Very delicious! Tranan is located on the square Odenplan. The easiest way to get here from the Hotel Rival is by subway, take the green line north from nearby Slussen to Odenplan (5 stations). Otherwise, it is about a 10 minute taxi ride. Click here for a list of other restaurants serving classic Swedish cuisine... and click here for other restaurant recommendations/reviews.
Fried green asparagus from Gotland


June 3, 2019

Restaurants Closing for a Few Weeks During the Summer 2019

This post may come as bad news, at least for "foodies" visiting Stockholm during the summer. 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 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 to remain open. 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 (not listed here) in the city to choose from! If you look at the list below, you will see that the closing dates are quite spread out so that there is always a few top tier restaurants to choose from. Most of these restaurants are also closed during the big Midsummer holiday weekend (June 21st to 23rd). Click here for more information about the Midsummer weekend.

Michelin star and Bib Gourmand restaurants:
Other top rated restaurants:
  • Fotografiska- open all summer!
  • Svartengrens- closed July 14th through August 12th. 
  • AG- closed July 7th through August 5th. 
  • Lux Day to Day- closed July 14th through August 12th.
  • Farang- only the bar is open from July 7th through August 7th.
  • Adam/Albin- closed July 15th through August 5th.  
  • Punk Royale- closed July 28th through August 13th. Their more casual sister restaurant Punk Royal Café is closed July 13th through July 30th. 
  • Djuret- closed June 20th through August 19th. Instead they open up a TexMex outdoor barbecue restaurant, in their inner courtyard, called Svinet.
  • Flickan- closed June 16th through July 31st. 
  • SMAK- closed July 7th through August 15th. 
  • Teatergrillen- closed July 6th through August 7th.
  • Wedholms Fisk- open all summer. 
  • Tako- closed July 7th through August 12th. 
  • Ichi- closed July 7th through August 1st.
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 Hotel Rival, contact me directly for help in booking any tables ahead of your visit. Our restaurant Bistro Rival is open all summer.

May 31, 2019

Midsummer Weekend 2019

Picture I took two years ago at the pole raising ceremony at Skansen on Midsummer's Eve. 
Well, it is almost that time of the year again: Midsummer (June 21st to 23rd)! With the exception of perhaps Christmas, Midsummer is the biggest holiday in the Swedish calendar. It is also the weekend when 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 parades and block parties, 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-


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 Hotel Rival, 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 5pm) 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. If you are planning on visiting the archipelago this weekend, expect long lines at the ferries with people heading to and from their summer homes for the holiday, especially going out on Friday and coming back on Sunday. 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 Hotel Rival and need further information... contact us directly at the hotel!
Midnight sun...