May 22, 2019

Summer Pedestrian Streets 2019

Dryck wine bar on the left
For several summers in a row now, the city of Stockholm turns certain streets into pedestrian streets during the summer months. They are pretty evenly distributed around the city and each year they add a couple of more streets and squares. This is a great idea as restaurants and bars on the streets can put out larger outdoor seating areas, letting people take advantage of the long summer evenings. It makes the neighborhoods more alive. In fact, the project is called "Levande Stockholm" which means an alive Stockholm or a vibrant Stockholm.
The pub Half Way Inn
Luckily for the Hotel Rival, one of these streets, Swedenborgsgatan, is literally around the corner from the hotel. Here you will find a wide range of restaurants, bars and cafés, including...

A great street to stroll down, soak up the local life and grab a bite to eat or drink. It gets dark quite late during the summer months in Sweden (if at all), so Swedes love being outside as late as they can.
The restauramnt Morfar Ginko
As I mentioned, there are several summer pedestrian streets spread throughout the city. The other streets in central Stockholm are: Rörstrandsgatan, Skånegatan, Nybrogatan, Norra Agnegatan, Norrtullsgatan, Hornsbergs Strand, Gamla Brogatan, Strömgatan and Drottninggatan. Click on the name to get a map showing the street's location. Drottninggatan is actually a pedestrian street year-round, but they have pimped out the northern portion of the street this year to make it more summery
Bistro Süd
The pictures in this article were taken at around 6:30-7:00pm to give you an idea of how light and sunny the evenings are.

May 20, 2019

Summer Art Exhibitions 2019

National Museumn
Summer is almost upon us! This means that the high season for tourism is starting and many museums open great exhibitions, geared for the influx of visitors to the city. And Stockholm has one of the highest rates of museums per capita, so... something for everyone. If history is your cup of tea, then we have many museums and attractions that concentrate on history, Swedish culture and the royal family. If you are more interested in art and design, here are the planned summer exhibitions at Stockholm's main art museums and galleries. If you are coming in the next couple of weeks (May), click here for the spring exhibitions.

  • Fotografiska (photography)- their two main summer exhibitions are Scarlett Hooft Graafland's "Vanishing Traces" (May 24th to Sept 8th) and Vincent Peters "Light Within" (May 24th to Sept 8th). Open late into the evening, great opportunity to squeeze in some more culture in your day.  
    Wilhelm Bendz, Familjen Waagepetersen, 1830 @Nationalmuseum
    Photo by 
    SMK, Statens Museum for Kunst
  • National (classic art and design)- besides their extensive permanent collection of classic art and design, they do have temporary ongoing exhibitions, like "The Danish Golden Age" (until July 21st) and "Finn Juhl: Architectural Furniture Designer" (until September 22nd). 
  • Moderna (modern art)- several ongoing exhibitions, including Sharon Hayes "Echo", and Palmsteirna-Weiss "Vivid Scenes 1964-1984". They have one upcoming summer exhibition: Arthur Jafa "A Series of Utterly Improbable yet Extraordinary Renditions" (June 26th to Sept 8th). 
  • ArkDes (architecture & design)- besides their permanent exhibit on architecture in Sweden, this season they will also have "The Future Starts Here" (until August 4th) and you still have a few more weeks to see "Architecture Projects: Skeppsbron" (until June 9th). 
  • Millesgården (sculpture & art)- most people come to visit the beautiful sculpture gardens featuring the work of Carl Milles, but they also have a gallery with temporary exhibitions.The upcoming exhibition is "Lena Anderson's World" (June 19th to September 22nd).
    Lena Anderson, 2004©Lena Anderson, Mollan och mormor på altanen.
  • Kulturhuset (mixed art)- in celebration of the 100th anniversary when women receievd the right to vote in Sweden they have an exhibition called "The Women in the Neighborhood" (until August 11th) looking at the women who lived in the area 100 years ago. 
  • Thielska Galleriet (Scandinavian fine art)- Their main summer exhibition is a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland (June 15th to September 29th). One of the highlights of this museum is their permanent collection of the works of Scandinavian artists like Eugene Jansson, Carl Larsson, Edvard Munch and more. 
  • Prins Eugen's Waldemarsudde (Scandinavian fine art)- there are quite a few ongoing & upcoming exhibitions, like the work of photographer Yanan Li, highlights from their art collection and an exhibition looking at the artist colony Grez-sur-Loing (featuring 80 pieces of art from a variety of artists. See link above for more info and dates. 
    Sculpture in Nature @Artipelag
    Photo by Samuel Lind. Jaume Plensa, "Ainsa IV" (2018)
  • Artipelag (art in archipelago setting)- a little bit outside of the city, but in a beautiful setting in the archipelago. Their ongoing summer exhibition is "Sculpture in Nature" (until Nov 3rd). 
  • Liljevalchs (contemporary art)- their summer exhibition, "Anders Petersen - Stockholm" just opened and will be running until September 1st. 
  • Bonniers Konsthall (contemporary art)- closed for the summer, last day is June 16th. 
  • Sven-Harry's Konstmuseum (mixed art)- their summer exhibition will be Gösta-Adrian Nilsson "Sjömanskompositioner" (May 30th to Sept 29th). Don't miss visiting the replica of Sven-Harry's home on the rooftop of the museum with his art collection, as well as the rooftop terrace
    Skapelsen by Gösta Adrain-Nilsson @Sven-Harry's Konstmuseum
    Photo by Per Myrehed

May 17, 2019

The Art Museum Thielska Galleriet (Thiel Gallery)

I visited Thielska Galleriet (Thiel Gallery) yesterday with my Concierge colleagues from Les Clefs d'Or Sweden. Thielska Galleriet is one of Stockholm's most beautiful museums and they house one of the best collections of late 1800's and early 1900's Scandinavian masters... like Carl Larsson, Edvard Munch, Bruno Liljefors and Eugène Jansson to name a few. During our visit we were given a great guided tour of the building and collection. Very interesting!
By Carl Larsson
The building was originally the private residence of the banker Ernest Thiel which he built mainly for the purpose of housing his growing art collection (his apartment in town was getting too small for this purpose). Designed by the architect Ferdinand Boberg, who also designed the famous NK department store, the building was completed in 1907. The Depression in the early 1920's unfortunately ruined Thiel and he ended up selling both the house and his extensive art collection to the Swedish government.
By Eugène Jansson
Thiel was quite the active art collector and was, in fact, friends with many of the Scandinavian masters of his day. As the building was specifically designed to house and show an art collection, the space is pretty perfect with lots of wall space and natural light from skylights. Of special note is the "Munch room" which contains many works by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (best known for his painting "The Scream") among others. Beautiful room!
The "Munch room"!
An interesting side note, Thiel was a great admirer of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and in one of the tower rooms you can view Nietzsche's death mask. From this room you also have beautiful views of the Stockholm archipelago. Besides the collection, Thielska usually has a temporary exhibition or two. Currently the exhibition is "The Jobs Sisters - ceramics and textiles" (until June 2nd), and this summer they will take advantage of their beautiful grounds and be exhibiting the work of Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland with "The power and feeling of sculpture" (June 15th to September 29th). This is part of the celebration of 150th anniversary of Gustav Vigeland.
Gorgeous views of the archipelago
Thielska Galleriet is located out at the end of Djurgården island, near the mouth of Stockholm harbor. The easiest way to get there is by bus from Nybroplan in the downtown area (Bus 69 - a 20 minute journey). This means that it takes a little effort to visit the museum. But it well worth it! Especially during the summer when the location is extremely idyllic.
By Edvard Munch
The island Djurgården is a long park island filled with acres of woodlands and meadows. Almost every summer, I take the bus out to Thielska, visit the museum, eat lunch and then take a nice walk back along the water. The walk is beautiful (click here for an earlier article about the walk) and takes about an hour, depending on if you make any stops along the way.

May 13, 2019

Beware When Hailing a Taxi in Sweden!

Click on photo to enlarge!
It feels sad to have to warn visitors about something, but unfortunately this is a problem that visitors are generally unaware of before travelling to Sweden. Taxis in Sweden are not regulated. This means that it is free pricing and taxi companies can determine their own cost per minute/kilometer on their taxi meters. When the government deregulated the taxi industry, I am sure they did this with the best intentions (allowing smaller companies to be competitive). However, it has backfired. Small companies can legally charge double or even triple what larger companies do. As a Stockholmer, I know exactly which taxis to take or not. Unfortunately this means that the smaller companies end up preying on visitors who do not know better. This might sound a little bleak... but as long as you stick to rules above (checking the window sticker) you should be fine. Another rule of thumb is to stick with the larger companies, which all have similar pricing. Here at the Hotel Rival we use Taxi Stockholm among others. Other good companies include Taxi KurirTop Cab and Taxi 020. Another tip is to avoid hailing a taxi on the street and always have the hotel, restaurant or store call you a taxi. That way you are sure to get a "good" taxi. And here you have some handy tips for catching a taxi at the airport!
Taxi Stockholm

May 10, 2019

Stockholm Visitor Center

I had a lunch meeting in town yesterday and made a stop at the Stockholm Visitor Center on my way back to the hotel. Run by Visit Stockholm, this is the main tourist information center in the city. If you are staying at the Hotel Rival, I can help you with almost everything they can. But, one thing that is better there is that they obviously have more room than I do and can carry many more brochures and maps than I can... giving you a good overview of what is available to see and do. A nice way to get inspired for your visit!
You can peruse what is available by yourself or ask one of the staff there for help and advice. The visitor center also has several interactive stations where you can do your own research or bookings. They sell public transportation cards, Strömma sightseeing vouchers, concert & festival tickets and more. It is located on the square Sergels torg in the center of the downtown area and open daily.
The center is also one of the places you can pick up your Stockholm Pass if you pre-ordered it online (you can also purchase them there). There are several other tourist information centers in the city and at the airport, some operated by Visit Stockholm and others by private companies. Click here for the full list with addresses. To get to the Stockholm Visitor Center from the Hotel Rival, the easiest way is to take the subway three stations to T-Central and then exit to Sergels torg.

May 7, 2019

Restaurant Kryp In Södermalm

For many years, one of my favorite restaurants to send hotel guests to has been Kryp In in the old town (Gamla Stan). Great Swedish cuisine, cozy ambiance and personable service. So we were really happy when they opened a second restaurant, called Kryp In Södermalm, just two blocks from the hotel. Location. "Södermalm" is the name of the area/island where the restaurant and hotel are both found. Same great food, ambiance and service... now just a five minute walk from the Hotel Rival.
My cousin from southern Sweden was visiting me last weekend so I took her to Kryp In Södermalm for dinner on Saturday after I got off from work. The restaurant is not large, with seating for around 26 persons as well as a few seats at a food bar. The size and the dark woods in the interior gives the restaurant a real nice cozy feeling.
The menu contains many of the same dishes, or variations of the same dishes, as are found on the menu of their sister restaurant in Gamla Stan. This makes me happy as I am a fan of that menu... seasonal Swedish ingredients mixed with a few continental cuisine dishes.
My cousin and I love oysters, so we started with a three each, served with a shallot vinaigrette. For the main course, I took a seasonal favorite... grilled white asparagus served with bearnaise sauce and bleak roe while my cousin took the classic seafood stew with aioli. Everything was delicious and the service was friendly and attentive! Unfortunately, we didn't take any dessert as we were going to the photography museum Fotografiska afterwards.
You can book a table on their website, just click on "boka bord" and then the British flag. Otherwise, if you are staying at the Hotel Rival, contact me directly for assistance. I would say, as it isn't a large restaurant, that booking in advance (especially on a weekend) is advisable. Click here for other restaurant recommendations.

May 2, 2019

Ports and Docks for Cruise Ships in Stockholm

Ferries and cruise ships travelling through the archipelago to Stockholm.
Photo: Stockholms Hamnar
Summer is around the corner and the cruise ship season is starting soon. Cruises in the Baltic Sea have become increasingly popular with such interesting stops like Copenhagen, Tallinn, Helsinki, St Petersburg and, of course, Stockholm. Copenhagen and Stockholm are the two ports where most Baltic cruises either start or end... which is great for us as it means more visitors and hotel nights. I get a lot of questions regarding the distance between the harbour and the Hotel Rival. It is actually not an easy question to answer. What many people don't understand is that there are four main ports servicing cruise ships in the Stockholm area, some closer than others. So the answer depends on which port the cruise ship will be docking at.
Stadsgården port with Skeppsbron in the background.
Photo: Stockholms Hamnar
Here are the four ports and their distance from the hotel:
  • Stadsgården- One of the two main cruise ship ports. It is located on the north-east coast of the island of Södermalm (where the hotel is located as well), just a 10-15 minute taxi ride from the Hotel Rival. This is also the docks where the Birka and Viking Line ferries to Finland and Åland depart from.
  • Frihamnen & Värtahamnen- The other main cruise ship port. These two docks are right next to each other and are located in the northern outskirts of the city, about a 20-30 minute taxi ride from the Hotel Rival. There are also special buses that can take you from the port to the City Terminal (next to the Central Train Station).This port is also where the Silja Tallink Line ferries to Finland, Latvia and Estonia depart from.
  • Nynäshamn- Cruise ships get bigger and bigger each year and some are so huge that they cannot make it through the narrow straits in the archipelago to get to Stockholm. These ships dock, therefore, in the port of Nynäshamn located just south of Stockholm. Some other cruise ships may dock there if it is especially busy at the other Stockholm ports that day. It is about a 50 minute taxi ride to the hotel, otherwise there is also a commuter train and the cruise ships often have their own buses. This is also where the Destination Gotland ferries to the island of Gotland depart from.
  • Skeppsbron or Strömmen- The smaller, and often fancier, cruise ships (like Silver Seas & Seabourn) sometimes dock right at the Old Town, either at the Skeppsbron dock or moored at a buoy in Strömmen. This is about as central as you can get... just a 15 minute walk or 5 minute taxi ride to the Hotel Rival.
Map from showing
location of Värtahamnen, Frihamnen, Skeppsbron &Stadsgården.
The Rival Hotel, not marked, is in the bottom left hand corner of the map.
I should point out that the Hop On/Off busses make stops at Skeppsbron, Stadsgården and Frihamnen during the summer months while the Hop On/Off boats stop at Skeppsbron and Stadsgården. If you don't know which dock your cruise ship will be using, you can check the Ports of Stockholm's website. For more cruise port information, check Visit Stockholm's cruise page. There are taxi queues at the different ports. Just stick with the main taxi companies (Taxi Stockholm, Taxi Kurir) to get the best prices. Prebooking a taxi transfer can sometimes be problematic as taxi companies want an exact pick-up time (more or less) and cruise ship guests often don't know exactly when they will be disembarking, just when the ship is due to dock.

April 23, 2019

A Sure Sign of Spring in Stockholm

Every spring, for a few weeks, Stockholmers make a pilgrimage to the square Kungsträdgården to look at (and, of course, photograph) the cherry blossom trees. Our personal social media accounts are filled with pictures of these pink trees with text stating "spring is here" or something else of that nature. It really is like clockwork.
As I am a slave to tradition and the trees are really quite spectacular, I made my pilgrimage yesterday with some friends to enjoy the beautiful trees... and we weren't alone! It was a bank holiday and a gorgeous day, so Stockholmers were out in the thousands, all vying for the perfect selfie shot with the blossoms in the background. If you are in Stockholm during the next few weeks, head down to the square, located in the downtown area, to have a stroll under the pink blossoms.
To get there from the Hotel Rival, you can either take a 30 minute leisurely stroll through Gamla Stan (the old town), a 15 minute bus ride or take the subway. For the subway, you can just take it three stations to T-centralen, exit to Sergels torg, and walk two blocks or switch from the red line to blue line at T-Centralen and continue one station to Kungsträdgården. Of special note, this subway station is one of Stockholm's most beautiful and worth a visit on its own.

April 18, 2019

Easter in Stockholm 2019

Easter Lunch!
Photo by Marie Andersson/Skansen
Easter is upon us, a bit later in the calendar this year. If you are visiting Stockholm this weekend, it is good to know how we celebrate the holiday. 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 (April 19th to 22nd this year) we have two bank holidays, besides the obvious Easter Sunday, or Påskdagen: Good Friday (Långfredag) and Easter Monday (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 Hotel Rival's BistroBar and Café are all open all weekend long! Our Bistro will be serving our popular brunch on both Saturday and Sunday.
Children dressed up as Easter witches (påskkärringar)
Photo by Marie Andersson/Skansen
As for the museums, the big ones, like VasaFotografiskaABBASkansen, National and Moderna, are open as normal (though keep in mind that Moderna and National are closed on Mondays). The History Museum (Historiska) is closed on both Friday and Saturday, open on Sunday and Monday. Though it is mostly good news for museums... Monday is a day in Sweden when many museums are closed, however some of these museums are staying open on Monday, April 22nd, as it is a holiday. They include the Royal PalaceMedievalMillesgården and Natural History.  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 Hotel Rival, 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 Hotel Rival, for service/mass times at different churches. Several churches offer services in languages other than Swedish. Click here for more Easter tips from Visit Stockholm.
Glad Påsk (Happy Easter)!

April 16, 2019

Swedish Interior Design at Svenskt Tenn

One of my very first blog posts back in 2010 (I can't believe I have been writing this blog for 9 years now!) was about the Swedish interior design store Svenskt Tenn. As I stopped by the store the other day to pick up some Easter decorations, I got inspired to write an updated article.
Scandinavian design is world famous and I often get asked by hotel guests about the best Swedish/Scandinavian interior design stores in Stockholm. I would say the top of the list would surely be Svenskt Tenn. It is definitely the most well-known. Ironically, the designs at Svenskt Tenn don't follow the stereotypical Swedish design aesthetics (muted colors and minimalistic style). Instead you will often find many bold and beautiful patterns & colors at Svenskt Tenn.
Svenskt Tenn was founded way back in 1924 and success came quickly. Within just a few years, they were awarded a royal warrant and had their designs shown at a world fair in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Svenkst Tenn has been located at the same address on the beautiful Strandvägen boulevard since 1927. The store entered a new chapter in the 1930's when they started collaborating with the architect and designer Josef Frank. To this day, his beautiful textile designs are one of the staple products at Svenskt Tenn.
You can find just about anything you need for your home at Svenskt Tenn... from furniture to wallpaper to cutlery to lamps. They have even expanded into fashion design and have bags, jewelry and scarves. While this is definitely a store on the higher end of the price scale, it is still affordable. It is also a great store to just browse in and get inspired. If the shopping or browsing gets you hungry, they have a tea room on the second floor where they serve lunch and afternoon tea daily.
In 1975, the owner, Estrid Ericson, sold the company to the Kjell and Märta Beijer Foundation. The foundation still runs Svenskt Tenn today and any surplus generated by the company is used to support Swedish scientific research, providing research grants in the fields of ecology, medicine and the preservation of Swedish interior design traditions. Hopefully, this will make any shopping splurges at the store feel more justified when the credit card bill arrives. The easiest way to get to Svenskt Tenn from the Hotel Rival is by subway... just four stops away on the red line (Östermalmstorg station). Otherwise, it is about a 6-7 minute taxi ride.