September 16, 2014

Catholic Church- St Eric's Cathedral

Many years ago I wrote blog articles about different religious services in Stockholm (here and here)... but as I get mostly asked about Catholic services and the fact that I recently visited the main Catholic church in Sweden, I thought it was time for a new article!
Entrance.
While Sweden isn't a very religious country, the official religion is Luthernism (Church of Sweden). That being said, Catholicism still has a large presence in Sweden, especially as many of the larger immigrant groups come from Catholic regions (especially South America, Poland and Croatia). There are several Catholic churches spread throughout Stockholm with the main church, St Eric's Cathedral (Katolska Domkyrkan), located on Södermalm and just a 10-15 minute walk from the Rival Hotel.
Interior.
While St Eric's Cathedral is close by, it is still a bit hard to find... mainly because it is located on a side street between two large buildings. Originally built in 1892, it doesn't look like much from the front, but it is actually much larger when you enter. This is because a large extension was added to the back in the 1980's as the church was then deemed too small to cater to the needs of Catholics who had moved to Sweden during the post war period.
Detail.
They do have daily masses at the cathedral and on Sunday they have masses all day long in different languages (Swedish, Latin, Italian, Polish, Spanish and Croatian). They do have special schedules, of course, during holidays like Easter & Christmas. Unfortunately, their website is only in Swedish. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, talk directly with me for exact times/languages. Otherwise you can contact them at sthlmdomkyrkan@katolskakyrkan.se.
Exterior.
No masses in English at St Eric's. But if that is something you are interested in, then I recommend a visit to St Eugenia Church where they hold mass in English every Sunday at 6pm (subject to change!). This church is located in the downtown area, near to the park Kungsträdgården. Interested in the main Lutheran cathedral in Stockholm? Click here.

September 13, 2014

Autumn Farmers' Market

Entrance to market on the street Katarina Bangata.
One good way to get a feel for a city and people is to visit a local market. Here you can experience the local sights, sounds, tastes and maybe even get a unique souvenir to take home with you. Today, during my lunch break, I took a walk with a friend and visited the popular Farmers' Market ("Bondens Egen Marknad"). You probably already know the concept of a farmers' market, but just in case... these are markets where local farmers bring their produce to town to sell directly to the public. The produce is often ecologically friendly and grown in the surrounding area.
Some of the produce sold... 
Besides things like fresh vegetables, fruits and berries (hard to take home with you as a tourist), you will also find jams, jellies, honey, sausages, flowers and fresh bread. There are several vendors also selling lunch... I saw one lady making salmon crepes. A couple of popular food trucks are parked nearby as well. But even if you are not hungry or looking to purchase items, it is nice to just stroll and soak up the atmosphere.
The mushroom table!
This particular farmers' market is located in the nearby Sofo neighborhood, just a 15 minute walk from the Rival Hotel. The autumn market is open between 10am and 3pm, every Saturday in August, & September and the first three Saturdays in October. Looking for food markets on other days? Don't miss one of Stockholm's great indoor food markets!
A popular market.


September 10, 2014

Thai Restaurant: Koh Phangan

Stockholm, Thailand?
Now for something a little different! When it comes to eating out in Stockholm, it isn't all about Michelin star, Nordic cuisine hotspots. Just about every world cuisine is represented in Stockholm's culinary scene: Italian, Japanese, Greek, American, French, Indian, South American, etc. One of the most popular is Thai cuisine. Thailand has long been the top tourist destination for sun crazed Swedes and, because of this, there has been a healthy exchange of culture and peoples between the two countires. There are Thai massage salons and Thai restaurants found throughout the city.
Nua Pat Kratiam
One restaurant which has long been Stockholm's most popular Thai restaurant is Koh Phangan with their catch phrase "same, same, but different". Stockholmers have flocked here for years, not only for good, inexpensive Thai food but also for the ambiance. The restaurant is decorated just like a beach-side restaurant on an island in Thailand with blinking lamps, bright colors and questionable (taste-wise) bamboo decor. This is probably as far from Nordic minimalism as you can get... which is probably why Swedes find it so exotic.
Thai wall decoration?
 The original restaurant is located in the SoFo neighborhood, a hop, skip and a jump from the Rival Hotel. However, they recently opened at a second location in the Östermalm neighborhood. It was this restaurant I recently visited with a friend. Good food & prices! They used to not take table reservations, just drop-in guests... but they recently changed ownership and now they seem to be more willing to take reservations. Another fun option for Thai cuisine in Stockholm is the Thai Boat. This is an actual boat, moored along the southern waterfront of Södermalm. Less "blinking lights" decor than Koh Phangan, it still has a taste of authenticity with its own man-made beach adjacent to the bar. During the summers Stockholmers come here to put their feet in the sand, drink cocktails and relive their recent vacation in Thailand.
Beach at the Thai Boat...

September 6, 2014

"A Way of Life" Exhibition at Moderna

Yesterday evening I attended the opening the Moderna's (modern art museum) new fall exhibition "A Way of Life (Swedish Photography from Christer Strömholm until Today)". The exhibition is based on the museum's own collection and features over 300 photographs by 29 different Swedish photographers. The photographs have a real documentary feel... looking at day to day life. The photographers have not only captured life here in Sweden, but have also documented their travels abroad.
The works represent a time span from the 1940's to today. As the secondary title explains... the exhibit starts with the work of Christer Strömholm, considered one of Scandinavia's leading photographers (and one of my favorites). Fotografiska (the photography museum) recently had a retrospective of his work, which I really enjoyed. So it is nice to see his work again along with some of his contemporaries. In fact, the exhibition's title is taken from a quote where Strömholm described his work in the medium of photography.
One of my favorite photographs by Christer Strömholm.
Strömholm inspired generations of Swedish photographers, including his immediate contemporaries like Walter Hirsch and Agneta Ekman (both a part of the exhibit). Modern Swedish photography is well represented with works by Anna Clarén, Martin Bogren and more. Besides the photography itself, I really enjoyed that the exhibit has such a wide range of photographers instead of the work of just one artist.
This exhibition will be running until February 15th, 2015. If you are in town this week, you still have time to see their great Nils Dardel exhibition (last day is Sept 14th!).  The Moderna Muséet is located on the island of Skeppsholmen. To get there from the Rival Hotel, it is easiest by ferry from nearby Slussen. As we move towards "low" season, make sure you inform them at the ferry that you wish to make a stop at Skeppsholmen... otherwise they may not stop there on their way to Djurgården. One good tip: On Fridays, between 6pm and 8pm, admission is free for the Collection on floor 4 and the Exhibition on floor 2. More visitor information.


September 2, 2014

Tax Free Shopping in Stockholm with Global Blue

Tax Free shopping, not to be confused with Duty Free shopping, is a great way for visitors to save some money when shopping in Stockholm. I often get questions about this as it is a little confusing with the rules. Let's see if I can break it down for you. To start with, tax free shopping is basically where you can get the sales tax refunded for goods purchased in the country upon departing from said country. Sounds easy? Well, here come the rules...
Tax free shopping in Sweden is only for non-EU citizens (or if you have a 1 year residence permit in a non-EU country) and is for goods purchased at certain stores (look for the Global Blue sign in the store window or at the counter). Some stores might not have the sign visible, so ask the cashier to make sure. Remember, goods not services. For example, you cannot get a tax refund for a hotel or restaurant bill. At the store, when making your purchase, you need to ask for a Tax Free Form from the cashier. The goods purchased must remain unused (in original package) until you have departed the EU. Keep your receipts! Tax refund only for purchases more than 200 SEK.
Some examples of Global Blue signs displayed at stores.
To get your tax refund, present your goods (in original package), filled out tax free form, passport and receipts at the Global Blue counter in the departure hall at the airport. If Sweden isn't your last EU departure point, you need to go to Customs for your stamp. You then visit the Global Blue counter at the airport from which you depart the EU from (Paris, London, etc;) for stamp and refund. It perhaps goes without saying that you shouldn't pack your goods in your check-in luggage. After you get your tax free form stamped, check in for your flight and go through security... your refund is obtained at the Global Blue office on the other side of security (cash or credit). At Arlanda airport, the Global Blue offices are in the main international terminal (#5). If you are departing from the smaller international terminal (#2), you need to first visit terminal 5 for stamp and refund (in this case you get your refund credited to your credit card, not cash). Arlanda map.
Global Blue counter at Arlanda terminal 5.
Confusing? These are just the basics. There are other small print rules so make sure you read the full rules and regulations for Sweden and check the answers to the most common tax shopping questions. Don't be discouraged though... it is easier than it seems, just some follow the rules and you are good to go. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel and have any questions, come talk directly with me!


August 30, 2014

Restaurant Ramblas at Mariatorget

A group of friends and I went out for dinner last night and we decided to try the relatively new restaurant Ramblas (Mariatorget), right around the corner from the Rival Hotel. While this restaurant has only been open for less than a year, it is actually the second location for the restaurant. The original Ramblas (Hornstull) proved to be such a popular concept that they opened at a second location. Speaking of the concept... as the name suggests, they serve Spanish cuisine at Ramblas. More specifically, they serve tapas. Tapas, in case you are unfamiliar with them, are small dishes (hot or cold) that either work as appetizers or, when put togther, as a meal. It is a very civilized way to dine. You order a few tapas and if you are still hungry you order a few more. Great for sharing when you are several people at the table.
Paella, patatas, calamares and esparragos...
Many of the popular tapas dishes are found on their menu... dishes that people recognize like tortilla española, patatas con aioli, gambas picantes, calamares a la romana and more. They even have larger dishes like paella valenciana (which we ordered to share with our tapas). Each tapas costs around 40 to 60 SEK and a full dinner is actually quite inexpensive by Swedish standards. Spanish wines, cava, beer and sangria are also on the menu in case you want the full Spanish experience. Click here for the menu (Spanish/Swedish).
Olé!
As I mentioned, the restaurant is located just around the corner from the Rival and the other Ramblas is located in Hornstull. Both are on the island of Södermalm. Keep in mind that both of these restaurants are very popular with the locals, so booking a table in advance is a good idea. I would say that the popularity is the only downside as the wait staff can seem a bit overwhelmed at times. Click here for more restaurant recommendations.

August 26, 2014

Fashion Night on Thursday!

Shopping in fashionable Bibliotekstan.
Stockholm's Fashion Week kick's off today and the city is filled with editors, buyers, models and other fashionistas! Many of this week's events are for people in the fashion industry, however the main exception to this rule happens on the evening of Thursday, August 28th... Fashion Night! This is an evening dedicated to fashion with music, fashion shows, book signings, contests, food & drink with around 300 stores open until 10pm.
Shopping at NK. Photo by Jeppe Wikström,
Stockholm Visitors Board
The stores that are participating in Fashion Night are all located in the high-end fashion district in downtown Stockholm. Specifically, they can be found at the NK department store (closes at 9pm), H&M, Mood and Sturegallerian shopping centers as well as the Bibliotekstan neighborhood. (Map of area). Here you will find international brands but, more importantly, you will also find exciting Swedish brands such as Whyred, Acne, J. Lindeberg, WeSC, Filippa K and much, much more. What makes it all that more exciting is that all of the participating stores are having sales or offering special deals this evening! Extra special discounts and offers when you make your purchase using your American Express credit card.
Mood Stockholm is participating in Fashion Night!

August 20, 2014

Restaurant Oxelblom

Oxelblom has been a favorite place of mine for the past year or so to have a glass of wine with friends and enjoy the atmosphere. Last night a colleague and I had the opportunity to have dinner there for the first time and we weren't disappointed!
Oxelblom is a relatively small restaurant with a cosy atmosphere. The dining room resembles a living room (or salon) of yesteryear with mismatched, vintage furniture and quirky design details. Candlelight and classic jazz music (Swedish and international favorites) add to the at-home feeling. They have two small sofa groups as well, which are perfect if you just want to stop by for a drink. Maybe over a game of chess (set provided)?
3 types of "home made" herring with classic accoutrements.
I also really like their unique menu concept. It is all about tastes from around Sweden... from Skåne in the south to Norrbotten in the north! Two of Sweden's 25 counties or provinces are always represented on the menu with the dishes created using the county's local produce. The menu does change every few months as they switch counties. Sweden is a large country with varied landscapes and climates, so local produce can be quite different depending on the county. When we visited the restaurant last night, Bohuslän and Södermanland/Uppland were the counties on the menu.
"pork, appples, beans, red wine"
The dishes on the menu aren't named or described; instead each dish is represented by a list of ingredients. For example, "pork, apples, beans, red wine" or "shrimps, mussels, garlic, parsley". Anticipating what dish the chef will create with the ingredients adds to the dining experience. Each dish (whether cold, hot or sweet) is medium in size and you choose either a 3 or 5 course menu from among the different dishes. We both opted for the 3 course menu last night and I would say that it was comparable in size to having a main course and dessert at another restaurant. Click here for the current menu in English.
Romantic nook...
Another positive note is the service, which is warm and personable. They are great at taking the time to explain their concept and pair wine and beer with the dishes. Oxelblom is located in the popular SoFo district on the island of Södermalm and is only a 15 minute walk from the Rival Hotel. Otherwise it is located in between the subway stations Medborgarplats and Skanstull (green line).
Assorted cheeses, all Swedish!

August 19, 2014

Gourmet Street Food with Mathias Dahlgren

Diners Club's food truck in Stockholm! www.dinersclub.se
Are you visiting Stockholm in the first week of September? Are you a foodie? Then you are in luck! Diners Club is on a tour of the Nordic countries with a gourmet food truck. The tour is called "Street Food by Diners Club" and they will be spending a week in each of the four Nordic capitals. It will be Stockholm's turn from the 2nd to 6th of September! The food truck/street food concept, which I have written about earlier, has become very popular in Stockholm... but this isn't just any food truck. Diners Club's concept is that in each city they are cooperating with one of the city's top gourmet chefs to create the food truck's lunch menu, offering a unique, new taste experience at a great price. In Stockholm they are joining forces with Mathias Dahlgren. Mathias Dahlgren is the owner and head chef of the restaurant that bears his name... a Michelin 2 star restaurant and named as one of the top 50 restaurants in the world.
Mathias Dahlgren www.dinersclub.se
So what will the food truck be serving in Stockholm? What will Dahlgren's take on street food be like? According to the man himself, he is taking inspiration from the food he grew up with and his grandmother Alice. Sounds interesting! If you are in Stockholm on these dates, stop by and treat yourself to a great lunch and see for yourself. The truck will be parked on the Skeppsbron waterfront of Gamla Stan, just below the Royal Palace, between 11:30am and 2pm on Tuesday through Friday and 12noon to 3pm on Saturday. The cost for lunch is 125 SEK... but if you pay with your Diners Club card then it is only 100 SEK. Click here if you want to read about my visit to Mathias Dahlgren Matbaren or click here for my visit to his Matbordet.

August 16, 2014

"Midnattsloppet" (10k evening race) is tonight!

Photo by Yanan Li, Stockholm Visitors Board
Tonight (Saturday, August 16th) is the date for the Midnattsloppet or Midnight Race. This 10 kilometer race has been held annually since 1982 and has gotten more popular each year with thousands of runners and even more spectators. With 41,000+ runners, it is actually Europe's largest 10k run! The race is run through the streets of Södermalm with the home stretch down the street Hornsgatan, half a block from the Rival Hotel. In fact, this year the racers run past the front of the hotel before turning onto Hornsgatan for the final stretch. What makes this race unique is the carnival atmosphere along the route (there is even a costume competition) as well as the late start time... it's a staggered start with the first group starting at 9:20pm and the last group at 11:05pm. There is even a shorter race, earlier in the evening for children (start at 7:30pm). Click here for a map of the course. Be aware that many roads on Södermalm island will be closed to car traffic in the afternoon and evening, so it is best to stick to walking or subways. If you are not participating in the race, then you can always choose a spot along the course, enjoy the atmosphere, and cheer on the racers!