October 29, 2010

This Weekend!

Photo by: Alexander Dokukin
October 29th, 30th & 31st

What to do, what to do... the possibilities are many! Here are some highlights:
  • While Sweden doesn't really celebrate the Americanized Halloween, this holiday does have its roots in European folklore and this is traditionally the week of goblins, ghosts and witches. Head over to the outdoor cultural museum of Skansen to get a taste of the scary Swedish traditions surrounding this magical time of year. Happenings all week long (Oct 30th through Nov 7th).
  • The first annual international Stockholm Burlesque Festival is taking place this weekend (Fri through Sun) at Berns Salonger. Lots going on here... photo exhibition, performances, shopping, DJ's, seminars, competitions, etc; Or just soak up the fabulous & decadent atmosphere. Prices from 290 SEK for a day pass up to 740 SEK for a 3 day pass.
  • On Friday evening you have the chance to play video games on Scandinavia's largest outdoor digital screen... it is the premiere of the latest James Bond game: 007 Blood Game. Just head to Stureplan, it starts at 7:30pm and there is no charge!
  • Plenty of great art and museum exhibitions going on in the city. Just click here and here for more information.
Don't forget: At 3am on Sunday morning (Oct 31st) Sweden switches to Winter Time, so the clocks will be wound back one hour!

The weather this weekend? Cloudy with temperatures between 5 and 10 degrees Celsius.

Restaurant- Griffin's Steakhouse Extraordinaire

I was invited this week to try out a new restaurant that has opened up in Stockholm.... Griffin's Steakhouse Extraordinaire. The interior is quite ecclectic, I would describe it as a modern take on an old fashion train station restaurant. An interesting mix of leather, chrome and tile... all in warm tones. Great bar/lounge area. The menu is definitely steakhouse in character with a lot of classic dishes and there is something for every budget, from a 3 course meal for 300 SEK up to a Wagyu Steak from Chile for 795 SEK.
As a Stockholmer, one of the things I like best about the restaurant is the location. It is located in the brand new Waterfront Building in the downtown area between the Central Train Station and the City Hall. The whole area is part of an ambitious building project which for years has been an enormous construction site and it is exciting to see it completed. The area includes a few restaurants, a congress hall, hotel and office buildings. It's great that this area has gotten a face-lift and it should be interesting to see how it evolves!
The closest subway station is T-Centralen (all lines).
Click here for other restaurant recommendations.

October 26, 2010

Shopping - Efva Attling

Efva Attling may not be a name you are familiar with, but if you are planning on purchasing something particularly Swedish and you like accessories in silver then you should keep her name in mind. Efva Attling started her career as a model and a Swedish popstar, but her passion for design caused her to branch out in the mid 90's to avant garde jewellery design, specializing in silver. Her designs quickly became popular and found fans in people like Madonna and Kylie Minogue. These days she designs all types of jewellery, including watches, for men and women and her designs are sold all over the world. Here in Sweden she has several concept stores, two of which are right around the corner from the Rival Hotel on the street Hornsgatan... both "Efva Attling" and "Attling Man" (next door to one another). I find her designs to be beautifully sleek and strong; modern and Swedish.
Click here for more Stockholm shopping tips!

October 23, 2010

Tip #17- Religious Worship, Part 2

Last week I talked about Catholic services in Stockholm, this week it will be about Jewish services.
The largest synagogue is the Great Synagogue of Stockholm (Masorti), which is also recognized as a National Historic Building. It is located on a side street (Wahrendorffsgatan 3b) right off of Kungsträdsgården park. Here you will also find the Jewish Library as well as the Holocaust Memorial which lists 8,500 victims who were realtives of Jews residing in Sweden. More information can be found on their tourist info page. If you are planning on visiting a Shabbat service, you should send in your name to info@jfst.se no later than Friday at 11am.
There are two Orthodox Synagogues in Stockholm... one which is right around the corner from the Rival Hotel. The Adjat Israel, known as Söder Shul, is located on St Paulsgatan a 5 minute walk from us. Adat Jeschurun is located in the Jewish School building in the downtown area. The interior furniture in this synagogue was rescued from the Hamburg Synagogue that survived Kristalnacht.
While we are on the subject, I can recommend the Jewish Museum (Judiska Museet)in here in Stockholm. Located in the Vasastan neighborhood, this museums focuses on the history of the Swedish Jews and their adaption to Swedish society. Open every day but Saturday, entrance costs 60 SEK, 40 for seniors and 20 for students. Free entrance with the Stockholm Card.

October 22, 2010

This Weekend!

Picture by: Alexander Dokukin

October 22nd, 23rd and 24th

Lots of little odds and ends going on this weekend... truly something for everyone.
  • It's the premiere this Saturday for the big autumn exhibition at Prince Eugene's Waldermarsudde art gallery. In celebration of the 150th anniversary of Swedish painter Anders Zorn's birth... the gallery is putting on an exhibition of some of the painter's most important pieces. Take this oppurtunity to view some of the masterpieces of one of Sweden's foremost artists of all time. Click here for other art & museum exhibitions going on this weekend.
  • If comic book illustration is more your bag... then the Seriegalleriet art gallery is putting on an exhibition of Swedish artist Alvaro Tapia's original illustrations to the cult game of Dungeons & Dragons (starting on Saturday). Good news is that it is right around the corner from the Rival Hotel on St Paulsgatan 14.
  • The Nordic Museum (Nordiska Museet), starting Friday, is having an exhibition looking at the Dandy... looking both at the past and how, perhaps, a Dandy would look today.
  • And for something completely different: The celebrities' favorite Stockholm watering hole, nightclub Café Opera turns 30 years old! They will be celebrating their birthday all weekend long... who knows what can happen?
  • And speaking of bars, our very own Rival Cocktail & Bistro Bars got a great write up in the prestigious newspaper Dagens Nyheter. So if you don't feel like going out in the chilly weather, staying in with a delicious cocktail and doing some people watching might be a good idea!
The weather this weekend? Hovering around 0 degrees Celsius and cloudy.

Weather- First Signs of Winter!

The season's first snowfall came this morning covering the city with the white stuff. Sadly, it will have probably melted away by this afternoon. But this is what you can expect from Stockholm weather the next couple of months. Snowfall and then melt... sometimes freezing rain. It is usually not until January that we can expect snow that sticks to the ground for longer periods of time, though winter can be unpredictable: last year we had lots of snow from the middle of December and onwards.
The lesson in this? Be prepared if you are coming to Stockholm this autumn or winter. Check various online weather sites for updated information. Two websites that I recommend are yr.no and smhi.se. I usually try and look at a few weather sites before heading somewhere for vacation as weather isn't an exact science. Be also aware that snow in Stockholm, more often than not, means delays in commuter traffic as well as traffic jams on the highways. If you are travelling by car... drive carefully!
The pictures are taken in Maria Square, in front of the Rival Hotel, this morning...

October 21, 2010

Christmas & New Years in Stockholm

I know. You are thinking "Isn't it a little early to be talking about the holidays?". Not really. The Rival Hotel is starting to receive a lot of room reservations for the holiday season... so it is a good time to come out and explain a little about Swedish holiday traditions and what to expect, so people can plan their trips a little in advance.
Many restaurants close during the holidays. Some close for a few days here and there while others will be closed for up to 3 weeks. Christmas Eve (the big Swedish family time- it is when Santa visits!) is especially tough, followed by Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day. The restaurants that are open tend to fill up early, so last minute reservations are sometimes hard to fix. This means that it is prudent to make at least a couple of restaurant reservations before coming to Stockholm. I am in the process of compiling a list of restaurant opening hours during the season. It probably won't be absolutely complete until the end of November, but I already have a fair idea of when many restaurants will be closed. So, if you are staying at the hotel during the holiday season, contact me at concierge@rival.se before arriving and I will give you recommendations for restaurants that are open and then, of course, help you with table reservations. If you are coming in early to middle December, be aware that many restaurants will be only serving a traditional Christmas smörgåsbord, called julbord (also good to prebook). The Rival's Bistro will be open every day of the week, so you don't ever have to worry about going hungry! We will not be serving julbord.
New Year's Eve is another matter. Many restaurants will be open this evening, but here it is good to be aware that all restaurants serve a traditional New Years supper and nothing else. The traditional supper (nyårssupé) is a 3 to 7 course set meal where the diner has a choice between meat & fish for the main course (costs can run anywhere from 400 SEK and up). Vegetarian and allergy options are usually provided. The tradition is that people arrive around 7-8pm and eat a long, leisurely dinner ending in time to view the fireworks. Click here to see The Rival Bistro's New Years Menu as well as other information. Whether eating at the hotel or going out, prebooking a table is an absolute must as restaurants are usually fully booked a few weeks in advance. Once again, contact me at concierge@rival.se for help. Kids of all ages will be setting off fireworks around midnight. The square in front of the hotel is one popular place. Otherwise the official fireworks will take place over the harbour and can easily be seen from anywhere along the waterfront.

October 20, 2010

New Fall Exhibition at the National Museum

I stopped by the National Museum today to see their new exhibition "Staging Power". Being the history buff that I am... I thoroughly enjoyed it! That being said, there is a lot there for art lovers as well. The exhibition looks at "the art of ruling through art" in the Napoleonic Era. It concentrates on three very similar (at the same time different) rulers of the era... Napoleon, Czar Alexander I of Russia and Carl-Johan of Sweden. Besides the grand portraits of the rulers and their families, the exhibition contains many great artifacts from the rulers: uniforms, clothes, jewellery, letters, furniture, weapons, etc; You get to see how the ruling elite used art to convey power and how constant war formed this ideal. Some artifacts were especially interesting to see... Napoleon's uniform with famous bicorne hat for example, as well as one of the gold bay leaves from his coronation wreath.
This exhibition was formed through cooperation between the National Museum and the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia (where the exhibition will be next year). So many of the objects are from the Hermitage as well as on loan from museums all over Europe including France, Sweden, the UK and Poland. Sweden's king has also graciously loaned the exhibition many artifacts from his personal collection.
The exhibtion is on display until the 23rd of January. The museum is closed on Mondays, otherwise it opens at 11am and closes at 5pm, except on Tues & Thurs when it closes at 8pm. Entrance costs 120 SEK, 100 SEK for students and seniors. Youths under 19 get in for free as well as people with the Stockholm Card. To find out about other exhibitions at the National Museum, check their website (linked above) or read my last blog entry about the museum. The museum is located on Blasieholmen - within walking distance from the Rival Hotel, otherwise the closest subway station is Kungstädgården (blue line).
Click here for information about other art exhibitions going on in Stockholm this autumn, and here for info about other museums in the city.

October 19, 2010

Stockholm Trivia

Many people around the world have heard of Raoul Wallenberg... but not everyone knows that he was born and raised in Stockholm. A Swedish humanitarian and diplomat, he saved tens of thousands of Jews in Hungary during World War II by issuing them protective passports and housing them in 32 different buildings in Budapest established as Swedish territory. He even convinced the Nazis not to go ahead with their plan of a death march of the remaining Jews in Budapest as the Soviet Army neared the city. Sadly, Wallenberg was arrested by the Soviets and sent back to the USSR. He was never seen again and is widely believed to have been either executed or died while in Soviet prison. There is a multitude of memorials to Raoul Wallenberg all over the world and Stockholm has, of course, honoured her son as well. There are two memorials/monuments located on Roul Wallenberg Square next to Berzelii Park. One monument is abstract, showing figures rising from the ground. The other is a granite globe that is connected to the Great Synagogue of Stockholm with a symbolic railway track. The closest subway station is Kungsträdgården (blue line).
The Wallenberg family is one of the most powerful families in Sweden. In 1990 it was estimated that the Wallenbergs indirectly controlled 1/3 of the Swedish GNP. There is actually a popular Swedish dish named after Raoul's relative called a Wallenbergare. If you would like to try this, then you don't have to travel farther than Rival's own Bistro where they make one of Stockholm's most delicious Wallenbergare!
Click here for more Stockholm trivia.

October 16, 2010

Tip #17- Religious Worship, Part 1

Sweden is officially a Lutheran/Protestant country and there are plenty of churches in the city offering Lutheran services, but I often get asked by guests about religious services for other denominations and religions. So I thought I would write, in two parts, about how to find Catholic & Jewish services in Stockholm.
The Catholic Church has several churches within the city limits, and the main diocese church (Domkyrkan) is actually just a 10-15 minute walk from the Rival Hotel. Located near the Medborgarplatsen square... this church offers  several masses daily, with the masses on Sunday given in several languages (Swedish, Polish, Croatian, Italian & Latin). Please contact me or the hotel reception to get actual times for the different masses and when the confessional is open. Another nearby church is St. Eugenia which is located next to the park Kungsträdgården (closest subway Kungsträdgården- blue line) in the downtown area. They also offer several masses daily, with a Sunday 6pm mass in English. Once again, contact us for other mass/confessional times.
Both of the churches websites, linked above, are in Swedish. However the Catholic Church of Sweden has a website with a limited page in English linked here. There you can find mass times of all of the Catholic churches in Sweden as well as some other information.
Next week: Judaism.
Click here for some other useful tips...

October 15, 2010

This Weekend!

Picture by: Alexander Dokukin
October 16th, 17th and 18th 
Besides The Chocolate Festival and the Nordic Film Prize, there are lots of things going on in the city to keep you occupied.
The Museum of History (Historiska Museet) is having a Farmer's Market on both Saturday and Sunday (11am to 5pm). Not only will farmers be selling ecological friendly fruits, vegetables, jams, honey and bread... there will be the oppurtunity to taste products, get tips and advice as well as autumn inspiration! Experts will be there to demonstrate how to create autumn decorations as well as how to bake bread the Viking way! While you are there, don't miss seeing The Gold Room and their new exhibition focusing on the past 1,000 years of Swedish history. If you are interested in other Farmer's Markets, then it's good to know that there is one taking place the first three Saturdays in October, just around the corner from the Rival Hotel in SoFo.
This Saturday, starting at 4pm, you can get a "jump start" on winter. Artificial snow is being trucked in to Sergel's Square and some of the world's best snowboarders will be showing off with jumps and tricks. Entrance is free!
All of the major autumn art and museum exhibitions are up and running now... click here for more information.
How's the weather? Sunny and chilly, with lows below 0 and highs around 5 degrees Celsius.

October 14, 2010

Five Days & Five Nordic Films

From this Saturday through next Wednesday (Oct 16th through 20th) the five films competing for the 2010 Nordic Council Film Prize will be shown at the Klara Cinema in the Culture House (Kulturhuset). Each of the five Nordic countries will be represented by a movie. The good news for foreign visitors is that 4 of the 5 movies will be in English or at least have English subtitles. The movies in English will of course have Swedish subtitles. Here are the films being shown:

The criteria a film needs to meet to be nominated is to be "rooted in Nordic culture and of high artistic quality. It must also stand out through its artistic originality, and refine the many elements of film in a convincing and integrated work." So viewing one of these movies on a chilly autumn day might be the perfect way to immerse yourself in Nordic culture! Two movies will be shown each day, so you have a couple of chances to see each film. Kulturhuset is located on Sergel's Square in the downtown area. If you are interested in seeing one of these movies, please contact me at the hotel for more information on times and tickets.

October 10, 2010

Moderna- The Modern Art Museum

Art outside as well!
I'm finally getting around to writing about one of my favorite Stockholm museums... the Modern Art Museum (Moderna Museet). I was there last week to see their new exhibition for this fall: The Moderna Exhibition 2010. This show highlights the work of 54 contemporary Swedish artists, all who have made an impact in the Swedish art scene. Now, to be honest, I found some of the pieces to be a little out there for me... and I love modern art. But all in all it was a nice exhibition with a lot of interesting pieces and I'm all for the age old question: "What exactly is art?". Besides the temporary exhibitions, Moderna has a great permanent collection featuring all of the greats within the modern art genre... Dali, Picasso, Warhol, Matisse, Lichtenstein, Pollack, etc; The collection is, of course, not as extensive as at the larger modern art museums in NYC, Paris or London, though it is thorough and well presented.

The gift shop...
It is not only the art which makes this one of my favorite museums, it is the whole experience. I love the building itself, light and airy with skylights letting in lots of natural light. They have a great espresso bar which is perfect for a light snack, otherwise they have a nice cafeteria with great views over the harbour and Strandvägen. Their gift shop is the best museum gift shop in Stockholm with plenty of gizmos and gadgets as well as books on art, fashion and photography. They also have a good selection of prints and posters. The museum is located on the island of Skeppsholmen. The closest subway station is Kungsträdgården (blue line), otherwise it is a pleasant 25 minute walk from the Rival Hotel through the Old Town. One can catch a ferry from Slussen, via Djurgården, as well. Entrance is 100 SEK, 80 for seniors and free for children under 19. It is, of course, free with the Stockholm Card. Be advised that the museum is closed on Mondays.

October 9, 2010

Chocolate Festival

(EDIT: This is a blog entry from 2010, to see information regarding the 2011 festival- click here)
Attention all chococolate lovers! Next weekend (October 15th to 17th) it is time for the ninth annual chocolate festival at the Nordic Museum (Nordiska Museet). The festival takes place in the main hall of the museum and the festival has become quite popular. Patisseries and chocolatiers will be displaying their products and you will have the oppurtunity to buy & taste their wares. There will be a stage set up where competitions and demonmstations will be held... including the "cake maker of the year" and a chocolate sculpture competition. There will even be a competition for children as well as a marsipan corner play area. The Nordic Museum is located on the island of Djurgården, near Skansen and the Vasa Museum. The building itself, inspired by 17th century nordic renaissance castles, is quite a Stockholm landmark. The opening hours for the festival are from 10am to 8pm on Friday, 10am to 7pm on Saturday and 10am to 6pm on Sunday. Entrance is 120 SEK, 60 SEK for children between 6 and 18 yrs old. Free entrance for children under 6. The easiest way to get there from the Rival Hotel is by ferry from Slussen to Djurgården, after which it is a five minute walk (just follow the signs for the museum).

October 7, 2010

Advisory for the Stockholm Sightseeing boats this Autumn

This autumn Strömma offers two sightseeing tours of Stockholm by boat... the Royal Canal Tour around the island of Djurgården and the more extensive Under the Bridges of Stockholm. They will be doing renovations on the Strömkajen docks (in front of Grand Hotel) so all departures for these tours will be from the Nybrokajen docks. The closest subway is Östermalmstorg (red line). The last day for the Royal Canal Tour before winter sets in is December 19th and for the Under the Bridges tour it will be November 7th. If you are here this autumn, make sure you take on of these tours. Stockholm is at her most beautiful from the water! After December 20th Strömma will be offering their Winter boat tour, and they expect the renovations to Strömkajen to be completed before the 2011 summer season begins.


October 6, 2010

Stockholm Trivia

This is the week when the Swedish Academy starts announcing the winners for the 2010 Nobel Prizes. First out are the Medicine, Physics, Chemistry and Literature Prizes... on Friday the Peace Prize winner will be announced followed by the Economics Prize on Monday.

Alfred Nobel, a Stockholm native, was a chemist, engineer and inventor. He had 355 different patents, but his most famous invention was undoubtably dynamite. It was his invention of dynamite, and the destruction is wreaked, that caused Nobel to be concerned about his legacy. So in his will he put aside the bulk of his estate (about $250 million) to create the Nobel Prizes. The nominations are kept secret and the winners are announced in the beginning of October. The award ceremony is held on December 10th (the anniversary of Nobel's death) in Stockholm, except for the Peace Prize which is awarded in Oslo (at the time of Nobel's death, Norway was in a personal union with Sweden). Besides the Nobel prize medal and the honor of being a Nobel Laureate, the winners are awarded 10 million SEK.

If you are interested in Alfred Nobel and the Nobel Prizes, then I would recommend a visit to the Nobel Museum. It's located in the Old Town, right on the main square (Stortorget). The closest subway station is Gamla Stan (red and green lines), though it is an easy 10-15 minute walk from the Rival Hotel. Closed on Mondays, the entrance costs 70 SEK, 50 for students and seniors, free for children under 19. Free entrance, of course, with the Stockholm Card.

October 5, 2010

Skogskyrkogården (Woodland Cemetery)

Skogskyrkogården is a large, forrested cemetery just south of Stockholm. You might be wondering why I would recommend visiting a cemetery while in Stockholm, but Skogskyrkogården is, in fact, a UNESCO World Heritage site (a place of significant natural or cultural value). Completed in 1920, the cemetery was designed by Swedish architects Gunnar Asplund and Sigurd Lewerentz blending architecture with the natural landscape to create a wonderfully tranquil enviroment. I love coming here in the autumn, taking a long walk through the grounds... admiring the architecture as well as the natural beauty. Be aware that it is a "working" cemetery and they have around 2,000 burials per year, so be respectful of any services in progress. Unfortunately, the visitors' center and guided tours are only open/available during the summer months. But this doesn't mean you can't explore on your own! You can download a visitors' guide (complete with map) from their website in pdf-form. Of special interest for many is the grave site of Swedish actress Greta Garbo. One of the most popular days to visit the cemetery is All Saints/Hallows Day, but, once again, remember to be respectful of the people there visiting family graves. It is quite easy to get to the cemetery from the Rival Hotel. Just take the subway from Slussen, green line going south in the direction of Farsta Strand. Exit at Skogskyrkogård station (about a 10 minute trip) and turn right as you leave the station. The entrance is 100 meters on the right hand side.
Gunnar Asplund, a representative of Swedish neo-classical architecture, is one of the most influential modernist Swedish architects. Besides Skogskyrkogård, another of his major works can be found in the city... The Stockholm Public Library. The library is located just north of the downtown area on Sveavägen. The closest subway station is Odenplan (green line).

October 2, 2010

Farmers' Market

During the next three Saturdays (October 9th, 16th and 23rd), between 10am and 3pm, there is an outdoor Farmers' Market in the SoFo neighborhood. Here farmers and craftsmen sell their wares and fresh produce to the public... everything from fruits & vegetables, sausages, cheeses, jams & juices to different types of handicrafts. I always love checking out indoor and outdoor markets when I travel to different countries as you get a real feel for the locals and their traditions and cuisine. This is a good oppurtunity to shop for some unique presents for people back home... or why not get some local cheese and sausage, go back to the hotel, order up a nice bottle of red wine and DVD movie and spend a relaxing and romantic evening indoors?
The market, located on the corner of Götgatan and Katarina bangata, is just a 10-15 minute walk from the hotel. Otherwise the closest subway station is Medborgarplatsen (green line).

October 1, 2010

Oktoberfest in Stockholm!

Besides visiting the Beer & Whisky Festival this coming weekend, there is another way you can celebrate Oktoberfest while visiting Stockholm (without having to travel to Bavaria). On October 3rd the German Embassy is inviting the public to celebrate Oktoberfest with them... and they have a lot to celebrate this year. It is the 200th anniversary of the Oktoberfest, the German Embassy in Stockholm is 50 years old and it is the 20th anniversary of the German reunification! Entrance is free and they will be providing traditional German food, music and entertainment as well as alcohol-free beverages... real Bavarian beer will, of course, be available for purchase. Be aware that there is limited space available... so you might want to get there early. The festival will be held under a tent next to the Naval History Museum between 2 and 5pm. The easiest way to get there from the Rival Hotel is to make your way to the NK department store in the downtown area (either by walking, bus or subway), from there you take bus #69 and get off at the Sjöhistoriska Museet station. Ask us in the reception for more detailed instructions! Happy Oktoberfest!