November 30, 2010

Warning- Winter Weather!

A little warning to travellers coming to Stockholm this week and next. They are predicting cold, bordering on record-breaking, temperatures for the next couple of days. Tomorrow and Thursday may see temperatures down towards -20 degrees Celsius in some parts of Stockholm. It should ease up by the weekend when a new system brings in warmer weather (-5 or so) and snow. The 10 day prognosis shows continuing temperatures below zero... and meterologists are saying that we may have another vargvinter ("Wolf's Winter"- local term for chillier than normal winter) on our hands like we did last year. The good news is that the snow makes it light, cheery & beautiful! On the other hand, meterology isn't an exact science: so it is a good idea to keep an eye on weather websites before your trip and pack accordingly!
Two good websites for Stockholm weather: www.smhi.se and www.yr.no
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Photography Exhibition with a Rival Twist

Photo by Daniel Lindberg
Photo by Daniel Lindberg
Photo by Daniel Lindberg
Not only is Daniel Lindberg one of the Rival Hotel's fantastic bartenders, he is also an accomplished photographer! He has had several successful showings in Stockholm, even here at the hotel, and is now rounding off 2010 with a small exhibition of some of his favorite pieces from previous exhibitions. The exhibition is called "This and That" (Ett och Annat) and contains photographs that all have a special meaning for Daniel, including some great images of Stockholm. The showing runs until December 10th and can be seen at Café Mariaberget on Blecktornsgränd 4, just a stone's throw from the hotel. The café is on the way to Monteliusvägen, that I've reported on earlier, with its great views of the city. Great combination... have an espresso at the café and admire his photographs before heading up to see the view. Then, in the evening, you can talk to Daniel as he mixes your cocktails in the Rival's Bar. You never know... you may be able to haggle a good deal on a photograph to take home with you! Café Mariaberget is open from 11am to 6pm on Tuesday through Friday, and 11am to 5pm on Saturday & Sunday.
Check out his website to learn more about Daniel and his work...
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November 27, 2010

Swedish Holiday Traditions

If you are coming to Stockholm anytime between now and the first week or so of January, then it is good to be aware of some of the Swedish holiday tradtions especially the ones that may not be found in your own country.
  • Calendar: Besides Christmas itself, you have several other important dates. The four Sundays leading up to Christmas are the Advent Sundays. The tradition is to light a candle on the first Sunday and then an additional candle for each Sunday after that, until you have 4 candles burning on Christmas. The 13th of December is St Lucia Day, not a bank holiday, but a day with many traditions. I'll write more as the date approaches. December 26th is a bank holiday though here it is not called Boxing Day but Annandag Jul (2nd Day of Christmas). Finally there is the Epiphany, called Trettondedag Jul (13th Day of Christmas) which falls on January 6th and is also a bank holiday. It is also good to note that the main Swedish Christmas celebration is on the evening of the 24th, not the 25th, when families gather for dinner and get a visit from Father Christmas (jultomten), who actually physically visits the home with presents (usually a family member or neighbour in disguise).
  • Food & Drink: The main Swedish holiday food tradition is the Christmas smörgåsbord called julbord. This buffet resembles a regular smörgåsbord with the addition of more holiday related foods like ham and lutefisk. Many Swedish restaurants serve this all through December until Christmas. It is almost impossible to visit Sweden this time of year and avoid glögg, a Swedish mulled wine... spiced with cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and cloves. It is usually served with blanched almonds and raisins as well as gingerbread and/or saffron buns called lussebullar or lussekatter. Glögg does come in several "strengths", from non-alcoholic to regular to strong.
The Visit Sweden website does a great job of describing Swedish holiday traditions... check out what they have to say about Christmas, Lucia, holiday food & drink and how Swedes celebrate.

Pictures to follow...

November 26, 2010

This Weekend!

Photo by Henrik Trygg- Stockholm Visitors Bureau
November 26th, 27th & 28th

Ooooh... lots going on this weekend! Horses, Santa, Freddy Kreuger and a gingerbread man or two. This weekend we celebrate första advent, the first of the four Advent Sundays before Christmas.
  • The Stockholm International Horse Show is going on all three days at the Globe Arena located in southern Stockholm. This is the largest indoor equestrian event in the world. Plenty to see here... shows and competitions in dressage, jumping and hand driving. There will even be a royal in attendance as well as ponies and camels.
  • Head down to the Stockholm Central train station to see the Gingerbread Factory... made out of approximately 1,000 kilograms of gingerbread. Take a chance to decorate and do some tasting! Santa will be there to supervise. Friday through Sunday, 10am to 6pm... entrance is free!
  • Two conventions going on at the Stockholm International Fairgrounds in Älvsjö. We have both the Photography Convention with exhibitions, seminars and shopping. Then there is the Scandinavian Sci-Fi and Film Convention... plenty of sci-fi stars here and your chance to see Robert Englund (Freddy Kreuger)!
  • A lot of Christmas Markets are starting this weekend including the ones at Skansen, the Royal Stables, Konstfack and in Kungsträdgården. For more detailed information, scroll down or click here!
  • On Sunday, at 3pm, Stockholm's Christmas Tree will be lit. It is located on Skeppsbron waterfront in the Old Town (Gamla Stan). You can't miss it... it's huge! You can purchase some mulled wine (glögg) and snacks, listen to a children's choir and watch them light the tree.
  • Lots in interesting exhibitions in museums and galleries this fall/winter. Click here (scroll down) and here for more information.
The weather this weekend? Bundle up! We have plenty of snow on the ground and they are predicting cloudy weather and teperatures down to -10 degrees Celsius.

November 24, 2010

Christmas Markets in Stockholm

Middle of Gamla Stan


 The dates and times here are for 2010- for 2011, click here!
Now that the holidays are around the corner, Christmas Markets (julmarknader) are starting to pop up around the city... and today your intrepid blogger braved the first winter storm to visit the market in the Old Town to make a report. The christmas market that is located in the main square of the Old Town (Stortorget i Gamla Stan) is the quintessential market and the first to open for the season. It is open daily from 11am to 6pm until December 23rd. Here you can purchase ceramics, hand-made candles, Swedish christmas decorations, arts & craft of the Sami, winter accessories, sausages, fresh baked bread and mustards & jams. There's a lot to snack on as well... hot dogs, waffles, candy and Swedish mulled wine (glögg). It's the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit! Free entrance and just a 12 minute walk from the Rival Hotel.
Santas and...

Another great market is the one at Skansen which is located on Djurgården. This christmas market is open on Saturdays & Sundays from 10am to 4pm up until Christmas. Otherwise there are a lot of Christmassy things going on during the weekdays... Skansen, as always, is the perfect place to experience Swedish traditions. There is an entrance fee to enter the park.

angels.
Kungsträdgården, located right in the middle of the city, has a christmas market as well which is open on weekends, but from the 4th of December will be open daily from 11am to 6pm. The advantage of this market is that it is a stone's throw from serious shopping, like the NK department store, and Santa Claus (jultomten) visits every Saturday & Sunday during the markets opening hours. You can also take in some outdoor ice skating as well. No entrance fee!

A market quite close to the Rival Hotel is located in SoFo. During the autumn it is a farmers market but for the first three Saturdays in December (10am to 3pm) it turns into a Farmers Christmas Market.
Other markets include the one at Beckmans School of Design on Decemebr 11th & 12th and the market at the Royal Stables on November 26th through 28th. Contact me for more detailed information.


wreaths
Another option is to visit a christmas market outside of the city... plenty to choose from! Strömma Sightseeing offers day trips to the island of Utö. They serve breakfast on the way out and, after 2½ hours visiting the market and village, they serve a Christmas buffet on the boat trip back. The trip lasts from 10am to 6pm and costs 850 SEK. There are also markets going on in Sigtuna on the 4 Sundays leading up to Christmas, Dalarö from November 27th to December 19th and in Jungfrusund on the weekend of December 4th & 5th.


November 23, 2010

Restaurants During the Christmas & New Year Holidays



Photo by: Henrik Trygg, Stockholms Visitors Board
(Edit: for current information click here for a newer blog article!) I have already written about this once, but it is time for a friendly reminder...
As a tourist coming to Stockholm, you should be aware that many restaurants close during the holiday season. Some close just for the main holiday dates (Christmas Eve, New Years Eve, etc;), others close for a few more extra days while others actually close for a couple of weeks. When it comes to Christmas Eve, you should plan on eating in a hotel restaurant. They are the only restaurants of real quality open on that date. Many of the major hotels are open to general public, so you do have a choice! The Rival's Bistro is open to all guests (whether you are staying at the hotel or not) during the entire holiday season and there you can enjoy a menu filled with both Swedish Classics and international favorites. We will not be serving a Christmas smörgåsbord this year. To make a reservation, contact the bistro at bistro@rival.se . On Christmas Day a few more restaurants open in the city for business again and on Boxing Day a few more... so you don't have to only eat at hotels during your stay. As many restaurants do close, the ones that are open do tend to fill up so reserving a table on the same day can be difficult in some cases. I would recommend, if you are staying at The Rival Hotel, to contact me at concierge@rival.se and I will help you with recommendations of restaurants that are open as well as with eventual table reservations. If you are not staying at the Rival then I suggest you contact your hotel for help.

Photo by: Henrik Trygg, Stockholms Visitors Board
Regarding the New Year's weekend, it is New Year's Eve that is the tricky day. While some restaurants are closed, the majority will be open and will be serving a traditional multi-course New Years supper (nyårssupé). This is quite popular and last minute reservations are a near impossibilty... so make sure you have your dinner plans arranged before coming to Stockholm! The Rival's Bistro will be serving a traditional nyårssupé starting at 7:30pm. After dinner there will be a DJ playing in the Cocktail Bar, which is open until 2am. Local fireworks can be viewed from the Bistro's balcony, otherwise it is only a 10 minute walk down to the waterfront where the official firework display can be seen at midnight. For more information about the Rival's New year's Eve dinner and celebration click here. Many restaurants will be closed on New Years Day and the next (mainly due to staff hangovers one can assume!). Once again, if you are staying at the hotel, contact me for recommendations and reservations...

November 19, 2010

This Weekend!

Photo by: Nicho Södling

November 19th, 20th & 21st

The holiday season is approaching fast... adding a little color to the events this weekend.

  • If all things cinematic is your thing, then Stockholm is the place to be this weekend! The Stockholm International Film Festival is in full swing with movies being shown in theaters all over the city. Check their website here or ask me at the hotel for more information of films and events.
  • The first Christmas Market of the season opens on Saturday. Get a jump start on your Christmas shopping or just enjoy a glass of glögg (Swedish mulled wine) as you walk through the stalls. It will be open daily between 11am and 6pm until December 23rd. This market is located in the main square in the Old Town (Stortorget in Gamla Stan). 
  • On Saturday we have the fifth annual Stadium Winter Jam taking place at Stockholm Stadion (old Olympic stadium). There is both a skiing and snowboarding competition as well as a winter fair and it all takes place between 11am and 5pm. Best of all... no entrance charge!
  • On Sunday it is the traditional beginning of Christmas with Skyltsöndag when stores begin their holiday window decorations, and nothing says Christmas more to a Stockholmer than the window decorations in the NK department store. The big reveal will at 11:50am and the theme this year will reflect the fact that we live in a multicultural era. Right across the street you have the Kungsträdgården park where there will be Christmas caroling at 2pm on the center stage, marking the end of the Christmas parade. Why not take in a little ice skating while you wait?
The weather this weekend? They are predicting temperatures around zero with rain or snow.

November 17, 2010

Winter Sightseeing With Strömma

Strömma is Stockholm's premiere sightseeing company and last night a colleague and I attended their pre-winter party... a nice evening on their boats where they presented their winter offers and tours.
The Archipelago Tour w/ Guide continues through the winter taking visitors a bit out in the archipelago leaving each Saturday & Sunday at noon. During the winter Strömma adds a special Winter Tour several times a day from December 21st until April 7th (yes our winters can last that long!). The tour takes you through the Stockholm port and out to the islands of Fjäderholmarna... running about 1 hour and 15 minutes. There is food and drink available onboard and the cost is 190 SEK, half price for children between 6 and 11.
Photo by Magnus Rietz
A special Swedish Christmas tradition is the julbord, a holiday version of the classic smörgåsbord. Strömma gives you the opportunity to combine the julbord with a boat tour. Between November 25th and December 22nd, several boats a day will take guests through Stockholm and out among the islands all the while they enjoy a traditional Christmas feast. Four different boats leave at several times during the day... at noon, in the afternoon or in the evening. The cost runs from 425 SEK up to 675 SEK, depending on the time of day. There is also a special Christmas by Light tour that stays close to the city... you can enjoy an American/Swedish Christmas buffet while admiring the Christmas light displays along the waterfront. This is offered from November 30th through December 21st and the cost is 675 SEK per person.
Photo by Magnus Rietz
While many of the traditional sightseeing boat tours take a break during the winter season, remember that the Panorama bus tour runs year round!

November 14, 2010

Restaurant- Le Bar Rouge


le entrance!
le interior!
I kicked off my weekend with an after-work visit to Le Rouge with friends. Located in the Old Town (Gamla Stan), Le Rouge is one of celebrity chef Melker Andersson's restaurants and is his homage to all things French. The restaurant is actually divided into two... the restaurant proper, Brasserie Le Rouge, with entrance via Brunnsgränd and then the bar, Le Bar Rouge, with the entrance on Österlånggatan. The interior design in both is fantastical and the same... Paris at the turn of the century. Lots of red velvet with gold fringe. A cross between Moulin Rouge and a French brothel (in the best way possible)... you keep waiting for Nicole Kidman to swing by on a chandelier! We spent our evening at Le Bar which is a watering hole for Stockholmers and a great place to meet over a glass of champagne. The menu here is as French as it is in the restaurant though a bit more relaxed and you will find all your favorites... chevré chaud, moules frites, duck paté and steak tartare. What I really like about their menu is that they have several typical dishes in appetizer form which are great to combine with each other and have with cocktails. If you are more in the mood for a traditional and relaxing dinner, then head next door to their restaurant... otherwise Le Bar is the perfect place for a drink and a bite to eat after sightseeing in Gamla Stan! Easy (10 minute) walking distance from the Rival Hotel, both the bar and the restaurant are open everyday except Sunday.
Click here for other restaurant recommendations...

November 12, 2010

This Weekend!


Photo by: Nicho Södling
 November 12th, 13th & 14th

This is kind of an odd weekend... inbetween Halloween (All Saints) and next weekend when the Christmas season kicks off. There are still some interesting things going on though!

Click here for other museum tips!

    November 10, 2010

    Restaurant- Roxy

    Yesterday evening a friend and I went to one of my favorite restaurants... Roxy! This is one of those restaurants that I think really deliver on food, location and service. It is located right on Nytorget square in the SoFo neighborhood, one of the most vibrant parts of Stockholm. The staff are very personable and give great service. You feel like a "regular" guest even if it is your first visit.
    pork bourguignon

    avec kit
    The menu leans towards Spanish cuisine and there is something for everyone including some great vegetarian dishes. I really had trouble deciding what to get, but finally I chose their Spanish version of Beef Bourguignon made with pork (Pata Negra). I wasn't disappointed... it was the perfect dish with a winter storm raging outside. For dessert we both took the "avec kit": espresso or cappuccino, dark chocolate truffel and your choice of calvados, cognac or pear liqueur.
    It is easy to get to Roxy's from the hotel. It's 15 minutes or so if you walk, otherwise the closest subway station is Skanstull (green line). The SoFo neighborhood is filled with great shops, so Roxy would be the perfect place for an early dinner after doing some Christmas shopping.
    Click here for more restaurant recommendations!
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    November 9, 2010

    Ice Skating in the Middle of Stockholm

    Photo by Henrik Trygg
    (EDIT: This info is from 2010-11, for current prices and opening hours... click here!) One of the more enduring and endearing sights of winter-Stockholm is the public ice-skating rink in the Kungsträdgården park in central Stockholm. Last week the rink opened for its 48th season! The rink is set up around the statue of Charles XIII in the middle of the park and while it's not the largest rink, people don't go there for the excercise but for the tradition, to soak up the Stockholm winter atmosphere and to get into the Christmas spirit. Skating equipment available to rent! It costs 50 SEK for adults and 20 SEK for children. The rink is open 7 days a week until the first week of March and generally closes at 6:30pm except on Tuesdays and Thursdays when it is open until 8:30pm. There are several cafés open around the rink... perfect for warming up with a hot chocolate after doing some skating.

    Charles XIII

    Kungsträdgården is located smack-dab in the middle of Stockholm, in between the royal palace and the NK department store. There is always something going on here... if not an event, then at least it is the place to feel the pulse of the city. Sunday, November 21st is the official start of the Christmas season in Stockholm. It is called Skyltsöndag and it is when a lot of the larger stores, like NK, will be unveiling their Christmas window decorations. There will be a Christmas parade that will start at Hötorget at 1:30pm and end in Kungsträdgården where there will be Christmas carolling between 2 and 3pm. Jultomten (Santa Claus) may show up! The weekend after that will be the start of the Christmas market in Kungsträdgården. I'll write more about that later as we get closer to the Christmas season...

    November 5, 2010

    This Weekend!

    Photo: Alexander Dokukin
    November 5th, 6th & 7th

    With All Saints Day (also known as All Hallows Day) being on Saturday, there are a lot of ghoulish things going on in the city this weekend.
    • As I mentioned earlier, one of the main Swedish traditions for All Saints Day (Alla Helgons Dag) is to light a candle and/or lay a wreath at the graves of friends and family. It is quite a beautiful tradition and nowhere is it more spectacular than at the Woodland Cemetery (Skogskyrkogården). This cemetery is on the UNESCO World Heritage List and worth a visit anytime of the year.
    • Etnografiska museet (the museum for world cultures) will be celebrating the Mexican version of All Saints Day... Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) with a special program, including dance and music, on both Saturday and Sunday (11am to 5pm).
    • A little less ghoulish... Saturday is also Gustav Adolf's Day and the Royal Armoury (Livrustkammaren) at the castle is celebrating by offering free entrance to the museum. This is a very interesting museum containing objects belonging to the kings & queens of Sweden over the past 500 years including armour, clothes, uniforms, carriages and even royal sleighs. Located within the Royal Palace in the Old Town.
    A lot of tragic events have happend in Stockholm's Old Town in the distant past (like the infamous Stockholm Bloodbath)... so keep your eyes open for ghosts and goblins roaming the lanes late at night this weekend!

    The weather this weekend? Overcast and between 0 and 5 degrees Celsius.

    November 4, 2010

    Facebook

    For all of you computer-literate people out there... The Rival Hotel now has a Facebook page! Join us there for updates on package deals and events happening at the hotel, as well as informative tidbits, pictures, videos and more. Soon you will even be able to book a room on our Facebook page. Ain't the future grand? The Rival's Bar & Bistro has had a Facebook page for awhile now. The content there is mostly in Swedish and the page gives information about happenings in the theater and bar as well as menu changes.

    Another good Facebook page to "like" ahead of your trip to our fair city is The Stockholm Visitors Board page... which will keep you updated on things happening in the city.

    November 3, 2010

    Upcoming Events in November

    Here are some dates to keep your eyes on if you are travelling to Stockholm in November:
    • All Saints Day (Alla Helgons Dag) on November 6th. While this is celebrated in Anglo-Saxon countries on November 1st, in Sweden it falls always on the first Saturday in November. It is a holiday in Sweden, but, as it falls on a Saturday, it shouldn't disturb tourists too much... besides a few small shops being closed, all museums and such will be open. The Swedish tradition is to light a candle at the graves of family & friends. If you would like to witness this tradition then I would recommend a visit to the Woodland Cemetery (Skogskyrkogården).
    • November 10th is Mårtensgås or Mårten Gås. Originally the celebration of St Martin, these days it is mostly celebrated in southern Sweden where it is tradition to eat a goose dinner. You can partake of this tradition in Stockholm as well. A few restaurants will be serving a goose dinner will all the fixings during the second week of November. I would recommend Den Gyldene Freden in the Old Town (goose dinner offered from Nov 8th through the 13th).
    • The 21st annual Stockholm Film Festival will be going on between the 17th and 28th of November! Lots of cinematic happenings going on in the city. Besides plenty of top notch movies to be seen, there will be a competition (jury presided over by Holly Hunter), as well as parties & events. Gus van Sant will receive the Visionary Award and the festival is dedicated to the late Dennis Hopper. Click on the link above for program and more information.
    • On November 20th it is time for the Stadium Winter Jam which takes place at Stockholm Stadion (old Olympic stadium). There is both a skiing and a snowboarding competition as well as a winter sports fair. And best of all... it's free of charge! Swedish webpage.
    • November 26th - 28th are the dates for the Stockholm International Horse Show taking place at the Eriksson Globe Arena. This is the world's largest indoor equestrian event (in terms of daily spectators). There will be lots of entertainment as well as international competitions in dressage, jumping and hand driving. Click on the link above for program and more information.
    • This year the first advent (fourth Sunday before Christmas) will be on the last weekend of November. Lots of Christmas markets will be starting on this date. I will be listing and writing more about the different markets later...

    November 2, 2010

    Places With a View Over Stockholm

    Looking out at City Hall
    You don't have to go far from the Rival Hotel to find a good vantage point to see the city. The hotel's neighborhood is on a slight rise that dominates the island of Södermalm so there are several viewpoints close by. Directly across the street (Hornsgatan) from the hotel you'll see gentle stairs leading up to a small, quaint neighborhood of cobblestone streets. At the end of the the lane you have Monteliusvägen which is a 500 meter long walking path that gives you great views of the Old Town, City Hall and Lake Mälaren. All pictures here are from Monteliusvägen.
    Looking back towards the hotel
    A little further away, about a 10 minute walk, you have popular Mosebacke Square which connects to Katarinahissen and there you have a view over both Lake Mälaren and the waterfront. Here you will also find the very popular restaurant Gondolen. The popularity is mainly due to the views... be aware that you should book a table here at least 2 weeks in advance. They also have a very nice bar where you can have a drink and admire the views without having to book a table.
    Monteliusvägen
    If views are your thing, then here are several other spots in Stockholm with great views: restaurant Och Himlen Därtill on top of the Skrapan "skyscraper", historical street Fjällgatan, the TV tower Kaknästornet with restaurant and bar and the newly built SkyView. This last one is a glass gondola that takes you to the top of the Globen Arena, which is located in the southern part of Stockholm. Someday soon I'll try the SkyView and come back with a report...