September 30, 2011

Stockholm Beer & Whisky Festival 2011
Munich isn't the only city celebrating beer this month! The Stockholm Beer & Whisky Festival, one of the biggest of its kinds in the world, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. It will be going on all this weekend (Sept 29th - Oct 1st). But if you can't make it then, you have another chance next weekend (Oct 6-8th). The festival area is split in two... in Hall 1 you will find beer, whisky and calvados while in Hall 2 (called "Taste Experience") you will find wine, champagne, rum, tequila and cognac. Good news... your entrance ticket (199 SEK) gives you access to both halls as well as a tasting glass and Beer Class 1. You have to be 20 years of age to attend the festival. There will be hundreds of beer, whisky and other spirits on exhibit and to taste... but that isn't the only sustenance available. There will be several restaurants in the festival area to keep you well fed! Click here for more information, including times, tickets and communications.
The festival is held in Nackastrandsmässan, located in Nacka Strand. To get there from the Rival Hotel... take bus 71 or 443 from Slussen (a 10 minute walk from the hotel).

September 29, 2011

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Movie... Coming Soon!

Well, perhaps not soon...but it will be released on December 21st (USA & Scandinavia- Boxing Day in the UK).
You would have to be living under a rock to have missed the phenomenon that is the Millennium book trilogy, written by Swedish writer Stieg Larsson., with millions upon millions of copies sold worldwide. They have already been made into popular Swedish movies, but now it is Hollywood's turn to adapt the books into movies. The trailer has been released and it looks good. I am so happy that they decided to film the movie here in Stockholm and Sweden (where the story takes place)! In fact, the books and movies have been a real boon to Stockholm tourism.
The books and movies (Swedish or Hollywood) are great to read/see if you have been to or are planning on visiting Stockholm... especially the Rival Hotel. Why is that? Well... the majority of scenes take place (and were filmed) just a few blocks from the hotel. Lisbeth Salander's apartments, Mikael Blomkvist's apartment and office as well as different cafés and bars they visit. If you are in Stockholm while the movie is showing... remember that all movies are shown in the original language (in this case English) with Swedish subtitles, which makes seeing a movie easy for foreign visitors. If you can't get enough of the books & movies then I can recommend the Millennium Walking Tour arranged by the Stockholm City Museum.
Check the movie's official website to see a longer trailer and for more information...

September 28, 2011

Restaurant: Pontus! and Pontus Seafood Bar

Open kitchen at the Seafood Bar
(EDIT: The Seafood Bar has now changed name and concept. It is now Pocket, Pontus remains the same)
Restaurant Pontus!, located in downtown Stockholm, has been open since 2007 and is run by celebrity chef Pontus Frithiof, along with his popular Pontus by the Sea in Gamla Stan. The White Guide ranked Pontus! this year as one of the top 10 restaurants in Stockholm. The restaurant has recently gone through some renovations and changes and I stopped by yesterday to check out these changes and try their new Seafood Bar (a restaurant within the restaurant).
Colorful ceviche...
The main dining room on the basement level with its quirky interior has thankfully stayed the same... the changes have mainly come to their street level. Their entrance has moved just around the corner to the street Norrlandsgatan and they've expanded, adding a sleek new bar and lounge. Another new addition is their Seafood Bar at street level. The design is very modern, in stark contrast to the cozy-at-home feel of the downstairs dining room, with a large open kitchen in the center of the room. The menu, as the name suggests, is pure seafood... caviar, shellfish and fish of all sorts. You will find classic Swedish dishes as well as grilled and cold dishes (ceviche, sashimi, etc;).  

The downstairs dining room Pontus!

September 24, 2011

Gowalla's Stockholm Guide

Gowalla is a location based social network where users "check in" to spots using smart phones (Iphone, Android, Blackberry, etc;). Users can share pictures, stories and knowledge of these spots with others as well as create "trips" by listing up to 20 spots with different themes... like nature, history or landmarks. Users can then use these trips as city guides... completing the trips by "checking in" to the various spots on the trip's itinerary using their smart phones. Gowalla has recently updated their website, changing their focus even more to travel and adding guides to major cities around the world.
I am proud to say that Gowalla contacted me to create featured trips for them in their Stockholm Guide! I created two, both aimed for first time visitors to Stockholm and based on a three day visit to the city (i.e. long weekend). The first trip is for visitors coming during the summertime and the other for visitors coming during the cooler months (click on links to see trips). I've tried to design the trips so that visitors get to see the most well known Stockholm landmarks and museums as well as a bit of shopping, some great restaurants and authentic Stockholm life. There is, of course, much much more to see in Stockholm... but these trips are a good start!

September 17, 2011

Restaurant: Zink Grill

I paid a visit to Zink Grill the other evening... a great restaurant & bar located on the street Biblioteksgatan near the Stureplan district which is known both for its high end shopping as well as nightlife. The restaurant has a real Parisian feel in both appearance and the menu which is split between a bistro menu and a grill menu (as their name suggests). I had the roast piglet in honey and ginger which was delicious! The bar and outdoor seating are very popular with Stockholmers as a watering hole... especially "after work" or to warm-up before heading to one of the nearby nightclubs. Zink Grill isn't a large restaurant so it can get quite crowded and booking a table is recommended. It is also one of the few restaurants, not cafés, which is open for breakfast (Monday through Friday from 8 to 10:30am)! Click here for more information regarding the shopping in the area.
To get there from the Rival Hotel... take the subway (red line) northbound to Östermalmstorg. Exit to Stureplan and from there it is just two blocks away. Otherwise it is just a five minute taxi ride away.

September 14, 2011

Swedish Cuisine: Löjrom (Bleak Roe)

Löjrom (Bleak Roe or Kalix Caviar) is a Swedish delicacy that is often found on menus in Sweden year round... but during the end of September and beginning of October is when you can get löjrom at its freshest! It is the roe from the whitefish bleak/vendace that is harvested during their spawning season (starting middle of September and 5 weeks on) in northern Sweden along the shores of the Gulf of Bothnia. It is golden orange in color and has a mild and elegant flavor. The most common way löjrom is served is with creme fraiche, diced red onion & chives, a slice of lemon, a dill sprig and either toasted bread or blini. You will also often find löjrom as a garnish (on Toast Skagen for example) or in sauces. Many restaurants will incorporate the delicious fish eggs into their menus this time of year as löjrom is at its freshest. What to drink with löjrom? A nice, crisp white wine or champagne is perfect!
You will find löjrom on the menu at most restaurants serving Swedish cuisine... some good choices are Lisa Elmqvist in the Östermalm's Saluhall, Sturehof or Riche. But if you are staying at the hotel then you don't have to go far... löjrom is on the menu in our Bistro Rival!

September 10, 2011

Activities for Children

Photo: Henrik Trygg, Stockholm's Visitors Board
We recently had a family with small children staying at the Rival Hotel and, during their stay, I helped them find suitable activities for the whole family. It wasn't a difficult task... Stockholm is a great city for children of all ages! Besides miles and miles of park lands and fun boat trips, there are plenty of child-friendly attractions and museums that should keep the small ones busy.
If animals (whether wild, tame or even extinct are of interest) then you have quite a lot to choose from:
  • Skansen- not only an outdoor cultural museum and park, it is a zoo with both Nordic animals (moose, reindeer, wolves, bears, etc;), exotic animals and a petting zoo. A good time to visit is in the early afternoon during feeding time. There are also daily activities for children in their calendar. Open year-round.
  • Aquaria- The Stockholm Aquarium. On the small side, this aquarium is just a stone's throw from Skansen and here you will find aquatic life from Nordic, tropical and rain forest environments. Open year-round.
  • The Butterfly House & Shark Tank- an indoor tropical rainforest located in the Haga Park. Besides hundreds of butterflies, you will find birds, fish, insects and tropical frogs. And sharks! Open year-round.
  • Kolmården- Scandinavia's largest wildlife park located south of Stockholm with several attractions like Marine World, Safari and Tiger World. It is an hour and a half trip by car or train, so plan for a full day. It is open during the warmer months as well as weekends and during special weeks when children are off from school.
  • Museum of Natural History- if your children are more interested in dinosaurs and prehistoric mammals, then this is the place to visit. The museum has great exhibitions on Nordic animals as well and is also the location of the Imax theater Cosmonova. Open year-round.
Perhaps pure frivolity? Amusements parks, story-telling and toys...
  • Junibacken- Indoor amusement park based on the writings of Astrid Lindgren (Pippi Longstocking, Karlsson on the Roof, the Brothers Lionheart, etc;). Rides, story-telling, shows and play areas. Open year-round.
  • Gröna Lund- outdoor amusement park with rides, games and shows. Closes for the winter months on September 25th.
And for those interested in science, space or history...
    NASA, a Human Adventure. Photo by Anna Gérden
  • Medieval History Museum- see how Stockholm grew in the Middle-Ages. Many hands-on exhibitions which makes it a great place to take children. Open year-round.
  • Museum of Science & Technology- also a great museum for children with many hands-on exhibitions. 
  • Tom Tit's Experiment- located in the town of Södertälje, just south of Stockholm. Rides, experiments and experiences designed to increase knowledge and interest in science and technology.
As you can see... plenty of fun activities for children of all ages and interests!

Entrance to Junibacken...

September 8, 2011

Museums in Stockholm

Fotografiska- the photography museum
As the weather gets cooler, it is time to concentrate more on indoor activities instead of the outdoor variety. One great way to spend an afternoon in Stockholm is to visit one of the many wonderful museums. And I do mean "many"... there are around 75 museums, historic churches, gardens and cultural landmarks in the greater Stockholm area! And they cover about every subject of interest imaginable... not only history, art, religion, culture and nature but even more off beat subjects such as alcohol, post, toys, dance and sport.
The top ten most popular museums (in no particular order- though Skansen & Vasa are the top 2) in Stockholm are:
  1. Skansen- open air museum of Swedish culture as well as the zoo.
  2. Vasa Museum- impressive museum built around the 17th century warship Vasa.
  3. National Museum- classic art & design museum.
  4. Fotografiska- photography museum.
  5. Historiska- museum of Swedish history (including Vikings).
  6. Nordiska- museum of Nordic culture.
  7. Moderna- museum of modern art.
  8. Naturhistoriska- museum of natural history
  9. Medeltidsmuseet- museum of medieval Stockholm.
  10. Nobel Museum- museum of Alfred Nobel and the Nobel prizes.
EDIT: Since I wrote this in 2011, a new museum has opened and sailed up to the top 5 in popularity: ABBA the Museum! Fun place to visit..
National Museum
The Royal Palace also has a great collection of museums... including the Treasury and Armoury. I have written about all of the top ten museums (as well as others), click here to see my blog entries regarding these museums. Otherwise the website has all of the museums and palaces in Stockholm listed by category. The Stockholm Visitors Board has a great fold out map as well where all of the museums are marked, listed and described. We have this map here at the Rival Hotel for our guests, otherwise you can pick up a copy at the Tourist Information Center on Sergelstorg or at the Arlanda airport (terminal 5).
Nordiska- Nordic museum

September 6, 2011

The Stockholm City Hall (Stadshuset)

Photo by Jeppe Wikström, SVB
One of the most famous buildings in Sweden, and a symbol of Stockholm, is the City Hall or Stadshuset. It is the seat of the city government as well as a popular tourist site. Not only is it a strikingly beautiful building, but visitors can climb the tower to enjoy the view, visit the Tower Museum and take guided tours. One explanation for the building's popularity with visitors is the fact that it is the venue for the annual Nobel banquet where the Swedish king & queen host the Nobel prize winners (an event that is televised and seen by millions around the world).
Looking up at the tower..
The City Hall was completed in 1923 and construction took 12 years using nearly 8 million red bricks. The 106 meter high tower is topped with Three Crowns, the historic symbol of Sweden. The building is located on the eastern edge of the island of Kungsholmen... just a stone's throw from Gamla Stan (Old Town) and the central train station. From the Rival Hotel it's a 25 minute walk through Gamla Stan, or else you can take the subway to T-Centralen (all lines).
The fake tomb of Birger Jarl
Located on the eastern side of the building, looking out over the city, is the gold-plate sarcophagus of the founder of Stockholm: Birger Jarl. It is a fake tomb... his remains are actually buried in Varnhem Abbey. Visitors can climb the tower on their own. Because of the limited space, only 30 people are allowed into the tower at a time (in 40 minute intervals). Admission is 40 SEK, free for children under 12 and for holders of the Stockholm Card. To visit the rest of the City Hall, for example to see the Blue and Golden Halls, one needs to take a guided tour. Prices change depending on the season, 40-90 SEK, but children under 12 are free as well as holders of the Stockholm Card. The tour takes approximately 40 minutes... check their website for tour times and languages.
The park/garden in front of city hall

September 3, 2011

Sightseeing Tours During the Fall

Many sightseeing tours stop running at the end of August... but there are still many that run through the Fall. Be aware that while many tours run through the Fall, they usually don't have as many start times as they do during the Summer. Check the timetables in the links I provide below for the times, prices and more information. Here is a list of your choices of tours provided by the tour company Strömma:
  • Hop On Hop Off- both the blue and yellow bus lines run year round. The hop on hop off boat will only be running until September 11th. 
  • The sightseeing bus tour Panorama also runs year round!
  • Sightseeing boat tours- while the Historic Canal tour is over for the season, the Under the Bridges tour runs until November 6th and the Royal Canal tour until December 18th.
  • Boat tours out to Drottningholm Palace will be running until November 6th.
  • The Little Archipelago boat tour will be running into December, but only daily until September 25th after which it will run on the weekends until December 31st.
  • Only a few more days to take advantage of the boat tours to the Viking city of Birka. Last tour runs on September 11th.
  • The Cinderella boats, that take you outer archipelago are also in their final weeks... last trips on September 18th!