December 29, 2011

Even a Concierge Needs a Vacation!

After a great Christmas season with lots of wonderful guests at the Rival Hotel (but no snow), it is time for me to take a little vacation and recharge my batteries. So... it is off to Istanbul.
I will be back on January 10th and will get right to blogging about fun events coming up in 2012 and other useful tips! Until then, if you are staying at the Rival Hotel and require assistance, contact my knowledgable colleagues at the Front Desk at
Happy New Year... see you in 2012!

December 27, 2011

New Year's Eve in Stockholm

(EDIT: This was an older post from 2011, to read updated information regarding New Year's Eve, click here!)

December 24, 2011

Christmas Church Services 2011

(EDIT: This is information from 2011, for current info... click here!) There are many churches offering services in several languages during the Christmas weekend. The main denominations are Church of Sweden (Lutheran) and Catholicism. Here are the mass times that can be of interest:

Storkyrkan (Lutheran)- located in Gamla Stan.
-December 24th: Christmas prayer at 5pm and midnight mass at 11pm. Both in Swedish. They will be playing Christmas music at 4:30pm.
-December 25th: High Mass at 11am in Swedish.
-December 26th: High Mass at 11am in Swedish.

St Jacob's Church (Lutheran)- located next to Kungsträdgården.
-December 24th: Christmas prayer in Estonian at 2pm and Worship in English at 6pm.

Katolska Domkyrkan (Catholic)- located on Södermalm.
-December 24th: Christmas service in Italian at 9pm and in Croatian at 10pm. Midnight Mass (Swedish/Latin ?).
-December 25th: Mass in Italian at 8:45am, High Mass at 11am, in Spanish at 2pm, in Polish at 5pm and in Swedish at 6:30pm.
-December 25th: Mass in Swedish at 09:45am and in Croatian at 11am.

St Eugenia (Catholic)- located next to Kungsträdgården.
-December 24th: Christmas prayer in Swedish at 8pm, mass in Swedish at 10pm and midnight mass (12am)in English.
-December 25th: High Mass in Swedish at 11am and Christmas Mass in English at 6pm.

Merry Christmas!

From little old me and the entire Rival Hotel staff... Merry Christmas! We hope you have a wonderful and safe holiday season. We look forward to welcoming you to the hotel and Stockholm in 2012!

Santa Claws says... Ho! Ho! Ho!

December 22, 2011

Swedish Candy Canes

One more blog entry to get you in the holiday spirit! Let me introduce you to Polkagris, the Swedish version of candy cane. Generally speaking it tastes and looks like candy cane... though without the hook and it can come in different flavors other than peppermint. Polkagris was first made in the town of Gränna, along the shores of Lake Vättern, in 1859. The Polkagris bakeries in Gränna are a popular tourist attraction these days. But you don't have to travel all the way to Gränna to see Polkagris being made (and to purchase it, of course). The Polkapojkarna in Gamla Stan (The Old Town) is the only polkagris bakery outside of Gränna where you can watch Polkagris being made.

So head down to the store (location) to pick up some authentic Swedish candy canes... just a 12 minute walk from the Rival Hotel. Or just stop by to watch them make the popular peppermint sticks!

December 16, 2011

Winter Solstice Celebration This Weekend

Photo: Marie Andersson, Skansen
This year the Winter Solstice (longest night of the year) falls on December 22nd, but already this weekend (Dec 17 & 18) you can celebrate at Skansen. Skansen is the best place to take part in Swedish holiday traditions and this weekend is the last weekend to visit their popular Christmas Market (Sat & Sun 10am to 4pm). Besides the market there are a couple of other events going on to celebrate the Winter Solstice: between 12 and 4pm they will be doing ice carving and sculptures at the Solliden stage area followed by the "Fire and Ice" show at 4pm... a magical show with fire, ice, music, food & drink. The fact that the nights will be getting shorter is surely a reason to celebrate!
Photo: Marie Andersson, Skansen
The easiest way to get to Skansen from the Rival Hotel is by the Djurgården boat ferry. The boats leave every 10-15 minutes from Slussen and the trip takes just 8 minutes.

December 14, 2011

Shops During the Holidays

(EDIT: This is a blog post from 2011, for information regarding 2013- click here!) One of the most popular questions I get from people planning their vacation in Stockholm during the holiday season is how the stores are open. Generally speaking, stores tend to be open on the 24th (though they close early) and closed on the 25th. Smaller stores will often be closed on the 24th as well and maybe even on the 26th. The really big shopping days in Sweden are between Christmas and New Years during what we call mellandagarna (literally "the middle days"). You will see signs all through the city advertising their sales (rea or mellandagsrea) and you can really get some good deals if you don't mind the crowds. Last year I wrote a little more in depth about these sales and you can read about them here.
Shopping crowds in front of NK
I can't give you the opening hours for every store, but here are the special hours for the larger stores and shopping centers in the city:
  • NK Department Store- Dec 24th 10am to 2pm, closed Dec 25th, Dec 31st 10am to 5pm and closed Jan 1st.
  • Åhlens City Department Store- Dec 24th 9am to 2pm, closed Dec 25th, Dec 31st 10am to 5pm and closed Jan 1st.
  • Gallerian Shopping Center- Dec 24th 10am to 2pm, closed Dec 25th, Dec 31st 11am to 5pm and closed Jan 1st.
  • Sturegallerian Shopping Center- Dec 24th 10am to 2pm, closed Dec 25th, Dec 31st 10am to 2pm and closed Jan 1st.
As I said, these are just the large stores and shopping centers, though the opening hours can be a guide for how other stores will be open. All are located in the downtown area... about a 25-30 minute walk from the Rival Hotel, otherwise 3-4 subway stops. Subways & buses run all through the holidays! If you are staying at the hotel and are interested in a specific store's opening hours... contact me directly by e-mail.

December 9, 2011

This Weekend- Nobel Awards & Lucia Celebration

Lucia at Skansen. Photo: Marie Andersson
(Edit: Click here for 2014 information) Quite a busy weekend in Stockholm! Tomorrow evening (Saturday Dec. 10th) the Nobel Prize ceremony will be at the Konserthuset followed by the dinner at Stadshuset. Unfortunately there is not much for the tourist to see (besides on TV) as it is all invitation only. But what is good to know is that parts of the downtown area around the two venues will be cordoned off between 2pm and 7pm due to the fact that royalty, dignitaries and prize winners will be shuttling back and forth. There will also be a political demonstration or two. So... stick to walking or subways during this time!
Next Tuesday (Dec 13th) is St Lucia Day which is often celebrated with concerts in churches and other venues. These concerts start with a candlelit procession led by a girl (Lucia) wearing a wreath of candles in her hair. However, this weekend you can jump start on the festivities... at the Seglora church in Skansen park there will be a Lucia concert at 1pm and 2:30pm on Saturday and at 2pm and 3pm on Sunday. There will be additional Lucia concerts in Skansen's Ordenshuset on Sunday at noon and 2pm. Remember that Skansen also has a great Christmas Market open on both days between 10am and 4pm!
Seglora church, photo: Marie Andersson

December 8, 2011

Museums During the Holidays- 2011/2012

Skansen! Open every day. Photo: Marie Andersson
(EDIT: this is info for 2011/12, for current info... click here!) As you can expect, museums in Stockholm are closed on certain days during the Christmas and New Year holidays... some more than others. To help you plan your holiday vacation in Stockholm, I have made a list of the top museums and which days they are closed during this period.
  • Vasa Museum- Closed 23rd, 24th and 25th of December as well as the 1st of January.
  • History Museum- Closed on Mondays and the 24th, 25th and 31st of December.
  • National Museum- Closed on Mondays and the 24th, 25th & 31st of December as well as the 1st of January.
  • Nobel Museum- Closed on Mondays and the 24th, 25th & 31st of December as well as the 1st of January.
  • Fotografiska (photography museum)-  Closed on December 24th.
  • Moderna (modern art museum)- Closed on Mondays and the 24th, 25th & 31st of December as well as the 1st of January.
  • Medieval Museum- Closed on Mondays and the 24th, 25th & 31st of December as well as the 1st of January.
  • Nordic Museum- Closed on the 24th, 25th and 31st of December.
  • Museum of Natural History- Closed on Mondays and the 23rd and 24th of December.
  • Royal Palace- Closed on Mondays, the 24th, 25th, 26th & 31st of December and 1st of January.
  • Stockholm City Museum- Closed on Mondays and the 24th, 25th & 31st of December as well as the 1st of January.
  • Drottningholm Palace- Closed December 12th through the 30th. Open daily December 30th to January 8th.

There is one museum that is open 365 days a year... Skansen! This is the outdoor cultural museum, the zoo as well as a park! It is also the best place to go to see traditional Swedish ways to celebrate the holidays. Museums may have shorter opening hours on certain days. Check their websites (linked above) for their hours. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me directly for the opening hours of other museums.

December 5, 2011

Gingerbread House Competition

Photo by Matti Östling
The Architecture Museum's (Arkitekturmuseet) annual, and popular, gingerbread house competition has started.Over a hundred bakers, architects, children and happy amateurs have created gingerbread houses for the competition in different categories. The theme this year is "pride and prejudice" and shines a spotlight on the problem of bullying in schools. It is the visitors to the museum who vote for the best creations! The competition/exhibition ends on January 8th... so stop on by to admire the houses and cast your vote.
Photo by Matti Östling
The museum is located on the island of Skeppsholmen just adjacent to the Modern Art Museum (Moderna).
Entrance costs 60 SEK (free for youths under 19) and you can buy a combination for both museums (architecture & modern art) for 140 SEK. Free admission for holders of the Stockholm Card. Pictures in this blog entry are from the 2010 competition.

December 1, 2011

Holiday Inspiration

 It has been an unusually warm autumn and we are still waiting for our first snowfall here in Stockholm. But that doesn't mean we don't have any Christmas spirit! Here are some pictures I took yesterday evening during a walk through the Old Town (Gamla Stan) to help you get in the mood...
40 m high gorgeous Christmas tree
Abstract Santas in storefront window

Christmas market, where you can purchase...

...hand-made Santas and...

...angels galore!