January 28, 2012

Stockholm Fashion Week(s)

Photo: Nicho Södling, Stockholm Visitor's Board
Over the past decade or so, Swedish fashion has risen in global prominence with such well known brands as  Filippa K, Whyred, Fifth Avenue Show Repair, WeSC, J. Lindeberg, Acne, H&M, Odd Molly and Cheap Monday among others. Stockholm has become soooo fashionable, there are actually two fashion weeks coming up.
First out is the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week (Jan 30th - Feb 1st). Noomi Rapace, Sweden's latest export to Hollywood, will be opening the festivities on Monday... followed by three days of fashion shows and other events. Most of the shows will be held in the Mercedes-Benz pavilion in Kungsträdgården or at nearby Berns. Click here for the schedule of events. Expect the city to be overrun by supermodels, designers, stylists and other fashionistas!
Second out is Stockholm Fashion Week (Feb 6th - 12th), with over 800 brands showing their wares during the week... mainly in showrooms and trade fairs. Most of the shows, events and parties during both fashion weeks are for buyers and press, though some events are open for the general public. Of particular interest is the Fashion Play exhibition (12 designers from the alternative fashion scene) going on all week at the Museum of Architecture.
If you want to explore Swedish fashion at your own leisure... head to either the SoFo or Biblioteksgatan districts, where you will find the highest concentration of Swedish designers.

January 26, 2012

Winter Activities 2012

I recently blogged about the Hammarby Ski Slopes opening for the season... snowy weather has continued here in Stockholm, so I thought I would write about some other possible winter activities.
A favorite activity every winter, for both visitors and Stockholmers, is ice skating at the outdoor rink in Kungsträdgården park (located in the downtown area). The rink is open daily until March 4th, closing at 6:30pm most days except for Tuesdays and Thursdays when they close at 8:30pm. Rental skates are available... 50 SEK for adults and 20 SEK for children. There are several cafés situated around the rink if you want a bite to eat or some hot chocolate. Kungsträdgården is just on the other side of the Old Town from the Rival Hotel (about a 20 minute walk).
Photo: Henrik Trygg, Stockholm Vistors Board
For those of you who are a little more adventurous... the Stockholm area, with hundreds of lakes, inlets and waterways, is considered one of the best places in the world for long distance tour skating. However you should not attempt this without a professional guide who knows the ice conditions and waterways. One great company is Ice Guide. They offer group tours, private guides as well as introduction classes. Included in the price are all skating & safety equipment, lunch and transportation.
If skiing is more your cup of tea... Visit Stockholm has a list of all the major slopes in the greater Stockholm area (including the aforementioned Hammarbybacken).

January 21, 2012

Argus Rentals' Stockholm Guide

Not only is Argus Rentals an excellent booking engine for finding inexpensive car rentals in Sweden, they also have the amazing good taste to choose yours truly as their "local travel expert" for Stockholm! They asked me to put together a Stockholm city guide (what to see, visit, eat, drink, stay, shop, walk, etc;) for their website. Have a look at it by clicking here... a great quick guide of Stockholm (if I do say so myself).

January 20, 2012

Awards for Best Restaurants in Stockholm

Pontus! (Seafood Bar)
(EDIT: From 2012- click here for 2014) The award season is upon us... not just in Hollywood, but also in the restaurant world. The White Guide and Michelin star announcements are coming soon, but in the meantime we have the Gulddrake ("golden dragon") awards which are awarded by the respectable daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter. What is good about the Gulddrake awards is that they give an award for different price classes (luxury, middle, budget, bargain as well as bar) instead of just luxury restaurants as other awards do. Here are the winners of each class with the jury's motivation translated into English:
Luxury- Gastrologik. A bit of an upset, a new restaurant that beat out two Michelin veterans. According to the jury: "Gastrologik has successfully created the recipe for a real top restaurant. Here guests will be invited to fabulously well thought-out and top notch cooking, a precise and professional attitude and a lot of heart. The guest is at the center and served in a restaurant experience that is outstanding in every detail.". The other nominees were Mathias Dahlgren and Frantzén/Lindeberg.
Middle- Chez Betty. Jury: "Chez Betty is a place to be happy at. This small neighborhood restaurant is sensational and we were seduced by both rustic meat dishes and freshly made pizzas with rare enthusiasm and a refreshing lack of mannerisms. Magic from the Mediterranean!". The other nominees were Volt and Mäster Anders.
Budget- Blue Light Yokohama. Jury: "Blue Light Yokohama combines a relaxed atmosphere and fast-food style with carefully prepared ingredients. In addition to the nice price. Every detail, from miso soup to sake, are in place and at this newly opened little gem, Japanese food is served at its best.". Other nominees were La Neta and Ramen Ki-Mama.
Bargain- Pontus! (regarding their Birdie Nam Nam Special) Jury: "To eat foie gras is not a human right but to make gourmet food available even for those without the fat expense account is something we like a lot. Pontus! Birdie Nam Nam Special, food at half the price for early and late guests, is almost too good to be true.". Other nominees were Palmyra Kebab and NK's cheese and charcuterie.
Bar- AG. Jury: "That Stockholm's best bar in 2012 serves excellent cocktails is obvious. But the bar at AG has thought beyond that. Here they have matched the drink with perfect finger food, so that the visit becomes more than just drink snobbery. We always begin our evening here and, all too often, never go home.". Other nominees were Little Quarter and Pontus!.
Bar at AG

January 19, 2012

Hammarby Ski Slope Open!

It has been an unusually warm winter with very little snow... but the temperature has dropped low enough that the Hammarby Ski Slope has opened two of their runs with the use of snow cannons.

Photo: Ulf Hinds, Stockholm Visitors Board
Hammarbybacken, in local parlance, is quite a unique ski resort as it is located within a central metropolitan area (near the suburb Hammarby Sjöstad). From the top of the hill you have a view of all of Stockholm! It is quite easy to get to from the Rival Hotel with subway and streetcar (approximately a 25 minute trip)... the slope is only a 10 minute walk from the streetcar stop "Sickla Kaj". The resort has 4 slopes, 2 lifts and a kids area, fun park and restaurant. There is also a ski school and ski rental shop at the resort. They are open, as of now, 7 days a week... though I am a little loathe to say what their opening hours are due to the snow situation. If you are staying at the hotel and are interested, check with me and I can see what their updated opening hours are. Otherwise check with their website. You can also look at their webcam to see what the conditions are.

January 18, 2012

Two of Stockholm's Most Popular Restaurants

I have written quite a few restaurant reviews... this post is more general information than an actual review.
In my job I often recommend restaurants to visitors, but there are two restaurants that visitors seem to know about before coming to Stockholm: Gondolen and Pelikan. Besides being good restaurants, they are widely written about in various city guidebooks. I think that this is because of a combination of word-of-mouth and good PR on behalf of the restaurants themselves.
The restaurant Gondolen... perched up high!
The first one is Gondolen, a high end restaurant run by celebrity chef Erik Lallerstedt with a menu that is a nice blend of Swedish and international cuisine. The main selling point, however, is the view... the restaurant is perched 33 meters above Slussen with views over the Old Town and the harbor. What is good to note about Gondolen is, because of its popularity, that you should definitely book a table in advance. Booking a table on the same day, especially on the weekends, is almost impossible unless you get lucky with a last minute cancellation. Booking can be either done through me (if you are a hotel guest) or on their website which I have linked above. In the event that that the restaurant is fully booked, I would then recommend visiting their great cocktail bar where you can enjoy the same wonderful views. Otherwise, another good restaurant with a view is Och Himlen Därtill located just a few blocks inland from Gondolen. (EDIT: I have written an individual recommendation about Gondolen after a recent visit which you can read here).
The Pelikan
The second is Pelikan, a very different restaurant than Gondolen... this is one of the best places to try more rustic Swedish cuisine (called husmanskost) like meatballs, herring and reindeer. Located in the vibrant SoFo neighborhood on the island of Södermalm, this restaurant has more of a pub or beer hall atmosphere and is popular with locals and visitors alike. What is good to know about Pelikan is that they have a smaller room where they have bookable tables as well as a large hall (with seating for 125) that is on drop-in basis only. So, if the smaller dining-room is full, just drop by... there might be a small wait but you can enjoy a drink in the bar while waiting for your table. The SoFo area is full of restaurants, so if the wait is too long you have more to choose from. If you have your heart set on rustic Swedish cuisine then I can also recommend Blå Dörren.
All four above mentioned restaurants are located on the island of Södermalm, a 5 to 20 minute walk from the Rival Hotel... depending on the restaurant!

January 13, 2012

Ferry to Djurgården Island

(EDIT: the ferry terminal has moved from Slussen 100 meters north due to renovations) I wrote about this in one of my first blog entries, nearly 2 years ago, but I thought I would repeat it as it is one of the most useful tips for tourists in general and Rival Hotel guests in particular. Plus, I took some pretty pictures of the ferry in the winter light the other day!
If you look at a map of Stockholm, you will see that the city is made up of a myriad of islands (14 in central Stockholm alone). This can seem daunting when considering how to get from point A to point B, especially when getting to the island of Djurgården which is a little further away and has no subway station. Djurgården is of particular interest to visitors as it is the home of such places as the Vasa Museum, Skansen, Waldermarsudde and plenty of beautiful parklands. Thankfully there are a couple of convenient ferries that connect the island with the center of the city making traveling easy!

Picking up passengers at Slussen/Gamla Stan
Of special interest for our hotel guests is the ferry that runs from Slussen (10 minute walk from the hotel) to Djurgården with a stop at Skeppsholmen (where you will find the modern art museum). The trip just takes 8 minutes and the ferries run year round, every day until about 7pm and depart approximately every 15 minutes. A one-way ticket costs 45 SEK, with discounts for seniors and youths, and tickets can be purchased at the dock. The fare is included in SL cards, though not with SL paper coupons or the Stockholm Card. For more information, click here to visit their website.

January 12, 2012

Museum Exhibits This Winter/Spring

Entrance to Fotografiska
I visited the photography museum Fotografiska (a favorite!) yesterday to see the Aitor Ortiz exhibition of haunting black & white photographs. Loved it... very architectural and thought provoking. This exhibition is going on until March 4th. Other exhibitions at Fotografiska include Norwegian photographer Margaret M. de Lange (also until March 4th) and the upcoming (and much anticipated) Anton Corbijn exhibition (Jan 14th to April 15th).

Margaret M de Lange at Fotografiska
Other exhibitions going on this season?
The National Museum continues with their exhibitions Shimmering Silver (through March) and The Four Seasons (until May 27th). Their big upcoming exhibition is Passions: Five Centuries of Art & the Emotions (March 8th to August 12th).
The modern art museum Moderna will be continuing with their showing of their own collection of photography (Another Story) a little while longer (until Feb 19th). Some upcoming exhibitions include Eija-Liisa Ahtila (Feb 11th to May 6th) and Sturtevant (March 17th to May 17th). And keep your eyes open this summer for their Yoko Ono exhibition... should be great!

National Museum of Afghanistan ©Musée Guimet / Thierry Ollivier
The Museum of Ethnography has an amazing exhibtion on the cultural treasures of Afghanistan... precious objects that survíved the Taliban rule. A must see (until March 25th)! Just a couple more weeks to see the Gold Treasures of the Incas, housed in the Skeppsholmen Caverns (until Feb 12th).
At Waldemarsudde they are continuing with their exhibitions of Carl Fredrik Hill (until Jan 29th) and Erik Olson (until Feb 26th) and their new exhibition this season will be Eugène Jansson – Blue Dusk and Naked Athletes (Feb 18th to June 10th). Click here for a list of current and upcoming exhibitions.
There are over 80 museums in the greater Stockholm area... so the above are only some highlights of the current and upcoming exhibitions this season!
Visit Stockholm has a good list of art exhibits on their blog... click here!

January 10, 2012

100th Anniversary of the Stockholm Olympics

Photo by Yanan Li, Stockholm Visitors Board
I'm back from vacation and I thought I would start with a little general "head's up" for 2012. There are many great things happening in Stockholm this coming year, but perhaps the biggest theme will be sports due to the fact that this year is the 100th anniversary of the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games (and therefore the Stockholm Olympic Stadium as well). This anniversary will be celebrated with different events throughout the year- mostly in the form of sporting events (of course!).

Photo by Yanan Li, Stockholm Visitors Board
Some highlights include Anniversary Regatta (June 2nd and July 20th - Aug 5th)), the Special Olympics (June 5th), Olympic Stadium Festival (June 9th), Stockholm Summer Games (July 5th-8th), and Jubilee Marathon (July 14th). But there are plenty of other events all year long... so check their calendar to see if there will be an event happening when you visit Stockholm or visit their website for further information. Both the calendar and website are in Swedish, but in the top right hand corner you have a "translate" option that translates the page to the language of your choice. Speaking of sports, if you are coming to Stockholm this June then it is good to be aware that the European Championships in Football/Soccer are taking place all month long. The matches are being played in the Ukraine and Poland... Sweden has qualified and the Rival Hotel is planning on showing the matches in our theater. Click here for the match schedule.
I will be writing about many of these events in more detail as they come up!