February 28, 2012

March 2012 Calendar

Photo: Human Spectra, Stockholm Visitors Board
The snow has pretty much melted away and the days are getting longer... feels like Spring can't be far away. There are some fun events happening in March if you are visiting Stockholm or are just a fan of the city. Here are some highlights:

  • There are some important dates in the restaurant world this month. Two annual guides to the best restaurants in Stockholm come out now. First is the White Guide where the winners (in several categories) will be announced on March 5th. Then comes the prestigious international Michelin Guide. Who has gained a star, who has lost a star? Find out on March 15th! I'll be sure to report on both events here. Finally... on March 23rd a new indoor shopping center, Mood Stockholm, will open. Located behind the NK department store... Mood will have, besides world class shopping, three restaurants that already have people talking. Boqueria, Eat and Barbeque. All run by well established Stockholm chefs.
  • When it comes to sports, we have the annual Royal Palace Sprint taking place on March 16th. Every year they truck in tons of snow and build a cross country ski course around the Royal Palace in the Old Town. The world's best skiers take part and members of the Swedish royal family are usually in attendance. A fun event to watch!
  • One of Sweden's largest music events, Melodifestivalen, will take place in the Globen arena on March 10th. It is a song contest where the winner will represent Sweden in the Eurovision Song Contest later on in the Spring.
  • Plenty of new exhibitions starting in March including "Passions" at the National Museum on March 9th, "Sturtevant" at Moderna (modern art museum) on March 17th and Steve Schapiro at Fotografiska on March 16th. Another much anticipated event is the unveiling of the new children's zoo "Lill-Skansen" at the Skansen open air museum on March 31st!
  • Charles & Camilla, the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, will be on an official visit to Stockholm on the 22nd through 24th of March in celebration of Queen Elizabeth's diamond jubilee. Not sure of their program yet, but one can expect some royal-spotting and traffic snarls during these dates.
  • The Retro Fair (Retromässan) will take place on March 9th to 11th at Münchenbryggeriet (right around the corner from the Rival Hotel). Here you will be able to see and buy "modern antiques" from the 1900's... furniture, art, design, porcelin, lamps and more.
  • If you are in Sweden during the end of March... keep in mind that the clocks move forward an hour (daylight saving's time) on March 25th!
After March, we have April to look forward to... Easter holidays, boat tours, opening of Gröna Lund and much more!

February 25, 2012

Four Statues, Four Kings

This post is for those of you who, like I, are curious about historical statues one encounters when visiting a foreign city. Plus, with the birth of a royal princess this week it felt fitting to write about some of her ancestors.
Charles XIV Johan
If you walk to the Old Town from the Rival Hotel, you encounter the first statue as you cross the bridge. The statue is of King Charles XIV Johan astride a horse. It was unveiled in 1854 and depicts the king riding into the city, as the newly elected crown prince. A bit of trivia... the king was born Jean Baptiste Bernadotte and was one of Napoleon's field marshals before being elected to the throne during a dynastic crisis in Sweden. The current king is of the Bernadotte dynasty.
Gustav III
If you continue along the waterfront of the Old Town you will encounter the next statue in front of the Royal Palace. This is Gustav III. Unveiled in 1808, it depicts the king returning in triumph from the Russian-Swedish War. The statue is inspired by the famous Roman statue Apollo Belvedere. A bit of trivia... Gustav III was assassinated during a masquerade ball in 1792 at the nearby opera house.
Charles XII
Continuing across the bridge towards central Stockholm you will come to the park Kungsträdgården and there you will find the statue of Charles XII, Sweden's Warrior King. The statue was unveiled in 1868 in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the king's death and depicts him pointing towards Russia and his arch-nemesis Czar Peter the Great. A bit of trivia... an exceptional military leader, the king spent the majority of his reign abroad at war with Russia, Denmark and Poland.
Gustav II Adolf
To the left of the statue is the Royal Opera House and behind it is Gustav Adolf Square where you will find, what else, a statue of Gustav II Adolf. The king was known as the "Lion of the North" and is most famous for leading the Protestant forces during the Thirty Year's War and thereby started Sweden's Age of Power. The statue was unveiled in 1796 and shows the king astride his warhorse Streiff.
This walk, from beginning to end (with short stops, won't take you more than half an hour or so.

February 23, 2012

It's a Girl!

This morning, at 4.26am, HRH Crown Princess Victoria gave birth to a baby girl (a new princess!). Congratulations to Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel!
It seems just like yesterday that Stockholm was celebrating their wedding with a week long Love Festival. Now Stockholm will be celebrating a new heir to the Swedish throne. Here are some good things to be aware of if you are visiting Stockholm this weekend: There will be a 2 x 21 cannon salute from the island of Skeppsholmen today (Thursday) at noon and then a new salute tomorrow (Friday) from the island of Kastellholmen. The salute on Friday is part of a nationwide salute happening in several cities. You can also expect plenty of crowds and press around the palace in the Old Town all weekend.
Edit: the new baby princess has a busy day already. Today (Friday) she will be "witnessed" by the Prime Minister, Speaker of the House, Lady in Waiting and others. Her name and title will be announced at approximately 11:30am. After which their will be a church service in the royal chapel. For visitors... between 2pm and 5pm, you can leave your personal congratulations in writing at the Royal Palace.
This news is all very fresh, so if I find anymore events of interest surrounding the princess' birth... I will be sure to post them here!
Royal family's website.
Kronprinsessparet. Photo: Paul Hansen

February 21, 2012

Stockholm Subway System = Cool

The Stockholm Subway System (tunnelbanan) is easy to navigate, convenient and efficient. And now it can add a new adjective to the list: cool! The website thecoolest.com has listed the world's ten coolest subway systems (<- great pictures on the website) and Stockholm is on the list along with other cities like Paris, Moscow, Pyongyang and Montreal. As I have blogged before, the Stockholm subway has been called the world's longest art gallery with some stations more "designed" than others. Some of my favorite stations are on the blue line: Rådhuset and Kungsträdgården.
While it is easy to walk about central Stockholm, don't be afraid to use the subway! It is quite easy to figure out with only three lines (red, green and blue). Subway stations are spread throughout the city and easy to spot... just look for the sign with the white circle and blue T. When buying tickets, it is important to consider how much/often you will be traveling. It is more economical to buy a ticket strip or day pass (available for one or three day periods) than a one time ticket. Combining subway travel with buses is simple as the tickets and passes can used for both! Some commuter boats can be used with the day passes (not one time tickets or strips). It is easiest to buy tickets at the Pressbyrån kiosks located at or near subway stations. There you can use either cash or a credit card. All travel on subways, commuter trains, buses and certain boats is included in the Stockholm Card.
The closest subway station to the Rival Hotel is Mariatorget (red line), just a 2-3 minute walk from the hotel. To give you an example of how convenient the subway is... a trip from Mariatorget to Östermalmstorg, on the other side of the city, just takes 10 minutes with the subway.

February 18, 2012

Mmmmm... the Semla!

If you are travelling to Sweden anytime between now and Easter, you will notice an odd looking pastry in every bakery and café window. This is called a semla (plural: semlor). Originally the semla was eaten on Shrove Tuesday before Lent, but these days semlor abound in the months between now and Easter. Semlor consist of a hallowed out wheat bun, spiced with cardamom, filled with a mixture of bread crumbs, almond paste and milk topped with whipped cream. Quite the calorie bomb! They are either eaten plain with coffee or tea or served in a bowl of warm milk. Swedes generally love their semlor and local newspapers usually come out every year with a list of which bakery/café has the best semlor in town with a panel discussing what makes the perfect semla. Swedes will travel far for a good semla. If you are interested in trying one of these delectable treats while in Stockholm, then you don't have to travel far... they are sold in the Café Rival- made fresh in our bakery!
A bit of semla trivia: King Adolf Fredrik of Sweden ("the king who ate himself to death"- ruled during the 1700's) died of digestive problems after consuming 14 servings of his favorite dessert: a semla in a bowl of warm milk! A case of too much of a good thing... so, be careful of how many you eat!

February 16, 2012

Sightseeing Tours Starting Up Again

After a break of a month or so, the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tours have started up again. There are two lines to choose from... the Yellow Line which travels through southern & western Stockholm and the Blue Line which takes you through the northern & eastern parts of the city. You can also purchase a combination ticket for both lines. This is a perfect way to combine a guided tour of the city with visits to most of Stockholm's most interesting sites and venues. If you prefer your bus tours to be stop-free, then there is the Panorama Bus Tour which runs year round.
There is still too much ice in the harbor for the city sightseeing boats... they will be starting up in the first weeks of April. In the meantime you have the Stockholm Winter Tour (daily) and Little Archipelago Tour (weekends), two boat tours that take you out into the inner Stockholm archipelago.

February 15, 2012

Stockholm Tops the Lists Again!

Photo: Yanan Li, Stockholms Visitors Board
Sometimes, as a Stockholmer, I just need to do a little bragging and blatant self-promotion (on behalf of the city)!
FDi Magazine, put out by the Financial Times, has just ranked "The European Cities and Regions of the Future". Stockholm nabbed the first place spot as Best European Region of the Future! An independent jury analyzed the statistics from 60 regions in Europe, looking at such factors as economical potential, cost efficiency, work force, infrastructure, business friendly environment and quality of life. Looking at just the quality of life (life expectancy, infant mortality, education, income and doctors per capita), the city of Stockholm took an honorable second place. But remember, Stockholm isn't only a great place to live... it is also a great place to visit! Thanks to Metro Newspaper for the information.

February 11, 2012

Taxis in Stockholm

Taxi Stockholm: a good option!
You would be hard pressed to find a more organized and corruption-free country than Sweden... except, for some strange reason, when it comes to taxis. Taxis aren't regulated in Sweden so prices can vary wildly from company to company. As long as the prices (fixed rates, SEK per kilometer or minute) are displayed somewhere within the car then the company can determine their own price scale. In other words, a company can legally charge double what another company does for the same trip from point A to point B. 90% of taxis in Stockholm belong to the larger companies and have similar (and reasonable) prices. Stockholmers know exactly which taxis to take and which to avoid, so these smaller taxi companies end up preying on visitors who don't know better. But, as long as you follow three simple rules you will avoid any trouble!
  1. Stick to the larger taxi companies. Taxi Stockholm is my favorite, otherwise there are a few other good companies... Taxi Kurir, Taxi 020, Airport Cab, Taxi Transfer and Top Cab.
  2. Avoid hailing a taxi on the street. Always have a hotel, restaurant, store or museum call you a taxi. That way you will be sure to get a good company. At the Rival Hotel we call Taxi Stockholm unless a guest asks for a different company.
  3. Taxis are all required to have a sticker in their passeger, side window with a unit price based on a 10km, 15 minute journey. This unit price should be between 290 and 390kr for a good taxi. Anything above that will be expensive!
  4. If you choose a taxi from a taxi line/queue then remember that you aren't obliged to choose the first car in line, you can choose the taxi company you want... even if the car is further back in line. At some locations, like the Arlanda airport, each of the large companies have their own line marked with their name. The riskier taxis have their own line marked "other".

February 9, 2012

Stockholm For Meat Lovers!

Restaurant AG
Steakhouses have been a popular trend in the Stockholm restaurant world over the past couple of years and it doesn't look like it will be going away any time soon. Steakhouses of all types and for all budgets have opened up in Stockholm... some have taken butchering and the preperation of meat to new artistic levels! There is even an annual contest awarding the best steakhouses in Sweden. This year's winner? Congratulations go to Restaurant AG in Stockholm. I have blogged about the restaurant earlier and I couldn't agree more with the jury's decision. A meat lover's paradise! Second prize went to Bakfickan Djuret while both Vassa Eggen and Grill (a personal favorite!) received special commendations.
Meat aging to perfection at AG
There are, of course, many other great steakhouses to choose from. I can recommend both Griffin's Steakhouse and Grill Ruby. There is also a chain of steakhouses that are very good (and popular) called Texas Longhorn with 10 restaurants in the greater Stockholm area and a good choice for diners with a smaller budget. While Villa Godthem is not a steakhouse per se, their "plank steaks" are to die for!
My apologies to all vegetarians... I will be sure to write about vegetarian dining options in Stockholm in the near future!

February 8, 2012

Copenhagen and the Avenue Hotel

Photo: Avenue Hotel
While I don't often write about things/events outside of Stockholm, the summer season is fast approaching and I am often asked about other hotels in Scandinavia by hotel guests travelling through the area or taking a Baltic Cruise. Copenhagen is one of my favorite cities to visit and a great hotel has recently been brought to my attention... Avenue Hotel. Centrally located, this hotel was recently awarded the "Best Small Hotel in Denmark". I am a real sucker for a good city-travel blog, which the Avenue has! Besides the central location, travel blog and prestigious awards... they also had the incredible good taste to write about me and my blog. Can't wait to visit!

February 4, 2012

Nitty Gritty

Photo provided by Nitty Gritty
As we are in between Stockholm's two fashion weeks, I thought I would write about one of my favorite boutiques... Nitty Gritty. First opened in 1991 as a counter reaction to the mainline department stores, this boutique has evolved into an independent boutique that is very popular with Stockholmers. Here you will find both men's & women's fashions, including shoes, outerwear and accessories. They have an interesting mix of brands as well... both Swedish and international, from the well known to the lesser known. For those of you unable to visit the store, online shopping is possible on their website (linked above).
The store is located on the island of Södermalm, just a 10 minute walk from the Rival Hotel.

February 2, 2012

Winter Weather Warning!

Just a few weeks ago there was a bit of whining about the unusually warm winter we were having (no white Christmas, etc;). Well, that seems like a distant memory now as a high pressure system over the Kola Peninsula has caused the temperatures in Sweden to plummet... and it will stay that way for the week ahead. Temperatures in Stockholm are predicted to be around -10 to -15 Celsius. In addition, a large snow storm is predicted to hit Stockholm and the south-east coast of Sweden today, dropping up to 30cm snow in certain areas.
Visiting Stockholm this coming week? Make sure you pack accordingly and bundle up! It's also a good idea to give yourself a little extra travelling time... snow and extreme temperatures tend to cause havoc with our subways, buses and commuter trains. If you want more detailed weather information, visit SMHI or YR.no.
Pictures in this blog entry were taken by me last winter after a similar snow storm...

February 1, 2012

Oaxen Skafferi

Photo: Oaxen Skafferi
I have blogged earlier about the fabulous Oaxen Krog restaurant (voted one of the top 50 restaurants in the world for several years in a row) in the southern archipelago. They closed at the end of last summer ahead of their plans on opening a new restaurant in Stockholm (on the island of Djurgården) in 2012/13. In the meantime they have opened a butcher shop and specialty food store called Oaxen Skafferi where fans of the restaurant and other connoisseurs can enjoy the Oaxen brand of high quality food. Here you can shop for top-notch meats (aged, smoked, dried, etc;) from the best farms in Sweden, specialty sausages prepared in the boutique, as well as great Swedish favorites like pickled herring, gravad lax, mustards, honey, butter, apple sauce, seasonings, oils and marinades. The vast majority of the products have been made or prepared by the Oaxen team themselves and sold under their brand. This Christmas I gave their mustard as a present and it got rave reviews.
The best news of all? It is located right across the Mariatorget square from the Rival Hotel! Stay tuned... as soon as I get any information about when their new restaurant will open, I will be sure to report it here.