April 30, 2012

SkyView at Globen

I did it! I'm not the best person when it comes to heights and enclosed spaces, so I've been a little leery about trying one of Stockholm's newest attractions... SkyView. Fortunately, I was given the opportunity during an educational seminar led by the Stockholm Visitors Board last week. SkyView is a specially designed glass gondola that takes you 130 meters up to the top of the Ericsson Globe Arena.
Going up...
Called Globen for short (the globe), it is the largest indoor arena in Stockholm with a capacity of up to 16,000 people and is the venue for most large concerts (Lady Gaga, Paul Simon, Tom Petty this summer) and indoor sporting events (ice hockey world championships this May) in Stockholm. The building itself is quite unusual & spectacular. Shaped like a large white ball (some say it looks like a golf ball), it is the largest spherical building in the world and a famous part of the Stockholm skyline.
and up...
SkyView is a funicular railway on the outside of the building with two gondolas that take up to 16 passengers at a time to the top of the arena. At the top of Globen, visitors have an unobstructed 360 degree view of the southern part of Stockholm. Each ride takes 20 minutes and the gondolas depart 6 times an hour. Tickets cost 130 SEK (100 for children and seniors) and includes a 10 minute information video about Globen and SkyView). Tickets can be purchased there or on their website. At the base you have a nice café and gift shop (great Swedish ice hockey souvenirs). To be honest, while it is an amazing view... it is not an amazing view of Stockholm city. Globen is located south of the central part of the city, so the view is mainly of the southern suburbs. I definitely recommend SkyView for the experience itself. It's not every day you ride in a glass ball on the outside of a giant white globe! But if it is views of downtown Stockholm that you are interested in, then I recommend Kaknästornet, Monteliusvägen, Fjällgatan, Gondolen or Skrapan. Click here for my tips regarding this. To get to Globen/SkyView from the Rival Hotel, take the subway (green line) from Slussen south, in the direction Hagsätra, for four stations.
Photo by Sören Andersson, SVB (the other 3 by me!)

April 26, 2012

Busy Weekend... Season Starts, Walpurgis and Blossoms!

Lots going on in the upcoming days... to start off, Stockholm's popular amusement park Gröna Lund opens for the season on Saturday, April 28th. For the first three weeks, it will be open only on the weekends and after May 16th it is open daily for the summer season. Besides the rides, attractions and carnival atmosphere, Gröna Lund is also an outdoor concert venue with plenty of great shows planned for the summer (including Lenny Kravitz on June 12th). Located on the island of Djurgården. This weekend is a long weekend so Gröna Lund will be open on Monday & Tuesday as well.
Gröna Lund, photo by Yanan Li, SVB
Another summer favorite that opens its' doors for the season is Fjäderholmarnas Krog, one of the absolute best archipelago restaurants. One of the best things about the restaurant, besides the food & scenery, is that it is quite close to the city... only 25 minutes by boat with regular ferries all evening long. Click here to read my recommendation from two years ago.
Valborg at Skansen, photo by Dan Larsson
This is also a long weekend in the Swedish calendar. Tuesday, May 1st, is International Worker's Day and a bank holiday. This means that many Swedes take Monday off of work as well for a nice 4 day weekend. Monday, April 30th, is a special day in itself... it is the spring festival Valborgmässoafton or Walpurgis Night. In Sweden it is celebrated with music and bonfires. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, then the best place to partake in the celebrations is either at Skansen park or the Old Town/Riddarholmen. At Skansen there will be music and entertainment all day long and the bonfire will be lit at 9pm. The celebrations in the Old Town start with a concert in Stortorget square at 7:45pm followed by a torch parade through the streets ending on Riddarholmen where the bonfire will be lit at 8:30pm.
Finally... the weather is supposed to be quite pleasant in the upcoming days and a good place to celebrate spring is in Kungsträdgården where the cherry blossoms are in full bloom!

April 21, 2012

Stockholm Culture Night

Photo by: Robert Höglund
(EDIT: This is an old post, click here for an updated post with current info) Tonight is the night when Stockholm goes purple and celebrates culture: Stockholm Culture Night! There are about 100 events taking place at around 90 locations throughout the city between 6pm and midnight, with even an after party at Sergels Torg until 3am. Many museums, art galleries, palaces and other cultural spots are open all evening... with the vast majority of events free of charge! Click here for the full program, otherwise there will be an information center at Kulturhuset open from 6pm to midnight. There will even be a free bus and a free boat tour all evening long with two departures an hour.
The museums that are participating are the Jewish Museum, The Royal Palace, History Museum, Nobel Museum, Nordic Museum, Sport Museum, Maritime Museum, Stockholm City Museum, Transport Museum, Strindberg Museum, City Hall and the Museum of Far Asian Antiquities. Plenty of free concerts at various churches in the Old Town...

April 18, 2012

Restaurant Operakällaren

The main dining room
Operakällaren... one of the most well known, exclusive and historic restaurants in Sweden! The name means "opera cellar", which can be a little misleading. While it is located in the Royal Opera House, it is not in the cellar but rather on the ground floor. There was an Operakällaren, which opened in 1787, in the original opera house and when the opera house was rebuilt in the late 1800's, the Operakällaren continued its existence in the new building.
The Opera House on a warm summer evening...
I was invited this past week, along with my colleagues from other hotels, to a celebration of the start of the summer season. It was a great party (thank you!) and it was fun to be able to see of all their locales and sample the great food & drink... even their own brand of champagne. You see, Operakällaren is one of several restaurants & bars in the building... all with the same owner. Operkällaren itself is an award winning restaurant, serving classic haute cuisine and the main dining room is breathtaking with original wall paintings from the late 1800s. Stefano Catenacci, the Chef des Cuisines, has the royal stamp of approval and was even responsible for the wedding dinner of the Crown Princess two years ago. The restaurant itself has been responsible for the dinners and banquets at the Royal Palace since 1961. But if you are looking for something a bit more casual but also steeped in history, there is the Bakfickan (literally "the back pocket") around the corner. A small dining room with no more than 28 seats, this is one of the best places to sample traditional Swedish cuisine. But be aware... they don't accept reservations, just drop-in guests! Other locales in the building include the Veranda Bar on the second floor (with great views of the Palace), the classic Opera Bar and the popular nightclub Café Opera. So, something for every taste... but all with classic style.
The Opera House is located just on the other side of the Old Town from the Rival Hotel... about 5 minutes by taxi or a 20-25 minute walk.
At the party... canapés and their own brand of champagne!
Click here for more restaurant tips and recommendations!

April 17, 2012

Unni Spa

I have already written about the new high end shopping center Mood Stockholm, and now I have had the opportunity to try Unni Spa located within Mood. This is their third location in Stockholm, though their first one in the downtown area. The spa is a small oasis tucked away on the third floor of the shopping center; entrance from the street Norrlandsgatan.
They offer a wide variety of treatments for the face & body as well as massage and waxing. Unni uses several different product lines with their treatments, but primarily CaritaDecléorDermalogica and MD Formulations. I opted for the Classic Man facial... really nice! The whole experience was very relaxing with a great & knowledgeable staff. The location in Mood means that you can combine high-end shopping and dining with your spa visit.

April 12, 2012

City Sightseeing by Boat

Photo: Gomer Swahn, Strömma
Tourist season is gearing up! One of the most popular ways to see Stockholm is by boat, especially the sightseeing boats run by the Strömma company. They offer three different tours in the central part of the city. The Royal Canal Tour, around the island of Djurgården, started its season on April 5th with daily departures. Next out is the grand dame of sightseeing boat tours: Under the Bridges. My personal favorite, this tour is the most comprehensive boat tour of Stockholm. They do a soft start in April with weekend departures only (Fri-Sun); daily tours starting on April 28th. The third tour, the Historical Canal Tour (around the island of Kungsholmen), starts with daily tours on June 2nd.
Photo: Strömma.se 
The onset of the sightseeing boat tour season means that the bus/boat combination tours have also started! Stockholm in a Nutshell is the name of the tour, a combination of the Royal Canal Boat tour and the Panorama bus tour. Daily departures since April 5th! Strömma has ticket offices at the tour departure points, otherwise you can buy tickets on their website (linked above) or at the Tourist Information Center. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, talk with me directly about purchasing a tour voucher.

April 10, 2012

Restaurant Boqueria

I recently wrote about the opening of the new shopping center Mood Stockholm. This weekend I had the opportunity to try one of the restaurants located there: Boqueria.
Waiter station at center of restaurant
Boqueria is run by the same guys that have the popular steakhouse Vassa Eggen and is their variation of a Spanish tapas restaurant. I'm guessing that the name comes from the famous Boqueria indoor market in Barcelona and apparently the guys did a lot of research in Spain before opening the restaurant. Boqueria is split into two sections... a sunken bar area under a glass ceiling as well as the restaurant proper. According to our waiter, they will soon be adding an outdoor area with seating for 70 people (should be popular this summer!).
Open kitchen with counter seating
I must say that we really enjoyed our evening there! The tapas were delicious, with about 65 to choose from... costing between 15 and 95 SEK each. We ordered 7 tapas for the two of us and were satisfied, but you can always start with less and order more as you feel for it. It was nice to see both classic and new (for me) tapas on the menu. I also saw that they have several larger dishes, like paella and suckling pig, which are meant to be shared by 2 or more persons. An extra plus is the fact that the tables are all high so that you are on eye level with the waitstaff which makes for a relaxed and casual dining experience. We hadn't reserved a table so we ended up sitting at the counter around their open kitchen which was great! Fun to watch the chefs preparing your meal.
Sunken bar area under glass ceiling
This is definitely worth a visit, whether for dinner or just drinks and appetizers. Located in the downtown area, it is easy to get to from the Rival Hotel... either 4 stations on the subway (red line to Östermalmstorg, exit Stureplan) or a 7 minute taxi ride. Click here for other restaurant tips.

April 7, 2012

Stockholm City Bikes 2012 Season

Bikes at a bike stand
As I reported last week, the Stockholm City Bike season (April to October) has started. The City Bikes are a great and inexpensive way to travel about in Stockholm... and they grow in popularity each year. This season there are 106 bike stations spread throughout the city with more bike stands planned! There are two types of rental cards for purchase... either a season card (300 SEK) or a three day card (165 SEK). People often ask if there is a one day card. The answer is no, though their three day rental is cheaper than renting a bike for one day elsewhere.
The bike stands are open every day from 6am to 10pm throughout the season. Each stand has a monitor with card reader. Just hold up the card to the reader and the monitor will let you know which bike to take. If you come to a stand without any bikes, the monitor will let you know where the nearest stand with bikes is located. Each bike can be rented for max 3 hours at a time. If you would like to have the bike longer, you just need to take the bike to one of the stands before the three hours is up and exchange it for a new one. This is to keep people from hanging on to bikes too long and allowing everyone a chance to rent a bike. The bikes have no locks, the stands should be used instead when you want to lock up your bike. More info!
Several hotels, including the Rival Hotel, sell the three day cards... for hotel guests only. If you are not staying at one of these hotels, then you can buy your card at either a SL Center or Tourist Information Center. Click here for more information on where to buy your card.

April 4, 2012

Events & Festivals in Stockholm- Spring/Summer 2012

Photo: Erik G Svensson, Stockholm Visitors Board
(ATTENTION: This is the calendar for 2012, to see this year's calendar... click here!) Drum roll please! Here comes one of my more popular annual posts... all to help you plan your summer holidays in Stockholm. This year, it is not summer as usual in Stockholm. First of all there are two festival changes. The organizers of the annual Stockholm Jazz Festival have gotten tired of fighting the weather gods each summer and have now decided to change the festival from an outdoor summer festival to an indoor autumn festival. More on that in September! After changing venues the past two summers, the popular Stockholm Gay Pride Festival comes back home to Tantolunden (a few blocks from the Rival Hotel) where it belongs. Another change to the annual events this year is the fact that Stockholm is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, which means that there will be plenty of sporting events all year long (especially in the summer). I have added some of the larger sporting events to the calendar... but you can check the jubilee's website for a full listing.


July (a little quieter as most Swedes are on vacation during this month).
I will be adding other events as I stumble across them and I will also be writing about most events & festivals in depth as each one approaches in the calendar... so keep checking back!