June 29, 2012

This Weekend: Sailing Regatta & Shakespeare

Photo: Oskar Kihlborg, ksss.se
This weekend (June 29th to July1st) is the annual sailing regatta, ÅF Offshore Race, filling Stockholm harbour with hundreds of sails and a festival atmosphere. The race starts in Stockholm with the contestants heading out into the Baltic, around the island of Gotland before returning... ending at the island of Sandhamn in the outer Stockholm archipelago.
The boats will be moored at the island of Skeppsholmen (location) and this is also where you will find the Race Village. In the Village you will find food & drink, performances as well as information about the race. Click here for a schedule of activities as well as race times. The best plaes to see the race start is along the south coasts of the islands of Skeppsholmen, Kastellholmen, Djurgården as well as the north coast of the island of Södermalm. My tip? Fotografiska museum should be a great place to see the start! Click here for a map of the starting line and best viewpoints.
Looking for something completely different to do this weekend? How about "Shakespeare On The Hill"? A potpourri of scenes from the Bard's most beloved plays and sonnets... all performed in English! Performances on Friday, Saturday & Sunday (June 29th to July 1st) starting at 6pm at Observatoriemuseet.

June 27, 2012

Walk Along Västerbron (The Western Bridge)

View from the top, looking at City Hall
One of my favorite walks to take on a sunny, summer day is over Västerbron (The Western Bridge). Built in 1935, this 600 meter long bridge connects the islands of Södermalm (where the Rival Hotel is located) and Långholmen with the island of Kungsholmen. It provides great views of Gamla Stan and downtown Stockholm to the east and the Essinge islands in Lake Mälaren to the west. Location.
Locks left by lovers at the top.
As there are great walking paths around both Södermalm and Kunsgholmen, the bridge can be combined with a longer walk... for example, there is a beautiful promenade along the south coast of Kungsholmen between the City Hall and Västerbron. Lovers have taken up leaving padlocks on the railing at the apex of the bridge, symbolizing the hope that their relationship will last forever.There are subway stations on each end of the bridge. On the Södermalm side you have Hornstull (red line) and on the Kungsholmen side you have Fridhemsplan (green & blue lines). A bit of trivia: this walk is part of the Stockholm Marathon route and is considered (with its slow uphill rise) to be one of the toughest parts. Much easier to walk it!
View of the bridge from Kungsholmen.
One of Sweden's most beloved artists, Monica Zetterlund, sang a beautiful song about Stockholm called "Sakta vi gå genom stan" which contains a wonderful reference to the bridge.

June 23, 2012

Mariatorget: Restaurants, Cafés & Food Stores

First I wrote about the shops in our neighbourhood (Mariatorget), now it is on to food! The Rival Hotel has a great Bistro, Bar & Café, but if you want to leave the hotel and dine/snack in the surrounding area then there is a large variety of options to choose from. As these are all establishments that mostly cater to the locals, the websites linked below are mainly in Swedish.
Rival Bistro
Restaurant Sjögräs
Oaxen Skafferi
Specialty Food Stores:
  • Oaxen Skafferi. Butcher shop and great place to find Swedish specialties like herring and sausage. Location.
  • 8T8. Ecological and locally produced specialty foods. Noodle bar as well! Location.
  • 18 Smaker. Home made ice cream... 18 flavours. Location.

June 20, 2012

What to do on Midsummer Weekend 2012

Photo by Yanan Li, Stockholm Visitors Board
(ATTENTION: This is information for 2012, for updated info... click here!) It's fast approaching... arguably the biggest holiday in the Swedish calendar: Midsummer (June 22nd to 24th)! It rivals Christmas as a holiday to spend with friends and family, filled with age-old traditions. On this weekend, Swedes flee the cities and head to their country homes to celebrate in the outdoors. Unfortunately, every year Stockholm is filled with tourists who are unaware of this holiday and are confused why the city resembles a ghost town. Many restaurants and shops are closed and even a few museums. But not to worrry, there is still plenty of things to do & see and ways to experience traditional Swedish midsummer. Here is a little guide to the weekend:

Friday, June 22nd- Midsummer's Eve
The museums open on this day are Skansen (this is the place to experience Swedish midsummer traditions) and the Vasa Museum. Both the Royal Palace in Gamla Stan and Drottningholm Palace are open for visitors. The museums in the Royal Palace are open, though not the Royal Armoury. All other major museums are closed!
All sightseeing tours with Strömma run as usual with a few exceptions like the day trip to Birka.
This is the evening that most restaurants are closed. The exception being hotel restaurants and a few others that cater mainly to visitors. The Rival Hotel's Bar & Bistro is open all weekend!
This is not a bank holiday, so banks, pharmacies and liquor stores should be open though with shorter hours. Shopping is possible earlier in the day. Many small stores will be closed, but large department stores and shopping centers are open... closing early. For example, the NK department store is open from 10am to 2pm.
The amusement parks Junibacken and Gröna Lund are open!

Saturday, June 23rd- Midsummer's Day
Besides the above museums and palaces, other museums open for business on Saturday are... Fotografiska (photography), Moderna (modern art) and Nordiska (nordic culture). All sightseeing tours with Strömma run as usual with a few exceptions like the day trip to Birka. 
While many restaurants are closed on Saturday, there is more of a choice than on Friday!
Shopping, on the other hand, is close to impossible on this day. Shopping centers and department stores are closed as well as most small shops... you might get lucky in Gamla Stan.
The amusement parks Junibacken and Gröna Lund are open!

Sunday, June 24th
All museums and most shops and restaurants should be open as usual (with Sunday hours).

Experiencing Midsummer- the best place to see how Swedes traditionally celebrate this holiday is at Skansen. They have a full program all weekend long! While most Swedes do leave the city, the few that are left will celebrate with picnics and games in the different parks throughout the city.
Photo by Marie Andersson, Skansen
Click here for more information from Stockholm Visitors Board of what to do this weekend,.

June 15, 2012

Mariatorget: The Shops

Photo provided by Nitty Gritty
Over the next week I thought I would shine the spotlight on the Mariatorget neighbourhood... home of the Rival Hotel. Located on the island of Södermalm, surrounding the square with the same name, this is a vibrant neighbourhood filled with boutiques, cafés, restaurants and galleries. It is just a ten minute walk south-west from the Old Town (Gamla Stan), otherwise the Mariatorget subway station (red line) connects the neighbourhood with the rest of Stockholm. This post will concentrate on the shops and boutiques (clothing & design) in the area that we recommend to our guests at the hotel.

  • Nitty Gritty- hip, independent clothing store which carries a mix of brands... Swedish and international, both well known and up and coming. Location.
  • Papercut- shop for out of the ordinary books, magazines and DVD's; specializing in art, design and fashion. Location.
  • Pure & Simple- hand picked clothing from leading designers mixed with music, books, perfume and an espresso bar. Location
  • Cazami- a lifestyle store that sells a mix of clothing, accessories and interior design drawing on inspiration from the East. Location
  • Idyll Interiör- store with designer clothes, accessories, beauty products and interior design. Location.
Photo provided by Cazami
There are also two streets in the neighbourhood that are of special interest for shopping. The first is Puckeln, a cobblestone street running parallel to the street Hornsgatan... located between the hotel and Gamla Stan. This street is famous for its art galleries which sell and show paintings, sculptures, ceramics and crystal. Some examples are Kaolin, Konsthantverkarna and Blås & Knåda. Here you will also find Efva Attling, a popular jewellry store specializing in silver.
The other street is Götgatsbacken, which is a pedestrian street (part of the longer Götgatan) located just a 10 minute walk from the hotel. Here you will find a wide variety of stores like H&M, Cheap Monday, Face Stockholm and Filippa K.
Photo provided by Papercut
Happy shopping! Coming soon... restaurants, cafés and speciality food stores in the Mariatorget area.

June 13, 2012

Drottningholm Palace

Drottningholm Palace!
My parents are currently visiting me and the other day I decided to take them to one of my favorite places to visit: Drottningholm Palace. Not only is the palace the current residence of the king and queen of Sweden, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage site (one of three in Stockholm). The palace was built in the late 1600's and is a great example of European architecture of this period.
Interior of palace. Photo by: Alexis Daflos
While it is open for the public year-round (though not daily), it is during the summer that one really should visit the palace. They have more generous opening hours (daily from May through September) during the summer and it is also the best time to explore the beautiful gardens surrounding the palace. The gardens are massive and contain both French & English influences, as well as fountains, sculptures, waterfalls, hedges and groves. On the grounds you will also find the Chinese Pavillion, built in 1753 by King Adolf Fredrik, and Drottningholm Theatre.
Part of the Chinese Pavillion complex
Another great reason to visit Drottningholm during the summer is the trip to the palace itself. Drottningholm Palace is located on an island in Lake Mälaren on the western outskirts of Stockholm. While you can get there from the city by a combination of subway and bus, the best way is by boat! The sightseeing company Strömma runs boat trips out to the palace all summer long. The boats (historic, turn of the century ships) depart from the pier adjacent to City Hall and the trip takes just under an hour.
Looking back at palace from the gardens
The boat ride takes you through the suburbs and countryside and is very relaxing & enjoyable, especially on a sunny day. On board you will find a restaurant and café. During the high season the boats depart every half hour which gives you the flexibility of spending the full day or just an afternoon at the palace. A round trip ticket costs 220 SEK and one can also purchase a combination ticket which includes entrance to the palace (330 SEK). If you are staying at the Hotel Rival, contact me and I can help you with booking tickets! Pictures taken by me, unless marked otherwise.
Strömma's boat to Drottningholm

June 8, 2012

Stockholm Early Music Festival

Photo: Manuel Fischer
Looking for something cultural to do this weekend? The Stockholm Early Music Festival is in full swing! This festival is dedicated to music from the past... medieval, baroque and renaissance music to be more precise. It features both Swedish and international artists, performing in some of Stockholm's most beautiful churches like the Stockholm Cathedral (Storkyrkan), Finnish Church (Finska Kyrkan) and German Church (Tyska Krykan). They have a cute motto which is "it's never too late for early music" and it is nice that they are keeping this cultural legacy alive every year. The festival will go on all weekend (June 6th through 10th) and you can view the program as well as purchase tickets by clicking here.

June 7, 2012

Watching the European Football Championships 2012

If you are travelling to Stockholm (heck, anywhere in Europe) during the last three weeks of June, you won't be able to miss that the European Football Championships (Soccer to you Yanks out there) are being played! This, along with the Olympics and World Cup, is one of the biggest sporting events in the world. The games will be played in (co-hosts) Poland and the Ukraine. Sweden has qualified so there should be some nice festival atmosphere here in Stockholm during these weeks (either that or depression depending on the outcome).
If you are in Stockholm during this time and want to see some matches, then stop by the Rival Hotel! We will be showing many of the games on a movie screen in our theatre which seats 700 people. In the past (World Cup, Euro Champs) we have shown just the games played by Sweden... but this year we are expanding the schedule to include some other exciting matches. The tickets are 120 SEK and include both matches being played that evening (when scheduled)! More good news... you can eat, drink and be merry before, during and after the matches. Be aware that there will be a strict minimum age of 23 to enter the theatre. Here is the schedule of matches we will be showing:

  • June 9th- 6:00pm Netherlands vs Denmark and 8:45pm Germany vs Portugal
  • June 11th- 6:00pm France vs England and 8:45pm Sweden vs the Ukraine
  • June 13th- 6:00pm Denmark vs Portugal and 8:45pm Netherlands vs Germany
  • June 15th- 6:00pm the Ukraine vs France and 8:45pm Sweden vs England
  • June 19th- 8:45pm Sweden vs France (one match)
  • June 23rd or 24th- the quarter final match will be shown if Sweden makes it through!
  • July 1st- The Finals!
So, come on by and cheer on your favorite team! Tickets can be bought at the door on game day or in advance by clicking here. Go Sweden!

If you can't find your team's match on our schedule, then there are many other places in the city showing the matches including a multitude of sport bars. O'Leary's is a chain of sports bars, so chances are you can find one nearby.

June 6, 2012

(New) Museum of Spirits

Entance on the waterfront
That's alcoholic spirits, not ghostly spirits! Spritmuseum is the newest museum in Stockholm (opening for the public just a few weeks ago) and is dedicated to alcoholic beverages and our relationship with them. I was, of course, curious about this latest addition to the Stockholm cultural landscape so I took the opportunity to visit the museum this past Sunday.
Located on the island of Djurgården near other popular attractions like the Vasa Museum, Skansen and Gröna Lund... the location can't be beat. In fact, in a bit of witty advertising, they announced that the best place for a museum dedicated to alcohol is between a wreck (the Vasa) and a roller coaster (Gröna Lund). They've also stated that this will be much more than just a museum... a meeting place, restaurant & bar, art gallery and tasting room as well. From what I could see, this seems to be true. I didn't have a chance to try their restaurant, but it was full of happy people and the food looked delicious. An extra plus for their outdoor seating area right on the water!
Andy Warhol's Absolut art
I really enjoyed their current exhibition: Face It! From the Absolut Art Collection. I'm old enough to remember and appreciate the great art in Absolut Vodka's advertisements in the late 80's and early 90's. And this collection contained some of these works (Warhol, Ruscha and Harring) as well as some other more media-based art. All in all, very interesting. Their permanent exhibition is called Sweden: Spirits and a Nation. This takes an interactive (sight, sound, taste and smell) look at Sweden's bittersweet relationship with alcohol.
Absolut light installation
To get there from the Rival Hotel... just take the Djurgårds ferry from Slussen (10 minute trip) and then walk along the water towards the Vasa Museum.

June 5, 2012

June 6th- Swedish National Holiday

Swedish flag flying high above Royal Palace!
While not as big as France's Bastille Day, USA's July 4th or even Norway's May 17th, the National Holiday on June 6th is still a day when Swedish hearts beat a little faster and when the blue and yellow flags fly a little higher! If you are in Stockholm tomorrow then there are plenty of things to see & do and ways to celebrate the holiday.
To start off with, the Royal Palace in Gamla Stan will be having an "open house" all day long... so it is a good place to start! Members of the royal family will be on hand at 09.45am along with the marine corps marching band for a ceremony before the castle opens its doors at 10am. After that all of the museums in the palace and even Royal Apartments will be open to the public... free of charge! These museums include Gustav III's Museum of Antiquities, the Royal Armoury and Treasury. Besides that there will be guided tours, music, gun salute, activities and plenty for children. June 6th will also be the premiere of the new exhibition at the palace about the king's uncle Prince Bertil who would have turned 100 this year. Beloved by Swedes, he was known as the Sport Prince, Motor Prince and even Prince Charming. Click here for a full program!

Another good place to spend the National Holiday is at Skansen park. Besides being a park and Stockholm's zoo, it is also an open air museum dedicated to Swedish traditions and cultural history. Here  you can see how Swedes have historically celebrated the holiday... with plenty of flag waving, singing, folk dancing and other activities. The royal family will even be in attendance in the evening during the traditional concert. Click here for the full program!
It is also the last day for the food festival A Taste of Stockholm!
Photo by Lars-Eric Örthlund, Skansen
If you want to get away from "official" celebrations then there will be plenty of parties and events happening in parks throughout the city. For example Rålambshovsparken and Vasaparken. It is also good to know that this is a bank holiday so banks, liquor stores and smaller shops will be closed. Museums, restaurants, sightseeing tours and shopping centers & department stores will be open as usual... with maybe shorter hours in some cases.

June 2, 2012

Summer Museum Exhibitions 2012

Photo: Staffan Eliasson, Stockholm Visitors Board
Another list to help you with planning your visit to Stockholm this summer! There are many great museum exhibitions planned for this summer in Stockholm. Here are some of some of the major exhibitions (can't list them all!):

There are, of course, plenty more museums and exhibitions. In fact, Stockholm has over 80 different museums. So if you are staying at the Rival Hotel and none of the above piques your interest... contact me and we'll find something to match your interests!