July 28, 2012

Restaurant Trattorian

Celebrity chef Meleker Andersson owns quite a few great restaurants in Stockholm (F12, Villa Godthem, Grill, Le Rouge among others). For many years, one of his most popular restaurants has been Kungsholmen. A few months ago, he closed Kungsholmen, renovated & redesigned the place and reopened it as an Italian restaurant called Trattorian.
The original Kungsholmen was always one of my favorite restaurants... especially in the summer as it is located right on the waterfront of the island with the same name. Great place for a drink or dinner and watch the beautiful people walking along the waterfront promenade.
...and interior!
So naturally I was curious when Melker changed it to an Italian restaurant! I stopped by this past weekend for dinner. The location is, of course, still fantastic. The interior is much better... warmer and more intimate than Kungsholmen was. His restaurants are known for their ecclectic interior design and Trattorian is no exception. The interior looks like a Tuscan restaurant complete with a trellis celing with grape leaves. Beforehand, I thought that Italian cuisine sounded boring... Stockholm is filled with Italian restaurants! But it is a far cry from your run of the mill pasta & pizza joint. We had a great dinner... starting out with a variety of anti pasti, after which we had the Scottadito and the Ossobucco. My colleague was there the week before and had the duck ravioli with truffles which she loved. Of course they were out of that on the evening we were there... bummer! Next time.
Click here for my other restaurant reviews.
Floating bar (Pontonen) in front of the restaurant

July 25, 2012

Take a Walk on the Island of Djurgården

Café at Blockhusudden with view of harbor
Well marked paths
If you enjoy walking in Hyde Park when visiting London, Tiergarten when in Berlin or Central Park when in NYC... then you shouldn't pass up the opportunity of visiting Djurgården when in Stockholm.
Täcka Udden
Most tourists do visit Djurgården, mainly to see such popular attractions like the Vasa Museum, Skansen and Gröna Lund. But Djurgården is so much more than that! Beyond Skansen you will find acres and acres of parkland, forest and wetlands dotted with art galleries, gardens, cafés, monuments and other interesting buildings.
Part of the islands southern shoreline
Freedom Gate, a gift from the Estonian people
There are well marked paths through the parklands as well as along most of the shoreline. You can just concentrate on seeing the great nature there or visit the art galleries and museums like Thielska, Waldermarsudde or Liljevalchs... or combine nature with culture. Click here for my past posts on some of the points of interest on Djurgården... The world's first national city park!
Part of Waldemarsudde
The gardens at Rosenlund
The other day I took my visiting mother on just such a walk. We took bus #69 (not 69K which only goes as far as Kaknästornet!)) from Norrmalmstorg out to the last stop at Blockhusudden and then walked back along the south coast of the island to Djurgårdsbron (the bridge connecting the island with central Stockholm). The walk took about 1½ hours including some shorter stops for pictures and water. The pictures in this blog post are from this walk and for your inspiration...
Cross over to northern shoreline... Kaknästornet in distance

The Blue Gate- entrance (or exit) to Djurgården

July 21, 2012

Viking Restaurant Aifur

As promised...
I recently visited Aifur, a restaurant dedicated to "the gastronomic heritage from the Viking Age", for a dinner with relatives. To be honest, I was a little sceptical before the visit. Themed restaurants aren't really my thing and I thought it might be "too touristy". I am happy to report that I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, there were many tourists there, but hey... it is located in Gamla Stan! Aifur is owned by Swedish pop-star Martin Eriksson, who is a real Viking aficianado, so it does feel more serious than other history themed restaurants. The restaurant is quite dark and fitted with long tables with the benches covered with sheep skins. Hanging on the walls were tapestries, shields and weapons. When we first arrived, we had one long table to ourselves. But as the restaurant filled up, we soon had company from other diners and it was part of the fun to see how others reacted to their surroundings. 
Dinner! Note the utensils.
I was also sceptical about the food... how good can Viking cuisine actually be? But it was good (Viking cuisine modernized?)! The ingredients are mainly from the Viking Age- items that could be found in Scandinavia or brought in through trade. They have a nice explanation of each dish on the menu that ties it in with the Viking history. We had the honey and garlic marinated rack of lamb which was delicious. We did try some mead before dinner. A little sweet, not really my taste but they had some nice non-Viking wine that went well with the lamb. Click here for the menu, scroll down for the English version. A word of warning: they do announce you to the other diners as you enter the restaurant. A little embarassing but lots of fun after you have a drink and can cheer and laugh at the discomfort of other patrons as they arrive. So, all in all, a good experience. I wouldn't go there for a romatic dinner... but fun for a family or people interested in history. 
Other Viking experiences in Stockholm!
Shields along the wall.
Other restaurant recommendations...

July 20, 2012

Upcoming Festivals & Events

Photo by Yanan Li, Stockholm Visitors Board
I have posted about all of the festivals and events this summer, but I thought I would give a little reminder for the big events in the upcoming weeks.

  • Stockholm Gay Pride (July 30th to August 4th)- very popular annual festival. Pride Park is located in the park Tantolunden. Here there will be performances from both Swedish and international artists, as well as restaurants and bars. Lots of parties at different venues all week long! The Pride parade is on Saturday afternoon and is a big event in Stockholm with thousands coming out to watch.
  • Stockholm Music & Arts Festival (August 3rd to 5th)- new festival on the island of Skeppsholmen. A great line-up of artists to perform: Marianne Faithful, Laleh, Patti Smith, Emmylou Harris, Björk among others. Should be interesting!
  • Royal Philharmonic (August 12th)- free outdoor concert in Gärdet, starts at 2pm. Come early to get a good seat (see picture below).
  • Culture Festival (August 14th to 19th)- culture, art, music, live performances throughout the city. Best of all? Free entrance to 99% of the events! Always popular...
So... lots of fun events coming up in the calendar! I will write about some of these, with more information, as we get closer to the actual dates.
(Royal Philharmonic) Photo by Jeppe Wikström, Stockholm Visitors Board

July 19, 2012

Arlanda Express... a Reminder!

I wrote about the train Arlanda Express two years ago. In fact, it was my third post ever! I thought perhaps it was time for an update/reminder.
Ticket Office at Central train station
The Arlanda Express is a high speed train that travels between Arlanda airport and the Central train station in downtown Stockholm. The trip takes just 20 minutes (as opposed to 35-40 minutes by car). The trains leave, apporximately, every 15 minutes from around 4:30am to 12:30am. Click here for summer timetable. During the summer (until August 31st) and on weekends during the rest of the year, they have a special where two people travel for 280 SEK. Basically a 2-for-1 special. Keep in mind that it is only economical if you are maximum two persons. Taxis have fixed rates between the airport and Stockholm. For example, Taxi Stockholm costs 520 SEK for a car that seats up to 4 persons. When taking the Arlanda Express, remember to buy your ticket before getting on board at the ticket booth, by using one of the ticket machines on the platform or online at their website. Buying a ticket on board the train costs 50 SEK extra! You will need a credit/debit card with a pin number in order to use the ticket machines. The Central train station is directly above the T-Centralen subway station which connects you to the rest of the city. The Rival Hotel is just three stations away on the red line at the Mariatorget station.
Ticket machine found on the platform

July 17, 2012

Yoko Ono at Moderna Museet

Curiosity took me to Moderna Museet (modern art museum) the other day to see the Yoko Ono exhibition "Grapefruit". I've always been aware of her as a cultural figure... artist, Beatle-wife and icon, but I have not been very familiar with her art. "Grapefruit" is a smaller exhibition containing writings, sketches and films of the artist. The writings are in the form of instructions and ideas for conceptual art that the viewer can do themselves or just imagine (pun intended). Many of these gave me a chuckle. I especially enjoyed the films which highlight Ono as a performance artist. One such film documented a live performance where she invited audience members to come up on the stage and cut off a piece of her clothing. Be aware that some of the films might not be suitable for small children. This exhibition will be showing until September 16th.
Besides "Grapefruit", other current exhibitions at Moderna are "Explosion! Painting as Action" and "Sturtevant, Image Over Image". While at the museum, be sure to visit their café with wonderful views over the harbour and Standvägen as well as their museum shop which has a great selection of art & photography books as well as posters and other knick-knacks. The museum is located on the island of Skeppsholmen. The easiest way to get there from the Rival Hotel is by taking the Djurgårds ferry from Slussen. Just tell the ticket collector that you wish to go to Skeppsholmen.
View from museum café

July 14, 2012

Vikings, Vikings and... More Vikings!

Guided tour through grave field at Birka
The most famous era of Swedish history is the Viking Age (approx 800-1100 AD) and Vikings have become somewhat of a symbol for Sweden... even if they are most often portrayed incorrectly with horned helmets! There are plenty of museums, tours and activities to do in the Stockholm area tied in to Viking history. I have already written about most of them here in this blog, but in the past week I have re-visited Birka and dined at Aifur and I had the idea to collect all Viking "experiences" in one post.

  • Historiska Museet (the history museum)- This museum has a great exhibition on Vikings including artifacts such as weapons and jewelry. The Gold Room is of special interest, showing the gold and silver hoards found throughout Sweden. During the summer (12 to 4:30pm until August 26th) the Vikings take over the inner courtyard with crafts, sports and games... great for children!
  • Vikingaliv (museum)- new museum on Djurgården (opens April 29th, 2017) dedicated to the lives of Swedish Vikings. Get close and personal. Part of the museum is an interactive ride where you follow the lives of Ragnfrid and Harald in Ragnfrid's Saga. Click here to read about my visit.
  • Birka (day trip-summer)- Birka was a town and important trading center during the Viking Age and is today a UNESCO World Heritage site. Located on the island of Björkö in Lake Mälaren, the Strömma company offers a day trip to Birka by boat which includes a great guided tour and entrance to the on-site museum. They also have a reconstruction of part of a Viking Age village and have many events through the summer (like market and games).
  • Aifur (restaurant)- located in Gamla Stan, this restaurant concentrates on the gastronomic heritage from the Viking Age. I have tried it and it was quite fun and the food was good. Click here for my review.
  • Souvenirs- on the street Västerlånggatan, located in Gamla Stan, you will find a large variety of Viking souvenirs... from fun to tacky. On the fun side, you have Handfaste (the Viking Shop) where you can get some good quality t-shirts, jewelry and books.
    "Authentic" Viking souvenirs! 
  • Uppsala (town)- just 40 minutes by train from Stockholm you have the town of Uppsala which is a great place to visit if you are interested in Vikings. The surrounding area is filled with Viking Age artifacts like runestones, monuments and grave fields. Click here for a list of tours, sites and museums.
  • Viking Day Tour- a full day tour that takes you from Stockholm to Sigtuna and Uppsala to visit Viking Age sites. I haven't done the tour myself, but I have sent guests and they have all returned with favorable reports.
  • Storholmen Viking Village- (day trip-summer) north of Stockholm (approx 1½ hours by bus), in the Norrtälje area, you will find the Viking village of Storholmen... an experimental open air museum.
Entrance to Aifur
This should keep Viking aficionados occupied! Keep your eyes open while walking about Stockholm... you can see runestones in the city as well. Besides the aforementioned history museum, you can see them in Skansen park as well as the corner of Prästgatan and Kåkbrinken in Gamla Stan.
Runestone in Gamla Stan
At Skansen you can find a runestone...
...or two!

July 13, 2012

Sightseeing: Royal Canal Tour

On a sunnier day! Photo: Gomer Swahn, Strömma
There were some dark and ominous clouds in the sky this past Wednesday morning, so I thought it would be the perfect day to take some visitors on a sightseeing boat tour (it is indoors!). So we headed down to Strömkajen dock and caught the Royal Canal Tour. This tour starts daily at the bottom of every hour between 10:30am and 7:30pm during the summer high season.
Cruising the Djurgårds Canal
This is a 50 minute long boat tour that takes you around the island of Djurgården, once the royal game park, passing the Old Town (Gamla Stan), Skeppsholmen and the district of Östermalm along the way. Djurgården is a national city park (the first in the world), rich in both history and nature, and the location of many points of interest like the Vasa Museum, Skansen, Nordic Museum and the Gröna Lund amusement park. The tour is guided in 11 different languages with an accompanying map and the boat has both a café and bathroom facilities on board. Tickets can either be purchased online, at the departure point or, if you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me and I will help you with the reservations. Free with the Stockholm Card (limited seating per tour).
Passing Waldemarsudde
If you are interested in a longer, more comprehensive tour... then I would recommend the Under the Bridges Tour.

July 12, 2012

Czech Beer Festival in Stockholm

Swedish beer is delicious, but even I have to admit that nothing beats beer from the Czech Republic (birthplace of the pilsner beer)! You can decide yourself by visiting the Czech Culture & Beer Festival going on all this week (July 10th to 15th) at Kungsträdgården park, located in downtown Stockholm. This is a small traveling festival, going around the world to promote Czech culture and tourism. Great idea, in my book!
A delicious half-liter glass of Lobkowicz
The tent is open from 11am to midnight each day. Inside the tent you buy tokens (tolars) which you then use to purchase your meal/drink at the table from waitresses in traditional dress. They have a variety of beers (light, lager, semi-dark, wheat, etc;) to choose from from different breweries. I liked the fact that, instead of the well known Czech breweries, they featured lesser known ones like Granat, Lobkowicz, Démon, Platan & Jezek. They also serve great Czech cuisine like sausage, duck, dumplings and gulasch. They have live music as well to really give you that Czech feeling! There will also be a Street Festival this weekend (July 13th to 15th) in Kungsträdgården with street performers from around the world... so lots going on there this weekend. The best way to get to the festival from the Rival Hotel is either to walk (25 minutes through Gamla Stan) or by taking either bus 43 or 55.
Waitresses in coloful, traditional outfits
Not in Stockholm this weekend? Click here for a calendar of summer festivals and events!

July 10, 2012

Museum Tre Kronor

Entrance to museum
I took the opportunity the other day to visit a museum here in Stockholm that I had never been to, but had always been curious about... Museum Tre Kronor. You would think that I have visited all 80+ museums in Stockholm, but I am still working on it! This museum is dedicated to the original castle in Stockholm, called Tre Kronor, which burned down in 1697. The current Royal Palace is built on the site of the old castle. The museum is located in Gamla Stan under the north wing of the palace (much of which survived the fire) in parts of the original Tre Kronor structure. Besides recounting the history of the castle, there is information about the construction of the castle and life within the walls. It was quite interesting, though I would recommend perhaps a visit to the nearby Medieval Museum first to get an overview of the history of Stockholm at the time. Tre Kronor means "three crowns" and, besides being the name of the old castle, is the symbol of Sweden as well as the name of the national ice hockey team. The three crown symbol can be seen on top of the City Hall Tower which I recently wrote about.
Quite dark inside! Good for ambiance, bad for pictures.
Entrance costs 150 SEK, and it is good to note that the fee gives you entrance as well to the Royal Apartments, The Treasury and Gustav III's Museum of Antiquities (within a 7 day time period). The latter museum is included just during the summer months. Free entrance to all museums included in the Stockholm Card. If you time your visit properly, you can watch the changing of the guards at the Royal Palace before or after visiting the museum (12:15 all days except for Sundays and holidays when it starts at 1:15pm).
Click here for other museum recommendations.
Changing of the guards

July 5, 2012

Stockholm City Hall - Stadshuset

Stockholm City Hall, or Stadshuset, is one of the most famous Stockholm landmarks and is probably best known for being the venue for the annual Nobel Prize banquet. A popular tourist destination, it is also the functioning city hall and from where Stockholm is governed. Completed in 1923, using almost 8 million red bricks, the building is one of the best examples in Sweden of national romaticism in architecture.
The only way to visit the interior of the building is by taking part in one of the public tours (recommended!),which are offered daily, or by booking a private tour. The public tours are given in several languages and the price for admission for an adult is 60-90 SEK depending on the time of year. The 106 meter tall City Hall Tower can be visited as well between May and September and costs an additional 40 SEK. The tower is open between 9:15am and 5:15pm and visits are organized in 40 minute intervals. Half way up the tower you will find the Tower Museum and at the top you have fantastic views of the city.
I think the grounds itself is worth a visit and I often stop by while walking along the Kungsholmen waterfront (pictures here taken from one recent such visit). There is a statuary garden between the water and the main building which is a great place to watch boats and enjoy views across to Gamla Stan and the island of Södermalm. There is also a golden cenotaph (empty tomb) of Birger Jarl, the founder of Stockholm according to tradition. 
Located on the eastern tip of the island of Kungsholmen, it is quite close to Gamla Stan. To get to the City Hall from the Rival Hotel, it is about a 25 minute walk. Otherwise it can be reached by taking subway (all lines) three stations to T-Centralen. 

July 2, 2012

Mariatorget: Beauty

Locals Only barbershop
I have written about the stores/boutiques as well as restaurants/cafés that are to be found in The Rival Hotel's neighbourhood (Mariatorget). Now for the third and final installment. For lack of a better title, I will call this "beauty". You will see why...

  • Locals Only- For the gentlemen: there aren't many places where you can get a straight razor shave these days, but this hip barbershop is bringing back this lost art. Some real pampering is included in the price of the shave. Location.
  • Sweet Baby Ray- a wonderful combination of hair salon and vintage clothes store. Come and get your hair done and leave with a new outfit! Location.
  • Cut the Crap- great local hair salon with one of the best names in the business! Location.
  • Toni & Guy- a well known chain of hair salons, with a location just a few blocks from the hotel.
  • Salvation Tattoo- For a different type of beauty... one of the coolest tatto parlours in Stockholm. If you are a girl, why not get a dragon tattoo when visiting Sweden? Location.
  • Vildrosor & Tistlar- If you are staying with us and want to pick up a nice bouquet of flowers for a hostess gift, then we can recommend this florist located just next door to the hotel!
Salvation Tattoo
Well, that's it... as you see from these three posts, Mariatorget is a vibrant neighbourhood and definitely worth a visit when in Stockholm!