February 27, 2013

Vasa Museum... Closing for Renovations!

Photo by Staffan Eliasson, Stockholm Visitors Board
EDIT- The Vasa Museum has reopened... click here to read my report!
I recently reported that the National Museum has closed for renovations. Now it is the world famous Vasa Museum which is closing for renovations. The good news is that the Vasa is just closing for a few weeks (March 18th through April 30th), not 4 years like the National Museum! Of course this is still bad news if you are coming to Stockholm during the weeks that the Vasa will be closed.
The museum, built around the royal warship Vasa (which sank in 1628 and was salvaged in 1961), has become Stockholm's #1 tourist draw. When the museum was originally built, it was designed for 600,000 visitors per year. These days it welcomes 1.2 million visitors a year... so it is not so strange that they need to renovate and expand the museum. On May 1st the museum will reopen for the public, just in time for the busy summer season!
Another bit of museum news... only a few days left of the fantastic David LaChapelle exhibit at Fotografiska. Last day is March 3rd! There will be some new exciting exhibitions there after LaChapelle, including Henri Cartier-Bresson.

February 23, 2013

Brunch and Boat Cruise with Strömma

s/s Stockholm at dock in Nybroviken
What to do on a snowy weekend? Why not head out on a boat cruise of the inner Stockholm archipelago? While the archipelago is a more popular destination during the summer months, the snow covered islands do have a serene beauty during the winter as well! Even as a Stockholmer you forget that the further you get out of the city the more snow you have... which is always nicer to view from a cosy boat than trudging through on the city streets.
The brunch buffet!
And if the views are not enough, a nice brunch buffet is laid out for you to enjoy. The buffet is filled with Swedish and international favorites, both hot and cold. Herring, smoked salmon, gravad lax, Jansson's Temptation, omelette, bacon, sausages and more. One of my colleagues, that went with me last week, is a vegetarian and there was plenty for him to choose from... including different mixed salads and roasted vegetables. But pace yourself! You don't want to be too full to attack the dessert buffet, set up in a seperate room, filled with cookies, cakes, puddings, pies and cheeses.
Snow covered archipelago islands
This brunch cruise is run by the Strömma company and during the winter months it departs from Nybroviken/Strandvägen every Saturday and Sunday at 12 noon (more often in the warmer months). The beautiful ship, s/s Stockholm, was built in 1931 and the cruise lasts approximately 3 hours, taking you a bit out in the inner archipelago. The cost, which includes the brunch, is 430 SEK for adults, ½ price for children between 6 and 11 years of age and free for kids under 6. Tickets can be purchased through their website (linked above) or at the ticket booth in Nybroviken. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me directly and I can book it for you!
Heading back to Stockholm!

February 21, 2013

Stockholm Gay & Lesbian Network

Photo by Yanan Li, Stockholm Visitors Board
The Stockholm Visitors Board has successfully campaigned in the past few years to raise the city's presence in the gay & lesbian travel market as a premiere destination. I say successfully because the awards and positive media attention have rained down on Stockholm recently, showing that their efforts have paid off... the city was awarded "Favorite LGBT Friendly City" by readers of Edge Magazine, "World Style Capital" by Logo's NewNowNext readers and Sweden was named "The Gay Friendliest Country in the World" by Spartacus Gay Guide. They have also recently released a  beautiful video promoting Stockholm which you can watch by clicking here.
Part of their campaign has been to create the Stockholm Gay & Lesbian Network, which "functions as a network-based partnership cooperating closely with the travel industry in Stockholm and special interest organisations" and promotes three core values of Stockholm: openness, diversity and respect. The Rival Hotel is proud to be a full fledged member of the Stockholm Gay & Lesbian Network and we are looking forward to working together with our partners to keep Stockholm at the top of the lists of the world's gay friendliest cities!

February 19, 2013

Stockholm Travel Expert at Startle

Please excuse me as I pat myself on the back! I have recently been chosen to be Forbes Travel Guide's "Stockholm Expert" on their website Startle. I'm very proud and a bit "startled" that Forbes, such a prestigious company, considered me for this. So besides giving tips, recommendations and advice on Stockholm here on this blog and helping Rival Hotel guests in person, I will be also answering set questions on the Stockholm page at Startle. Questions like "What are the best fine-dining restaurants in Stockholm?" and "What are the five best things to do with kids in Stockholm?".
Startle is a great website for travelers... here you can find answers to popular questions at different destinations from both local experts like myself and from other Forbes Travel Guide Correspondents. Get great expert advice on restaurants, spas and attractions at destinations around the world. So bookmark the webpage and use it to help plan your next trip!

February 14, 2013

Hilma af Klint Exhibition at Moderna

I was invited to a special press showing  this morning for the new exhibition at Moderna Museet (modern art museum) featuring Swedish artist Hilma af Klint. The exhibition, called "A Pioneer of Abstraction", will run from February 16th to May 26th.
af Klint, "The Ten Largest" series
There are some fantastic works of art in this exhibit and they, for me, take on more meaning when you know more about the artist's life and career. Af Klint was truly a pioneer in the field of abstract art, arguably the first artist to paint in this medium. Whether she was first or not, she was definitely ahead of her time... an art student and then professional artist in a time when artists were predominantly male. While she did exhibit some of her more realistic art during her lifetime, she did not show any of her abstract art. In her will she stipulated that none of her abstract art could be shown until 20 years after her death, believing that the world wouldn't be ready to understand and embrace her work until then. There has been a lot of international interest in this exhibition, which will travel next to Berlin as the first stop on an international tour.
af Klint, from "Paintings for the Temple"
Besides the upcoming af Klint exhibition... make sure you stop by the museum in the coming weeks to see the fantastic Picasso/Duchamp exhibition before it ends (last day is March 3rd)! Another nice bit of news from Moderna is that they will continue with their successful Friday evenings all throughout 2013. The museum will be open to 8pm each Friday with free admission between 6pm and 8pm! Their bar and restaurant are open until midnight so you can discuss the art you just viewed over a glass of wine.
Moderna is located on the island of Skeppsholmen. To get to the museum from the Rival Hotel, just take the convenient Djurgårds Ferry from Slussen (a 10 minute trip)... just make sure you disembark at the Skeppsholmen stop. Let the ticket vendor know as you board the ferry.

February 13, 2013

Stockholm News!

These days the news is filled with stories of nuclear tests in North Korea, an abdicating Pope, war, crime and famine. It can get quite depressing, so I thought I would report on some fun news... things to look forward to in Stockholm in the near future!
New Museums: The big news in Stockholm is the upcoming opening (May 7th) of ABBA The Museum! There has been a lot of buzz about this both in Sweden and through international media. According to reports, the museum will be very interactive with state of the art technology... like a 360 degree movie screen, holograms and more surprises. The museum will be part of a larger museum called the Swedish Music Hall of Fame, dedicated to Swedish contributions to popular music. Tickets for May can already be purchased on their website (linked above) and summer tickets will be released soon. Keep checking on this blog for more updates.
There are plenty of great exhibitions planned at various museums this year, but one that caught my eye (I am a fashion/photography nerd) is the Jean-Paul Gaultier exhibition "From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk" coming to the Architecture Museum this summer (June 15th to September 22nd). Should be fantastic!
Ad for upcoming Gaultier exhibit..
New Restaurants: The Stockholm restaurant scene continues to evolve and grow... two new restaurants have recently opened which have garnered a lot of attention: Taverna Brillo and Nosh & Chow. I will visit them in the coming weeks and report back here! One event that I am really looking forward to is the "reopening" of the restaurant Oaxen Krog. For many years, Oaxen Krog was located in the southern Stockholm archipelago and consistently made the lists of best restaurants in the world. In September, 2011 they closed the restaurant and announced that they would be moving closer to Stockholm. Well, it is now official... in May of this year they will open the doors of their new restaurant on the island of Djurgården (not too far from the new ABBA Museum) in Stockholm. Besides Oaxen Krog, which will be fine-dining, they will also have a more casual sister restaurant called Oaxen Slip (same entrance). Can't wait!
Photo by Yanan Li, Stockholm Visitors Board

February 12, 2013

The Semla

It's that time of the year again, when all the bakeries and cafes in Sweden are filled with the delicious pastry we call a semla (plural: semlor). Today, Shrove Tuesday (Fettisdagen) is when you are traditionally supposed to eat a semla, but these days semlor are sold during most of the month of February. A semla is made from a wheat bun, spiced with cardamom, hallowed out and filled with almond paste mixed with the removed bread.  It is then topped with whipped cream and a "hat" made of the top of the bun. In recent years I have seen an increase in specialty semlor... chocolate, blueberry and so on. Traditionalists consider these to be borderline sacrilegious. According to statistics, the average Swede consumes 5 semlor during these weeks.
Every year most newspapers put together their own "expert" jury of semla-aficionados who rate the semlor sold at popular cafes and bakeries throughout the city. For example, here is Svenska Dagbladet's test. But if you are staying at the Rival Hotel, you don't have to go far to try a semla... our own Café Rival is a popular spot to try these delicious pastries!

February 8, 2013

English Language Theatre in Stockholm

Every once and awhile, I have non-Swedish guests that inquire about going to a theatre to see a play. They seem genuinely surprised when I explain that plays and musicals are generally in Swedish (with the exception of operas) and not English. This is, of course, because the vast majority of theatre goers in Stockholm are Swedes and it is also not possible to fill a theatre with non Swedes every evening for the typical run of a show.

However... every now and then a play is put on in English. A good example of this is the Maxim Theatre which puts on a production of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" every December. But you don't have to wait until December to see a play in English here in Stockholm. The Stockholm English Speaking Theatre Company (SEST) regularly puts on short run productions in smaller theatres. Next up is "The God of Carnage" by Yasmina Reza which will run between the 15th and 25th of February at Teater Brunnsgatan Fyra. Otherwise keep your eyes on their website (linked above) for future productions... like perhaps a Shakespeare in the park this summer?

February 6, 2013

Taxis From Arlanda Airport to Stockholm

There are many ways to get from the Arlanda International Airport to Stockholm. You have public transportation such as busses and commuter trains, as well as a high speed train called the Arlanda Express. These are great options, depending on your budget and time constraints. But, by far, the most convenient way to get to the city is by taxi... mainly because this is a door to door service while the public transportation takes you to a train or bus stop.
Taxi queues outside of the Arrival Hall at Terminal 5
There are, however, some things to consider when taking a taxi. Taxis aren't regulated in Sweden which means that the prices for taxis can vary quite a bit. The vast majority of taxis have similar fares, but a few small taxi companies charge up to double as much as the larger companies. Fortunately, you really don't have to worry about this when taking a taxi from the taxi queues at Arlanda. In order for their cars to use the queues at the aiport, the taxi companies need to sign a contract which states that the maximum price they can charge to downtown Stockholm is 675 SEK. But be aware- this is for taxis in the queues. Some unscrupulous taxi drivers will try and stop you before you get outside and ask if you need a taxi. They are not standing in the queues and are therefore not contractually obliged to take a maximum of 675 SEK. So stick to the ones in the queues! This price is for a car that seats up to 4 persons and within a special zone (that includes central Stockholm). Each of the larger taxi companies has their own marked queue at the airport. These include Taxi Stockholm, Taxi Kurir and Taxi 020. These all take approximately 500-550 SEK (fixed rate) give or take, just double check with the driver before getting into the taxi to get the exact price. Then there is another queue marked "all other companies". Here you will find the smaller companies which will take a variety of prices. You can pay for taxis with your credit card. Just remember that they are not allowed to take more than 675 SEK. Click here for more information about taxis at Arlanda.
Another option is to book a taxi where the driver meets you in the Arrival Hall holding a sign with your name on it. There is an additional fee of 27 SEK (certain terminals) added for this service. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me to book this type of taxi service.

February 1, 2013

The National Museum is Closing for Renovations!

Photo by Hans Thorwid/Nationalmuseum
Sad, but true! This Sunday (Feb 3rd) is the last day the National Museum is open before closing for 4 years for extensive renovations! This is the premiere museum for classic art and design in Stockholm and will be sorely missed. But we are certainly looking forward to seeing the results of this much discussed renovation. To mark this occasion, the museum will have longer opening hours and special events on Saturday & Sunday as well as free admission. So, if you are in Stockholm this weekend... take advatage of this opportunity! Click here for more information and opening hours. If you are coming later this year, all is not lost... the National Museum will be taking up temporary residence in the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts (Konstakademien), located on Fredsgatan 12. The first exhibition is planned to start on June 13th and will feature beloved Swedish artist Carl Larsson. More about this later...
Photo by Erik Cornelius/Nationalmuseum