April 30, 2013

Valborg (Walpurgis) Celebrations!

(EDIT: This is from 2013, click here for current information) Tonight is Valborgmässoafton (or Walpurgis Eve) here in Sweden! This is a great, traditional spring celebration where Swedes gather in the evening, light bonfires and sing traditional songs. Tomorrow, May 1st, is a bank holiday (International Workers Day) so younger celebrants can get a little rowdy. But it is all in good fun. There are official bonfires being lit tonight throughout the city, but if you are staying at the Rival Hotel then there are two that are conveniently close to the hotel... if you wish to witness and partake in the festivities.
Valborg at Skansen, photo by Dan Larsson
The first is in Gamla Stan and Riddarholmen. A torch procession starts at the square Stortorget in Gamla Stan at 8:10pm and winds its way through the old town to Riddarholmen where the bonfire will be lit at 8:30pm. There will be entertainemnt in the form of an orchestra, choir and open microphone. They will start selling torches at Stortorget at 7:45pm if you wish to be part of the procession. The second celebration is at Skansen on the island of Djurgården. There will be things (concerts, speeches) going on all afternoon and early evening... but the all important bonfire will be lit at 9pm. Happy Spring!
Riddarholmen Church

April 24, 2013

Swedish Design at HAPPYsthlm

Pretty soon Stockholm will be filled with happy summer visitors! Swedish/Scandinavian Design has really become a famous and popular concept these days and one of the top questions I get from visitors is where they can see and purchase great design knick-knacks in the city. As you can imagine, Stockholm is filled with interior design stores, some better than others, from small independent shops to larger chain stores.
A new boutique, called HAPPYsthlm, has recently opened in Gamla Stan and offers a great opportunity to find some unique objects... whether for your home, yourself or souvenirs for friends & family. On a side note I can explain that "sthlm" is a shortened form of Stockholm, used by Swedes. Behind HAPPYsthlm is a trio of local designers (Katarina Andersson, Kajsa Aronsson and Caroline Lindholm) who have worked together for many years. Each of them has had success in their respective fields of design (product, textile and jewellery) but always dreamed of opening their own independent boutique together. A dream that was fulfilled late last summer when they opened HAPPYsthlm!
In the store you will find vases, ceramics, napkins, tea towels, cushions, place mats, fabric, silver earrings & pendants and much, much more. All making it easy to give your home that Scandi feel when you get return from your vacation. The boutique's location in Gamla Stan is just a 10-12 minute walk from the Rival Hotel, otherwise it is just a couple of blocks from the Gamla Stan subway station (green & red lines). All three pictures in this article were taken by Karin Björkquist, with thanks to HAPPYsthlm.
Click here for some earlier shopping tips!

April 20, 2013

Royal Apartments at the Palace

The Royal Palace (Kungliga Slottet) is hard to miss if you are visiting Stockholm... located on the north-east corner of Gamla Stan, this palace actually has one more room than Buckingham Palace (in other words, quite large). The palace was built in the early to mid 1700's on the site of the original castle, Tre Kronor, which was destroyed in a fire in 1697. It is the main royal palace in Sweden and where the offices of the king and other royal family members are located, though their official residence is at Drottningholm Palace.
Just about every tourist that comes to Stockholm visits the palace at some point during their trip... whether they just take a walk around and admire the facade, see the changing of the guard or visit one of the many museums inside the palace (Royal Armoury, The Treasury, Tre Kronor, Museum of Antiquities). Another option is to visit the Royal Apartments, which is part of the palace interior, including the Guest Apartments, Hall of State, banquet hall as well as exhibition on the Swedish Orders of Chivalry.
Embarrassing as it is to admit, it had been decades since I last visited the Apartments... so I took an afternoon last week and rectified this. The entrance fee is 150 SEK for adults (75 SEK for children between 7 and 18 years) and it also includes entrance to the Treasury, Tre Kronor Museum and the Gustav III Museum of Antiquities. Don't worry... the ticket is good for 7 days, so you don't have to visit all of the museums on the same day! Also included in the entrance fee are the guided tours of the Apartments and Treasury. Click here for the times for the guided tours this summer (May 15th to Sep 15th). I wandered through the Apartments on my own without guide. It is a very interesting window on Swedish history from the 1700's to today as well as the design and style of the times. I also liked the room that contained the heraldic crests of the different kings & queens of Europe and Asia (all recipients of the Swedish Order of the Seraphim).
It is very easy to get to the Royal Palace from the Rival Hotel... just a 15 minute or so walk through Gamla Stan (old town). Photography is not allowed in the Apartments, so the pictures taken by me in this blog post (above) are from the stairwells and corridors outside of the Apartments. Please be aware that this is a "working" palace and the Royal Apartments may be fully or partly closed on certain days due to official receptions of the king.
Gustav III's Bedchamber, photo by Alexis Daflos, Kungliga Hovstaterna

April 18, 2013

Stockholm Culture Night (Kulturnatt)

(EDIT: Links and info from 2013, for current info... click here!) This Saturday, April 20th, is Culture Night (Kulturnatt) in Stockholm. This is the fourth annual Culture Night in Stockholm and it has become quite popular! So, what is a Culture Night? Well, it basically is an evening devoted to all things cultural... and FREE! Different cultural institutions in Stockholm are open during the evening (6pm to midnight), including museums, art galleries, libraries, churches, palaces, clubs, theatres, cinemas and more. To break it down in numbers, this festival will have around 350 events taking place at over 90 different locations throughout the city! And, as I mentioned earlier, admission is free... so this is a great opportunity to get cultural without damaging your wallet.
Photo by Robert Höglund, Kulturnatt Stockholm
So there is a lot to choose from... art & museum exhibitions, concerts, guided tours, performances, viewings and parties. Something for every taste! You can find a program to download in English on their website (click here) in which they have hand picked events where knowledge of the Swedish language isn't necessary. More detailed information in Swedish along with the full program can be found by clicking here.
Photo by Robert Höglund, Kulturnatt Stockholm
The official After Party, with free admission of course, will take place at the iconic Stockholm City Hall (Stadshuset)... where the Nobel dinner/party takes place every year. It starts at 10:30pm and goes on to 3am. The City Hall is located on Kungsholmen. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, stop by and talk to me and I can explain in more detail about the different events.

April 13, 2013

Restaurant Cultur

Bar area with fantastic picture windows
I have visited another new restaurant this week! This time it was Cultur Bar & Restaurant in Gamla Stan (the old town). My guess is that the name is a play on the spelling of the same word in English (culture) and Swedish (kultur). This restaurant is owned by the same group as the famous Den Gyldene Freden and Fjäderholmarnas Krog... which is a personal summer favorite of mine. While these last-named restaurants serve Swedish cuisine, Cultur concentrates on the Spanish/Mediterranean kitchens.
Jamon, sliders, moules and other tapas!
They've done a great job renovating the locale and the interior design does evoke Spain with the beautiful floor tiles and prints on the wall from Spanish artists, like Picasso. There is a nice bar and lounge area to the left upon entering with the dining room to the right. I especially liked the large picture windows looking out onto the pedestrian street Österlånggatan. They were putting the finishing touches on a large outdoor seating area while we were there, which should be really popular in the summer.
The evening menu is filled with small dishes ("tapas"), both hot and cold. Spanish favorites, like gambas, picanha and jamon, are mixed with dishes from other Mediterranean countires like moules marinieres, risotto and bruschetta. We took a mix of different tapas and they were all delicious! For dessert we took an old favorite... churros! You have a choice of three different dipping sauces for your churros: hazlenut, chocolate and vanilla creme with cloudberries. They are also open for lunch when they serve both "today's lunch" as well as a smaller tapas menu.
Dining room
Cultur has a great location in Gamla Stan, which is starting to become a fantastic neighbourhood for restaurants. They are actually right across the street from their sister restaurant Den Gyldene Freden. It is very easy to get there from the Rival Hotel... basically just a 10-15 minute walk from the hotel!
Click here for more restaurant recommendations.

April 10, 2013

More Sure Signs of Spring

Canal Tour, Photo by Gomer Swahn, Strömma
The start of the Stockholm City Bike season isn't the only sign that spring is upon us! Strömma is starting to roll out their sightseeing boat tours of the city as well. First out (start April 5th) is the Royal Canal Tour, a relaxing 50 minute tour around the island of Djurgården and through Stockholm harbour with views of Gamla Stan. The boats leave hourly from Nybroviken and are guided in 11 different languages. While this is a sign of spring's arrival, winter hasn't really released her grip completely... so there may be some course changes due to ice. The late ice also means that Strömma has had to push back some of its other sightseeing boat tours to later in the season. Under the Bridges is now planned to start on April 26th and the boats to Drottningholm will start on April 29th.
Strandbryggan Sea Club
Another sign of spring is the opening of outdoor restaurants and bars. Swedes live for this! It doesn't matter if it is only 10 degrees Celsius, as long as the sun is shining, they will sit outdoors wrapped in blankets and under heating lamps. And once it warms up there is no stopping them! One of the premiere floating restaurant & bars, Strandbryggan, is opening for the season on April 13th. Located next to the bridge to Djurgården, it has some of the best views of Stockholm. So, stop by for a drink or else to laugh at the crazy Swedes (myself included). But, if you are staying at the Rival Hotel, you don't have to go far to enjoy a beverage/meal outdoors... our outdoor seating for the Café Rival and Bistro Balcony opens one day earlier... on April 12th!
Café Rival!

April 9, 2013

Stockholm City Bikes - 2013!

Bikes with new sponsor: Air Tours
A true sign that winter is over... the Stockholm City Bike season has started (April through October). Stockholm is a fabulous city to bike around... lots of late evening sunlight, plenty of parks and bicycle lanes. This is all made easier (and inexpensive) with the Stockholm City Bike system. They have approximately 100 bike stands spread throughout the city, even out into the suburbs. You have the choice of buying either a 3 day card for 165 SEK or a season card for 250 SEK. Guests often comment that they only want the bikes for one day. Well, they don't sell one day cards... but the price for three days is still cheaper than renting a bike for one day at other commercial bike rental companies. If you are guests at the Rival Hotel then you can purchase a 3 day card at the hotel (we do not sell season cards). But if you are not a guest, either check with your hotel or else you can purchase your card at over 200 different 7-11's and Pressbyrån kiosks in the city (new this year) or at a SL Center.
Bike path on Djurgården
After purchasing a card, you can check out a bike at any of the bike stands by holding up your card to the computer display and following the instructions. You can check out a bike at any of the stands between 6am and 10pm daily throughout the season. If the stand is empty, the display will point you in the direction of the nearest stand with bikes. Otherwise they will be by shortly to fill up the stand with new bicycles. You then have that bike for 3 hours. You are welcome to check out a new bike right away, but you have to leave the bike at a stand before 3 hours is up... otherwise you receive a demirit. 3 demerits and your card will be cancelled. This system is to stop people from taking bikes home or into their offices. Be aware that the bikes don't come with locks, instead use the bike stands to lock your bikes (over 100 stands in the city!). It is important to note that you have to be 18 years old to use the bikes. If you are a family with children under 18, just talk to me and I will point you in the direction of a bike rental company that rents out children's bicycles.

April 4, 2013

Festivals & Events in Stockholm- Spring Summer 2013

(EDIT: Be aware that this is the 2013 calendar. for this year... click here!) Not a cloud in sight for the past couple of weeks and just about all of the snow has melted away. This means it is time to look forward and see what the warmer months of the year have in store for us. This is a calendar of big events and festivals in Stockholm- things that tend to draw a lot of visitors to the city. Lots of big concerts this year thanks, in part, to the new Friends Arena. Hopefully this calendar will help you plan your trip! I will be constantly adding events as I find them, so check back from time to time. I will also be writing more in depth about many of these events as the dates approach. Of course, if you are staying at the Rival Hotel and need more detailed information of what is going on in Stockholm during your visit... contact me directly!


July (generally a slower month, event-wise, because many Swedes have vacation and leave the city.
  • July 30th to August 3rd- Stockholm Gay Pride Festival. Parade through the city on Saturday!
  • 2nd to 4th- Music & Arts Festival. Several artists, including... Prince!
  • 13th to 18th- The Stockholm Culture Festival. Free, free, free! Everything "cultural".
  • 13th to 17th- Ung08 (youth festival- also free!).
  • 15th- Leonard Cohen at Globe Arenas.
  • 17th- Midnattsloppet. Late evening 10K run around the island of Södermalm. Festival atmosphere!
  • 18th- DN outdoor concert with the Royal Philharmonic in Gärdet.
  • 22nd- DN Galan. International track & field meet at Stadion.
  • 23rd- The amusement park Gröna Lund turns 130 years old!
  • 23rd to 30th- Baltic Sea Music Festival.
  • 24th- Opening part for the new Tele2 Arena with Robyn, Kent and Lars Winnerbäck.
  • 24th & 25th- Stockholm Triathlon.