August 30, 2013

President Obama's Visit to Stockholm September 4th & 5th!

President Obama has a scheduled visit to Stockholm this week (September 4th & 5th) on his way to the G20 summit in St Petersburg. It is the first time a sitting US president visits Sweden for a bilateral meeting! While this is good news for Sweden, the visit may mean traffic problems for visitors and Stockholmers alike. But as long as you are aware of this in advance and avoid driving, taxis or busses (stick to walking or the excellent subway system) then you should be fine. There may also be traffic problems between Arlanda airport and Stockholm on Wednesday (late morning) and Thursday mid-day when the president travels back and forth. Airport information! If you are also planning on travelling to or from the airport at this time, then stick with either the Arlanda Express train to the Central Train Station or the commuter train (great for Rival Hotel guests!). Boats leaving from Strömkajen, for example Waxholmsbolaget and Strömma's sightseeing tours, will be "rerouted". We shall see what that means! (New Info: The Waxholmsbolaget boat terminal has been moved from Strömkajen to Nybrokajen starting September 3rd and through the 5th. The Djurgård ferry is planning on running as normal! I have also talked with Strömma about how the presidential visit will impact sightseeing tours. Besides moving their boat terminal to Nybrokajen as well, their only answer was that everything should be taken with a "pinch of salt" these three days as things can change at the drop of a hat. In other words, they are as much in the dark as the general public regarding certain closures. The Royal Palace will be closed on the 4th & 5th! The subway station Kungsträdgården (blue line) will be closed all Wednesday until 1pm on Thursday) New-new Info: Strömma's Panorama Bus Tour is canelled both days, The Hop-On & Off Boat will run, but no stop at the Royal Palace. Hop On & Off Bus Tours will do an alternate route where they avoid Gamla Stan.
According to the preliminary schedule it seems that most events & meetings on Wednesday will take place at Rosenbad (prime minister's offices), the Great Synagogue and the KTH school. The plan on Thursday, before he leaves, is to meet the king & queen at the Royal Palace. This is just the preliminary schedule and may be subject to change! Of course, the trip may be cancelled due to the conflict escalation in Syria. Check back to this article for updates, or talk directly to us at the hotel if you are staying with us those days for up to the minute information. The US Embassy website may also be a good source for information. Otherwise "The Local", Swedish newspaper in English, has both his preliminary itinerary as well as traffic information.

August 28, 2013

Restaurant Gondolen

Gondolen as seen from Slussen
 I believe most towns and cities have that one mainstay restaurant where businessmen take visiting clients, husbands take wives for anniversary dinners and locals take out-of-towners who they want to impress. While there are a few restaurants in Stockholm that fall into this category... Gondolen is the one that comes first to mind for me! Established in 1979, it has been around awhile too, which means that most Stockholmers have been there once or twice. I visited the restaurant today for just one of these reasons... a lunch celebrating a friend's 40th birthday.
Back entrance from Mosebacke square
Views towards Slussen and Gamla Stan
The restaurant is owned by celebrity chef Erik Lallerstedt (since 1994) and, in fact, the restaurant's full name is Erik's Gondolen. The food, Swedish/international cuisine, is great, but what really brings in the guests year after year is the fantastic views. Located on the heights of Södermalm, where the locks separate the island from Gamla Stan, it has impressive views of the harbour, Djurgården and (of course) Gamla Stan. It is hard to miss the restaurant... it sticks out from the Södermalm heights like a pier, with its name emblazoned on the side. That, and the digital clock & thermometer on the end of the restaurant, has made it a Stockholm landmark.
Table with a view.
Main dining room.
To get to the restaurant from the Rival Hotel is very easy... just a 10 minute walk! You can either enter the restaurant using an elevator from the bottom of the building at Slussen, or you can enter the back way, across the bridge, from the square Mosebacke Torg. One word of warning... this is a restaurant that needs a little advanced planning to visit. Because of its popularity, one should book a table at least a week or so in advance (in order to be guaranteed a table). I often get guests who come to me in the early evening and want me to book them a table the same evening. Difficult! If no tables are available, I usually recommend that they visit the restaurant's cocktail bar, which is very good, have a drink and enjoy the views before heading to another restaurant for dinner. Another good tip is that during the summer months they have a roof-top (open air) barbecue restaurant as well, which is on drop-in basis only... no reservations!
Click here for other restaurant recommendations and click here for other places in town with a view.

August 24, 2013

African Masterpieces Coming Soon!

Copyright: © National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria. Photo courtesy Museum for African Art/Fundación Botín. (Photo: Karin L. Willis)
I'm excited! Sad to see summer ending... but there is a great, unique exhibition coming to Stockholm this autumn & winter. "African Masterpieces" (Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria) will be exhibited in the Skeppsholmen Caverns starting on September 7th and ending of February 23rd, 2014. It is an exhibition that looks at the Ife civilization of Nigeria (circa 1100-1500 A.D.) through their art. Over 100 sculptures in stone, metal and terracotta will be on display giving visitors a look at their religion, life and rituals.
Line to an earlier exhibition at the Caverns
Photo: Karl Zetterström, Världskulturmuseerna
This is the third exhibition to be held in the Skeppholmen Caverns... following the popular Terrocotta Army and Inca Gold exhibitions. The Caverns are located on the island of Skeppsholmen, "under" the Museum of Far East Asian Antiquities (Östasiatiskamuseet) and have proven to be a great place to exhibit cultural treasures of the world. The caves and tunnels were used by the Swedish military as bunkers during World War II and later as part of the naval headquarters. The exhibition will be open daily between 10am and 8pm and admission is 150 SEK for adults and free for children under 19. Tickets can be prepurchased on their website (through Ticnet). This might be good idea if you are planning on going on a weekend or evening (peak times), though I think you should be safe daytime on a weekend. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me directly if you need help or further information.

August 23, 2013

Baltic Sea Festival and Free Ballet/Opera in the Park!

The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Photo by Micke Wiberg
More culture comes to Stockholm this weekend and coming week. Firstly, we have the annual Baltic Sea Festival... an annual music festival featuring world class singers and musicians from the world of opera and symphony music. The main artists are the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Royal Opera Orchestra and Royal Opera Chorus. The festival kicks off tonight (Friday, August 23rd) with a performance of "Romeo & Juliet" by Berlioz and ends on Friday, August 30th with an evening of Stravinsky (The Rite of Spring, Petruschka and Firebird) performed by the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, conducted by Valery Gergiev. Plenty of great performances in the days inbetween as well... click here for the full program! The majority of the perfomances take place at Berwaldhallen, which is located on the outskirts of the Östermalm district (closest subway station is Karlaplan on the red line). There are two performances of Mozart's Magic Flute taking place at Drottningholm's Court Theatre (instead of Berwaldshallen)... these are sold out!
An earlier indoor performance of Giselle with Hampus Gauffin och Mayumi Yamaguchi
Photo by Carl Thorborg, Kungliga Operan
But... if you are thinking to yourself "I don't want to be inside on a beautiful summer evening", or perhaps you are on a budget, then we have some free perfomances taking place during the next two weekends under the stars. The Royal Opera will be performing in the Park Theatre (Parkteatern) in the park Vitabergsparken. On Friday & Saturday (Aug 23rd & 24th) the Royal Ballet will perform parts of the classic Giselle as well as the modern Time Themes. Performances start both evenings at 6pm and last 40 minutes. The following weekend (Aug 30th & 31st) it is time for opera... with pieces of classic opera performed by Royal Opera soloists accompanied by their Orchestra. Performances start both evenings at 6pm and last an hour and 10 minutes. Vitabergsparken is located on the island of Södermalm (home of the Rival Hotel) and the closest subway station is Skanstull on the green line.

August 20, 2013

Crayfish Season!

August is the month for eating crayfish in Sweden. Generally Swedes have a party at home called a kräftskiva where they eat the little critters along with bread and hard cheeses as well as other delicacies. Of course, the all important akvavit/snaps is a must along with singing the drinking songs that usually accompany snaps. It tends to be a messy affair as you eat crayfish with your hands! Funny looking bibs and hats keep you looking festive and relatively clean. The crayfish are traditionally caught in Swedish waters, though these days a large number are imported from the US, Turkey and China, and then cooked with salt and dill.
If you are visiting Stockholm in the coming week or so, and don't know any Swedes who can introduce you to this tradition, then don't worry... you can try these bright red delicacies in several restaurants around the city. Though you may have to bring your own funny hats...

There are, I am sure, many other restaurants serving crayfish during these weeks... but the ones above are favorites of mine. If you are coming late in August, you might want to double check with the restaurant of your choice... not all of them have crayfish on the menu throughout the month. The pictures here were taken last week when I was at a friend's summer house for a kräftskiva.

August 8, 2013

Next Week: Culture Festival, Outdoor Cinema & Midnight Run!

I am on vacation next week... off to Spain for a friend's birthday. I wanted to leave you with some tips of fun things happening in the city during my absence!
GAT Stage,
First up is the fun Kulturfestivalen (Culture Festival). I am sad to miss this! This festival runs from 13th through the 18th of August and encompasses all things cultural. Best of all... it is all free! No admission fees. It is a little hard to write about since there are so many things going on, but basically the festival takes place in the downtown area around the squares Gustav Adolfs Torg, Brunkebergstorg and Sergels Torg. The program (click here) runs from midday until late in the evenings and you can find something for every taste... cabaret, opera, salsa, literature, street performances, dance, Bollywood, vintage punk reinvented, nightclubbing and much, much more. The best thing is to check the program linked above and pick your favorites. If I was in Stockholm this week, I wouldn't miss disco legends The Pointer Sisters! Side by side with this festival is another one called We Are Sthlm. This one is aimed at the youngsters (13-19 yrs of age) with lots of live music and takes place in Kungsträdgården from the 13th to the 17th of August.
Source: The Pointer Sisters
If cinema is more your cultural cup of tea, then you are in for a treat. The Stockholm Film Festival has their annual Outdoor Summer Movies next week. They will be showing a great movie every evening (August 14th to 18th) under the stars. And it is free! The evening starts with fun activities at 6pm and the movie starts showing at 8:30pm. Popcorn, soda pop and other snacks are sold there... but you can pack your own picnic basket. Be aware that some of the movies have an age limit. Movies include The Fly, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Kids Are All Right. All movies are in English with Swedish subtitles except for A Royal Affair on the 14th (Danish with Swedish subtitles). This all takes place in Rålambhovs Park on Kungsholmen.
Photo by Yanan Li, Stockholm's Visitors Board
Finally... Saturday, August 17th is the date for the annual Midnight Race (Midnattsloppet). This is a late evening 10K race around the island of Södermalm (where the Rival Hotel is located). More than just a run, it always has a festival like atmosphere... with DJ's and Samba & Dixie bands playing along the route. There is a costume competition as well! So, even if you aren't running (36,000 others are!), come down and cheer them on while enjoying some great music and festivities! The main race starts at 9:30pm and ends when it ends... though the finishing line is on the street Hornsgatan. Just a few blocks from the hotel! One word of caution: don't plan on travelling around Södermalm by car or bus this evening as many roads will be cordoned off. Stick to walking or the subway.

August 6, 2013

Fishing in Stockholm

After a week of festivals and general craziness... I thought I would slow it down with something a bit different! A happy Rival Hotel guest sent me some pictures of the fish he caught while visiting us a couple of weeks ago, which gave me an idea of a good blog article (and he was nice enough to allow me to publish the pictures- thanks!).
Did you know that you can fish right in downtown Stockholm and that you don't need a fishing licence? Fishermen standing along the Stockholm shores, especially along Strömmen, are a common sight year-round. They catch a wide variety of fish... the most common being perch, bream, whitefish, pike, eel, trout and salmon. The largest salmon caught in Stockholm was over 40lbs. The waters around Stockholm are clean which means you can eat your catch. Just please don't bring them back to the hotel for gutting and de-boning! If you are staying at the hotel: do catch & release.
As I mentioned, you don't need a licence which makes it all much easier for visiting fishing enthusiasts. If you don't have your own fishing equipment with you, there are several fishing stores where you can get all you need. One I recommend is Lundgrens Fiskredskap, which is centrally located in Gamla Stan. They can also give you more practical information! If you want to try a bit more advanced fishing (fly-fishing, archipelago trips, packages, etc;), contact the company Catch & Relax. While the most popular place to fish is around Strömmen, where the waters of Lake Mälaren run swiftly between Gamla Stan and the downtown area, there are other good places to try. In fact, our lucky guest caught his fish near Slussen... just a 10 minute walk from the hotel.