January 29, 2014

Restaurant Awards: Gulddraken 2014

Winner of the luxury category: Oaxen Krog!
It is that time of the year when several prestigious restaurant guides/awards are announced... like the White Guide, Michelin Guide and Top 50 Restaurants. First up, however, is Gulddraken (the Golden Dragon) which is an annual prize awarded by the Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter. The awards are split up into different categories, like luxury, middle, budget. I do love the idea that these awards aren't only for the high-end gourmet restaurants. The winners this year, in each category, are:

A special "guest dragon" was awarded by international food critic A.A. Gill to Oaxen Slip, the more casual sister restaurant to Oaxen Krog (winner in the luxury category). If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me for help in booking tables for these or other restaurants... or if you just need more information. Keep checking back here for other upcoming guide releases. 
Click here to see past guides and award winners and click here if you want to see my restaurant reviews/visits.

January 25, 2014

The Vasa Museum

The prow of the Vasa.
Working as a Concierge, I get asked one question over and over again... "What should we not miss when we are in Stockholm?". While there are many things I think people visiting Stockholm should definitely see (like Gamla Stan, Fotografiska, Djurgården, the Archipelago, Östermalms Saluhall and more), my #1 answer to that question is The Vasa Museum. I did write about the museum way back in 2010 when I first started this blog, but it is time for an update.
Entrance to the museum with tell tale masts sticking up through the roof.
The museum is built around the royal warship Vasa, which sank in 1628 while leaving Stockholm harbour on her maiden voyage. Sometimes I notice guests' eyes glazing over as I explain this... often with the comment "Oh, we aren't interested in boats". But this really is much more than just a boat. To start off with, the Vasa lay on the bottom of Stockholm harbour for 333 years, remaining amazingly intact and in surprisingly good condition, before being salvaged in 1961. Its condition is mainly due to the fact that the cold, brackish water of the Baltic kept away shipworms which usually destroy wooden ships in warmer, saltier seas. A jaw dropping 95% of what you see today is the original ship.
Model depicting how the Vasa looked when launched.
It is magnificently huge! Walking in to the museum, the ship (69 meters long and 52 meters high) will take your breath away. The condition of the ship also means that a lot of the detailed wood/artwork can still be viewed and enjoyed. But what really makes this museum special, in my opinion, is how informative and well planned out it is.
Ornamental detail.
Visitors can view the ship, top to bottom, from the museum's 7 floors. There are several informative exhibitions spread out on the different floors... like what the ornaments and decorations symbolized, what life on board was like, how the ship was salvaged and how the ship functioned in a naval battle. One of my favorite exhibitions there is "Face to Face". Several skeletons were found on or near the ship and through modern forensic science we are able to know quite a lot about the people who sailed on the Vasa (appearance, diet, sickness and general lifestyle).
Size perspective... see the people in the bottom left-hand corner?
The museum was recently expanded as it was originally built to take 600,000 visitors a year and now sees more than 1.2 million visitors a year! Part of this expansion is a new exhibition room on the ground floor. I saw it now for the first time when I took my visiting father to the museum last week. Entitled "Meanwhile", this high-tech, interactive exhibition takes a look at what else was happening in the world during the time of the Vasa (early 1600's). Did you know that Barbary pirates from Morocco abducted about 400 people from Iceland in two different raids in 1627? I found it very interesting and it did help to put the Vasa sinking into an historic perspective.
Part of the new exhibition "Meanwhile".
So... don't miss this amazing and very unique museum when visiting Stockholm! Located on the island of Djurgården, it is easy to get to from the Rival Hotel. There are regular ferries (Djurgård ferry) going between nearby Slussen and Djurgården and the trip just takes 10 minutes. Open 7 days a week, entrance is 130 SEK and free for children up to the age of 18 and for holders of the Stockholm Card.
Vasa's stern.

January 24, 2014

Stockholmsmässan- Stockholm International Fairs and Congress Centre

Yesterday I visited Stockholmsmässan (Stockholm International Fairs and Congress Centre) to partake in a seminar put on by the Stockholm Visitors Board. It was a great afternoon with many interesting speakers like Bjørn Kjos (the founder and CEO of Norwegian Air), journalist Lola Akinmade Åkerström (who recently interviewed me for Slow Travel Stockholm) and many more.
Stockholm Day Seminar
But this article is not about the seminar... instead I thought it would be a good idea to write about Stockholmsmässan itself. Located in the southern suburb of Älvsjö, this is a popular place to visit for people coming to Stockholm... whether you are attending a congress on business or to visit one of the many fairs. And they have some interesting fairs going on all throughout the year with a multitude of themes/subjects. Interior design, dogs, furniture, wine, gardening, boats, health and photography are all subjects of different fairs in 2014.
While large portions of the fairs are often only open for people working in the business in question, they usually have times or a day set aside when they are open for the general public. For example, the upcoming Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair runs from the 4th to 8th of February but is only open for the general public on the 8th. So if you are coming to Stockholm, check their calendar and see if there is something going on that is of interest to you. Stockholmsmässan contains much more than just meeting rooms and auditoriums... you will also find kiosks, cafés, restaurants and even a tourist information center. All under one roof!
Tourist information...
The Rival Hotel is perfectly situated if you are planning on visiting the Fairgrounds, whether for business or pleasure. The easiest way to get to Älvsjö, location of Stockholmsmässan, is by commuter train. Four blocks away from the hotel you will find the commuter train station Stockholm Södra(South) and from there it is only a 7 minute train trip to Älvsjö station (2nd stop southbound). When you depart the train, just look for signs pointing you in the direction of Stockholmsmässan... just a 5 minute walk away.
One of the signs leading visitors from the train station to the fairgrounds.

January 22, 2014

"Dance Machines: From Léger to Kraftwerk" at Moderna!

Yesterday I attended the opening of the new exhibition at Moderna Museet (modern art museum). Entitled "Dance Machines: From Léger to Kraftwerk", the exhibition is a look at the world's fascination for machinery and industrialization at the start of the 20th century and how it found its way into the art scene of the era.
To be honest, I was a little leery when I first heard the title a few months back. While I do love modern art, I sometimes have trouble with artists leaning a rake against a wall and calling it art. I thought perhaps the exhibit would be more literal and feature actual machines as art (perhaps dancing?). But this is not the case! I found the exhibit to be very interesting, presented well with some great objets d'art.
Do you see Venice?
Several forms of art are represented in the exhibition, including painting, sculpture, dance, music and cinema. The wide range of art media really gives you a feeling for how this fascination for machines and industrialization really permeated society on multiple levels. It really came into focus for me when I entered one room in the exhibition and saw a screening of Charlie Chaplin's classic movie "Modern Times"... which, I feel, really sums up this fascination.
Modern Times
Other featured artists in the exhibition include Fernand Léger, Francis Picabia, Ballets Suédois, Man Ray, Giacomo Balla and Marcel Duchamp among others. Another artist in the exhibition is the German electronic music band Kraftwerk. Included in the exhibition to show that this attraction to machines and industry continues to modern times, the Kraftwerk portion is made up of a 3D installation called "12345678" and celebrates man's relationship to machines, the digital era and robotics... all with Kraftwerk's music as the soundtrack. If you, like me, were alive in the 1980's, you probably remember their hits like "Autobahn", "The Model" and "Tour de France".

The above 2 pictures are from the Kraftwerk istallation.
If they look blurry it is because they are in 3D and my camera is not!
The exhibition continues until April 27th. The museum, one of my favorites in Stockholm, is located on the island of Skeppsholmen and, to get there from the Rival Hotel, you can either take the Djurgårds Ferry from Slussen (make sure you let them know that you wish to disembark at Skeppsholmen) or a 30 minute walk through Gamla Stan (a bridge connects the island to the downtown area). Click here for a list of other art exhibitions this season!

January 18, 2014

Restaurant Linje 10

I recently wrote about the up-and-coming Hornstull neighbourhood... and this past week, a friend and I visited one of the many local restaurants there: Linje 10. The name means "line 10" and refers to the former street car, or tram, line that ran between Värtahamnen and Hornstull (taken out of service in 1967).
The restaurant serves a menu filled with flavours from southern Europe. I had the grilled loin of Ibérico pork with sherry and crispy potatoes ("El Cerdo Ibérico") and my friend opted for the plat du jour which was an Atlantic redfish. Rustic, unpretentious, reasonably priced and tasty.
Popular bar!
While the food was good, I think the selling point is the restaurant's laid-back vibe which is a reflection of the neighbourhood itself. My friend and I had a chuckle as both the staff and many of the patrons really lived up to the Södermalm hipster style... plenty of low-slung, skinny jeans, facial hair and retro fashion. Young, friendly and attentive staff. The bar is popular and the crowd is boisterous... couple this with music and tables set close together means that it can get a bit loud. Fun if you are out with friends, but perhaps not the optimal place for a romantic dinner. The bar itself is definitely worth a visit and they have several tapas and charcuterie options on the menu to go with your glass of wine. In other words, a good place to go and watch local Stockholmers in action...
Shave and a haircut?
The restaurant shares space with both a florist and a retro barbershop, all three going under the name Tjoget. Linje 10 is open for both lunch and dinner, 7 days a week. Located in nearby Hornstull, it is very easy to get to from the Rival Hotel... either a 20 minute walk or two stations away on the subway (red line to Hornstull). Not the best pictures perhaps, but it was crowded in the restaurant so it was hard to take pictures without disturbing other guests. Click here for more restaurant reviews.

January 16, 2014

Army Museum - Armémuseum

Museum entrance.
Continuing with my New Year's resolution to visit museums in Stockholm that I have never been to... I took my visiting father to the Army Museum (Armémuseum) last week. Stockholm has many great history themed museums, including Vasa, Historiska, Skansen, Medieval Stockholm as well as the museums in the Royal Palace. The Army Museum concentrates on the history of Sweden, mainly from the 1500's onwards, from a military perspective. I must say that I was quite impressed with the museum and definitely recommend it for anyone interested in history and/or military.
Life-size diorama showing infantry.
Military, warfare and conflict are probably not the first things that come to mind for the majority of visitors when they think of Sweden. These days Sweden has a international reputation of neutrality, mainly due to the fact the Sweden managed to stay out of both World Wars and was neither a part of the Warsaw Pact or NATO during the Cold War. In fact, Swedish armies have not taken part in any wars, excluding peace keeping missions, since the Napoleonic wars of the early 1800's. However, between 1500 and 1800, Sweden was one of the most militaristic nations in the world and was almost constantly at war with her neighbours... Denmark, Russia, Poland and various Germanic states. Many Swedish rulers were famed warrior kings. In fact, Charles XII spent 14 years (basically his entire adult life) on military campaigns on foreign soil.
Minitures showing Swedish army formation during the Thirty Year's War
But the Army Museum does also look at the past 200 years of peace and the Swedish Army's participation in UN led peacekeeping missions in places like Cyprus, The Congo, Afghanistan and Iraq. And, if you are wondering what Swedish Marines are up to these days... check this video! The museum does a great job of giving visitors a feel for how these wars (and peace) have shaped Swedish culture and life in those times through the use of life size dioramas, charts, maps, collections of war booty/trophies... almost all with excellent explanations in English.
Swedish UN vehicle
There is also a special exhibit on Raoul Wallenberg, who was a Swedish diplomat during World War II and responsible for saving almost 100,000 Jews in Nazi held Hungary before being captured himself by the invading Soviert Army. He has been missing since then. The exhibit looks at how he saved so many people and the different theories on what happened to him after his capture. Sweden recently celebrated the 100th anniversary of Wallenberg's birth. More info on Wallenberg monuments in Stockholm.
Diorama in Wallenberg exhibition
The museum is quite large (3 floors) and housed in a beautiful building which used to be Stockholm's armoury. It is located in the Östermalm district and very easy to get to from the Rival Hotel... just four stations on the subway (red line) to Östermalmstorg station. Entrance is 80 SEK for adults, 50 for seniors and free for children under 19 and holders of the Stockholm Card. Closed on Mondays!

January 14, 2014

Winter is Finally Here... Ski Slopes to Open!

It has been a relatively warm winter so far... with no snow and temperatures well above freezing. Quite unusual! But winter (and the snow) has finally come to Stockholm. We had our first real snowfall this past weekend and the weather reports show more snow and continuing below freezing temperatures in the coming weeks.
Map of Hammarbybacken
This all means that the ski slopes around Stockholm can finally open for business! To give you an idea of how warm this winter has been... last year the ski slopes opened on December 13th. The Stockholm region has no mountains, so we are talking smaller slopes. But they still have lifts, multiple runs and the opportunity for the popular "after-ski". You can also rent ski and snowboard equipment there, so you don't have to worry about bringing it with you from home.
Hammarbybacken- open in the evening.
The closest slope to Stockholm is Hammarbybacken. In fact, it is so close (located in the southern suburbs) that you have great views of downtown Stockholm from the top. They are busy preparing the slope with snow cannons and plan to open on Saturday (Jan 18th). To get to Hammarbybacken from the Rival Hotel, it is only a 20 minute trip with the subway and street car (Tvärbanan) or by direct bus (#74). Other ski slopes in the Stockholm region that are planning on opening this coming weekend are Ekebyhovsbacken and Flottsbrobacken. These are, however, a bit further away than Hammarbybacken! Full list of nearby ski slopes.
Click here to read my article from last year (with more information).

January 7, 2014

Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities

Stockholm, with over 85 museums, has one of the world's highest museum per capita ratios. From modern art to postage stamps and from Viking history to alcoholic spirits... there really is a museum for every interest. You would think that I must have already visited all 85+ museums, but there are still many of the smaller museums that I haven't been to yet. Bad Concierge! So, as my New Year's resolution, I will be attempting to visit more of these museums in Stockholm  (and then writing about them here).
First up is Medelhavsmuseet (Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities) which is part of the group National Museums of World Culture in Sweden, which also includes the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities and Museum of Ethnography among others. This museum, as the name suggests, is dedicated to the ancient history of the cultures surrounding the Mediterranean and in the Middle East... Greek, Roman, Estrucean, Phoenician, Egyptian, Assyrian and more. Obviously, this museum doesn't have the scope or size of similar, larger museums in Rome, Cairo, Athens or even London (British Museum). But it is definitely worth a visit, especially if you are interested in this subject matter and have gotten your fill of Vikings, Vasa and ABBA.
The museum has a small, permanent collection of Ancient Greek and Roman art... including some impressive busts and painted amphorae as well as gold jewelry. I have been to many museums dedicated to Ancient Greece and Rome and I don't ever think I have seen such a well preserved golden laurel wreath before.
This season's exhibition is dedicated to the island of Cyprus, which was quite a crossroad for many cultures. What makes this exhibition especially interesting, in my opinion, is its connection with Sweden... almost all of the artifacts on display come from Swedish Cyprus Expedition, which took place in the late 1920's. The expedition excavated at over 20 locations across the island and made some terrific discoveries. This collection is actually the largest one of its kind outside of Cyprus.
The museum's exhibition on Ancient Egypt is closed during the winter for renovations & rehanging and will open in the spring, bigger and better than before. Guess I will have to revisit then! As this is a smaller museum, the entrance cost is less than at other museums (only 60 SEK for adults, free with the Stockholm Card). It is centrally located in the downtown area near the Royal Opera House. To get there from the Rival Hotel, it is either a 25 minute stroll through Gamla Stan or else an easy 10 minute bus ride.

January 4, 2014

Winter Art Exhibitions

The holiday season is winding down and it is time to look forward and turn our attention to other matters! If you are travelling to Stockholm in the next few months then you have some great art exhibitions to look forward to. Here is a list of the largest art museums and galleries with their main exhibitions this season...

© All rights reserved
Photographer: Cecilia Heisser/Nationalmuseum ©Hans Gedda
Other good art galleries to check out are... Bonniers Konsthall, Sven-Harry's Konstmuseum, Hallwyl Museum and Magasin 3. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel and are looking for other types of museums or want more information about the museums/exhibitions listed above... contact me directly!
Man Ray 1960, foto: Christer Strömholm/BVS Strömholm