February 28, 2014

Museums in Stockholm- Focusing on History!

King Charles XII
I write often about the different art museums in Stockholm, mainly because they generally have temporary exhibitions... changing from season to season. Museums with historical content, on the other hand, have mostly permanent exhibitions with few temporary exhibitions. In other words, after I have visited one of these museums and blogged about, there seldom is a reason to reblog... unless the museum does a major change. So, I thought I would put together a list of the top history museums in Stockholm to refresh everyone's memory and to show the wide range of historical themed museums.
Drottningholm Palace.

  • Historiska Museet (Swedish History Museum)- a general look at Swedish history from the Stone Age to more recent history. A permanent exhibit on Swedish Vikings as well as the Gold Room (collection of Viking gold & silver finds).
  • Medeltidsmuseum (Museum of Medieval Stockholm)- as the name suggests, this museum looks at life in Stockholm during the medieval era and how the city looked and grew during this time (Stockholm was first mentioned in texts during this period. 1252 to be exact).
  • Stadsmuseet (Stockholm City Museum)- a museum dedicated to Stockholm: the architecture, life, art and... history! They also organize themed city walks, like the Millennium Trilogy and ABBA. (EDIT- closed for renovations, though they are still offering walking tours through their website).
  • Vasamuseet (The Vasa Museum)- museum built around the salvaged wreck of the royal warship Vasa (sank 1628). Besides the ship, an extensive look at Stockholm and Sweden during the 1600's as well as life of sailors/soldiers onboard a warship. Recent blog article
  • Armémuseum (Army Museum)- a look at Swedish history from a military perspective. Sweden's warlike past comes as a surprise for many visitors! Recent blog article
  • Sjöhistoriska Museet (Maritime Museum)- a look at naval and maritime history... everything from Swedish naval history to commerce to sailor tattoos. 
  • Judiska Museet (Jewish Museum)- museum on Jewish culture in Sweden and the history of the Swedish Jews. Interesting temporary exhibits from time to time...
  • Skansen- park, zoo and open air museum that looks at historic Swedish traditions as well as rural culture. Farm houses, manors and churches have been transported to Skansen from counties all over Sweden. 
  • Birka- the main town in Sweden during the Viking Age. Nothing is left of the settlement today, instead you have a museum there as well as a walking tour which describes the town's history as well as points out the archeological excavations. Open only during the summer and requires a full day with a boat trip. Blog article.
  • Livrustkammaren (The Royal Armoury)- a collection of the armour, clothes and carriages belonging to the kings & queens of Sweden. The museum often has temporary exhibitions regarding Swedish royal history. A part of the Royal Palace.
  • Skattkammaren (The Treasury)- The Swedish royal family's collection of crowns, swords, scepters and orbs. A part of the Royal Palace.
  • Tre Kronor- A museum dedicated to the original royal castle in Stockholm, Tre Kronor, which burned down in 1697. A part of the Royal Palace.
At the Army Museum.
The Royal Palace (Kungliga Slottet) itself is definitely worth a visit for history buffs. Not only does it contain the three last named museums (listed above), the Royal Apartments are also open to visitors. While this is the main palace, there are several other castles and palaces in the Stockholm region that are open for visitors... Drottningholm Palace, Gripsholm Castle and Skokloster Castle are the most popular. Some of these palaces are only open daily during the summer months and only on weekends or special days the rest of the year.  
Part of the Royal Apartments... Gustav III's Bedchamber, photo by Alexis Daflos, Kungliga Hovstaterna
Certain historical Swedes are important enough to get museums dedicated to themselves. Learn more about inventor/philanthropist Alfred Nobel at the Nobelmuseet (Nobel Museum) and author/playwright August Strindberg at the Strindbergsmuseet (the Strindberg Museum). 
Click here for more Viking themed activities in Stockholm and nearby areas...
You can always experience living history
by wandering the streets of Gamla Stan.

February 23, 2014

Olympic Celebration in Kungsträdgården

Swedish medalists, photo from Swedish Olympic Team.
Well... the Winter Olympics 2014 are officially over and the Sochi Games turned out to be Sweden's most successful winter olympics in history. The team is returning home with 15 medals (2 gold, 7 silver and 6 bronze)! If you are in Stockholm tomorrow evening (Monday, February 24th) then a fun thing to do is head down to the park Kungsträdgården and welcome home the Swedish Olympic Team. This tradition of welcoming home athletes from world championships and olympics has become very popular over the past couple of decades... so there should be a large crowd! The party starts at 7pm and besides seeing & hearing from the medal winners, there will be live music and a look back at the best olympic moments (from a Swedish perspective, of course). Even if you don't speak Swedish, it will be a fun festival feel to the evening... just make sure you are wearing blue & yellow! Located in the downtown area, Kungsträdgården is easy to get to from the Rival Hotel. It is either a 20-25 minute walk through Gamla Stan, 3 stations on the subway (T-Centralen, exit to Sergels Torg) or a 5 minute taxi ride.

February 19, 2014

Stockholm Central Train Station

Main entrance from the street Vasagatan.
Chances are, when visiting Stockholm, that at some point during your trip you will visit the Stockholm Central Station or at least one of the adjacent complexes... either the City Terminal bus station or the T-Centralen subway station. All three, located in the downtown area, are connected via escalators/stairs and together are the hub for all transportation within the greater Stockholm region and beyond. Because of this, and the fact that they just completed a massive, multiple-year long renovation of the train station, I thought that it deserved a blog article!
Main hall - street level.
At the Central Train Station you have regular trains connecting Stockholm with the rest of Sweden as well as with Oslo and Copenhagen (on to the continent). The high speed trains, X2000 & X3000, connecting the city with Göteborg (3 hours) and Malmö (4½ hours) are especially popular. The trains, for the most part, are run by the company SJ (Statens Järnvägar). Tickets can be either purchased online or at the SJ ticket office at the station. This station is also where the Arlanda Express departs to (and arrives from) Arlanda airport. A bit more expensive than bus or commuter train, this is the quickest way to get to the airport... just 20 minutes, with trains departing every 15 minutes.
Street level, looking down on the entrance to the subway station T-Centralen.
(EDIT: they have recently moved the commuter trains to a new staion under the subway lines. Read more about that here) The Central Station is also the hub for the Stockholm commuter train network (pendeltåg). These trains connect the city with the suburbs and as far as the cities of Södertalje and Uppsala as well as the port of Nynäshamn. One recent line has extended to the Arlanda airport, which adds a new, less expensive way to get to the airport (click here for more info). The commuter trains are run by a different company than the regular trains... SL (Storstockholms Lokaltrafik), which also runs the city's busses, subways and street cars. An SL Travel Card gives you access to all these modes of transportation as well as some ferries.
Well marked signs in Swedish & English...
Underneath the train station is the main subway station: T-Centralen. This is the only station where all three subway lines (red, green and blue) cross. You can reach the Rival Hotel on the red line... just 3 stations away! The two stations are connected by escalators and stairs and can be quite hectic during rush hour.
Escalator leading up to the main bus station (City Terminalen)
Finally, the main bus station (City Terminalen) is located right next door to the train station... connected by an escalator (going up this time). This station isn't for the local busses, but for the more long distant busses. Here you can take busses throughout Sweden (popular with busses to the ski resorts of Åre and Sälen), but even to the different Stockholm airports (Arlanda, Bromma, Västerås and Skavsta). These airport busses, called flygbussarna, are quite inexpensive and, in the case of the smaller airports, the only real way to get to the airport with the exception of driving.
The only Starbucks in central Stockholm and... pricey!
The train station was originally built in 1871 and has just undergone an extensive renovation. Part of the renovation work was the addition of a slew of new shops, cafés and fast food restaurants... including a florist, pharmacy, hair dresser, exchange office, grocery store, book store, Starbucks and much more. There is also a tourist information desk, SJ & SL ticket offices and luggage lockers (in case you have an evening flight and need to store your luggage while exploring the city). Another great feature is that the station has free WiFi! Just search for "All Station Guests". So, as you can see, when travelling to, from or through Stockholm... you will, at some point, visit Stockholm Central Station.
Storage lockers for luggage!

February 15, 2014

Brunch Cruise with Strömma

Yesterday, a colleague and I were invited by Strömma to try out their popular brunch cruise in the archipelago. This is a sightseeing boat cruise of the (inner) archipelago that they offer every Saturday and Sunday (year round) on the beautiful boat s/s Stockholm, which was built in 1931.
s/s Stockholm at berth
The brunch is a mix of Swedish smörgåsbord favorites (like a variety of herring, gravad salmon, smoked salmon, arctic shrimp, ham, sausages, Jansson's Temptation, patés and meatballs) and popular brunch dishes (eggs & bacon, several sallads, chicken drumsticks and grilled vegetables). But don't eat too much as they have a really nice dessert table that you won't want to miss... cheeses, mousses, parfaits, cookies, pies and fruit sallad.
A very Swedish brunch buffet...
The cruise itself is about 3 hours long and takes you through the inner Stockholm archipelago, about as far as the town of Vaxholm. The route is very picturesque no matter the season, though I would say that summer is the best... that is really when the archipelago comes to life. However a snowy landscape in the winter or a colorful autumn vista can also be quite spectacular. We have no snow or ice right now (a mild winter to say the least) and I was afraid that it would be a little dreary, but the grey, misty weather had its own haunting beauty.
This is a great way to combine several popular experiences in one fell swoop: brunch, Swedish cuisine, sightseeing and the natural wonder of the Stockholm archipelago. The boat departs at 12 noon every Saturday and Sunday from berth 16 on Strandvägen. The cost (boat trip & brunch) is 450 SEK for adults, half price for children between 6 and 11 and free for children under 6 years of age. Tickets can be purchased at a Strömma ticket office, online or, if you are staying at the Rival Hotel, you can talk to me and I can book your brunch cruise... or any of the other sightseeing options offered by Strömma. Click here for tour information, including menu, route, timetables and more.
The archipelago on a summer's day!

February 12, 2014

Stockholm Steakhouse Awards 2014

You might think, when visiting Stockholm, that you will be mostly dining on herring, salmon and other oceanic delicacies... but meat is big here in Stockholm, with a large variety of steakhouses to choose from. They even have an annual award (Årets Köttkrog) naming the best steakhouses in Sweden.
Stockholm dominated the awards this year and there were no changes in the top two spots, with the well deserved win going to Restaurant AG again (third year in a row?). I really do like this restaurant (blog article) and was actually there last week to visit their tapas bar... which is well worth a visit itself (their hamburger is arguably the best in the city). The second place award went, once again, to Djuret. They have a great concept where their menu focuses on one animal at a time (paired with wines from one region) and changing monthly. For example, currently the menu is variations of beef paired with wines from California and next month it will be variations of duck and chicken paired with wines from Burgundy.
The meat locker at AG...
Other Stockholm restaurants in the top ten (ranking in parentheses) are: Svartengrens (3), Rolf's Kök (4), Vassa Eggen (6), Grill (8) and Zink Grill (10). I blogged about this award last year and wrote a little about other options for meat lovers, which you can read by clicking here. And if you want to read about other recent restaurant awards, click here.

February 8, 2014

Gay & Lesbian (Friendly) Stockholm!

Stockholm has a fantastic reputation for being very "gay friendly" and welcoming to LGBT visitors. Something we are quite proud of! Stockholm and Sweden have racked up an impressive collection of awards in recent years from international gay media: "Style Capital of the World", "Best International Destination", "Favorite LGBT-Friendly City" and Sweden is ranked as the #1 country in Spartacus' gay travel index. This is in part due to Swedes' general relaxed attitude on LGBT issues (they have had registered partnership in Sweden since 1995 and same sex marriage since 2009). Another big reason is that the Stockholm Visitors Board has, for years, made a very concerted effort to cultivate the city's reputation as being gay friendly and to promote Stockholm as a top destination for LGBT travellers.
Part of their effort has been the creation of the Stockholm Gay & Lesbian Network (SGLN), which is a collection of top hotels, museums, attractions and transportation companies which work together to keep Stockholm an attractive destination for LGBT visitors. The Rival Hotel is a proud member of this network! Along with other top hotels, members include the Royal Palace, Vasa Museum, NK department store, ABBA the Museum, Strömma Sightseeing, FotografiskaScandinavian Airlines (SAS), Arlanda Express and many more.
SGLN has put together both a gay guide and a lesbian guide, both are downloadable and helpful for LGBT visitors to find their way around the city and are full of fab tips regarding shopping, dining, culture, nightlife and more. Another good place to look for day to day tips is the calendar in the online QX gay map. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me directly or stop by to talk to me for even more help!
Photo by Yanan Li, Stockholm Visitors Board
Some good dates to mark in your calendar... gay pride week, called Stockholm Pride, is generally in the first week of August every year (this year from July 28th to August 2nd) and is the largest pride celebration in Scandinavia. Stockholm is also very proud to announce that they will be the host city for EuroGames in 2015 (5th to 9th of August). This regular LGBT (though open for all) sporting event, put on by the European Gay & Lesbian Sport Federation, is expected to attract 5,000 contestants and over 200,000 spectators!
First three pictures provided by SGLN, photographer Jens Grip.

February 7, 2014

Stockholm Furniture and Light Fairs

Twelve - Established Nordic Designers
Photo by: Gustav Karlsson Frost, Stockholmsmässan
Almost everyone has heard the terms Swedish Design, Nordic Design or Scandinavian Design, and the terms usually bring to mind clean lines, minimalism, natural products and functionality. Design Week, here in Stockholm, is winding down... the city has been filled with different showings, fairs and shows for people working in the design (furniture, lighting, interior design, fashion) industry. But we (the riffraff who don't work in the industry) have our chance to view all of the latest items in the world of Scandinavian Design tomorrow, Saturday, February 8th, when the Stockholm Furniture and Nordic Light fairs open their doors for the general public.
Lighting trend 14/15 - Natural Elements
Photo by: Gustav Karlsson Frost, Stockholmsmässan
 This is basically two fairs in one... lighting & furniture with interior design elements. The fairs are located at Stockholmsmässan (Stockholm International Fairs and Congress Centre) out in the southern suburb of Älvsjö. I recently blogged about Stockholmsmässan and you can read more there about how to get to the fairgrounds from the Rival Hotel (easy!) plus other practical information. The general public is welcome between 11am and 3:45pm and admission costs 140 SEK. Come and get inspired to do "scandi" redecorating when you go back home!

February 5, 2014

Elliott Erwitt (and more) at Fotografiska

Elliott Erwitt
A friend and I decided to have a cultural day this past Monday and chose to visit Fotografiska (museum of photography). Fotografiska is one of my favorite spots to visit in Stockholm regardless of the exhibition... beautiful space, nice cafe/bar with great views, fun gift shop and always interesting photography. But I had especially wanted to go back for a visit to see the Elliott Erwitt exhibition.
Elliott Erwitt
With a career spanning almost 65 years, Elliott Erwitt is a master photographer producing everything from advertisements, editorials, celebrity portraits, books, commissions, photo reportages and more. I found the exhibition to be really interesting and really appreciated the beautiful black & white photography and Erwitt's wry sense of humour (very apparent in many of the photographs). His work does tend to bring out emotion in the viewer... whether tears or laughter. The exhibition runs until March 2nd, 2014.
Elliott Erwitt
While at Fotografiska, we checked out the other, smaller exhibitions that are going on right now. This is the last week for the Jill Greenberg exhibit and it is well worth a visit if you are in town (ends February 9th). Beautiful color portraits of children and animals (bears, monkeys and horses). The resolution, clarity and details of the photographs are pretty amazing... the animals almost have human expressions.
Jill Greenberg (splitscreen done by me to show detail of different subjects).
The third current exhibition is by Johan Rheborg. Rheborg is a famous Swedish actor/comedian and... amateur photographer. The exhibition is called "Backstage" and that describes it very well! It is a series of black & white photographs taken by Rheborg of his colleagues backstage at different Swedish theatre productions. If you are Swedish then you will recognize many of the faces... if you are not, then you can enjoy the beautiful, candid images. Ends on March 9th!
Johan Rheborg
Fotografiska is open daily and open quite late for a museum (closes at 11pm Thurs through Sat, 9pm on the other days). Click here for exact opening hours and cost of admission. The museum is easy to get to from the Rival Hotel... just a 10 minute walk down to Slussen and then less than a 10 minute along the Stadsgård waterfront (location).