July 29, 2014

Stockholm Gay Pride 2014

The Rival Teddy Björn...
(EDIT: this article is from 2014, for updated links and dates... click here!) It's that time of the year again! We have several big festivals in the beginning of August. Besides the Music & Arts Festival and Culture Festival, we have the biggest of all Scandinavian festivals: Stockholm Gay Pride! Pride Week is all of this week (July 28th to August 3rd), but with many of the main events happening later in the week (Wed-Sat). Not only is this a time for the LGBT community to party & demonstrate, it is also an opportunity for Stockholmers in general to celebrate the tolerance in Swedish society and the fact that the city has been named the gay friendliest city on the planet... not once, but twice in recent years!
Photo by Yanan Li, Stockholm Visitors Board
The festival runs until Sunday, August 3rd, and there are a ton of events each day... movies, seminars, workshops, concerts, performances, parties and (of course) the parade. I can't possibly list all of the happenings here, but you can check the Pride website to see the calendar of events (Park). It is good to know that most events are to be found either in the Pride House or the Pride Park (Östermalms IP). There is an entrance fee to the park and you can either buy a day pass or a week pass. Tickets can be purchased at the door, online, at the tourist information office or at a ticnet outlet. There are also a number of nightly parties at different venues throughout the city each evening... more information can be found in the calendar. QX.se also has a list of the parties on their website (use the calendar function). More info here!
Photo by Yanan Li, Stockholm Visitors Board
The Pride Parade happens on Saturday, starting at 1pm at Mariatorget/Hornsgatan and ending at approximately 3pm in Pride Park. This is a very popular event with over 500,000 spectators lining the streets in past years. The fact that it starts at Mariatorget makes it very special for the Rival Hotel... since that is where we are located! One thing our guests should think about, however, is that the main street Hornsgatan will be closed to traffic from 8am until about 3pm. This will make traveling to and from the hotel by car or taxi a little complicated on Saturday. So stick to walking and subways on this day. If you are checking in or out on Saturday, contact us for extra help. Happy Pride!

July 25, 2014

Kayaking in Stockholm

The hot weather continues! If swimming at a Stockholm beach sounds too daring but you still want to cool off, then I recommend renting a kayak and paddling around the city. It is quite inexpensive and an active and fun way to spend the day and even do a little sightseeing on your own. I did write a blog article about this way back in 2010... time for a repost!
Kayaking in Stockholm
Photo by Yanan Li, Stockholm's Visitors Board.
Stockholm isn't called the Venice of the North for nothing! Central Stockholm alone is built on about 15 islands, so there is water everywhere. One fun activity to do on a sunny afternoon is to rent a kayak and paddle around the islands. Stockholm is at her most beautiful when seen from the water! Kayaking is fun and you don't need to be an Olympian to do it... good as a family outing. There are several places to rent kayaks by the hour/day and it is generally quite inexpensive. Depending on the place, you are looking at about 100 SEK an hour though it is sometimes cheaper if you take the kayak for half or full day.

When choosing a kayak rental place think about where you want to paddle! Stockholm actually strides the borderline between a lake and the ocean with the Old Town being the borderline. Everything to the east is the Baltic Sea and everything to the west is Lake Mälaren. If you want to paddle in the lake then I recommend Rålis Kajak located in Rålambshovs Park on the island of Kungsholmen. Or else you can head across the bridge to the island of Långholmen where you will find Långholmen Kajak. Not too far from the Rival Hotel! Here you will be able to paddle by a lot of parklands and beaches as well as cliffs where Stockholmers enjoy diving and sunbathing.
Kayaking in the archipelago
Photo by Henrik Trygg, Stockholm's Visitors Board
If you want to paddle in the Baltic Sea area, then I recommend Djurgårdens Sjöcafé located near the bridge leading from Östermalm over to the island of Djurgården. Stay close to the island of Djurgården so you don't stray too far out into the shipping lanes! Lots to see here... beuatiful parks as well as great architecture on Strandvägen and the villas on the southside of the island. Another option is to paddle in the lake called Brunnsviken on the northern outskirts of Stockholm. Haga Park surrounds the lake with lots of interesting things to see like Haga Castle and Stockholm University... you also don't have to worry about larger boats! The place to rent kayaks here is Brunnsvikens Kanotcentral.
Stand Up Paddling is starting to become popular as well!
If you are feeling more adventurous then you can do a full day of kayaking out in the beautiful archipelago. Stockholm Adventures offers tours all summer, Fridays through Mondays. The price is approximately 1,790 SEK and includes transport and lunch. You leave Stockholm at about 8:50am and head to the town of Stavsnäs where you will be met by the guide. The experience, all in all, lasts about 11 hours. They also have other options like kayaking with camping or kayaking tours in Stockholm. Another company that offers kayaking day trips in the archipelago during the summer months is Green Trails. Some of the above websites, that I've linked, are in Swedish so it is better to contact me directly at the hotel for prices and directions on how to get there as well as other practical information. Have fun!

July 18, 2014

Swimming at Stockholm Beaches... a Good Way to Cool Off!

Swimming in the archipelago! Photo by Henrik Trygg, Stockholms Visitors Board.
Way back in 2010, I wrote a blog article about beaches and pools in Stockholm. As temperatures are expected to hit 30 Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) next week, I thought that it would be a good idea to write an updated article.
Swimming at Hornsberg Strand.
One perhaps doesn't think of beaches when visiting Stockholm or swimming in the middle of a major metropolitan area in general. But it is actually possible (with many options), safe (clean water) and popular (with locals and visitors alike)! The choices are many... whether you wish for a traditional family-friendly beach or a more secluded cove with cliffs for diving. There are several options within the city as well as many outside of the city, though still easy to get to.
Swimming off Långholmen. Photo by Jeppe Wikström, Stockholm Visitors Board.
Two of the most popular beaches in the city are Smedsuddsbadet and Långholmens Bad and they actually face each other across the water with the former located on the southern coast of the island of Kungsholmen and the latter located on the northern coast of Långholmen island. These are both very family friendly with sandy beaches and can get quite crowded on sunny weekends. Långholmen has also a few more secluded spots for bathing a short walk from the main beach. No sand beaches, but rocky outcrops perfect for diving/jumping in to cool off!
Family friendly Saltsjöbaden.
Sunbathing on rocky cliffs is very popular with the younger crowd... good way to escape the masses and small children. One of the best places for this is the cliffs of Fredhäll on Kungsholmen (a personal favorite). Nearby you will also find the newly built waterfront promenade at Hornsberg Strand where they have put in ladders and terraces making swimming easy. You will also find showers as well as bars & restaurants. Purely local! There are several lakes around Stockholm with their own beaches... two popular places are Hellasgården and Brunnsviken (in Haga Park).
A swim at night. Photo by Henrik Trygg, Stockholm Visitors Board 
Finally, you can head a bit out of the city to swim and sunbathe. The options are endless out in the archipelago... you really just have to decide how far out you wish to travel. Some of the more popular options are Fjäderholmarna, Grinda and Saltsjöbaden. But really the choices are endless! Basically if the sun is shining, and one can safely get to the water, you have an option. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, come talk to me and I can point you in the right direction to find the beach perfect for you. For further reading... click here, herehere or here

July 17, 2014

Hop On Hop Off Boats

When I visited Fotografiska this past weekend, I decided to use the Hop On Hop Off Boat to get from the downtown area to the museum (to re-familiarize myself with them).
Boat coming in to Nybroviken stop.
If you happen to be unfamiliar with the concept of "hop on hop off" sightseeing... it is sightseeing by bus or boat with stops. These stops are generally at the city's main attractions or hubs. At these stops you can choose to get off the bus or boat to visit the attraction. When you have finished your visit, you just jump on the next bus or boat that comes by (which they do on a regular basis, especially during high season). This is an especially great way to get around if you just have a short time in the city and want to see and do the most during your visit.
Information at stop showing routes and attractions.
Of course, you don't have to get off at the stops. You do have the option of staying on board for the whole tour, which is guided. The question I get most asked about this tour is "how long is the tour if we don't get off?". The answer is 50 minutes. However, if that is your plan, I would instead recommend one of the regular sightseeing boat tours like Under the Bridges or Royal Canal tours.. otherwise you are wasting time waiting while the boat stops to drop off and pick up guests every 10 minutes.
Gamla Stan from the water.
Besides the Hop On/Off Boat, there is a Hop On/Off Bus tour as well. Another question I often get asked is which of the two (bus or boat) I would choose. Both are good choices, but there are some differences... the boat hits the main attractions but misses City Hall (Stadshuset). The bus tour is a little longer (90 minutes), stopping not only at the main attractions but also several popular squares and streets. However, it does not stop at Fotografiska (which the boat does). If you still have trouble deciding, they do offer a combination ticket as well for both bus and boat.
Another Hop On/Off boat passing Kastellholmen.
When it comes to tickets, besides the combination ticket they also give you the choice of buying tickets good for either 24 hours or 72 hours. The time period starts from the first time you use it. In other words if you buy a 24 hour ticket for the boat at 3pm on Tuesday (time period starts when you first use the ticket), it is good until 3pm on Wednesday. Tickets can be purchased online (website linked above), on the bus or boat (cash or credit card) or, if you are staying at the Rival Hotel, through me!
Picking up passengers at Nybroviken.

July 15, 2014

Sebastião Salgado at Fotografiska

Finally! I have been trying to get to this exhibition for the past month, but have been busy, busy, busy! It was well worth the wait though. The exhibition in question is "Genisis" by Sebastião Salgado at Fotografiska (photography museum). And while I have been a little late on reporting this summer exhibition, the good news is that you have until September 14th to see it! Sorry for the odd angles of the pictures in this article but I was there on a Sunday afternoon and it was quite crowded... hard to get enough time in front of each picture to take a shot. Good tip: avoid Sunday afternoons!
Detail from photograph (with reflection of exhibition)

Salgado is a Brazilian photographer and past winner of the prestigious Hassalblad award. The comprehensive exhibition is comprised of hundreds of powerful black & white images from across the globe. Actually, "across the globe" is almost an understatement. The photographs depict locations as far flung as Kamchatka (Russia), the Amazon, Ethiopia, The Falklands, Antarctica, Indonesia, Namibia and more.
Mursi tribe from Ethiopia
Depicted in these beautiful photographs are the landscapes, fauna and people of the region. Women from the Mursi tribe in Ethiopia with lip plates, penguins diving from an iceberg in the South Atlantic, stark glacial valleys in Alaska and a leopard drinking from a jungle watering hole are just some of the amazing images on display. The use of black & white really shows how graphic nature can be...a point I found very interesting. It really comes as no surprise that Salgado is a Unicef Goodwill Ambassador!
"Genesis" is just one of several summer exhibitions at the museum. Fotografiska, the world's largest museum of photography, is located on the northern waterfront of the island of Södermalm, location of the Rival Hotel. In fact it is just a 20 minute walk from the hotel. During the summer months they have an outdoor grill restaurant at the museum entrance. Great place for a casual lunch or dinner... dine al fresco with views over the harbor! Click here for a list of other summer exhibitions...
Entrance to museum with grill restaurant.

July 10, 2014

Day Trip to Vaxholm in the Archipelago

Vaxholm harbor
My cousin and his wife visited me for a few days this past weekend. It was their first time in Stockholm and gorgeous weather, so after the requisite visits to Gamla Stan, Vasa Museum, waterfront walk on Kungsholmen, lunch at Rosendals Wärdshus, dinner & drinks at both Kryp In and Mr French... I thought a trip out in the beautiful Stockholm Archipelago was in order!
Quaint café on the bay... location of our lunch!
With over 24,000 islands, there are a lot of options on what to see & do when visiting the archipelago. Time-wise, you are looking at between 4 and 8 hours... depending on how far out you want to travel, which islands you want to visit and how much time you wish to spend ashore (if any). We did not have a full day so I decided on a visit to the town of Vaxholm for lunch and a little wandering.
Scenery on the way out to Vaxholm.
Vaxholm is the name of both a town and the island it is on and is located in the central portion of the archipelago. In fact, its central location has made it a hub for boat travel in the archipelago and its nickname is "Capital of the Archipelago". One of the main sea routes in to Stockholm passes by Vaxholm. So besides the town, you also have Vaxholm Fortress (Fästning) which was first built in 1544 to guard the city. You can visit the fortress, which houses a museum, and there are boats from Vaxholm harbor every 20 minutes which takes you across the narrow channel.
The fortress...
We opted for a more care-free visit and took a walk along the north side of the island. A short walk through the quaint streets brought us to Hembygdgårds Café. Located on a picturesque little bay, this popular café has a great outdoor seating with views over the water. It also has one of best dessert/pastry buffets I have ever seen! Great lunch options as well as beer and wine.
Fantastic dessert buffet at the café!
After lunch, we made our way back through the town (with some shopping along the way) to the harbor. The town is quite cute and made up mostly of wooden buildings. In fact, wood was the only building material allowed by law up until 1912 so that it could be easily razed and kept out of the Russians' hands if they were to invade. The harbor itself can be very busy, with people getting on and off boats, but the town gets much quieter just a few blocks from the harbor.
Main square in the town with...

...shopping options.
You have a few options to get to Vaxholm from Stockholm. The Cinderella boats travel to the outer archipelago every day during the summer and stop at Vaxholm. They leave the city from Strandvägen around 9:30-10:00am and the trip takes just 50 minutes. They stop by Vaxholm in the afternoon (3-4:00pm) on their way back from the archipelago, depending on the day of the week. Check the website, linked above, for the schedule.
One of Waxholmsbolaget's boats.
Another option is using the Waxholmsboalget boats (the commuter boats of the archipelago). These boats have more departures through the day and the trip takes between 50 minutes and 1 hour 20 minutes, depending on the boat. They depart from Strömkajen and you purchase your tickets onboard. There is a bridge connecting Vaxholm island to the mainland, so you have the additional options of bus, taxi or car. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me for help with schedules and tickets (Cinderella only). Click here and here for more tips about visiting the archipelago.
Leaving Vaxholm by boat...

July 2, 2014

Restaurant Mr French in Gamla Stan

Last autumn I wrote about the restaurant Mr French which had opened in the locale, once occupied by Pontus by the Sea. As I wrote then, they were just planning on being open for a few months before closing during the winter for a full scale renovation and refurbishment of the restaurant.
Art deco bar fabulousness.
They have now reopened and I was at the grand unveiling last week. It is an amazing change! I hardly recognized the locale. Beautifully designed bar and restaurant with an art deco feel... it felt almost like a set from The Great Gatsby. I especially liked the open kitchen with seafood on display, like at a food market or fish monger. Mr French is quite large with many seating options inside the restaurant. Besides the dining room with open kitchen, you have several comfortable seating groups for cocktails or more intimate dining.
Main diningroom or...
...your own nook with a view.
One of Mr French's main selling points is its location... arguably one of the best in Stockholm. The restaurant is located on the waterfront promenade of Gamla Stan (old town). They do take great advantage of their location with a large outdoor-indoor bar/lounge area on the ocean side of the restaurant, providing guests with views of the harbor. Part of the lounge area has a retractable roof which they can extend when it gets chilly in the late evening (heating lamps give a little extra help). They do have a bar menu which is perfect if you get hungry after a few cocktails or want a late lunch after a day sightseeing in Gamla Stan.
Open kitchen with displayed seafood.
Speaking of menus... the restaurant's menu has an interesting mix of Swedish, French and American favorites, with an extra emphasis on grill and seafood. You will find their menu here (click on "bordsmeny"). When I was there for the grand unveiling, we were treated to delicious hors d'oeuvres. I did visit the lounge earlier this week and had the opportunity to try their Mr French Burger. Very good!
Outdoor bar area with retractable roof.
As I mentioned, they are located in Gamla Stan... just a 15 minute walk from the Rival Hotel. They often have special events and happenings in the bar/lounge area. When I was there the second time they had a bartender competition which was fun. Talk to me, if you are staying at the hotel, for information about happenings or help in booking a table. Click here for my other restaurant reviews.
View of harbor and waterfront promenade from restaurant.