November 17, 2015

White Guide Nordic- Best Restaurants in the North 2016

One of the reasons I started writing this blog was because of the White Guide, which is a great annual guide to the top 600 or so restaurants in Sweden and based on the opinions of local journalists and restaurateurs. The trouble was that it was only available in Swedish and I thought it was great information which tourists would like to have. Last year the White Guide published a separate guide in English for all Nordic countries (Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland & Iceland) which I reported on here. Now it is time for their next installment of the White Guide Nordic!
Sweden 2016 Esperanto, photo by David Back.
This year the guide covers the 300 best restaurants in the Nordic countries, with 92 of them coming from Sweden. As it was last year, 12 restaurants from Sweden, 6 of them from Stockholm, made the top 30 list (though there have been some changes in the rankings). I would be remiss not to mention that the restaurant ranked second is the Swedish restaurant Fäviken, located up in northern Sweden. Here are the Stockholm restaurants which made the top 30, including their ranking. Several restaurants shared the same amount of points which is why they have "tied" with other restaurants in their ranking.

Click here to see past White Guides as well as other guides and restaurant awards. And click here to see where you can buy your copy of White Guide Nordic 2016.
Sweden 2016 Gastrologik.

November 13, 2015

Mall of Scandinavia

Entrance
Stockholmers have been anticipating the opening of the Mall of Scandinavia for a few months now... and there has been quite a lot of press about their big opening in the weeks leading up to it. The PR was apparently a resounding success as so many people showed up to the grand opening Thursday night that they had to close the doors after only 30 minutes or so. Fortunately I played it smart and decided to make my visit the morning after to avoid the crowds.
The mall complex seen from the commuter train station.
Apparently the biggest mall in Sweden and one of the biggest in Scandinavia, this shopping center is located in the northern suburb of Solna. It is right next to Stockholm's newly built stadium Friends Arena. Together they make up the core of a new Stockholm district called Arenastaden ("the arena city") which has big plans on being an ultra modern city suburb.
When I got there, shortly after they opened in the morning, the mall was already starting to fill with curious Stockholmers. It is quite enormous and very beautifully designed with many sleek lines and details. Fortunately there are several information desks spread throughout the mall where you can ask questions and get a map. The mall is triangular in shape with three floors and plenty of open areas connecting the floors.
There are currently 224 shops and boutiques as well as 22 restaurants and a 15 screen cinema multiplex that includes the first commercial IMAX theatre in the Nordic region. It feels a little silly to report on the different boutiques found there as there are so many. But I can say that it is a wide range of stores from large well known Swedish stores (like Åhlens, Kapp Ahl and H&M) to smaller boutiques that aren't found in many other shopping centers.
Entrance to the multiplex including IMAX thestre.
There are quite a few international brands like Disney, Victoria Secret and Tommy Hilfiger, but also many Swedish brands like Filippa K, J Lindeberg and Make Up Store. Besides fashion there are plenty of interior design stores and shops selling everything from accessories to hardware to cosmetics. There is even a liquor store, pharmacy, exchange office, spa and manicurist. Their website is currently only in Swedish, but it looks like they are planning other language options in the future. In the meantime you can find a list of the stores here.
A few of the stores found in the mall.
It is very easy and quick to get to from the Rival Hotel... just take the commuter train (pendeltåg) from nearby Stockholm Södra station, in the direction of Uppsala, to Solna station. This is just four stations away and a 13 minute trip. The mall is located right next to the Solna station. If you are doing other shopping in the downtown area then you can take the commuter train from the Central station as well.
I thought I would end with a few pictures of...
...a fountain where shoppers can walk under streams of water...
...which seemed popular with kids and adults. 

November 11, 2015

Christmas Markets in Stockholm 2015

Gamla Stan's Christmas market.
The first market opens for business already next week Saturday (Nov 21st), so this is a good time to list some of the Christmas markets in the greater Stockholm area and their opening hours/dates this season. Some are open daily, some just on the weekends while others are only open on specific dates. These markets can differ quite a bit from one another... some more traditional (decorations, local arts & crafts, traditional delicacies like jams, sausages and cookies), others a bit more modern (design articles). At any rate, you will have at least one open to visit if you are in Stockholm anytime between November 21st and December 23rd.
The Bakery boys at Skansen, photo by Marie Andersson.
  • Gamla Stan (old town)- the grand dame of Christmas markets. Traditional with historic atmosphere and centrally located. Recently named one of the top ten markets in Europe by The Telegraph. Open daily (11am to 6pm) between Nov 21st and Dec 23rd. Only a 15 minute walk from the Rival Hotel!
  • Kungsträdgården- another popular market! Their central location near the NK department store, downtown shopping district and outdoor ice skating rink make this a season must. Open daily (11am to 6pm) between Nov 27th and Dec 22nd. 
  • Skansen- take a journey back in time and visit a Christmas market as they were 100+ years ago. Skansen, located on Djurgården, is an open air museum of Swedish traditions as well as the city's zoo. Open Saturdays and Sundays (10am to 4pm) from Nov 28th to Dec 20th.
Traditional holiday ornaments/decorations for sale...
  • Konstfack- College of Arts, Craft & Design. Creative Christmas market put on by the students. Saturday and Sunday, Nov 28th & 29th (10am to 5pm). Located in the suburb of Telefonplan.
  • Royal Stables (Kungliga Hovstallet)- Combine a visit to the Royal Stables with some traditional Christmas shopping. Location. Friday, Nov 27th (noon to 7pm), Saturday, Nov 28th (10am to 6pm) and Sun, Nov 29th (10am to 5pm).
  • Farmers' Christmas Market (Bondens Egen Marknad)- in the weeks leading up to Christmas, this popular farmers' market in SoFo turns into a Christmas market. Laid back and local. Four Saturdays before Christmas with start on Nov 28th (10am to 3pm).
  • Beckmans- this College of Design has a popular annual Christmas market put on by the students. Location. Saturday & Sunday, Dec 12th & 13th (11am to 5pm).

There are also a few good Christmas markets just outside the city which are well worth a visit!
  • Sigtuna- The capital of Sweden before Stockholm was founded. Location. Traditional Christmas market on the four Sundays leading up to Christmas (11am to 4pm) with start Nov 29th.
  • Drottningholm Palace- Royal palace, home of the royal family and UNESCO World Heritage site that has an annual Christmas market. Location. Saturday, Dec 5th and Sunday, Dec 6th (11am to 4pm).
  • Steninge Slott- Castle located outside the town of Märsta. Daily Christmas market from Nov 14th to Dec 23rd (weekdays 11am to 6pm and weekends 10am to 5pm).  
  • Vaxholm- called the capital of the Stockholm archipelago (location), this town has a Christmas market every year put on by the Lions' Club. Two weekends: Dec 5th & 6th and Dec 12th & 13th (11am to 4pm).
  • Utö- an island located in the southern archipelago. Two weekends: Dec 5th & 6th and Dec 12th & 13th. A bit difficult to get to, Strömma offers a package trip by boat including traditional Swedish Christmas meal (julbord) onboard. However, as I write this, the package trips are almost fully booked! They do also have many other julbord lunch/dinner cruises to choose from throughout the holiday season.
Skansen Christmas Market, photo by Marie Andersson.

November 7, 2015

Restaurant Söders Hjärta

Exterior...
While I often write here about hip & trendy restaurants or dining at Michelin star establishments, I do realize that this isn't everyone's cup of tea or in their budget when visiting Stockholm. It is good to give hotel guests recommendations for more local restaurants as well. Last week my colleagues and I visited a neighbourhood restaurant, right around the corner from the Rival Hotel, called Söders Hjärta. The name translates as "heart of the south" and is a reference to its location on the southern island Södermalm. The restaurant has been open for 40+ years but recently changed owners and we were curious to see how it was under new management.
...and interior.
In Swedish we call this type of restaurant "kvarterskrog" which is a casual neighbourhood restaurant much like your local pub in the UK and Ireland. The atmosphere is pub-like as well. In fact there is also a bar ("Hjärtats Bar") with a separate entrance from the street. The menu is made up of hearty, comfort food... mainly traditional Swedish but with some international favorites like schnitzel, cannelloni and moules frites. The portions are large and the prices very reasonable.
"Löjrom Toast"
"Gubbröra"
We started with löjrom toast (bleak roe with accoutrements) and gubbröra (an oh-so-Swedish creamy salad made with eggs, anchovies, egg yolk and served on rye bread). For our main course we had the ox cheek bourgogne, biff rydberg and the steak tartare. And finally for dessert we took the classic marängsviss (a Swedish version of an ice cream sundae with meringue). All of it was very delicious and, as I mentioned, the portions are large. In fact, the marängsviss was huge!
Ox cheek bourgogne.
Steak tartare.
Söders Hjärta is quite well known as a classic Stockholm kvarterskrog and is a great restaurant to visit if you want to try Swedish comfort food and check out the locals... especially if you don't want to spend a crazy amount of money on dining in the city. To book a table, click on the British flag and scroll down to the bottom where you will find telephone and e-mail contact details. If you click on the hand with pen icon, you come to an online booking site (in Swedish). Otherwise, if you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact us directly for help. Click here for more restaurant reviews/recommendations.
A giant marängsviss.




November 2, 2015

Shakespeare's Macbeth by the Stockholm English Speaking Theatre

With the exception of opera, a good 98% of theatre here in Stockholm is in the local language... something that seems to surprise some foreign visitors. But the demand for theatre in a language other than Swedish just isn't high enough to justify a "supply" of a permanent theatre. Local theatre goers want to see shows in Swedish plain and simple.
However, all is not lost! There is a theatre company here in Stockholm that regularly puts on shows in English... SEST (Stockholm English Speaking Theatre). SEST has been around since 2010 and has done some great productions, several of them outdoors during the summer months. In fact, I reported on a "Shakespeare in the Park" variation they did in the summer of 2014. But this November they are definitely indoors. SEST is doing a production of Macbeth at Musikvalvet Baggen, which is located in Gamla Stan. Musikvalvet's historic atmosphere (old wine cellar, built long before Shakespeare was born) lends itself perfectly to this play. There will be a total of 8 performances throughout the month. The premiere for this "unluckiest" of plays is on... Friday, November 13th of course. To book tickets, send an e-mail to info@musikvalvet.se. Be aware that you can only pay cash at the door. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, talk directly with me for more information/directions.