June 30, 2017

Taxis in Sweden... Be careful!

I have written this several times over the years... but it is good information that bears repeating!
Click on above picture to enlarge!
Taxis in Sweden are not regulated. This means that it is free pricing and taxi companies can determine their own cost per minute/kilometer on their taxi meters. When the government deregulated the taxi industry, I am sure they did this with the best intentions (allowing smaller companies to be competitive). However, it has backfired. Small companies can legally charge double or even triple what larger companies do. As a Stockholmer, I know exactly which taxis to take or not. Unfortunately this means that the smaller companies end up preying on visitors who do not know better. This might sound a little bleak... but as long as you stick to rules above (checking the window sticker) you should be fine. Another rule of thumb is to stick with the larger companies, which all have similar pricing. Here at the Rival Hotel we use Taxi Stockholm among others. Other good companies include Taxi KurirTop Cab and Taxi 020. Another tip is to avoid hailing a taxi on the street and always have the hotel, restaurant or store call you a taxi. That way you are sure to get a "good" taxi. Über is also available in Sweden (for now).
And here you have some handy tips for catching a taxi at the airport!
Taxi Stockholm!

June 28, 2017

Restaurant Ulla Winbladh

Main entrance
One of Stockholm's better known restaurants (at least with Swedes) is Ulla Winbladh. The restaurant has been serving quality traditional Swedish cuisine since the mid 1950's, though the building itself was first built at the end of the 1890's for the General Art and Industrial Exposition in Stockholm. I had the chance to eat there a couple of weeks ago when a group of us were celebrating a good friend's milestone birthday.
Outdoor seating
Ulla Winbladh is the name of a fictional character found in several of Carl Michael Bellman's poems and songs. Bellman is one of Sweden's most beloved poets. In several of his works the pastoral island of Djurgården is featured... which is just where the restaurant is located. Djurgården is Stockholm's national city park and where many of the city's main attractions are located, like the Vasa, Skansen and ABBA the Museum. It is also a beautiful park!
Ulla Winbladh is the perfect place to try Swedish traditional cuisine's more popular dishes, like pickled herring, Toast Skagen, bleak roe (löjrom), Swedish meatballs, marinated salmon (gravad lax), Beef Rydberg and much more. They are open for lunch and dinner, and its location makes it a great option to take a lunch break while visiting museums or end a cultural day with dinner.
Toast Skagen appetizer
Ulla Winbladh is also rated as a Bib Gourmand restaurant in the Michelin Guide, which means that they don't have any stars but the guide considers them to have "exceptional good food at moderate prices". To get there from the Rival Hotel, you can either take a taxi (10-15 minutes), or take the Djurgård ferry from nearby Gamla Stan and then walk 15 minutes to the restaurant through the park. Click here for more restaurant recommendations/reviews.
Poached cod with browned butter, egg, shrimps and horseradish
Relaxing views of the park

June 17, 2017

Swedish Design at Designtorget

Last week I was invited by Designtorget to a breakfast meeting for a presentation of their concept and stores.
Designtorget is a popular chain of Swedish interior design stores in Sweden. It all began in a locale on Sergels torg in Stockholm (where their flagship store is now located) back in the 1990's. The space was empty and and people didn't really know what to do with it until one enterprising person decided to let young designers and architects display and sell their design articles there. Today they have 11 boutiques in Stockholm, Malmö, Göteborg and Uppsala.
Sticking to their roots, they still showcase Swedish interior designers and have a close cooperation with the design schools in Stockholm. They sell design articles by both well known and unknown (for the moment, at least) Swedish designers. Swedish form and function at its best! This is perfect place to pick up cool Swedish interior design for your home, more discerning souvenirs of your visit in Stockholm and presents for your family and friends back at home.
Designtorget has a wide range of articles for sale... posters, home furnishings, board games, toys, jewellrey, kitchenware, coffee table books and much more. Often mixing form and function with humor in their designs. As a local I often purchase presents there when I want something a little nicer (but that doesn't empty my wallet) and that is more unique and fun. They have seven stores in Stockholm, including the one at Sergels torg and convenient locations at the Arlanda airport and Central train station. Of special note for guests of the Rival Hotel is their store on Götgatan which is just a 10 minute walk from the hotel. Click here for more design tips and click here for more shopping tips!

June 15, 2017

The Café Tram

Now for something a little different...
Café Tram - Cafévagnen
I have mentioned several times, and even wrote a blog article back in 2011, that an easy way to get out to the island of Djurgården (where many of the main Stockholm attractions are located) from downtown Stockholm is the Djurgården street car/tram. They are in the process of extending the route on both ends, but currently the tram runs from Sergels torg in the downtown area out to Waldemarsudde on Djurgården and back.
Route map of Djurgård trams
By Stadscykel, OpenStreetMap contributors - own work and openstreetmap.org, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11229277
This line is trafficked by modern trams. However, they do still have some of the vintage trams running. These run  between Norrmalmstorg (in-between Kungsträdgården and Nybroplan on the map above) and Waldemarsudde. One of these vintage trams is the Café Tram (Cafévagnen), which is easily recognized by the coffee cup on its roof... though the overall look does change from year to year depending on the sponsor. The Café Tram is exactly what the name suggests: a mobile café. Surely you have heard of the Swedish tradition of the "fika" (socializing over coffee/tea with pastries)? Well, this is a great way to experience fika while sightseeing!
While the regular trams are part of the public transportation system and can be accessed using the transport (SL) card, the Café Tram is not. You pay your fare (and fika) on board the tram. A single adult fare, for example, costs 35 SEK. Full fare list here. The trams run on Saturdays and Sundays only, between the end of March and end of December.  The fika is perhaps basic, but the service is very friendly and the route/views are great. Definitely an unusual and fun way to get around the city.
Modern trams!
By AleWi - Eget arbete, CC0,

June 13, 2017

Try Swedish Craft Beer at Ölbryggan- the Beer Pier!

Last week I had a friend visiting from Denmark. We spent one day on the island of Djurgården and for lunch I took her to Ölbryggan ("The Beer Pier"). This summer bar is part of the Museum of Spirits, which I had already visited along with their fine dining restaurant, but I had never visited the Beer Pier so I thought it was a great chance to do something fun with my friend and get a blog article out of it as well.
17 Swedish craft beers on draft... 
I think the first thing I should point out is the Beer Pier's great (and convenient) location on the waterfront of Djurgården, in between the Vasa Museum and ABBA the Museum and right next door to the new Viking museum Vikingaliv. This makes it the perfect place to take a break for some sustenance while visiting museums. The location is also quite beautiful, right on the water with views of Stockholm harbor.
The Beer Pier is open daily during the summer months, weather permitting, from noon onwards. Here you can try Swedish craft beer (from the Swedish Association of Independent Microbreweries). They have very knowledgeable staff on hand to help you choose the right craft beer and have 17 different beers on draft... from lagers to pale ales to porters. We let them know what types of beer we like generally and they recommended the Nils Oscar God Lager (unfiltered) which was delicious.
For lunch my friend ordered the split pea falafel with goat's milk yoghurt, cabbage and a side of grilled lamb while I took the pâté of Linderöd's pork with salted pickle and mustard. It was all really good and the rest of the lunch menu looked very appetizing. Think I will have the herb-cured herring next time. It will give me a chance to try some of the other beers as well!
The easiest way to get to the Museum of Spirits and their Beer Pier from the Rival Hotel is to take the Djurgård Ferry from nearby Gamla Stan. Ferries depart every 15 minutes and the trip takes just 10 minutes to Djurgården. If you are already in the downtown area, you can take the tram (street car) out to Djurgården.

June 10, 2017

Midsummer Weekend 2017

Midsummer at Skansen,
photo by: Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se
(EDIT: post from 2017, click here for updated information) Well, it is almost that time of the year again. Midsummer (June 23rd-25th)! With the exception of perhaps Christmas, Midsummer is the biggest holiday in the Swedish calendar. It is also the weekend where confused tourists and visitors wander the streets of Stockholm and wonder why many parts resemble a ghost town. Generally, they either have no clue it is Midsummer (or even what it is) or they expected a more festive holiday atmosphere with partying in the streets, like a Catholic festival. But this is a holiday, much like Christmas, that Swedes spend with family and friends. Preferably in a summer home outside of the city. It is a very old holiday, celebrating the summer solstice, dating back to Sweden's pagan past. But as long as you are aware of the holiday and what it entails, you should be fine. Most places geared for tourists tend to be open or partially open. Here are some tips on what is open/closed, what to expect and where to celebrate:


  • Skansen- open every day, all weekend.
  • Vasa Museum- open every day, all weekend.
  • Fotografiska (photography)- closed on Friday, open Saturday & Sunday.
  • ABBA the Museum- open every day, all weekend.
  • Royal Palace- open every day, all weekend.
  • Drottningholm Palace- open every day, all weekend.
  • Moderna (modern art)- closed Friday, open Saturday & Sunday.
  • Nobel (Alfred Nobel and the Nobel Prizes)- closed Friday, open Saturday & Sunday.
  • Nordiska (nordic culture)- open every day, all weekend.
  • Historiska (history)- closed Friday & Saturday, open Sunday.
  • Medeltidsmuseet (medieval)- closed Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
  • Spritmuseum (drinkable spirits)- open all weekend, shorter hours.
  • Vikingaliv (Vikings)- open all weekend, closes early on Friday (5pm).

If you are travelling with children (or are young at heart) both the amusement park Gröna Lund and Junibacken, the home of Pippi Longstocking and her friends, are open all weekend.


Here is where you can get into a little trouble. Many restaurants are closed for the whole weekend, while others will be closed at least on Friday. Higher-end, Michelin star restaurants are almost all closed Friday through Monday. Most hotel restaurants are open to the general public (like the Rival Bistro) all weekend. There are also some other restaurants that are open during Midsummer... your best luck will be with hotel restaurants, places in Gamla Stan as well as restaurants like Hard Rock Café. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me as soon as possible for help booking a table, as they will probably fill up and last minute reservations might be tough! 


Also a little tough. Many smaller boutiques will be closed for the whole weekend. Even large shopping centers, like Mood and Sturegallerian, will close on both Friday and Saturday (Sturegallerian is closed on Sunday as well). The two largest department stores, NK and Åhlens City, will close early on Friday (NK at 2pm and Åhlens at 4pm) and stay closed on Saturday. Officially, it is only Saturday which is a bank holiday... but Friday is about as close as you can come "unofficially", so expect many pharmacies, banks and liquor stores to be closed that day as well.


Large sightseeing companies like Strömma run as normal with bus, boat and combination tours available all weekend. Smaller, independant sightseeing companies may be closed. Public transportation runs as normal, though on a more limited "holiday" schedule, all weekend.

Experience Midsummer-

After all of this negativity, you may be wondering "but where do we experience the Midsummer celebrations?". Well, the best place to see how Swedes traditionally celebrate this holiday is at Skansen. Check their calendar for a program of what is going on all weekend long! You can also check this funny video to get a crash course in how to celebrate like a Swede, While most Swedes do leave the city, the few that are left will celebrate with picnics and games in the different parks throughout the city. So, when in doubt, just head outdoors to celebrate. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel and need further information... contact us directly at the hotel!
Summer Night
photo by: Susanne Walström/imagebank.sweden.se

June 8, 2017

Dim Sum(mer) Palace at Esperanto- Summer 2017

I was invited last week by the Esperanto group (includes restaurants Esperanto, Råkultur, Shibumi and Imouto) for a presentation of what they have planned for the summer season. In a recent article I wrote about how most of the top tier restaurants close for a few weeks during the summer and that is true for these restaurants as well in varying degrees. Luckily they don't completely close and have some creative solutions for summer dining as well.
Community table, photo courtesy of Esperanto.
All four restaurants are in the same building, located in the downtown area, and run by master chef Sayan Isaksson. Sayan is considered one of the best chefs in Sweden and both Esperanto and Imouto have a Michelin star each. Esperanto, one of my favorite restaurants, has also been rated best restaurant in Sweden for several years in the White Guide. And to top it off, Sayan has been in charge of the glamorous Nobel banquet for the past few years. Sayan gets a lot of inspiration from the Far East and this can be seen in his restaurants, whether he fuses it with Nordic cuisine in Esperanto, creates delicious, modern sushi for Råkultur or makes his own version of Japanese pub culture in Shibumi.
Shibumi, photo courtesy of Esperanto.
Sound interesting? Well, if you are coming this summer... here are your options. Råkultur (sushi) will be open all summer. However, they will be moving outdoors to their garden (when weather permits) and will not be taking any table reservations. Shibumi (Izakaya- Japanese pub culture) will also be open all summer with just a short hiatus between June 23rd and July 3rd. Michelin starred Imouto (chef's table serving Edo-Mae style sushi) and Esperanto (Nordic/Japanese fusion) will both be closed between June 23rd and August 3rd. Instead they will be opening their summer salon which consists of a community table with 16 seats. Each summer they have a theme and this year it is Chinese dim sum and they have named the salon "Dim Sum(mer) Palace". (open between June 27th and July 29th).
During my visit last week, we got to try some of the dim sum (presented by Sayan Isaksson himself) as well as some of the dishes at Shibumi. As per usual, it was all delicious! In Dim Sum(mer) Palace we tried a few of the dishes. I especially loved the wonton soup with the dumplings cleverly made out of daikon. Great wine pairings! In Shibumi it was delicious comfort food with a Japanese twist, like a Wagyu beef slider with kimchi and fish tacos. All well worth a visit this summer. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me directly for help in reserving seats or for more information.
Dim Sum(mer Palace, photo
courtesy of Esperanto.

June 6, 2017

Best Viewpoint? Monteliusvägen!

Panorama view
We often get guests asking for directions to go to this viewpoint or that viewpoint. Places that they have read about in guidebooks. Like Kaknästornet, Fjällgatan and Skyview. I always love informing our guests that the best view is just a 5 minute walk from the Rival Hotel! Monteliusvägen has especially good views as it is just above Gamla Stan (the old town), Lake Mälaren and Stadshuset (city hall).
City hall to the left, Riddarholmen to the right.
Monteliusvägen is the name of a nearly 500 meter long walking path located along the heights of Södermalm, complete with viewpoints and a park´(Ivar Los park). I like to say to our guests that this is a good place to start your exploration of the city. You can get a good overview of the city's layout as well as see some of the main attractions. There are also many quaint old houses along the way.
Stairs up from the Rival Hotel.
To get there from the hotel, you just turn right as you leave the hotel. Cross the main street (Hornsgatan) and climb the stairs you see in front of you. In five minutes you will have the city laid out before you!
Five minutes from hotel to Monteliusvägen
Riddarholmen to the left and the old town to the right.
Part of the walking path.
Ivar Los park, picnic with a view?