March 27, 2018

Restaurant Fem Små Hus

I had dinner with a Concierge colleague last week at the restaurant Fem Små Hus in the old town (Gamla Stan). I have been to this restaurant many times over the past twenty years and have, of course, written a blog article about it. However, as that article was written almost 7 years ago, it is time for an update!
Fem Små Hus is one of those restaurants that is very easy to recommend to visitors. Not only do they serve great quality, delicious Swedish cuisine (with a French twist) but they also have a beautiful, historic atmosphere. The name Fem Små Hus means "five small houses" and comes from the fact that the restaurant's seven vaulted cellars stretch out under five houses. The restaurant, as I mentioned, is located in Gamla Stan and restaurants have been found at this location since back in the 1600's when there was a restaurant run by a woman named Anna Lindberg (more about her later).
It is actually a relatively large restaurant though you would never know this as it is divided up between 7 vaulted cellar rooms connected by stairs and small hallways, giving diners an intimate feeling. This also makes Fem Små Hus a good restaurant if you are a smaller group as you can dine in your own room, making it a private dining experience. They have a nice bar as well on the street level with a great outdoor terrace during the warmer months.
The cuisine is Swedish with a touch of French and they have some favorite Swedish dishes like assorted herring, Toast Skagen, fillet of reindeer and moose carpaccio. We opted for one of their set three course menus called "Anna Lindberg", named after the entrepreneurial Swedish woman who had a restaurant here around 400 years ago. This menu consists of cured salmon (gravad lax) with a mustard sauce, followed by fillet of veal with a morel sauce and finally a terrine of chocolate with orange curd. It was all very delicious and paired with some great wines.
While Fem Små Hus is a large restaurant, I do recommend booking a table in advance... especially if you wish to dine there on a weekend. You can do this on their website or, if you are staying at the Hotel Rival, contact me directly for help. It is only a 20 minute walk there from the hotel, otherwise you have a couple of busses you can take or else it is a 5 minute taxi ride. The closest subway station is Gamla Stan (red and green lines). Click here for more restaurant reviews and click here for restaurants that serve Swedish cuisine.

March 24, 2018

Spring Art Exhibitions 2018

Mayo, Coups de Bâtons, 1937 © Mayo Bildupphovsrätt
From "Art et Liberté" at Moderna.
We have had a few sunny days now and the snow is starting to melt. Finally, and just in time for Easter! But keep in mind that Swedish spring is very fickle... rain, sun and snow all on the same day. It might be good to have some indoor activities planned just in case... like maybe visiting an art exhibit or two? Here are the major art exhibitions going on this season in Stockholm. Keep in mind that there are many smaller art galleries and museums not listed here. If you are staying at the Hotel Rival, contact me for information about these and more.

"Train in Heaven" by Peter Dahl at Sven-Harrys Konstmuseum
Photo: Lars Engelhardt, Waldemarsudde
If art isn't your cup of tea, Stockholm has many other museums covering all types of subjects like history, music, sports, military, natural history, technology and much more. Click here to find out more! 

March 21, 2018

Storage Lockers at the Central Train Station

Taking a little break from restaurants, stores and museums to pass on some more practical information. From time to time, I have been asked if there are storage facilities at the main train station, usually by hotel guests who might have an evening flight and want to spend the day in the downtown area after checking out, shopping before heading to the airport. In some cases, they would rather take their luggage with them and not have to go back to the hotel first before going to the airport. From the Central Train Station you can get to Arlanda airport with taxisArlanda Express, the commuter train or the airport bus.
Main and lower levels
So, the answer to the question is... yes, there are facilities at the train station where you can store luggage. I was invited to an event a few evenings ago and had been shopping in the city. I didn't have time to go home in between and decided that the best thing would be to store my loot in one of the luggage lockers at the station... and I thought that it would make a good "how to" blog article.
Machine where you pay for your locker
The Central Train Station is located in the downtown area, not far from the City Hall (Stadshuset). Not only is it the hub for all train traffic, you also have the main subway station (T-Centralen) underneath as well as the new commuter train station under the subway station. Adjacent to the train station you have the main bus station (Cityterminalen) where you have more long distance busses, including the ones to the different airports servicing Stockholm.
Larger lockers and...
They actually have storage lockers at several different points in the train and bus stations. but I used the ones on the floor under the main level of the train station, close to the subway station entrance. The storage lockers come in two different sizes: small (36cm x 44cm x 60cm) and large (46cm x 60cm x 85cm). According to the website, they do have even larger lockers at the bus station for items like "skis and golf bags". Besides the lockers, they also have luggage check for larger bags and personals ervice. This is located on the lower level, near the lockers I used. The manual luggage check is open each day between 9am and 6:30pm while you can access the lockers as long as the train station is open. Different parts of the station have different opening hours but, for example, the lower level is only closed from around 2am to 4am.
...smaller lockers
For the lockers, you can either choose to store them for max 4 hours (small- 60 SEK, large- 80 SEK) or 24 hours (small- 70 SEK, large- 90 SEK). For the manual bag check the cost is 120 SEK for 24 hours, max 7 days. There are machines at the lockers where you pay with either coins or credit card and they have instructions in several languages. After you pay, you receive a receipt with a code on it. Don't lose the receipt as you need the code to open your locker.
Or check in larger bags maunually.

March 16, 2018

Swedish Crystal from Målerås

Swedish crystal and glass is world famous and visitors to Stockholm often purchase some crystal (candleholders, vases, tableware, glasses, art peieces, etc.) to take home with them, whether for themselves or as presents for loved ones. There are several large crystal manufacturers/glassworks in Sweden, with MåleråsKosta Boda and Orrefors being some of the larger and more well known. The Målerås Flagship Store opened recently in Stockholm and I had the opportunity to visit it a few days ago.
Like most of the Swedish crystal manufacturers, Målerås was founded, and is still based, in southern Sweden. In fact, that area of Sweden is called Glasriket ("Kingdom of Glass") because of the high concentration of glassworks located there. Målerås was founded in 1890 and first made everyday items like window panes and medicine bottles before moving to more decorative and creative items. All of Målerås' crystal and glass is handmade in Sweden using different techniques, like casting and blowing.
As Målerås currently has 8 different designers, their crystal and glassware can vary somewhat in aesthetic and design... meaning that they have something for most tastes and sensibilities! Some of their more popular items are cast and painted glass with floral and fauna motifs. I particularly liked their series with a Swedish birch forest motif and I am sure their pieces with the iconic Swedish Dala Horse are very popular. Another series I enjoyed were the "Masq" decanter and champagne flutes.
Dala horses...
The reason I was invited to the store was that they were unveiling their latest designer Anna Kraitz and her "Padam" series. I quite liked the series of vases and candleholders in interesting colors... like moss green, bright yellow, white and sand. The artist was there and explained that this was her first time working with glass as a medium. Hopefully she will expand her series with even more items.
Padam candle holder
On the high end of the scale, they have larger pieces of crystal fused with metal. Many of these peices have mythological themes and are quite striking. The store even has a downstairs gallery, which you can visit, and see most of these larger pieces. A good thing to know is that, if you are a non European Union resident, you can purchase your items here tax free (you get the sales tax refunded when you leave the EU). The store also offers to ship items home for you in case you are travelling on from Stockholm and don't want to carry the items with you on your trip.
"Nordman"- iron & crystal
The Målerås Flagship Store is located on the pedestrian street Drottninggatan in the downtown area, close to where the street crosses over into Gamla Stan (the old town). The easiest way to get there from the Hotel Rival is by subway to T-Centralen (3 stops on the red line) and then exit to Segels Torg. Or else it is a 30 minute walk through Gamla Stan or a 5-6 minute taxi ride. They do also have the Målerås Crystal Gallery and Mats Jonasson Concept Store in Gamla Stan and you can find Målerås crystal in most fine crystal stores in the city. And if you are thinking that it would be fun to try your hand at glass blowing, you can do that at Skansen! Click here for more information about this fun activity and to read about my visit there.
Downstairs gallery

Masq series

March 10, 2018

Best Stockholm Restaurants in the White Guide 2018

While the Michelin Guide is very popular with travellers visiting a foreign city and searching for the best restaurants, the White Guide is another good tool for finding great restaurants in Sweden. In some ways it is even better than the Michelin Guide as it is Swedish critics that rate the restaurants in the White Guide (local knowledge in other words) and they test hundreds of restaurants throughout the country and region. You also get restaurants rated/awarded in several categories, including several that concentrate on environmental sustainability which is fantastic. The trouble is that the White Guide is published in Swedish which makes it a little difficult for non Swedish speaking visitors to access the information... but here is a break down of the Stockholm restaurants that nabbed the top awards and made the lists in this year's guide:

  • Best restaurant in the category gastronomy  (Årets Bästa Mästarklass - Gastronomi): Frantzén
  • Best service experience (Årets Bästa Serviceupplevelse): Frantzén
  • Newcomer of the year (Årets Stjärnskott): Ichi
  • Best restaurant, with emphasis on sustainability (Årets Hållbara Gastronomi): Volt (2nd year in a row)
  • Seafood restaurant of the year, with emphasis on sustainability (Årets Merroir Award): Unn and Tak.
  • Pioneer of the year (Årets Banbrytare): Rutabaga
Best service and Best restaurant: Frantzén
Photo by Markus Crépin Sundström
Here are the Stockholm restaurants that made the list of Swedish restaurants with the highest rating of Global Master Class (number in paranthesis is their rank on the list of restaurants from all of Sweden):
"Årets stjärnskott"- Restaurant Ichi
Photo by Markus Crépin Sundström
And these are the Stockholm restaurants that made the list of Swedish restaurants with the rating of Master Class (number in paranthesis is their rank on the list of restaurants from all of Sweden):
While the White Guide for Sweden is in Swedish, they have published a White Guide Nordic in English which covers all of the Nordic region. For past White Guides or other restaurant guides and awards, click here!
White Guide 2018-19 winners.
Photo by: Markus Crépin Sundström

March 8, 2018

Easter in Stockholm 2018

Easter Lunch!
Photo by Marie Andersson/Skansen
As I look outside and watch the snow pile up, Easter feels far away. But it is just two weeks away! To start off with... the Swedish word for Easter is Påsk (good to know when visiting the city on Easter weekend). While Sweden is one of the least religious countries in the world, it has loads of bank holidays that are religious in origin. On Easter weekend (March 30th to April 2nd this year) we have two bank holidays, besides the obvious Easter Sunday, or Påskdagen: Good Friday (Långfredag) and Easter Monday (Annandag Påsk). Even Thursday (Skärtorsdag) is somewhat special as many office workers take a half day off ahead of their 4 day holiday. Once upon a time this meant that the city came to a standstill for 4 days... but these days it isn't that bad. Banks, liquor stores, cafés and smaller shops will be closed or have changed opening hours. Many restaurants, most larger department stores and shopping centers will be open as normal. Though perhaps with shortened opening hours. The Rival BistroBar and Café are all open all weekend long! Our Bistro will be serving our popular brunch on both Saturday and Sunday.
Children dressed up as Easter witches (påskkärringar)
Photo by Marie Andersson/Skansen
As for the museums, the big ones, like VasaFotografiskaABBASkansen and Moderna, are open as normal (though keep in mind that Moderna is closed on Mondays). The History Museum (Historiska) is closed on both Friday and Saturday, open on Sunday and Monday. Though it is mostly good news for museums... Monday is a day in Sweden when many museums are closed, however some of these museums are staying open on Monday, April 2nd, as it is a holiday. They include the Royal PalaceMedievalMillesgården and Natural History.  Keep in mind that I haven't checked ALL the museums in Stockholm... just the top 20 or so of the 85 museums in the city. Talk to me directly, if you are staying at the Rival Hotel, or check the individual websites if you are interested in other, smaller museums. Sightseeing tours operate as normal! In fact, the popular Royal Canal boat tour starts its season on that Friday.

Scene from Skansen. Photo by me!

If you want to experience Swedish Easter traditions then you should definitely visit Skansen (open-air museum, park and zoo). Don't be surprised if you see little children dressed up as cute witches (påskkärringar)! Here you can learn about, watch, listen to or partake in traditional Easter activities. These are all of special interest if you have children with you. They also have an Easter Market, open (11am to 4pm) from Thursday to Monday, where you can purchase traditional Easter handicraft, decorations, toys and food. For a full calendar of activities at Skansen... click here. I did mention that Sweden isn't a very religious country, but that doesn't mean that it is devoid of religion! There are, of course, many churches (mainly Lutheran and Catholic) that have special Easter services and masses. Contact me directly, if you are staying at the Rival Hotel, for service/mass times at different churches. Several churches offer services in languages other than Swedish. Click here for more Easter tips from Visit Stockholm.
Glad Påsk (Happy Easter)!

March 6, 2018

ABBA the Museum- 5 Year Anniversary & New Exhibition Coming

Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting ABBA the Museum for a tour of the museum and a meeting/ dinner in their restaurant with my fellow Stockholm Concierge. I have, of course, visited the museum on several occasions... click here to read about my first visit and click here to read about when I visited them to see a new exhibition. I won't repeat all I wrote from my first visit and what the museum offers (click on the above link to read it), but a quick reminder...
The museum is obviously dedicated to the Swedish super pop group ABBA. Our most successful pop export, the group has sold hundreds of millions of albums making it one of the best selling artists/groups of all time. All the more amazing when you consider that they broke up in the early 1980's and are still selling records more than ever... mostly thanks to the musical "Mamma Mia" and the films based on the musical. So, of course they should have a museum!
The museum is located on the island of Djurgården, near other major attractions like the Vasa Museum, Gröna Lund and Skansen. In the museum you are following the history of the super group, from their solo careers, through their rise to super stardom, the break up and finally life afterwards with musicals and movies. They have recreated in detail places like Agneta's kitchen, their studio, designer Owe Sandström's studio and more. Speaking of Owe, the amazing costumes he designed for ABBA are also on display.
The museum is very interactive, you can make recordings and videos which are then saved on the museum's website and you have access to them for 30 days via your entrance ticket. They often have temporary exhibitions. Currently they have one called "Guitars of the Stars" featuring signature guitars once owned by famous musicians like Eric Clapton and B.B. King. The guitars are all part of the private collection of Claes af Geijerstam (ABBA's former sound technician).
Now for the big news... ABBA the Museum is celebrating their 5th anniversary this May! As part of the celebration they are opening a new exhibition which will focus on what the band members have done since the break up of ABBA. And they have been busy... solo albums, Broadway musicals, hotels, museums, etc. I can't wait to see this new exhibition. Tickets for the museum can be purchased ahead of your visit on their website, which can be a good idea if you want to avoid long lines, especially in the summer months.
The easiest way to get to ABBA the Museum from the Rival Hotel is to take the Djurgård Ferry from nearby Gamla Stan. The ferry departs every 15 minutes or so and the trip only takes 10 minutes. When you disembark from the ferry, it is only a 5 minute walk to the museum. In the Pop House complex, you will find a nice restaurant and bar besides the museum. And don't miss a visit to their gift shop, lots of great ABBA souvenirs to be found there! And for the full ABBA experience, make sure you book tickets to "Mamma Mia the Party!".

March 2, 2018

Be Italian at Eataly Stockholm

Eataly recently opened its doors here in Stockholm. I had been to Eataly in midtown Manhattan a couple of years ago and loved the concept, so I was looking forward to them opening in Sweden. I have to admit to being a little dense at first and thinking that this Eataly was either connected to the, what I assumed was the original, NYC Eataly (best case scenario) or just a clever copy (worst case). Well, I found out to my chagrin that the Stockholm Eataly is actually one of about 40 around the world (L.A., Chicago, Dubai, Rome, Genoa, Istanbul, Seoul, etc.). I had no idea that it was such a widespread (and obviously successful) corporation. So, if you have been to any of the other 30+ locations, you will know their concept, otherwise...
Eat + Italy = Eataly! That formula should give you the basic concept, but it really is so much more. Eataly, at its core, is an indoor Italian food hall... but with extra everything. Under the same roof you will find restaurants, cafés, bars, gelaterias, groceries, food counters, retail items and even a cooking school, all concentrated on Italian cuisine. They even have a bakery, fish monger, butcher and cheese shop. Just don't come here looking for sushi, herring, hamburgers... this is the world of Italian cuisine.
The Eataly I visited in NYC is enormous and that was part of the fun as you could get lost exploring the different areas. We actually returned a couple of times during our visit... once just for ice cream and another time for drinks. I was afraid that the Stockholm location would be much smaller and you would lose that feeling. But I didn't need to be worried! Eataly Stockholm takes up two floors and it is easy to spend some time working your way through and discovering all they offer. The concept and what is offered is the same at all of their locations.
The locale they have in Stockholm is pretty spectacular. It is located right on the shopping street Biblioteksgatan in the downtown area and was once a historic movie theatre called Röda Kvarn (red windmill.. moulin rouge). I remember how many Stockholmers were upset back in 2006 when the historic cinema closed and reopened as an Urban Outfitters (American clothing chain). I have to say that Eataly feels more suited to this beautiful locale than the clothing chain. They make great use of the open space.
In the center of the building you have La Piazza which, as the name suggests, reminds you of an Italian square, except indoors. This is where the former cinema was located, so the ceilings are two stories high with balconies circumventing the area allowing visitors on Eataly's second floor to enjoy nice views. In the piazza you have the main restaurant, surrounding a large bar. There is another restaurant on the second floor... otherwise you have a variety of more casual eateries spread throughout the locale.
I was there with my fellow Concierge from Les Clefs d'Or Sweden for a tour and dinner. We ate dinner in La Piazza. Very delicious... a charcuterie and cheese plate for the first course followed be a great pasta (passatelli con funghi e salsiccia) and finally (of course) Tiramisu for dessert. It was all very good and paired well with Italian wines. They also offer a wide variety of Italian cooking classes (only in Swedish for now). My colleagues got to try one of the beginner classes yesterday (on how to make risotto) and thought it was a really fun experience.
As a visitor, I can definitely recommend stopping by Eataly Stockholm for a nice Italian dinner, to have a coffee or drink and observe the locals or just to walk around and soak up the atmosphere... perhaps buy some Italian delicacies to take home. To get there from the Rival Hotel, it is just a quick subway ride (four stops on the red line to Östermalmstorg, exit to Stureplan). Click here for more restaurant recommendations/reviews!