May 30, 2018

What's Going on in June?

Midsummer Celebration
Photo by Yanan Li/ 
The quick answer is... lots! June is always a busy month in Stockholm as the summer season kicks off in earnest. Festivals, concerts, sports events and much more. I have posted a full calendar for the year earlier, but I thought a more detailed calendar for June would be a good idea to help you plan your stay if you are coming this month. Even if you don't find something to your interest, keep in mind that many of these events can mean traffic, road closures, crowds and other factors which may still affect you.
  • 1st- Iron Maiden concert at Tele2 Arena
  • 1st- Sweden vs Denmark soccer match (friendly) at Friends Arena. The teams will be testing themselves (and each other) ahead of the upcoming World Cup in Russia later this month. 
  • 2nd- The 40th annual Stockholm Marathon. This is a major event with tens of thousands of runners from over 100 countries participating. The race course is through most of the city and this means a lot of road closures so plan accordingly (give yourself extra time if you are going to the airport or cruise ship terminal). If you are out exploring the city, stick to walking, subways and ferries.
  • 5th to 10th- The Stockholm Early Music Festival at different venues in the Old Town. This is a festival for lovers of baroque, renaissance and medieval music! The venues add to the historic feel of the concerts. 
  • 5th to 10th- A Taste of Stockholm (restaurant festival) in Kungsträdgården. This is one of my favorite annual festivals. Many local restaurants open tents and booths in the park so it is a good way to get a taste of what Stockholm has to offer. Bar tents, food trucks, live music and shows as well! Open day and evening with free admission! 
  • 6th- The Swedish National Holiday. This is a bank holiday. The best place to go to celebrate this holiday is Skansen park. Flag waving, dancing, music, games and more. The Royal Family will be present, after they take a horse and carriage ride from the palace to the park. Speaking of royalty, the Royal Palace and its museums will be open this day to the public with free admission! 
    Stockholm View
    Photo by Alexander Dokukin/ 
  • 8th to 10th- Stockholm Brewers Festival. Around 15 of Stockholm's microbreweries will be on hand and it is a great chance to sample Stockholm craft beers. Beer, food, music! At the Orion Theatre on Södermalm. 
  • 9th- Stockholm City Swim-Run race. A 27 kilometer long race in the northern outskirtsof the city (Haga Park and surroundings) where participants alternate between running and swimming. 
  • 10th- Stockholm Bauhaus Athletics Diamond League (international track and field competition) at Stadion (the 1912 Stockholm Olympic stadium). This event attracts some of the best track & field athletes in the world! 
  • 10th- Katy Perry concert at Ericsson Globe Arena
  • 14th- Polar Music Prize (international music awards). This year's recepients are Metallica and The Afghanistan National Institute of Music. 
  • 14th- Ed Sheeran concert at Friends Arena
  • 15th & 16th- Summerburst festival, with house music and international DJs, at Östermalms IP. Very popular music festival for the "younger" crowd. 
  • 22nd to 24th- Midsummer weekend (major traditional Swedish holiday). This is arguably the largest holiday in the Swedish calendar, rivaling Christmas as a time when Swedes celebrate with family and friends. Many restaurant, store and museum closures. The link here is to information from last year. I will be writing one for this year soon but in the meantime have a look at the link as the information will be quite similar!  
  • 25th- JayZ and Beyoncé concert at Friends Arena
  • 28th to July 1st- ÅF Offshore Race (major sailing regatta) in the harbor and archipelago. The race starts on July 1st and the boats race out around the island of Gotland in the Baltic and then on to Sandhamn. In the days leading up to the race, there is a sailing village set up on Skeppsholmen where spectators can admire the boats, drink & dine and listen to music. 
    AF Offshore Race
    Photo by Erik G Svensson/ 
These are, of course, just the highlights of the month. There are many other smaller concerts, exhibitis and sporting events going on. If you are staying at the Hotel Rival, contact me directly for further information. 

May 25, 2018

Summer Art Exhibitions 2018

At Millesgården. Bågskytten (Archer), 1919. Photo: Yanan Li
There are so many great museums to see when visiting Stockholm! But which ones to visit when you are only here for a few short days? Besides lots of amazing museums focing on history, we have many wonderful art museums... large and small. Here is a list of the different exhibitions being shown at the art museums and major galleries this summer in Stockholm. Hopefully it will help you plan your days in Stockholm! If you are staying here on the cusp of spring and summer, click here to read about the spring art exhibits as some may still be ongoing while you are here. If you are staying at the Hotel Rival, contact me directly for information and help planning your stay.
Photo by: © Max Plunger

May 24, 2018

Restaurants Closed For a Few Weeks During the Summer (2018)

This post may come as bad news, at least for "foodies" visiting Stockholm during the summer. Many top tier restaurants (Michelin star, gourmet) close for a few weeks during the summer. This is mainly due to the generous Swedish vacation rules leading many top restaurants to feel that they can't offer excellent food & service with summer replacement staff. Another reason is that many Stockholmers leave the city during this period and there aren't enough visiting "foodies" to fill these types of restaurants to make it profitable to remain open. No businessmen in town either, wining & dining clients. At any rate, the good news is that there are a few which will be open all summer and several other top restaurants have some other options during these weeks... and you always have a plethora of other great restaurants (not listed here) in the city to choose from! If you look at the list below, you will see that the closing dates are quite spread out so that there is always a few top tier restaurants to choose from. Most of these restaurants are also closed during the big Midsummer holiday weekend (June 22nd-24th). More on Midsummer weekend soon... 

Michelin star and Bib Gourmand restaurants:
Other top rated restaurants:
  • Fotografiska- Great news here! For the first time, they will be open all summer!
  • Svartengrens- closed between July 15th and August 6th. 
  • AG- closed between July 1st and August 5th. 
  • Lux Day to Day- closed between July 15th and August 13th.
  • Farang- closed between July 10th and August 8th.
  • Adam/Albin- closed between July 15th and August 2nd.  
  • Smörgåstårteriet- open all summer.
  • UNN- closed between June 22nd to August 8th. Their main restaurant Tak is open all summer. 
  • Djuret- closed between June 21st and August 15th. Instead they open up a Spanish outdoor barbecue restaurant, in their inner courtyard, called Svinet.
  • Pubologi- closed between June 21st and August 1st. . 
  • Flickan- closed between June 17th and August 1st. 
  • Le Rouge- closed between June 21st and August 13th. 
  • SMAK- closed between July 1st and August 15th. 
  • Teatergrillen- closed between July 7th and August 8th.
  • Wedholms Fisk- open all summer. 
What this all means is that you need to plan a little ahead if you wish to dine at a top tier Stockholm restaurant during your summer visit and be aware that your favorite (or the one you read about) might not be open. However there are still many great restaurants open during these weeks as well as some restaurants that are open only during the summer months that are definitely worth a visit... so you won't go hungry! If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me directly for help in booking any tables ahead of your visit. Our restaurant Bistro Rival is open all summer.

May 16, 2018

The Amusement Park Gröna Lund

I had a friend from London visiting this past weekend and I showed her around the city. We are having beautiful weather in Stockholm this week and she wanted to visit Gröna Lund, Stockholm's large amusement park. I hadn't actually visited the park in a long time (except for a concert or two) and it was fun to revisit it and get back in touch with my inner child. And, hey, makes for a good blog article!
To start off with, it is quite hard to visit Stockholm and not see the amusement park. Several of the rides are part of the city's skyline (we don't have high buildings here) and can be seen from many points in the city. Gröna Lund is located on the waterfront of the island of Djurgården, in Stockholm harbor. It is literally just a stone's throw from many of the city's main attractions like Skansen, ABBA the Museum and the Vasa Museum. So you will get close enough to hear people's screams of delight (terror?) as they ride the rollercoasters if you visit any of the other attractions.
Gröna Lund was founded back in the 1880's. It is quite unique in that several of the buildings in Gröna Lund were found here before it became an amusement park... so that they incorporated the buildings (restaurants, homes, commercial structures) into the park, giving Gröna Lund an historic feel. As it is located within the main part of the city, with no real opportunity of expansion, it is not a huge amusement park along the lines of Disneyland and Six Flags. But the park is filled with lots of rides, attractions, games and restaurants!
Before we get to the kiddie fun... Gröna Lund is also a popular attraction for adults due to it being a big summer concert venue. Many famous artists have performed here, like Bob Marley, Paul McCartney, Lady Gaga, Kiss and Jimi Hendrix. This summer they will have over 70 concerts! Many Swedish acts (like Icona Pop and Lena Philipsson) but also international artists like Billy Idol, Ziggy Marley and the Offspring. See the full schedule by clicking here. No special tickets needed, just entry to the park.
In Gröna Lund, you will find a whole range of rides... 2 free falls, several roller coasters and classic rides like "tea cups" and a "flying carpet". And speaking of classic attractions, they also have carnival staples like a fun house, haunted house, bumper cars and carousels as well as typical tivoli games. In other words, fun for the whole family. If you are traveling with children, this could be a good treat for them after a day at museums. Lots of dining options as well (and bar options for the adults!).
The easiest way to get to Gröna Lund from the Hotel Rival is with the Djurgård Ferry from nearby Gamla Stan. In fact, the ferry terminal on Djurgården is right at the entrance of Gröna Lund! The ferries depart around every 15 minutes or so and the trip just takes 9 minutes. If you are in the downtown area, you can take the tram/trolley/street car out to Djurgården.
Gröna Lund is generally open from May to September, daily during the summer months. Click here for their calendar. Prices: entrance tickets to the park currently cost 120 SEK for guests ages 7 to 64 (free for others!). After that you buy scrip to use for the rides and attractions. Click here for more ticket information.

May 13, 2018

Restaurant NOI

I was invited earlier this week with Les Clefs d'Or Sweden to try a new restaurant called NOI. It is located in the Nobis Hotel, in the downtown area. This was the location of another restaurant for the past few years called Caina that served Italian cuisine... but earlier this year they did a major change to the interior design and, in the process, changed their name to NOI, with modern European cuisine now on the menu.
...and interior.
The entrance to the restaurant is down a flight of stairs, inside the hotel lobby, and the new interiors, designed by Gert Wingårdh, give the restaurant an elegant yet cozy feel. The dishes and flavors on the menu are a mix of European cuisine, like Spanish, Italian, French and Swedish, often with a modern twist.
As we were a larger group of 12 persons, our table was served several starters to share (Buffalo mozzarella with sun-dried tomatoes, steak tartare with caper créme and fried red prawns), followed by a couple of main dishes that were perfect to share (seared tuna and dry-aged beef). These main dishes were served with a variety of sides and dipping sauce. It was all very delicious.
Buffalo mozzarella
It is good to keep in mind that NOI will be closed for a few weeks during the high summer season. The easiest way to get to NOI from Hotel Rival is by subway, just four stations away on the red line to Östermalmstorg station (exit to Birger Jarlsgatan). Otherwise, it is just a 7-8 minute taxi ride. In the neighborhood and not hungry? Their Gold Bar and Lounge are well worth a visit! You can book a table on their website or contact me if you are staying at the Rival. Click here for other restaurant recommendations and reviews.
Dry aged beef with side dishes.
...or seared tuna. 

May 8, 2018

Fotografiska this Summer

I was invited yesterday to a showing and information meeting at Fotografiska (The Swedish Museum of Photography) ahead of the busy summer season. Fotografiska, one of my favorite museums, is a real Stockholm success story. They opened 8 years ago in a beautiful old brick building (a former tollhouse) in Stockholm harbor and have, over the years, presented some fantastic exhibitions with many of the world's best photographers... Penn, Leibovitz, Demarchelier, Corbijn, Mapplethorpe, Brandt, Ritts and many more.
These days Fotografiska welcomes over 500,000 guests annually and has become one of Stockholm's top attractions. The concept of photography as art has become so popular that Fotografiska will be branching out and opening in both London and New York City within the next year. Some things that add to their appeal are their generous opening hours (7 days a week until at least 11pm), great location with beautiful views of the harbor as well as an award-winning restaurant.
The restaurant at Fotografiska is located on the top floor of the museum and has garnered a few awards over the past few years, including being named Best Restaurant in Stockholm (mid-price range) and it came in second place recently for Best Museum Restaurants in the world. It is very ecologically friendly, based on sustainability, where organic vegetables and fruits are the focus and meat and fish are secondary dishes on the menu.
Some great news we received yesterday was that the restaurant will be open all summer! In past years they have closed for a couple of months during the summer (as many high end restaurants do) and opened an outdoor barbecue restaurant in front of the museums instead. This year they will keep the restaurant open and will have an outdoor café instead. Good news if you are coming this summer and want to try the restaurant.
They will have some great exhibitions this summer featuring the work of Evelyn Bencicova, Simen Johan, Linda & Mary McCartney and Cathleen Naundorf. After yesterday's viewing, I took some extra time to visit the current exhibition of the work of German fashion photographer Ellen von Unwerth ("Devotion! 30 years of Photographing Women"). I have always loved von Unwerth's work... like her iconic images of Claudia Schiffer which she took for a Guess! campaign and where she played with Schiffer's resemblance to Brigitte Bardot. This exhibition is only showing until May 20th... so don't miss it if you are in town! All pictures in this article are from the von Unwerth exhibit.
Fotografiska is located on the waterfront of Södermalm... just a 20 minute walk from the Hotel Rival. Otherwise, the closest subway station is Slussen (red and green lines) and from there it is just a 10 minute walk. Keep in mind that Slussen is currently an enormous construction project, but just follow the signs for "Fotografiska" to find your way to the museum! Another good option, during the summer months, is the Hop On Hop Off boats which make a stop at Fotografiska.

May 4, 2018

Ports and Docks for Cruise Ships

Ferries and cruise ships travelling through the archipelago to Stockholm.
Photo: Stockholms Hamnar
Summer is around the corner and the cruise ship season has already started. Cruises in the Baltic Sea have become increasingly popular with such interesting stops like Copenhagen, Tallinn, Helsinki, St Petersburg and, of course, Stockholm. Copenhagen and Stockholm are the two ports where most Baltic cruises either start or end... which is great for us as it means more visitors and hotel nights. I get a lot of questions regarding the distance between the harbour and the Hotel Rival. It is actually not an easy question to answer. What many people don't understand is that there are four main ports servicing cruise ships in the Stockholm area, some closer than others. So the answer depends on which port the cruise ship will be docking at.
Stadsgården port with Skeppsbron in the background.
Photo: Stockholms Hamnar
Here are the four ports and their distance from the hotel:
  • Stadsgården- One of the two main cruise ship ports. It is located on the north-east coast of the island of Södermalm (where the hotel is located as well), just a 10-15 minute taxi ride from the Hotel Rival. This is also the docks where the Birka and Viking Line ferries to Finland and Åland depart from.
  • Frihamnen & Värtahamnen- The other main cruise ship port. These two docks are right next to each other and are located in the northern outskirts of the city, about a 20-30 minute taxi ride from the Hotel Rival. There are also special buses that can take you to the City Terminal next to the Central Train Station.This is also where the Silja Tallink Line ferries to Finland, Latvia and Estonia depart from.
  • Nynäshamn- Cruise ships get bigger and bigger each year and some are so huge that they cannot make it through the narrow straits in the archipelago to get to Stockholm. These ships dock, therefore, in the port of Nynäshamn located just south of Stockholm. Some other cruise ships may dock there if it is especially busy at the other Stockholm ports that day. It is about a 50 minute taxi ride to the hotel, otherwise there is also a commuter train and the cruise ships often have their own buses. This is also where the Destination Gotland ferries to the island of Gotland depart from.
  • Skeppsbron or Strömmen- The smaller, and often fancier, cruise ships (like Silver Seas & Seabourn) sometimes dock right at the Old Town, either at the Skeppsbron dock or moored at a buoy in Strömmen. This is about as central as you can get... just a 15 minute walk or 5 minute taxi ride to the Hotel Rival.
Map from showing
location of Värtahamnen, Frihamnen, Skeppsbron &Stadsgården.
The Rival Hotel, not marked, is in the bottom left hand corner of the map.
I should point out that the Hop On/Off busses make stops at Skeppsbron, Stadsgården and Frihamnen during the summer months while the Hop On/Off boats stop at Skeppsbron and Stadsgården. If you don't know which dock your cruise ship will be using, you can check the Ports of Stockholm's website. For more cruise port information, check Visit Stockholm's cruise page. There are taxi queues at the different ports. Just stick with the main taxi companies (Taxi Stockholm, Taxi Kurir) to get the best prices. Prebooking a taxi transfer can sometimes be problematic as taxi companies want an exact pick-up time (more or less) and cruise ship guests often don't know exactly when they will be disembarking, just when the ship is due to dock.