November 27, 2018

Christmas Market in Gamla Stan

I have already written about this year's various Christmas Markets around Stockholm... but I made a stop yesterday at the main market in Gamla Stan (old town) and I thought I would post some information and pictures to get you inspired! I call it the "main market" as it is the one that is the most well-known, open daily (11am to 6pm) and is very centrally located on the picturesque square Stortorget in the old town.
Being surrounded by the beautiful architecture of the medieval buildings that surround the square adds to the ambiance... with extra holiday atmosphere when it snows! Strolling around between the stalls, you will find ornaments, decorations, candies, toys, knitwear as well as food like herring, sausages, gingerbread, jams & jellies. You can also buy a cup of glögg (spiced hot mulled wine) and some candied almonds to snack on.
This market is open daily until December 23rd. It can get quite crowded in the late afternoons on the weekdays as well as during the weekends. I was there on a Monday early afternoon and there were no crowds! The easiest way to get there from the Hotel Rival is either to walk (15-20 minutes) or take the subway to Gamla Stan (two stops on the red line).
Ornaments...
...herring...
...candy...
...wreaths and...
...much more!

November 17, 2018

New Year's Eve in Stockholm 2018

Let us take a little break from Christmas and concentrate on New Year's Eve. It is just around the corner! If you are visiting the city during this holiday, then I hope you have started figuring out your New Year's Eve plans because some restaurants are starting to fill up already. This is not an evening when you want to "wing it" when it comes to dining & dancing! Here are some things you should be aware of when making your plans.
  • Restaurants- Quite a few restaurants are closed on the 31st. The ones that are open generally serve a traditional multiple course menu called nyårssupé and nothing else. It can be anywhere between 3 and 9 courses and cost anywhere between 500 and 1200 SEK, depending on the restaurant. This means that going out for a simple dinner or quick bite will probably be problematic unless you are looking at pubs or fast food establishments. These nyårssupé dinners are popular and the restaurants tend to fill up, so don't leave it to the last minute! Most of these restaurants have two seatings during the evening... an early (5-8:30pm) and a late (8:30pm-12am). There are actually a select few restaurants that serve a regular menu and it seems that there are more of these every year. If you are staying at the Hotel Rival, contact us as soon as possible for help in making arrangements! Every year we have guests that stop by around the Concierge desk at 7pm on New Year's Eve looking for help in making restaurant reservations and are surprised that almost every restaurant is fully booked. Don't make the same mistake! Our Bistro is open and we will be serving our popular seafood smorgasbord with two seatings. If you are staying at the hotel, you need to book this in advance as we have limited seating! Click here if you wish to book the hotel package with dinner. 
  • Nightclubs- Here it is important to plan ahead as well. Tickets to the parties at the nightclubs can be pre-purchased in advance. If you don't pre-purchase a ticket, you can end up standing in long lines in subzero temperatures! Here are some of the larger nightclub parties this year as well as a few restaurants: Stureplansgruppen (an umbrella group that runs several nightclubs), Café Opera and Södra Teatern. These are the more posh nightclub venues... there are, of course, many smaller parties going on at different venues. Click here for a list and more information about gay & lesbian parties on New Year's Eve.
  • Taxis- These are notoriously hard to catch on New Year's Eve... especially after 11pm. This is because of the huge demand. Most taxi companies don't accept prebookings because they don't want their cars tied up waiting for people who don't show up. There is also the option of Uber here in Stockholm. You don't have to worry about being stranded though... the subways will be running all night long. If nighttime subways aren't your thing, just make sure that you are within walking distance of your hotel. Stockholm isn't that big so this isn't that hard to accomplish. And remember... be careful when catching taxis in Sweden!
  • Fireworks- Locals will be setting off their own fireworks throughout the city, especially at midnight in the parks & squares. The official fireworks will be shot off above the harbor (eastern side of Gamla Stan). The best places to see the fireworks are along the waterfront, by the City Hall, on Fjällgatan or Monteliusvägen. Some places will be quite crowded but you will still be able to see the fireworks! These afrementioned places are all within a 5-20 minute walk from the Hotel Rival
  • Skansen- Once again, this is the center of Swedish holiday tradition. This is the countdown spectacle that is televised and shown around all of Sweden on TV... kind of like the Swedish version of the ball dropping at Times Square. There will be music and speeches and, of course, the official countdown. Skansen is also a great place to see the official fireworks! To be honest, I'm not sure how much someone who doesn't speak Swedish will get out of the event as most of the program is in Swedish... but it is an option. The program starts at 11:10pm and ends at 00:10am. Be aware that it is outdoors (see below)! 
  • Weather- Remember that it is winter in Sweden. Temperatures can vary between 5 and -10 degrees Celsius (41 and 14 degrees Fahrenheit) around this time. There might be snow or not. Dress accordingly when you are out. You can always keep your eye on the weather site a couple of days ahead of your arrival to get a better idea of what the weather will be like. 
The Hotel Rival- our Bistro, as I mentioned, is open. If you have dinner plans somewhere else, stop by before or after for a drink. The bars will be open until 2am. There will be a DJ playing and the square in front of the hotel is a popular place for the locals to light their fireworks. I am sure the DJ will play this song at some point during the evening... 

November 13, 2018

Ice Skating Rink at Kungsträdgården is Open!

A sure sign that the winter season is upon us... the outdoor ice skating rink in Kungsträdgården has opened for the season! It will remain open until around the first week of March. This is a favorite with locals and visitors alike. Using the rink is free of charge for everyone. If you don't have your own skates with you, then they do have skates available for rental. 70 SEK per hour for adults (19 and over) and 30 SEK per hour for children. You can pay with credit or debit card and a helmet is included with the price. The only day they close the skate rental booth is December 24th (though the rink is still open).
They have generous opening hours: 9am to 9pm on weekdays and 10am to 9pm on the weekends. You don't have to worry about the weather. Even if the temperature is above freezing, they have a cooling system that keeps the ice frozen. The rink is lit up with Christmas lights and they play music so there is a festive atmosphere. Kungsträdgården is very central and it is located right in the downtown area, across the street from the NK department store. So, this is a perfect spot to take break when doing your holiday shopping!

November 7, 2018

Christmas Markets in Stockholm 2018

Christmas market in Gamla Stan
Photo by Jeppe Wikström/
Visiting Christmas markets when in Stockholm in December is a popular activity, whether to do some holiday shopping or just to get in the spirit of the season. The first one opens in a little over two weeks from today and there are a wide variety of markets to choose from during the weeks leading up to Christmas... from the traditional to the more modern. Some are open every day, some only on the weekends while others are just open for a couple of days. This means that you will be able to visit at least one Christmas market if you are in Stockholm any time starting on November 24th. But... the last day to visit any market is December 23rd! There are no Christmas markets open after that... like on Christmas Eve or Day for example (a disappointment for some visitors). Click here for more Christmas information!

  • Gamla Stan- Stockholm's most famous and popular Christmas market. In fact, it was named by the Telegraph as one of Europe's top 16 Christmas markets. Very traditional; I am sure it owes its popularity to its central location (15 minute walk from the Rival Hotel), historic atmposphere and generous opening hours. It is open daily between 11am and 6pm from November 24th through December 23rd. 
  • Skansen- an historic market located in this open-air museum dedicated to Swedish traditions and pastoral life. Open between 10am and 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays (Nov 24th to Dec 16th). See how Christmas was celebrated in Sweden 100+ years ago!
  • Konstfack- (College of Arts, Craft & Design)- Creative market put on by the students one weekend every year. Open between 10am and 5pm on December 1st & 2nd. Located in the southern suburbs.
    Christmas market in Gamla Stan
    Photo by Henrik Trygg/
  • Kungliga Hovstallet- (The Royal Stables)- Combine a visit to the stables with some traditional Christmas shopping. Open between November 30th and December 2nd (Fri- noon to 7pm, Sat- 10am to 6pm, Sun- 10am to 5pm). The stables are located in the downtown area.
  • Bondens Egen Julmarknad- (Farmers' Christmas Market)- in the weeks leading up to Christmas, this popular farmers' market, located in SoFo, turns into a Christmas market. Laid back and local. Open between 10am and 3pm on the four Saturdays before Christmas (with start on Dec 1st). 
  • Beckmans College of Design- An annual popular market put on by the design & fashion students. Location. Open on Saturday and Sunday, Dec 8th & 9th, between 10am and 5pm.
  • Långholmens Julmarknad- for the second year in a row, they are holding a traditional Christmas market on the island of Långholmen (in the historic, former prison!). Open between 10am and 4pm on Dec 1st and 2nd. 
Christmas decorations at Skansen's market.
Photo by: Maria Johansson/Skansen
There are also a few good Christmas markets located just outside of the city and worth a visit as well. 
  • Drottningholm- Royal palace, home of the royal family and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which has an annual Christmas market. Open Saturday Dec 8th (10am to 5pm) and Sunday Dec 9th (10am to 4pm). Location.
  • Steninge Slott- Castle located near the town of Märsta. They have a popular indoor market with design and gardening boutiques, which turns into a daily Christmas market between November 10th and December 23rd (11am to 6pm weekdays, 10am to 5pm weekends).
  • Sigtuna- the capital of Sweden before Stockholm took over in the 1200's. Location. Traditional market open on four Sundays (11am to 4pm) leading up to Christmas, with start Nov 25th.
Market at Beckmans Designhögskola

November 1, 2018

This Halloween Weekend in Stockholm

While this is generally a bit of a slower period in Stockholm, between the busy summer and Christmas periods, this coming weekend is filled with events. This is because of Halloween, All Saint's Day and "höstlov" (the autumn school break for children) all fall on this week/weekend. Besides the events listed below, keep in mind that many museums in Stockholm will have special activities set up for children.
Halloween is a relatively new concept to Sweden, at least the Americanized version with ghosts, goblins and trick & treating. But Swedes have taken a liking to this holiday and it is growing in popularity, so don't be surprised to see people dressed up in costumes this week. While Halloween is always on October 31st in the U.S., it is more vague here in Sweden with people generally celebrating on the closest weekend (but not even that is set in stone).
Press image from Shockholm
A large annual Halloween event is Shockholm (see the play on words?), Scandinavia's biggest Halloween parade. This happens on Saturday, November 3rd, starting with opening ceremonies, costume competition and live performances in Kungsträdgården park from 3:30pm to 5pm. The parade then starts and snakes its way through Gamla Stan for about an hour before arriving back at Kungsträdgården for the award ceremonies.
Press image from Shockholm
Some more spooky stuff... our big amusement park Gröna Lund, which is usually just open in the summer months, is open this week for the children on their autumn break. For Halloween they have some scary attractions, including several haunted houses! Gröna Lund is located on Djurgården, near many of the other main attractions like the Vasa and ABBA museums and Skansen, so you can easily combine them.
Halloween at Gröna Lund
Photo by Johan Gramén 
Besides the spooky stuff, this is also a season of reflection and darkness. All Saint's Day is on Saturday, November 3rd. A popular activity this weekend for Swedes is to visit the graves of departed loved ones and light candles. The best place to experience this hauntingly beautiful tradition is the Woodland Cemetery (Skogskyrkogården), which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. More information. Be respectful of people visiting graves!
All Saints' Day at Skogskyrkogården
Photo by Susanne Hallman
November is a dark month... the days get shorter and neither snow nor Christmas lights have come yet. It is important for Swedes to get some light in their lives this time of year, so perhaps it isn't strange that we have a Light Festival! The festival takes place around the shores of the lake Brunnsviken, just on the northern outskirts of the city, on Sunday, November 4th. There will be six torchlight processions, live music from choirs, string quartets and more... all starting at 3:40pm. It is very beautiful with the torches lit all around the lake! See link above for more detailed information.
Light Festival at Brunnsviken (2017)
Photo by Ronny Fors