May 31, 2019

Midsummer Weekend 2019

Picture I took two years ago at the pole raising ceremony at Skansen on Midsummer's Eve. 
Well, it is almost that time of the year again: Midsummer (June 21st to 23rd)! With the exception of perhaps Christmas, Midsummer is the biggest holiday in the Swedish calendar. It is also the weekend when 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 parades and block parties, like a Catholic festival. But this is a sacred holiday, much like Christmas, which 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:

Museums-

  • Skansen- open every day, all weekend.
  • Vasa Museum- open every day, all weekend.
  • Fotografiska (photography)- open all weekend.
  • 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 through Monday.
  • Spritmuseum (drinkable spirits)- open all weekend, shorter hours.
  • Vikingaliv (Vikings)- open all weekend, shorter hours.

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.
Pippi Longstocking moves into Junibacken
Photo by Ulf Huett - Junibacken

Restaurants-

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 Hotel Rival, contact me as soon as possible for help booking a table, as they will probably fill up and last minute reservations might be tough! 

Shopping-

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 5pm) and stay closed on Saturday. The Mall of Scandinavia will close on Friday at 4pm and be mostly 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.

Sightseeing-

Large sightseeing companies like Strömma run as normal with bus, boat and combination tours available all weekend. Smaller, independant sightseeing companies may be closed. If you are planning on visiting the archipelago this weekend, expect long lines at the ferries with people heading to and from their summer homes for the holiday, especially going out on Friday and coming back on Sunday. Public transportation runs as normal, though on a more limited "holiday" schedule, all weekend.
Midsummer
Photo by Clive Tompsett/imagebank.sweden.se

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. Raising of the maypole, dancing the little frog dance, etc. 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 many 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 Hotel Rival and need further information... contact us directly at the hotel!
Midnight sun... 

May 29, 2019

New! Baltic Sea Science Center

The other day, the Djurgården Society invited Stockholm hotel staff (including me) on a tour of some of the many attractions located on Djurgården ahead of the busy summer season. Djurgården is a big park complex (the world's first national city park) and the location of many of Stockholm's main tourist attractions, like museums, art galleries, restaurants, theatres and amusement parks. Because of this, it quite unique and attracts over 15 million visitors annually. Chances are, if you visiting Stockholm for leisure, you will spend some time in Djurgården.
While I have visited almost all of these attractions (and written about them), we were lucky enough to be given a tour of a brand new attraction here... The Baltic Sea Science Center. This is an aquarium and science center, dedicated to the creatures that make the Baltic Sea their home and the environmental preservation of this interesting sea. The Center is located within the larger Skansen park and is included with the entrance ticket to Skansen.
Skansen, in general, is an interesting place to visit. Not only is it the zoo, filled with Scandinavian animals like bears, moose, wolves and reindeer, it is also an open-air museum where you can see what pastoral and town life looked like in different parts of Sweden during the 1800's. In fact, created in 1891, it is the world's first open-air museum.
The Baltic Sea Science Center is the latest addition to the park and it was nice to see the sea life of Sweden highlighted. The Baltic Sea is quite unique as it is a large brackish sea (a mix of fresh and salt water). The only connection it has to the ocean is through a very narrow straight that separates Sweden from Denmark in the south.
The various tanks in the aquarium take you through the different habitats of the Baltic, from the shallows to the open ocean, and the creatures that live there. They have salmon, cod, herring, mussels, jellyfish, sturgeon, flounders and much more. One of the tanks has a tunnel, so you can walk through and see the fish swimming above you. The Baltic Sea has a fragile ecosystem and part of the Center is dedicated to the preservation of the sea, the different factors that affect the ecosystem and how countries around the Baltic are working to make sure this sea can be enjoyed by future generations.
Skansen and the Center, as I have mentioned, are located on Djurgården. The easiest way to get there from the Hotel Rival is to take the Djurgård Ferry from nearby Gamla Stan. The ferries depart every 15 minutes and it is just a 10 minute trip. You can also get there from the downtown area, using the Djurgård tram. Both the ferry and the tram are part of the Stockholm public transportation system.

May 25, 2019

Summer Exhibitions at Fotografiska!

This past week I was invited to the unveiling of the museum Fotografiska's two new exhibitions for the summer: Vincent Peter's "Light Within" and Scarlett Hooft Graafland's "Vanishing Traces". Both exhibitions will be showing until September 8th. As usual, the museum manages to show very different exhibitions (motives, styles, subjects) at the same time, which always makes a visit to the museum more interesting.
The first exhibition we visited was "Light Within" by Vincent Peters. Peters is a German born fashion and portrait photographer and the exhibition features around 50 of his black and white portraits of well known people like Cindy Crawford, Jon Hamm, Christian Bale, Adriana Lima and Charlize Theron. While the subjects of his portraits are beautiful models and actors, the photographs are even more gorgeous as Peters plays expertly with light and shadows.
The other exhibition, "Vanishing Traces" by Scarlett Hooft Graafland, is about as different from "Light Within" as you can get. In this exhibition, you have beautiful, crisp and colorful photographs taken by Graafland in some of the most isolated places in the world... Iceland, the salt deserts of Bolivia, Yemen, the Canadian Arctic and more. Born in the Netherlands and trained as a sculptor, Graafland has painstakingly staged these photographs using local inhabitants with beautiful vistas she comes across in her travels.
Fotografiska is located on the northern waterfront of Södermalm, just a 15-20 minute walk from the Hotel Rival. The closest subway/bus station is Slussen (10 minute walk from the museum). One extra special aspect of Fotografiska is their generous opening hours, closing at 11pm on Sun-Wed and 1am on Thurs-Sat. They also have a café and award-winning restaurant on the top floor with views of the harbor... well worth a visit. Click here to read about my recent visit to the restaurant.
If you are interested in other art exhibitions in Stockholm this summer... click here for the list!

May 22, 2019

Summer Pedestrian Streets 2019

Dryck wine bar on the left
For several summers in a row now, the city of Stockholm turns certain streets into pedestrian streets during the summer months. They are pretty evenly distributed around the city and each year they add a couple of more streets and squares. This is a great idea as restaurants and bars on the streets can put out larger outdoor seating areas, letting people take advantage of the long summer evenings. It makes the neighborhoods more alive. In fact, the project is called "Levande Stockholm" which means an alive Stockholm or a vibrant Stockholm.
The pub Half Way Inn
Luckily for the Hotel Rival, one of these streets, Swedenborgsgatan, is literally around the corner from the hotel. Here you will find a wide range of restaurants, bars and cafés, including...

A great street to stroll down, soak up the local life and grab a bite to eat or drink. It gets dark quite late during the summer months in Sweden (if at all), so Swedes love being outside as late as they can.
The restauramnt Morfar Ginko
As I mentioned, there are several summer pedestrian streets spread throughout the city. The other streets in central Stockholm are: Rörstrandsgatan, Skånegatan, Nybrogatan, Norra Agnegatan, Norrtullsgatan, Hornsbergs Strand, Gamla Brogatan, Strömgatan and Drottninggatan. Click on the name to get a map showing the street's location. Drottninggatan is actually a pedestrian street year-round, but they have pimped out the northern portion of the street this year to make it more summery
Bistro Süd
The pictures in this article were taken at around 6:30-7:00pm to give you an idea of how light and sunny the evenings are.


May 20, 2019

Summer Art Exhibitions 2019

National Museumn
Summer is almost upon us! This means that the high season for tourism is starting and many museums open great exhibitions, geared for the influx of visitors to the city. And Stockholm has one of the highest rates of museums per capita, so... something for everyone. If history is your cup of tea, then we have many museums and attractions that concentrate on history, Swedish culture and the royal family. If you are more interested in art and design, here are the planned summer exhibitions at Stockholm's main art museums and galleries. If you are coming in the next couple of weeks (May), click here for the spring exhibitions.

  • Fotografiska (photography)- their two main summer exhibitions are Scarlett Hooft Graafland's "Vanishing Traces" (May 24th to Sept 8th) and Vincent Peters "Light Within" (May 24th to Sept 8th). Open late into the evening, great opportunity to squeeze in some more culture in your day.  
    Wilhelm Bendz, Familjen Waagepetersen, 1830 @Nationalmuseum
    Photo by 
    SMK, Statens Museum for Kunst
  • National (classic art and design)- besides their extensive permanent collection of classic art and design, they do have temporary ongoing exhibitions, like "The Danish Golden Age" (until July 21st) and "Finn Juhl: Architectural Furniture Designer" (until September 22nd). 
  • Moderna (modern art)- several ongoing exhibitions, including Sharon Hayes "Echo", and Palmsteirna-Weiss "Vivid Scenes 1964-1984". They have one upcoming summer exhibition: Arthur Jafa "A Series of Utterly Improbable yet Extraordinary Renditions" (June 26th to Sept 8th). 
  • ArkDes (architecture & design)- besides their permanent exhibit on architecture in Sweden, this season they will also have "The Future Starts Here" (until August 4th) and you still have a few more weeks to see "Architecture Projects: Skeppsbron" (until June 9th). 
  • Millesgården (sculpture & art)- most people come to visit the beautiful sculpture gardens featuring the work of Carl Milles, but they also have a gallery with temporary exhibitions.The upcoming exhibition is "Lena Anderson's World" (June 19th to September 22nd).
    Lena Anderson, 2004©Lena Anderson, Mollan och mormor på altanen.
    @Millesgården
  • Kulturhuset (mixed art)- in celebration of the 100th anniversary when women receievd the right to vote in Sweden they have an exhibition called "The Women in the Neighborhood" (until August 11th) looking at the women who lived in the area 100 years ago. 
  • Thielska Galleriet (Scandinavian fine art)- Their main summer exhibition is a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland (June 15th to September 29th). One of the highlights of this museum is their permanent collection of the works of Scandinavian artists like Eugene Jansson, Carl Larsson, Edvard Munch and more. 
  • Prins Eugen's Waldemarsudde (Scandinavian fine art)- there are quite a few ongoing & upcoming exhibitions, like the work of photographer Yanan Li, highlights from their art collection and an exhibition looking at the artist colony Grez-sur-Loing (featuring 80 pieces of art from a variety of artists. See link above for more info and dates. 
    Sculpture in Nature @Artipelag
    Photo by Samuel Lind. Jaume Plensa, "Ainsa IV" (2018)
  • Artipelag (art in archipelago setting)- a little bit outside of the city, but in a beautiful setting in the archipelago. Their ongoing summer exhibition is "Sculpture in Nature" (until Nov 3rd). 
  • Liljevalchs (contemporary art)- their summer exhibition, "Anders Petersen - Stockholm" just opened and will be running until September 1st. 
  • Bonniers Konsthall (contemporary art)- closed for the summer, last day is June 16th. 
  • Sven-Harry's Konstmuseum (mixed art)- their summer exhibition will be Gösta-Adrian Nilsson "Sjömanskompositioner" (May 30th to Sept 29th). Don't miss visiting the replica of Sven-Harry's home on the rooftop of the museum with his art collection, as well as the rooftop terrace
    Skapelsen by Gösta Adrain-Nilsson @Sven-Harry's Konstmuseum
    Photo by Per Myrehed

May 17, 2019

The Art Museum Thielska Galleriet (Thiel Gallery)

I visited Thielska Galleriet (Thiel Gallery) yesterday with my Concierge colleagues from Les Clefs d'Or Sweden. Thielska Galleriet is one of Stockholm's most beautiful museums and they house one of the best collections of late 1800's and early 1900's Scandinavian masters... like Carl Larsson, Edvard Munch, Bruno Liljefors and Eugène Jansson to name a few. During our visit we were given a great guided tour of the building and collection. Very interesting!
By Carl Larsson
The building was originally the private residence of the banker Ernest Thiel which he built mainly for the purpose of housing his growing art collection (his apartment in town was getting too small for this purpose). Designed by the architect Ferdinand Boberg, who also designed the famous NK department store, the building was completed in 1907. The Depression in the early 1920's unfortunately ruined Thiel and he ended up selling both the house and his extensive art collection to the Swedish government.
By Eugène Jansson
Thiel was quite the active art collector and was, in fact, friends with many of the Scandinavian masters of his day. As the building was specifically designed to house and show an art collection, the space is pretty perfect with lots of wall space and natural light from skylights. Of special note is the "Munch room" which contains many works by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (best known for his painting "The Scream") among others. Beautiful room!
The "Munch room"!
An interesting side note, Thiel was a great admirer of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and in one of the tower rooms you can view Nietzsche's death mask. From this room you also have beautiful views of the Stockholm archipelago. Besides the collection, Thielska usually has a temporary exhibition or two. Currently the exhibition is "The Jobs Sisters - ceramics and textiles" (until June 2nd), and this summer they will take advantage of their beautiful grounds and be exhibiting the work of Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland with "The power and feeling of sculpture" (June 15th to September 29th). This is part of the celebration of 150th anniversary of Gustav Vigeland.
Gorgeous views of the archipelago
Thielska Galleriet is located out at the end of Djurgården island, near the mouth of Stockholm harbor. The easiest way to get there is by bus from Nybroplan in the downtown area (Bus 69 - a 20 minute journey). This means that it takes a little effort to visit the museum. But it well worth it! Especially during the summer when the location is extremely idyllic.
By Edvard Munch
The island Djurgården is a long park island filled with acres of woodlands and meadows. Almost every summer, I take the bus out to Thielska, visit the museum, eat lunch and then take a nice walk back along the water. The walk is beautiful (click here for an earlier article about the walk) and takes about an hour, depending on if you make any stops along the way.




May 13, 2019

Beware When Hailing a Taxi in Sweden!

Click on photo to enlarge!
It feels sad to have to warn visitors about something, but unfortunately this is a problem that visitors are generally unaware of before travelling to Sweden. 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 Hotel Rival 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. And here you have some handy tips for catching a taxi at the airport!
Taxi Stockholm

May 10, 2019

Stockholm Visitor Center

I had a lunch meeting in town yesterday and made a stop at the Stockholm Visitor Center on my way back to the hotel. Run by Visit Stockholm, this is the main tourist information center in the city. If you are staying at the Hotel Rival, I can help you with almost everything they can. But, one thing that is better there is that they obviously have more room than I do and can carry many more brochures and maps than I can... giving you a good overview of what is available to see and do. A nice way to get inspired for your visit!
You can peruse what is available by yourself or ask one of the staff there for help and advice. The visitor center also has several interactive stations where you can do your own research or bookings. They sell public transportation cards, Strömma sightseeing vouchers, concert & festival tickets and more. It is located on the square Sergels torg in the center of the downtown area and open daily.
The center is also one of the places you can pick up your Stockholm Pass if you pre-ordered it online (you can also purchase them there). There are several other tourist information centers in the city and at the airport, some operated by Visit Stockholm and others by private companies. Click here for the full list with addresses. To get to the Stockholm Visitor Center from the Hotel Rival, the easiest way is to take the subway three stations to T-Central and then exit to Sergels torg.

May 7, 2019

Restaurant Kryp In Södermalm

For many years, one of my favorite restaurants to send hotel guests to has been Kryp In in the old town (Gamla Stan). Great Swedish cuisine, cozy ambiance and personable service. So we were really happy when they opened a second restaurant, called Kryp In Södermalm, just two blocks from the hotel. Location. "Södermalm" is the name of the area/island where the restaurant and hotel are both found. Same great food, ambiance and service... now just a five minute walk from the Hotel Rival.
My cousin from southern Sweden was visiting me last weekend so I took her to Kryp In Södermalm for dinner on Saturday after I got off from work. The restaurant is not large, with seating for around 26 persons as well as a few seats at a food bar. The size and the dark woods in the interior gives the restaurant a real nice cozy feeling.
The menu contains many of the same dishes, or variations of the same dishes, as are found on the menu of their sister restaurant in Gamla Stan. This makes me happy as I am a fan of that menu... seasonal Swedish ingredients mixed with a few continental cuisine dishes.
My cousin and I love oysters, so we started with a three each, served with a shallot vinaigrette. For the main course, I took a seasonal favorite... grilled white asparagus served with bearnaise sauce and bleak roe while my cousin took the classic seafood stew with aioli. Everything was delicious and the service was friendly and attentive! Unfortunately, we didn't take any dessert as we were going to the photography museum Fotografiska afterwards.
You can book a table on their website, just click on "boka bord" and then the British flag. Otherwise, if you are staying at the Hotel Rival, contact me directly for assistance. I would say, as it isn't a large restaurant, that booking in advance (especially on a weekend) is advisable. Click here for other restaurant recommendations.

May 2, 2019

Ports and Docks for Cruise Ships in Stockholm

Ferries and cruise ships travelling through the archipelago to Stockholm.
Photo: Stockholms Hamnar
Summer is around the corner and the cruise ship season is starting soon. 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 from the port to the City Terminal (next to the Central Train Station).This port 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 www.cruisingfromstockholm.com 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.