November 30, 2011

Free Walking Tour of the City

Photo by Yanan Li, Stockholm Visitors Board
I have blogged earlier about private walking tours of the city that I recommend and I would like to add another option... Free Tour Stockholm. As the name suggests, the tours are free of charge- though if you like the tour please tip your guide! The walking tour is 1½ hours long, guided in English and has gotten some great reviews recently. The guides are all passionate about Stockholm history and promise a fun & interesting tour. There is no need to make a reservation. You just show up at the appointed time to join the tour. The tours are run no matter the weather or amount of participants. The meeting place for the start of the tour is at the top of the big staircase at the square Sergels Torg. Click here for a map. Generally speaking, they offer 2-3 tours a week starting at 10am. Check their website, linked here and above, for actual dates and times.

November 25, 2011

Christmas Smörgåsbord at Sea

Photo by Magnus Rietz
I have blogged earlier about the traditional Christmas smörgåsbord, called julbord, now available in restaurants throughout Sweden. Yesterday I was invited by the sightseeing company Strömma to the season premiere of their combination julbord and boat excursion. It was delicious and a great idea for locals and visitors to Stockholm alike. Not only do you get to try traditional and seasonal Swedish cuisine, but you also get to enjoy a nice boat ride (either in the inner archipelago, Lake Mälaren or Stockholm harbor) on one one of their historic and refitted ships. Another great thing about Strömma is their flexibility... seven of their ships will be serving julbord this season of different variations. Classic, seafood, "with a twist" and Swedish/American are some of the different themes. You also have the option of enjoying the julbord for lunch, in the afternoon or in the evening... there is even a full day trip to the Christmas market on the island of Utö with julbord served on the way back to the city. As you can see, there is something for everyone!

If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me directly and I can help you with making a reservation. Otherwise contact your hotel or visit Strömma's website (linked here and above) for more information and to make a reservation.

November 23, 2011

Christmas Special at the Rival Hotel

Receive a free Christmas holiday upgrade!

All guests staying between December 21st, 2011 and January 8th, 2012 have the possibility of getting a free upgrade. All you have to do, after making your reservation between these dates above, is “Like” us on Facebook and write your Christmas wish under this picture of “Santa Claws”.
This Picture can be found somewhere on our Facebook page for The Rival Hotel.

Upgrades are a subject to availability and will only be provided to reservations made directly with us or on our website for Economy, Standard, Superior or Deluxe room.

From all of us to all of you... have a very merry Christmas!

November 18, 2011

The Holidays at NK Department Store

Photo by Jeppe Wikström, Stockholm Visitors Board
I have written earlier about the NK Department Store... Stockholm's answer to Harvey Nichols or Bloomingdale's. Now that the holidays are approaching, the store is even more popular with visitors and Stockholmers alike.
The store kicks off the holiday season this Sunday (November 20th) at 11:50am with the traditional unveiling of the Christmas store window decorations. A very popular tradition with the locals. Father Christmas will arrive at the store in a horse drawn carriage (the reindeer are apparently resting up) and after the unveiling will be seated in the main atrium listening to the Christmas wishes of children. Plenty of other fun events all during the afternoon... concerts, storytelling and decorating. Not in Stockholm this Sunday? Don't worry... Father Christmas, or a special hand-picked representative, will be there daily on the fourth floor until December 23rd.

Not only is NK a great place to do some Christmas shopping, the store is located at the end of Kungsträdgården square where you will find a Christmas market (see times below) and an outdoor ice-skating rink. So plenty to do to get you in the holiday spirit! To get to NK from the Rival Hotel, it is either a 20-25 minute walk through the Old Town or else 3 subway stops (red line) to T-Centralen.
One of this year's windows... Santa in drag!

November 16, 2011

Christmas Markets 2011

(EDIT: info from 2011, for updated 2013 info, click here!) This weekend (Nov 19th & 20th) kicks off the Christmas season in Stockholm! Besides the unveiling of this year's Christmas light decorations on Sunday at 4pm throughout the downtown area, it is also the premiere for the first Christmas markets. These markets are the perfect places to get into the holiday spirit and to purchase Swedish holiday goodies... ornaments, handicrafts, winter accessories, candies and local delicacies. I did write about the different markets in detail last year, but I thought it would be a good idea to update the dates and times for the different markets throughout the city for 2011.
  • Old Town (Gamla Stan)- located in the main square Stortorget, this market has its premiere on Nov 19th at 1pm and will then run daily (11am to 6pm) until December 23rd.
  • Skansen- located on the island of Djurgården, the open-air museum (and zoo!) will hold its Christmas market each Saturday & Sunday (10am to 4pm) on the four weekends leading up to Christmas starting on November 26th.
  • Kungsträdgården- This market kicks off already on November 19th. It starts off being open on the last two weekends of November before being open daily between the 2nd and 22nd of December (11am to 6pm). Located in the middle of the city, this park is also where you find the outdoor ice-skating rink!
  • Sergels Torg- this market, located right around the corner from Kungsträdgården, opens on November 25th and runs daily until December 23rd (no opening hours posted yet).
These are the four main Christmas markets. There will be some smaller or unique markets open for one weekend or one day only and I will be sure to list them as well a little later on.

November 11, 2011

A Christmas Carol

Photo: Johan Lygrell
(EDIT: this is information for the 2011 season, for more current information click here!) Bah Humbug! With the exception of opera, the vast majority of shows and musicals playing in Stockholm are in Swedish for obvious reasons. However, this December Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol will be performed in English at the Maxim Theater- located in the Östermalm district. There are shows daily between the 8th and 23rd of December (except the 12th, 13th and 19th) with matinee showings on certain days. Click here for show dates & times and ticket information. Otherwise tickets can also be purchased at the Tourist Information Center on Vasagatan. There will be several shows at the theater at the Rival Hotel in December including Astrid Lindgren's Ronja Rövardotter (Ronia Robber's Daughter) for children. While this show is in Swedish, there are several Christmas concerts playing as well where knowledge of Swedish isn't really necessary. Click here for more information.

November 9, 2011

Stockholm Christmas 2011
(Edit: This is a post from 2011, for updated information about Christmas in Stockholm- click here!) Some new information as well as a repeat of some old information...
Stockholm is celebrating Christmas this year in a big way with a new light/decoration project called StockholmsJul. Starting on November 20th, thirty streets and squares in the center of the city will be lit up with 671,647 energy-saving & environmentally friendly LED lights. It is all part of Stockholm's goal to become the #1 Christmas destination in Scandinavia. They are busy setting up & hanging the decorations and you can follow their progress on their Facebook page. Here, at the Rival Hotel, we are waiting in anticipation to see how the Christmas tree in the square in front of the hotel will look like this year!
Photo: Henrik Trygg, Stockholm Visitors Board
I wrote quite a lot about Christmas in the city in my blog last year. I will be writing more this year, of course, but it feels a little silly to repeat most of the information. Here are some posts from last year that you may find of interest in making plans for you holiday trip:
  1. Restaurants during the holiday season.
  2. Christmas Markets.
  3. Holiday traditions in Sweden.
  4. Winter activities in Stockholm.
  5. St Lucia celebrations. (Dec. 13th)
  6. Julbord- the Christmas smörgåsbord.
  7. Christmas Mass.
  8. Museum opening hours during the holidays.
Just keep in mind that these blog entries (linked above) were written in 2010 so some of the information (dates, times, prices, etc;) may be incorrect. But it will give you a good idea of what to expect this year. I will also be posting updated information for 2011 as it comes in...

November 7, 2011

Restaurant: Fem Små Hus

Entrance to the restaurant...
My colleagues and I paid a visit yesterday evening to a classic Stockholm restaurant: Fem Små Hus. This restaurant, located in Gamla Stan- just a stone's throw from the Royal Palace, has been around for over 40 years and is a great place to try some Swedish cuisine. The menu is filled with great local Swedish produce, such as chantarelles, herring, salmon, cloudberries, reindeer and elk. We had the gravad lax (marinated salmon) for the first course, followed by a fillet of veal with a morel sauce... all were delicious.
Besides the wonderful food, the historic atmosphere makes this restaurant worth a visit. The restaurant is spread out through 5 connected houses (the name literally means "five small houses") and is comprised of 9 vaulted cellar rooms. There are stairs and passageways connecting the rooms and the walls are covered with paintings, tapestries and candles... all of which add to the historic atmosphere. Parts of the restaurant actually date back to 1651.
Stairs leading down to the restaurant
The restaurant, an easy 15 minute walk from the Rival Hotel, is open 7 days a week.
Click here for some other restaurant recommendations!

November 5, 2011

Stockholm International Film Festival 2011

It's November which means that it is time for Stockholm's Film Festival! The festival starts on November 9th and runs through to the 20th. During this time there will be many great films shown in different theaters throughout the city. Click here to see the film schedule. Besides the movies, there will be parties, events, seminars as well as red carpet screenings. There is, of course, a festival competition as well as two special awards being presented. The first is the Lifetime Achievement award to French actress Isabelle Huppert and the other is the Visionary Award to Mexican director/writer/producer Alejandro González Iñárritu. Visit the festival's website (linked above) for tickets and more information.

November 4, 2011

All Hallow's Eve

Photo: Alexander Dokukin @SVB
The first Saturday in November is All Hallow's Eve in Sweden... which is this weekend (Nov. 5th). I have a couple of activities that can help you celebrate the holiday while visiting Stockholm.
Stockholm will have its first ever Halloween parade this Saturday called "Shockholm"! The pre-parade party starts at 2pm at Slussen (10 minute walk from the Rival Hotel) and the parade starts at 4pm. The parade route goes through Gamla Stan, ending up at the park Kungsträdgården where there will be a post-parade party until 8pm. Everyone and anyone is welcome to take part in the parade and parties (no entrance fee)... though you should dress up if you are walking in the parade!

Skogskyrkogård, photo: Susanne Hallmann
For a more somber and thought provoking All Hallows experience... head out to Skogskyrkogården, Stockholm's largest cemetery and on the UNESCO World Heritage list. I have reported on this beautiful cemetery before, which was designed by architect Gunnar Asplund. Many Swedes light candles and place them on the graves of family and friends this day & evening... adding to the beauty of the surroundings. After 2pm there will be music in the Chapel of the Holy Cross and the Visitors Center will be open from 10am to 8pm. To get there from the hotel, take the subway (green line) south in the direction Farsta Strand, exit at the Skogskyrkogård station and then follow the signs.