April 28, 2018

Exhibition "Art et Liberté" at Moderna

This week I was invited to the press showing of the new exhibition, Art et Liberté, at Stockholm's modern art museum... Moderna. "Art et Liberté" was a collective of Surrealist artists who were active in Cairo, Egypt between 1938 and 1948. This exhibition has been on a tour of Europe, making stops in Liverpool, Paris, Madrid and Düsseldorf before arriving, at its last stop, in Stockholm. 
I really liked the exhibition. I do enjoy Surrealism and I wasn't really aware of Egyptian Surrealism earlier so it was especially interesting hearing their history and seeing their works of art. And the discovery of this lesser known art collective is really the point of the exhibition, as well as showing that it wasn't a fringe movement... it really was closely connected to other contemporary (and more well known) Surrealism art communities around Europe and the world. 
It was also interesting to see how the disruptive political landscape of that era, with the rise of Fascism, World War II and the end of colonial rule, influenced the collective as well as Egypt itself. The 200+ pieces in the exhibit range from large and small paintings to drawings, photographs as well as literature (pamphlets, magazines, documents, etc.) and more.
"Art et Liberté" will be showing until August 12th. Besides this exhibition, they have several other temporary exhibitions as well as their permanent collection. There is an entrance fee to certain exhibitions (like "Art et Liberté") while others have free admission. It is always free to visit their permanent collection! They do have a nice lunch restaurant and a café there... and don't miss a visit to their gift shop which has many great art books as well as fun design objects.
Moderna is located on the island of Skeppsholmen. The easiest way to get there from the Hotel Rival is by the Djurgård ferry, which makes a stop at Skeppsholmen, from Gamla Stan. There is also a bridge leading over to the island from the downtown area, so walking (it is a beautiful area to walk around), bus and taxi are other options. No subway station on this island.
One fun note... I just learned that the museum's main autumn exhibition will be with the work of Andy Warhol. Apparently, Warhol's first solo exhibition at a museum was in 1968, 50 years ago, at the Moderna Museum! Andy Warhol 1968... can't wait to see that. 

April 18, 2018

Restaurant Unn

Intimate dining for 8 at Unn
Les Clefs d'Or Sweden was very grateful to be invited last night to try Restaurant Unn, the sister restaurant of Tak Stockholm... which I visited recently. You can describe Unn as being a dining experience within a restaurant, as it is located in a separate room within Tak itself. Unn is comprised of 8 seats around a chef's table (teppanyaki style) and you have one chef and a sommelier taking care of you during the evening. They serve a set, multiple course menu where all diners are served at the same time.
Tak is a fun and popular restaurant and there is a feeling of luxury being ushered into an intimate, private room, away from the hustle and bustle. Well inside, we were greeted by Chef Albin and Sommelier Mikkel as we took our seats around a teppanyaki table. As champagne was served, they explained Unn's dining concept to us. The cuisine is a fusion of Nordic and Japanese, using a lot of Nordic flavors and ingredients while employing Japanese cooking techniques.
Chef Albin and Sommelier Mikkel presenting the dessert
Albin and Mikkel guided us throughout the evening. I have been to several "chef's table" experiences and the ambiance of the evening is really dependent on the staff as it is such an intimate experience. They were great! Very sociable and informative, without being stuffy, and spoke excellent English. I am always impressed when a chef can create a complicated dish in front of you all the while holding a conversation. I get stressed just when someone asks me a question while I'm trying to boil water.
Presentation of the ingredients
The fresh ingredients for each dish come in their own individual handmade wooden box which the chef presents to the diners before preparing the dish. This is a great presentation of the ingredients and a fantastic way to introduce each course. Unn is able to accommodate some food allergies and dietary restrictions when given advance warning. However, as it is a small, intimate dining experience, they aren't able to work around every type of allergy & restriction. See the full list on their website.
The dishes were all paired with a variety of beverages, like champagne, wine and sake. The Sommelier was very knowledgeable and, as we are more familiar with wine, it was especially interesting to hear about sake, like the different varieties and how it is made. Currently you are able to order three different pairings... with alcoholic beverages, with non alcoholic beverages or a mix of the two. There may be plans in the future of having an "a la carte" beverage list as well. These guys put on quite a show as the evening progressed... ingredients were presented, poured, diced, shaved, seared and even, at times, lit on fire.
Special mention has to be made for Unn's location. As I mentioned earlier, it is located with the restaurant Tak which can be found on the top floor of a building on the square Brunkebergstorg in downtown Stockholm. Above the restaurant, on the rooftop, they have an indoor/outdoor bar and terrace with amazing views of the city. Nothing excites Swedes more than the combination of sunshine and alcohol. This was the definitely the place to be last summer on a warm, sunny evening... and it is bound to be even more popular this coming summer as they are expanding to the rooftop on the neighboring building.
You can't beat this view
The whole project is called "Stockholm Under the Stars" and you will find, besides food & drink, a sun deck, an outdoor gym and cinema and more. There will be a bridge connecting the two rooftops. During this summer's World Cup (football/soccer) they are planning on showing matches on the outdoor cinema screen. Should be a fun time! The best way to get to Tak & Unn from the Hotel Rival is subway (blue line, station Kungsträdgården, exit Regeringsgatan), a 15 minute bus ride, a 30 minute walk or else it is a 5 minute taxi ride.
Booking seats in advance at Unn is a must! They are currently only open on Wednesdays through Saturdays and have one serving an evening. This means only 8 seats an evening, four nights a week, which makes last minute reservations more difficult. You can book through their website or, if you are staying at the Hotel Rival, contact me for further assistance. Click here for more of my restaurant reviews/recommendations.
Sommelier / Barista
A bit of heavenly fudge to end the evening

April 14, 2018

Sightseeing in Stockholm with Strömma 2018

This past Monday, I was invited (along with other Stockholm hotel staff) to the annual presentation of the year's sightseeing options by the Strömma company ahead of the busy summer season. Strömma is the largest sightseeing operator in the Nordic countries, running tours in Oslo, Gothenburg, Copenhagen, Helsinki and... Stockholm! Here in Stockholm, there are other smaller sightseeing companies, but Strömma's portfolio of tours cannot be beat. They offer everything from day excursions, Hop On/Off tours, sightseeing by boat and bus, walking tours to dining cruises and much more.
S/S Stockholm, photo by Gustav Kaiser.
The summer is the high season for tourism in Stockholm (with a mini high season in December as well) and it is short and intensive! There are, of course, sightseeing options year-round but most tours are only available during the high season. However, starting already in April, some tours start for the season... albeit with fewer departure times/days than the high season. There was a slight delay for a few of the boat tours as winter stayed late this year and some canals only became ice free last week! Some notable tours that have started are the Royal Canal boat tour, In a Nutshell bus/boat combination tour and Under the Bridges boat tour (only Fri-Sun so far, starting daily on April 27th).
Under the Bridges boat tour
The Hop On/Off busses run year round (with a higher frequency of departures in the summer months), however the Hop On/Off boats start their season on April 28th. Combination bus/boat tickets available then as well. Other year-round tours of note are the Panorama bus tour and the Little Archipelago boat tour. Strömma has some great full and half day excursions as well (palaces, castles, Viking villages, art museums, archipelago and more). Boat trips to Drottningholm have started already (weekends only now, daily from April 27th), with other excursions starting their seasons in May and June. Check the options here. One fun thing to do during the warmer months is to explore the archipelago on your own using the Cinderella boats (with start April 27th). Finally, Strömma has a wide variety of dining cruises (lunch, brunch, afternoon tea and dinner) available as well.
Exploring the archipelago with Cinderella
These tours are all bookable via their website (linked throughout this article) or can be purchased at tourist information centers or Strömma's ticket offices at StrömkajenGustaf Adolfs TorgStadshusbron and Nybroplan. Some tickets to tours can be purchased at the bus/boat when space is available (in case you want to keep your options open). Or, if you are staying at the Rival Hotel, you can book directly with me at the hotel. One good option is to purchase the Stockholm Pass, which not only includes entrance to almost all of Stockholm's main attractions but also gives you access to most of Strömma's sightseeing tours. We will be selling the 1, 2 and 3 day passes for adults to our hotel guests starting on May 1st. All pictures in this article are press images provided by Strömma.
Bus/boat combination tours.

April 10, 2018

Åhléns City Department Store

Press image from Åhlens.
I was visiting the Åhléns City department store the other day and it struck me that I have never written an article about this popular Stockholm shopping landmark. These days Åhléns is actually a chain of department stores around Sweden with 30+ stores in the country with 13 in the greater Stockholm area alone. But Åhléns City, located in the downtown area, is the large flagship store of the chain and definitely worth a visit when in Stockholm.
Main entrance.
Åhléns started as a post order company in 1899 and the Åhléns City store was first opened in 1964. When I was a youngster back in the 1980's, Åhléns City was looked upon by locals as being less glamorous than the nearby NK department store. While NK had designer labels, Åhléns had its own clothing label. These days, however, Åhléns City has upped its game and transformed itself into a department store of note. While their own fashion label does still exist in a limited version, they have expanded and brought in many other labels... especially local ones like Filippa K, J. Lindeberg, Acne, Nudie Jeans and more.
Filippa K
The department store takes up an entire city block and has several floors, both above and below ground. You can find almost everything you want to shop for at Åhléns City. Besides Swedish and international fashion, they have textiles, interior design, cosmetics, Swedish crystal, luggage, accessories, souvenirs and they even have a large grocery store on the lower level in case you wish to purchase some Swedish delicacies to take home with you. Speaking of food, they have a few dining options in the store... like a juice bar, café and even an Italian restaurant on the top floor called Pane Fresco (with outdoor terrace).
Tourist information
Another point of interest for visitors within Åhlens City is a tourist information center where you can get help with tours, restaurants, advice, tickets and shopping. If you are a non European Union resident, you can also purchase items tax-free at Åhlens through Global Blue. Just make sure you follow the rules in order to receive your tax refund upon departing the EU.
Nudie Jeans
Åhlens City is very centrally located, right on the pedestrian street Drottninggatan and adjacent to the Sergels torg square. There is quite a lot of construction ongoing on the street in front of the store as well as around the square. This is due to the fact the city is extending the popular Djurgård tram line past Åhlens to Kungsholmen. The easiest way to get to Åhlens City from the Hotel Rival is by subway. The main entrance to the store is actually located right at an entrance to the main subway station called T-Centralen (all subway lines).
Orrefors Crystal
Items for the kitchen 
J. Lindeberg

April 1, 2018

Gamla Stan (the old town)

The German Church in the evening.
While writing an article about the restaurant Fem Små Hus recently, I noticed that it has been awhile since I wrote an overview/guide about Gamla Stan and it would probably be good with an update now that the summer tourist season is around the corner. Gamla Stan (Swedish for "old town") is an island and the heart and center of Stockholm, literally and figuratively. It is the geographic center of the city and where Stockholm was founded back in the 1200's (the city was first mentioned in texts in 1252). It is both the bridge between the northern and southern parts of Stockholm as well as where Lake Mälaren flows into the Baltic Sea.
So, if you are visiting Stockholm, you will more than likely visit this part of the city at some time... whether passing through, wandering around to soak up the history or visiting an attraction, bar or restaurant. Gamla Stan is by no means large and you can easily walk the circumference in about an hour or so. Yes, during the busy summer season it can get quite crowded with tourists... but don't let that discourage you from visiting! There is plenty to see & do and you can avoid much of the crowds by getting off the main thoroughfares.
The Royal Palace.
Attractions. I would say that the main attraction here is the Royal Palace. It is an actual working palace and the Swedish royal family have their offices there. You can visit the apartments or one of the several museums within the palace, like the Royal Treasury, Tre Kronor (ruins of the former palace which burned down) and Royal Armory. Watching the changing of the guards is a popular thing to do and it happens daily in the courtyard of the palace at 12:15pm (1:15pm on Sundays and holidays).
Inside Storkyrkan Cathedral
Adjacent to the palace is the main cathedral in Stockholm (Storkyrkan), though there are a few other churches as well in the area, like the Riddarholm Church and German Church (Tyska kyrkan). The main square (Stortorget) in the center of Gamla Stan shouldn't be missed and is, in fact, one of the most photographed places in Stockholm. In the square you will also find the Nobel Museum, dedicated to Alfred Nobel and the Nobel Prizes. The narrow alley Mårten Trotzig Gränd has become an attraction as well. You can also just stroll around the island and enjoy the great architecture... many of the buildings date back to the Middle Ages.
Stortorget Square
Restaurants & bars. Visitors sometimes decide to avoid eating dinner in Gamla Stan, fearing that all of the restaurants are "too touristy" but this is actually not the case. There are many high quality restaurants in this area. Sure, there are a few basic tourist eateries... but there are also some great restaurants as well. I also try and explain to guests that there is a big difference between a restaurant being "touristy" and being populated with tourists. In the summer months most restaurants in the city are filled with tourists but that doesn't make them touristy.
Swedish meatballs at Den Gyldene Freden
Some Gamla Stan restaurants that I would definitely recommend include Den Gyldene Freden, Fem Små Hus, Kryp In, Pastis, Mr French, Tradition, Cultur, Pubologi/Flickan/Djuret, The Flying Elk, Le Rouge, Österlånggatan 17, Kagges and The Hairy Pig among others. You also have a couple of historically themed restaurants, Aifur (Viking) and Sjätte Tunnan (medieval), for a more historical experience. If you are more interested in having a cocktail, then there are quite a few good bars and pubs in Gamla Stan.
Gamla Stan from the water.
Sightseeing. There are many sightseeing tours that either concentrate on Gamla Stan or include the area as part of a larger tour of the city. The main bus tour passes through and several boat tours skirt the island. The Hop On/Off busses and boats make, of course, several stops in Gamla Stan. But the best way to see Gamla Stan is on foot. OurWay Tours offer walking tours as does Strömma (summer months only). Free Tour Stockholm offers walking tours year-round. Or why not take a more unusual sightseeing tour... like a Ghost Walk, Roof Top Tour, Craft Beer Tour or 100 Point Challenge?
A rooftop tour
If you are staying at the Hotel Rival, we are just a 10 minute walk from Gamla Stan. Otherwise there are several busses that cross over the island and you also have the subway which has its own Gamla Stan station (red and green lines). If you have your own car with you, I would avoid driving in this part of the city as many areas are car-free and parking is at a minimum.
Stortorget at night.