September 20, 2017

Food Market- Hötorgshallen

Discrete entrance
I always love visiting indoor food markets when I travel to new cities. It is a great way to soak up the sounds, smells and flavors of a city. And Stockholm has a couple of good ones! The most well-known is the Östermalms Saluhall, or Östermalmshallen. This food market is very historic, a bit upscale and concentrates mainly on Swedish produce. Currently they are renovating the building, so they have moved all the vendors and restaurants to a temporary structure in the square across the street.
Escalators down to the basement level
However there is another great food market that many visitors miss, mainly because most guidebooks only mention the Östermalm market. This market is called Hötorgshallen. Less upscale than Östermalm and more global in what their vendors offer... this market is very popular with Stockholmers. It is located on the square Hötorget in the downtown area and an extra selling point is that the square itself is filled with fruit and flower vendors Mondays through Saturdays. The indoor market has quite a discrete entrance at the back of the square and it takes up two floors, the smaller ground floor and the larger basement level.
Vendors here sell a wide variety of produce... coffee, tea, sweets, meat, fish, cheese, sausage, fruit & vegetables, bread, pastries, ice cream, delicacies and much more. There are also several small restaurants which are great places to stop for lunch. What makes it especially fun, in my opinion, is that the vendors represent a range of nationalities. Swedish vendors rub shoulders with Asian, Turkish, Italian, Finnish, South American and Eastern European shops. For example, I stopped by here the other day to pick up some Brazilian linguica sausage. They even have one of the state run liquor stores (Systembolaget) in the market, making it one-stop shopping for Stockholmers planning their dinners.
...bread and pastries...
There are several cafés, delis and restaurants spread throughout the market and are great places for lunch. One of my favorites is the seafood restaurant Kajsas Fisk which has some of the best fish & shellfish stews in town. And you know it is fresh as the restaurant is adjacent to the fish mongers. Stop by the Gelato Bar afterwards for some dessert! No reservations at these restaurants, just drop-in spots. Hötorgshallen is only open during the daytime so no dinner options (the market is also closed on Sundays and bank holidays).
...and fish!
The square itself is quite lively... with vendors selling fruits, vegetables and flowers on all days except Sundays when it becomes more of a flea market. Their produce is very seasonal. For example, this time of year they sell a lot of mushrooms and berries from the Swedish forests. Hötorget is centrally located in the downtown area and a quick walk from the many nearby department stores and shopping centers. To get there from the Rival Hotel, you can either take the subway, green line, to Hötorget station (three stations from nearby Slussen) or else it is a 7-8 minute taxi ride.
Fruit vendors on the square out front.
Chocolates and truffles
Wild sausages (moose, reindeer, wild boar, etc.)

September 13, 2017

Restaurants Serving Traditional Swedish Cuisine

Assorted herring plate at Sturehof.
One topic of discussion that often comes up with hotel guests is Swedish cuisine. Most visitors feel like they should try traditional Swedish cuisine when they are visiting Stockholm... but what is Swedish cuisine? There is a big difference between modern and traditional Swedish food culture. Modern Swedish cuisine often follows the same concepts as New Nordic Cuisine: innovative and using local, seasonal often organic produce. Traditional Swedish cuisine is something entirely different. This is our everyday food; traditional dishes that have been around for a long time (sometimes for centuries) and what we often call husmanskost. Our comfort food!
Löjrom Toast at Söders Hjärta
Many of these dishes will be familiar, like (Swedish) meatballs, marinated/cured salmon (gravad or rimmad lax), pickled or fried herring, fish stew, reindeer, black pudding and Toast Skagen. Other dishes will be less familiar, like kroppkaka, Biff Rydberg, löjrom, gubbröra and Wallenbergare (links take you to informative videos made by the Foodie List). Certain dishes or produce are more seasonal... moose, venison and chanterelle mushrooms often show up on menus in the fall, crayfish has a short season in August, goose in November while white asparagus is a spring delicacy.
Östermalms Saluhall.
Photo by: Carro Hjerpe
So, where can you try traditional Swedish cuisine when visiting Stockholm? You have quite a few restaurants to choose from, whether you want a high-end restaurant or a good, casual pub. Here are some that I recommend and which I have split up in three categories: high-end, mid-range and casual/budget. Some serve only traditional dishes while others mix them in their menu with more modern dishes.

  • Den Gyldene Freden - world's oldest restaurant with the same surroundings, Bib Gourmand rated.
  • Ulla Winbladh - famous restaurant in bucolic setting, Bib Gourmand rated.
  • Grand's Veranda - choose a la carte or try the smörgåsbord (see below).. 
  • Erik's Gondolen - on Södermalm with great views of the city. 
  • Fem Små Hus - historic atmosphere in the old town. 

Swedish meatballs at Den Gyldene Freden
  • Tennstopet - cultural landmark in Vasastan, celebrating 150 years. 
  • Operakällaren's Bakfickan - casual dining in the opera house, no reservations.
  • Prinsen - classic Swedish brasserie in the downtown area. 
  • Sturehof - Swedish/French, focusing on seafood. 
  • Tradition - as the name suggest, very traditionally Swedish. Menu, music, design. 
  • Tranan - another Stockholm culinary mainstay.
  • Östermalms Saluhall - indoor food market with several Swedish restaurants like Lisa Elmqvist, Gerda's and Tysta Marie. Main building currently under renovation, but they have moved everything into a temporary food market on the square. 
  • Rosendals Wärdshus - summer restaurant on Djurgården, also open on major holidays (like the Christmas season). 
  • Harvest Home - cosy, at home, restaurant in SoFo. 
  • Meatballs for the People - meatballs, meatballs and even more meatballs. 
  • Knut - Vasastan restaurant serving cuisine from Norrland (northern Sweden).
  • Rival's Bistro - our own hotel restaurant which always has a few traditional dishes on the menu. 
Smörgåsbord at Grand's Veranda
Photo by: Magnus Mårding
The Swedish word smörgåsbord has made its way into many other languages and has come to be synonymous with "a wide variety of things to choose from"... and this is exactly what it is: a buffet style meal where you can choose from lots of traditional warm & cold dishes (including several of the above mentioned dishes). Swedes generally only eat smörgåsbord during major holidays like Easter, Midsummer and Christmas (when it is called julbord). However, you can try the smörgåsbord at the Grand's Veranda. The Christmas julbord, on the other hand, is served at many restaurants in the four weeks leading up to Christmas Eve. Feel like going even further back in Swedish culinary history? Try the medieval restaurant Sjätte Tunnan or the Viking restaurant Aifur, both located in the old town (Gamla Stan).
Toast Skagen at Ulla Winbladh
Restaurant Kvarnen
Photo by Staffan Eliasson/

September 10, 2017

Louise Nevelson and Elgaland-Vargaland at Moderna

Entrance to Moderna
I was invited last week to the press preview of the autumn exhibitions coming to Moderna, Stockholm's modern art museum.They have three different exhibitions premiering this season, two this week and one (Manipulate the World, Connecting Öyvind Fahlström) later in October. The two that opened this week are Louise Nevelson (until Jan 14, 2018) and Elgaland-Vargaland (until Nov 12th).
Nevelson press preview in front of "Total-Totality-All"
Louise Nevelson was an American sculptor who often worked with wood, cardboard and even paper; creating sculptures and reliefs, some monumental in size. Her work was abstract, influenced by Cubism, and often monochromatic... completely black, white, brown or even gold. Nevelson also explored the creation of collages, using these mediums, creating works of art smaller in scale than her larger reliefs and sculptures. While the current exhibition is small in scale, taking up one room at the museum, some of the pieces are larger than life. Especially the grand work "Total-Totality-All".
Part of Nevelson exhibition
In 1992 the artists Leif Elggren and Carl Michael von Hauswolff declared themselves kings of Elgaland-Vargaland. which can be found in "the border between countries". In the 25 years since, this conceptual work of art has spawned a flag, national anthem, coat of arms, currency, stamps, passports and other adminstrative documents. They claim over 900 citizens and have opened embassies (art exhibitions in reality) in several other countires. In celebration of 25 years, they have created this exhibition which showcases the documents, official paraphernalia and other objects which they have collected/created over the past quarter of a century.
National coat of arms, Elgaland-Vargaland © CM von Hausswolff/L Elggren
Moderna is located on the island of Skeppsholmen. The easiest way to get to the museum from the Rival Hotel is to take the Djurgård ferry from Gamla Stan. There is also a bridge connecting the island to the downtown area. Most of the museum has free entrance. For example there is no admission to see their permanent collection, which contains works from artists like Warhol, Pollack, Picasso, Matisse, Dali and more, as well as some temporary exhibitions like Louise Nevelson. Other exhibitions, like Elgaland-Vargaland, have an admission fee. Don't miss visiting their gift shop which has a wide variety of fun presents, posters and art books. Click here for other autumn art exhibitions in Stockholm.
Stop by the gift shop

September 7, 2017

Djurgård Ferry- Best Way to Get to Djurgården!

Ferry terminal in Gamla Stan
I have written about this a couple of times already over the years... but good information bears repeating. While the #1 question I get asked by hotel guests is "how do we get to Gamla Stan (old town)?", the next top 4 questions I get asked ("how do we get to Skansen/Vasa Museum/ABBA Museum/Djurgården?") all 4 have the same answer... the Djurgård Ferry (Djurgårdsfärjan)!
Djurgården is an island which is also a National City Park as well as home to many of Stockholm's most popular attractions: Vasa Museum, Skansen, ABBA the Museum, Gröna Lund, Vikingaliv, Nordic Museum, art galleries, concert venues, acres of parkland and much, much more. So the chances are that, if you are visiting Stockholm for leisure, you will be taking a trip to Djurgården at some point. If you are in downtown Stockholm, you do have the choice of taking a bus or street car out to Djurgården, but if you are in Gamla Stan or Södermalm (like at the Rival Hotel, for example) then the best option is the ferry.
Signs on Skeppsbron directing you to the terminal
The ferry departs approximately every 15 minutes during peak hours and the trip to Djurgården, through Stockholm harbor, takes only 9 minutes. The departure point from Gamla Stan is about 100 meters north of Slussen on Skeppsbron... just follow the signs for Djurgårdsfärjan. This is about a 15 minute walk from the Rival Hotel. The ferry docks at Allmänagränd on Djurgården. The ferry also makes a stop at the island of Skeppsholmen (home of Moderna, the modern art museum). During the low season you have to tell the ferry staff that you wish to get off at Skeppsholmen. And when leaving that island, you need to call the ferry by pressing a marked button at the ferry dock.
Calling for the ferry on Skeppsholmen
The ferry is part of the public transportation system which means that your travel/access cards work for the ferry. Here at the hotel, we sell 24 hour and 72 hour cards for our hotel guests. Otherwise you can purchase them at  most newspaper kiosks, SL Centers and tourist information offices. That being said, you can purchase one time tickets at the ferry dock. Make sure you keep your eyes open when on the boat (even stand outside on the deck) because it is a beautiful trip through the harbor!
Castles, islands,
ships and 
cityscapes in the harbor. 

September 1, 2017

Autumn Art Exhibitions 2017

Louise Nevelson, No title, 1969 Private collection, Courtesy Fondazione Marconi
© Louise Nevelson/Bildupphovsrätt 2017
Foto: A., Milano
It is September! Summer is over and it is time to look towards the fall season. This is the perfect opportunity to report on the different exhibitions coming up this season in the various art museums and major galleries in Stockholm. Some of the summer exhibitions may be continuing on through part of September and you can check which ones by clicking here. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel and are interested in smaller galleries or other exhibitions, contact me directly.

  • Fotografiska (photography)- their big ongoing exhibition is Irving Penn- Resonance: Photographs from the Pinault Collection (until October 1st). Their upcoming exhibitions are Last Night in Sweden (Sept 12th to Oct 29th), Viviane Sassen - Umbra (Sept 1st to Nov 12th) and Paul Hansen - Being There (Sept 8th to Nov 19th). 
  • Moderna (modern art)- one ongoing exhibition is Golden Sunset (until Dec 30th). Their fall exhibitions include Louise Nevelson (Sept 9th to Jan 14th), Elgaland & Vargaland (Sept 9th to Nov 12th) and Manipulate the World (Oct 21st to Jan 21st). Don't miss their permanent collection (with free admission) as well. 
    From the exhibition "Under Cover" at Millesgården.
    Photo: Håkan Larsson
  • Millesgården (art & sculpture)- most people go there to see Carl Mille's wonderful sculpture garden, but they have exhibitions as well. Their ongoing exhibition is Lars Jonsson and Kent Ullberg, paintings & sculpture (until October 8th). Their upcoming exhibirtions are "Under Cover" (Sept 30th to Nov 26th) and "The Modern Woman" (Oct 28th to Feb 25th). 
  • National Museum (art & design)- currently closed for renovations, reopening in 2018. In the meantime they have temporary exhibitions at Kulturhuset, like 100 Years of Finnish Design (until October 29th). 
  • Thielska Galleriet (fine art, Scandinavian)- two ongoing exhibitions this season: "Moments, Sculptures by Karin Wiberg " (until October 1st) and "Fashionable Memories, Clothes from Tove Lewenhaupt's Collection" (until October 1st). Their upcoming exhibition is Helga Henschen (Oct 14th to Jan 21st). Great collection of Scandinavian Masters on exhibit as well.
  • Artipelag (art museum in archipelago setting)- their ongoing exhibition is "Edmund de Waal / Giorgio Morandi" (until October 1st). One upcoming exhibition is Bigert & Bergström (start Oct 27th). Half the pleasure is enjoying the art in the beautiful setting. 
    At Prins Eugens Waldermarsudde
    Georg Pauli "Badande Ynglingar" 1914
    Photo: Nationalmuseum
  • Prins Eugen's Waldemarsudde (fine art)- their ongoing exhibition is "Anja Notini- Rooms with Gravitation" (until September 24th). Upcoming exhibitions include "André Lohte and Swedish Cubism" (Sept 16th to Jan 21st) and "Annika Ekdahl- Woven Image Worlds" (October 14th to Feb 11th). Click here to read more about current and upcoming exhibitions. 
  • Liljevalchs Konsthall (contemporary art)- they have been closed for the past year due to renovations and will be reopening this November with three exhibitions. No information on them in English yet, but I am sure it will be forthcoming.
  • Bonniers Konsthall (contemporary art)- closed for a few weeks while installing the new exhibit The Image of War (Sept 20th to Jan 14th).
  • Sven-Harry's Konstmuseum (mixed art)-  their ongoing exhibition is Björn Abelin- Backdrop (until Oct 22nd) and their upcoming exhibitions include The Invisible Body (Nov 1st to Jan 7th). You can also visit Sven-Harry's home there with his private collection. 
    © photographer Björn Abelin
    Backdrop #33
    Behind the Scenes, Royal Opera House
    at Sven-Harrys Konstmuseum
  • August 29, 2017

    Restaurant Thaiboat

    Down a side street from Skanstull you...
    I went out to dinner this weekend to celebrate a friend's birthday... and my friend chose the restaurant Thaiboat. I have been here several times and was sure that I had already written a review, but apparently not! I guess the first thing I should explain is Sweden's love affair with Thailand and their culture. For the better part of two decades, Thailand has been the number one tourist destination for Swedes trying to escape the dark and cold winters. Due to this, Swedes have brought back a lot of Thai culture with them, mainly in the form of restaurants and massage salons, to remind them of their recent vacations.
    ...find the Thaiboat complete with own tuk-tuk. 
    Thaiboat is, just as the name suggests, a Thai boat. A floating restaurant permanently moored on Årstaviken near Skanstull. The boat is quite large and contains two bars as well as the restaurant. To make it feel more like Thailand, they have cleverly added a beach complete with sun chairs, lounge and palm trees. All of this adds to quite a festive party ambiance during the summer months with many locals coming in their own boats, which they moor alongside the restaurant.
    View of Årstaviken from the restaurant
    The food (Thai cuisine obviously) and drinks are very good as well. Thai restaurants are relatively inexpensive when compared to other restaurants in Stockholm. However, dishes at Thaiboat are more comparable to a mid priced Stockholm restaurant probably due to the location. On this visit, I decided to avoid the Massaman and Paneng curry dishes (which I usually order) and took the grilled duck breast. Very delicious!
    Its own beach!
    The restaurant is open year round but obviously really comes alive in the summer when sun-loving Swedes take advantage of the waterfront setting. One nice detail is that the restaurant is near a lock system which boats use to move from the Baltic Sea up into Lake Mälaren, so a variety of boats pass by and line up... everything from barges to pleasure yachts. Its location on the waterfront in a residential area makes it a little hard to find, but the easiest way to get there for Rival Hotel guests is to take the subway, green line from Slussen, two stops to Skanstull exiting to Ringvägen. From there it is a 10 minute walk to the restaurant. Otherwise it is a 7-8 minute taxi ride. Click here for more restaurant reviews.
    This image and...
    ...this one from More can be viewed here!

    August 24, 2017

    Taking a Taxi From Arlanda Airport

    A repeat of an article from a couple of years ago, but important information bears repeating!
    Photo by: Roger Malmgren
    There are many ways to get from the Arlanda International Airport to Stockholm. You have public/private transportation such as busses and commuter trains, as well as a high speed train called the Arlanda Express. These are great options, depending on your budget and time constraints. But, by far, the most convenient way to get to the city is by taxi... mainly because this is a door to door service while the other forms of transportation take you to a train or bus stop.
    Taxi queues outside of the Arrival Hall at Terminal 5
    There are, however, some things to consider when taking a taxi. Taxis aren't regulated in Sweden which means that the prices for taxis can vary quite a bit. The vast majority of taxis have similar fares, but a few small taxi companies charge up to double as much as the larger companies. Fortunately, you really don't have to worry about this when taking a taxi from the taxi queues at Arlanda as long as you are vigilant. In order for their cars to use the queues at the aiport, the taxi companies need to sign a contract which states that the maximum price they can charge to downtown Stockholm is 675 SEK. But be aware- this is for taxis in the queues. Some unscrupulous taxi drivers will try and stop you before you get outside and ask if you need a taxi. They are not standing in the queues and are therefore not contractually obliged to take a maximum of 675 SEK. So stick to the ones in the queues! This price is for a car that seats up to 4 persons and within a special zone (that includes central Stockholm). A car that seats more than 4 persons will cost a bit more. Each of the larger taxi companies has their own marked queue at the airport. These include Taxi StockholmTaxi Kurir and Taxi 020. These all take approximately 500-550 SEK (fixed rate) give or take, just double check with the driver before getting into the taxi to get the exact price. Then there is another queue marked "all other companies". Here you will find the smaller companies which will take a variety of prices. You can pay for taxis with your credit card. Just remember that they are not allowed to take more than 675 SEK. Click here for more information about taxis at Arlanda.
    Another option is to book a taxi where the driver meets you in the Arrival Hall holding a sign with your name on it. There is an additional fee of 27 SEK (certain terminals) added for this service. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me to book this type of taxi service.

    August 21, 2017

    Lagom - The Swedish Secret of Living Well

    Now for something really different... a book! A friend, fellow blogger and Rival fan, Lola A Åkerström, has written a great book called "Lagom - The Swedish Secret of Living Well". I don't usually write about books in this blog, but I am currently reading (and enjoying) it and thought that this would be a good book for visitors to Stockholm (pre or post trip) who want to understand the Swedish way of living a little better.
    The Swedish word lagom basically means "just the right amount" (as a concept it means so much more) and it has been bubbling in the collective international consciousness for several years now, recently becoming more on trend as the latest Swedish export to the world. We have exported cars, music, furniture, fashion... so why not a concept/word? Over the years I have seen lagom mentioned in articles about Stockholm or Sweden, often as being a word (along with fika) with no direct word-to-word English translation available. But lately there have even been articles completely devoted to the concept. So a book about lagom seems perfectly timed! Nigerian-born and American-educated, Lola has now called Stockholm her home for years along with her Swedish husband and children and this makes her perspective on lagom all the more interesting. She is an award winning photographer and travel writer and her work has appeared in The Guardian, National Geographic Traveler, Lonely Planet, BBC, CNN, New York Times and much more. And for extra recommendations on what to see & do in Stockholm, keep your eyes on the website Slow Travel Stockholm where she is editor-in-chief. "Lagom - The Swedish Secret of Living Well" can be found now in book shops or to order online. Learn the secret!

    August 18, 2017

    Midnattsloppet- the Evening 10k Race on Södermalm

    Midnattsloppet, Creative Commons erkännande
    This Saturday, August 19th, is the date for the Midnattsloppet or Midnight Race. This 10 kilometer race has been held annually since 1982 and has gotten more popular each year with thousands of runners and even more spectators. With 40,000+ runners, it is actually Europe's largest 10k run! The race is run through the streets of Södermalm with the home stretch down the street Hornsgatan, half a block from the Rival Hotel. In fact, this year the racers run past the front of the hotel before turning onto Hornsgatan for the final stretch. What makes this race unique is the carnival atmosphere along the route (there is even a costume competition) as well as the late start time... it's a staggered start with the first group starting at 9:20pm and the last group at 10:45pm. Staggered along the route are live bands (samba, Irish, rockabilly, show choir, jazz, etc.) and DJ's to keep runners and spectators alike in good spirits.
    The Café Rival's outdoor terrace... a good place to watch the racers.
    There are actually two shorter races for children in the afternoon and early evening... one for children 8 years and under (300 meters) starting at 12:30pm and the other for children between 8 and 15 years old (1775 meters) starting at 7:30pm. Click here for a map of the courses. Be aware that many roads on Södermalm island will be closed to car traffic in the afternoon and evening, so it is best to stick to walking or subways. If you are not participating in the race, then you can always choose a spot along the course, enjoy the atmosphere, and cheer on the racers! Or why not stop by the Rival Hotel? Our Bistro Balcony will be open until 1am as well as the outdoor seating for our Café. Prime Midnattsloppet viewing! Don't feel like watching costumed runners? Then you always have the Culture Festival or outdoor cinema going on this weekend.
    Or from the Bistro's Balcony!

    August 15, 2017

    Stockholm Cultural Festival (Kulturfestivalen)

    Concert at Gustav Adolfs torg
    Photo by Emma Grann/ Studio Emma Svensson
    Today, August 15th, is the first day of the Stockholm Cultural Festival (Kulturfestivalen) and it runs all week until Sunday August 20th. This is a large festival with over 600 events on the program and there were 750,000 visitors last year. Best of all... there is no admission and it is all free of charge, with the exception of a few guided walks. On the program you will find all sorts of different forms of culture: music (jazz, opera, classic, rock, pop, etc.), dance, art, literature, theatre, street art, photography and more. Every year they have a theme for the festival and this year it is India. I am guessing that this is due to India celebrating 70 years of independence this year. You will also find food and drink tents there so you can have lunch or dinner without having the leave the festival area.
    Festival area at Skeppsbron
    Photo by Stockholm Kulturfestival
    The festival is in different squares in the downtown area, especially at Skeppsbron, Gustav Adolfs torg, Norrbro, Sergels torg and Karl XII torg. With over 600 events in their program over 6 days, it is a bit hard to list what is going on here in this article. To make it a bit more complicated, the festival website (with online program) is in Swedish, though there is a Google translate function... just click on "Meny" in the top right hand corner. You can download and print some highlight information in English by clicking here. I would also suggest visiting their information tent at the Stockholm Visitor Center and talk to them directly, or stop by and talk to me if you are staying at the Rival Hotel.
    Artist group Jhanjhariya with Sunita Singh
    Photo by: Kristian Reuter
    Two other festivals are going on simultaneously in the city. In Kungsträdgården you have the We Are Sthlm festival which is a festival geared for young adults (13 to 19 years old). Free admission with lots of music and activities! The other festival going on is the outdoor cinema put on by the Stockholm International Film Festival. Every evening this week (Wed through Sun) a film is screened in Rålambshovs Park. Free admission. The movies start at 9pm but there are staff there starting at 6pm selling popcorn, drinks and more. A lot of people take picnic baskets with them. The theme this year is the 1980's! Keep in mind that the movies are all shown in their original languages with Swedish subtitles.