July 31, 2010

Crayfish Party


It's just a week left until the traditional start of crayfish season (August 8th), which is celebrated by Swedes with a crayfish party... kräftskiva in Swedish. This is one of Sweden's most enduring and beloved gastronomical traditions. These days crayfish are imported from countries like the US, Turkey and China and are sold year-round, but the tradition of eating them in August endures. The party is celebrated with friends and family, hopefully outdoors (weather permitting), with colorful tablecloths, plates and paper lanterns. Revelers usually wear bibs and funny paper hats. The crayfish are cooked in a salty brine, seasoned with dill and served cold. Along with the crayfish one usually eats bread, strong cheese and other delicacies such as Västerbotten cheese pies. The traditional drink is beer and snaps(akvavit), and along with the snaps you generally sing songs called snapsvisor. At the very least, you raise your glass, look into the eyes of everyone at the table, say "skål" (pronounced skoal), drink and then look everyone in the eyes again before setting your glass down. Eating the bright-red little critters is a messy affair... you eat them with your fingers, the only acceptable utensils being a nut cracker and a long prong to get at the meat in the claws. Don't be surprised to hear Swedes noisily sucking all the juices from the crayfish!



If you don't have any Swedish friends to invite you home for a crayfish party, all is not lost... there are several restaurants in town that have crayfish on the menu in August. You might not be able to experience decorations and party-attire, but you will get a taste of the tradition that many Swedes wait all year for! Here is a list of some of the restaurants:

July 29, 2010

Tip #13 - Electrical Outlets, Voltage & Adapters

International Adapter
For not that long ago people rarely travelled with electrical gadgets. Maybe the odd hair dryer or electrical razor. These days everyone has something with them that they need to plug in or charge... cell phones, I-Phones, I-Pads, MP3 Players, laptops, cameras, etc; The fact that countries have different outlets and voltage has become more of a problem than it was for 10 years ago. Hotels, such as the Rival Hotel (where I work), often offer electrical adapters for guests to borrow... but, because of the high demand, they do tend to run out of them. I highly recommend purchasing an international adapter, especially if you are travelling to several countries on your trip. They are relatively inexpensive, neither bulky nor heavy and easily purchased at any airport or hardware store. This way you don't run the risk of being without one on your trip!
Outlet in Sweden (and most of EU)
The voltage in Sweden is 230v and the plugs/outlets are the standard round two-prong Euro-plug used in most Western European countries (not UK or Ireland). Click here for maps showing voltage and outlet-types in different countries.

July 28, 2010

Reading: The Millennium Trilogy



The Millennium Trilogy is a series of books, written by Swedish author Stieg Larsson, that have become a world-wide sensation... about 30 million books sold to date. The series of crime novels (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest) are set mainly in Stockholm. I really liked these books, especially the main characters: investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the asocial, eccentric hacker Lisbeth Salander. These books are perfect reading before and during your trip to Stockholm as most of the action takes place on the island of Södermalm. Blomkvist's home and work as well as Salander's home are all a stone's throw from the Rival Hotel. Larsson is really descriptive when describing the city.
If the novels are an international sensation now... then they are about to explode into a super-phenomenon as Hollywood is set to make movies based on the books. Daniel Craig is now confirmed to play Blomkvist and filming in Stockholm should start this Fall. So, if you are visiting Stockholm later this year, don't be surprised if you accidently wander into the middle of a Hollywood film set!

Tip: If you are a fan of the series, then you may be interested in taking a Millennium Walking Tour offered by the Stockholm City Museum. This summer the English tours are every Wednesday at 6pm and every Saturday at 11am. Tickets cost 120 SEK and can be bought at the Tourist Center or the museum, located at Slussen. The tour takes approximately 2 hours. If you want to explore the places on your own, then you can always buy the Millenium map at the museum. The map is in five different languages and shows the sites in the city where the action in the books take place.



July 23, 2010

Changing of the Guard

The changing of the guards at the Royal Palace, located in the Old Town (Gamla Stan), happens daily during the summer and is a popular event to watch. The guards actually march, accompanied by a military band, from the Army Museum or Calvary Barracks(when mounted) through the city before arriving at the Palace. At the Palace the ceremony takes approximately 40 minutes. The parade itself takes about half an hour and the ceremony at the Palace starts at 12:15 Monday through Saturday and 1:15 on Sundays and holidays. During the rest of the year the changing of the guards happens on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.


After watching the changing of the guards, take advantage of being at the Palace and visit one of the many museums located there. Besides visiting the Royal Apartments, you can also visit The Treasury, Gustav III's Museum of Antiquities, and (my favorite) the Royal Armoury. Check the individual websites (linked here) for opening hours and entrance fees. The Stockholm Card gets you in all Palace museums for free.

July 22, 2010

Festival: Gay Pride


ATTENTION: This is a blog entry for 2010, please click here for the blog entry regarding 2011.
The countdown has started... less than a week until the Stockholm Gay Pride, or just Stockholm Pride as it's called, starts (July 26th to August 1st). Every year the Pride festival gets larger and more popular actually causing organizers to move the venue this year to accomodate the large amount of visitors. This year the Pride Park is located in Gärdet, next to the Naval History Museum(Sjöhistoriska). Unlike gay pride celebrations in other cities and countries... Stockholm Pride isn't just one day or a weekend but a whole week, though most events take place Wednesday through Saturday. Lots of fun things are going on in the park... seminars, concerts with Swedish & international artists, dancing and performances. There are several shops, and restaurant & bar tents as well.
Picture by Yanan Li
As a tourist you might not notice that Pride is happening (as the main venues are on the outskirts of the city) besides seeing the occasional rainbow flag or hearing more ABBA songs than normal being played. However, on Saturday the 31st you will not be able to avoid it with the parade snaking through the city. Last year there were 35,000 people in the parade and almost half a million people lining the parade route. Many Stockholmers (of all persuasions) make a day out of it, bringing beach chairs and coolers and setting up hours before the parade actually starts. The parade starts at 1pm in the Tantolunden Park before heading through the Old Town and along Strandvägen to the Pride Park. My friends and I usually pack a picnic basket and park ourselves on Hornsgatan with hordes of other Stockholmers and cheer as the floats go by...
If you would like to partake in the festivities in the Park, tickets can bought either at the entrance or online. Tickets cost: 800 SEK for a week pass and day tickets cost 400 SEK except for Wednesday when it costs 300 SEK.
More information about all of the different events including program, artists, directions and history can be found on their website which I've linked at the top of the page.
Happy Pride!

July 21, 2010

Tip #12 - Internet Research Tools


I am a firm believer of doing some research before travelling to a new place. I always think it's good to know a little bit about the history, geography, language, traditions and cuisine of a place before coming there... makes the visit much more enjoyable. It also helps to know what there is to see/do beforehand, so I don't have waste time figuring it out during my visit. Thanks to the internet, doing the research is free and easy. Here are some great websites, besides my world fabulous blog, to help you do some research before arriving in Stockholm... I use many of these websites in my day-to-day work.

I always check the weather of the place I'm heading to a few days before departing (helps with the packing!). Weather forecasting is not an exact science... so it is good to check several forecasts. Somewhere inbetween you'll get the correct forecast!

There are free maps to get at the tourist information center and the hotel, but sometimes it is good to take a peek at a map before arriving to get your bearings.

A few sites in Swedish (for those that speak the language):

  • Dagens Nyheter One of Sweden's leading newspapers. Their supplement (På Stan) on happenings in the city.
  • Allt om Stockholm The newspaper Aftonbladet's version...

Happy surfing!



July 20, 2010

Stockholm Trivia


Did you know that 95% of the population of Stockholm live less than 300 meters away from the closest park, forest or other "green area"? 30% of the city's area is green space while 30% is waterways. For these reasons and many, many more... Stockholm was voted the first European Green Capital this year.
Swedes in general have a tradition of being very enviromentally aware and Stockholmers are very proud of how clean their city is! Safe & clean beaches in the middle of the city, majority of the extensive public transportation system running on clean and renewable fuel, excellent water and high recycling rates add to this pride. You can catch fish in downtown Stockholm and eat it without any worries. Wolves, beaver, moose, deer and wild boar can all be found in within the borders of Stockholm county.
Tip: The city along with the Stockholm City Museum, in celebration of this award, has created a Green City Map that is free to pick up at the museum (located at Slussen). The map guides you to known and unknown places where you can see the result of Stockholm's enviromental policies. (Thanks Josefine for the tip!).

July 18, 2010

Rosendal's Garden



Last week, when we walked around Djurgårds Canal, we stopped at Rosendal's Garden (Rosendals trädgård) for a light lunch. Located on the island of Djurgården, behind Skansen, Rosendal is an open garden with orchards, vinyards and roses as well as greenhouses. They have a great café where you can get a lighter lunch, salads, sandwiches or cakes and cookies. All of the food is made using organic produce and the vegetables come from their garden and the bread is fresh from their bakery. One nice detail is that you can either eat indoors, in the garden or take your tray out to the orchard and use the picnic tables. There is also a cute shop where you can buy selected organic foods, bread from the bakery, oils & vinaegers as well as ceramics. Many tourist sites, like Skansen and the Nordic and Vasa Museums, are nearby. To get there just walk along the north coast of the island from the Nordic Museum and follow the signs for Rosendal. Their summer opening hours are from 11am to 5pm weekdays and 11am to 6pm on the weekend.
If you are more in the mood for a sit-down lunch then I would suggest Rosendals Wärdshus or Sturegård, which are both located in the vicinity of the gardens and offer both indoor and outdoor seating.

July 17, 2010

Tip #11 - Walking/Jogging Paths


The Swedish Heart and Lung Foundation has created special paths throughout the country (110 so far) designed to make walking or jogging safe and easy. There are four in central Stockholm and the paths are well marked with kilometer markers and maps. My favorite is the one that goes around Djurgårds Canal... it is 7 kilometers long, though there is a bridge along the way if you would just like to do a five kilometer walk/run. The walk takes you along both sides of the canal through leafy forests, wetlands, parks and embassy village. Along the way you will find a few cafés, restaurants and ice cream kiosks if you want to take a break. I did the whole walk a few days ago with friends and it just took a couple of hours (with a stop or two).
The other three paths are Södermalm (11 km- and perfect if you are staying at the Rival Hotel), Kungsholmen (9 km) and Brunnsviken/Haga Park (12 km). All three of these paths are through green areas (mainly), along the water and with plenty of interesting things to see... and, of course, there is nothing saying you have to do the whole course!

Stockholm Trivia

How old is Stockholm? No one knows the exact date of the city's founding but the city is at least 760 years old. The first time the city is mentioned in historical records is 1252 A.D. in letters written by Birger Jarl and King Valdemar. Birger Jarl is traditionally considered to be the founder of Stockholm. There are many legends regarding why and how Stockholm came into existence... but the obvious reason is her strategic location on the border between Lake Mälaren and the Baltic Sea.
Tip: There is a good exhibition on Birger Jarl at the Museum of Medieval Stockholm going on until January 10th, 2011.

July 16, 2010

Restaurant- Fjäderholmarnas Krog


A couple of days ago I took my parents to one of my favorite summer restaurants: Fjäderholmarnas Krog. The restaurant is located in an island group called Fjäderholmarna, just outside the city in the beginning of the archipeligo. It takes a 30 minute boat ride to get there and there are regular boats going from both Slussen (10 minute walk from the Rival Hotel) and Nybroplan... and the beautiful boat trip is part of the charm as it takes you through Stockholm harbour past Nacka and the island of Djurgården. The food is great with the menu emphasizing fresh seafood, but there are also meat and vegetarian dishes on the menu. I had the duck cooked three ways (smoked, grilled and confit) and it was delicious. It is the atmosphere, however, which lures people here again and again. It is almost hypnotic with crying seagulls and water lapping against the pier. The islands are located right at the entrance to the harbour and from your table you can watch the boats go by... everything from tiny sailing boats to large cruise ships.


Besides the restaurant, there is lots to do on this beautiful island. Many Stockholmers come out for the day to swim and have a picnic. There are quite a few handicraft stores, featuring glass-blowing and textile work. There are smaller cafés, other restaurants and a theater as well. I would recommend coming out to the islands an hour or so before your reservation just to wander about and soak in the atmosphere.

July 15, 2010

Millesgården

Millesgården is a museum and sculpture park created by artist Carl Milles (probably Sweden's most famous sculptor) and includes the artist's home. I took a trip there yesterday... perfect place to spend a afternoon in this gorgeous weather. It is located on the island of Lindingö in the northeast corner of Stockholm. The sculpture garden is very reminiscent of Italy with terraces, fountains and statues and fantastic views over Stockholm harbour. Milles' home is within the garden and fascinating to visit... mosaic floors, his studio and even his art collection. Nice outdoor cafeteria/restaurant to round off your visit at.

Millesgården is open daily from 11am to 5pm during the summer. Entrance to the park and museum is 90 SEK for adults, 65 SEK for seniors and student while children under 20 yrs get in for free. Free entrance with the Stockholm Card.


To get there: subway to Ropsten (red line) and then either bus over the bridge to Torsvik or the Lindingöbanan(train) to Torsvik. From there it is about a 300 meter walk, just follow the signs.

July 9, 2010

The National Museum




The National Museum is the premier art and design museum in Stockholm. I took a swing by today to check the summer exhibitions. It is located on Blasieholm right across the water from the royal palace. Swedish artists, like Carl Larsson and Anders Zorn, take the forefront, though there are great works by international artists like Rembrandt, Gaugin and Renoir. There is a great permanent exhibition on Swedish design in the 20th century. Swedish design is world famous and it is interesting to see how it evolved. See early IKEA, glass and crystal from Orrefors and even interior design from SAS. Another exhibition follows earlier Swedish design from 1500 to 1740. There are two great exhibitions this summer. One is a look at Scandinavian Interiors seen through the eyes of artists called At Home. Last day for this exhibition is August 15th. The other exhibition is a look at the Bernadotte royal family (over the past 6 generations) through black & white photography, drawings and graphic art. This exhibition is free of charge, seperate from the rest of the museum, and will run until January 23rd, 2011. Entrance for the rest of the museum is 100 SEK (80 for seniors and free for youths 18yrs and under). Free with the Stockholm Card.
The opening hours this summer are Tuesdays 11am to 8pm, Wednesday through Sunday 11am to 5pm, closed on Mondays.
To get there: The museum is very centrally located and easy to walk to, otherwise the closest subway station is Kungsträdgården (blue line).

July 8, 2010

Indoor Food Market- "Saluhall"


Whenever I travel to a new city, I love to visit their markets. You get a good feeling of the city and the culture's cuisine! Stockholm has a couple of good indoor markets called saluhalls. My favorite is the Östermalm Saluhall, it's in a beautiful brick building from the 1880's located on the Östermalmtorg (square). You enter a large hall filled with vendors selling everything from fresh fruit & vegetables, fish & shellfish to cheeses, chocolates and meats. It's fun just to stroll around and take in the sights and smells, or to pick up your favoite Swedish delicacy.
There are also great places to grab a lunch inside... and you know the food is fresh! Several eateries there just have bar seats, great for a quick lunch and a little people watching. A personal favorite is Lisa Elmqvist seafood restaurant. Many of the vendors offer good take-away options if you feel like taking your lunch out to a nearby park for a picnic. The saluhall is open from 9:30am to 6pm Monday through Friday and 9:30am to 4pm on Saturdays, closed on Sundays. The closest subway station is Östermalmstorg (red line), just 4 stations from the Rival Hotel.
Another good saluhall is located at Hötorget (under the SF multiplex). Hötorgshallen isn't as fancy as Östermalms saluhall... but it is larger and you have the added bonuses of there being a liquor store (Systembolaget) inside as well as an outdoor fruit market just in front of the entrance. Be prepared... the vendors at the fruit market are very loud and vocal in selling their wares. They shout "half price only for you my friend" at each passerby. Good places for lunch inside! Open from 10am to 6pm Monday through Friday, 10am to 3pm on Saturdays and closed on Sundays. On Sundays the outdoor fruit market turns into a flea market. The closest subway is Hötorget (green line).

July 6, 2010

Stockholm Street Festival

There is a new festival in the Stockholm calendar! This coming weekend (July 9-11th), for the first time, Stockholm is throwing a festival featuring street performers. They will be performing on two stages in the park Kungsträdgården. Acrobats, jugglers, magicians, freaks and comedians... both local and international artists. I'm a little unsure of the exact set-up since this is the first time this festival is happening, but I'm a sucker for festivals and will be sure to go by and see what they are offering. The festival will be open Friday and Saturday 12pm to 10pm and Sunday 1pm to 8pm. There is no entrance fee but people are encouraged to leave a little something in the performers "hat".
Click here for a full list of festivals and events happening in Stockholm this summer.
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Stockholm Beaches and Pools


(EDIT: Click here for a more updated article about swimming at beaches in Stockholm) Temperatures in Stockholm can rise into the lower 30's Celsius (90's Fahrenheit) during the summer and the best way to cool off is to head to the beach. It might not be the Mediterranean, but Stockholm actually has several beaches (some of them in the center of town) that are very popular. They are as crowded as any beach in southern France on a hot day! The beaches are quite diverse with something for everyone, and the water is very clean... something we are really proud of.
Smeduddsbadet is the largest and most popular. Located next to Rålambhovs park on the island of Kungsholmen... the combination of a sandy beach and park make it a perfect place for families with children. The closest subway station is Fridhemsplan(green & blue lines).
Långholmen is a small forrested island located adjacent to Södermalm, right across the lake from Smeduddsbadet. There is both a sandy beach, wooden platforms as well as small cliffs to dive from. Younger people tend to sun themselves on these secluded cliffs, avoiding the small children at the sandy beaches. The closest subway station is Hornstull (red line).
A little outside of the city, but well worth the trip, is Saltsjöbaden. It is a little beach resort community loccated on the way out to the archipelago that is popular with sailing enthusiasts. Nice beach and places to have lunch. To get there: take the Saltsjöbanan (commuter train) from Slussen. The trip takes about 30 minutes. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel and need more information, just talk directly with me at the hotel. (EDIT: article with the top 5 beaches in Stockholm)
These are just a few of the many beaches in the Stockholm area... but if you are more interested in swimming in a pool, then the best place to go is Eriksdalsbadet which is located on the island of Södermalm. There are both indoor and outdoor pools as well as a water park, playground, a restaurant and the oppurtunity for other activities (volleyball, tennis, etc;).

July 1, 2010

Restaurants Closed During the Summer (2010 list)

(Please note that this blog entry is for 2010, for the list for restaurants closed in 2013 click here) For some odd reason... several restaurants actually close for a few weeks during the summer, just as Stockholm is invaded by hungry tourists. Unfortunately they are some of Stockholm's best restaurants. Not to worry! There are many excellent restaurants still open... so you won't need to go hungry. Still it is good to know ahead of time so you don't get your hopes up for a certain restaurant only to find it closed.
  • Mathias Dahlgren closes July 15th and opens again on August 11th.
  • Operakällaren closes July 12th and opens again on August 5th.
  • Restaurant Lux closes on July 18th and opens again on August 9th.
  • Fredsgatan 12 (F12) closes on July 3rd and opens again on August 9th.
  • Grill closes on July 12th and opens again on August 3rd.
  • Brasserie LeRouge closes on June 25th and opens again on August 18th (LeBar is open all summer).
  • Smak på Restaurangen closes on June 25th and opens again on August 6th.
  • Teatergrillen closes on July 2nd and opens again on August 5th.
  • Sjögräs closes on July 19th and opens again on August 9th.
  • FrantzénLindeberg closes on July 11th and opens again on August 20th.
  • Esperanto closes on June 24th and opens again on August 6th.
  • Hälsingborg closes on July 17th and opens again on August 10th.