July 29, 2011

Stockholm Gay Pride 2011

Photo by Yanan Li, Stockholm Vistors Board
(Edit: this is information for 2011, for information about gay pride 2012... click here!) Just around the corner (August 1st-7th) we have Stockholm's largest festival and Scandinavia's largest gay pride festival... Stockholm Pride! It is a week long festival culminating in a huge parade through the city on Saturday, August 6th. If you are not a member of the LGBT community, you don't have to feel left out- the festival is open for everyone. In fact, that is the theme for this year's festival: openness. In past years the festival has been held in parks on the outskirts of the city, but this year it will be smack dab in the middle of Stockholm at Kungsträdgården park and Sergelstorg square. Another change this year, in accordance with the theme, is that entrance to the festival area will be free of charge! There will be music, performances and events going on all week in the festival area as well as plenty of food & drink. Some highlights are the opening ceremony on Monday, family night on Tuesday, Eurovision(Schlager) night on Thursday and the post parade party on Saturday. You will find the full program here! The parade on Saturday is a huge event in Stockholm... past years have seen over 50,000 participants with about half a million spectators lining the parade route. This year the parade will be starting at 1pm on the island of Södermalm at Tantolunden. The parade will then make its way down the street Hornsgatan, past the Rival Hotel, through the Old Town into the downtown area. It is expected to reach Sergels Torg at about 3pm. Besides the official festival parties, there will be plenty of parties and events going on at other venues and nightclubs throughout the city. If you are staying at the hotel, come talk to me if you are interested in more information about the different parties. Otherwise more information can be found at information booths in the festival area.
Phot by Yanan Li, Stockholm Visitors Board
If you are visiting Stockholm this coming week and gay pride isn't your cup of tea, then there a few things you should be aware of. Generally, Swedes have a liberal view when it comes to sexuality and the LGBT community here has equal rights on a broad front, including marriage. In fact, in a recent international survey called Metropolitan Report, Stockholm rated as the second most gay-friendly city in the world after Amsterdam. After the recent horrific events in Norway by a right-wing extremist, I believe this year's festival will be seen by many (regardless of sexuality) as an important political manifestation. Otherwise, as a visitor, you will probably just notice an increase of happy people and rainbow flags in the city. Be also aware that the parade on Saturday will cause some traffic problems if you are traveling by car or bus in the city.
Click herehere and/or here for more information about LGBT Stockholm.

July 28, 2011

Day Trip to Saltsjöbaden

It's the high season here in Stockholm now with some great weather... and on these days many visitors want to head out to the archipelago to cool off. This can mean long lines to crowded boats. However, there is a way to get a feel of the archipelago without traveling by boat: the seaside resort town of Saltsjöbaden. It is located just south-east of Stockholm and is easy to get to using the commuter train line called Saltsjöbanan. The train runs twice an hour, traveling between Slussen (just a 10 minute walk from the Rival Hotel) and Saltsjöbaden. The trip takes 30 minutes and all SL tickets & access cards as well as the Stockholm Card work, otherwise it is 45 SEK for one-way ticket. As the trains go quite often, you can choose to spend a full or half day there.
I took the trip yesterday with my parents, just to get out of the city and enjoy a relaxing lunch by the water. Saltsjöbaden is a sleepy town and boat harbor. There is a hotel there and several restaurants, including Holmen and Aqua. Many Swedes go to Saltsjöbaden to enjoy the beach or go boating. There is a gated sandy beach area called Salsjöbadens Friluftsbad where they have slides, trampolines, a restaurant as well as changing areas. To get there, just walk down to the harbor and cross the small bridge to the island and then follow the path around to the other side. The price is 60 SEK for adults and 30 SEK for children between 7 and 15 years of age. On a budget? People do enjoy the sun and swim from the nearby rocky outcroppings.

July 22, 2011

Eating on the Water

Loopen Marina
Swedes have many favorite pastimes in the summer... three of which are soaking up sunshine, eating & drinking and being on the water. Now restaurants are catering to these pastimes by building floating bars and restaurants. Every year more and more of these places open up in Stockholm. Generally speaking, people go to these establishments more for the drinks, sunshine and atmosphere than for dinner... but food is available! Since Stockholm is built on a myriad of islands with sunshine late in the evening, there is a lot of waterfront and time to enjoy the outdoors. Here is a list of some favorites:
So... join the Stockholmers out in the sun for a bite to eat and a cocktail. Be aware that at several of these restaurants booking a table is not possible. Just show up!
View from Mälarpaviljongen at 8:30pm
Thanks to Allt om Stockholm for the list.

July 19, 2011

Best Tourist Experience in Stockholm?

Bears at Skansen- potential winners?
For the fourth year in a row the Swedish Travel and Tourism Union (Rese- och Turistnäringen i Sverige) will be giving an award for the "Best Experience in Sweden". 30 travel agents and tour operators from 8 countries decide first on the nominees and then choose an eventual winner. Past winners have been the Ice Hotel in Jukkusjärvi, the Vasa Museum in Stockholm and the Göta Canal Steamship Company. The nominees for the 2011 prize have been announced and several are from Stockholm:
  1. Fotografiska- the photography museum
  2. Skansen- outdoor cultural museum & zoo
  3. Junibacken- Astrid Lindgren theme park for children
  4. Stockholm Adventures- travel company specializing in nature experiences
Four worthy and diverse nominees in my opinion! So take the opportunity to try these experiences while you are in Stockholm... and see if you agree when the winner is announced in October.
If you are curious about the nominees this year outside of Stockholm, they are... the hiking trail Kungsleden, Astrid Lindgren's World, Selma Spa and the Kosta Boda Art Hotel.

July 16, 2011

A Rerun of Some Summer Favorites!

Photo: SBR- Stockholm Visitors Board
My blog was up and running last summer... and I managed to do quite a lot! I thought I would dig into the archives and list some highlights that would be of interest this summer as well.

Day Trips
The Stockholm Archipelago
The island of Finnhamn
The town of Sigtuna and Skokloster Castle
The Viking town of Birka
The sculpture gardens of  Millesgården (½ day)
Haga Park (½ day)
Woodland Cemetary (½ day)

Summer Activities
Renting a Kayak
Walking & Jogging Paths
Beaches & Pools
A few bicycle options

Summer Restaurants
Kungsholmen (good year round, but especially popular this time of year)
Mälarpaviljongen
Fjäderholmarnas Krog
Rosendal Gardens (lunch)

Summer Tips
Internet Research tools
Summer Events & Festivals 
Restaurants that are Closed During the Summer
Stockholm Port Information
General Sightseeing Tips

-Please remember that many of these blog entries are from last summer (except for "summer tips") so some information may have changed slightly (prices, opening hours, times etc;). Check their websites (linked in each entry) for up-to-date information, or contact me directly if you are staying at the Rival Hotel.

July 14, 2011

Art Galleries at "Puckeln"

Right around the corner (literally) from the Rival Hotel there is an interesting street that locals call Puckeln. This means "the hump" in Swedish and refers to its shape. It runs parallel to the main street Hornsgatan, from Mariatorget to Slussen, except that it rises slowly in elevation before sloping back down to meet the main street again (as seen in the picture above). This cobblestone street is lined with art galleries, handicraft stores and cafés. Paintings, ceramics, crystal, jewellery... it's perfect for strolling down on a warm sunny day and do some shopping (or at least window shopping!). The art galleries have a website- click here -where all of their individual websites can be accessed. Another great store located on Puckeln is trendy Efva Attling which specializes in silver jewellery and accessories. You can read my blog entry about Attling here.

July 12, 2011

Swedish Cuisine: Toast Skagen

It is impossible to visit Stockholm and not see Toast Skagen on a menu at some point. This signature Swedish dish was created by famous restauranteur Tore Wretman (Operakällaren, Stallmästargården, etc;) in the 1950's. The name is a little misleading as Skagen is a region of Denmark... but it is a very Swedish dish! There are some slight variations on how different restaurants prepare the dish, but generally it is toasted white bread topped with a mixture that consists of fresh peeled shrimp, mayonnaise, dill, salt and pepper. It is usually served with a slice of lemon, a sprig of dill and a dollop of bleak roe (löjrom). Some restaurants use creme fraiche instead of (or with) the mayonnaise and some might add a bit of Dijon mustard to the mix.
Most restaurants in Sweden serve Toast Skagen as an appetizer, but often are willing to serve a larger portion as a main course. It also makes a great lunch! Swedes love this delicious dish and it shouldn't be missed during a visit to Stockholm. If you are staying at the hotel then you don't have to go far to try a Toast Skagen. We serve it in our own restaurant: Bistro Rival. Otherwise any restaurant serving Swedish cuisine should have it on their menu.

July 7, 2011

Royal Haga Boat Tour

I have blogged earlier both about Haga Park and Hop On Hop Off Sightseeing. Now Strömma Kanalbolaget has made getting to and around the park easier for visitors with a relatively new bus line out to the park as well as a boat tour on the lake (Brunnsviken) in the park. Both the bus and the boat are of the Hop On Hop Off variety giving you the opportunity to explore on your own.
I've been to Haga Park many times, but yesterday I was invited by Strömma to try their tours for the first time and I was impressed with the trip. Haga and northern Djurgården make up a huge park complex with many interesting sights spread throughout the area. The Royal Haga boat tour is a guided tour with six separate stops along the lake shore. The boat stops at every dock once an hour and a ticket allows you to get on and off as you wish. Some highlights of the tour are The Natural History Museum, The Butterfly House, The Copper Tents, Haga Palace, the Bergianska botanical garden as well as acres of beautiful parkland and gardens in the English style.
To make matters easier, Strömma has created a new Hop On Hop Off bus line (green line) which takes visitors from downtown Stockholm to the boat dock in Haga Park. The green line meets up with the blue and yellow lines at several spots in the downtown area which makes it easy to combine them. The Royal Haga boat tour costs 120 SEK (24 hour ticket), and you can combine it with the Hop On Hop Off green line for 220 SEK. A Supreme Pass costs 350 SEK and is a 24 hour ticket for all Hop On Hop Off boats and bus tours including the Royal Haga boat tour as well as special discounts at some of the sights along the routes.
Click here for other sightseeing recommendations...

July 6, 2011

Restaurant Villa Godthem

Photo: Stefan Andersson
A new restaurant has been added to Stockholm's culinary landscape: Villa Godthem. Behind the restaurant you'll find celebrity chefs Melker Andersson and Danyel Couet, who have opened many other popular restaurants in Stockholm... Le Rouge, F12, Kungsholmen and Grill to name a few. The restaurant is inside a newly renovated house first built in 1874 and used as a restaurant since 1897. On the menu you'll find their interpretation of traditional Swedish cuisine using a lot of seasonal and locally grown produce.
Photo: Stefan Andersson
The location can't be beat... you'll find Villa Godthem on the leafy island of Djurgården, just a stone's throw from the Vasa Museum and Skansen park. A great place to eat dinner after a day of sightseeing on the island. Their Garden Bar & Café are open during the day for lunch as well. It is also easy to get to from the Rival Hotel... there is a commuter ferry that takes you from Slussen to the island of Djurgården leaving approximately every 15 minutes.
Click here for more restaurant recommendations...

July 5, 2011

ÅF Offshore Race- Sailing Regatta

Photo by Oskar Kihlborg
The classic race Gotland Runt ("Race around the island of Gotland"), the largest offshore race in the Nordic region, has made some changes this year. It is now called ÅF Offshore Race. The start of the course has changed as well. The elite class and the classic boats will now start in Stockholm and race to Sandhamn first before continuing on to Gotland with the other racers. This is great for visitors to Stockholm... the harbor will be filled with sailing boats and thousands of onlookers can now watch the start.
The race will start at 11am on the Wednesday July 6th and the starting line will run from the island of Kastellholmen south to the Fotografiska museum on Södermalm. The best places to view the start will be on the north-east coast of Södermalm (near the museum and just a 15 minute walk from the Rival Hotel), as well as the south coasts of the islands of Kastellholmen, Skeppsholmen and Djurgården. Between the 4th and 6th of July, an event area will be open for visitors by the restaurant Josefinas, next door to the Vasa Museum.

July 3, 2011

Stockholm Trivia

We are often asked what the sculpture in the fountain in front of the Rival Hotel is supposed to depict. The sculpture is called "Tors Fiske" (Thor Fishing) and was created by sculptor Anders Wissler and raised in 1903. It depicts the Norse god Thor raising his hammer Mjölner to do battle with Jörmungandr, the Midgard Serpent. This battle was described in The Prose Edda, an Icelandic collection of tales of Nordic mythology. The fountain is in the center of the Mariatorget square (where the hotel is located) and a popular place for the locals to meet on a warm summer day...

July 1, 2011

Stockholm Adventures

Photo: Stockholm Adventures
The biggest trend in tourism these days is eco-friendly and adventure tours. Travelers are moving away from the packaged bus tours and are choosing more adventurous ways to see cities and countries. Adventure tourism tends to have less of a negative impact on the environment as well as being more fun and memorable. It's also a nice way to see a part of the city and countryside not covered in guide books. Stockholm, with its archipelago, forests and national parks, is the perfect city to try a bit of adventure tourism.
Photo: Stockholm Adventures
The tour company Stockholm Adventures is a great place to start. They offer many different sightseeing tours and adventures, something for every taste and ability level. Here are some highlights of what they have to offer:
  • Hikes- they have both urban wanderings in the city as well as hikes in Tyresta national park and the archipelago.
  • Bikes- tours of the city.
  • Kayaks- from shorter tours in the city to full-day tours in the outer archipelago.
  • Wildlife Safari- see moose, boar and deer... just a 20 minute ride from the city.

So, take a chance to see Stockholm off the beaten path and/or experience Sweden's beautiful natural landscape and wildlife. Tours can be booked on their website, at the Stockholm Tourist Center or, if you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me directly and I can help you make a reservation.