May 27, 2015

Stockholm Marathon, Harness Races (Elitloppet) and more...

This coming weekend (May 29th-31st) is one of the craziest in the Stockholm calendar with a couple of big events happening at the same time. If you are visiting this weekend and none of them appeal to you... remember that you still have to consider that these events mean lots of people in the city (full hotels and restaurants) and traffic problems.
Marathon runners on "Strömbron"
Photo by Rickard Forsberg
First off, we have the 31st annual Stockholm Marathon happening on Saturday. This is a huge event with almost 21,000 runners representing 101 countries. Both the start and finish lines are at Stadion (the classic 1912 Olympic stadium). The race starts at 12 noon and the course takes racers through the scenic streets and parks of downtown Stockholm (two laps). This of course means major road closures throughout the city for most of Saturday. To avoid any problems... stick to walking, subways or ferries to get around on this day. Wherever you go in downtown Stockholm on Saturday, you are bound to see racers and people lining the streets. Take the time to stop and cheer the runners on! It is easy to get from the Rival Hotel to the stadium. It is just five stops away on the subway (red line). If you are running in the marathon, public transportation is free for you... just show your racing bib or registration.
"Univers de Pan" at Solvalla
Phot by Lars Jakobsson Kanal 75
Secondly, we have Elitloppet going on all weekend. This is one of the largest harness (horse) races in the world and attracts over 50,000 visitors to the Solvalla race track. The track is located a little outside the city center, so you might be oblivious that races are actually going on if you aren't a harness enthusiast... though you will notice it at hotels, restaurants and bars in the city. If you are interested, there are 40 races going on between the 29th and 31st with the main race (Elitloppet) happening on Sunday, May 31st. Tickets can be purchased through their website linked above.
Runners passing Stockholm City Hall.
Photo by Rickard Forsberg.
Thirdly, this weekend is the infamous lönehelg ("pay weekend"). Most Swedes get paid on the 25th of every month and the first weekend following the 25th tends to be notoriously busy in bars and restaurants... filled with Swedes with pay checks burning holes in their pockets. Cruise ship season has started as well and several big cruise ships are due in this weekend. And to end it all, Sunday is Mother's Day here in Sweden! So, all of this means you really should book restaurants for this weekend in advance. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me directly for help.

May 23, 2015

Midsummer Weekend- 2015

Midsummer at Skansen,
photo by: Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se
(EDIT: this is from 2015. For current information... click here!) It is a little less than a month before Midsummer weekend here in Sweden. This year it falls on June 19th through 21st with Midsummer's Eve on Friday and Midsummer's Day on Saturday. This is arguably the biggest holiday in Sweden... on par with Christmas as a holiday celebrated with family and friends. It is a very old holiday, celebrating the summer solstice, with roots going back to Sweden's pagan past. Here is a handy video that explains the holiday! Unfortunately, most tourists are taken by surprise every year as parts of the city can resemble a ghost town with many Stockholmers heading to the countryside to celebrate. But don't worry... as long as you are aware of the holiday, there are still lots to see and do. Most places geared for tourists tend to be open or at least partially open. Here are some tips on what is open/closed and what to expect:

Museums-

  • Skansen- open every day, all weekend.
  • Vasa Museum- open every day, all weekend.
  • Fotografiska (photography)- closed on Friday, open Saturday & Sunday.
  • ABBA the Museum- open every day, all weekend.
  • Royal Palace- open every day, all weekend.
  • Drottningholm Palace- open every day, all weekend.
  • Moderna (modern art)- closed Friday, open Saturday & Sunday.
  • Nobel (Alfred Nobel and the Nobel Prizes)- closed Friday, open Saturday & Sunday.
  • Nordiska (nordic culture)- closed Friday, open Saturday & Sunday.
  • Historiska (history)- closed Friday & Saturday, open Sunday.
  • Medeltidsmuseet (medieval)- closed Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
  • Spritmuseum (drinkable spirits)- closes at 4pm on Friday, closed Saturday, open Sunday.

If you are travelling with children (or are young at heart) both the amusement park Gröna Lund and Junibacken, the home of Pippi Longstocking and her friends, are open all weekend.

Restaurants-

Here is where you can get into a little trouble. Many restaurants are closed for the whole weekend, while others will be closed at least on Friday. Higher-end, Michelin star restaurants are almost all closed Friday through Monday. Most hotel restaurants are open to the general public (like the Rival Bistro) all weekend. There are also a few other restaurants that are open during Midsummer... your best luck will be with hotel restaurants, places in Gamla Stan as well as restaurants like Hard Rock Café. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me as soon as possible for help booking a table, as they will probably fill up and last minute reservations might be tough! 

Shopping-

Also a little tough. Many smaller boutiques will be closed for the whole weekend. Even large shopping centers, like Mood and Sturegallerian, will close on both Friday and Saturday (Sturegallerian is closed on Sunday as well). The two largest department stores, NK and Åhlens City, will close early on Friday (NK at 2pm and Åhlens at 4pm) and stay closed on Saturday. Officially, it is only Saturday which is a bank holiday... but Friday is about as close as you can come "unofficially", so expect many pharmacies, banks and liquor stores to be closed that day as well.

Sightseeing-

Large sightseeing companies like Strömma run as normal with bus, boat and combination tours available all weekend. Smaller, independant sightseeing companies may be closed. Public transportation runs as normal, though on a more limited "holiday" schedule, all weekend.

Experience Midsummer-

After all of this negativity, you may be wondering "but where do we experience the Midsummer celebrations?". Well, the best place to see how Swedes traditionally celebrate this holiday is at Skansen. Check their calendar for a program of what is going on all weekend long! While most Swedes do leave the city, the few that are left will celebrate with picnics and games in the different parks throughout the city. So, when in doubt, just head outdoors to celebrate. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel and need further information... contact me directly at the hotel!
Summer Night
photo by: Susanne Walström/imagebank.sweden.se

May 18, 2015

The Ultimate Summer Guide to Stockholm

Skeppsbron, photo by: Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se
Here at the Rival Hotel, we can tell that the summer season is gearing up... less businessmen and more tourists (even on the weekedays), more questions about the archipelago as well as a sharp increase in e-mails asking advice about what to see/do/dine while in Stockholm. I thought I would put togther a collection of my most popular summer-themed blog articles as well as links to some excellent websites to help you make the most out of your visit to Stockholm. Always good to do some research and plan ahead...

Arrival/Departure

Getting Around the City
Sightseeing (multiple blog articles, but here are links to the individual company websites)
Activities
Restaurants
Archipelago
Museums
This is really just some highlights and top tips. If you are booked at the Rival Hotel... contact me directly if you need assistance or more information.
Strandvägen, photo by: Henrik Trygg/imagebank.sweden.se

May 14, 2015

Art Museum Exhibitions- Summer 2015

Audrey Hepburn on the set of "My Fair Lady" 1963.
at Sven-Harry's Konstmuseum.
Photo: Cecil Beaton
©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby's
Another article to help you plan your summer visit in Stockholm. Below you will find the major exhibitions at museums and galleries, concerning art, happening in Stockholm this summer. There are many other museums and attractions in Stockholm which foucus more on history. Click here for a list and description of them. After each museum/gallery below, I have written a word (modern, classic, etc.) describing the type of art usually shown there. Keep in mind that this is just a generalization. These are also temporary exhibitions and many of the museums listed also have permanent collections on display.
The park at Waldemarsudde. Photo by Lars Edelholm.
Lots of great art! Personally, I am really looking forward to the Nick Brandt, Cecil Beaton and Less is More... Not! If you are staying at the Rival Hotel and need further help or information, talk to me directly at the hotel. Are you coming to Stockholm before the summer exhibitions start? Click here to see the main spring exhibits.
"Less is More... Not!" at the Spritmuseum.
Photo by: Per Myrehed
© All rights reserved

May 6, 2015

Restaurants Closing For a Few Weeks This Summer- 2015

This post may come as bad news, at least for "foodies" visiting Stockholm in July and early August. Many top tier restaurants (Michelin star, gourmet) close for a few weeks during the summer. This is mainly due to the generous Swedish vacation rules and the fact that many top restaurants feel that they can't offer excellent food & service with summer replacement staff. Another reason, perhaps, is that many Stockholmers leave the city during this period and there aren't enough visiting "foodies" to fill these types of restaurants. No businessmen in town either... wining & dining clients. At any rate, the good news is that there are a few which will be open all summer and several other top restaurants have some other options during these weeks... and you always have a plethora of other great restaurants in the city to choose from! Most of these restaurants are also closed during the big Midsummer holiday weekend (June 19th-21st). More about that in a few weeks, but here is last year's blog article regarding the holiday and what to expect.

  • Mathias Dahlgren- closed between July 10th and August 4th (both the Dining Room and Food Bar).
  • Frantzén- closed between July 11th and August 13th.
  • Oaxen Krog- open all summer, but only Wed-Sat during the period July 14th to August 11th.
  • Oaxen Slip- open all summer, every day (lunch/dinner) starting on July 18th.
  • Gastrologik- open all summer for the first time(!). Even their more casual Speceriet will be open.
  • Ekstedt- closed between July 19e and August 5th.
  • Esperanto- the dining room is closed between June 19th and August 6th. Between June 27th and August 4th they open up in their lounge with what they call their French Summer Salon where guests sit at a communal table (a la carte menu). Their great sister restaurants Råkultur and Shibumi are open all summer!
  • Operakällaren- closed between June 27th and August 5th. Operabaren- closed between July 4th and August 9th. Their more casual Bakfickan will be open all summer. 
  • Volt- closed between July 19th and August 17th. 
  • Svartengrens- closed between July 6th and August 3rd. 
  • AG- closed between June 28th and August 2nd. 
  • Rolf's Kök- closed between June 28th and August 2nd.
  • Pontus!- currently closed, reopening as Burger & Lobster on June 26th, with plans to be open the rest of the summer. Their more casual Pocket will be open all summer.
  • Lux Day to Day- closed between July 11th and August 11th.
  • Farang- closed between July 5th and August 5th.
  • Djuret- closed between June 17th and August 17th, instead they will open their pork barbecue restaurant Svinet in the courtyard.
  • Pubologi- closed between June 29th and July 30th. 
  • Proviant- closed between July 5th and August 4th.
  • Niklas- open all summer (Wed-Sat).
  • Grill- open all summer, though only serving a grill buffet between June 29th and August 6th.
  • Le Rouge- closed between June 27th and August 11th. Their more casual Le Bar will be open all summer.
  • SMAK- closed between July 4th and August 5th. 
  • Miss Voon- closed between July 5th and August 4th.
  • Publico- closed between July 5th and August 3rd. 
  • Lilla Ego- closed between June 28th and August 11th. 
  • Nook- closed between June 27th and August 5th.
  • Spritmuseum- their indoor restaurant closes on June 9th and moves outdoors for the summer with a more casual garden restaurant. 
  • Fotografiska- the main restaurant is closed from June 19th until the first week of September. During this time they will have an outdoor grill restaurant on the waterfront.
  • Oxelblom- closed between July 13th and August 10th.
  • Wedholms Fisk- open all summer.

Don't despair though... there are still plenty of great restaurants open in Stockholm during these weeks. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me for more information. Our Bistro will be open every evening, all summer! I will be updating this list as I get more information from restaurants. Please keep in mind that I gathered some of this information from their websites and some of the dates may change. To be absolutely sure, check the restaurant's website (which I have linked above). The dates I have written above are for dinner service, lunch service may differ! I will soon be writing an article about summer-open restaurants...

May 1, 2015

House of Amber

This past week The House of Amber had an open house for Stockholm hotel concierge in order to properly introduce themselves and show what they have to offer ahead of the busy summer season. This is their first boutique in Sweden (having opened a little less than a year ago), but they have their origins in Denmark starting in 1933 and their stores can be also found in China with plans of expansion to the US and the Persian Gulf region in the future.
As the name suggests... they specialize in amber jewellery. Amber (Bärnsten in Swedish) has deep roots in Scandinavian culture and history. It has been used for trading, jewellery and healing properties as far back as the Paleolithic Age and up through the Viking period until today. The most well known type of amber is gold in colour, but it does also come in a variety of colours from milky white to reddish brown and even green and blue. The stone also ranges from transparent to opaque.
Amber is fossilized tree resin and while it is found in several places around the world, the largest amounts, highest quality and most famous amber is found in southern Scandinavia and along the coasts of the Baltic Sea. This amber is between 30 and 44 million years old. Amber is mined is some places but can also be found washed up on the beaches... though it takes a keen eye to spot amber in its raw form.
The House of Amber is located in the Stureplan district and is easy to get to from the Rival Hotel... just four stations on the subway (red line) to Östermalmstorg, exiting to Stureplan. The boutique consists of two floors, with the second floor functioning as a mini-museum with amber artwork as well as information and interesting facts on the history of amber. A nice way to bring a piece of Scandinavia home with you. Don't forget that if you are a non-EU citizen, you can get the sales tax refunded when you leave Sweden. More information on tax free shopping.