December 30, 2016

Happy New Year!

Just a short post to wish everyone a happy and safe New Year's and to leave with some last minute words of advice... click here for information on what is going on in Stockholm on New Year's Eve, click here for the opening hours for museums this weekend and click here for the opening hours for department stores and shopping centers. Skeppsbron on Gamla Stan will be a popular place to watch the midnight fireworks... otherwise any shoreline on the eastern half of the city will work well.
The Rival Cocktail Bar.
Or if you want to avoid standing outside with crowds, come by the Rival Hotel. Our Bistro is fully booked, however our bars are open between 1:00pm and 2:00am. No entrance fee and DJ playing from 9:00pm onwards. The square Mariatorget (in front of the hotel) is a popular place with locals to set of fireworks at midnight as well. Happy New Year... see you in 2017!

December 23, 2016

Don't Miss Getting Lost in Gamla Stan!

One comment I often get from visitors when I discuss with them what to see & do in Stockholm is that they are planning on avoiding the old town (Gamla Stan) because it is probably too touristy. But this is a mistake! Sure, it is popular with tourists... but that doesn't mean it is bad and not worth seeing. And while I apprciate the trend of "experiencing the authentic parts of the city", you can't really understand what Stockholm is all about without seeing where it all started 800+ years ago.
So, by all means, visit Gamla Stan and soak in the history and beautiful architecture. Perhaps avoid the pedestrian street Västerlånggatan if you don't like a high concentration of tourists and souvenir shops. I usually tell visitors to just get lost in narrow medieval streets. If the crowds turn left, you turn right... you never know what interesting things you will find around the corner. If you get the chance, take a guided sightseeing tour to hear some history and interesting stories. Free Tour Stockholm has guided tours year round as well as the company Our Way.
The little statue Iron Boy behind the Finnish Church with
an interesting story.
There is a lot to see on this island (yes, Gamla Stan is an island), like the Royal Palace, a couple of cathedrals, museums like the Nobel Museum and Royal Armoury as well as the narrow alleys and picturesque squares. You also have some of Stockholm's best restaurants and bars here as well as good opportunites for shopping. Besides souvenir shops, there are lots of Swedish design, arts & crafts and antique stores.
A real Viking runestone, used as building material by medieval Stockholmers.
Gamla Stan is at the very center of Stockholm and is easy to get to by subway... both the red and green lines stop at the Gamla Stan station. Otherwise it is only a 10 minute walk from the Rival Hotel! In this article you will find pictures I took the other day when I walked around Gamla Stan getting "lost". I hope that they will inspire you to do the same thing!






December 16, 2016

Holiday Opening Hours at Shopping Centers and Department Stores 2016-17

Christmas is almost upon us! I have already written about special opening hours for museums and sightseeing tours. Now for those of you who are interested in a little holiday shopping. Stores and boutiques all, of course, have their own individual opening hours during the holidays. But you can generally say that they close early on December 24th & 31st and are closed on December 25th and January 1st. There are always exceptions to the rule! Here are the special holiday opening hours (days that deviate from regular opening hours) for some of the larger department stores and shopping centers. Take a look at their websites for information about other specific dates. Interested in Christmas markets? The last day for these markets is December 23rd. Click here for a full list of markets and their opening dates/hours. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel and want to know the opening hours of smaller independent stores, contact me directly!
  • NK department store: open from 10am to 9pm on the days leading up to Christmas. 10am to 2pm on December24th, closed on December 25th, open from 10am to 5pm on December 31st and closed on January 1st.
  • Åhlens City department store: open from 10am to 10pm on the days leading up to Christmas. 10am to 3pm on December24th, closed on December 25th, open from 10am to 6pm on December 31st and closed on January 1st.
  • Mall of Scandinavia: open from 10am to 10pm on the days leading up to Christmas, 10am to 4pm on December 24th, partially open on December 25th (but mainly cafés and restaurants), open from 10am to 4pm on December 31st and closed (?) on January 1st. Keep in mind that certain parts of the mall (restaurants, cinema) may have different opening hours. My recent visit.
  • Mood shopping center: Open 10am to 9pm on the days leading up to Christmas, 10am to 1pm on December 24th, closed on December 25th, open from 10am to 4pm on December 31st and closed on January 1st.
  • Gallerian shopping center:  open from 10am to 9pm on the days leading up to Christmas. 10am to 2pm on December24th, closed on December 25th, open from 10am to 4pm on December 31st and closed on January 1st (ongoing renovations in certain parts of the shopping center).
  • Sturegallerian shopping center: open from 10am to 8pm on the days leading up to Christmas. 10am to 2pm on December 24th, closed on December 25th, open from 10am to 2pm on December 31st and closed on January 1st.
  • Skrapan shopping center: open from 10am to 8pm on the days leading up to Christmas. 10am to 2pm on December 24th, closed on December 25th, open from 10am to 4pm on December 31st and closed on January 1st.
  • Barkarby Outlets: closed on December 24th and 25th, open from 10am to 4pm on the 31st and closed on January 1st.
  • Östermalms Saluhall (indoor food market): closed on Sundays and December 24th, 25th and 26th, open from 9:30am to 5pm on Dec 31st and closed on January 1st.
  • Systembolaget (state run liquor stores): They are closed on Sundays, December 24th, 25th and 26th. On December 31st they close at 2pm and are completely closed on January 1st. So... plan your shopping wisely!
The days in between Christmas and New Year's are called mellandagarna ("middle days") and are some of the biggest shopping days of the year. This is due to the sales! Keep your eyes open for signs saying rea ("sale") or mellandagsrea ("middle day sale"). Buying electronics is especially popular during these days.

December 10, 2016

New Year's Eve in Stockholm- 2016

Let us take a little break from Christmas and concentrate on New Year's Eve. It is just around the corner! If you are visiting the city during this holiday, then I hope you have already finalized your New Year's Eve plans because it's getting down to the wire. This is not an evening when you want to "wing it" when it comes to dining & dancing. Here are some things you should be aware of when making your plans. It might sound a little negative, but it is all about being forwarned and having a plan!
  • Restaurants- Many restaurants are closed on the 31st. The ones that are open generally serve a traditional multiple course menu called nyårssupé and nothing else. It can be anywhere between 3 and 9 courses and cost anywhere between 500 and 1200 SEK, depending on the restaurant. This means that going out for a simple dinner or quick bite will probably be problematic unless you are looking at pubs or fast food establishments. These dinners are quite popular and the restaurants tend to fill up, so don't leave it to the last minute! Most of these restaurants have two seatings during the evening... an early (5-8:30pm) and a late (8:30pm-12am). There are a select few that serve a regular menu. And it seems that there are more of these every year. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact us as soon as possible to make arrangements! Every year we have guests that contact us around 7pm on New Year's Eve for help in making restaurant reservations and are surprised that almost every restaurant is fully booked. Don't make the same mistake! 
  • Nightclubs- Here it is important to plan ahead as well. Tickets to the parties at the nightclubs can be pre-purchased in advance. If you don't pre-purchase a ticket, you can end up standing in long lines in subzero temperatures! Here are some of the larger nightclub parties this year: Stureplansgruppen (an umbrella group that runs several nightclubs), Café Opera and Södra Teatern. These are the more posh nightclub venues... there are, of course, many smaller parties going on at different venues. Click here for a list and more information about gay & lesbian parties on New Year's Eve.
  • Taxis- These are notoriously hard to catch on New Year's Eve... especially after 11pm. This is because of the huge demand. Most taxi companies don't accept prebookings because they don't want their cars tied up waiting for people who don't show up. You don't have to worry about being stranded though... the subways will be running all night long. If nighttime subways aren't your thing, just make sure that you are within walking distance of your hotel. Stockholm isn't that big so this isn't that hard to accomplish. And remember... be careful when catching taxis in Sweden!
  • Fireworks- Locals will be setting off their own fireworks throughout the city, especially in the parks & squares and at midnight. The official fireworks will be shot off above the harbor (eastern side of Gamla Stan). The best places to see the fireworks are along the waterfront, by the City Hall, on Fjällgatan or Monteliusvägen. Some places will be quite crowded, especially the Slussen area which will be cordoned off from car traffic, but you will still be able to see the fireworks!
  • Skansen- Once again, this is the center of Swedish holiday tradition. This is the spectacle that is televised and shown around all of Sweden... kind of like the Swedish version of the ball dropping at Times Square. There will be music and speeches and the official countdown. Skansen is also a great place to see the official fireworks! To be honest, I'm not sure how much someone who doesn't speak Swedish will get out of the event as most of the program is in Swedish... but it is an option. The program starts at 11:10pm and ends at 00:10am. Be aware that it is outdoors and the temperatures will probably be below freezing, so dress accordingly! 
The Rival Hotel- our restaurant is already fully booked on this evening! However... our bars are open until 2am and there is no entrance fee (rare on this evening). There will be a DJ playing and the square in front of the hotel is a popular place for the locals to light their fireworks.

December 9, 2016

Gamla Stan's Polkagriskokeri

And staying in the Christmas vein... make sure you don't miss visiting Gamla Stans Polkagriskokeri when in Stockholm, especially during the holiday season. The perfect place to buy Swedish candy and treats to take with you home or to enjoy yourself while you are here. But perhaps it would help if I explained what "polkagris" and "kokeri"are?
Polkagris is basically the Swedish version of a candy cane minus the hook shape. However, these days polkagris can come in a wide variety of flavors, shapes and colors besides the classic peppermint stick. And a "polkagriskokeri" is basically where polkagris is made. In other words, it is a candy cane factory! How is it made? It is sugar dough which is boiled (to "koka"), kneaded, pulled and then twisted into the desired shape before it hardens.
So much candy it is spilling out of the drawers.
Polkagris was first made in the town of Gränna back in 1859 and the town has become a tourist attraction with visitors coming from far and wide to watch them make polkagris. So it is important to note that this is the only polkagriskokeri outside of Gränna! Not only can you try and purchase the delicious treats, but you can watch them make it as well.
Post twisting, ready for cutting.
The shop/kokeri is located in Gamla Stan, making it easy to combine with other activities. Like maybe a visit to the Christmas market on Stortoget? At any rate, the shop is just a 15 minute walk from the Rival Hotel. The store is, of course, open year round so you don't have to limit getting your polkagris fix to the month of December!

December 6, 2016

Museums & Tours During the Holiday Season 2016-17

Christmas at Skeppsbron. Photo by Henrik Trygg/mediabank.visitstockholm.com
The week around Christmas and New Years can be a little tricky when it comes to visiting museums and attractions. There are quite a few bank holidays and special days during a short period of time and museums have a wide variation of opening hours... some are open every day, others close on the major holidays while others choose to close their doors for several days. Here is a list of the major museums and attractions and when they will be closed to help you plan your visit.

  • Skansen- open every day! Free entrance on Dec 24th. 
  • Vasa Museum- closed Dec 23rd to 25th and Jan 1st. Closes early (3pm) on Dec 31st.
  • ABBA the Museum- closed only on Dec 24th, otherwise open every day from 10am to 6pm.
  • Fotografiska (photography)- closed only on Dec 24th!
  • Moderna (modern art)- closed on Mondays and Dec 24th to 26th, Dec 31st and Jan 1st.
  • Center for Architecture and Design- closed on Mondays and Dec 24th to 26th, Dec 31st and Jan 1st.
  • Nobel Museum- closed on Mondays and Dec 24th, 25th, 31st and Jan 1st. 
  • Historiska (Swedish history)- closed on Mondays, Dec 24th, 25th and Dec 31st. Open on Dec 26th (a Monday) from noon to 6pm. 
  • Nordiska (nordic traditions)- closed on Dec 24th, 25th and 31st. 
  • Medeltidsmuseet (medieval history)- closed on Mondays, Dec 24th, 25th, 31st and Jan 1st. Open on Dec 26th (a Monday) from noon to 5pm. 
  • Stadshuset (city hall)- closed for tours on Dec 24th, 25th, 26th and Jan 1st. Shorter hours on other days during this period.
  • Spritmuseum (spirits- as in adult beverages)- closed Dec 24th, 25th, 31st and Jan 1st. 
  • The Royal Palace- closed on Dec 24th and 25th. The Royal Apartments will be open on Dec 31st and Jan 1st.
  • Livrustkammaren (the royal armoury)- closed on Mondays and Dec 24th to 26th, Dec 31st and Jan 1st. 
  • Millesgården (art & sculpture)- closed Mondays and Dec 24th & 25th. Open on Dec 26th (a Monday) from 11am to 5pm. Closes early on Dec 31st (3pm).
  • Thielska Galleriet (art)- closed on Mondays, Dec 24th, 25th, 26th, 31st and Jan 1st. Open on Jan 2nd (a Monday) from noon to 5pm.
  • Waldemarsudde (art)- closed on Mondays and Dec 24th, 25th, 26th and 31st. 
  • Drottningholm Palace- closed between Dec 12th and 30th. Open daily from Dec 31st to Jan 8th (Swedish winter school break).
  • Naturhistoriska (natural history)- closed Mondays and Dec 23rd and 24th. Open on Dec 26th (a Monday). 
  • Junibacken (the world of Astrid Lindgren)- closed Dec 23rd to 25th. 
These are just the main museums. There are scores more! If you are staying at the Rival Hotel and are interested in other museums, drop me a line or stop by my desk. 
Strömma's Winter boat tour. Photo by Magnus Rietz © All rights reserved.
There is more luck when it comes to sightseeing tours. The main company Strömma has tours daily all through this period. However, keep in mind that it is the low season and not many tours are available (as opposed to the summer high season). You definitely have the Panorama bus tour and the Winter boat tour every day. The company Free Tour Stockholm offers daily tours during the holiday season. Contact me directly for information regarding other tour companies. 

December 1, 2016

Christmas Inspiration!

Stortorget Christmas market where you can try...
Ok... the next few weeks will be mostly dedicated to what is happening here in Stockholm over the holidays. I will posting articles about the opening hours for stores, museums and sightseeing tours as well as other articles about gingerbread competitions, Lucia, shopping and, of course, New Year's Eve. I have already written about Christmas markets as well as a general overview of the holidays. If your name is Ebenezer Scrooge, then let me apologize in advance for the deluge of Christmas information.
glögg or buy...
To start off with... a little inspiration! I took a long walk through the city with a friend last week and took some pictures of the decorations and holiday happenings. No snow at the time, but we have had a colder than normal November (with snow) and the forecast is for a snowy and cold winter this year. Fingers crossed that we have a white Christmas!
Christmas ornaments and more.
I started in Gamla Stan and made a visit to the city's main Christmas market, located on the square Stortorget. This popular market is open every day, from 11am to 6pm, until Dec 23rd. This is a great place to get yourself into the holiday spirit, buy some Christmas ornaments/delicacies and try glögg (hot, spiced wine).
The tree on Skeppsbron being decorated.
I then walked down to the Gamla Stan waterfront to see the preparations for the big official Christmas tree. Touted as one of the largest in the world (38 meters tall), it is lit up all season and can be seen from different points along the city's waterfronts. When I was there, they were still decorating the tree... but it is all lit up now.
Ice skating rink, fun for all ages!
Next I walked across the bridge to the park Kungsträdgården. This park is as central as you can get in Stockholm and is close to the main shopping districts. In the park you will find the popular outdoor ice skating rink. It is open daily, all winter, until 9pm. If you don't have any skates you can rent them there (70 SEK per hour for adults, 30 SEK for children). No skate rentals on Dec 24th.
People lined up to see the NK window displays...
Across the street from the park is the NK department store. Besides the obvious shopping possibilities, the store's holiday decorations are popular... both inside and in the store windows. The unveiling of the window decorations is a big Stockholm tradition and most families make a pilgrimage to see what this year's windows look like.
...especially popular wiht little ones.
We ended our walk looking at some of Stockholm's official Christmas light displays. Every year they decorate and light up the downtown area with thousands of LED lights. Some hanging over streets, some along bridges while others in the form of woodland animals. One of the most popular light displays come in the form of a herd of moose and can be found at Nybroviken. Here at the Rival Hotel we have a special map showing all of the Christmas lights and decorations. The map even has recommended walks to best view the light displays. Just pick one up at the Concierge desk!
The square Norrmalmstorg.
The street Biblioteksgatan.
Moose on the loose... 

November 26, 2016

A Visit to Fotografiska

Nick Cave and Johnny Rotten.
I had an extra day off the other day so I made a visit to Fotografiska (the Swedish Museum of Photography) to see some of their ongoing exhibitions. Specifically the Anton Corbijn exhibition (which ends soon- Dec 4th) and the recently opened exhibition on Diesel advertising campaigns (runs until Feb 5th).
A trio of 80's icons... Bowie, George and Idol.
Anton Corbijn is a Dutch photographer, mostly known for his work within the music world... portraits, promotional pictures, album sleeves and even music videos. He has worked closely with many major artists like U2, Depeche Mode, Rolling Stones and Nirvana to name a few and has taken many iconic images. This exhibition, "1-2-3-4", is a dive into the photographer's archives. This isn't a "best of" exhibition, in fact many of the 400+ images on display have never been shown before. Instead it is a captivating look at some of the music industry's biggest stars. I am glad I didn't miss it. Only one week left!
Kurt Cobain of Nirvana. 
Another exhibition I was excited to see was "Finally it all makes sense", a look at Diesel advertisements from 1991 to 2001. You would have to have lived under a rock during the 1990's to not have ever seen one of popular advertisements for the Italian fashion label Diesel. They were everywhere... in magazines, on billboards and TV. They were often controversial, always colorful and done with tongue-in-cheek humor.
Diesel exhibition.
During this period (1991-2001) their advertising campaigns were done by a Swedish ad company called Paradiset. These award winning campaigns elevated Diesel to a household name and helped them break Levi's stranglehold on the European denim market.
One of the more controversial ads (at least at the time).
The exhibition lays out the different campaigns in chronological order and explains the thought behind each campaign. Back in the 90's I just thought they were funny, bright ads... I was surprised to learn how each campaign actually looked at social injustices and other problems in the world, albeit always in a fun and colorful way. This exhibition runs until February 5th, 2017. Another exhibition is opening this week at Fotografiska: Charlotte Gyllenhammar "Natt" (until March 5th, 2017). Click here to see other art exhibitions going on in Stockholm right now.
Fotografiska is located on the Södermalm waterfront, about a 20 minute walk from the Rival Hotel. While this sounds pretty straightforward, it is a little complicated due to the major construction going on at Slussen which you have to pass on the way to the museum. I don't want to give any exact information on how to pass the construction as it is ongoing. The best tip I can give is to follow the signs (see picture below)! If you are staying at the hotel, stop by and talk to me for up to date information.
Follow the signs to avoid... 
...the Slussen construction site.


November 25, 2016

Stockholm's Narrowest Street

I am often asked by guests where this street, or alley, can be found. To be honest, I have never really understood the fuss... but the street has become a tourist attraction in itself and draws visitors, children and, sadly, graffiti vandals (don't want to call them artists in this case). There are many more interesting things to see in Stockholm, in my opinion, but in case you are curious...
The alley is called Mårten Trotzigs Gränd and is named after a German merchant who owned property in this area of Gamla Stan in the late 1500's. The alley contains 36 steps, is 90 centimetes at its narrowest point and connects the streets Västerlånggatan and Prästgatan. It is very easy to walk right by the entrance, so keep your eyes open. Click here for a map with location.