March 15, 2017

Fjällgatan

Kastellholmen (left) and Djurgården (right)
Fjällgatan is the name of a street in Stockholm that is famous for its views of the harbor as well as the quaint, historical houses in the area. "Fjäll" has a double meaning in Swedish. It can mean either scales, as in fish scales, or it can mean mountain (specifically the part above the treeline). Someone once told me that the "fjäll" in the street name referred to fish scales because many fishermen once lived in the area and the rocks would be littered with fish scales after they brought home their catch. Not sure if he was pulling my leg, but I can't find anything online to support this so the street name most likely refers to the street's location up on the heights.
At any rate, I visited the area after my recent visit to Fotografiska. Most of Stockholm is pretty flat, with the exception of the northern coastline of Södermalm island which rises above the harbor and provides good views of the city from several points. Fjällgatan is located on the eastern side of this rise. This is one of the most popular view points and is even on the route for the Panorama bus tour. The Hop On/Off bus tour also makes a stop a block or so away from Fjällgatan. As I was at the Fotografiska museum on the waterfront, I used the stairs behind the museum (called Söderberg's stairs) to get up to Fjällgatan.
Söderberg's stairs behind Fotografiska
From Fjällgatan you have views directly over the islands of Skeppsholmen, Kastellholmen and Djurgården. And if you turn your gaze westward you can see the old town (Gamla Stan) and downtown areas. But, as I mentioned, it is not only the views which bring people to the area. The neighbourhood also has many quaint old houses and buildings from the 1700's (most were built after a major fire in 1723). This makes Fjällgatan a good representation of an 18th century Stockholm street. One bit of macabre trivia: the Stockholm gallows were located in this area in the Middle Ages, as the hanging bodies of criminals could be seen by most of the town... providing a good deterent to others who may have been planning any crimes.
Gamla Stan
While you can visit the street year round, I would say that the optimal time is in the summer... when the city is green and in bloom (better views). Small cafés with outdoor seating open as well. One restaurant of special note can be found here: the vegetarian restaurant Herman's. They have a great outdoor garden area where you can dine in the sunshine and look out over the city.
Entrance to Herman's restaurant and garden café
To get to Fjällgatan from the Rival Hotel... it is about a 20 minute walk. Or you could take the aforementioned bus tours. Besides the Fotografiska museum, you also have the SoFo district just a couple of blocks inland from street, so you have a few choices to combine with visiting Fjällgatan. There are a couple of commuter busses that will get you there, but check with me directly for up-to-date information when you are at the hotel because the construction at Slussen means that they are adjusting bus routes in the area often.

March 9, 2017

Susan Philipz at Bonniers Konsthall

The other day I took a swing by the contemporary art museum Bonniers Konsthall to check out the exhibition "Lost in Space" with Susan Philipz. Bonnier is a well known Swedish family, active in the publishing and media industries. The Konsthall is financed by a special foundation created by Jeanette Bonnier in 1985 (the museum itself opened in 2006).
Susan Philipz is a Scottish artist. Formerly a sculptor, her main art medium these days is sound... which is what she uses in this exhibition in the form of her voice and musical instruments. You can tell that she has a background in form as she utilizes the space to make the most of the sound, sometimes with startling results (I did jump at one point). Obviously these pictures don't capture the "sound" part of the exhibition, but it gives you an idea of the space. Last day for this exhibition is May 6th.
While I have to admit that I often find the exhibitions at Bonnier a little too contemporary for my personal tastes, the space itself is really cool, they have a great café, gift shop and library, and (most importantly) there is no admission. So, even if the art isn't always my cup of tea, I like dropping by when I am in the area, have a look around and a "fika". while soaking up some culture.
Bonniers Konsthall is located in the Vasastan neighbourhood. The best way to get there from the Rival Hotel is by subway. Take the green line from Slussen and disembark at the St Eriksplan station (exiting to St Eriksplan). An extra tip: there is another great art museum nearby called Sven-Harrys Konstmuseum... so you can spend a cultural afternoon in the area. Click here for more current art exhibits in Stockholm.

March 7, 2017

Best Stockholm Restaurants in White Guide 2017

While the Michelin Guide is very popular with travellers visiting a foreign city and searching for the best restaurants, the White Guide is another good tool for finding great restaurants in Sweden. In some ways it is even better than the Michelin Guide as it is Swedish critics that rate the restaurants in the White Guide (local knowledge in other words) and they test hundreds of restaurants throughout the country. You also get restaurants rated/awarded in several categories, including several that concentrate on environmental sustainability which is fantastic. The trouble is that the White Guide is published in Swedish which makes it a little difficult for non Swedish speaking visitors to access the information... but here is a break down of the Stockholm restaurants that nabbed the top awards and made the lists in this year's guide:

  • Best restaurant in the category gastronomy (Årets Bästa Mästarklass - Gastronomi): Esperanto
  • Newcomer of the year (Årets Stjärnskott): Adam/Albin
  • Best restaurant, with emphasis on sustainability (Årets Hållbara Gastronomi): Volt
  • Vegetarian restaurant of the year, with emphasis on sustainability (Årets Terroir Award): Fotografiska
  • Seafood restaurant of the year, with emphasis on sustainability (Årets Merroir Award): Oaxen Krog
Head chef Sayan Isaksson and the Esperanto team. Winners of Best Restaurant.
Press image, photo by David Back.
A special congratulations to Esperanto who has been rated best restaurant in Stockholm by the White Guide for several years in a row now. Here are the Stockholm restaurants that made the list of Swedish restaurants with the highest rating of International Master Class (number in paranthesis is their rank on the list of restaurants from all of Sweden):

And these are the Stockholm restaurants that made the list of Swedish restaurants with the rating of Master Class (number in paranthesis is their rank on the list of restaurants from all of Sweden):

While the White Guide for Sweden is in Swedish, they have published a White Guide Nordic in English which covers all of the Nordic region. For past White Guides or other restaurant guides and awards, click here!
White Guide Gala- winners on stage. Press image, photo by David Back.

March 4, 2017

Patrick Demarchelier (and more) at Fotografiska

I visited Fotografiska, the Swedish Museum of Photography, the other day to see their spring exhibitions, especially the main exhibition this season: Lumière- Patrick Demarchelier. Demarchelier is a world famous French fashion and portrait photographer and his work has been seen in the pages of Vogue, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Time, Harper's Bazaar, Elle and other magazines over the past 4 decades. He has also done the photography in many advertisement campaigns for the big design houses and beauty companies over the years, like Dior, Chanel, L'Oreal, Gucci, Revlon and Ralph Lauren.
As per usual at Fotografiska, the exhibition is beautifully presented. The photographs represent the span most of Marchelier's career, but especially the 1990's and the "age of the supermodels". Many people will recognize the faces of Linda, Christy, Kate, Cindy and others with both editorial and portrait (cover) images in the exhibition. But it is not only models who are the subjects. Many famous people have been shot by Demarchelier, like Lauren Bacall, Keith Richards and the late Princess Diana. Mostly black & white, with a few color, gazing at these beautiful images is a great way to spend the afternoon. The exhibition runs until May 14th.
There are several other exhibitions going on simultaneously. Of special note is exhibition of the work of young Chinese photographer Ren Hang, entitled "Human Love". Due to his use of nudity and images of sexual liberation, he has been a controversial artist with the Chinese government often encountering censorship. Sadly, Hang passed away last week at the age of 30, apparently by committing suicide. This, of course, makes this exhibition all the more poignant. "Human Love" runs until April 2nd. Ren Hang:
Ironically enough, there is another smaller exhibition currently set up to pay tribute to Lennart Nilsson, the famed Swedish pioneer photographer who recently passed away at the age of 94. His ground breaking images of a growing fetus inside the womb were first published in Life magazine in 1965 and were included in the spacecraft Voyager which was shot into interstellar space. This exhibition also runs until April 2nd. Lennart Nilsson:
Fotografiska is located on the waterfront of Södermalm, just a 20 minute walk from the Rival Hotel. Walking to the museum can seem daunting as you have to walk past Slussen which is a major construction site these days. But do not worry! There are clearly marked paths to let you circumnavigate the construction. Just follow the signs (see below).  The museum has very generous opening hours, closing at 11pm Sun-Wed and 1am Thurs-Sat. Besides a café and great gift shop, they also have a fantastic restaurant located on the top floor, with views of Stockholm harbour. Make sure you book your table in advance as it is quite popular.
Follow...
...the signs...
...to get to...
...Fotografiska!

March 3, 2017

The Stockholm Tourist, Now on Instagram

Just a little side note... you can now follow me on Instagram: www.instagram.com/stockholm_tourist. This new account will be a complimentary tool to the blog and where I can be more visual, but still with helpful tips. I will post pictures that go along with articles as well as pictures I take wandering around this beautiful city. Thank you to the Esperanto Group of restaurants for suggesting it! You can also follow the Rival Hotel at www.instagram.com/hotelrival to find out what is happening here at the hotel.

March 1, 2017

Taking the Commuter Train (pendeltåg) to and from Arlanda Airport

Entrance to Södra Station on Swedenborgsgatan.
An update/reminder of an older article as I recently used the pendeltåg to get to Arlanda when I went on holidays. There are many ways to get from Arlanda Airport to downtown Stockholm and back: taxibus and high speed train (Arlanda Express). All great options, depending on your budget and time constraints. However, there is another option, which is of special interest to guests of the Rival Hotel! Stockholm has an extensive commuter train system (called pendeltåg in Swedish) run by SL, the same company that runs the busses and subways. They have recently extended a track and built a station at the airport. The station, called Arlanda Centralstation (or Arlanda C for short), is located between terminals 4 & 5, in Sky City. Trains currently depart at 13 and 43 minutes past the hour and the trip to Stockholm Central (Centralen) takes 38 minutes.
Arlanda C station in Sky City, between terminals 4 & 5
What is of particular interest for guests of the Rival Hotel is that the train continues south after Stockholm Central to Stockholm's Södra Station... which is located just 4 blocks from the hotel! Exit to the street Swedenborgsgatan, turn left on the street and walk 4 blocks to the square Mariatorget. We are located on the right-hand side of the square. So, instead of taking the Arlanda Express to the Stockholm Central and then having to take a taxi or subway to the hotel, guests can now take the commuter train the whole way (just about). The journey between Arlanda and Stockholm's Södra takes 43 minutes. Trains currently depart from Stockholm Södra to Arlanda at 04 and 34 past the hour.
Even more good news... the trip is quite inexpensive. A one-time ticket costs 150 SEK. Compare that to a taxi which takes the same amount of time and costs 520 SEK and the Arlanda Express which costs 260 SEK but only takes you as far as the central train station. If you have a SL card (good for all commuter trains, busses, subways and some ferries) or one-time SL ticket then you only need to buy a supplementary airport fee for 120 SEK. They do sell the SL card at the Arlanda C station. Now for the bad news (you knew it couldn't be all good news). The trains only depart every half hour. So if you happen to just miss a train, you may have to wait up to 30 minutes for the next train. But if you aren't in a rush, or plan wisely, then this is a great option! I tried this option when I recently went on vacation and thought that it was quite easy to do and cheap.
All aboard!
Tip: bigger suitcases fit inbetween the chairs.
Heading down the street Swedenborgsgatan to
the Hotel Rival, 4 blocks away.

February 25, 2017

Stockholm Restaurants in the Michelin Guide 2017

Press image from Michelin.
It was a mix bag when the Michelin Nordic Guide 2017 was announced the other day... both happy and sad news for Stockholm. The sad news was expected as two of Stockholm 2 star restaurants have closed in the past few months: Mathias Dahlgren Matsalen and Frantzén. But it isn't completely gloomy! Mathias Dahlgren has just opened a new restaurant in the same locale that Matsalen was located called Rutabaga. With Rutabaga, Dahlgren has decided to focus on haute vegetarian cuisine. Interesting and we shall see if Rutabaga will get its own star in the future. Dahlgren still has his other one star restaurant: Matbaren (same entrance as Rutabaga). Frantzén is also not closed for good. They are just relocating to a new location later this year. More information soon! But, in accordance with Michelin rules, Frantzén and Dahlgren will have to earn their stars anew (stars aren't transferrable when a restaurant changes locations or concepts).
Building that houses star restaurants Imouto and Esperanto, as well
as Shibumi and Råkultur.
The happy news is that another Stockholm restaurant gained its first star in this year's guide: Imouto. Imouto is very exclusive... just a chef's table with nine seats where they serve sushi "omakase style", where you put yourself in the chef's hands (though they, of course, accommodate allergies and dietary restrictions when informed in advance). Head Chef Sayan Isaksson is a very successful chef, running the Michelin star restaurant Esperanto (named best restaurant in Sweden by the White Guide several times), the restaurants Shibumi and Råkultur as well as being the creative genius behind the Nobel Prize banquet for the past few years. It is important to note that all four of his restaurants are in the same building. Congratulations on the star! And here is 2017's list:

2 stars ("excellent cooking, worth a detour")
1 star ("a very good restaurant in its category")
Volt!
Besides the star system, the Michelin Guide has another category called Bib Gourmand which is "exceptional good food and moderate prices". In other words, it won't empty your wallet. Here are Stockholm's Bib Gourmand restaurants:
Please keep in mind that the Michelin star restaurants usually need to be booked a few weeks in advance and often guaranteed with a credit card. If I had a dollar for every guest who has come to me on a Friday late afternoon and asked me for help in booking a table at a star restaurant for the same evening (only to be disappointed), I would be a rich man! If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, please contact me ahead of your visit for any assistance in booking a table. Of course, the Michelin guide isn't the end-all of restaurants guides and recommendations. There are plenty of other great restaurants in the city as well as other excellent guides

February 22, 2017

Restaurant Barobao

Back from vacation and I thought I would start with a restaurant recommendation. This time it is a restaurant in the Rival Hotel's neighbourhood called Barobao. It is a little hard to describe the restaurant with a few short words, but I would say perhaps trendy Tawainese/Japanese/Swedish fusion "fast-food" ecologically friendly eatery in a Nordic industrial setting comes close.
Bao (or Baozi) is a steamed, filled Chinese bun and from where the restaurant gets its name. But there is more than just different baos on the menu! In fact the evening menu (which you can view on their website linked above) is made up of smaller dishes and the idea is that you order at least three for a meal, more depending if you are still hungry. The lunch menu can also be found on their website.
And lunch is what I was there to try (in the search of good local places for hotel guests to lunch). Lunch at Barobao changes daily and you have 4 choices: bao with protein (meat, fish) or without (vegetarian) and bowl with protein or without. I chose the bowl with protein. A wonderful dish with chicken, sticky rice, poached egg and different Asian slaws. Very good! Check their Instagram page for pics of lunch specials and more.
Barobao is located on the street Hornsgatan, just a couple of blocks from the hotel. There has sprung up quite a few fun & relaxed eateries on that stretch of Hornsgatan besides Barobao, like Kalf & Hansen, Gamla Amsterdam (my visit) and Falafelbaren. For dessert you can visit Lakritsroten (for all things licorice) and 18 Smaker (ice cream parlor, though closed in the winter months). Great for our guests. Click here for other restaurant recommendations.
Barobao is not a large restaurant and they do not accept table reservations. You order your dishes at the counter and they call your number when it is ready (hence my "fast-food" description earlier). It is popular! I got there as they were opening at 11:30 for lunch and there was a little crowd of hungry guests waiting at the door in the snow.

February 2, 2017

On Vacation!

Time to recharge my batteries ahead of the busy spring and summer seasons! A couple of weeks on a tropical beach should do the trick. Looking for some last minute Stockholm tips? Scroll down and you will find my recommendations for winter activities, a list of this season's main art exhibitions as well as a calendar of events. I will be back in less than 3 weeks... just in time for the release of the 2017 Michelin Guide. See you then!

January 31, 2017

Restaurant Ebenist

I had the opportunity to try a new restaurant the other day with my Les Clefs d'Or colleagues: Ebenist! I was happy when they opened as it is one of the best addresses in Stockholm... smack dab on the main square Stortorget in Gamla Stan. For decades there was another restaurant located here that wasn't of the best quality, so a change was welcomed! Especially as it is the people behind the great cocktail bar Pharmarium who have opened Ebenist. In fact, they are located right next to each other.
The locale has been renovated and the interior design reminds me a bit of Pharmarium. It is quite a large restaurant but it doesn't seem like it as it is made up of smaller rooms which gives you an intimate dining experience. They have a large wine cellar under the restaurant which wasn't open when we were there (on a Sunday).
They describe their menu as traditional Swedish in modern form with Continental influences. I would say that this is a good description. We were given a tasting menu to get a feel of what they have to offer. We started with an oyster in a beurre blanc sauce, followed by their own bouillabaisse with aioli.
After that we were served steak tartare with roasted onions. It came with cognac which we were told to pour over the tartare. For the main course we were served grilled arctic char with puy lentils. All very good... and the wine pairings were great as well. All in all, a welcome addition to the restaurants in Gamla Stan!
They are open for lunch and dinner. To get there from the Rival Hotel, it is just a 15-20 minute walk. Otherwise you can take the subway, red line, two stops to Gamla Stan. Click here for more restaurant recommendations/reviews.