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.

January 20, 2017

Calendar of Events & Festivals 2017

It is that time of year again... time to publish my annual list of events and festivals in Stockholm. Hopefully this will help you in planning when you want to visit or, if you have already booked your trip, what to do during your visit. In the list are the main events and festivals. There are of course a myriad of smaller sporting events, concerts and other happenings that aren't listed. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me directly and I can let you know what else is happening during your stay. Keep in mind that even though a certain event is going on during your stay which you are not interested in... it may affect your stay nonetheless. For example, a large sporting event (i.e. marathon) will mean road closures and traffic problems, a popular concert or convention will mean fully booked hotels & restaurants and a bank holiday will mean banks, liquor stores and certain shops will be closed.
It is still early in the year and I will be adding events as they are announced, so make sure to check back now and again ahead of your visit. Some of the links might not work yet for later events (or they direct to last year's information), just keep checking back to see when they update their websites. I have put in some of the larger fairs, but there are a plethora of them going on, covering all sorts of interests from gardening to design to boating. Check the Stockholm Fairground's website (Stockholmsmässan) to see if there is something that piques your interest.

July. This is generally a slow month with events and festivals as most Stockholmers have their summer vacation at this time and tend to leave the city.
  • until the 3rd- continuation of Sweden Horse Show (see above).
  • 10th- Nobel Day.
  • 13th- Lucia Day.
  • 24th & 25th- Christmas (the 26th is also a bank holiday).
  • 31st- New Year's Eve. 

January 13, 2017

What are those funny little squiggles on buildings in Gamla Stan?

In a follow up to my earlier article about getting lost in Gamla Stan... I thought I would explain what those black metal markings you see decorating all of the buildings in Gamla Stan are (as well as older buildings in other parts of the city).
These are called ankarslut or ankarjärnslut ("anchor plate" in English). From the Middle Ages up until the mid 1800's, large wooden beams or logs were used in building multiple story houses and these anchor plates locked (or anchored) the beams in place. If the beams were to shift, the building could collapse. They are often made of cast iron and their dark color makes them easily noticeable against the reds, yellows and oranges of the buildings.
If you have been in Gamla Stan, you will have noticed that these anchor plates come in a wide variety of shapes giving them a decorative quality... everything from straight lines to more cursive shapes. This is where they become especially interesting and you could say that they are a secret code to determine how old the building is. This is due to the fact that different forms were used at different periods through Stockholm's history. In some cases a particular form was only used during a specific decade while other times a form was used over an entire century. Click here and here to see diagrams explaing which forms come from which periods (website in Swedish, but you can see the dates).
Sometimes you will see buildings in Gamla Stan where the bottom half of the building has one type of anchor plate and the top half another. This is beacuse it was not uncommon to add on stories to preexisting buildings at a later date, so the top half of a building was built in another time period than the bottom.
If you see a building in Gamla Stan without anchor plates it more than likely means that the building was built after the mid 1800's. In some cases the anchor plates may have been covered during later renovations, however achor plates have become fashionable and more often than not these renovations have been reveresed to expose the beautiful and decorative plates.

January 6, 2017

Winter Art Exhibitions 2017

Marina Abramović, Stromboli III Volcano, 2002 Photo: Paolo Canevari
Courtesy Marina Abramović Archives (Moderna)
If you are not an outdoorsy person and therefore not interested in winter activities, then you might be interested in some indoor options... like visiting one of the many great art museums in the city. Here is a list of the ongoing and upcoming art exhibitions. There are, of course, many smaller art galleries and museums in Stockholm. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me directly for information about them. And if you are more interested in history than art, click here for a list of Stockholm's best history museums.
Diesel advertisements- ongoing at Fotografiska.

Georg Baselitz, The Great Friends, 1965 © Georg Baselitz 2016

January 4, 2017

Winter Activities- Stockholm 2017

Recent snowfall. The Rival Hotel is in the background.
After a slight delay (i.e. no white Christmas), winter has finally come to Stockholm with temperatures below freezing and plenty of snow and ice. Of course, this means a lot of fun winter activities to try when visiting Stockholm!
Hammarbybacken. Photo: Skistar
As Stockholm is a seaside town with no mountains in the area, people really don't equate alpine skiing with the city. But we actually have a slope, called Hammarbybacken, located in the southern suburbs of the city. In fact, from the top of the hill you have splendid views of the city. Hammarbybacken is preparing to open for the season (check their website, linked above, to see when it opens) and it offers 4 pistes and 2 lifts as well a children's area. Ski equipment rental is available as well. Not exactly St Moritz or Aspen, but a fun activity to do when visiting Stockholm during the winter. To get there from the Rival Hotel, take the subway (green line) from nearby Slussen to Gullmarsplan. There you switch to the tvärbanan (tram) to Sickla Kaj. From there it is only a 10 minute walk to the slopes! The whole trip (hotel to slope) should just take you about 30 minutes.
Colleague & friend Camilla with daughter Aisha
in Kungsträdgården. 
Besides alpine skiing you also have ice skating. You have the choice of skating on an outdoor rink or being adventurous and take a tour on the waterways around the city. For rinks, the best bet is the one located in Kungsträdgården. Centrally located, generous opening hours and skate available. There are several other outdoor rinks throughout the city, but generally skate rental isn't always available. The countryside around Stockholm is filled with lakes, inlets, canals and other waterways... not to mention of 30,000+ islands of the archipelago. This means you can also experience skating on natural ice. In this case, it is strongly recommended that you do this with a guide who knows where to go. One great company for this is Stockholm Adventures. Or Ice Guide.
Skating on natural ice. Photo: Henrik Trygg, Stockholm Visitors Bureau.
More winter activities can be found at the outdoor activity area Hellasgården. Here they have ski paths in the forests and are one of the few places in Stockholm to rent cross country ski equipment. Skate rental is also available if you want to take to the ice of the lake. Feeling particularly courageous? Try ice swimming! They do have a sauna for warming up before and after your dip (not for the faint hearted- literally). Hellasgården is located on the outskirts of the city but only requires a 15 minute bus ride from Slussen (near the Rival Hotel).
Cross country skiing with Green Trails.
Another great tour company which offers winter excursions in and around Stockholm that we like is Green Trails. For example, they offer cross country ski tours (with equipment) which is a wonderful way to get out and see the nature around the city and enjoy the outdoors. They also offer snowshoe hiking and ice skating tours. I think that it is great that these cross country ski tours are now available... only a few years ago it was hard to even find a place that rented skis for visitors. With any of these activities, keep in mind that winter is fickle and they often depend on the amount of ice/snow available. So keep an eye on the above linked websites or weather sites for up to date information.
Lots of winter activities! However, there is one that you can't find in Stockholm and that is dog sledding or one-horse open sleigh. Every winter I get requests from hotel guests for these types of tours. As I mentioned, winter is fickle in Stockholm. A dog sledding company, for example, needs months of guaranteed snow to be economically feasible. And in that vein, there is no reindeer sledding here either. For these types of activities, you have to travel north to the alpine areas of Dalarna and Jämtland or the far noth in Norrbotten. Definitely a fun, side trip when visiting Stockholm in the winter!

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!