May 22, 2011

Even a Concierge Needs a Vacation!

Summer is nearing and it is time for me to take a little vacation before the summer season gets going in Stockholm! So it is off to San Francisco and Hawaii for 3 weeks to recharge my batteries. It looks like we are in for a busy summer... lots going on in the city with loads of wonderful visitors already booked in. A record number of cruise ships will be visiting Stockholm as well which is good news. A special thanks to you who have visited and read my blog... I've been writing it for a year now, with over 180 posts and almost 30,000 readers to date. But now the blog will be silent while I'm on vacation. While I'm gone, have a look at the essential research tips I have for someone coming to visit the city, as well as some sightseeing tips, museum tips, restaurant recommendations as well as some general tourist information. I look forward to welcoming you to the Rival Hotel and Stockholm this summer!
Future hotel guests: If you have any urgent questions regarding the upcoming few weeks, please contact my knowledgeable colleagues in the Reception at frontdesk@rival.se or else you can keep sending me inquiries at concierge@rival.se. My colleagues will be monitoring my e-mail, otherwise (if it is regarding matters for a later date) I will answer upon my return.
I'll be back in the middle of June!

May 21, 2011

Stockholm Trivia: City Flowers

The "official" Stockholm flowers are in full bloom! This year the theme for the late Spring flowers is the light Nordic summer nights using a base of white pansies with accents in purple and red, as well as white hyacinths and candy cane colored tulips. The city government has 5,762 square meters of space to plant flowers every year... in 706 urns and 27 flower beds, including the flower beds in the Mariatorget park just in front of the Rival Hotel (pictured here). So don't forget to admire the flowers while wandering through the city!
Source for information: Metro newspaper

May 20, 2011

Stockholm Marathon 2011

Photo by Rickard Forsberg
Next Saturday (May 28th) we have one of Sweden's largest sporting events of the year taking place... The Stockholm Marathon. This year is the 33rd year the marathon is being run and over 20,600 runners from 80 countries have entered. What does this mean for you as a visitor? On the positive side... it is quite a celebration with people lining the streets, helicopters overhead and music playing. The race course goes all through the city (twice!) so it almost impossible to miss. Stop a few minutes and cheer the runners on, they could use the support. Especially if it is a hot day! On the negative side... traffic comes to a standstill for most of the day. Avoid taxis and buses! Stick to subways and boats and you will be just fine. The race starts at 11:30am and goes into the early evening.
Are you running in the marathon and staying at the Rival Hotel? Our head chef has added a special pasta to the menu Friday evening so that racers can load up on carbohydrates for energy... there's no need tiring yourself out the evening before the race looking for an Italian restaurant! To make a reservation: mailto:bistro@rival.se
Photo by Rickard Forsberg

May 18, 2011

Smorgasbord!

Part of the smörgåsbord buffet.
Smorgasbord, or Smörgåsbord as we spell it here, is probably the most familiar Swedish word around the world. It has even made it into the English language as a word to describe "a collection containing a variety of sorts of things". Here in Sweden it means a traditional buffet overflowing with delicacies like pickled herring, shrimp, gravad & smoked salmon, meatballs, patés, sausages, desserts and more.
Beautiful, historic dining room.
Swedes traditionally eat smörgåsbord around midsummer and Christmas (then called julbord), but visitors to Stockholm don't need to wait until these holidays to try this Swedish tradition. Yesterday I was invited by the restaurant Operakällaren to try their smörgåsbord ahead of the summer season. The restaurant has had a long tradition of serving smörgåsbord and they are now bringing it back for Summer 2011. I do recommend trying this when in Sweden... it is a good way to sample well-known Swedish favorites like different types of pickled herring, gravad salmon and, of course, Swedish meatballs. They will be serving the smörgåsbord every Thursday through Saturday all summer starting on May 26th and the cost is 390 SEK per person (all you can eat). It will be served in their historical dining room within Café Opera (next door to the entrance to Operakällaren). For more information, including history, buffet items and contact details, click here. The restaurant is located in the Royal Opera House, smack dab in the middle of the city.. next to Kungsträdgården.
First course... shrimp & herring!
Looking for another option for smörgåsbord? Then try the Grand's Veranda. And for other restaurants that serve classic Swedish cuisine... click here!

May 17, 2011

Festival: Smaka På ("A Taste Of") Stockholm

Photo: Gunilla Sikström, Smaka på Stockholm
One of my favorite yearly festivals is coming up in a couple of weeks (June 1st - June 6th). It is the restaurant festival Smaka På Stockholm (A Taste of Stockholm)... and this year they are celebrating their 20th year! Over twenty restaurants are represented in different tents throughout the festival grounds, serving a wide variety of cuisines: Swedish, Thai, Spanish, Latin American, Cajun, Indian, Vietnamese and much more. Besides food they will be serving refreshing drinks... beer, wine, champagne, soft drinks, etc;. There will be live music and other performances on the main stage as well as cooking demonstrations and cook-offs by some of Sweden's best chefs. Of special note... on June 2nd at 5pm there will be a cooking show on the main stage where the public can watch 5 Swedish medalists (and 1 Norwegian!) from the prestigious cooking competition Bocuse d'Or. 100 or so lucky members of the public will be able to sample their food.
Chef Johan Jureskog. Photo: Peter Backman, Smaka på Stockholm
I really like this festival... a great place to stop by in the day or evening for a bite to eat, enjoy some music and people watch in a relaxed atmosphere. The best thing? No entrance fee! The festival goes on from June 1st to June 6th both day and evening and everything happens in the park Kungsträdgården. To get there from the Rival Hotel: it's just a 20-25 minute beautiful walk through the Old Town, otherwise the closest subway station is Kungsträdgården (blue line).
Click here for other festivals and events during Summer 2011.

May 16, 2011

Restaurant B.A.R.

Also known as Blasieholmen's Akvarium och Restaurang, B.A.R. is a relatively new restaurant owned by the same fellows (Henrik Norström and Peter Johansson) that own Michelin star restaurant Lux Stockholm. I was here last night with my colleagues from the Rival Hotel. We go out a few times a year together to try new restaurants and B.A.R. was at the top of our list. This is deconstructed dining at its best. Designed like an indoor market place (saluhall), diners walk up to the counter and choose the cut of meat, filet of fish or shellfish they want... then order the side orders and sauces from the waitstaff. There is even an aquarium filled with spry lobsters waiting to be chosen. There are also "constructed" dishes on the menu (as well and starters and desserts) but I would recommend going for making your own entree. The meat, fish and shellfish are fresh and of the highest quality.
The waitstaff are very knowledgeable, but even the service is deconstructed. Bottles of water and wine that you order are placed on the table and it is left up to you to pour yourself a glass. Personally, I find this refreshing and it frees up the waitstaff to concentrate on the food. On Sundays the counter is closed and instead they have a special menu of skewers (fish & shellfish and meat). You get two skewers of any combination and then choose your own sauces and side orders at the counter. One word of advice: this restaurant has become quite popular so it is good to book a table in advance, which you can do by e-mailing or calling the restaurant (info on their website linked above) or contacting me if you are guests at the Rival Hotel.
The restaurant is located in the downtown area, a stone's throw from Kungsträdgården and the Royal Palace. The closest subway station is Kungsträdgården (blue line). Click here for other reviewed restaurants!

May 14, 2011

Hop-On Hop-Off Sightseeing

Are you only visiting Stockholm for a few days and wondering how you are going to manage to do both a sightseeing tour as well as visit the main attractions? Well the Strömma company has the perfect solution... Hop-On Hop-Off sightseeing tours. This is a guided sightseeing tour which stops at all of Stockholm's main attractions. You can choose when and where you want to get off and, whenever you are ready, you can board a new bus to continue your tour. The busses go every half hour which makes it very convenient. There are two bus tours/routes to choose from, or you can buy a combination ticket which is good for both. One tour, the Blue Line, concentrates on the downtown area, Djurgården and Östermalm. The other tour, the Yellow Line, concentrates on the Old Town, Kungsholmen and Södermalm. The two tours do meet at three stops (central train station, Gustav Adolf Square and Kungsträdgården) which makes it easy to move from one tour to the next if you buy the combination ticket.
I took a trip on the Yellow Line yesterday, which has a convenient stop a 10 minute walk from the Rival Hotel at Slussen. The busses are double deckers and the top floor has no roof... which means you can work on your tan while sightseeing! The guided tour is available in 8 languages and can be heard via headphones at each seat. Each tour costs 220 SEK and a combination tour costs 260 SEK and tickets are good for 24 hours from when you first board the bus, which means you can start in the afternoon and then continue the next morning. Tickets can be bought online or on board the bus(cash only- SEK or Euro). Guests staying at the Rival Hotel can also buy tickets through me!
There is also a Hop-On Hop-Off Boat Tour which stops at a variety of places like the Royal Palace, Fotografiska, Gröna Lund, Vasa Museum and Skeppsholmen. 24 hour tickets cost 100 SEK, otherwise there is a supreme bus & boat combination 24 hour ticket which costs 350 SEK.
Click here for more sightseeing tips!

May 9, 2011

Tourist Information Centers

Summer is just around the corner and already tourists are flooding into the city. I have blogged earlier about the new Stockholm Tourist Information Center on Sergels Torg Square, in the Kulturhuset, but this summer you will have many more choices to get personal service. Besides the aforementioned tourist center, there are a few more places... both permanent and temporary (during the summer).
  • Arlanda Airport- just outside terminal 5 you will find a tourist information center run by Stockholm Visitors Board. The center is open 24 hours a day and staffed between 6am and midnight. They also have information counters at terminals 2 & 4.
  • Gallerian Shopping Center- a private tourist information center, centrally located in a shopping center. Open weekdays from 8am to 8pm and weekends from 9am to 6pm.
  • Sweden House- Stockholm Visitors Board is opening a temporary information counter during the summer in their old offices across the street from the NK department store. Opens on June 1st.
  • Stockholm Panels- a realtively new way to get information out to visitors. At 300 stations throughout the city you will find unmanned computer terminals where visitors can get vital tourist information. They are located at places where tourists tend to be... like the train station, cruise ship terminals, shopping centers and certain hotels.
  • On Bicycles- once again, this summer, staff from the Stockholm Visitors Board will be biking through the city helping visitors with information and brochures. Keep your eyes open for them... they will be carrying blue flags and are hard to miss!
If you are staying at the Rival Hotel then you don't have to go very far for personal service... just stop by the Front Desk and talk to me or any of my knowledgable colleagues!

May 5, 2011

Guided Cycling Tours & Bike Rental

bikesweden.se
There are many ways to take a sightseeing tour of the city... walking, jogging, boat and bus tours are available, and now even bike tours as well! The tours are offered by Bike Sweden which is located right in front of the Museum of National Antiquities (Historiska Museet). They offer three set tours. A three hour tour around the nearby island of Djurgården (500 SEK per person), a four hour tour out to the Woodland Cemetary- a UNESCO World Heritage site (695 SEK per person) and a six hour tour out to the Drottningholm Palace- also a UNESCO World Heritage site (1195 SEK per person, including boat tour and lunch). Their multilingual guides will keep you informed of your surroundings and all tours include a sandwich and a soft drink.
bikesweden.se
If you are interested in biking on your own then they offer bike rentals as well. They offer rentals for different durations... from 3 hours up to 7 days. They have different types of bikes available, like mountain bikes and city bikes. They also have children's bikes, child seats and child carriers available. Click here for a price list. For more information, check their website (linked above) or contact them at info@bikeguide-stockholm.se
The closest subway station to the Museum of National Antiquities is Karlaplan (red line), five stations away from the Rival Hotel.

May 3, 2011

The Amusement Park: Gröna Lund

Gröna Lund opens for the summer this Saturday, May 7th! The amusement park has been around since the 1880's and is Sweden's oldest amusement park. Here you will find rides and attractions for children of all ages.... haunted house, ferris wheel, tea cups as well as a free fall and several roller coasters. They even have cafés, restaurants, carnival games and a boardwalk. It is also a popular outdoor concert venue and there will be concerts and shows all through the summer. This tivoli has a real old-time carnival atmosphere and is definitely worth a visit! It is located on the southern waterfront of the island of Djurgården and very easy to get to from the Rival Hotel by taking the Djurgård ferry from Slussen. Gröna Lund is located close to other major attractions such as the Vasa Museum, Skansen and Junibacken.
gronalund.com
Entrance costs 90 SEK and 180 SEK on evenings when they have concerts. Free for children under 7 and adults over 64 as well as holders of the Stockholm Card. The opening hours vary by the day and through the summer. The best thing to do is check their calendar for the opening hours and concert schedule.