December 26, 2013

New Year's Eve in Stockholm- 2013!

(EDIT: this is an old article, click here for current information) Christmas is finally over... and New Years is just around the corner! If you are visiting the city this coming weekend, then I hope you have already finalized your New Year's Eve plans because it's getting down to the wire. Here are some things you should be aware of when making your plans:
  • 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 both the nyårssupé alongside a regular menu. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact us as soon as possible to make arrangements!
  • 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 OperaSödra Teatern and Berns. These are the more posh nightclub venues... there are, of course, many smaller parties going on at different venues.
  • 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.
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 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!!!

A picture of part of Stockholm's annual holiday light display... this one located at Sergels Torg. I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!

December 21, 2013

Church Services on Christmas and New Year's 2013

Storkyrkan at the top...
And finally, after info about restaurants, museums and shopping during the holidays, church services! The two main Christian denominations in Sweden are Lutheran and Catholicism. There are, of course, many churches spread throughout Stockholm... but I will concentrate on the larger churches (more likely to have services in languages other than Swedish). If you are staying at the Rival Hotel and are interested in other churches or religions (Judaism, Islam, etc;), come speak with us directly.

Storkyrkan (Lutheran)- Located in Gamla Stan.
-December 24th: 4:30pm Christmas music and prayer. 11pm Midnight Mass (in Swedish).
-December 25th: 07:00am traditional early morning service called Julotta. 11:00am High Mass (both in Swedish).
-January 1st: 11:00am High Mass (in Swedish). 4:00pm New Year's Concert.

St Jacobs Kyrka (Lutheran)- Located next to Kungsträdgården.
-December 24th: 5:00pm Christmas service ("with lots of music and singing. No communion").

Katolska Domkyrkan (Catholic)- Main Catholic Church in Sweden. Located on Södermalm. there are plenty more service times, the ones listed below are "highlights".
-December 24th: 8:00am mass in Swedish, 9:00pm mass in Italian, 10:00am mass in Croatian and a midnight mass with Bishop Anders Aborelius (at midnight!).
-December 25th: 8:45am mass in Italian, 11:00am Pontifical High Mass with Bishop Anders Aborelius, 2:00pm mass in Swedish, 5:00pm mass in Polish and 6:30pm mass in Swedish.
-December 31st: 5:00pm Thanksgiving Mass with "Te Deum".
-January 1st: 11:00am High Mass (language?), 12:30pm mass in Croatian, 2:00pm mass in Spanish and 6:30pm mass in Swedish.

St Eugenia (Catholic)- Located next to Kungsträdgården. Below are also just "highlights", many other days and times for masses. But the good thing to know is that St Eugenia is the place to go for Catholic mass in English.
-December 24th: 7:30pm Christmas prayer, 8:00pm open house, 10:00pm Christmas mass (Swedish) and midnight Christmas mass (in English).
-December 25th: 11:00am High Mass (Swedish) and 6:00pm High Mass (English).
-December 31st: 4:00pm Year's end mass (Swedish).
-January 1st: 11:00am High Mass (Swedish) and 6:00pm High Mass (English).

I am now off for a week... spending the holidays with family in northern Sweden (Luleå). I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!
Riddarholmen Church- no services, but pretty to look at!

December 18, 2013

Stores and Subways on Christmas & New Year's 2013

NK with holiday decorations!
(EDIT: blog article from 2014, click here for updated information) So far I've covered restaurants and museums during the holidays... now on to stores and public transportation! Stores and boutiques all, of course, have their own individual opening hours. 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 for some of the larger department stores and shopping centers. Take a look at their websites for information about other specific dates.

  • 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 to 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 2pm on December24th, closed on December 25th, open from 10am to 6pm to December 31st and closed on January 1st.
  • Mood shopping center: 10am to 2pm on December24th, closed on December 25th, open from 10am to 5pm to December 31st and closed on January 1st.
  • Gallerian shopping center:  open from 10am to 8pm on the days leading up to Christmas. 10am to 2pm on December24th, closed on December 25th, open from 11am to 5pm to December 31st and closed on January 1st.
  • Sturegallerian shopping center: open from 10am to 8pm on the days leading up to Christmas. 10am to 2pm on December24th, closed on December 25th, open from 10am to 2pm to 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 December24th, closed on December 25th, open from 10am to 4pm to December 31st and closed on January 1st.
  • Barkarby Outlets: closed on December 24th, 25th, 31st and 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.
Public transportation runs a little differently during the holidays... several days on a Saturday schedule (less frequently) or Sunday schedule (even less frequently). Of specific interest is the night schedule for the subways. Here are the subway's hours on specific days:
  • December 24th- 10 minute traffic until 3pm, half hour traffic in the evening and no traffic at night.
  • December 25th- "Sunday schedule" starting at 6am, including the night (25-26th).
  • December 26th- "Sunday schedule" all day, however no traffic at night (26-27th).
  • December 31st- "Saturday schedule" all day and all night (31-1st).
  • January 1st- Regular "Sunday schedule". 
One note for busses: they cordon offthe area around Slussen from motor vehicle traffic starting at 8:30pm on December 31st (until after midnight). This is because of the fireworks and that people tend to congregate there. This means that several bus lines going through Slussen will be rerouted. If you are out at night and there are no subways and you don't want to deal with busses... you can take a taxi. But be aware of which taxi you take! We recommend Taxi Stockholm. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact us if you need help in organizing a taxi. It is notoriously hard to get a taxi late on New Year's Eve and the taxi companies don't accept pre bookings on this date... so you might want to plan on walking or taking the subway (just in case). 

December 17, 2013

Countdown to Christmas- Part 3!

Christmas tree inside NK...
I had a wonderful weekend showing visiting relatives around a Christmassy Stockholm. We visited several Christmas markets, saw the window displays at NK, ate a Christmas smogasbord (julbord) at Mr French and took in a Lucia concert at St Jacob's church. All that was missing was some snow!
Lucia procession in St Jacob's church.
I am not writing this just to brag about my weekend... but to pass on a little tip! We did manage also to visit the gingerbread house competition/display at the Center for Architecture & Design. This is an annual competition where three categories of contestants can participate: children under 12, amateur bakers as well as professional designers, bakers and architects. This year's theme is "future forms" and it was great to especially see how some children view the future (very whimsical and creative).
Speaking of children... this is a popular place to visit if you are in Stockholm with kiddies. Especially as the entrance to the exhibit is free! So you can always drag your kids to next-door Moderna (modern art museum) by bribing them with a visit to the gingerbread house display afterwards. The winners have already been determined (after a vote by the public), but all of the designs can be viewed until January 5th.
The Center is located on the island of Skeppsholmen. You can get there from the Rival Hotel by either a nice walk through Gamla Stan and then across the bridge to Skeppsholmen or by taking the Djurgård ferry from Slussen (10 minute trip). Just make sure you tell them that you wish to disembark at Skeppsholmen as they stop there only on request during the low season.

December 14, 2013

Museums During Christmas and New Year's 2013

(EDIT: For this year's information... click here!) Now... on to museums! There is always something open so you don't have to worry about wandering the streets aimlessly. However, many are closed on the major holidays (some more than others) so a list will help you plan your holiday visit better. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel and can't find the museum you are interested in... contact me directly. Stockholm has 80+ museums and I am only covering the major ones here! Please note that the National Museum is closed for renovations and instead they have exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (listed below). Some museums are closed on Mondays and I have added those dates as well when applicable (Dec. 23rd and 30th this year).

  • Skansen- open every day! Shorter hours on ceratin days.
  • Vasa Museum- closed on December 23rd, 24th, 25th and January 1st.
  • ABBA The Museum- closed only on December 24th!
  • Fotografiska (photography)- closed only on December 24th!
  • Skeppsholms Caverns (Bergrummet)- closed on December 24th, 25th, 31st and January 1st.
  • Moderna (modern art)- closed December 23rd, 24th, 25th, 30th, 31st and January 1st.
  • Center for Architecture & Design- closed December 23rd, 24th, 25th, 30th, 31st and January 1st.
  • Nobel Museum- closed December 23rd, 24th, 25th, 30th, 31st and January 1st.
  • Historiska (history)- closed December 23rd, 24th, 25th and 31st. 
  • Nordiska (nordic traditions)- closed on December 24th and 25th. 
  • Medeltids (medieval history)- closed December 23rd, 24th, 25th, 30th, 31st and January 1st.
  • Stadshuset (city hall)- closed December 24th, 25th, 26th and January 1st. Closes a bit earlier on other days.
  • Spritmuseum (alcohol spirits)- closed December 24th, 25th and 31st. 
  • Royal Palace- closed December 23rd, 24th, 25th, 30th, 31st and January 1st.
  • Livrustkammaren (royal armoury)- closed December 23rd, 24th, 25th, 30th, & 31st.
  • Konstakademien (Royal Acad. of Fine Arts)- closed December 24th, 25th and 31st.
  • Millesgården (art museum)- closed December 23rd, 24th, 25th and 30th.
  • Thielska Galleriet (art museum)- closed December 23rd, 24th, 25th, 26th, 30th, 31st and January 1st.
  • Liljevalchs (art museum)- closed December 23rd, 24th, 25th, 30th, 31st and January 1st.
  • Waldemarsudde (art museum)- closed December 23rd, 24th, 25th, 30th, & 31st.
  • Drottningholm Palace- closed between the 15th & 30th of December. Open daily between December 31st and January 6th (Swedish school's winter break). Click here for program.
  • Naturhistoriska (natural history)- closed December 23rd, 24th and 30th.
Sightseeing tours, provided by the company Strömma, are offered everyday during the holidays... like the Panorama bus tour and the Winter boat tour among others! The company Free Tours have walking tours everyday except December 24th and, as the name suggests, they are free. On the other hand, Stockholm Our Way is taking a holiday break... no guided tours between Dec 22nd and Jan 6th. So, with this list you should be able to keep yourself culturally active every day of your holiday visit in Stockholm.
Christmas tree in front of Fotografiska on a snowy day last year!

December 11, 2013

Restaurants During Christmas and New Year's 2013

Over the next two weeks, I will be doing a series of articles detailing which days restaurants, museums, shops and church services are open/closed during the holiday season to help you plan your visit in Stockholm. First up... restaurants!
Chefs at F12 (photo by Wolfgang Kleinschmidt)
Restaurants are a little tricky this time of year. Some restaurants are open every evening, others are just closed on the major holidays while others may be closed for up to three weeks. Christmas Eve (December 24th) is the hardest! Almost all restaurants are closed with the exception of hotel restaurants (like the Rival Bistro) and a scattered few others in Gamla Stan and on Djurgården. Christmas Day is also a bit difficult... though better than the previous day as more restaurants are open for business. Some restaurants may even be closed on Boxing Day (Dec. 26th). Around New Year's you have similar problems: on the 31st many restaurants are closed and the ones that are open generally serve a traditional multiple course set menu, called nyårssupé, and nothing else. There are a select few restaurants that are open and just serve from their regular menu. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me directly for help in reserving tables. And don't wait too long... restaurants tend to fill up (especially on New Year's Eve)! January 1st will find many restaurants closed for business as both staff and patrons are generally hiding under the covers, resting up!
Chef's Table at the Rival Bistro.
As I mentioned earlier... some restaurants close for 2-3 weeks during the holidays. Sadly, for foodies and gourmands, these are generally Michelin star and other high end restaurants. Here is a list of some of the restaurants that are closed for a longer period of time this holiday season:

  • Mathias Dahlgren(Matsalen & Matbaren)- closed from December 22nd through January 6th. 
  • Frantzén- closed from December 22nd through January 6th. 
  • F12- closed from December 22nd through January 12th (open New Year's Eve).
  • Gastrologik- closed from December 22nd through January 6th.
  • Oaxen Krog & Slip- closed from December 22nd through January 8th.
  • Ekstedts- closed from December 22nd through January 8th, with the exception of Dec 26, 27 & 28.
  • Esperanto- closed from December 22nd through January 9th.
  • Lux Day by Day- closed from December 23rd through January 2nd. 
  • Djuret- closed from December 22nd through January 2nd.
  • B.A.R.- closed from December 22nd through January 1st. 
  • Wedholm's Fisk- closed from December 23rd through January 6th. 
  • GQ- closed from December 23rd through January 7th.
  • Jonas- closed December 22nd through January 6th (open New Year's Eve). their Food & Wine Bar is open on Dec 27th & 28th as well as Jan 3rd & 4th.
  • Himlen- closed from December 22nd through January 8th (open on New Year's Eve).
  • Kryp In- closed from December 23rd through January 7th. 
  • Pubologi- closed from December 22nd through January 2nd.
  • Sjögräs- closed from December 22nd through January 7th. 
  • Östermalm's Saluhall (indoor food market and popular place for lunch- no dinner)- closed on December 24th, 25th, 26th and 29th as well as January 1st. 
I have actually compiled a list of 90 Stockholm restaurants and which days they are closed/open during the holidays. So, if you are staying at the Rival Hotel (lucky you!), contact me and I will help you find restaurants for your stay. And I would, of course, be remiss in not mentioning that the Rival Bistro is open every evening... year round!
Esperanto.

December 7, 2013

The Nobel Prizes!

Not only is it the season for Christmas and Lucia... it is Nobel Prize season as well! On December 10th the annual ceremony will be held here in Stockholm to award the prizes for Economy, Medicine, Physics, Chemistry and Literature. The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded seperately in Oslo on the same day.
This weekend and the days leading up to the 10th are busy here in Stockholm with lectures, concerts as well as arriving dignitaries and award recipients. On December 10th the awards will be presented by the Swedish Academy and the King at the Stockholm Concert Hall (Konserthuset)... followed by the famous banquet at City Hall (Stadshuset). To be honest, none of these events are open to the general public. However, there are many other ways to get into the Nobel spirit while you are visiting Stockholm.
Bird's eye view of the ceremony
Copyright © Nobel Media AB 2012 Photo: Alexander Mahmoud
First of all is the Nobel Museum, which is located in Gamla Stan (15 minute walk from the Rival Hotel). Here you can learn about Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite and founder of the Nobel Prizes, as well as the history of the prizes and past winners. They have temporary exhibitions as well... and the current exhibition (opened yesterday) fits right in with the season. Called "Fashion Innovation 3", it features creative interpretations of this year's awards by students from both Beckman's College of Design and the Royal College of Music. Sounds interesting! The exhibition will continue until April 13th, 2014.
Alfred Nobel- the man responsible for it all.
Another option is to visit the City Hall and take a tour of the inside and see the hall where the Nobel banquet is held every year. Tours in English are given (in December) at the top of every hour between 10am and 3pm and taking a tour is the only way to get inside. Be aware that there are no tours on the 9th and 10th of December due to the banquet and the preparations. Having dinner at Den Gyldene Freden is a great way to round off your Nobel visit. It is here that the Swedish Academy, who choose the winners for the Literature Prize, eat dinner every Thursday evening.
City Hall (Stadshuset) at twilight...
Finally... you can do like Swedes traditionally do: view the festivities on TV (mostly to see what the queen and princesses are wearing). Some hardy people do stand in front of the Concert and City Halls to see the royalty, dignitaries and prize winners arrive and depart.
Here you can read about my recent visits to the Nobel Museum, City Hall and Den Gyldene Freden.

December 5, 2013

St Lucia Celebrations!

Photo by Henrik Trygg, Stockholm Visitors Board
(Edit: This is info for 2013, for updated info... click here!)
Lucia, the festival/celebration of St Lucia, happens on December 13th and is, along with Midsummer, the most Swedish of holidays and many of you have seen a picture of a young girl wearing a wreath of candles (Lucia). Basically, the celebration consists of a procession led by a candle wreathed young woman and followed by other young women (& men called stjärngossar) holding candles. Click here for video ("Lucia for Dummies"). They sing Lucia songs as well as other Christmas carols. The traditional places where this procession takes place is in Swedish homes on the morning of the 13th, where the procession is made up of the family's children, and during the evening in various churches. These days, however, you will find Lucia processions also at different businesses, shopping malls and retirement centers throughout the country. Because of the popularity of Lucia, you need to purchase tickets to see the procession in most churches. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, stop by and I will help you with tickets.
Lucia at Skansen www.sverigeslucia.se 
These church services, while traditional and beautiful, might be a little problematic for foreign visitors as there is often a church sermon included in the celebration which is in Swedish. Another option, and a good one at that, is to visit Skansen, the open-air museum dedicated to Swedish culture and traditions. Here they will be celebrating Lucia for three days (Dec 13th to the 15th) with processions, historical reenactments and concerts. The main Lucia concert at Skansen will be on the Solliden stage at 6:30pm. Skansen also has a great Christmas market on Saturday and Sunday which you can combine with a Lucia concert during weekend. Skansen is located on the island of Djurgården and easy to get to from the Rival Hotel... with regular ferries (10 min trip) going from nearby Slussen.

November 29, 2013

Countdown to Christmas- Part 2!

The royal palace lit up under a wintery sky.
Last weekend I wrote about the first Christmassy happenings in Stockholm... but this weekend (Nov 29th to Dec 1st) is the official start of the holiday season in Sweden (and many other parts of the world). It is the beginning of Advent, which always starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. It is this weekend when Swedes traditionally consider it permissible (in the name of good taste) to put up holiday decorations at home 
So, what kicks off this Advent Season? Well, to start off with, two more Christmas markets open for the season. The traditional & historic market at Skansen opens on Saturday and will be open each Advent weekend (Sat & Sun). The market in Kungsträdgården opened today (Friday) for business and will be open daily until December 22nd. Two specialty markets are open this weekend and only this weekend. The Royal Mews/Stables have their traditional Christmas fair this weekend (Fri-Sun) and the students at Konstfack (College of Art, Crafts & Design) have their market on Sat & Sun. Click for more information on various Christmas markets this season.
A contestant at last year's competition.
The Swedish Center for Architecture & Design's popular gingerbread house contest has started and the "houses" competing are now on display. You have until December 14th to stop by and cast your vote (they will, however, be on display until January 5th). The theme of the competition is "future forms" and the competitors are split into three groups...1. architects, designers and professional bakers. 2. children under the age of 12. 3. everyone else! The Center is located on the island of Skeppsholmen. 
Last minute preparations of the official tree.
Finally... the official Christmas tree is going to be lit at 3pm on Sunday! This giant tree is a bit of a symbol for Stockholm during the holiday season and is located in Gamla Stan on the Skeppsbron waterfront. Right next to the tree is the restaurant Mr French which I visited a few weeks ago. Not only will they be serving julbord, the traditional Christmas smörgåsbord, but they will be putting on their own Christmas market in their lounge where you can buy traditional market items as well as sandwiches and hot chocolate while sitting around an open fire. 

November 22, 2013

Ice Skating Rink at Kungsträdgården is Open for the Season!

This weekend we are expecting subzero (Celsius) temperatures which means that it is cold enough for the popular outdoor ice skating rink in Kungsträdgården to open for business. A sure sign that winter is not far off! Stockholmers have been skating here since 1962, when the rink first opened for business. It's location in the center of the city makes it a popular activity for both locals and tourists... whether they actually take to the rink or just observe. The downtown shopping district is nearby with the NK department store located right across the street. Starting next Friday (Nov 29th) a Christmas market will open up just adjacent to the rink. This market will be open daily, 11am to 6pm, until December 22nd.
On a snowy evening last winter... no snow yet this year!
The ice skating rink is also open daily: weekdays from 10am to 9pm and weekends from 11am to 9pm. If you don't feel like packing your ice skates when you come to Stockholm... don't worry, they have skates for rent! The cost is 60 SEK for adults and 30 SEK for youth/children under 20 (prices are for one hour rental). Children are required to use a helmet and they have them to borrow- free of charge (even for adults). The rink is lit up in the winter darkness and they have fun music playing over the loudspeakers, so it is worth a visit even if it is just to have a cup of glögg and watch the skaters. It is easy to get to from the Rival Hotel... either a 30 minute walk through Gamla Stan, 3-4 stops on the subway or a 5 minute taxi ride.


November 20, 2013

Dickens "A Christmas Carol" (Theatre in English!)

Photo by Johan Lygrell
Foreign visitors often ask me about theatre and shows in Stockholm and they are generally disappointed (and often surprised) when I explain that the vast majority of theatre in Stockholm is in Swedish. Since 95% of potential theatre goers are Swedish, it is only logical that theatre is in the local language. The exceptions to this rule are shows where language isn't a problem (opera, dance, etc;) as well as a select few that are performed in their original language (say, Shakespeare).
Photo by Johan Lygrell
Happily, another exception is the traditional performance of "A Christmas Carol", based on the classic novella by Charles Dickens, at the Maxim Theatre in Stockholm. I say "traditional" because this has become a bit of an annual event in Stockholm. The story of the greedy miser Ebenezer Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and yet to come is well known around the world and is a holiday family favourite... whether you prefer the novella, play, musical or film! This theatre production at the Maxim also contains several classic Christmas carols like "God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas".
Photo by Johan Lygrell
"A Christmas Carol" will be performed daily at the Maxim Theatre from the 10th through the 23rd of December with double performances on the 21st, 22nd and 23rd of December. The cast is made up of British actors and singers as well as several child actors. The Maxim Theatre is located off of Karlaplan in the Östermalm district. It is very easy to get to from the Rival Hotel on Södermalm... take the subway (red line) in the direction of Ropsten. The fifth stop is Karlaplan! Tickets can be purchased at the box office (which is open on Wednesdays between noon and 6pm as well as 2 hours before each performance), at the Stockholm Tourist Center or online at ticnet.se. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me directly for further assistance!

November 15, 2013

Countdown to Christmas in Stockholm...

Photo by Henrik Trygg, Stockholm Visitors Board
This Sunday, November 17th, the Christmas season starts with the traditional skyltsöndag (literally "sign Sunday" though sign refers to window displays). This is the Sunday when the department store Nordiska Kompaniet, or just NK, reveals its popular, holiday inspired, window displays. The big reveal is at 10:50am and there is usually a big crowd ready to oh-and-ah. Part of the reveal is to see what theme the window displays will have. But that is not all... Santa Claus, or jultomten, will be on hand until 5pm accepting wish lists from naughty & nice children. After this Sunday, Santa will be at NK on Fridays to Sundays until the 16th of December, after which he will be in-house daily until the 23rd.
A past, non-traditional, holiday window display at NK.
Skyltsöndag is really just to whet your appetite... the holiday season officially kicks off next weekend with two large events. The first of the Christmas markets (the one in the main square of Gamla Stan) opens for business on Saturday, November 23rd at 11am. It will then be open daily, from 11am to 6pm, until December 23rd. Most of the other Christmas markets open on the following weekend. So this is your chance at getting a jump on your yuletide shopping!
Photo by henrik Trygg, Stockholms Visitor Board
November 23rd is also the date when the official holiday light displays are turned on! This is the third year in the row where Stockholm goes full out in their light displays... using over half a million LED lights to make the city all twinkley. The lighting ceremony will be held at 3pm where Bilioteksgatan meets Stureplan. Stockholm City has put together a brochure/map showing all of the streets, bridges and squares that will be lit up... letting you do a "walking path of light" when visiting Stockholm this holiday season. These maps are free and will be available at the airport, train station and tourist information centers. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, then you are in luck... we will have them here for our guests! Just talk to me after checking in.

November 12, 2013

Pitcher's Sports Bar & Restaurant

Last week I was at the premiere of a new restaurant, called Pitcher's, which opened up next door to the Rival Hotel. Welcome to the neighbourhood! This is a combination restaurant, pub and sports bar. In fact, it is part of a Sweden-wide franchise... though this is the first one in Stockholm. It is quite a large locale with two floors and several bars. I talked to a member of the staff on opening night and he explained that they are a "soft" sports bar, which means that, while they do have TVs showing live sporting events, the sound is muted so that diners can still enjoy their meal. He did mention that if there is a big sporting event going on (playoffs, world championships, grand slam, etc;) then they will have the sound on in certain parts of the restaurant. As I mentioned, it is a large locale!
Restaurant area, with booths...
As it was the premiere evening, I didn't have a chance to try the menu, except for the hors d'oeuvres they served... but I had a look at the menu and it seems to be a mix of classic Swedish and American dishes (including several "gourmet" hamburgers). The interior of the newly renovated locale resembles an upscale British golf pub... with brass, leather, dark wood and tartan.
Bar area...
 As a concierge I am happy with the addition of a sports bar in the neighbourhood, even if it is a "soft" sports bar. We do have two sports TV channels at the hotel, but every once in awhile we do get guests who are interested in a sporting event that is not being shown on either Swedish TV or one of the sports channels. For example, a rugby game (not popular in Sweden) or maybe a more obscure Italian Serie A football match. Now our guests don't have to go too far to enjoy the game! There are, of course, many other sports bars and pubs in the city (like the newly opened Tolv Stockholm at Tele2 Arena)... just talk to me, if you are staying at the hotel, and I will give you some options. In the meantime, you can have a look at the list put together by What's Up Sthlm (in Swedish, but with Google translate option in the upper right hand corner).
Click here for more options of restaurants near the Rival Hotel!

November 6, 2013

Stockholm International Film Festival (2013)

Today (November 6th) is the first day of the 24th annual Stockholm International Film Festival... 12 days of cinematic delights, awards and red carpet events. It really is too much to list out here in the blog, so I will just write an overview and you can click on the link above (or links below) for more information about the festival, movies, tickets and events.
Skandia. Photo by Emmanuel Castro Skött
"Freedom" is the theme of this year's festival and this will loosely tie in different aspects of the festival. Breaking it down in numbers, the festival is 12 days long and features 180 movies (from over 50 countries) being shown at 9 different venues throughout the city. More numbers? There will be 5 parties/events with themes as varied as LGBT, Horror and Bollywood. 18 prizes and scholarships will be awarded during the festival, including the Bronze Horse and Stockholm Visionary and Lifetime Achievement Awards.
The coveted Bronze Horse. Photo by Isa Olsson
Festival visitors have several options when it comes to tickets... whether purchasing a membership card or single tickets (in advance or at the theatre). Choosing between 180 movies to see might sound daunting. Luckily, the festival organizers have sorted the movies into different sections to make it easier for you to search for a favorite. Some sections are based on themes like Twilight Zone (horror) and American Independents (self explanatory?), others by competition/award while others by type, like documentaries. Movies are all in their original languages with, for the most part, subtitles in English. Click on the movie you are interested in (on the festival website) for more information about the movie including language and subtitle. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel and are interested in seeing a movie during your stay... come talk to me directly and I can help you navigate through the choices and tickets.

November 5, 2013

Christmas Markets in Stockholm 2013

Yup... it's that time of the year! Well, almost. It is less than three weeks until the first Christmas market opens for business, so I thought it would be appropriate to post a guide of the different Christmas markets in Stockholm this year.
Gamla Stan (old town)- this does feel like the "official" Christmas market of Stockholm in many ways. Located in the main square (Stortorget), this market definitely has the most central location and best opening hours/days. It is open daily (11am to 6pm) from November 23rd through December 23rd. Shop for delicacies like smoked sausages, jams, reindeer jerky and sweets or handcrafted presents like traditional holiday decorations, arts & crafts or knitwear. Otherwise you can buy a glass of glögg (hot, spiced wine) and walk around the market enjoying the atmosphere. Only a 15 minute walk from the Rival Hotel!
Kungsträdgården- also centrally located, this market is found in the square/park Kungsträdgården. While this market can sometimes feel a little less traditional, it really wins on its location as the market is adjacent to the outdoor ice skating rink and across the street from the NK department store with its popular holiday window displays. Open daily (11am to 6pm) from November 29th through December 22nd.
Skansen- historic and very traditional, see how a Christmas market looked in Sweden during the 1800's. Skansen is an outdoor cultural museum (as well as zoo) and has, in fact, had a Christmas market since 1903. Plenty of homemade mustards, jams, sausages, marzipan, breads and cakes as well as traditional handicrafts (leather, embroidery, holiday decorations and more). Very family-friendly with song & dance and activities for children. Skansen is located on the island of Djurgården with regular ferries from Slussen (10 minute walk from Rival Hotel). Open 10am to 4pm on the four weekends before Christmas (starting on November 30th).
While these three are the main Christmas markets, there are many other smaller, specialty markets throughout the city. One such is put on every year by the students at Beckman's College of Design, where the students sell their own designs (decorations, art, jewellery, etc;). Very popular! One weekend only: 11am to 5pm on December 7th & 8th. Location. Another such market is to be found at the Royal Stables/Mews (Hovstallet). Shop for quality handicrafts and delicacies in a unique setting and visit the stables at the same time. One weekend only: November 29th to December 1st (see link for opening hours). Location. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me directly for more Christmas markets in and around the city!

October 31, 2013

Restaurant P.A. & Co

Stockholm was bracing for a big autumn storm this past Monday evening (it ended up being mostly a little rainy). That evening I was out with friends at the movies and we decided to drop in at a restaurant afterwards to escape the rain and have a spontaneous dinner out. I chose P.A. & Co as it is a very popular restaurant and it had been a long while since my last visit. Have to keep myself updated!
P.A. & Co has been around for about twenty years and has long been a favorite restaurant among the locals with a loyal group of regulars. It is small and cozy with not a lot of space between tables, often fully booked yet retaining a friendly and laid back ambience. The menu is varied and changes regularly... though with some mainstay dishes that keep the regulars happy. I would describe the menu as a mix of French and Swedish cuisines with some international touches. According to their website, the menu is made up of both classic and their own recipes, all favorites of the staff & owner, and I would say that this is accurate.
The three of us opted for chèvre chaud salad, ceviche with tuna & king crab and traditional Isterband (lightly smoked sausage) for our main courses. For dessert we ordered Gino. I would say that it is paramount to a crime not to order Gino when you visit the restaurant. Gino is made up of diced strawberries, kiwi and bananas, topped with grated white chocolate, baked in the oven, and served with vanilla ice cream. While you will find Gino on the menus of many Stockholm restaurants... it was created at P.A. & Co! Another stellar dish that is often found on their menu is the traditional Biff Rydberg. Delicious!
P.A. & Co is located on a quiet side street (Riddargatan) in the Östermalm district, close to the hustle and bustle of Stureplan. It is very easy to get to from the Rival Hotel. Either by subway- four stops to Östermalmstorg station on the red line- or a 7-8 minute taxi ride. Booking a table is, however, tricky! They do not accept table reservations made in advance. Instead, you have to book on the same day... telephone lines open at 3pm. On the weekend you have to have a bit of luck on your side as there are a lot of people calling at the same time for a table that evening. If you are staying at the Rival, contact me directly and I can help you with this! If we are unsuccessful, then I can happily recommend Bistro Süd as a dining option. Same owner with a similar concept, menu and ambiance as P.A. & Co, but located just a couple of blocks from the hotel!
Click here for other restaurant recommendations.