May 31, 2017

Restaurants Closed During the Summer 2017

This post may come as bad news, at least for "foodies" visiting Stockholm in July and early August. Many top tier restaurants (Michelin star, gourmet) close for a few weeks during the summer. This is mainly due to the generous Swedish vacation rules leading many top restaurants to feel that they can't offer excellent food & service with summer replacement staff. Another reason, perhaps, is that many Stockholmers leave the city during this period and there aren't enough visiting "foodies" to fill these types of restaurants to make it profitable to remain open. No businessmen in town either, wining & dining clients. At any rate, the good news is that there are a few which will be open all summer and several other top restaurants have some other options during these weeks... and you always have a plethora of other great restaurants (not listed here) in the city to choose from! Most of these restaurants are also closed during the big Midsummer holiday weekend (June 23rd-25th).

Michelin star and Bib Gourmand restaurants:
  • Mathias Dahlgren- closed between July 14th and August 7th (both the Food Bar/Matbaren and Rutabaga).
  • Frantzén- closed for relocation. Reopening on August 30th!
  • Oaxen Krog- open all summer as normal.
  • Oaxen Slip- open all summer... every day for lunch & dinner.
  • Gastrologik- open all summer, as well as their more casual sister restaurant Speceriet
  • Ekstedt- closed between July 18th and August 3rd.
  • Esperanto- the dining room is closed between June 23rd and August 3rd. Instead they open up their lounge with what they call their Dim Sum(mer) Palace where guests sit at a communal table. More about this in my next article. They have other restaurants in the house with different summer schedules... Råkultur is open all summer (only drop-in spots) and Shibumi is only closed between June 23rd and July 4th. Imouto is closed between June 23rd and August 3rd.
  • Operakällaren- closed between July 9th and August 8th. Their more casual Bakfickan will be open all summer.
  • Volt- closed between July 16th and August 14th.
  • Rolfs Kök- closed between July 2nd and August 6th.
  • Den Gyldene Freden- open all summer. 
  • Lilla Ego- closed between July 9th and August 14th.
  • Nook- closed between July 2nd and August 8th. 
  • Proviant Östermalm- closed between July 9th and August 6th. 
  • Ulla Winbladh- open all summer.
Other top rated restaurants:
  • Svartengrens- closed between July 16th and August 7th. 
  • AG- closed between July 2nd and August 6th. 
  • Lux Day to Day- closed between July 16th and August 14th.
  • Farang- closed between July 9th and August 9th.
  • Adam/Albin- closed between July 16th and August 1st. 
  • Smörgåstårteriet- open all summer.
  • Djuret- closed between June 22nd and August 14th. Instead they open up an Italian outdoor pork barbecue restaurant called Svinet (June 26th to August 12th).
  • Pubologi- closed between July 2nd and August 3rd. 
  • Omakase Köttslöjd- closed between June 23rd and August 2nd. According to their webpage on August 3rd with their next phase "Flickan". Not sure right now what that means. We will see! 
  • Le Rouge- closed between June 22nd and August 14th. 
  • SMAK- closed between July 2nd and August 17th. 
  • Miss Voon- closed between July 23rd and August 13th.
  • Publico- closed between July 9th and August 7th. 
  • Teatergrillen- closed between July 2nd and August 8th.
  • Spritmuseum- open all summer as well as a great "beer pier" on the water (weather permitting). 
  • Fotografiska- their indoor fine dining restaurant is closed between June 10th and August 23rd. During this time they open an outdoor barbecue in front of the museum (from June 13th as long as the weather holds). Their café is open as usual.
  • Wedholms Fisk- open all summer. 
What this all means is that you need to plan a little ahead if you wish to dine at a top tier Stockholm restaurant during your summer visit and be aware that your favorite (or the one you read about) might not be open. However there are still many great restaurants open during these weeks as well as some restaurants that are open only during the summer months that are definitely worth a visit... so you won't go hungry! If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me directly for help in booking any tables ahead of your visit. Our restaurant Bistro Rival is open all summer.

May 30, 2017

The #1 Stockholm Summer Spot: Mälarpaviljongen!

This past weekend was pretty hot in Stockholm with almost record breaking temperatures. Considering that we had snow flurries just a couple of weeks ago, Stockholmers were almost vibrating with happiness with the high summer weather.
So, on my day off, my friends and I went to our favorite summer bar and hangout: Mälarpaviljongen. This is a floating bar and casual restaurant, located on the waterfront of Kungsholmen island. You would be hard pressed to find a summer bar more popular with the locals. The main reason is the location on a series of floating prams on the water of the Mälaren lake with the Stockholm skyline stretched out before you. Very idyllic! The restaurant itself is very casual with dishes like Caesar Salad, burgers, fried herring, meatballs, etc. You order your lunch/dinner at the counter, let them know where you will be sitting and they run the food out to you when it is ready. No table reservations.
Mälarpaviljongen is gay owned and operated and does attract a large LGBT crowd, especially later in the evenings. But, generally speaking, the clientele is very mixed with everything from gay couples to businessmen to grannies with their lap dogs, all enjoying a drink and the views. All are welcome. This is, after all, Sweden where a big deal isn't made about a person's sexuality. If you are in Stockholm on a warm and sunny day, Mälarpaviljongen is definitely worth a visit!
Roseé wine... the official drink of Summer Sweden.

May 25, 2017

Summer Pedestrian Streets 2017

For the third year in a row, the city of Stockholm is making certain streets pedestrian (i.e. car free)  for the summer months. Restaurants, bars and cafés put out outdoor seating into the streets (not just the sidewalks) and locals stroll up and down enjoying the late summer sun. This has proven so popular with Stockholmers that they have added a street this year, bringing the total to 4 streets.
The pedestrian streets this year are:
Rörstrandsgatan (Vasastan), Skånegatan (Södermalm), Swedenborgsgatan (Södermalm) and for the first time Hornbergs Strand (Kungsholmen).
Swedenborgsgatan is of special interest for guests staying at the Rival Hotel as it is literally right around the corner from the hotel. The street starts at the square Mariatorget (where the hotel is located) and runs 4 blocks or so to the Stockholm Södra Station. On those blocks you will find several restaurants, pubs, cafés and wine bars. All with outdoor seating. For example: Morfar Ginko, Dryck Wine Bar, Half Way Inn, Bistro Süd, Johan & Nyström, Petrus Bakery and Da Luigi. More information in Swedish: click here!

May 23, 2017

UEFA Europa League Final 2017

City Hall
Photo: Björn Olin/Folio/imagebank.sweden.se
Tomorrow, Wednesday May24th, is the UEFA Europa League Final between Ajax and Manchester United here in Stockholm. In recent years they have had the final game on "neutral territory" so no team has home field advantage. This is a huge event and is bringing in a large crowd of supporters and fans. The Friends Arena has a capacity of 50,000 and it will be full. If you are not interested in football/soccer then consider this a warning and an explanation of why the city is filled with football supporters. Expect full restaurants and bars in the coming couple of days and traffic problems on Wednesday. If you are going to the game, try to get there in plenty of time. Doors open at 5:45pm and kick-off is at 8:45pm. This is especially important due to yesterday's senseless bombing at the concert in Manchester... security will be rigorous and will take extra time! It also good to note that Thursday, May 25th is a bank holiday in Sweden (Ascension Day)... so the bars and nightclubs on Wednesday will be busy!
Friends Arena
Photo: Friends Arena © All rights reserved 
It is a good idea to stay away from getting to the arena in a car/taxi. Traffic will be bad. Friends Arena is located in the suburb of Solna. You can easily get to the arena by subway or commuter train. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, your best bet is to take the commuter train (pendeltåg) from nearby Stockholm Södra Station, just 4 blocks from the hotel. The trains are very regular/frequent and the trip to Solna Station is only 12 minutes! You take either train 36 in the direction of Upplands Väsby or train 38 in the direction of Uppsala. The arena is just a 10 minute walk from the station (just follow the stream of people!). More info.

May 17, 2017

Summer Art Museum Exhibitions 2017

Marie-Louise Ekman, Väntsal, 1971 © Marie-Louise Ekman
at Moderna museet
Summer is just around the corner and tourist season is gearing up! Time to look ahead and see what is going on in the city during the summer months. Stockholm has some great art museums and galleries and it looks like they will have some good exhibitions coming up. Check my earlier article to see exhibitions going on this spring (some until mid June). Listed below are the main art spaces in the city. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, check with me directly for information about smaller art galleries.

May 11, 2017

Book Your Own Authorized Stockholm Guide

Visiting City Hall (Stadshuset)
Photo by Jeppe Wikström/mediabank.visitstockholm.com
And speaking of sightseeing... while there are many ways to see Stockholm, the best way to understand what you are actually seeing is to book your own authorized guide. FSAG is the union for authorized guides in Stockholm and they have 370+ guides and can offer guiding in almost 30 different languages. The authorized guides have all gone through a rigorous year long training, ending with a certification test they must pass. This is perfect if you want to have a knowledgeable guide with you whether wandering through historic Gamla Stan, doing a day trip, visiting a specific museum or have special interests (art, shopping, child-friendly attractions). Guides charge by the hour (3 hour minimum) and payment can be made directly with the guide through various means (cash, credit card, online, etc.) depending on the guide.
Stockholm View
Photo: Henrik Trygg/mediabank.visitstockholm.com
FSAG has recently launched a new website which makes it much easier to book your own guide online. If you know your language, dates and what you want to see, you can send a booking request where you fill in your preferences for itinerary/guide/language/date. Your request will be sent out to the guides who match your preferences and they will contact you by e-mail. Suggested itineraries, and more information about them, can be seen by clicking here. You can also read more about each guide and contact them directly here. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, you can also contact me directly for more assistance or if you have special requests (like a car with guide).

May 5, 2017

Unusual Sightseeing Tours in Stockholm

Vespa Stockholm 
Strömma is the main sightseeing tour company in Stockholm and they have a wide range of bus, boat, walking and combination tours of the city as well as day trips in the archipelago and countryside. However, many visitors are looking for more unique ways to see the city... sightseeing paired together with an "experience". Two birds, one stone! Fortunately there are a good variety of options in Stockholm to do this. Keep in mind that most of these tours are only offered during the warmer months of the year. Two good companies which offer several of these more unusual sightseeing tours are OURWAY Tours and Stockholm Adventures. Have a look at their websites to see all they have to offer! Here are different sightseeing options offered both by the companies mentioned above and/or others...
Kayaking in Stockholm
Photo by Henrik Trygg/mediabank.visitstockholm.com

  • Bike tours. Stockholm is a very bike friendly city during the summer months and there are a few companies doing bike tours of the city. One company is called Stockholm Cykel and is of special interest to Rival Hotel guests as the meeting point is only a few blocks from the hotel. They offer both a set tour of the city every Thursday as well as well as a couple of self-guided tours. 
  • Yoga + sightseeing. What about a 30 minute walking tour of the old town followed by a 60 minute yoga pass outdoors and ending with a "fika"? Run With Me Stockholm offers this on Saturday mornings during the warmer months (subject to weather). 
  • Sightseeing on a vespa. When you rent a vespa at Vespa Stockholm, four set self-guided tours (using GPS) are included. Classic sights, island hopping and out in the countryside... a great way to zip around Stockholm on your own and get off the beaten path.  
  • Jogging tours. How about getting an aerobic workout while seeing the sights? Several companies offer running/jogging/cross-training tours, both public set tours as well as the option of private tours. Run With Me Stockholm and Stockholm Running Tours are two good options.
  • Sightseeing on a segway. Stockholm Air Wheel has tours twice a day and OURTOURS and Adventures also offer segway tours. 
  • Food tours. Eat your way through Stockholm! Two main companies offer these tours... Food Tours Stockholm (with several set food tours, visiting specific neighborhoods) and Stockholm Food Tours
  • Rooftop tours. Learn the history of Stockholm while standing on the roofs of historic buildings, enjoying the views. Nothing beats mixing education with adrenalin. This tour is offered by Takvandring. Click here to read about my recent visit.  
    Rooftop tour with Takvandring.
  • Sightseeing with a twist. What about a sightseeing tour with a bus that turns into a boat? This amphibious bus tour is offered by Ocean Bus. Not only a great way to see the city, but you will be sure to be featured in many tourists' photographs as your bus floats by them. 
  • Sightseeing in a taxi. Taxi Stockholm offers a set interactive tour where the guiding is done through tv screens in the car. The tour is themed and currently the theme is Stockholm Crime going off the popularity of Nordic noir novels/films. On this tour you will be visiting sites of famous crimes like the hostage situation that spawned the term "Stockholm Syndrome" and the assasination of prime minister Olof Palme. They also offer 90 minute or 2 hour guided tours of the city where you hit all the main points of interest with a driver guide. 
  • Ghost tours. These popular walking tours are offered year round by Stockholm Ghost Walk. The guides weave in Stockholm history with tales of murders, ghosts and bloodbaths. 
  • Sightseeing by kayaking. Stockholm is built on 14 islands so sightseeing from the water is a definite possibility. Both OURWAY Tours and Stockholm Adventures offer kayak tours, both in the city and out in the archipelago.
  • Hot air ballooning. How about floating high above the city in a hot air balloon? On nice summer evenings the sky is often filled with balloons. A little tricky to book considering that it is popular and they can only fly in good weather. Balloon Flight Stockholm and Far och Flyg are two reputable companies. 
    Maybe you will see the king of the forest on a Wildlife Safari?
  • Beer tours. I've heard that alcohol makes learning easier, so a drinking tour of Stockholm should be ideal. Stockholm Pub Crawl is a popular tour to visit pubs/clubs and make new friends! Another good tour is the Craft Beer Tour where you learn the history of Swedish beer and do some beer tasting all while wandering the streets of Gamla Stan (old town).
  • On a budget. If you are travelling on a budget then there are two companies that offer free walking tours of the city. The main one is Free Tour Stockholm and then there is a newer company called Free Walking Tour Stockholm. They both offer daily tours with different themes and visit various parts of the city, so check and see which tour fits your wishes best and join up. They are free but remember to tip your guide if you are happy!
  • Safaris. You don't have to go all the way to Africa to go on a safari! Stockholm Adventures offer Wildlife Safaris where you have the chance to see moose, deer, foxes and wild boar. We have sea life here too, so why not take a Seal Safari out in the archipelago? 
  • Themed walks. The Stockholm City Museum offers several different themed tours including a Millennium ("Girl with the Dragon Tattoo") tour, private ABBA city walks and visits to the Woodland Cemetery. 
  • Challenges! Something that has recently been brought to my attention and looks like lots of fun is the 100 Point Challenge. Three different games (for visitors and locals) where you solve clues, complete challenges and race around the city. Sounds like a great way to experience Stockholm and have some fun. 
See? Lots to choose from! Booking these tours can be done via their websites (links above) or, if you are staying at the Rival Hotel, talk directly to me for help.
Ballooning over Stockholm.
Photos by Jeppe Wikström/mediabank.visitstockholm.com


May 3, 2017

Ports and Docks in Stockholm for Cruise Ships

Ferries and cruise ships travelling through the archipelago to Stockholm.
Photo: Stockholms Hamnar
Summer is around the corner and soon the cruise ship season will start. Cruises in the Baltic Sea have become increasingly popular with such interesting stops like Copenhagen, Tallinn, Helsinki, St Petersburg and, of course, Stockholm. Copenhagen and Stockholm are the two ports where most Baltic cruises either start or end... which is great for us as it means more visitors and hotel nights. I get a lot of questions regarding the distance between the harbour and the Rival Hotel. It is actually not an easy question to answer. What many people don't understand is that there are four main ports servicing cruise ships in the Stockholm area, some closer than others. So the answer depends on which port the cruise ship will be docking at.
Stadsgården port with Skeppsbron in the background.
Photo: Stockholms Hamnar
Here are the four ports and their distance from the hotel:
  • Stadsgården- One of the two main cruise ship ports. It is located on the north-east coast of the island of Södermalm (where the hotel is located as well), just a 10-15 minute taxi ride from the Rival Hotel. This is also the docks where the Birka and Viking Line ferries to Finland and Åland depart from.
  • Frihamnen & Värtahamnen- The other main cruise ship port. These two docks are right next to each other and are located in the northern outskirts of the city, about a 20-30 minute taxi ride from the Rival Hotel. There are also special buses that can take you to the City Terminal next to the Central Train Station.This is also where the Silja Tallink Line ferries to Finland, Latvia and Estonia depart from.
  • Nynäshamn- Cruise ships get bigger and bigger each year and some are so huge that they cannot make it through the narrow straits in the archipelago to get to Stockholm. These ships dock, therefore, in the port of Nynäshamn located just south of Stockholm. Some other cruise ships may dock there if it is especially busy at the other Stockholm ports that day. It is about a 50 minute taxi ride to the hotel, otherwise there is also a commuter train and the cruise ships often have their own buses. This is also where the Destination Gotland ferries to the island of Gotland depart from.
  • Skeppsbron or Strömmen- The smaller, and often fancier, cruise ships (like Silver Seas & Seabourn) sometimes dock right at the Old Town, either at the Skeppsbron dock or moored at a buoy in Strömmen. This is about as central as you can get... just a 15 minute walk or 5 minute taxi ride to the Rival Hotel.
Map from www.cruisingfromstockholm.com showing
location of Värtahamnen, Frihamnen, Skeppsbron &Stadsgården.
If you don't know which dock your cruise ship will be using, you can check the Ports of Stockholm's website. For more cruise port information, check Visit Stockholm's cruise page. And the Stockholm Cruise Blog has recently made a similar list which can be seen by clicking here. There are taxi queues at the different ports. Just stick with the main taxi companies (Taxi Stockholm, Taxi Kurir) to get the best prices. Prebooking a taxi transfer can sometimes be problematic as taxi companies want an exact pick-up time (more or less) and cruise ship guests often don't know exactly when they will be disembarking, just when the ship is due to dock.