July 18, 2014

Swimming at Stockholm Beaches... a Good Way to Cool Off!

Swimming in the archipelago! Photo by Henrik Trygg, Stockholms Visitors Board.
Way back in 2010, I wrote a blog article about beaches and pools in Stockholm. As temperatures are expected to hit 30 Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) next week, I thought that it would be a good idea to write an updated article.
Swimming at Hornsberg Strand.
One perhaps doesn't think of beaches when visiting Stockholm or swimming in the middle of a major metropolitan area in general. But it is actually possible (with many options), safe (clean water) and popular (with locals and visitors alike)! The choices are many... whether you wish for a traditional family-friendly beach or a more secluded cove with cliffs for diving. There are several options within the city as well as many outside of the city, though still easy to get to.
Swimming off Långholmen. Photo by Jeppe Wikström, Stockholm Visitors Board.
Two of the most popular beaches in the city are Smedsuddsbadet and Långholmens Bad and they actually face each other across the water with the former located on the southern coast of the island of Kungsholmen and the latter located on the northern coast of Långholmen island. These are both very family friendly with sandy beaches and can get quite crowded on sunny weekends. Långholmen has also a few more secluded spots for bathing a short walk from the main beach. No sand beaches, but rocky outcrops perfect for diving/jumping in to cool off!
Family friendly Saltsjöbaden.
Sunbathing on rocky cliffs is very popular with the younger crowd... good way to escape the masses and small children. One of the best places for this is the cliffs of Fredhäll on Kungsholmen (a personal favorite). Nearby you will also find the newly built waterfront promenade at Hornsberg Strand where they have put in ladders and terraces making swimming easy. You will also find showers as well as bars & restaurants. Purely local! There are several lakes around Stockholm with their own beaches... two popular places are Hellasgården and Brunnsviken (in Haga Park).
A swim at night. Photo by Henrik Trygg, Stockholm Visitors Board 
Finally, you can head a bit out of the city to swim and sunbathe. The options are endless out in the archipelago... you really just have to decide how far out you wish to travel. Some of the more popular options are Fjäderholmarna, Grinda and Saltsjöbaden. But really the choices are endless! Basically if the sun is shining, and one can safely get to the water, you have an option. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, come talk to me and I can point you in the right direction to find the beach perfect for you. For further reading... click here, herehere or here

July 17, 2014

Hop On Hop Off Boats

When I visited Fotografiska this past weekend, I decided to use the Hop On Hop Off Boat to get from the downtown area to the museum (to re-familiarize myself with them).
Boat coming in to Nybroviken stop.
If you happen to be unfamiliar with the concept of "hop on hop off" sightseeing... it is sightseeing by bus or boat with stops. These stops are generally at the city's main attractions or hubs. At these stops you can choose to get off the bus or boat to visit the attraction. When you have finished your visit, you just jump on the next bus or boat that comes by (which they do on a regular basis, especially during high season). This is an especially great way to get around if you just have a short time in the city and want to see and do the most during your visit.
Information at stop showing routes and attractions.
Of course, you don't have to get off at the stops. You do have the option of staying on board for the whole tour, which is guided. The question I get most asked about this tour is "how long is the tour if we don't get off?". The answer is 50 minutes. However, if that is your plan, I would instead recommend one of the regular sightseeing boat tours like Under the Bridges or Royal Canal tours.. otherwise you are wasting time waiting while the boat stops to drop off and pick up guests every 10 minutes.
Gamla Stan from the water.
Besides the Hop On/Off Boat, there is a Hop On/Off Bus tour as well. Another question I often get asked is which of the two (bus or boat) I would choose. Both are good choices, but there are some differences... the boat hits the main attractions but misses City Hall (Stadshuset). The bus tour is a little longer (90 minutes), stopping not only at the main attractions but also several popular squares and streets. However, it does not stop at Fotografiska (which the boat does). If you still have trouble deciding, they do offer a combination ticket as well for both bus and boat.
Another Hop On/Off boat passing Kastellholmen.
When it comes to tickets, besides the combination ticket they also give you the choice of buying tickets good for either 24 hours or 72 hours. The time period starts from the first time you use it. In other words if you buy a 24 hour ticket for the boat at 3pm on Tuesday (time period starts when you first use the ticket), it is good until 3pm on Wednesday. Tickets can be purchased online (website linked above), on the bus or boat (cash or credit card) or, if you are staying at the Rival Hotel, through me!
Picking up passengers at Nybroviken.

July 15, 2014

Sebastião Salgado at Fotografiska

Finally! I have been trying to get to this exhibition for the past month, but have been busy, busy, busy! It was well worth the wait though. The exhibition in question is "Genisis" by Sebastião Salgado at Fotografiska (photography museum). And while I have been a little late on reporting this summer exhibition, the good news is that you have until September 14th to see it! Sorry for the odd angles of the pictures in this article but I was there on a Sunday afternoon and it was quite crowded... hard to get enough time in front of each picture to take a shot. Good tip: avoid Sunday afternoons!
Detail from photograph (with reflection of exhibition)


Salgado is a Brazilian photographer and past winner of the prestigious Hassalblad award. The comprehensive exhibition is comprised of hundreds of powerful black & white images from across the globe. Actually, "across the globe" is almost an understatement. The photographs depict locations as far flung as Kamchatka (Russia), the Amazon, Ethiopia, The Falklands, Antarctica, Indonesia, Namibia and more.
Mursi tribe from Ethiopia
Depicted in these beautiful photographs are the landscapes, fauna and people of the region. Women from the Mursi tribe in Ethiopia with lip plates, penguins diving from an iceberg in the South Atlantic, stark glacial valleys in Alaska and a leopard drinking from a jungle watering hole are just some of the amazing images on display. The use of black & white really shows how graphic nature can be...a point I found very interesting. It really comes as no surprise that Salgado is a Unicef Goodwill Ambassador!
"Genesis" is just one of several summer exhibitions at the museum. Fotografiska, the world's largest museum of photography, is located on the northern waterfront of the island of Södermalm, location of the Rival Hotel. In fact it is just a 20 minute walk from the hotel. During the summer months they have an outdoor grill restaurant at the museum entrance. Great place for a casual lunch or dinner... dine al fresco with views over the harbor! Click here for a list of other summer exhibitions...
Entrance to museum with grill restaurant.





July 10, 2014

Day Trip to Vaxholm in the Archipelago

Vaxholm harbor
My cousin and his wife visited me for a few days this past weekend. It was their first time in Stockholm and gorgeous weather, so after the requisite visits to Gamla Stan, Vasa Museum, waterfront walk on Kungsholmen, lunch at Rosendals Wärdshus, dinner & drinks at both Kryp In and Mr French... I thought a trip out in the beautiful Stockholm Archipelago was in order!
Quaint café on the bay... location of our lunch!
With over 30,000 islands, there are a lot of options on what to see & do when visiting the archipelago. Time-wise, you are looking at between 4 and 8 hours... depending on how far out you want to travel, which islands you want to visit and how much time you wish to spend ashore (if any). We did not have a full day so I decided on a visit to the town of Vaxholm for lunch and a little wandering.
Scenery on the way out to Vaxholm.
Vaxholm is the name of both a town and the island it is on and is located in the central portion of the archipelago. In fact, its central location has made it a hub for boat travel in the archipelago and its nickname is "Capital of the Archipelago". One of the main sea routes in to Stockholm passes by Vaxholm. So besides the town, you also have Vaxholm Fortress (Fästning) which was first built in 1544 to guard the city. You can visit the fortress, which houses a museum, and there are boats from Vaxholm harbor every 20 minutes which takes you across the narrow channel.
The fortress...
We opted for a more care-free visit and took a walk along the north side of the island. A short walk through the quaint streets brought us to Hembygdgårds Café. Located on a picturesque little bay, this popular café has a great outdoor seating with views over the water. It also has one of best dessert/pastry buffets I have ever seen! Great lunch options as well as beer and wine.
Fantastic dessert buffet at the café!
After lunch, we made our way back through the town (with some shopping along the way) to the harbor. The town is quite cute and made up mostly of wooden buildings. In fact, wood was the only building material allowed by law up until 1912. The harbor itself can be very busy, with people getting on and off boats, but the town gets much quieter just a few blocks from the harbor.
Main square in the town with...

...shopping options.
You have a few options to get to Vaxholm from Stockholm. The Cinderella boats travel to the outer archipelago every day during the summer and stop at Vaxholm. They leave the city from Strandvägen around 9:30-10:00am and the trip takes just 50 minutes. They stop by Vaxholm in the afternoon (3-4:00pm) on their way back from the archipelago, depending on the day of the week. Check the website, linked above, for the schedule.
One of Waxholmsbolaget's boats.
Another option is using the Waxholmsboalget boats (the commuter boats of the archipelago). These boats have more departures through the day and the trip takes between 50 minutes and 1 hour 20 minutes, depending on the boat. They depart from Strömkajen and you purchase your tickets onboard. There is a bridge connecting Vaxholm island to the mainland, so you have the additional options of bus, taxi or car. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me for help with schedules and tickets (Cinderella only). Click here and here for more tips about visiting the archipelago.
Leaving Vaxholm by boat...





July 2, 2014

Restaurant Mr French in Gamla Stan

Last autumn I wrote about the restaurant Mr French which had opened in the locale, once occupied by Pontus by the Sea. As I wrote then, they were just planning on being open for a few months before closing during the winter for a full scale renovation and refurbishment of the restaurant.
Art deco bar fabulousness.
They have now reopened and I was at the grand unveiling last week. It is an amazing change! I hardly recognized the locale. Beautifully designed bar and restaurant with an art deco feel... it felt almost like a set from The Great Gatsby. I especially liked the open kitchen with seafood on display, like at a food market or fish monger. Mr French is quite large with many seating options inside the restaurant. Besides the dining room with open kitchen, you have several comfortable seating groups for cocktails or more intimate dining.
Main diningroom or...
...your own nook with a view.
One of Mr French's main selling points is its location... arguably one of the best in Stockholm. The restaurant is located on the waterfront promenade of Gamla Stan (old town). They do take great advantage of their location with a large outdoor-indoor bar/lounge area on the ocean side of the restaurant, providing guests with views of the harbor. Part of the lounge area has a retractable roof which they can extend when it gets chilly in the late evening (heating lamps give a little extra help). They do have a bar menu which is perfect if you get hungry after a few cocktails or want a late lunch after a day sightseeing in Gamla Stan.
Open kitchen with displayed seafood.
Speaking of menus... the restaurant's menu has an interesting mix of Swedish, French and American favorites, with an extra emphasis on grill and seafood. You will find their menu here (click on "bordsmeny"). When I was there for the grand unveiling, we were treated to delicious hors d'oeuvres. I did visit the lounge earlier this week and had the opportunity to try their Mr French Burger. Very good!
Outdoor bar area with retractable roof.
Lounge!
As I mentioned, they are located in Gamla Stan... just a 15 minute walk from the Rival Hotel. They often have special events and happenings in the bar/lounge area. When I was there the second time they had a bartender competition which was fun. Talk to me, if you are staying at the hotel, for information about happenings or help in booking a table. Click here for my other restaurant reviews.
View of harbor and waterfront promenade from restaurant.

June 26, 2014

Summer Museum Exhibitions- 2014

Nils Dardel at Moderna Museet!
Here is a handy list to help you with planning your visit to Stockholm this summer! There are many great museum exhibitions planned for this summer in Stockholm. Here are some of some of the major exhibitions (can't list them all!):

Some images from the statuary garden at Millesgården.
Some fantastic museums without summer exhibitions but well worth a visit are Skansen and ABBA the Museum. There are, of course, plenty more museums and exhibitions. In fact, Stockholm has over 80 different museums. So if you are staying at the Rival Hotel and none of the above piques your interest... contact me and we'll find something to match your interests!
The history museum... Historiska!

June 18, 2014

ABBA... The Boat Tour!

ABBA Boat Tour www.stromma.se 
This summer, ABBA the Museum and the Strömma sightseeing company have joined forces to present a new sightseeing tour in Stockholm: ABBA the Museum Boat Tour. As I have one of the best jobs in Stockholm, I got to try out the tour this morning.
Photographer- Torbjörn Calvero ©premium rockshot
In regards to route, the tour is very similar to Strömma's popular Royal Canal Tour. In other words, it is an enjoyable 50 minute boat tour around the island of Djurgården which is the world's first National City Park and the home of many of the city's main attractions like the Vasa Museum, Skansen and... ABBA the Museum! The content of the tour, however, is different than the Canal Tour. This tour, guided in Swedish and English, concentrates on the history of ABBA and their close relationship with the island of Djurgården. It is Ingmarie Halling, the curator of ABBA the Museum, herself who guides you on the tour. Well, it is Halling's voice you hear in the earphones and the manuscript was written by her (though we were lucky enough to have her present on this special tour today). Along with the audio guide, you have a pamphlet explaining points of interest and including some great pictures. The boat glides by many of the spots used in the group's music videos, photo shoots as well as scenes from ABBA the Movie. Interspersed with the explanations of what you are seeing are snippets of some of ABBA's best songs... of course! This tour is poerfect for the ABBA fan. If you wish for sightseeing with more information about Stockholm, then their Royal Canal and Under the Bridges tours would be more interesting.
Combine the tour with a visit to the museum!
One other big difference between the Royal Canal and ABBA boat tours is that this tour makes a stop at ABBA the Museum towards the end, where you can disembark if you wish. You have the option of purchasing a combination ticket which includes entrance to the museum. The boat tour costs 195 SEK or 390 SEK for the boat-museum combination ticket (half price for children between 6 and 11 and free for kiddies under 6 years of age). Tickets can be purchased through Strömma, either online or at one of their ticket offices, or at ABBA the Museum. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, talk to me directly for help in booking/purchasing tickets. The tour departs three times daily (11am, 12 noon and 1pm) between June 6th and August 24th from Strömkajen, across the water from the Royal Palace.
Beaitiful houses on Djurgården... 



June 17, 2014

Midsummer Weekend- 2014!

Raising the Midsummer pole at Skansen!
www.skansen.se  
The biggest holiday in the Swedish calendar is this coming weekend: Midsummer (June 20th to 22nd)! It rivals Christmas as a holiday to spend with friends and family, filled with age-old traditions. On this weekend, Swedes traditionaly flee the cities and head to their country homes to celebrate in the outdoors. Unfortunately, every year Stockholm is filled with tourists who are unaware of this holiday and are confused why the city slightly resembles a ghost town. While it has become better in recent years (as Swedes become more capitalistic in their mind-set), many restaurants and shops are still closed and even a few museums. But not to worrry, there is still plenty of things to do & see and ways to experience traditional Swedish midsummer. Here is a little guide to the weekend:

Museums-

  • Skansen (zoo, open air cultural museum)- open every day, all weekend.
  • Vasa Museum- open every day, all weekend.
  • ABBA the Museum- open every day, all weekend.
  • Royal Palace- open every day, all weekend.
  • Drottningholm Palace- open every day, all weekend.
  • Fotografiska (photography museum)- closed on Friday, open on Saturday & Sunday.
  • Moderna (modern art museum)- closed on Friday, open on Saturday & Sunday.
  • Nordiska (nordic culture museum)- closed on Friday, open on Saturday & Sunday.
  • Nobel (Alfred Nobel & the Nobel prizes)- Closed on Friday, open on Saturday & Sunday.
  • Royal Armoury- closed on Friday & Saturday, open on Sunday.
  • Historiska (history museum)- closed on Friday & Saturday, open on Sunday.
  • Medieval Museum- closed Friday, Saturday & Sunday.
If you are travelling with children, it is good to know that both the amusement park Gröna Lund and Astrid Lindgren's world Junibacken are open all weekend!

Restaurants-

Here is where you can get into a little trouble. Many restaurants are closed for the whole weekend, while others will be closed at least on Friday. Higher-end, Michelin star restaurants are almost all closed Friday through Monday this weekend. Most hotel restaurants are open to the general public (like the Rival Bistro) all weekend. There are also a few other restaurants that are open all weekend... but, if you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me as soon as possible for help booking a table, as they will probably fill up and last minute reservations might be tough! The World Cup is in full swing and a good tip for you football/soccer fans is that Hard Rock Café Stockholm is open all weekend and will be showing the matches.

Shopping-

Also a little tough. Many smaller boutiques will be closed for the whole weekend. Even large shopping centers, like Mood and Sturegallerian, will close on both Friday and Saturday. The two largest department stores, NK and Åhlens City, will close early on Friday (10am to 2pm) and stay closed on Saturday. Officially, it is only Saturday which is a bank holiday... but Friday is about as close as you can come "unofficially", so expect many pharmacies, banks and liquor stores to be closed that day as well.

Sightseeing-

Large sightseeing companies like Strömma run as normal with bus, boat and combination tours available all weekend. Smaller, independant sightseeing companies may be closed. Public transportation runs as normal, though on a more limited "holiday" schedule, all weekend.

Experience Midsummer-

After all of this negativity, you may be wondering "but where do we experience the Midsummer celebrations?". Well, the best place to see how Swedes traditionally celebrate this holiday is at Skansen. They have a full program all weekend long! While most Swedes do leave the city, the few that are left will celebrate with picnics and games in the different parks throughout the city. So, when in doubt, just head outdoors to celebrate. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel and need further information... contact me directly at the hotel!
A Midsummer wreath at Skansen.
www.skansen.se

June 14, 2014

Restaurants Closed During the Summer- 2014

So... here is my annual bad news post for the summer. Well, bad news for "foodies" visiting Stockholm in July and August at any rate. Many of the top tier restaurants (Michelin star, gourmet) close for a few weeks during the summer. This is mainly due to the generous Swedish vacation rules and the fact that many top restaurants feel that they can't offer excellent food & service with summer replacement staff. Another reason, perhaps, is that most Stockholmers leave the city during this period and there aren't enough visiting "foodies" to fill these types of restaurants. No businessmen in town either... wining and dining clients. At any rate, the good news is that several of these top tier restaurants have some other options during these weeks... and you always have a plethora of great summer restaurants to choose from!

  • Frantzén- last dinner service on June 28th, opens again on August 15th.
  • Mathias Dahlgren- last dinner service on July 10th, opens again August 6th.
  • Ekstedt- closes in the middle of July and reopens in the middle of August.
  • Esperanto- last dinner service on June 28th, reopens on August 8th.
  • Gastrologik- last dinner service on July 26th, reopens on August 19th.
  • Operakällaren- Last dinner service on July 5th, opens again on August 8th. 
  • F12- closes for business on June 14th... will reopen at a new location (?) after summer.
  • Oaxen Krog- open during the summer, however only on Wednesdays-Saturdays (mid July to mid Aug). The more casual Oaxen Slip is open daily all summer.
  • Jonas- closes for good at this location on June 28th, unsure right now where they reopen... stay tuned!
  • AG- last dinner service on June 28th, reopens on August 4th. 
  • Svartengrens- last dinner service on July 6th, opens again on August 5th.
  • Pontus!- last dinner service on July 5th, reopens on August 18th. During the summer Pocket is open as well as Pontus in the Park.
  • Djuret- last dinner service on June 18th, opens again on August 18th. During this time they will have an outdoor barbecue restaurant called Svinet.
  • Lux Day to Day- last dinner service on July 12th, reopens on August 12th. 
  • Farang- last dinner service on July 5th, reopens on August 7th.
  • Pubologi- last dinner service on June 28th, opens again on August 1st.
  • Proviant- last dinner service on July 4th, reopens on August 6th.
  • Niklas- last dinner service on July 12th, opens again on July 31st.
  • SMAK- last dinner service on July 5th, opens again on August 7th.
  • Grill- summer grill buffet served between June 23rd and July 27th.
  • Le Rouge- last dinner service on June 28th, reopens on August 12th. Their more casual Le Bar is open all summer.
  • Miss Voon- last dinner service on July 5th, opens again on August 7th.
Don't despair though... there are still plenty of great restaurants open in Stockholm during these weeks. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me for more information. Our Bistro will be open every evening, all summer! I will be adding to the list as I find more restaurants that also close. Please keep in mind that I gathered this information mostly from their websites (sometimes directly with the restaurant)... some of the dates may change. To be absolutely sure, check the restaurant's website (which I have linked above).

June 11, 2014

English Language Theatre This Summer!

One of the more problematic questions I get is when non-Swedish speaking visitors ask about shows and theatre. With the exception of opera, the vast majority of shows in Stockholm are in Swedish. A second problem arises because nearly all theatres and show venues close during the summer months (when said visitors are in the city asking about theatre). However... this summer the Stockholm English Speaking Theatre (SEST) changes all of that! They will be celebrating William Shakespeare's 450th birthday with with an outdoor production of "Much Ado About Nothing". In English! Shakespeare in the Park, if you will.
Beautiful location for Shakespeare at Rosendals Wärdshus!
One of the Bard's most beloved comedies, the original "Much Ado About Nothing" takes place in the 16th century Sicily. SEST has put a twist on it and their version takes place in Sicily in the 1960's. The era of La Dolce Vita! They will be performing at three outdoor venues this July and August. July 11th & 12th at Parkteatern (Park Theatre) on Djurgården, July 17th, 18th & 19th in Drottningholm Palace's Garden and then 7 performances between July 21st and August 2nd in the beautiful lawn adjacent to Rosendal's Wärdshus on Djurgården. You might remember that I recently visited Rosendal. When our Concierge union (SHPF) had a summer kick-off a couple of weeks ago, SEST gave us a mini performance. Looked fun! Bring your blankets, lawn chairs and picnic baskets and enjoy Shakespeare in the outdoors. You can also buy food & drink at Rosendals Wärdshus to have your own impromtu picnic. Visit SEST's website for ticket information and dates.