August 20, 2014

Restaurant Oxelblom

Oxelblom has been a favorite place of mine for the past year or so to have a glass of wine with friends and enjoy the atmosphere. Last night a colleague and I had the opportunity to have dinner there for the first time and we weren't disappointed!
Oxelblom is a relatively small restaurant with a cosy atmosphere. The dining room resembles a living room (or salon) of yesteryear with mismatched, vintage furniture and quirky design details. Candlelight and classic jazz music (Swedish and international favorites) add to the at-home feeling. They have two small sofa groups as well, which are perfect if you just want to stop by for a drink. Maybe over a game of chess (set provided)?
3 types of "home made" herring with classic accoutrements.
I also really like their unique menu concept. It is all about tastes from around Sweden... from Skåne in the south to Norrbotten in the north! Two of Sweden's 25 counties or provinces are always represented on the menu with the dishes created using the county's local produce. The menu does change every few months as they switch counties. Sweden is a large country with varied landscapes and climates, so local produce can be quite different depending on the county. When we visited the restaurant last night, Bohuslän and Södermanland/Uppland were the counties on the menu.
"pork, appples, beans, red wine"
The dishes on the menu aren't named or described; instead each dish is represented by a list of ingredients. For example, "pork, apples, beans, red wine" or "shrimps, mussels, garlic, parsley". Anticipating what dish the chef will create with the ingredients adds to the dining experience. Each dish (whether cold, hot or sweet) is medium in size and you choose either a 3 or 5 course menu from among the different dishes. We both opted for the 3 course menu last night and I would say that it was comparable in size to having a main course and dessert at another restaurant. Click here for the current menu in English.
Romantic nook...
Another positive note is the service, which is warm and personable. They are great at taking the time to explain their concept and pair wine and beer with the dishes. Oxelblom is located in the popular SoFo district on the island of Södermalm and is only a 15 minute walk from the Rival Hotel. Otherwise it is located in between the subway stations Medborgarplats and Skanstull (green line).
Assorted cheeses, all Swedish!

August 19, 2014

Gourmet Street Food with Mathias Dahlgren

Diners Club's food truck in Stockholm! www.dinersclub.se
Are you visiting Stockholm in the first week of September? Are you a foodie? Then you are in luck! Diners Club is on a tour of the Nordic countries with a gourmet food truck. The tour is called "Street Food by Diners Club" and they will be spending a week in each of the four Nordic capitals. It will be Stockholm's turn from the 2nd to 6th of September! The food truck/street food concept, which I have written about earlier, has become very popular in Stockholm... but this isn't just any food truck. Diners Club's concept is that in each city they are cooperating with one of the city's top gourmet chefs to create the food truck's lunch menu, offering a unique, new taste experience at a great price. In Stockholm they are joining forces with Mathias Dahlgren. Mathias Dahlgren is the owner and head chef of the restaurant that bears his name... a Michelin 2 star restaurant and named as one of the top 50 restaurants in the world.
Mathias Dahlgren www.dinersclub.se
So what will the food truck be serving in Stockholm? What will Dahlgren's take on street food be like? According to the man himself, he is taking inspiration from the food he grew up with and his grandmother Alice. Sounds interesting! If you are in Stockholm on these dates, stop by and treat yourself to a great lunch and see for yourself. The truck will be parked on the Skeppsbron waterfront of Gamla Stan, just below the Royal Palace, between 11:30am and 2pm on Tuesday through Friday and 12noon to 3pm on Saturday. The cost for lunch is 125 SEK... but if you pay with your Diners Club card then it is only 100 SEK. Click here if you want to read about my visit to Mathias Dahlgren Matbaren or click here for my visit to his Matbordet.

August 16, 2014

"Midnattsloppet" (10k evening race) is tonight!

Photo by Yanan Li, Stockholm Visitors Board
Tonight (Saturday, August 16th) is the date for the Midnattsloppet or Midnight Race. This 10 kilometer race has been held annually since 1982 and has gotten more popular each year with thousands of runners and even more spectators. With 41,000+ runners, it is actually Europe's largest 10k run! The race is run through the streets of Södermalm with the home stretch down the street Hornsgatan, half a block from the Rival Hotel. In fact, this year the racers run past the front of the hotel before turning onto Hornsgatan for the final stretch. What makes this race unique is the carnival atmosphere along the route (there is even a costume competition) as well as the late start time... it's a staggered start with the first group starting at 9:20pm and the last group at 11:05pm. There is even a shorter race, earlier in the evening for children (start at 7:30pm). Click here for a map of the course. Be aware that many roads on Södermalm island will be closed to car traffic in the afternoon and evening, so it is best to stick to walking or subways. If you are not participating in the race, then you can always choose a spot along the course, enjoy the atmosphere, and cheer on the racers!

August 11, 2014

Outdoor Cinema This Week in Stockholm

Photo by Lars Gullnäs, Stockholm Film Festival.
Not only do we have the Stockholm Culture and Youth (We Are Sthlm) festivals this week... it is also time for the annual Summer Cinema. This event takes place between August 13th and 17th and is put on by the Stockholm International Film Festival (which takes place later in November). They will be screening five movies in Rålambshovs Park, one each evening. The movie starts approximately at 9pm, but there is staff on hand from 6pm selling popcorn, coffee and candy. The movie itself is free! They have to start that late as it is too light outside before 9pm. A great opportunity to pack a picnic basket and enjoy a movie in the great outdoors. This park is one of the few in Stockholm where private alcohol consumption is allowed (until midnight), so you can throw in a bottle of wine in your picnic basket. I would get there a little early to get a good spot! As you can see from the pictures, it is a popular event.
Photo by Jasmina Aleksic, Stockholm Film Festival
Each year there is usually a theme to the movie selection. This year, the Stockholm Film Festival is celebrating its 25th anniversary, so as a theme they have chosen movies that have been screened at previous years during the festival. The line-up is as follows:

All the movies are shown in their original language with Swedish subtitles, which means English... with the exception of Rust and Bone on Friday (in French). Rålambshovs Park is on the island of Kungsholmen. To get there from the Rival Hotel, take either (blue) bus 4 towards Radiohuset (bus stop is called Västerbroplan) or the subway (green line) to Fridhemsplan.
Pulp Fiction on Wednesday!
www.stockholmfilmfestival.se

August 9, 2014

The Ultimate Shopping Map & Guide for Stockholm

In my line of work, I often get asked "where do I go to buy...?" and "where is this store located?". Especially as many visitors have heard about popular Swedish interior design and fashion brands. Luckily, my job has just gotten a little easier thanks to Maria Öijer who has put together the "Ultimate Shopping Map" for Stockholm.
This map comes with a comprehensive guide/book with an explanation of each store, shop, café or other point of interest on the map. Available in English or in Swedish. Instead of only a large fold-out map of the whole city, this map also has blown-up insets of different shopping districts... like funky SoFo, high-end Bibliotekstan, popular Gamla Stan and more. Of special interest for guests of the Rival Hotel is that one of the map insets shows all of the great shops in our neighborhood of Mariatorget! You can click here for an earlier blog article about the shops near the hotel. This map with guide is a perfect way to find the best shopping area for you! I like that they have ice cream shops and cafés marked out as well... just in case you need to take a little break from shopping.
While we do not sell the Ultimate Shopping Map here at the hotel, it can be purchased at several stores in our area... like Designtorget, Papercut and WOS (links to store address). The cost is 125 SEK. However, if you wish to pre-purchase the map to help plan your trip ahead of time, you can order the Ultimate Shopping Map through their website. Not only do they offer free shipping, but you also save a little money as they only charge 115 SEK for the map & guide when you preorder. Click here for earlier blog articles about shopping in Stockholm.

August 7, 2014

Kulturfestivalen - Stockholm Culture Festival 2014

Concert venue GAT, photo by Emma Svensson
The next big festival is just around the corner... The Stockholm Culture Festival (Kulturfestivalen), August 12th to 17th. This is one of my favorite festivals. Not only are there lots of things to see/do/experience, but it is all free! The only exceptions are the walking tours which, due to limited availability, cost 20 SEK to reserve a spot. For 6 days and evenings, the parks and squares of downtown Stockholm transform into concert venues, outdoor cinemas, circus tents and playgrounds for children. Food & drink tents as well!
Swedish artist Edda Magnason, one of the many performers at Kulturfestivalen.
Photo courtesy of kulturfestivalen.se 
The theme for this year's festival is "Barcelona" with many of the artists, shows and events coming from the Catalonian city (as well as Swedish artists and shows, of course!). In fact the festival is presented in part with The City of Barcelona, Institute Ramon Llull and the Catalonian government. This is a celebration of the close & friendly relationship between the two cultural cities. As I mentioned earlier, there are hundreds of things to choose from... something for everyone, whatever your age or interests. Dance, theatre, art, film, circus, food, cultural walks and literature are all well represented at the festival. For an English program of the highlights, visit their website and scroll down a bit to find a downloadable program in PDF format. Otherwise, if you are staying at the Rival Hotel, stop by and talk to me or my colleagues for more information.
Performance venue Sergels Torg, photo by Dennis Wernersson.
The festival is concentrated in the downtown area... in the squares Gustav Adolfs Torg (GAT), Sergels Torg, Brunkebergs Torg and Norrbro and the street Drottninggatan. All these squares and streets are within a 10-15 minute walk from each other so it is very easy to get around. They are also easy to get to from the Rival Hotel... 3 subway stops, a 10 minute bus ride or else a 30 minute walk through the old town. There is another festival going on at the same time in the park Kungsträdgården. This one is called We Are Sthlm and is aimed at youths between 13 and 19 years of age and features lots of music, culture, sports and entertainment. So if you are travelling with teen-agers, you can just drop them off at this festival before heading to the Culture Festival to enjoy yourselves.

July 29, 2014

Stockholm Gay Pride 2014

The Rival Teddy Björn...
It's that time of the year again! We have several big festivals in the beginning of August. Besides the Music & Arts Festival and Culture Festival, we have the biggest of all Scandinavian festivals: Stockholm Gay Pride! Pride Week is all of this week (July 28th to August 3rd), but with many of the main events happening later in the week (Wed-Sat). Not only is this a time for the LGBT community to party & demonstrate, it is also an opportunity for Stockholmers in general to celebrate the tolerance in Swedish society and the fact that the city has been named the gay friendliest city on the planet... not once, but twice in recent years!
Photo by Yanan Li, Stockholm Visitors Board
The festival runs until Sunday, August 3rd, and there are a ton of events each day... movies, seminars, workshops, concerts, performances, parties and (of course) the parade. I can't possibly list all of the happenings here, but you can check the Pride website to see the calendar of events (Park). It is good to know that most events are to be found either in the Pride House or the Pride Park (Östermalms IP). There is an entrance fee to the park and you can either buy a day pass or a week pass. Tickets can be purchased at the door, online, at the tourist information office or at a ticnet outlet. There are also a number of nightly parties at different venues throughout the city each evening... more information can be found in the calendar. QX.se also has a list of the parties on their website (use the calendar function). More info here!
Photo by Yanan Li, Stockholm Visitors Board
The Pride Parade happens on Saturday, starting at 1pm at Mariatorget/Hornsgatan and ending at approximately 3pm in Pride Park. This is a very popular event with over 500,000 spectators lining the streets in past years. The fact that it starts at Mariatorget makes it very special for the Rival Hotel... since that is where we are located! One thing our guests should think about, however, is that the main street Hornsgatan will be closed to traffic from 8am until about 3pm. This will make traveling to and from the hotel by car or taxi a little complicated on Saturday. So stick to walking and subways on this day. If you are checking in or out on Saturday, contact us for extra help. Happy Pride!

July 25, 2014

Kayaking in Stockholm

The hot weather continues! If swimming at a Stockholm beach sounds too daring but you still want to cool off, then I recommend renting a kayak and paddling around the city. It is quite inexpensive and an active and fun way to spend the day and even do a little sightseeing on your own. I did write a blog article about this way back in 2010... time for a repost!
Kayaking in Stockholm
Photo by Yanan Li, Stockholm's Visitors Board.
Stockholm isn't called the Venice of the North for nothing! Central Stockholm alone is built on about 15 islands, so there is water everywhere. One fun activity to do on a sunny afternoon is to rent a kayak and paddle around the islands. Stockholm is at her most beautiful when seen from the water! Kayaking is fun and you don't need to be an Olympian to do it... good as a family outing. There are several places to rent kayaks by the hour/day and it is generally quite inexpensive. Depending on the place, you are looking at about 100 SEK an hour though it is sometimes cheaper if you take the kayak for half or full day.

When choosing a kayak rental place think about where you want to paddle! Stockholm actually strides the borderline between a lake and the ocean with the Old Town being the borderline. Everything to the east is the Baltic Sea and everything to the west is Lake Mälaren. If you want to paddle in the lake then I recommend Kafé Kajak located in Rålambshovs Park on the island of Kungsholmen. Or else you can head across the bridge to the island of Långholmen where you will find Långholmen Kajak. Not too far from the Rival Hotel! Here you will be able to paddle by a lot of parklands and beaches as well as cliffs where Stockholmers enjoy diving and sunbathing.
Kayaking in the archipelago
Photo by Henrik Trygg, Stockholm's Visitors Board
If you want to paddle in the Baltic Sea area, then I recommend Djurgårdens Sjöcafé located near the bridge leading from Östermalm over to the island of Djurgården. Stay close to the island of Djurgården so you don't stray too far out into the shipping lanes! Lots to see here... beuatiful parks as well as great architecture on Strandvägen and the villas on the southside of the island. Another option is to paddle in the lake called Brunnsviken on the northern outskirts of Stockholm. Haga Park surrounds the lake with lots of interesting things to see like Haga Castle and Stockholm University... you also don't have to worry about larger boats! The place to rent kayaks here is Brunnsvikens Kanotcentral.
Stand Up Paddling is starting to become popular as well!
If you are feeling more adventurous then you can do a full day of kayaking out in the beautiful archipelago. Stockholm Adventures offers tours all summer, Thursdays through Sundays. The price is approximately 1,300 SEK (depends on the day) and includes lunch. You leave Stockholm at about 8:50am and head to the town of Stavsnäs where you will be met by the guide. The experience, all in all, lasts about 11 hours. They also have other options like kayaking with camping or kayaking tours in Stockholm. Some of their websites, that I've linked, are in Swedish so it is better to contact me directly at the hotel for prices and directions on how to get there as well as other practical information. Have fun!

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.