July 29, 2015

Stockholm Gay Pride 2015

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 27th to August 1st), but with many of the main events happening later 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... several times in recent years!
Photo by Yanan Li, Stockholm Visitors Board
The festival runs through Saturday, August 1st, 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 50,000 participants and 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 7am until about 4pm. 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!
The Rival and the Rainbow!

July 28, 2015

Nick Brandt at Fotografiska

If you have been following this blog at all then you know that I like Fotografiska (Swedish Museum of Photography)... the concept, the space, the restaurant and, of course, the photography. They have had some great exhibitions since they opened in 2010 and this summer's main exhibition keeps the high standard.
I was off last week, taking care of visiting family and friends, and decided that it was a good time to visit the museum and see the exhibition Nick Brandt "Across the Ravaged Land" (ongoing until Sept 13th). This is the third part in a trilogy of exhibitions/books. Brandt is an English photographer, working in black & white and sepia tones. His work in this trilogy looks at the vanishing wildlife in East Africa through disappearing habitat and poaching.
The photographs are both stunningly beautiful and heart-breaking. One is so used to seeing pictures of wildlife in rich color that his sepia toned images are given an extra feeling of solemnity. Another interesting trait to Brandt's photographs is the way he makes them look like the animals are posing in a studio. Other images are sweeping vistas capturing some of nature's greatest annual events, like the crossing of the Mara River by zebras and wildebeests or the trek of elephant herds in search of water.
While some pictures inspire awe, others will break your heart. I was especially moved by two side by side images... one of a herd of majestic elephants standing in a sweeping line, the other an almost mirror image of park rangers standing in a line holding elephant tusks taken from poachers.
There are two other exhibitions going on at Fotografiska this summer. One smaller exhibit features Anders Zorn, a beloved Swedish painter who was also a pioneer photographer. The other exhibition is Inez & Vinoodh, whose colorful and splashy fashion photography is an interesting contrast to the Nick Brandt exhibition.
Another type of wildlife: Sophia Loren and...
The museum is located on the waterfront of the Södermalm island, just a 20 minute walk from the Rival Hotel. The Hop-on/off boats do make a stop there during the summer. Another feature that I like about the museum is their opening hours: daily, 9am to 11pm. Great if you are in the city for a short stay and want to see as much as possible! Click here for other summer exhibitions in Stockholm this summer.
...Giselle (Inez & Vinoodh)

July 17, 2015

Summer Bar at Hutton's Deck & Lounge

Hutton's Deck & lounge seen from the pier.
Ok. Perhaps the weather (a summer thunderstorm) wasn't the best yesterday for a visit to Hutton's Deck  & Lounge on the boat Mälardrottningen. But with a little positive attitude, it was a nice place to ride out the storm. And Mother Nature provided us with fantastic rainbows after the storm. I will definitely revisit the deck on a sunnier day!
Mälardrottningen ("The Queen of Lake Mälaren") was built in 1924 and was, at the time, the world's largest diesel driven yacht. Her most famous owner was Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton (known as the "Poor, Little Rich Girl") who received the yacht as a gift on her 18th birthday. Since 1982 it has been permanently moored at the island of Riddarholmen.
Södermälarstrand waterfront.
They do have a restaurant on the boat, but we were there to visit the top deck bar & lounge... named after the former owner of the yacht. They have recently restyled and revamped the deck area with nice lounge chairs and sofa groups as well as requisite palm trees. Part of the lounge area is outdoors while the rest (thankfully in our case) is under a roof. The views from the deck are pretty spectacular... with the old town skyline as well the Södermalm heights and Södermälarstrand waterfront. It was nice to sit there with a glass of rosé wine and watch the boats and water scooters pass by.
Riddarholmen island is just adjacent to Gamla Stan and it is either a 15-20 minute walk from the Rival Hotel. Otherwise you can take the subway to the Gamla Stan station and then just exit the station to your right as you go through the turnstiles. Be aware that they are currently doing some construction on Riddarholmen (building a train tunnel under the city) so it looks like you have to walk through a building site to get to the boat... but it is not a problem!
Riddarholm's Church.



July 11, 2015

Cecil Beaton Exhibit at Sven-Harry's Art Museum

Hard-to-miss golden building...
On my way to work today, I decided to make a stop at Sven-Harry's Konstmuseum (art museum). I had actually never been inside the museum before today and was especially curious now when they unveiled their summer exhibition on the works of photographer Cecil Beaton (long one of my favorites).
Beautiful Vasa Park.
Sven-Harry Karlsson is a Swedish man who made his fortune in construction and real estate. Sven-Harry is an avid art collector (especially from Swedish artists) and in 2011 he opened this art museum. The museum is located on the southern edge of the beautiful Vasa Park and is housed (along with private apartments) in an interesting golden building designed by architect Gert Wingårdh. The exhibition space is found on the ground floor as well as the fourth floor. On the roof of the building there is both a sculpture garden with views over the Vasastaden neighbourhood as well as a replica of Sven-Harry's former country estate (Ekholmsnäs) and where his private collection is housed.
Audrey Hepburn, by Cecil Beaton.
This summer the museum, in collaboration with Sotheby's, is exhibiting the work of Cecil Beaton (until Aug 30th). Beaton was one of the best portrait photographers of the last century, working mainly in black & white. If you had any fame or notoriety between the 1930's and 1970's, chances are pretty high that you had your portrait taken by Beaton. Many of these portraits are on display at Sven-Harry's... Picasso, Noel Coward, Churchill, Marilyn, Nureyev, Cocteau, Warhol, Fonteyn, Callas, Wallis Simpson, Dietrich, Jacqueline Bouvier, Garbo and many more. This exhibit takes up the ground and fourth floors of the museum.
Portraits of Ingrid Bergman by Cecil Beaton.
On the top floor of the museum, where you exit out to the rooftop terrace, there is a smaller exhibition which features three current Swedish artists and is being displayed in cooperation with EuroGames Stockholm. EuroGames is a large LGBT sporting and cultural event which is taking place this year in Stockholm (Aug 5th to 9th). The artists, all active in LGBT issues, have created new works of art solely for this exhibition.
Part of the rooftop sculpture garden.
I did take a walk around the sculpture garden on the rooftop terrace, even though the weather wasn't the best. Besides the sculptures, the views of Vasastan and the park are magnificent. The replica of Sven-Harry's estate, housing his private art collection, can only be visited as part of a guided tour. Generally the museum offers one 40 minute tour per hour of the home/collection. Unfortunately I had to get to work and didn't have time to take the tour, but I did peek in the windows and it looked really interesting. I will have to go back for a return visit!
A peek inside the replica of Sven-Harry's home.
To get there from the Rival Hotel, it is just a short subway ride on the green line (either the stop at Odenplan or St Eriksplan). The Vasastan neighbourhood is also a very nice area to visit... with great architecture, restaurants, cafés, shops and even some other attractions like the Bonniers Konsthall and Jewish Museum in Stockholm. Click here for other summer art exhibitions.
Part of the EuroGames exhibition.
Words to live by...

July 9, 2015

The Amusement Park Gröna Lund

Gröna Lund seen from the water (Photo: Gröna Lund)
Gröna Lund, Sweden's oldest amusement park, is much more than just roller coasters. It is an entertainment center for people of all ages. Besides the rides, there is a concert venue, carnival games and restaurants. Gröna Lund is one of the biggest attractions for visitors to Stockholm in the summer months, with around 1.3 million people visiting the park each season.
View from the Eclipse ride. Photo by Frans Hällquist/Gröna Lund.
It is just about impossible to visit Stockholm during the summer and not be at least aware of Gröna Lund. It is located on the island of Djurgården, in close proximity to other popular attractions like the Vasa Museum, ABBA the Museum and Skansen park. It is also located on the waterfront. All this means that chances are high that you will walk by the amusement park or even pass it on a sightseeing boat during your visit. The roller coasters and free-fall rides also dominate the harbor skyline and the screams of the people on the rides can be heard from about a mile away.
Rainbow at Gröna Lund, seen from Gamla Stan (photo by me!)
They have 30+ rides in the park. Besides the above mentioned roller coasters and free-fall, they have a ferris wheel, a magic carpet, carousels, haunted & fun houses, bumper cars and several rides geared for smaller children. The long history of the park (first opened in the 1880's) makes Gröna Lund feel more like Coney Island than Disneyland. They also have lots of carnival type games.
Skeeball, photo by Gröna Lund.
Another reason why Gröna Lund draws so many visitors is their summer concerts. The park has hosted some big names through their history... Jimi Hendrix, Lady Gaga, Paul McCartney, Louis Armstrong, Bob Marley, the Hives and ABBA are just a few of the artists who have performed at Gröna Lund. This summer the artists include international performers like Alice Cooper, Lenny Kravitz and Robert Plant as well as Swedish artists like Ola Salo, Molly Sandén and Petter.
Lenny Kravitz poster 2015. Illustrator: Kristian Russel/Gröna Lund.
To get to Gröna Lund from the Rival Hotel, it is just a quick ride on the ferry to Djurgården from nearby Slussen. The ferry docks right next to the park. Click here for admission prices, opening hours and other facts.
Kättingflygaren in the evening. Photo by Johan Gramén/Gröna Lund.


July 2, 2015

Shopping Center Gallerian

I have blogged before about department stores (NK), shopping districts (Bibliotekstan, SoFo), streets (Drottninggatan) and malls (Sturegallerian, Mood)... even outlets (Barkarby). Now it is time to add another mall to the list: Gallerian!
Gallerian is Stockholm's first (and largest?) mall in the downtown area. It opened first in 1976 and today contains 85 boutiques, cafés and restaurants. Open 7 days a week, with the exception of major holidays, Gallerian attracts around 18 million visitors every year. Fashion, beauty, toys, hardware, electronics... you can just about everything here. Besides boutiques, you can also find a tourist information stand as well as the company Upp och Ner which arranges somewhat more adventurous sightseeing options like with Segways and hot air balloons.
Gallerian takes up a whole city block in the downtown area, but the main entrance is on Hamngatan. There is also an underground entrance from the Kungsträdgården subway station (blue line). This is smack dab in the center of the downtown commercial district with lots of shopping options in the near vicinity. The main H&M store and NK department store are both just across the street from the main entrance to Gallerian. To get there from the Rival Hotel, it is just a 25-30 minute walk through the old town (Gamla Stan) or a quick subway ride (above mentioned stop on the blue line or T-Centralen, all lines).

June 26, 2015

Restaurants Esperanto, Råkultur and Shibumi

The building that houses all three restaurants, once a theatre.
Last week I was invited to a tasting tour of the restaurants Esperanto, Råkultur and Shibumi. Three restaurants, one building and one owner! I have visited Esperanto a couple of times and it is one of Stockholm's top restaurants... so I was eager to see/try the other two. All three restaurants are located in the same building (a former theatre), on different floors, in the downtown area. From the Rival Hotel, it is a 10-12 minutes by taxi or a subway ride to Rådmansgatan (green line).
The community table in Esperanto's French Summer Salon.
Esperanto is the flagship restaurant in this trio and has earned multiple awards. Besides having a star in the Michelin Guide, it has also been named best restaurant in Stockholm for several years now in the White Guide and ranked as 98th best restaurant in the world this year by Restaurant Magazine (guides/lists). They generally offer a 6 or 10 course tasting menu. The cuisine is New Nordic with a twist... the twist being head chef Sayan Isaksson's passion for Japanese cuisine (more evident in the other 2 restaurants). Traditionally Japanese ingredients (shiitake, daikon, miso, dashi, etc.) can be found in various dishes, married beautifully to local produce. This summer, between June 27th and August 4th, they close the main dining room. Instead they will be open in their lounge, which they call their French Summer Salon. Here they can take up to 16 guests, all sitting at a communal table. The cuisine has more French influences and they offer an a la carte menu with medium sized dishes that are made to be combined (2 to 3 dishes are recommended).
Indoor dining room at Råkultur and...
Esperanto and their summer salon are found on the first floor... and on the ground floor you will find Råkultur, their Japanese restaurant. Råkultur means "raw culture" and is a play on words and a reference to the raw fish used in their sushi and sashimi. The quality and creativity is on point and I can report that many Stockholmers consider Råkultur to have the city's best sushi. They do not accept reservations at Råkultur, with the exception of their Chef's Table, only drop-in guests. During the summer months, they move the restaurant to their outdoor terrace when the weather permits. Because of this, the Chef's Table isn't available. The terrace, with bar, is definitely a very nice place to spend a summer evening...
...outdoor summer terrace.
Shibumi is the newest star in the Esperanto constellation and has already garnered very positive reviews. Located in the basement level, this is their take on a Japanese food bar (an Izakaya). They serve Japanese cuisine, often utilizing local produce, in small to medium sized dishes (perfect to sharing). The restaurant is a bit shrouded in mystery... no sign out front, no obvious entrance and not much information on their website. But this just adds to Shibumi's mystique. When I was there we got to try tempura corn and grilled asparagus with a miso bearnaise. Very good...
Shibumi, their Japanese food bar.

June 23, 2015

Swedenborgsgatan Street

And speaking of pedestrian streets in Stockholm... this is a good time to announce that the City of Stockholm has turned the street Swedenborgsgatan into a pedestrian street. They are doing a trial run this summer to see how it goes. Motor vehicles are only allowed between 6am to 11am.
The reason why I am even mentioning this is that the street is located a stone's throw from the Rival Hotel. The street connects the square Mariatorget, where the hotel is located, with the interior of the Södermalm island. Along the street you will find restaurants and cafés as well as a few boutiques. Also on Swedenborgsgatan are the subway station Mariatorget (red line) and the commuter train station Stockholm Södra. They have put out bright orange benches and added more trees. Hopefully this will be a permanent fixture in our neighborhood...
The square Mariatorget...

June 21, 2015

The Shopping Street Drottninggatan

Drottninggatan, post summer rain storm.
One of Stockholm's most popular streets is Drottninggatan ("Queen street"). This pedestrian street is located in the downtown area of Stockholm, running north to south for almost 2 kilometers. There are many shops and boutiques along this street... though I would say that, with a few exceptions, there are no real unique stores. Most of them are the type that can be found in any Swedish shopping center. H&M, Zara, JC, Stadium, Body Shop, etc. Not that there is anything wrong with that! Besides shopping, it is also a nice street to stroll on and a good way to cross quickly through the city on foot.
Entrance to Centralbadet
There are some key points of interest on or near this street. On the northern end of Drottninggatan you will find the historic spa Centralbadet, with pool, gym, sauna and beauty treatments. Walking south, you cross another popular thoroughfare called Kungsgatan ("king street") which bisects the downtown area west to east. Here, just one block to the east, you will find the square Hötorget. There you have an outdoor fruit, vegetable and flower market Mondays through Saturdays and a flea market on Sundays. There is a also an indoor food market here called Hötorgshallen as well as Konserthuset, home of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and where Nobel Prize ceremony is held every year.
Hötorget square with market and Konserthuset
Continuing south on Drottninggatan, the next point of interest is the Åhléns City department store. This is a popular store and a good place to shop for anything from fashion to interior design to books and movies. Åhlens is located on the intersection of Drottninggatan and Klarabergsgatan. Immediately after you cross Klarabergsgatan you come to the next point of interest... the square Sergelstorg. The sunken square is an iconic Stockholm landmark. In fact, the diagonal checkered design of the tiles is a bit symbolic of the city. On this square you will find Kulturhuset ("house of culture"), Stadsteatern ("city theatre"), the main tourist information center as well as the entrance to main subway hub T-Centralen.
Åhelns department store
Sergels Torg with Kulturhuset to the right.
Drottninggatan continues south a few more blocks, ending at the bridge Riksbron which connects the downtown area with Gamla Stan (old town). But between Riksbron and Gamla Stan, the street takes you first through Riksdagshuset, which is the home of the Swedish Parliament.
The bridge Riksbron crossing over to Riksdagshuset and...
Still feel like walking? What many people don't know is that Drottninggatan is just one of three pedestrian streets, connected to each other, crossing most of central Stockholm. In Gamla Stan, Drottninggatan turns into Västerlånggatan which bisects the old city and ends at Slussen. After crossing over to the island of Södermalm at Slussen, the pedestrian street continues on Götgatan ending at the large square Medborgarplatsen. And Götgatan is only a few blocks from the Rival Hotel!
...Västerlånggatan in Gamla Stan, which connects to...
...Götgatan on Södermalm.