September 1, 2015

Restaurant Svartengrens

I was off of work last week as I had family & friends visiting. Some of them were visiting Stockholm for the first time, so we did many things that I have already blogged about... like visiting the Vasa Museum, eating lunch at Rosendals Wärdshus, eating dinner at Kryp In and doing a day trip out to Vaxholm and other things one shouldn't miss when visiting Stockholm in the summertime.
We did manage to do a couple of things which were new to me, like dinner at Svartengrens restaurant. I had heard a lot of great things about this restaurant over the past couple of years so I was happy to get a chance to try it. They "love meat" and so do I, so it did not disappoint! Another fact about the restaurant that I really like is that they deal with locally raised beef from the Stockholm Archipelago, which is reared and butchered in a sustainable way. They do all of their own smoking, dry-aging, sausage making and other preparations on site in the kitchen. The menu does change often as it depends on what produce is available.
When it comes to the main courses, you have choice of sausages and cuts of meat. You then have a list of creative side orders to order with your meat. Our waitress was happy to recommend which side orders work best with which main course. I opted for the flank steak and paired it with the jalapeño & cheddar croquettes, bbq sauce and cumin pickles. It was all very delicious! Not surprising perhaps that Svartengrens was rated as the third best steakhouse in Sweden last year.
Svartengrens is located in the Vasastan neighbourhood. To get there from the Rival Hotel, you can either take a subway (green line) to the Odenplan or Rådmansgatan stations. Otherwise it is about a 8-10 minute taxi ride. Click here for other restaurant recommendations.

August 18, 2015

Heading out to the Archipelago!

Svartsö island
It has been gorgeous weather the past couple of weeks... so a day off of work and visiting parents meant a trip out to the Stockholm archipelago. You really can't visit the city during the summertime and not take yourself out to the islands. Unfortunately, most visitors have a tight schedule when coming to Stockholm and really can't take a full day to explore the archipelago. There are ways to get a feel of the islands when you have time constraints... like the Little Archipelago Tour or taking a ferry to Vaxholm for lunch. But if you have the time, take a full day and do some exploring!

Cinderella boat taking passengers on at Strandvägen.
I usually take the Cinderella boats out as it is a quick way to get to the outer islands. Basically these boats power out to either Möja or Sandhamn, stopping at popular islands along the way. After a short stop they turn around and head back to the city, stopping at the same islands. So you can choose which island to visit and then pick up the Cinderella boat as it comes back. Pretty easy!
Cinderella heading on to Möja after dropping us off.
We chose the island of Svartsö to visit, which is 1½ hour trip out on the Möja line. To be honest, we chose it because it was an island we had never visited before and they have a restaurant. We thought we could head there, have lunch and then head back. However, we were there on a Monday and, of course, the restaurant is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. There was the option of renting bikes from the country store and biking 2 miles to the other side of the island where there was another restaurant. But we felt lazy and decided to just buy sandwiches at the store and take a leisurely stroll instead.
Country store and kiosk at the pier.
Whichever island you decide to visit, it is the trip itself that is half the experience. So relaxing sitting on the boat and passing by some of the 30,000 islands that make up the archipelago. Beautiful nature, gorgeous houses and boats of all shapes and sizes. Click here for some of the more popular islands you can visit with the Cinderella boats. If you wish to visit some of the more obscure islands, your best bet is the ferry company Waxholmsbolaget. Views along the way from the boat:

August 13, 2015

This Saturday... the 10k Race: Midnattsloppet!

Photo by Yanan Li, Stockholm Visitors Board.
This Saturday, August 15th, 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. Staggered along the route are live bands (samba, Irish, rockabilly, show choir, jazz, etc.) and DJ's to keep runners and spectators alike in good spirits.
The Café Rival's outdoor terrace... a good place to watch the racers.
There are actually two shorter races for children in the afternoon and early evening... one for children 8 years and under (300 meters) starting at 2:30pm and the other for children between 8 and 15 years old (1775 meters) starting at 7:30pm. Click here for a map of the courses. 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! Or why not stop by the Rival Hotel? Our Bistro Balcony will be open until 1am as well as the outdoor seating for our Café. Prime Midnattsloppet viewing! Don't feel like watching costumed runners? Then you always have the Culture Festival or outdoor cinema...
Or from the Bistro's Balcony!

August 10, 2015

Culture Festival & Outdoor Cinema

The next big festival is just around the corner... The Stockholm Culture Festival (Kulturfestivalen), August 11th to 16th. 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 30 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!
The stage at Gustav Adolf's Torg, photo from www.kulturfestivalen.se 
The theme for this year's festival is "London" with many of the artists, shows and events coming from the British city (as well as Swedish artists and shows, of course!). In fact the festival is presented in collaboration with the British Council. 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 TorgBrunkebergs 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.
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 12th and 16th 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 theme is "outer space". The line-up is as follows:

All the movies are shown in their original language (English) with Swedish subtitles. 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.

August 7, 2015

Restaurant Oaxen Slip

Make sure you look up!
Another restaurant visit! My parents are visiting and my mom was celebrating a big birthday, so I booked us in at a restaurant I have been wanting to try for a long time: Oaxen. The restaurant used to be located on an island in the southern archipelago called Oaxen (hence the name). In those days it was ranked as one of the top 50 restaurants in the world five years in a row. But the restaurateurs, Magnus Ek and Agneta Green, decided to move closer to Stockholm... so in 2013 they opened Oaxen Krog & Slip, located on the island of Djurgården.

Big windows facing the waterfront...
Oaxen is actually two restaurants in one: the more fine-dining Krog and the more casual Slip. The move to Stockholm proved to be successful... within a year Krog had received their first Michelin star and this year they received their second star. The Slip has also been named a Bib Gourmand restaurant by the Michelin Guide, which are for restaurants with "exceptional good food at moderate prices".
Zucchini and bleak roe "snack".
We were a larger group dining and we chose Oaxen Slip for our dinner. The setting, along the water on Djurgården, is beautiful and has a secluded feeling. It would have been even more beautiful if it hadn't been pouring rain that evening. Oh well. The name "slip" means, as in English, where you park a sailboat. The sailing ships hanging from the restaurant's ceiling gives credence to the name (besides its waterfront location).
Dessert. Mmmm...
The dinner was delicious and the menu is almost entirely made up of Nordic produce. When we were there they were featuring a special summer menu. I started with something from their "snack" menu... deep fried zucchini with bleak roe. Yummy! For the main course I took the pork from the Nibble Farm with herb dressing, arugala and apples. You have the option of adding side courses (vegetables, starches, dips). It wasn't really necessary in my opinion as you get enough food with your dish, but perhaps if you don't have a starter or appetizer? For dessert I took the brownie with salt fudge ice cream. It was all very good! I will have to try the Krog soon...
A very rainy waterfront.
The easiest way to get to Oaxen Krog & Slip from the Rival Hotel is by taking the Djurgård Ferry from nearby Slussen. The ferries depart quite regularly and the boat trip just takes 10 minutes. When you arrive at Djurgården it is only a short walk to the restaurant. If you are in the downtown area, you can take the street car/tram out to the restaurant. Click here for my other restaurant visits/recommendations.

The restaurant on a sunnier evening. Photo provided by Oaxen Krog.


August 4, 2015

Restaurant Burger & Lobster

Star-chef Pontus Frithiof has been making big changes at his flagship restaurant Pontus!. Earlier this year he announced that they were closing the fine dining portion of the restaurant and Burger & Lobster was moving in. Burger & Lobster is a popular, higher-end chain of restaurants with locations in the UK and NYC (and now Stockholm).
View from Pocket...
The concept of the restaurant is pretty simple... as the name suggests, it is burger and/or lobster. No menus and no fuss! The wait staff explain the concept and your choices after you have been seated. You have the choice of a burger, a lobster (grilled or steamed) or a brioche topped with steamed lobster and a Japanese mayonnaise. Or you can opt for a combo plate for 2 persons. With this option, each person gets a burger and then either a half lobster or half a brioche. This also comes with a choice of desserts. Of course we tried this option... and it is a lot of food (includes salad and fries) and very good! A slightly different take on the surf & turf concept.
Combo plate with a burger and half a grilled lobster.
As I mentioned, the restaurant is located in the former Pontus! dining room on the basement level. You enter from the street Norrlandsgatan and through a nice bar & lounge area. Pontus still has the casual, rustic French restaurant Pocket next door. To get to the restaurant from the Rival Hotel, you can either take the subway 4 stations to Östermalmstorg (red line), exiting to Stureplan or else a 7-8 minute taxi ride. Click here for more restaurant recommendations.
No menu at the table, but they did have one hanging in the restaurant.


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...