January 30, 2015

Restaurant at Fotografiska

The photography museum Fotografiska has been one of my favorite museums in Stockholm since they opened in 2010. Not only for their great exhibitions (Annie Leibovitz, Robert Mapplethorpe, Henri Cartier-Bresson and David LaChapelle just to name a few of the recent larger ones), but also for the location and space. Since they opened, they have had a café on the third floor of the museum with fantastic views over Stockholm harbor. I have always loved ending my museum visits here with a glass of wine while thinking that it would be a great place for a restaurant.
Well, they have now made it in to a restaurant! And not just any restaurant... under head chef Paul Svensson (past chef at Michelin star restaurants Bon Lloc and F12) it has garnered plenty of attention, rave reviews and was just recently namned by the newspaper DN as the best restaurant in Stockholm in the mid-price category. I was there earlier this week for dinner with my work colleagues. In fact, we were there when they found out that they had won the above mentioned award.
Chefs celebrating their award as best mid-priced restaurant.
The restaurant's concept is to bring fruits and vegetables to the forefront. The menu is split into three categories: cold, warm and sweet (all fruits and/or vegetables, though not necessarily 100% vegetarian). Each of these dishes cost 125 SEK and you can order and mix the dishes how you please. Each evening they have one meat and one fish dish available to order as well. When we were there we had the choice of duck or cod.
The beet dish...
We started with red beets from the Tanus region of France with ramson capers and an oyster emulsion, followed by Amandine potatoes with smoked sour cream and bleak roe. I chose the duck for my main dish as well as roasted celery root with porcini mushrooms and walnuts. We ended our meal with a gooey chocolate cake with caramelized rye and lingon berries. It was all delicious! But to be honest, I think we ordered too much food (as a group). If I were to go there with a friend I would order a few cold and warm vegetable dishes to share between us as well as a meat/fish each.
...and the Amadine potatoe dish.
This is a great way to combine some culture (museum visit) with an evening out. In fact, this has become somewhat of a trend... museums that house good restaurants as well. The Museum of Spirits and, in some part, Moderna Museet being two others on trend. They do still have the café area in case you just want to eat something light with a coffee or drink. Make sure you don't miss the museum which is open every evening until 11pm. Fotografiska is located on the waterfront of the island Södermalm, just a 15-20 minute walk from the Rival Hotel.
Current exhibition: Herb Ritts.

The view from the restaurant during the day.

January 28, 2015

Gulddraken Awards for Best Restaurants in Stockholm 2015

(Nominee) Mathias Dahlgren Matbaren.
Photo by: Tuukka Ervasti/imagebank.sweden.se
It is that time of the year when several prestigious restaurant guides/awards are announced... like the White Guide, Michelin Guide and Top 50 Restaurants. First up, however, is Gulddraken (the Golden Dragon) which is an annual prize awarded by the Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter. The awards are split up into different categories, like luxury, middle, budget. I do love the idea that these awards aren't only for the high-end gourmet restaurants. The winners this year, in each category, are:

Congratulations to all of the winners as well as all of the nominees! Several of the above linked websites are only in Swedish... especially for the budget and bar categories as they cater mainly to Stockholmers. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, stop by and talk to me and I can help you with translating and directions. Click here for past winners of the Gulddraken as well as other guides/awards. 

January 24, 2015

Winter Inspiration!

Mariatorget Square in front of the Rival Hotel.
I am back from my vacation! I thought I would start back on my blog with some inspirational pictures of a snowy Stockholm... in case you are visiting us this winter season. According to the newspapers and weathermen, it is supposed to be colder than normal this winter (after a warmer than normal December). Though we do know that this is not an exact science! Hopefully this means that we will have snow for a few more weeks. But keep your eye on the weather websites to get accurate forecasts for Stockholm.
Stockholm offers many fun winter activities to try out when visiting the city... everything from skiing and ice skating to sauna with ice-hole swimming. Click here for more information. Strömma offers a great Stockholm Winter boat tour which takes you a bit out in the Stockholm archipelago. Otherwise, one of my favorite things to do is to take a long walk and enjoy how beautiful the city is when covered in snow (like on the island of Djurgården). Just be careful! It can get slippery on the sidewalks.

December 25, 2014

On Vacation!

After a busy Christmas season... it is time for me to take a much needed vacation. Three weeks in Hawaii should get me refreshed and ready to tackle 2015. If you are visiting Stockholm during the last week of December and/or first week of January, here are some blog posts you may find helpful:

If you are staying at the Rival Hotel... stop by and talk to the Front Desk or Concierge Desk for extra help. Merry Christmas & Happy New Year's... see you in 2015!

December 21, 2014

Holiday Opening Hours for Stores and Shopping Centers

NK... all lit up!
Stores and boutiques all, of course, have their own individual opening hours during the holidays. But you can generally say that they close early on December 24th & 31st and are closed on December 25th and January 1st. There are always exceptions to the rule! Here are the special holiday opening hours for some of the larger department stores and shopping centers. Take a look at their websites for information about other specific dates.

  • NK department store: open from 10am to 9pm on the days leading up to Christmas. 10am to 2pm on December24th, closed on December 25th, open from 10am to 5pm on December 31st and closed on January 1st.
  • Åhlens City department store: open from 10am to 10pm on the days leading up to Christmas. 10am to 2pm on December24th, closed on December 25th, open from 10am to 6pm on December 31st and closed on January 1st.
  • Mood shopping center: 10am to 2pm on December24th, closed on December 25th, open from 10am to 5pm to December 31st and closed on January 1st.
  • Gallerian shopping center:  open from 10am to 8pm on the days leading up to Christmas. 10am to 2pm on December24th, closed on December 25th, open from 10am to 4pm to December 31st and closed on January 1st.
  • Sturegallerian shopping center: open from 10am to 8pm on the days leading up to Christmas. 10am to 2pm on December24th, closed on December 25th, open from 10am to 2pm to December 31st and closed on January 1st.
  • Skrapan shopping center: open from 10am to 8pm on the days leading up to Christmas. 10am to 2pm on December24th, closed on December 25th, open from 10am to 4pm to December 31st and closed on January 1st.
  • Barkarby Outlets: closed on December 24th, 25th, 31st and January 1st.
  • Östermalms Saluhall (indoor food market): closed on December 24th, 25th, 26th, 28th (a Sunday) and January 1st.
  • Systembolaget (state run liquor stores): They are closed on Sundays, December 24th, 25th and 26th. On December 31st they close at 2pm and are completely closed on January 1st. So... plan your shopping wisely!
The days in between Christmas and New Year's are called mellandagarna ("middle days") and are some of the biggest shopping days of the year. This is due to the sales! Keep your eyes open for signs saying rea ("sale") or mellandagsrea ("middle day sale"). Buying electronics is especially popular during these days.

December 20, 2014

Museums and Tours During the 2014-15 Holiday Season

Nordiska Museum, photo by: Ingemar Edfalk/imagebank.sweden.se
It is always a little tricky with museums during the holiday season as many close for a few days here and there. However, there is always something open so you don't have to worry about wandering the streets aimlessly. Here is a handy list that will help you plan your holiday visit better. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel and can't find the museum you are interested in... contact me directly. Stockholm has 80+ museums and I am only covering the major ones here! Please note that the National Museum is closed for renovations and instead they have exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (listed below).

  • Skansen- open every day! Shorter hours on certain days.
  • Vasa Museum- closed on December 23rd, 24th, 25th and January 1st.
  • ABBA The Museum- closed only on December 24th!
  • Fotografiska (photography)- closed only on December 24th!
  • Moderna (modern art)- closed Mondays and December 24th, 25th, 31st and January 1st.
  • Center for Architecture & Design- closed December 23rd, 24th, 25th, 30th, 31st and January 1st.
  • Nobel Museum- closed Mondays and December 24th, 25th, 31st and January 1st.
  • Historiska (history)- closed Mondays and December 24th, 25th and 31st. Extra open on Monday, Dec 29th.
  • Nordiska (nordic traditions)- closed on December 24th, 25th and 31st. 
  • Medeltids (medieval history)- closed Mondays and December 24th, 25th, 31st and January 1st.
  • Stadshuset (city hall)- closed December 24th, 25th, 26th and January 1st. Closes a bit earlier on other days.
  • Spritmuseum (alcohol spirits)- closed December 24th, 25th and 31st. 
  • Royal Palace- closed Mondays and December 24th and 25th.
  • Livrustkammaren (royal armoury)- closed Mondays and December 24th, 25th, 26th, 31st and January 1st.
  • Konstakademien (Royal Acad. of Fine Arts)- closed December 24th, 25th and 31st.
  • Millesgården (art museum)- closed Mondays and December 24th and 25th
  • Thielska Galleriet (art museum)- closed Mondays and December 24th, 25th, 26th, 31st and January 1st.
  • Liljevalchs (art museum)- closed Mondays and December 24th, 25th, 31st and January 1st.
  • Waldemarsudde (art museum)- closed Mondays and December 24th, 25th, 26th and 31st.
  • Drottningholm Palace- closed between the 15th & 30th of December. Open daily between December 31st and January 6th (Swedish school's winter break). 
  • Naturhistoriska (natural history)- closed Mondays and December 23rd & 24th.
Sightseeing tours, provided by the company Strömma, are offered everyday during the holidays... like the Panorama bus tour and the Winter boat tour among others! The company Free Tours have walking tours everyday and, as the name suggests, they are free. So, with this list you should be able to keep yourself culturally active every day of your holiday visit in Stockholm.

December 17, 2014

White Guide Nordic- Best Restaurants in the North!

White Guide Nordic 2015, cover.
The White Guide has been around for many years... annually listing the 600, or so, best restaurants in Sweden. It comes out every year in March and I have reported on it over the past 4 years. In fact, it was one of the reasons why I started writing this blog... I thought that it was great information for visitors but, unfortunately, was only available in Swedish. That has all changed! Yesterday they announced the publication of a new White Guide Nordic, covering all the Nordic countries, which is in English! If you were wondering... the Nordic countries are Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland.
The reason given for this new Nordic guide and the fact that it is in English is the continuing high interest internationally in Nordic cuisine. If you are interested in haute cuisine at all, then you know that Noma in Copenhagen has been ranked as the best restaurant in the world for several years in a row. The White Guide looks at several factors when assessing a restaurant and divides them up in different categories... High Class, Very High Class, Masterclass and International Masterclass. Here are the Stockholm restaurants that made the Nordic Top 30 and are considered International Masterclass. Sweden is well represented with 12 of the top 30 restaurants and 6 of them from Stockholm. Several restaurants shared the same amount of points, which is why they share placement on the ranking list. For the rest of the list as well as the top 225 restaurants in the Nordic countires... click here.

Click here to see other restaurant guides and rankings, both current and over the past 5 years. Congratulations to all of the restaurants that made the list!

December 16, 2014

Starbucks in Stockholm

Entrance to Södermalm Starbucks.
Ok. Now I know many readers will think "why are you writing about Starbucks? You usually write about museums, festivals and local restaurants". True. And this subject (the coffee giant's expansion in Sweden) is also not without controversy... with Stockholmers divided on the subject. As you may know, Swedes are very particular about their coffee (second largest consumers of coffee per capita in the world) and Stockholmers can especially be a bit pretentious about their java. For some, Starbucks is a multinational corporation squeezing out small cafés from the market, while others are happy that they no longer have to travel abroad to get their "pumpkin spice latté" fix.
So why write about it? Well, as a Concierge, I have been asked quite a few times by hotel guests where the closest Starbucks is located. I would usually just recommend one of the many great local cafés in the neighborhood (including the Café Rival), as the only Starbucks, until recently, has been located in the Central Train Station... a bit far away from the hotel just to grab a coffee. However, I was recently informed by a guest that the reason she wanted to find a Starbucks is to buy the Stockholm Starbucks coffee mug. Apparently people collect them in every city they visit much like Hard Rock Café merchandize. I learn something new everyday...
Starbucks' merchandize...
So I am writing this blog article as a public service announcement to inform visitors that Starbucks opened today on Södermalm (location), just a 10 minute walk from the Rival Hotel. And they do have Stockholm merchandize! Otherwise, there are Starbucks located on Stureplan and, as I mentioned earlier, in the train station. More are planned as part of their Swedish expansion. It remains to be seen if they can find their place in the finicky Swedish coffee market.

December 12, 2014

Lucia Celebrations in Stockholm- 2014

Photo by Henrik Trygg, Stockholm Visitors Board
Lucia, the festival/celebration of St Lucia, happens on December 13th and is, along with Midsummer, the most Swedish of holidays and many of you have probably seen a picture of a young girl wearing a wreath of candles (Lucia). Basically, the celebration consists of a procession led by a candle wreathed young woman and followed by other young women (& men called stjärngossar) holding candles. Click here for video ("Lucia for Dummies"). They sing Lucia songs as well as other Christmas carols. The traditional places where this procession takes place is in Swedish homes on the morning of the 13th, where the procession is made up of the family's children, and during the evening in various churches. These days, however, you will find Lucia processions also at different businesses, shopping malls and retirement centers throughout the country. Because of the popularity of Lucia, you need to purchase tickets to see the procession in most churches. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, stop by and I will help you with tickets.
Lucia at Skansen www.sverigeslucia.se 
These church services, while traditional and beautiful, might be a little problematic for foreign visitors as there is often a church sermon included in the celebration which is in Swedish. Another option, and a good one at that, is to visit Skansen, the open-air museum dedicated to Swedish culture and traditions. Here they will be celebrating Lucia for two days (Dec 13th & 14th) with processions, historical reenactments and concerts. The main Lucia concert at Skansen will be on the Solliden stage at 5:00pm (Saturday). Skansen also has a great Christmas market on Saturday and Sunday which you can combine with a Lucia concert during weekend. Skansen is located on the island of Djurgården and easy to get to from the Rival Hotel... with regular ferries (10 min trip) going from nearby Slussen.

December 11, 2014

Pharmarium Cocktail Bar

Photo: ©Erik Nissen Johansen, Pharmarium
I was out last week with my cousin who was in town on a business trip. He had heard of Pharmarium and was eager to try it... and, as it was on my list of (relatively) new places to visit, so was I! In fact, it has been high up on the lists over best cocktail bars in Stockholm since they opened a little over a year ago.
First round of cocktails...
We were actually planning on eating dinner and we both had assumed that Pharmarium was both a regular restaurant as well as cocktail bar. But after showing us to our table, the waiter explained to us what to expect for our evening in regards to food & drink. They are first and foremost a cocktail bar. When it comes to food, instead of your regular menu of starters and main dishes, they offer a series of medium-sized dishes... each designed to be paired with one of their signature cocktails. He explained that if we were interested in dinner, 2 or 3 of these dishes would satisfy our hunger. We were intrigued!
Scallop dish.
Pharmarium is located on the main square (Stortorget) in the old town (Gamla Stan), in the building that once housed Stockholm's first apothecary/pharmacy back in the 1500's. Not only does this explain their name, it explains the inspiration for their concept and interior design. The interior of the locale has elements that resemble an old apothecary... small wooden drawers along the wall, herbs growing at the bar and the black & white checkered floor.
Next round...
Many of the ingredients in both the cocktails and accompanying dishes follow the "pharmaceutical" concept... spices, plants, berries and herbs with medicinal value (or, like gold, were once thought to contain such properties). We started with a cocktail-dish pairing each and then we got a little wild and chose both cocktails and dishes randomly. Everything was delicious and the flavors were very seasonal. My absolute favorite dish was the sweetbreads with puré, cauliflower crisp and apricot & raisin chutney. Favorite cocktail? Hmmm... perhaps the Philosopher's Stone (Wild Turkey, Cynar & bitters, foam of smoked maple syrup, apple and gold powder).
Sweetbread dish.
As I mentioned, Pharmarium is in Gamla Stan and it is just a 15 minute walk from the Rival Hotel. Currently, the square houses the Gamla Stan Christmas market. But the historic square is popular year round and buildings lining the square are some of the most photographed in the city. The entrance is a little hard to spot, but it is on the south side of the square... just opposite the Nobel Museum.