September 30, 2015

Social Media at the Rival Hotel

If you have been following my blog... you might have noticed that, over the past three weeks, I haven't been as prolific at posting as I normally am. Besides some vacation time, this is mainly due to the fact that I have recently taken over the reins as social media coordinator at the Rival Hotel (at least for the next few months). What this means is that, besides my work as Concierge and blogger, I will be taking care of Rival's different pages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. All in an effort to increase the hotel's social media footprint. I will still be blogging and as soon as I get everything organized I will be back to blogging on a more regular basis.
The Rival is much more than just a hotel. We have a popular Bistro (restaurant), several bars, meeting & event facilities, a Café and a theatre... plus lots of happenings. Because of this we have several pages on different social media channels. For those of you who are fans of the hotel, or otherwise curious, here are the Rival's different social media accounts:

  • Facebook- The Rival Hotel. In English. Information about all aspects of the hotel (including bar, bistro, conference and café).
  • Facebook- The Rival Bar & Bistro. In Swedish. Information regarding the Bistro and bars.
  • Facebook- Café Rival. In Swedish. Information about our popular café. 
  • Facebook- Scenen på Rival. In Swedish. Information about the Rival Theatre and the different artists and shows. 
  • Instagram- Hotel Rival. In English. Overview of the hotel and everything inside... 
  • Instagram- Rival Bar & Bistro. In Swedish. A look at the Bistro, Café, Bistro Bar, Cocktail Bar and Lobby Bar.
  • Twitter- The Rival Hotel. In English. Overview of the hotel and everything going on inside...
  • Twitter- Rival Bar & Bistro. In Swedish. What is going on in the Bistro, Café, various bars as well as the theatre.

  • Pinterest- The Hotel Rival. In English. Everything about the Rival as well as Stockholm and other sources of inspiration.
So like and follow us on the social media sites that interest you. And make sure you "check in" when visiting us and share your pictures, videos and thoughts! And use the hashtags #hotelrival #bistrorival #caferival when possible. 

September 26, 2015

Skansen Aquarium

Path leading up to the Aquarium from the main Skansen entrance.
I have been to Skansen many times and written about it here a few times. Skansen is one of Stockholm's most popular attractions... housing both an open air museum dedicated to Swedish traditions and historic, pastoral life as well as being the city's zoo- filled with Scandinavian animals (bears, reindeer, moose, wolves and much more). It is also where Swedes traditionally celebrate many holiday festivals from Midsummer and Walpurgis to Easter and Christmas.
Up close with lemurs.
One part of Skansen which I have never visited, until recently, is the Skansen Aquarium (Akvariet). While it is found within Skansen, it is a separate entity and has its own admission price. This is probably why I have never been there on my own (paying for Skansen and then paying for the Aquarium)... but now I was with my parents who both had a Stockholm Card (which includes admission to both Skansen and the Skansen Aquarium) so I took the opportunity.
I must say that I was pleasantly surprised with the place. It is very well put together and you really do get close to the animals. Very close in some cases! I should probably point out that the name "aquarium" might be a bit confusing for non-Swedish speakers. While there is a section with sea life (fish, corals, sharks, etc.) there is also much more... reptiles, amphibians, monkeys, lemurs and such. Stockholm does have a proper aquarium called Aquaria, which is located not too far from Skansen.
Cute meerkats...
...and even cuter meerkat pups.
As I mentioned, it is very well put together and I can see why it is so popular with Swedish school classes. Very educational. Some highlights were the lemur enclosure, where there is no fence between you and the animals, and the meerkats. Meerkats are incredibly cute and they were even more adorable now as they had pups.
All in all, I would definitely recommend Skansen Aquarium if you are visiting with children and/or are fans of exotic wildlife. Skansen itself is great for children... they even have a petting zoo with domesticated Scandinavian animals called Lill-Skansen. Skansen is located on the island of Djurgården and to get there from the Rival Hotel, take the Djurgård ferry from nearby Slussen. They depart every 15 minutes or so and the trip just takes 10 minutes.
They even have snakes and...
...frogs, plus much more.

September 19, 2015

Restaurant Volt

I just returned from a week-long vacation in Kraków; recharging my batteries after a busy summer season here at the Rival Hotel. But just before my vacation I had the opportunity to eat at Restaurant Volt. It was definitely one of the top 5 dining experiences I have had in Stockholm... and I have eaten at many restaurants in the city!
Volt received their first Michelin star this year and it is well deserved in my opinion. They serve, as many top rated restaurants in Stockholm, cuisine with a real connection to nature using the freshest, seasonal, local produce (often called "new Nordic"). I found the dishes to be very creative, with delicious flavors, and the wine pairings spot on. I also liked the ambiance... Volt is a smaller, cosy restaurant where the service doesn't feel rushed. Another plus factor was that the prices weren't painfully expensive when compared to other restaurants of the same caliber.
Freshly baked sourdough bread with chicken liver parfait.
1st course: cabbage with blue mussels.
On the menu you have a choice of a four or six course set menu and you can choose a wine/drink pairing package as well if you wish. We opted for the four courses with the drink pairing. With the four courses you are given the choice of meat or fish for the third course. My friend and I both chose the guinea fowl for this course. It was delicious... served on a bed of roasted hazelnuts and chanterelle mushrooms.
2nd course: purple carrots, red wine berry crumble and goat cheese.
3rd course: guinea fowl on a bed of roasted hazelnuts and chanterelles.
Besides the four courses, you also receive a "snack" when you first arrive and you have the option of adding a cheese course (which we did). The creativity of the cheese dish especially impressed me. The plate was covered with crumbled goat cheese and thyme. On the side of the dish was something that appeared to be a scoop of vanilla ice cream but was, in fact, honey whipped with egg whites... like a sticky meringue. The attentive staff explained that we should dip our forks in the honey mixture and use it to pick up the goat cheese crumble. Delicious and creative!
Delicious wines paired with each course.
The additional cheese course.
A colleague, who had already dined there, told us to make sure we ordered coffee after dinner. I followed his advice even though I don't usually drink coffee late in the evening. It was the right choice. The coffee was brewed at the table and came with the most delicious sponge cake (sockerkaka). I was pretty stuffed already... but I still managed to eat half the cake!
4th course: plum sorbet 
Coffee with...
Volt is located in the Östermalm neighbourhood. To get there from the Rival Hotel you can take the subway (red line) four stations to Östermalmstorg. Otherwise it is a 5-7 minute taxi ride. As I mentioned, this isn't a large restaurant... so make sure you book your table in advance!
...delicious sponge cake.

September 5, 2015

Autumn Art Exhibitions In Stockholm

As the summer season is coming to an end, it is time to look forward and see what autumn has to offer! Stockholm is a great city to visit for a long weekend or a "city break". Enjoy the pulse of the city, dine out, do some shopping and visit some great museums. We had some wonderful summer exhibitions and here is what the major art museums and galleries are showing during the coming season:

The Walking Man by Auguste Rodin at Nationalmuseum.
Photograph by Finlands Nationalgalleri/Hannu Aaltonen
© All rights reserved
If you are more interested in history, then Stockholm has a wealth of history based museums. Click here for a list with links. There are also many smaller art galleries and museums in the city that I haven't listed. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, stop by and talk to me and I can help you with information about these galleries. 
Hilda Lancing (b. 1985), "Själständig", Ring, gold and silver.
At Sven-Harry's Konstmuseum
Photographer: Börje Svensson

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 
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.