July 25, 2016

Stockholm Gay Pride- 2016

The Rival Teddy Björn... 
It's that time of the year again! We have several big festivals in the beginning of August like the Music & Arts Festival and Culture Festival, but first we have the biggest of all Scandinavian festivals: Stockholm Gay Pride! Pride Week is all of this week (July 25th to July 31st), 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 main festival runs through Saturday, July 30th, 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 (currently only in Swedish, but check back for more English). 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 here.
Photo by Yanan Li, Stockholm Visitors Board
The Pride Parade happens on Saturday, starting at 1pm. Traditionally, the parade has gone down Hornsgatan right next to the Rival Hotel. Sadly, this year it will not due to construction and road work at nearby Slussen. So instead it will start on Kungsholmen at 1pm, wind its way through the city before 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. So if you want to watch the parade, make sure you head down early to get a good spot. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel and need help finding out what is going on each day... contact me directly. Happy Pride!
The Rival and the Rainbow!

July 19, 2016

Handy Information for Summer 2016!

Old Town. Photo by Jeppe Wikström/mediabank.visitstockholm.com
It has been a busy few weeks here at the Rival Hotel and I haven't really had much time to explore. I have family visiting in the beginning of August and I will be sure to be out exploring then (and subsequently reporting here), but in the meantime I thought I would repost a summer guide from last year with updated information which could be helpful in planning your upcoming visit.

Getting Around the City
Sightseeing (multiple blog articles, but here are links to the individual company websites)
This is really just some highlights and top tips. If you are booked at the Rival Hotel... contact me directly if you need assistance or more information.

July 13, 2016

Upcoming Summer 2016 Festivals & Events

Open air concert on Djurgården. Photo by Jeppe Wikström/mediabank.visitstockholm.com
July is generally a quiet time in Stockholm when it comes to festivals and events as most Stockholmers have their summer vacation at this time and leave the city. However this just means there are that many more in August! Here are some upcoming festivals and events not to be missed if you are coming to Stockholm in the coming weeks.
Stockholm Pride. Photo by Yanan Li/mediabank.visitstockholm.com

  • July 25th to 31st- Stockholm Gay Pride. The biggest gay pride in the Nordic countries. A week long festival that is very popular across the spectrum... especially the Saturday parade. Recent parades have seen almost 50,000 participants and around half a million people lining the streets.
  • July 26th- Beyoncé concert at Friends Arena.
  • July 29th to 31st- Stockholm Music & Arts festival on Skeppsholmen with artists like Lauryn Hill, Joan Baez and Kraftwerk.
  • July 30th- BAO (Benny Andersson Orchestra) concert at Skansen.
  • August 5th & 6th- Weekend Festival at Östermalms IP. Dance music and DJ's.
  • August 13th- Midnattsloppet ("The Midnight Race"). A very fun and festive late evening 10K race around the island of Södermalm. Samba bands, masquerade contests, DJ's and more...
  • August 14th- free oudoor concert at Gärdet with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
  • August 16th to 20th- We Are Sthlm youth festival (13 to 19 years of age). Free festival with concerts and more in Kungsträdgården. Part of the Culture Festival (see below).
  • August 16th to 21st- Kulturfestivalen ("The Culture Festival"). Week long festival in the downtown area concering all types of culture... and free! The theme this year is France.  
  • August 17th to 21st- Outdoor cinema, put on by the Stockholm Film Festival, in Rålambshovsparken. The theme this year is the 1970's. Free admission, bring a picnic. 
  • August 24th to 27th- Formex. International Nordic design fair. If you like Nordic and Scandinavian design... this is the place to go! Takes place at the Stockholm International Fair in Älvsjö.
  • August 26th & 27th- Popaganda. Popular pop music festival. Takes place at Eriksdalsbadet.
  • August 28th to September 4th- Baltic Sea Festival. Classic music festival at Berwaldhallen
  • September 3rd- Tjejmilen. Women's 10K run. Popular race along a scenic route on Djurgården.
As you can see... a wide variety with something for everyone. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me directly for more information. Click here for a full 2016 calendar of festivals and events.
Outdoor Summer Cinema in Rålambshovsparken. Photo by Lars Gullnäs

July 5, 2016

Temporary Home for the Östermalm's Saluhall!

The facade of the temporary saluhall, while...
One of my favorite places to visit and to send hotel guests to (especially for lunch) is the Östermalm's Saluhall. A "saluhall" is an indoor food market and this particular food market, built in 1888, has quite a bit of history. Click here for an earlier blog article about indoor markets in Stockholm. Unfortunately, this type of historic building needs to be lovingly taken care of and renovated from time to time. And that time is now... the historic food market will be closed for renovations until 2018.
...the original is being renovated across the street.
But don't worry, they have a contingency plan in the form of a temporary indoor food market which they have opened in the square across the street from the original food market. I checked it out yesterday and it looks nice and seems to have most of the original shops and restaurants inside, including my favorite one for Swedish seafood: Lisa Elmqvist.
The market closes at 7pm on weekdays and 6pm on Saturdays (completely closed on Sundays) so it is more a place for lunch than dinner. But don't limit yourself to just dining in... most of the vendors have great take-away options if you want to have a picnic in one of the nearby parks. Otherwise it is a nice market just to stroll around, soak in the atmosphere and maybe buy some Swedish delicacies to take home with you.
Östermalms Saluhall (the original under renovation and the temporary market) is located on the square Östermalmstorg. It is very easy to get there from the Rival Hotel... just four stops on the subway (red line) to the station Östermalmstorg.

June 29, 2016

Pedestrian Street Swedenborgsgatan

Last year Stockholm City decided to test turning the street Swedenborgsgatan into a pedestrian street during the summer months. This was done to bring a little life to sleepy streets and help businesses in the area. The test turned out to be a success! As the street is just around the corner from the Rival Hotel, we were happy with the change. Because it went so well, the city has decided to expand the project with two other streets also becoming pedestrian during the summer: Rörstrandsgatan in the Vasastan area and Skånegatan in the SoFo area. Car traffic is allowed on the streets between 6am and 11am, otherwise it is just pedestrians and bicycles.
I have also noticed that the businesses along Swedenborgsgatan have really taken advantage of the extra space this year with most of the cafés and restaurants expanding their outdoor seating into the streets. Fun! Really makes the neighbourhood more vibrant. Some restaurants along the street include Bistro Süd, Da Luigi and Morfar Ginko. You also have several cafés of which Johan & Nyström is of special note. There is also the specialty food store 8T8, the pub Half Way Inn and the gay bar Side Track. We hope that this really becomes an annual thing!

June 27, 2016

Revisiting Rosendals Wärdshus

I took advantage of the great weather this Midsummer's Day and took a long walk around Djurgården island (also a National City Park) with a friend, stopping at one of my favorit summer spots for lunch: Rosendals Wärdshus.
I have already written an article about Rosendal, but I thought I would post a reminder as I was there, it was great weather and I took some new pictures. Read the other article for more detailed information. In short, they are open every day (weather permitting) between 11am and 4pm. In July & August they will be open for dinner as well, closing at 8pm. Its location on Djurgården, close by major attractions such as the Vasa Museum, Skansen and ABBA Museum, means that it is a great place to grab a bite or drink in between (or after) museum visits! Indoor and outdoor seating as well as picnic opportunities.
Rosendals Wärdshus, which just celebrated its' 100th birthday, is located on the island of Djurgården, just behind Skansen park, in a beautiful bucolic setting. The easiest way to get there from the Rival Hotel is to take the Djurgård ferry from Gamla Stan. Upon arrival at Djurgården, you can either walk around Skansen to the restaurant (15-20 minute walk in the park) or take the Djurgård tram to Bellmansro station which cuts your walk in half. You can take this street car all the way from the downtown area if you are starting from there.

June 24, 2016

Greta Garbo Exhibition at Fotografiska

Over the decades, Sweden has exported a lot of great talent to Hollywood... Ingrid Bergman, Ingmar Bergman, Lena Olin, Lasse Hallström, Stellan & Alexander Skarsgård, Alicia Vikander among others. But the original (and arguably most famous) Swedish cinematic export will always be Greta Garbo! She was actually born and raised not too far from the Rival Hotel on Blekingegatan. Besides Garbo's striking beauty and successful film career (both in silent films and then "talkies"), she is also famous for the fact that she retired in 1941, at the height of her career, removing herself from the public spotlight ("I want to be alone!").
A popular opening party...
I have been asked by visitors several times over the years why Stockholm doesn't have a Garbo museum. A valid question. Well, this summer we will at least have a Garbo exhibit here in Stockholm and last week I was invited to the premiere of the exhibition "The Image of Garbo" (at Fotografiska - the Swedish Museum of Photography).
If you have at all been reading this blog regularly then you know that I love the art of photography and am a fan of the museum which has had some great exhibitions throughout the years (Annie Leibovitz, David LaChapelle, Herb Ritts, Henri Cartier-Bresson, etc.). The Garbo exhibit is located on the ground floor in a space usually used for conferences and events and not exhibitions. This means that "The Image of Garbo" is an expansion of what is already being shown at the museum, meaning more exhibits and photographs to see at Fotografiska this summer.
I really enjoyed "The Image of Garbo", which probably contains the world's largest collection of unique images and memorabilia featuring Greta Garbo. Everything in the exhibit comes from the private collection of Lars Nordin, a Swedish advertising executive, who has been an active collector for 20 years. While I recognized several of the images, especially the stills from her most famous movies (Queen Christina, Camille, Ninotchka and Anna Karenina), many images were new for me.
The exhibit also contains other interesting memorabilia, some objects owned by Garbo as well as her autograph written with a goose quill. This last piece is apparently quite a rarity as Garbo never signed autographs and didn't like to even write her name.
The exhibition runs all summer (until August 21st) and is one of many great summer exhibitions at Fotografiska. Other ones include Bryan Adams and Nick Brandt. The museum has very generous opening hours which makes it easy to add to your itinerary, especially if you only have a short time in Stockholm. The museum is open from 9am to 11pm Sundays through Wednesdays and between 9am and 1am on Thursdays through Saturdays. The only days they are closed are Midsummer's Eve and Christmas Eve.
Fotografiska is located on the waterfront of Södermalm. The easiest way to get there from the Rival Hotel is to walk (15-20 minutes). The hop-on/off boats also make a stop there during the summer months. They also have a great restaurant, though in the summer months this closes and instead they have an outdoor grill restaurant called Växtgrillen.

June 22, 2016

Restaurants Closing During the Summer Months (2016)

This post may come as bad news, at least for "foodies" visiting Stockholm in July and early August. Many top tier restaurants (Michelin star, gourmet) close for a few weeks during the summer. This is mainly due to the generous Swedish vacation rules leading many top restaurants to feel that they can't offer excellent food & service with summer replacement staff. Another reason, perhaps, is that many Stockholmers leave the city during this period and there aren't enough visiting "foodies" to fill these types of restaurants to make it profitable. No businessmen in town either... wining & dining clients. At any rate, the good news is that there are a few which will be open all summer and several other top restaurants have some other options during these weeks... and you always have a plethora of other great restaurants in the city to choose from! Most of these restaurants are also closed during the big Midsummer holiday weekend (June 24th-26th).

Michelin star and Bib Gourmand restaurants:
  • Mathias Dahlgren- closed between July 15th and August 9th (both the Dining Room and the Food Bar).
  • Frantzén- closes on July 9th. Reopening at a new & better location in 2017!
  • Oaxen Krog- open all summer as normal.
  • Oaxen Slip- open all summer... every day for lunch & dinner.
  • Gastrologik- open all summer, though their more casual Speceriet will be closed until the beginning of August for renovations. 
  • Ekstedt- closed between July 17th and August 5th.
  • Esperanto- the dining room is closed between June 24th and August 5th. Instead, between June 28th and August 4th, they open up their lounge with what they call their Spanish Summer Salon where guests sit at a communal table. They have other restaurants in the house with different summer schedules... Råkultur is open all summer and Shibumi is only closed between June 24th and July 4th. Imouto however will be closed between July 17th and August 10th. 
  • Operakällaren- closed between July 17th and August 10th. Their more casual Bakfickan will be open all summer.
  • Volt- closed between July 17th and August 14th.
  • Rolfs Kök- closed between July 3rd and August 7th.
  • Den Gyldene Freden- closed for renovations between June 18th and August 19th. 
  • Lilla Ego- closed between July 10th and August 15th.
  • Nook- closed between July 2nd and August 8th. 
  • Proviant Östermalm- closed between July 9th and July 28th. 
  • Ulla Winbladh- open all summer.
Other top rated restaurants:
  • Svartengrens- closed between July 4th and July 31st. 
  • AG- closed between July 3rd and August 7th. 
  • Lux Day to Day- closed between July 16th and August 16th.
  • Farang- closed between July 10th and August 10th.
  • Djuret- closed between July 4th and August 10th. Instead they open up an outdoor pork barbecue restaurant called Svinet
  • Pubologi- closed between July 4th and August 2nd. 
  • Omakase Köttslöjd- closed between July 4th and August 2nd. 
  • Le Rouge- closed between June 24th and August 15th. 
  • SMAK- closed between July 10th and August 11th. 
  • Miss Voon- open all summer.
  • Publico- closed between July 3rd and August 8th. 
  • Teatergrillen- closed between July 2nd and August 7th.
  • Spritmuseum- their high-end dinner service closes during the summer months. Instead they have a more casual restaurant (includes garden seating) as well as a great "beer pier" on the water open. 
  • Fotografiska- their indoor fine dining restaurant is closed between June 24th and August 17th. During this time they open an outdoor barbecue in front of the museum (from June 27th to August 14th). Their café is open as usual.
  • Wedholms Fisk- open all summer. 
What this all means is that you need to plan a little ahead if you wish to dine at a top tier Stockholm restaurant during your summer visit and be aware that your favorite (or the one you read about) might not be open. However there are still many great restaurants open during these weeks as well as some restaurants that are open only during the summer months that are definitely worth a visit... so you won't go hungry! If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me directly for help in booking any tables ahead of your visit. Our restaurant Bistro Rival is open all summer.

June 19, 2016

Midsummer Weekend 2016

Midsummer at Skansen,
photo by: Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se
I am back at work after my pre summer vacation and just in time for the Midsummer weekend here in Sweden. This year it falls on June 24th through 26th with Midsummer's Eve on Friday and Midsummer's Day on Saturday. This is arguably the biggest holiday in Sweden... on par with Christmas as a holiday celebrated with family and friends. It is a very old holiday, celebrating the summer solstice, with roots going back to Sweden's pagan past. Here is a handy video that explains the holiday! Unfortunately, most tourists are taken by surprise every year as parts of the city can resemble a ghost town with most Stockholmers heading to the countryside to celebrate. But don't worry... as long as you are aware of the holiday, there are still lots to see and do. Most places geared for tourists tend to be open or at least partially open. Here are some tips on what is open/closed and what to expect:


  • Skansen- open every day, all weekend.
  • Vasa Museum- open every day, all weekend.
  • Fotografiska (photography)- closed on Friday, open Saturday & Sunday.
  • ABBA the Museum- open every day, all weekend.
  • Royal Palace- open every day, all weekend.
  • Drottningholm Palace- open every day, all weekend.
  • Moderna (modern art)- closed Friday, open Saturday & Sunday.
  • Nobel (Alfred Nobel and the Nobel Prizes)- closed Friday, open Saturday & Sunday.
  • Nordiska (nordic culture)- closed Friday, open Saturday & Sunday.
  • Historiska (history)- closed Friday & Saturday, open Sunday.
  • Medeltidsmuseet (medieval)- closed Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
  • Spritmuseum (drinkable spirits)- closes at 4pm on Friday, closed Saturday, open Sunday.

If you are travelling with children (or are young at heart) both the amusement park Gröna Lund and Junibacken, the home of Pippi Longstocking and her friends, are open all weekend.


Here is where you can get into a little trouble. Many restaurants are closed for the whole weekend, while others will be closed at least on Friday. Higher-end, Michelin star restaurants are almost all closed Friday through Monday. Most hotel restaurants are open to the general public (like the Rival Bistro) all weekend. There are also some other restaurants that are open during Midsummer... your best luck will be with hotel restaurants, places in Gamla Stan as well as restaurants like Hard Rock Café. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me as soon as possible for help booking a table, as they will probably fill up and last minute reservations might be tough! 


Also a little tough. Many smaller boutiques will be closed for the whole weekend. Even large shopping centers, like Mood and Sturegallerian, will close on both Friday and Saturday (Sturegallerian is closed on Sunday as well). The two largest department stores, NK and Åhlens City, will close early on Friday (NK at 2pm and Åhlens at 4pm) and stay closed on Saturday. Officially, it is only Saturday which is a bank holiday... but Friday is about as close as you can come "unofficially", so expect many pharmacies, banks and liquor stores to be closed that day as well.


Large sightseeing companies like Strömma run as normal with bus, boat and combination tours available all weekend. Smaller, independant sightseeing companies may be closed. Public transportation runs as normal, though on a more limited "holiday" schedule, all weekend.

Experience Midsummer-

After all of this negativity, you may be wondering "but where do we experience the Midsummer celebrations?". Well, the best place to see how Swedes traditionally celebrate this holiday is at Skansen. Check their calendar for a program of what is going on all weekend long! While most Swedes do leave the city, the few that are left will celebrate with picnics and games in the different parks throughout the city. So, when in doubt, just head outdoors to celebrate. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel and need further information... contact me directly at the hotel!
Summer Night
photo by: Susanne Walström/imagebank.sweden.se

May 18, 2016

Mamma Mia the Party! This Summer in English.

Press photo by Mats Bäcker for Tyrol
Today is my last day before my pre-summer vacation. I am off to recharge my batteries before the busy summer season! I will be back in mid June but if you are staying at the Rival Hotel during my absence, fear not... my colleagues will be on hand to help you. But before I go I thought I would leave you with a real fun article about "Mamma Mia the Party!".
"Mamma Mia the Party!", a dinner-show-party-experience, has been playing to sold out crowds here in Stockholm since January and during this time the show has been in Swedish. However they will be performing the show in English during late July and August this summer for the tourist season. Last week, during the Eurovision festival, they tested the English version to select audiences... including me!
Looks and feels like a Greek taverna...
Do I need to explain the phenomenon that is ABBA and the subsequent juggernaut musical (and then movie) "Mamma Mia!"? Probably not. The Party is the next step in the Mamma Mia story. The plot is pretty clever. Basically, the story takes place directly after the Mamma Mia movie has just wrapped filming on the Greek island of Skopelos. A Greek taverna, run by a local man and his new Swedish wife (who stayed on the island after the movie wrapped), has an ABBA themed show designed to bring in the tourists. The audience plays the part of diners at the taverna. The main plot of the story revolves around the owner's daughter and his new wife's son who are in love and being discouraged by their families. Romeo and Juliette part 2?
...complete with grandma watching from her balcony.
The first thing you notice when you arrive is the amazing design of the locale. It really looks like a Greek island taverna, complete with fountain, bougainvillea plants and tourist shops in a side alley. I have been in this locale many times before and, trust me, this is quite a feat as its' name is Tyrol and it usually resembles a Tyrolean bierstube! You are warmly greeted by the staff and led through the taverna to your table.
No Romeo & Juliette plot is complete without a balcony scene.
The cuisine is Greek of course and the food comes to the table family style with sharing plates. The first round consists of "snacks" like olives, tzatziki and hummus. The next round, the appetizers, consisted of classic dishes like calamaris and Greek salad. The main course was a platter of meat... lamb racks, sausages and grilled pork shish kebab as well as grilled vegetables. Finally coffee and dessert which was a vanilla panacotta with Greek honey.
Press photo by Mats Bäcker for Tyrol
During the time the food comes and goes... the show takes place all around the diners. It really doesn't matter where you are sitting, though the bulk of the action takes place around the fountain. There is audience participation, but it isn't as bad as it sounds. I was terrified that they were going to be pulling up people on stage. One diner got a lap dance from the chef and another was twirled by a waitress. The owner of the taverna did put me on the spot by asking if I was single (for his daughter). But that was the extent of it... otherwise it was mainly eye contact by the actors singing and dancing around the tables.
The show contains singing, dancing, drama and... acrobatics!
The evening ends with the taverna's ABBA show. Tables are moved to the side and a real disco party begins with the waitstaff and actors coming out in full ABBA regalia and belting out a medley of the super group's most well known songs. During the rest of the show, the songs are a mix of well known and lesser known ABBA songs (like "Kisses of Fire" and "I'm a Marionette"). It's a nice touch using the lesser known songs... ABBA does, after all, have an amazing back catalogue.
The disco party starts!
Mamma Mia the Party is located on the island of Djurgården, in the Gröna Lund amusement park, just a stone's throw from ABBA the Museum. In fact, you can purchase tickets that include entrance to the museum as well just in case you want the full ABBA experience! And speaking of tickets, they can be purchased online through their website. The English version takes place between July 27th to August 21st, otherwise it is in Swedish. At first I thought the price is a bit steep (1340 SEK), but you really do get a lot for the price (four course dinner, show and party). It is basically a similar price for a night out in Stockholm with dinner, theatre and nightclub.
Thank you for the music!
It is quite simple to get to the Party from the Rival Hotel. Just take the Djurgårds Ferry from nearby Gamla Stan. It is a ten minute trip and the ferry drops you off 25 meters from the entrance to the Party.
Press photo by Mats Bäcker for Tyrol