March 31, 2012

Plans For a New Urban Garden

Plans
I just read about a new, exciting project called På Spåret ("on the tracks") with plans to turn abandoned train tracks into an urban garden. Located in the Skanstull area of the island of Södermalm, several blocks south from the Rival Hotel, these train tracks are a bit of a dead area today... overgrown vegetation with graffiti marked debris. The project has taken its inspiration from Berlin's Prinzessinnengarten and NYC's High Line, part of the new city trend of bringing green areas to urban sprawl. Stockholm is already quite green, with 95% of the population living less than 300 meters from a green area (helping the city get elected as Europe's first Green Capital in 2010).
Future look?

Stockholm City has given the go-ahead for the project and work will begin this spring; not sure when they plan to have it completed... but I will be sure to report on it here! The garden itself will be open for the public to try their hands at gardening, with only ecological produce being grown. There will also be an ecological gardening school, store and café with large outdoor seating area. Furthermore, there will be a daily outdoor farmers market that will expand in size on the weekends. Other plans include cultural events like concerts, gardening seminars and outdoor movie screenings. Keep an eye on their website (linked above, only in Swedish so far) and this blog for further updates.

March 29, 2012

Tourist Season is Gearing Up!

Just in time for the Easter Holidays... three sure signs that the tourist season will soon be upon us! The first sign comes tomorrow (March 30th) when the Strömma boat tour to Drottningholm Palace starts up for the season. The boat tours will be operating on Fridays to Sundays until April 27th, when they start operating on a daily basis. Drottningholm, the home of the Swedish king & queen, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a great place to visit. The boat trip is half the fun and a wonderful way to see Stockholm.
Drottningholm. Photo by Gomer Swahn
The second sign... the start of the City Bike season (April 1st). A great and inexpensive way to see Stockholm! I will be writing more about this next week, but in the meantime you can check what I wrote last year. The Rival Hotel will be selling the card again this year (only to our hotel guests).
City Bikes

The third sign? Restaurants, bars and cafés all over Stockholm are opening up their outdoor seating areas. Apparently more restaurants than ever have applied for licenses to have outdoor seating this year! The Rival Hotel will be opening the Bistro balcony and Café outdoor seating on April 2nd... come snow, rain or sunshine! See you there!
Café Rival



March 27, 2012

Easter in Stockholm (2012)

Photo: Marie Andersson, Skansen
(Edit: This is from 2012, click here for more updated info & links for this year) The Easter Holidays (Påsk) come a little earlier in the calendar this year. As a visitor to Stockholm, here are some practical things to know: both Friday April 6th (Good Friday - Långfredag) and Monday April 9th (Annandag Påsk) are bank holidays in Sweden, which means that banks, smaller shops & boutiques as well as liquor stores (Systembolaget) will be closed. Easter Sunday (Påsk) is, of course, a holiday. But, besides the above mentioned, most museums, department stores, restaurants and shopping centers are open as usual... with maybe shorter opening hours certain days. Thursday April 5th (Skärtorsdag) is a special day. While not a holiday, many office workers use it as a half-day in anticipation of their long weekend. The only main museums I can find that have unusual opening hours during the Easter Holidays are Historiska (history museum) which is closed on Friday and Saturday and Livrustkammaren (the royal armoury) which is closed on Friday. Be aware that several museums are closed on Mondays during the low season. The sightseeing tours will run as normal.

The best place to experience a traditional Swedish Easter is Skansen on the island of Djurgården. There will be music in Seglora church, Easter activities for children as well as an Easter Market (11am to 4pm Thursday-Monday) where you can buy traditional arts & crafts, foods and Easter decorations. See their whole program here. It is easy to get to Skansen from the Rival Hotel... regular ferries to Djurgården from Slussen (10 minute walk from the hotel, ferry ride is also 10 minutes). Speaking of which,  the Rival Hotel has a great Easter deal if you haven't made any arrangements yet!
Happy Easter!

March 23, 2012

Shopping at Mood Stockholm

Entrance
One of the most anticipated events in the Stockholm retail world happened today... the opening of Mood Stockholm. There has been a lot of press and hype leading up to the grand opening. So I had to, of course, stop by Mood Stockholm today to see what all the fuss was about and I must say that I was very impressed.
Some shopping...
For all intents and purposes, Mood Stockholm is a shopping center, though they advertise themselves as Stockholm's "newest neighborhood". It is refreshing to see a shopping center with unique stores (mainly clothing & interior design) and not the same chain-stores seen in every other shopping center in Sweden. Some are familiar names, but the majority are stores that I haven't heard of before. Nice, soothing lounge music interspersed with chirping birds(!) can be heard from the loud speakers. Dining options are also not like other shopping centers... no "food court" here! Instead it is trendier options from cafés to restaurants. Two of special note (and much anticipated) are Vigårda Barbecue and EAT (European Asian Taste). Both restaurants have heavy culinary names behind them... Melker Andersson (of F12) and Henrik Norström (of Lux) respectively. Another one that looked interesting is the tapas restaurant Boqueria. Can't wait to try them!
...and dining (Boqueria restaurant & bar)
What makes me happiest about Mood is their location. It takes up en entire city block, just behind the NK department store in the downtown area. This neighborhood has been a strange dead area in Stockholm for many years, surrounded by other vibrant shopping/restaurant areas on all four sides. Mood will be a great face lift for the area! There is also a Concierge Service to be found in Mood which is a fun idea... according to their pamphlet, they offer everything from a personal shopper to babysitting to yard work. You can also "hire a cook/bartender" through them.

The stores in Mood are open from 10am to 8pm on weekdays, 10am to 6pm on Saturdays and 10am to 4pm on Sundays. The restaurants are, of course, open later! It is very easy to get there from the Rival Hotel... a direct subway trip on the red line, 4 stations to Östermalmstorg and exiting to Stureplan. Click here and scroll down for more of my shopping tips!

March 21, 2012

Tourist Info Ahead of Royal Visit!

Tomorrow (March 22nd) Charles and Camilla Windsor, also known as His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, will be arriving in Stockholm for a three day official visit. The couple are on a tour of Scandinavian countries in celebration of Queen Elizabeth's diamond jubilee.
If you are visiting Stockholm during this period (March 22nd - 24th) then there are some things that you should be aware of. First of all, the royal couple will be staying at the Royal Palace in the Gamla Stan. This means the Royal Apartments will be closed for visitors all three days as well as some rerouting of traffic in the area as they come and go during their visit. As far as I can tell from their websites, the museums around the palace (Treasury, Armoury, etc;) will not be affected. The changing of the guards will take place as usual... 12:15 all three days.
Secondly, as the royal couple tour the city, there will be some local traffic problems or closures. Of special note for visitors is their visit to the Vasa Museum on Saturday morning. According to the program, they will be visiting the museum at 10:40am- but the museum's website shows that it is business as usual. So, you will either want to avoid the museum at that time to stay clear of the chaos or else you want to visit then to do some royal spotting. Be aware also that the security will be high in the city (especially around the palaces and Vasa) during their three day visit!

March 20, 2012

Lill-Skansen: The New & Improved Children's Zoo

The amphibian/reptile area
If you have been reading this blog, then you know that I'm a big fan of Skansen... both to visit myself and to send visitors to see. Skansen is many places in one: a beautiful park, an open-air museum of Swedish culture & traditions as well as Stockholm's zoo (with plenty of Nordic animals like reindeer, moose, bears, etc;). It is a favorite with both adults and children, but now it will be even more child friendly with their new children's zoo... Lill-Skansen!
Bunny Hill?
I was invited yesterday to a sneak preview of the new facilities which will open for the general public on March 31st. There has been a popular children's zoo at Skansen since 1955, but now it has been re-imagined and revamped. Lill-Skansen will now have both an indoor and outdoor area with a wide variety of small Nordic animals (both the wild and tame types). There is even a children's theater and a shop in the area. What impressed me the most is how they've managed to make everything both educational and fun for children. There are signs at each enclosure with detailed information about the animals in both English and Swedish. You'll find playground elements throughout Lill-Skansen such as tunnels, forts and slides. The animals will range from the cute (voles, rabbits, guinea pigs, lemmings and miniature goats & pigs) to the perhaps not-so-cute (snakes, toads, rats and various insects) and plenty in-between. Children get the opportunity to get quite close to the animals!
Insect home and surrounding fish pond
Skansen is open every day year-round and Lill-Skansen will only be closed on Christmas Eve. It is easy to get to from the Rival Hotel by taking the Djurgård's Ferry from Slussen (10 minute walk from the hotel). Click here if you want more recommendations for child friendly activities and places in Stockholm.
The rodent area was popular with the sneak preview crowd!

March 17, 2012

Restaurant Gotland

Google Maps
The Swedish island of Gotland is located out in the middle of the Baltic Sea, just south of Stockholm. The island is a popular destination, due mainly to its rich history (runestones, Viking graves, walled city of Visby), beautiful nature and beaches as well as the fact that Ingmar Bergman lived for many years on an island (Fårö) off the northern coast. If you are planning a longer stay in Sweden this summer, then this island is definitely worth a visit (regular boats and flights from Stockholm). If not, then don't worry: there is a little part of Gotland in Stockholm...
Restaurant Gotland is a great place to taste gotländsk cuisine and get a feel for the gotländsk culture. Located in the Stureplan district, the restaurant's menu reflects the rich, seasonal produce of the island. They are especially well known for their lamb and pork, but also fish, cheeses, asparagus and other vegetables. I was there last week for a dinner with my fellow concierges from around Scandinavia (Les Clefs d'Or). I love the interior design of the restaurant and the food was delicious (I went for the Gotland pork!). The restaurant also has their very own steakhouse right next door called Gute Grill. Makes sense... lamb, pork and fish are best enjoyed grilled, no? The best way to get there from the Rival Hotel is by subway (4 stations, red line, to Östermalmstorg- exit Stureplan). Otherwise it is a 7-8 minute taxi ride.

March 16, 2012

Museums For All Tastes

I often write about the popular art and history museums in Stockholm... the Vasa, Skansen, Moderna, National, Nobel, Historiska and Fotografiska. But there are so many other museums to choose from; there is a museum for every taste and interest. With over 80 museums, Stockholm is one of the highest museums-per-capita cities in the world!
Museum of Dance
You have museums of other cultures and history than Swedish: Jewish, Mediterranean, Ethnography and East Asian. There are museums for specific arts: architecture, dance, silk & weaving, lithography and music & theater. There are even museums for specific interests: toys, policetechnology, naval history, military, post, tobacco and even alcohol (opening in May, 2012). Not to mention, a myriad of art galleries throughout the city! Two of the smaller museums are of special importance this year... the Strindberg Museum and the Sport Museum (Riksidrottsmuseet) as Stockholm is celebrating the 100th anniversary of both the playwright & novelist's death as well as the 1912 Stockholm Olympics.
Mediterranean History Museum
If you want to stick to the big museums, then click here to see earlier blog posts about them and past exhibitions...

March 14, 2012

Michelin Guide 2012

(Edit: This is the list for 2012, for the current guide... click here!) 
This year's Michelin Guide announcement was a bit anticlimactic: there is no change in the awarded stars from last year! No restaurant gained a star, nor did any lose a star. Many were wondering if Stockholm would finally get a three star restaurant. They would... if it was up to me. I think that they are worth a special journey! Maybe next year. There are also a few new restaurants that might gain a star and make the list next year. Jonas? AG? Ekstedts? Gastrologik? We'll see! In the meantime here is the complete list for 2012:

Two Stars:

One Star:
For those of you on a tighter budget, Michelin Guide has another category called Bib Gourmand that is awarded to restaurants with "good food at moderate prices". And in this list there is a change from last year... 

March 10, 2012

Kaknästornet

On my outing last week to Thielska Galleriet, I took advantage of the great weather and made a stop at the famous TV tower Kaknästornet (Kaknäs Tower) to enjoy the views. Completed in 1967, this 170 meter high (including antenna) tower was the tallest building in Sweden up until the year 2000. It is often depicted as part of the Stockholm skyline along with the Globe arena and the city hall.
To be honest, the building has a bit of a retro Soviet look to it these days and its location, on the outskirts of the city, make it a little problematic to get to. I wouldn't make a special trip just to the tower, but if you are in the area then it is worth the visit. For example, there are several museums and art galleries in the area as well as great nature walks (in the surrounding Djurgården city park) that can be combined with a visit to Kaknästornet. The tower has amazing views from the top... Stockholm to the west and south and the beginning of the archipelago to the east. The entrance fee is 45 SEK for adults and 20 SEK for children between 7 and 15. There is both a restaurant and a café/bar at the top. If you have a table reserved in the restaurant then there is no entrance fee. They also have a souvenir shop on the bottom level. The best way to get there is by taking either bus 69 or 69K from Norrmalmstorg.

When I was there it was late afternoon and the sun made it hard to take pictures of the city, so I concentrated on the views to the east instead! Pictured above is the entrance to Stockholm harbour with the quaint Fjäderholmarna Islands (beginning of the archipelago).

March 8, 2012

The White Guide- 2012


(EDIT: This is the list for 2012, for 2014... click here!)
This week the prestigious White Guide (ultimate Swedish guide to the best restaurants) announced the winners for the best restaurants in Sweden (in several categories). Here are the winners from Stockholm:

They also have a list of the best top restaurants in Sweden (international master class). The following restaurants from Stockholm made the list:

7. F12
8. Jonas

Here is the list of last year's winners if you want to make a comparison. Stay tuned for the Michelin Guide announcement next week!
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March 1, 2012

Thielska Galleriet (Thiel Gallery)

Yesterday was a gorgeous spring day and I took the opportunity and headed out to the art museum Thielska Galleriet. The building was once the private residence of banker and art collector Ernst Thiel (it was acquired by the state in 1924). These days it is an art museum that contains Thiel's private collection of, mainly, turn-of-the-century Scandinavian artists... Edvard Munch, Anders Zorn, August Strindberg, Carl Larsson, Bruno Liljefors and others. There are also some works by non-Swedish artists like Gauguin and Lautrec.
I went to see the current exhibition of Eugéne Jansson, which is in celebration of what would have been the artist's 150th birthday and contains over 30 works of art with some beautiful depictions of Stockholm at the turn of the last century. This is actually a dual exhibition, in cooperation with nearby Prince Eugene's Waldemarsudde which is also having an exhibition of Jansson's work called "Blue Dusk and Naked Athletes". The exhibition at Thielska runs until May 6th and the one at Waldemarsudde runs until June 10th.
Thielska Galleriet is located out at the end of the island of Djurgården right at the entrance to Stockholm harbor. It is a little bit outside of the city, but well worth the trip. Bus 69 will take you the whole way there. You can catch the bus in front of the square Norrmalmstorg in the downtown area and the trip takes a little less than 20 minutes. The area around the museum is a city park and a favorite recreation area for Stockholmers... great for a stroll in the sunshine.