December 26, 2013

New Year's Eve in Stockholm- 2013!

(EDIT: this is an old article, click here for current information) Christmas is finally over... and New Years is just around the corner! If you are visiting the city this coming weekend, then I hope you have already finalized your New Year's Eve plans because it's getting down to the wire. Here are some things you should be aware of when making your plans:
  • Restaurants- Many restaurants are closed on the 31st. The ones that are open generally serve a traditional multiple course menu called nyårssupé and nothing else. It can be anywhere between 3 and 9 courses and cost anywhere between 500 and 1200 SEK, depending on the restaurant. This means that going out for a simple dinner or quick bite will probably be problematic unless you are looking at pubs or fast food establishments. These dinners are quite popular and the restaurants tend to fill up, so don't leave it to the last minute! Most of these restaurants have two seatings during the evening... an early (5-8:30pm) and a late (8:30pm-12am). There are a select few that serve both the nyårssupé alongside a regular menu. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact us as soon as possible to make arrangements!
  • Nightclubs- Here it is important to plan ahead as well. Tickets to the parties at the nightclubs can be pre-purchased in advance. If you don't pre-purchase a ticket, you can end up standing in long lines in subzero temperatures! Here are some of the larger nightclub parties this year: Stureplansgruppen (an umbrella group that runs several nightclubs), Café OperaSödra Teatern and Berns. These are the more posh nightclub venues... there are, of course, many smaller parties going on at different venues.
  • Taxis- These are notoriously hard to catch on New Year's Eve... especially after 11pm. This is because of the huge demand. Most taxi companies don't accept prebookings because they don't want their cars tied up waiting for people who don't show up. You don't have to worry about being stranded though... the subways will be running all night long. If nighttime subways aren't your thing, just make sure that you are within walking distance of your hotel. Stockholm isn't that big so this isn't that hard to accomplish. And remember... be careful when catching taxis in Sweden!
  • Fireworks- Locals will be setting off their own fireworks throughout the city, especially in the parks & squares and at midnight. The official fireworks will be shot off above the harbor (eastern side of Gamla Stan). The best places to see the fireworks are along the waterfront, by the City Hall, on Fjällgatan or Monteliusvägen. Some places will be quite crowded, especially the Slussen area which will be cordoned off from car traffic, but you will still be able to see the fireworks!
  • Skansen- Once again, this is the center of Swedish holiday tradition. This is the spectacle that is televised and shown around all of Sweden... kind of like the Swedish version of the ball dropping at Times Square. There will be music and speeches and the official countdown. Skansen is also a great place to see the official fireworks! To be honest, I'm not sure how much someone who doesn't speak Swedish will get out of the event as most of the program is in Swedish... but it is an option. The program starts at 11:10pm and ends at 00:10am.
The Rival Hotel- our restaurant is already fully booked on this evening! However... our bars are open until 2am and there is no entrance fee (rare on this evening). There will be a DJ playing and the square in front of the hotel is a popular place for the locals to light their fireworks.

December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!!!

A picture of part of Stockholm's annual holiday light display... this one located at Sergels Torg. I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!

December 21, 2013

Church Services on Christmas and New Year's 2013

Storkyrkan at the top...
And finally, after info about restaurants, museums and shopping during the holidays, church services! The two main Christian denominations in Sweden are Lutheran and Catholicism. There are, of course, many churches spread throughout Stockholm... but I will concentrate on the larger churches (more likely to have services in languages other than Swedish). If you are staying at the Rival Hotel and are interested in other churches or religions (Judaism, Islam, etc;), come speak with us directly.

Storkyrkan (Lutheran)- Located in Gamla Stan.
-December 24th: 4:30pm Christmas music and prayer. 11pm Midnight Mass (in Swedish).
-December 25th: 07:00am traditional early morning service called Julotta. 11:00am High Mass (both in Swedish).
-January 1st: 11:00am High Mass (in Swedish). 4:00pm New Year's Concert.

St Jacobs Kyrka (Lutheran)- Located next to Kungsträdgården.
-December 24th: 5:00pm Christmas service ("with lots of music and singing. No communion").

Katolska Domkyrkan (Catholic)- Main Catholic Church in Sweden. Located on Södermalm. there are plenty more service times, the ones listed below are "highlights".
-December 24th: 8:00am mass in Swedish, 9:00pm mass in Italian, 10:00am mass in Croatian and a midnight mass with Bishop Anders Aborelius (at midnight!).
-December 25th: 8:45am mass in Italian, 11:00am Pontifical High Mass with Bishop Anders Aborelius, 2:00pm mass in Swedish, 5:00pm mass in Polish and 6:30pm mass in Swedish.
-December 31st: 5:00pm Thanksgiving Mass with "Te Deum".
-January 1st: 11:00am High Mass (language?), 12:30pm mass in Croatian, 2:00pm mass in Spanish and 6:30pm mass in Swedish.

St Eugenia (Catholic)- Located next to Kungsträdgården. Below are also just "highlights", many other days and times for masses. But the good thing to know is that St Eugenia is the place to go for Catholic mass in English.
-December 24th: 7:30pm Christmas prayer, 8:00pm open house, 10:00pm Christmas mass (Swedish) and midnight Christmas mass (in English).
-December 25th: 11:00am High Mass (Swedish) and 6:00pm High Mass (English).
-December 31st: 4:00pm Year's end mass (Swedish).
-January 1st: 11:00am High Mass (Swedish) and 6:00pm High Mass (English).

I am now off for a week... spending the holidays with family in northern Sweden (Luleå). I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!
Riddarholmen Church- no services, but pretty to look at!

December 18, 2013

Stores and Subways on Christmas & New Year's 2013

NK with holiday decorations!
(EDIT: blog article from 2014, click here for updated information) So far I've covered restaurants and museums during the holidays... now on to stores and public transportation! Stores and boutiques all, of course, have their own individual opening hours. 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 to 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 to 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 11am to 5pm 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.
  • 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.
Public transportation runs a little differently during the holidays... several days on a Saturday schedule (less frequently) or Sunday schedule (even less frequently). Of specific interest is the night schedule for the subways. Here are the subway's hours on specific days:
  • December 24th- 10 minute traffic until 3pm, half hour traffic in the evening and no traffic at night.
  • December 25th- "Sunday schedule" starting at 6am, including the night (25-26th).
  • December 26th- "Sunday schedule" all day, however no traffic at night (26-27th).
  • December 31st- "Saturday schedule" all day and all night (31-1st).
  • January 1st- Regular "Sunday schedule". 
One note for busses: they cordon offthe area around Slussen from motor vehicle traffic starting at 8:30pm on December 31st (until after midnight). This is because of the fireworks and that people tend to congregate there. This means that several bus lines going through Slussen will be rerouted. If you are out at night and there are no subways and you don't want to deal with busses... you can take a taxi. But be aware of which taxi you take! We recommend Taxi Stockholm. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact us if you need help in organizing a taxi. It is notoriously hard to get a taxi late on New Year's Eve and the taxi companies don't accept pre bookings on this date... so you might want to plan on walking or taking the subway (just in case). 

December 17, 2013

Countdown to Christmas- Part 3!

Christmas tree inside NK...
I had a wonderful weekend showing visiting relatives around a Christmassy Stockholm. We visited several Christmas markets, saw the window displays at NK, ate a Christmas smogasbord (julbord) at Mr French and took in a Lucia concert at St Jacob's church. All that was missing was some snow!
Lucia procession in St Jacob's church.
I am not writing this just to brag about my weekend... but to pass on a little tip! We did manage also to visit the gingerbread house competition/display at the Center for Architecture & Design. This is an annual competition where three categories of contestants can participate: children under 12, amateur bakers as well as professional designers, bakers and architects. This year's theme is "future forms" and it was great to especially see how some children view the future (very whimsical and creative).
Speaking of children... this is a popular place to visit if you are in Stockholm with kiddies. Especially as the entrance to the exhibit is free! So you can always drag your kids to next-door Moderna (modern art museum) by bribing them with a visit to the gingerbread house display afterwards. The winners have already been determined (after a vote by the public), but all of the designs can be viewed until January 5th.
The Center is located on the island of Skeppsholmen. You can get there from the Rival Hotel by either a nice walk through Gamla Stan and then across the bridge to Skeppsholmen or by taking the Djurgård ferry from Slussen (10 minute trip). Just make sure you tell them that you wish to disembark at Skeppsholmen as they stop there only on request during the low season.

December 14, 2013

Museums During Christmas and New Year's 2013

(EDIT: For this year's information... click here!) Now... on to museums! There is always something open so you don't have to worry about wandering the streets aimlessly. However, many are closed on the major holidays (some more than others) so a list 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). Some museums are closed on Mondays and I have added those dates as well when applicable (Dec. 23rd and 30th this year).

  • Skansen- open every day! Shorter hours on ceratin 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!
  • Skeppsholms Caverns (Bergrummet)- closed on December 24th, 25th, 31st and January 1st.
  • Moderna (modern art)- closed December 23rd, 24th, 25th, 30th, 31st and January 1st.
  • Center for Architecture & Design- closed December 23rd, 24th, 25th, 30th, 31st and January 1st.
  • Nobel Museum- closed December 23rd, 24th, 25th, 30th, 31st and January 1st.
  • Historiska (history)- closed December 23rd, 24th, 25th and 31st. 
  • Nordiska (nordic traditions)- closed on December 24th and 25th. 
  • Medeltids (medieval history)- closed December 23rd, 24th, 25th, 30th, 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 December 23rd, 24th, 25th, 30th, 31st and January 1st.
  • Livrustkammaren (royal armoury)- closed December 23rd, 24th, 25th, 30th, & 31st.
  • Konstakademien (Royal Acad. of Fine Arts)- closed December 24th, 25th and 31st.
  • Millesgården (art museum)- closed December 23rd, 24th, 25th and 30th.
  • Thielska Galleriet (art museum)- closed December 23rd, 24th, 25th, 26th, 30th, 31st and January 1st.
  • Liljevalchs (art museum)- closed December 23rd, 24th, 25th, 30th, 31st and January 1st.
  • Waldemarsudde (art museum)- closed December 23rd, 24th, 25th, 30th, & 31st.
  • Drottningholm Palace- closed between the 15th & 30th of December. Open daily between December 31st and January 6th (Swedish school's winter break). Click here for program.
  • Naturhistoriska (natural history)- closed December 23rd, 24th and 30th.
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 except December 24th and, as the name suggests, they are free. On the other hand, Stockholm Our Way is taking a holiday break... no guided tours between Dec 22nd and Jan 6th. So, with this list you should be able to keep yourself culturally active every day of your holiday visit in Stockholm.
Christmas tree in front of Fotografiska on a snowy day last year!

December 11, 2013

Restaurants During Christmas and New Year's 2013

Over the next two weeks, I will be doing a series of articles detailing which days restaurants, museums, shops and church services are open/closed during the holiday season to help you plan your visit in Stockholm. First up... restaurants!
Chefs at F12 (photo by Wolfgang Kleinschmidt)
Restaurants are a little tricky this time of year. Some restaurants are open every evening, others are just closed on the major holidays while others may be closed for up to three weeks. Christmas Eve (December 24th) is the hardest! Almost all restaurants are closed with the exception of hotel restaurants (like the Rival Bistro) and a scattered few others in Gamla Stan and on Djurgården. Christmas Day is also a bit difficult... though better than the previous day as more restaurants are open for business. Some restaurants may even be closed on Boxing Day (Dec. 26th). Around New Year's you have similar problems: on the 31st many restaurants are closed and the ones that are open generally serve a traditional multiple course set menu, called nyårssupé, and nothing else. There are a select few restaurants that are open and just serve from their regular menu. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me directly for help in reserving tables. And don't wait too long... restaurants tend to fill up (especially on New Year's Eve)! January 1st will find many restaurants closed for business as both staff and patrons are generally hiding under the covers, resting up!
Chef's Table at the Rival Bistro.
As I mentioned earlier... some restaurants close for 2-3 weeks during the holidays. Sadly, for foodies and gourmands, these are generally Michelin star and other high end restaurants. Here is a list of some of the restaurants that are closed for a longer period of time this holiday season:

  • Mathias Dahlgren(Matsalen & Matbaren)- closed from December 22nd through January 6th. 
  • Frantzén- closed from December 22nd through January 6th. 
  • F12- closed from December 22nd through January 12th (open New Year's Eve).
  • Gastrologik- closed from December 22nd through January 6th.
  • Oaxen Krog & Slip- closed from December 22nd through January 8th.
  • Ekstedts- closed from December 22nd through January 8th, with the exception of Dec 26, 27 & 28.
  • Esperanto- closed from December 22nd through January 9th.
  • Lux Day by Day- closed from December 23rd through January 2nd. 
  • Djuret- closed from December 22nd through January 2nd.
  • B.A.R.- closed from December 22nd through January 1st. 
  • Wedholm's Fisk- closed from December 23rd through January 6th. 
  • GQ- closed from December 23rd through January 7th.
  • Jonas- closed December 22nd through January 6th (open New Year's Eve). their Food & Wine Bar is open on Dec 27th & 28th as well as Jan 3rd & 4th.
  • Himlen- closed from December 22nd through January 8th (open on New Year's Eve).
  • Kryp In- closed from December 23rd through January 7th. 
  • Pubologi- closed from December 22nd through January 2nd.
  • Sjögräs- closed from December 22nd through January 7th. 
  • Östermalm's Saluhall (indoor food market and popular place for lunch- no dinner)- closed on December 24th, 25th, 26th and 29th as well as January 1st. 
I have actually compiled a list of 90 Stockholm restaurants and which days they are closed/open during the holidays. So, if you are staying at the Rival Hotel (lucky you!), contact me and I will help you find restaurants for your stay. And I would, of course, be remiss in not mentioning that the Rival Bistro is open every evening... year round!
Esperanto.

December 7, 2013

The Nobel Prizes!

Not only is it the season for Christmas and Lucia... it is Nobel Prize season as well! On December 10th the annual ceremony will be held here in Stockholm to award the prizes for Economy, Medicine, Physics, Chemistry and Literature. The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded seperately in Oslo on the same day.
This weekend and the days leading up to the 10th are busy here in Stockholm with lectures, concerts as well as arriving dignitaries and award recipients. On December 10th the awards will be presented by the Swedish Academy and the King at the Stockholm Concert Hall (Konserthuset)... followed by the famous banquet at City Hall (Stadshuset). To be honest, none of these events are open to the general public. However, there are many other ways to get into the Nobel spirit while you are visiting Stockholm.
Bird's eye view of the ceremony
Copyright © Nobel Media AB 2012 Photo: Alexander Mahmoud
First of all is the Nobel Museum, which is located in Gamla Stan (15 minute walk from the Rival Hotel). Here you can learn about Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite and founder of the Nobel Prizes, as well as the history of the prizes and past winners. They have temporary exhibitions as well... and the current exhibition (opened yesterday) fits right in with the season. Called "Fashion Innovation 3", it features creative interpretations of this year's awards by students from both Beckman's College of Design and the Royal College of Music. Sounds interesting! The exhibition will continue until April 13th, 2014.
Alfred Nobel- the man responsible for it all.
Another option is to visit the City Hall and take a tour of the inside and see the hall where the Nobel banquet is held every year. Tours in English are given (in December) at the top of every hour between 10am and 3pm and taking a tour is the only way to get inside. Be aware that there are no tours on the 9th and 10th of December due to the banquet and the preparations. Having dinner at Den Gyldene Freden is a great way to round off your Nobel visit. It is here that the Swedish Academy, who choose the winners for the Literature Prize, eat dinner every Thursday evening.
City Hall (Stadshuset) at twilight...
Finally... you can do like Swedes traditionally do: view the festivities on TV (mostly to see what the queen and princesses are wearing). Some hardy people do stand in front of the Concert and City Halls to see the royalty, dignitaries and prize winners arrive and depart.
Here you can read about my recent visits to the Nobel Museum, City Hall and Den Gyldene Freden.

December 5, 2013

St Lucia Celebrations!

Photo by Henrik Trygg, Stockholm Visitors Board
(Edit: This is info for 2013, for updated info... click here!)
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 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 three days (Dec 13th to the 15th) with processions, historical reenactments and concerts. The main Lucia concert at Skansen will be on the Solliden stage at 6:30pm. 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.