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 www.kulturfestivalen.se 
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.

August 7, 2015

Restaurant Oaxen Slip

Make sure you look up!
Another restaurant visit! My parents are visiting and my mom was celebrating a big birthday, so I booked us in at a restaurant I have been wanting to try for a long time: Oaxen. The restaurant used to be located on an island in the southern archipelago called Oaxen (hence the name). In those days it was ranked as one of the top 50 restaurants in the world five years in a row. But the restaurateurs, Magnus Ek and Agneta Green, decided to move closer to Stockholm... so in 2013 they opened Oaxen Krog & Slip, located on the island of Djurgården.

Big windows facing the waterfront...
Oaxen is actually two restaurants in one: the more fine-dining Krog and the more casual Slip. The move to Stockholm proved to be successful... within a year Krog had received their first Michelin star and this year they received their second star. The Slip has also been named a Bib Gourmand restaurant by the Michelin Guide, which are for restaurants with "exceptional good food at moderate prices".
Zucchini and bleak roe "snack".
We were a larger group dining and we chose Oaxen Slip for our dinner. The setting, along the water on Djurgården, is beautiful and has a secluded feeling. It would have been even more beautiful if it hadn't been pouring rain that evening. Oh well. The name "slip" means, as in English, where you park a sailboat. The sailing ships hanging from the restaurant's ceiling gives credence to the name (besides its waterfront location).
Dessert. Mmmm...
The dinner was delicious and the menu is almost entirely made up of Nordic produce. When we were there they were featuring a special summer menu. I started with something from their "snack" menu... deep fried zucchini with bleak roe. Yummy! For the main course I took the pork from the Nibble Farm with herb dressing, arugala and apples. You have the option of adding side courses (vegetables, starches, dips). It wasn't really necessary in my opinion as you get enough food with your dish, but perhaps if you don't have a starter or appetizer? For dessert I took the brownie with salt fudge ice cream. It was all very good! I will have to try the Krog soon...
A very rainy waterfront.
The easiest way to get to Oaxen Krog & Slip from the Rival Hotel is by taking the Djurgård Ferry from nearby Slussen. The ferries depart quite regularly and the boat trip just takes 10 minutes. When you arrive at Djurgården it is only a short walk to the restaurant. If you are in the downtown area, you can take the street car/tram out to the restaurant. Click here for my other restaurant visits/recommendations.

The restaurant on a sunnier evening. Photo provided by Oaxen Krog.


August 4, 2015

Restaurant Burger & Lobster

Star-chef Pontus Frithiof has been making big changes at his flagship restaurant Pontus!. Earlier this year he announced that they were closing the fine dining portion of the restaurant and Burger & Lobster was moving in. Burger & Lobster is a popular, higher-end chain of restaurants with locations in the UK and NYC (and now Stockholm).
View from Pocket...
The concept of the restaurant is pretty simple... as the name suggests, it is burger and/or lobster. No menus and no fuss! The wait staff explain the concept and your choices after you have been seated. You have the choice of a burger, a lobster (grilled or steamed) or a brioche topped with steamed lobster and a Japanese mayonnaise. Or you can opt for a combo plate for 2 persons. With this option, each person gets a burger and then either a half lobster or half a brioche. This also comes with a choice of desserts. Of course we tried this option... and it is a lot of food (includes salad and fries) and very good! A slightly different take on the surf & turf concept.
Combo plate with a burger and half a grilled lobster.
As I mentioned, the restaurant is located in the former Pontus! dining room on the basement level. You enter from the street Norrlandsgatan and through a nice bar & lounge area. Pontus still has the casual, rustic French restaurant Pocket next door. To get to the restaurant from the Rival Hotel, you can either take the subway 4 stations to Östermalmstorg (red line), exiting to Stureplan or else a 7-8 minute taxi ride. Click here for more restaurant recommendations.
No menu at the table, but they did have one hanging in the restaurant.