December 30, 2015

Winter Art Exhibitions 2016

Ivan Aguéli, African landscape, ca 1914 © Ivan Aguéli Photo: Moderna Museet
The year is almost over and 2016 looms before us. If you are in Stockholm over the New Year holiday, here are some good tips on what to expect. But if you are busy planning an upcoming trip to Stockholm, then perhaps this post will help you decide what to do during your visit. Here is a list of exhibitions going on during the winter months in the main art museums and galleries.

Ellen Thesleff "Florence"
Source: Signe och Ane Gyllenberg's foundation, Helsinki.
As I mentioned, these are the main art museums and galleries. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me directly for more informatiion about smaller galleries. Art not your cup of tea? Here is a list of the main historical museums in Stockholm.


December 22, 2015

Holiday Opening Hours for Department Stores and Shopping Centers 2015/2016

The shopping street Drottninggatan,
photo by Henrik Trygg/mediabank.visitstockholm.com 
(EDIT: blog from 2015, click here for updated information) Christmas is almost upon us! I have already written about special opening hours for museums and sightseeing tours. Now for those of you who are interested in a little holiday shopping. Stores and boutiques all, of course, have their own individual opening hours during the holidays. 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. Interested in Christmas markets? The last day for these markets is December 23rd. Click here for a full list of markets and their opening dates/hours.
  • 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 on 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 on December 31st and closed on January 1st.
  • Mall of Scandinavia: (newly opened) open from 10am to 10pm on the days leading up to Christmas, 10am to 4pm on December 24th, closed on December 25th, open from 10am to 4pm on December 31st and closed on January 1st. Keep in mind that certain parts of the mall (restaurants, cinema) may have different opening hours. My recent visit.
  • Mood shopping center: Open 10am to 9pm on the days leading up to Christmas, 10am to 2pm on December 24th, closed on December 25th, open from 10am to 6pm on December 31st and closed on January 1st.
  • Gallerian shopping center:  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 4pm on 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 December 24th, closed on December 25th, open from 10am to 2pm on 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 December 24th, closed on December 25th, open from 10am to 4pm on December 31st and closed on January 1st.
  • Barkarby Outlets: closed on December 24th, 25th, 31st and January 1st.
  • Östermalms Saluhall (indoor food market): closed on Sundays and December 24th, 25th, 26th, 27th (a Sunday) 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!
Christmas splendour at NK.
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.

December 15, 2015

New Year's Eve in Stockholm- 2015!

(EDIT: this post is from 2015, click here for updated information) New Years is just around the corner! If you are visiting the city during this holiday, 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. And it seems that these grow in number from year to year. 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. Click here for a list and more information about gay & lesbian parties on New Year's Eve.
  • 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. Be aware that it is outdoors and the temperatures will probably be below freezing, so dress accordingly! 
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 11, 2015

Museums and Tours During the Holiday Season- 2015/2016

Photo: Cecilia Larsson/imagebank.sweden.se
It is always a little tricky with museums during the holiday season as many close for a few days here and there. However, there is always something open so you don't have to worry about wandering the streets aimlessly. Here is a handy list that 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).


  • Skansen- open every day! Shorter hours on certain days.
  • Vasa Museum- closed on December 23rd, 24th, 25th and January 1st. Closes early (3pm) on Dec 31st. 
  • ABBA The Museum- closed only on December 24th! Otherwise shorter hours (10am to 6pm) between Dec 14th and Jan 6th. 
  • Fotografiska (photography)- closed only on December 24th!
  • Moderna (modern art)- closed Mondays and December 24th, 25th, 31st and January 1st.
  • Center for Architecture & Design- closed Mondays and December 24th, 25th, 31st and January 1st.
  • Nobel Museum- closed Mondays and December 24th, 25th, 31st and January 1st.
  • Historiska (history)- closed Mondays and December 24th, 25th and 31st. Extra open on Monday, Dec 28th.
  • Nordiska (nordic traditions)- closed on December 24th, 25th and 31st. 
  • Medeltids (medieval history)- closed Mondays and December 24th, 25th, 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 Mondays and December 24th and 25th.
  • Livrustkammaren (royal armoury)- closed Mondays and December 24th, 25th, 26th, 31st and January 1st.
  • Konstakademien (Royal Acad. of Fine Arts)- closed Mondays and December 24th, 25th and 31st.
  • Millesgården (art museum)- closed Mondays and December 24th and 25th
  • Thielska Galleriet (art museum)- closed Mondays and December 24th, 25th, 26th, 31st and January 1st.
  • Liljevalchs (art museum)- closed Mondays and December 24th, 25th, 31st and January 1st. Extra open on Monday, Dec 28th.
  • Waldemarsudde (art museum)- closed Mondays and December 24th, 25th and 31st.
  • Drottningholm Palace- closed between the 15th & 30th of December. Open daily between December 31st and January 6th (Swedish school's winter break). 
  • Naturhistoriska (natural history)- closed Mondays and December 23rd & 24th. Extra open Monday, Dec 28th.
Photo:  Henrik Trygg/imagebank.sweden.se
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 and, as the name suggests, they are free. So, with this list you should be able to keep yourself culturally active every day of your holiday visit in Stockholm.

December 6, 2015

"Kockarnas Kock": Stockholm's Best Chefs and Restaurants According to Other Chefs.

From my recent visit to Oaxen Slip.
For the 24th year in a row, the magazine Restaurangvärlden has come out with a list of the best chefs and restaurants in Sweden called Kockarnas Kock ("chef's chef"). What makes this list interesting is that the jury is made up of 100 of the best chefs in Sweden. Who better than a chef to know which restaurants are great? While the list includes chefs and restaurants in all of Sweden, here is a list showing how chefs and restaurants from greater Stockholm fared. The full list can be found in the link above.

From my recent visit to Volt.
Best chefs (this year's ranking, name, restaurant and last year's ranking)

3. Sayan Isaksson, Esperanto (1).
4. Mathias Dahlgren, Mathias Dahlgren (2).
5. Björn Frantzén, Restaurant Frantzén (4).
6. Magnus Ek, Oaxen Krog & Slip, (7).
7. Jacob Holmström, Gastrologik (9).
8. Paul Svensson, Fotografiska (12).
10. Tom Sjöstedt, Lilla Ego (11).
11. Fredrik Johnsson, Volt (new!).
12. Stefan Ekengren, Görvälns Slott in Järfälla (15).
13. Daniel Höglander, Aloë in Älvsjö (new!).
14. Adam Dahlberg, Adam & Albin Matstudio (10).
15. Fredrik Eriksson, Långbro Värdshus in Långbro (new!).
16. Johan Jureskog, AG (14).
17. Olle T Celton, Babette (new!).
18. Petter Nilsson, Spritmuseum (new!).
19. Stefano Catenacci, Operakällaren (new!).
20. Mikael Einarsson, Pubologi (8).

Best restaurants (this year's ranking, name and last year's ranking).

3. Restaurant Frantzén (2).
4. Esperanto (3).
5. Mathias Dahlgren Matbaren (5).
6. Oaxen Krog (6).
7. Gastrologik (16.).
8. Lilla Ego (8).
9. Volt (new!).
10. Mathias Dahlgren Matsalen (11).
11. Operakällaren (18).
12. Ekstedt (9).
13. Shibumi (new!).
14. Oaxen Slip (17).
15. Punk Royale (new!).
16. Aloë in Älvsjö (new!).
17. Fotografiska (new!).
18. Restaurang AG (12).
19. Spritmuseum (20).
20. Pubologi (new!).

From my recent visit to Spritmuseum.
As you can see, Stockholm chefs and restaurants occupy nearly the entire lists... just the two top spots go to chefs & restaurants outside of the city. And they are pretty far out in the countryside. These honors go to Daniel Berlin of Daniel Berlin (best chef and 2nd best restaurant) and Magnus Nilsson of Fäviken Magasinet (2nd best chef and best restaurant). Tommy Myllymäki did take 9th place in the chefs\ list. Interesting to note that he will be opening a restaurant in Stockholm next year. Stay tuned! Please keep in mind that these restaurants are all popular and generally require advance booking. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me if you need help in reserving a table. Click here for other restaurant lists and guides.
From a visit to Operakällaren.

December 2, 2015

Christmas Overview: 2015

It is that time of the year... the holiday season is upon us! In the coming weeks I will be posting articles about the Lucia festivities, restaurants/stores/museums during the holiday season, winter activities and other good-to-know information. But I thought I would start off with an overview of what to expect if you are visiting in Stockholm during this time of year. I should have posted this last week, but I just returned from a 10 day vacation in NYC. 
NK department store.
It is probably best to begin with looking at the calendar. The traditional start to the Swedish holiday season is skyltsöndag (basically "store window Sunday"). This is the Sunday where the big department stores, like NK, unveil their holiday window displays. Once upon a time, this happened on the Sunday two weeks before Christmas. But these days it has been moved up in the calendar... to the sixth Sunday before Christmas (Sweden is just like every other country in the Western world- it feels like X-mas comes earlier and earlier every year). This year it is November 15th.
Part of last year's Christmas light display...
The next date of note in the holiday calendar is Saturday, November 21st. This is the day when the official city Christmas lights are lit. Over 30 streets, squares and bridges in downtown Stockholm are lit up using hundreds of thousands of LED lights (one of the biggest lighting projects in Europe). This is also the day when the main Christmas market opens for business in Gamla Stan (old town). It is open every day until December 23rd. It was recently named as one of the top 10 markets in Europe.
Christmas market in Gamla Stan.
Next up... Sunday, November 29th. This is the first Sunday of Advent (fourth Sunday before Christmas). This marks the core, four week, traditional holiday season in Sweden. It is during this time that the majority of Christmas markets are open. For example, the Skansen Christmas market is always open on the four weekends before Christmas. It is also during this time when many restaurants in the city serve the traditional Christmas meal: julbord.
Boat cruise with traditional julbord, offered by Strömma
Another important date... December 13th. This is Lucia (or St Lucy's Day) and is one of the most Swedish of holidays. I will write more about this later, but in the meantime you can read my article from last year or just watch this video to get the gist! Not a holiday event, but if you are coming to Stockholm this week... keep in mind that December 10th is when the Nobel Prize Ceremony is held in Stockholm. While the general public really can't take part in the Nobel Awards, it is good to know that it is going on as the city will be full of invitees and traffic can be a bit chaotic in the evening.
One of the many Lucia processions in the city...
December 24th & 25th... what everything has been leading up to! Most restaurants are closed (except hotel restaurants and a select few), stores close early on the 24th and are closed on the 25th and many museums are closed. More detailed info to come later... but you can click here and here to read information from last year.
The main Christmas tree, located at Skeppsbron.
What happens after the 25th? Well, to start with... the 26th is a bank holiday (2nd Day of Christmas). But otherwise, the traditional Christmas celebrations come to a grinding halt. No Christmas markets to visit or julbord to eat. To be honest, Swedes are totally X-mased out by this point. Every year, without fail, I do get visitors asking me during this time where they can go to partake in traditional Christmas celebrations. Impossible without a time machine! What does continue are the more commercial aspects of the holiday. The lights and decorations, for example, traditionally stay up another 20 days until Tjugondag Knut. The days between Christmas and New Years are called mellandagarna ("middle days") and are, like in many other countries a huge time for the retail industry with lots of mega sales... called mellandagsrea here in Sweden.
Fingers crossed for a white Christmas this year..
This is just an overview to help you start planning your visit to Stockholm. I will be writing more detailed articles as we get closer to the holiday season. In the meantime you can read some of my posts from last (many linked above) or, if you are going to be staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me directly for more information.