August 15, 2017

Stockholm Cultural Festival (Kulturfestivalen)

Concert at Gustav Adolfs torg
Photo by Emma Grann/ Studio Emma Svensson
Today, August 15th, is the first day of the Stockholm Cultural Festival (Kulturfestivalen) and it runs all week until Sunday August 20th. This is a large festival with over 600 events on the program and there were 750,000 visitors last year. Best of all... there is no admission and it is all free of charge, with the exception of a few guided walks. On the program you will find all sorts of different forms of culture: music (jazz, opera, classic, rock, pop, etc.), dance, art, literature, theatre, street art, photography and more. Every year they have a theme for the festival and this year it is India. I am guessing that this is due to India celebrating 70 years of independence this year. You will also find food and drink tents there so you can have lunch or dinner without having the leave the festival area.
Festival area at Skeppsbron
Photo by Stockholm Kulturfestival
The festival is in different squares in the downtown area, especially at Skeppsbron, Gustav Adolfs torg, Norrbro, Sergels torg and Karl XII torg. With over 600 events in their program over 6 days, it is a bit hard to list what is going on here in this article. To make it a bit more complicated, the festival website (with online program) is in Swedish, though there is a Google translate function... just click on "Meny" in the top right hand corner. You can download and print some highlight information in English by clicking here. I would also suggest visiting their information tent at the Stockholm Visitor Center and talk to them directly, or stop by and talk to me if you are staying at the Rival Hotel.
Artist group Jhanjhariya with Sunita Singh
Photo by: Kristian Reuter
Two other festivals are going on simultaneously in the city. In Kungsträdgården you have the We Are Sthlm festival which is a festival geared for young adults (13 to 19 years old). Free admission with lots of music and activities! The other festival going on is the outdoor cinema put on by the Stockholm International Film Festival. Every evening this week (Wed through Sun) a film is screened in Rålambshovs Park. Free admission. The movies start at 9pm but there are staff there starting at 6pm selling popcorn, drinks and more. A lot of people take picnic baskets with them. The theme this year is the 1980's! Keep in mind that the movies are all shown in their original languages with Swedish subtitles.

August 12, 2017

Swedish Crayfish Season

Traditional crayfish party (kräftskiva)
Photo by: Carolina Romare/
It is August which means it is the traditional time of the year for Swedes to have crayfish parties (a kräftskiva). The reason this happens in August is that this was historically the only time it was legal to fish for the little critters here in Sweden. These days, due to the high demand, we import them from Turkey, China and the US year-round... but August remains the traditional month to eat crayfish. Crayfish parties generally happen in peoples' homes where friends and family gather, wear funny hats, sit at long tables decorated with paper laterns, drink akvavit snaps and sing drinking songs. It can be a lively evening!
If you are not lucky enough to be invited home to some Swedes for a party, you can still try this Swedish delicacy at a select few restaurants in Stockholm this month. Depending on the restaurant, they either do it as part of a three course set menu or just as a main course. Double check the restaurant's website to see the duration of their crayfish offer (some have crayfish for the whole month while others do it for a week or two). Here are the restaurants I could currently find...

August 9, 2017

My Alternative Top Ten List for Stockholm!

Skokloster castle
There are a plethora of top ten lists to be found online over what to see & do when visiting Stockholm... like this great list from Visit Stockholm. Gamla Stan, Vasa Museum, Skansen, ABBA the Museum are great, but what is there to do if you have already visited these popular attractions/sites or if you want to get off the beaten path? Well, you obviously need an alternative top ten list! These aren't wild & crazy alternatives, just great options that might not have made it into your guidebook or things I feel visitors often overlook. In no particular order...

  1. Skokloster Castle- If you feel like you haven't had your fill of palaces and castles after visiting the Royal Palace and Drottningholm Palace... take a trip out to visit Skokloster Castle, one of the best preserved baroque castles in the world and a monument to Sweden's Age of Power. Boat tours to the castle are available during the summer months, otherwise you can get there with public transportation. 
  2. Skogskyrkogården (Woodland Cemetery)- Just a few subway stops south of central Stockholm you will find this beautiful cemetery designed by famed Swedish architect Gunnar Asplund. It is on the UNESCO World Heritage List due to it being "an outstanding example of the successful application of the 20th-century concept of architecture wholly integrated into its environment". Especially popular to visit on All Saints' Day when people light candles at the graves of loved ones. 
    Skogskyrkogården. Photo by:
    (c) Susanne Hallmann, Kyrkogårdsförvaltningen Stockholms stad
  3. Historiska museet (Swedish Museum of History)- This is a museum that I feel is oddly overlooked by many visitors, even though it is centrally located and has free admission. The museum has several exhibitions on Sweden's history, but of special note is their permanent exhibition on the Vikings. Don't miss the Gold Room where Viking treasures are on display! Interested in Vikings? Click here for more options for getting to know Swedish Viking history while in Stockholm.  
  4. Unusual sightseeing tours- The company Strömma has a wide range of great bus and boat sightseeing options that are very popular with visitors... but why not see Stockholm from a bicycle, vespa or kayak as well? Maybe take a food tour, rooftop tour or wildlife safari? Many of these offer you a more intimate view of the city than, say, a tour bus. 
    Roof top tour!
  5. The Great Synagogue- You will probably visit a church or two while here, like Storkyrkan, Riddarholms Church or even Uppsala Cathedral... but the Great Synagogue is worth a visit as well. During the summer months they have public guided tours of the synagogue and Holocaust memorial (days/times in link above). Private tours are available if booked in advance. You can also visit the memorial on your own on weekdays. Don't miss the monument to the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who saved tens of thousands of Jews in Nazi occupied Hungary, located just a stone's throw from the synagogue. 
  6. Haga Park- Stockholm is famously 1/3 parkland (and 1/3 water and 1/3 city). The most famous park is Djurgården where you will find many popular attractions. However, on the northern outskirts of the city you will find another fantastic park, also filled with attractions (and perhaps less tourists), called Hagaparken. Take a stroll around the lake Brunnsviken, visit the Butterfly House, Copper Tents, Echo temple and Chinese Pagoda. Popular park with locals. Earlier blog article
    The Copper Tents at Haga Park
  7. Sigtuna- Founded in 980, this is Sweden's oldest town and, before the founding of Stockholm (circa 1250), Sweden's most important town. "Where Sweden began" is their tagline. They have quite a few attractions to visit there including churches, castles, museums, runestones and their old town. It takes a little over an hour to get there by public transportation (train and bus), but during the summer you can take a boat tour to the town. Another similar option? Visit the town of Uppsala
  8. Artipelag- This museum, located in the archipelago, is starting to become more well known but is still overlooked by many as it is outside of the city... but this is a great way to combine nature, art, the archipelago and a boat trip. Boat tours there in the summer months, otherwise the museum's own bus (weekends and holidays) or public transportation. Another similar option? Visit the porcelain factory at nearby Gustavsberg
    Photo by Anders Fredriksen
  9. Sven-Harrys Konstmuseum- Stockholm has some great art museums like Fotografiska, Moderna and Millesgården... but there are many less known ones that are definitely worth a visit. One of these is the Sven-Harrys Konstmuseum. Besides interesting temporary exhibitions, you can also visit a replica of Sven-Harry's villa, on the roof of the museum, which houses his own private art collection. An added bonus is that the museum is located in Vasastan, a great neighborhood often overlooked by visitors. 
  10. Hötorgshallen- The most famous indoor food market in Stockholm is Östermalms Saluhall, but there is another great food market called Hötorgshallen, located at Hötorget. While the Östermalms market is upscale and more Swedish, the Hötorgs market is more local and has food from the four corners of the world. Great options for lunch there as well! An added bonus is that there is a fruit and flower market in the square out front (Mondays through Saturdays). 
    Part of the rooftop sculpture garden at Sven-Harrys

August 5, 2017

Restaurant Trattorian

Trattorian on the waterfront promenade
I had my parents visiting me last week and one evening we went out for dinner to celebrate my mother's birthday. As it was a beautiful summer evening and my mother also wanted to have a pre dinner drink at nearby Mälarpaviljongen, I chose a restaurant located on the Kungsholmen waterfront: Trattorian. I wrote about a visit here way back in 2012 when they first opened, thought it might be time for an update.
Trattorian is an Italian, or rustic Tuscan to be more specific, restaurant. The restaurant itself is very pretty and the design does remind you of a nice restaurant in the Tuscan countryside. They have some great tables at the front with open windows facing the waterfront, but they also have really nice comfy booths inside the restaurant. Next door is their sister restaurant/bar Orangeriet which is casual with smaller dishes.
Pasta with half a grilled lobster
The menu is very classic Italian... with antipasti, gourmet pizzas, risotto, pastas as well as main courses (piatti principale) and dishes from the grill. My father had the linguini with shrimps, garlic and chili, my mother had tagliatelle with grilled lobster while I opted for grilled tuna with artichokes and a summer salad. It was all very delicious. I have been there before and tried their pizza which was also very good (they even have dessert pizza with nutella!).
Grilled tuna with artichokes and summer salad
As I mentioned earlier, Trattorian is located on the waterfront of the island Kungsholmen, not too far from City Hall (Stadshuset). The waterfront is one of my favorit places in the city, with parks, walking paths along the water and great views, across the lake, of Södermalm. Very popular place with the locals. To get there from the Rival Hotel, it is about a 10 minute taxi ride, a 20 minute bus ride or else you can take the subway. The closest subway station is Rådhuset on the blue line. Click here for more restaurant recommendations & reviews.
...with comfy booths.
...with great views.

August 2, 2017

Visiting the Stockholm Archipelago on Your Own

Waxholmsbolaget's pier at Strömkajen
Seeing the archipelago is on many visitors' lists of things to do while in Stockholm and, with over 24,000 islands, it is a true natural wonder. I really recommend putting aside a full day to really enjoy the islands... but there are some half day options as well. Strömma offers several boat tours, half to full day, while Cinderella is a good company when you want to visit islands in the outer archipelago, like Sandhamn, Finnhamn and Möja (full day).
Digital signs letting you know the boat, destinations and depature time
A third option is using Waxholmsbolaget which is a company that runs the commuter boats that criss-cross the archipelago and is often used by locals to get to their summer homes. I have written about this company before in one of my most popular articles which is about visiting the town of Vaxholm, but I was at a friend's summer home yesterday and I thought it would be a good opportunity to revisit the subject and do a new article.
Waxholmsbolaget's information office where...
You can think of Waxholmsbolaget as the water busses of the archipelago, helping people travel between islands. Using the bus analogy, the above mentioned Cinderella boats are like the express busses and are recommended if you want to visit the outer archipelago for the day. Waxholmsbolaget is less "express" and great for visiting more off-the-beaten-path islands, doing island hopping or getting to and from the town of Vaxholm. can get maps, brochures, schedules and advice.
Like busses, these boats are also quite inexpensive. Tickets are purchased on board the boats and then shown when disembarking. If you have more time while in Stockholm, they do have the options of 5 or 30 day travel cards which allow you to hop on and off any of their boats. Like busses also, their routes and timetables can be daunting and confusing. However, they do have an online journey planner complete with maps of the different routes along with names of the various docks/stops which should help you plan your travels.
Arriving in town from the archipelago
For more personal help, Waxholmsbolaget does have an information office located on Strömkajen. Here they have a plethora of guides, brochures and time tables as well as agents who can answer questions and give advice. The location on Strömkajen is convenient as this is where the boats arrive and depart from in Stockholm. To get there from the Rival Hotel,  it is a 25 minute walk through the old town, a 7-8 minute taxi ride or else there are regular busses which take about 15 minutes.
Leaving Stockholm...
...for the archipelago...
...where you can hopefully find...
...your own bit of natural bliss.