June 26, 2015

Restaurants Esperanto, Råkultur and Shibumi

The building that houses all three restaurants, once a theatre.
Last week I was invited to a tasting tour of the restaurants Esperanto, Råkultur and Shibumi. Three restaurants, one building and one owner! I have visited Esperanto a couple of times and it is one of Stockholm's top restaurants... so I was eager to see/try the other two. All three restaurants are located in the same building (a former theatre), on different floors, in the downtown area. From the Rival Hotel, it is a 10-12 minutes by taxi or a subway ride to Rådmansgatan (green line).
The community table in Esperanto's French Summer Salon.
Esperanto is the flagship restaurant in this trio and has earned multiple awards. Besides having a star in the Michelin Guide, it has also been named best restaurant in Stockholm for several years now in the White Guide and ranked as 98th best restaurant in the world this year by Restaurant Magazine (guides/lists). They generally offer a 6 or 10 course tasting menu. The cuisine is New Nordic with a twist... the twist being head chef Sayan Isaksson's passion for Japanese cuisine (more evident in the other 2 restaurants). Traditionally Japanese ingredients (shiitake, daikon, miso, dashi, etc.) can be found in various dishes, married beautifully to local produce. This summer, between June 27th and August 4th, they close the main dining room. Instead they will be open in their lounge, which they call their French Summer Salon. Here they can take up to 16 guests, all sitting at a communal table.
Indoor dining room at Råkultur and...
Esperanto and their summer salon are found on the first floor... and on the ground floor you will find Råkultur, their Japanese restaurant. Råkultur means "raw culture" and is a reference to the raw fish used in their sushi and sashimi. The quality and creativity is on point and I can report that many Stockholmers consider Råkultur to have the city's best sushi. They do not accept reservations at Råkultur, with the exception of their Chef's Table, only drop-in guests. During the summer months, they move the restaurant to their outdoor terrace when the weather permits. Because of this, the Chef's Table isn't available. The terrace, with bar, is definitely a very nice place to spend a summer evening...
...outdoor summer terrace.
Shibumi is the newest star in the Esperanto constellation and has already garnered very positive reviews. Located in the basement level, this is their take on a Japanese food bar (an Izakaya). They serve Japanese cuisine, often utilizing local produce, in small to medium sized dishes (perfect to sharing). The restaurant is a bit shrouded in mystery... no sign out front, no obvious entrance and not much information on their website. But this just adds to Shibumi's mystique. When I was there we got to try tempura corn and grilled asparagus with a miso bearnaise. Very good...
Shibumi, their Japanese food bar.

June 23, 2015

Swedenborgsgatan Street

And speaking of pedestrian streets in Stockholm... this is a good time to announce that the City of Stockholm has turned the street Swedenborgsgatan into a pedestrian street. They are doing a trial run this summer to see how it goes. Motor vehicles are only allowed between 6am to 11am.
The reason why I am even mentioning this is that the street is located a stone's throw from the Rival Hotel. The street connects the square Mariatorget, where the hotel is located, with the interior of the Södermalm island. Along the street you will find restaurants and cafés as well as a few boutiques. Also on Swedenborgsgatan are the subway station Mariatorget (red line) and the commuter train station Stockholm Södra. They have put out bright orange benches and added more trees. Hopefully this will be a permanent fixture in our neighborhood...
The square Mariatorget...

June 21, 2015

The Shopping Street Drottninggatan

Drottninggatan, post summer rain storm.
One of Stockholm's most popular streets is Drottninggatan ("Queen street"). This pedestrian street is located in the downtown area of Stockholm, running north to south for almost 2 kilometers. There are many shops and boutiques along this street... though I would say that, with a few exceptions, there are no real unique stores. Most of them are the type that can be found in any Swedish shopping center. H&M, Zara, JC, Stadium, Body Shop, etc. Not that there is anything wrong with that! Besides shopping, it is also a nice street to stroll on and a good way to cross quickly through the city on foot.
Entrance to Centralbadet
There are some key points of interest on or near this street. On the northern end of Drottninggatan you will find the historic spa Centralbadet, with pool, gym, sauna and beauty treatments. Walking south, you cross another popular thoroughfare called Kungsgatan ("king street") which bisects the downtown area west to east. Here, just one block to the east, you will find the square Hötorget. There you have an outdoor fruit, vegetable and flower market Mondays through Saturdays and a flea market on Sundays. There is a also an indoor food market here called Hötorgshallen as well as Konserthuset, home of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and where Nobel Prize ceremony is held every year.
Hötorget square with market and Konserthuset
Continuing south on Drottninggatan, the next point of interest is the Åhléns City department store. This is a popular store and a good place to shop for anything from fashion to interior design to books and movies. Åhlens is located on the intersection of Drottninggatan and Klarabergsgatan. Immediately after you cross Klarabergsgatan you come to the next point of interest... the square Sergelstorg. The sunken square is an iconic Stockholm landmark. In fact, the diagonal checkered design of the tiles is a bit symbolic of the city. On this square you will find Kulturhuset ("house of culture"), Stadsteatern ("city theatre"), the main tourist information center as well as the entrance to main subway hub T-Centralen.
Åhelns department store
Sergels Torg with Kulturhuset to the right.
Drottninggatan continues south a few more blocks, ending at the bridge Riksbron which connects the downtown area with Gamla Stan (old town). But between Riksbron and Gamla Stan, the street takes you first through Riksdagshuset, which is the home of the Swedish Parliament.
The bridge Riksbron crossing over to Riksdagshuset and...
Still feel like walking? What many people don't know is that Drottninggatan is just one of three pedestrian streets, connected to each other, crossing most of central Stockholm. In Gamla Stan, Drottninggatan turns into Västerlånggatan which bisects the old city and ends at Slussen. After crossing over to the island of Södermalm at Slussen, the pedestrian street continues on Götgatan ending at the large square Medborgarplatsen. And Götgatan is only a few blocks from the Rival Hotel!
...Västerlånggatan in Gamla Stan, which connects to...
...Götgatan on Södermalm.

June 19, 2015

Restaurant Brasseriet

Royal Opera House...
A rainy Midsummer's Eve... good time to get caught up on some blog writing. If you are here now, click here for information regarding the Midsummer weekend.
...with entrance to Brasseriet on the waterfront side.
Last Monday I ate lunch with a Concierge colleague and we dined at newly opened Brasseriet. Brasseriet is part of a group of restaurant & bars found in the Royal Opera House (Kungliga Operan). The other two are Strömterrassen ("river terrace") and Guldterrassen ("gold terrace"). These two are located on the second floor of the opera house, through the main entrance, with great views of the palace and parliament building. But back to Brasseriet. This restaurant is located on the ground floor with separate entrance from the Gamla Stan side of the opera house. These should not be confused with the group of bars & restaurants located on the backside of the opera house (all very good as well), including Bakfickan, Michelin star Operakällaren and the nightclub Café Opera. One building, lots of food & entertainment!
Asparagus with parmesan and wheatberry.
Brasseriet was once the location of a smaller café, now renovated and transformed into an intimate restaurant. The locale is gorgeous, with beautiful, intricate pillars and stucco decorated ceilings. It is not a large restaurant, but they do have a small outdoor terrace at the entrance when the weather is nice. In the evenings you have great views of the lit up palace across the water.
Pork belly with cauliflower and beans
The cuisine is classic, though not traditional, Swedish. By that I mean they use classic Swedish produce, but not traditional Swedish dishes. The menu is made up of medium sized dishes. They recommend 2 to 3 dishes per person, depending on how hungry you are. During lunch they also have a dish of the day as well as weekly fish and vegetarian dishes. This is what we opted for... I took the green asparagus with parmesan and my colleague had the pork belly with cauliflower and beans. Very good!
Old world ambiance.
The Royal Opera House is located on the square Gustav Adolfs Torg, in the downtown area (just across the water from the old town- Gamla Stan). It is about a 30 minute walk from the Rival Hotel or a 5-6 minute taxi ride. The closest subway station is Kungsträdgården (blue line). Click here for a collection of my restaurant reviews...
Sign at opera entrance with information about their restaurants.

June 12, 2015

Royal Wedding this Saturday!

H.R.H. Prince Carl Philip and Miss Sofia Hellqvist
 Photo: Mattias Edwall, The Royal Court, Sweden
This Saturday, June 13th, the wedding between HRH Prince Carl Philip of Sweden and Miss Sofia Hellqvist will take place in Stockholm. He is one of the King's three children and the final one to get married. His older sister, the Crown Princess, got married back in 2010 and his younger sister got married 2 years ago. In other words, Stockholm is getting pretty used to holding royal weddings!
The Royal Chapel, The Royal Palace
Photo: Alexis Daflos, The Royal Court
If you are visiting this weekend, here are some tips on how to take part in the festivities. The wedding itself will take place in the Royal Chapel at the Royal Palace in Gamla Stan and will start at 4:30pm. After the ceremony, the newlyweds will travel around the downtown area in the horse drawn carriage. This is expected to start at 5:30pm and take approximately 25 minutes. Click here for the parade route. It is expected to be glorious weather and there should be a lot of people lining the streets to wish the new royal couple well. If you want to see them, the best places will be by the Palace along the waterfront, at Slottsbacken or Nybroplan in the city. Unfortunately, these will also be the most crowded. For less of a crowd, take a spot on a street along the parade route. When the couple return to the Palace after the parade, there will be a 21 gun salute fired from Skeppsholmen. That evening there will be a party at the Palace for invited guests and will feature some of Sweden's top pop stars like Avicii and Icona Pop. If you are not invited, don't worry... the wedding, parade and festivities will be shown on Swedish TV all day starting at 3pm. Click here for The Local's guide to the wedding.
Norrbro, part of the parade route. Good place to stand?
Not interested at all in the royal wedding? Then just keep in mind that there will be some traffic problems. Not only during the parade itself, but also on Friday evening and most of Saturday as dignataries and visiting royalty are escorted to and fro through the city. Another good thing to know is that parts of the Royal Palace will be closed in the days before and after the wedding and will be completely closed on Saturday. Avoid bus sightseeing tours and go for the boat tours instead. Here you will find a calendar of all events and festivals going on this summer.

June 5, 2015

A Taste of Stockholm festival and the Swedish National Holiday

One of my favorite Stockholm festivals is going on this week: A Taste of Stockholm (Smaka På Stockholm in Swedish). The festival started yesterday (June 4th) and runs through Sunday (June 7th). This is an annual, popular restaurant/food festival and this year the festival is actually celebrating its 24th birthday. The festival is held in the Kungsträdgården park in central Stockholm. Within the festival you will find around 30 different restaurants and food trucks, representing a wide variety of cuisines... from Swedish to Vietmanese to Peruvian. Besides the restaurants, you also have a food market (salutorg) as well as beer/wine tents. Free admission.
There is also plenty of entertainment at the festival. They have live music performances on the main stage all day and evening... jazz, gospel, rock, opera and pop. Something for everyone! Besides music, there will also be cooking demonstrations as well as chef duels on the main stage. We are proud to say that the Rival Hotel's head chef, Håkan Carlsson, will be one of the dueling chefs on Friday evening (5pm). Click here for the schedule (Google Translate button in the top right hand corner). The festival is open every day between 11am and 11:30pm (closes at 10pm on Sunday) so it is a great place to stop by for lunch or dinner... or perhaps just a drink and snack, listen to some music and do some people watching?
The Swedish flag flying at Skansen www.skansen.se
This Saturday, June 6th, is the Swedish National Holiday. It is actually a minor holiday in the Swedish calendar... not as big of a celebration as the Fourth of July in the US, Bastille Day in France or Syttende Mai in Norway. Smaller shops might be closed and liquor stores definitely will be closed. Otherwise all museums and sightseeing tours are open/run as normal. If you do want to get a bit of the Swedish tradition with this day, head to Skansen, which is located on Djurgården. There will be concerts, flag waving and folk dancing going on throughout the day and in the evening the King & Queen will be arriving (procession from the Royal Palace) after which there will be speeches, a flag ceremony, performances and live music. Another good place to visit on this day is the Royal Palace, which will have free admission today as well as some special events. Prince Carl Philip will be at the changing of the guards at 12:15... probably one of his last appearances as a single man before getting married next week.
Arriving in Stockholm later this summer? Click here for a calendar of festivals and events, and click here for the ultimate summer guide.

May 27, 2015

Stockholm Marathon, Harness Races (Elitloppet) and more...

This coming weekend (May 29th-31st) is one of the craziest in the Stockholm calendar with a couple of big events happening at the same time. If you are visiting this weekend and none of them appeal to you... remember that you still have to consider that these events mean lots of people in the city (full hotels and restaurants) and traffic problems.
Marathon runners on "Strömbron"
Photo by Rickard Forsberg
First off, we have the 31st annual Stockholm Marathon happening on Saturday. This is a huge event with almost 21,000 runners representing 101 countries. Both the start and finish lines are at Stadion (the classic 1912 Olympic stadium). The race starts at 12 noon and the course takes racers through the scenic streets and parks of downtown Stockholm (two laps). This of course means major road closures throughout the city for most of Saturday. To avoid any problems... stick to walking, subways or ferries to get around on this day. Wherever you go in downtown Stockholm on Saturday, you are bound to see racers and people lining the streets. Take the time to stop and cheer the runners on! It is easy to get from the Rival Hotel to the stadium. It is just five stops away on the subway (red line). If you are running in the marathon, public transportation is free for you... just show your racing bib or registration.
"Univers de Pan" at Solvalla
Phot by Lars Jakobsson Kanal 75
Secondly, we have Elitloppet going on all weekend. This is one of the largest harness (horse) races in the world and attracts over 50,000 visitors to the Solvalla race track. The track is located a little outside the city center, so you might be oblivious that races are actually going on if you aren't a harness enthusiast... though you will notice it at hotels, restaurants and bars in the city. If you are interested, there are 40 races going on between the 29th and 31st with the main race (Elitloppet) happening on Sunday, May 31st. Tickets can be purchased through their website linked above.
Runners passing Stockholm City Hall.
Photo by Rickard Forsberg.
Thirdly, this weekend is the infamous lönehelg ("pay weekend"). Most Swedes get paid on the 25th of every month and the first weekend following the 25th tends to be notoriously busy in bars and restaurants... filled with Swedes with pay checks burning holes in their pockets. Cruise ship season has started as well and several big cruise ships are due in this weekend. And to end it all, Sunday is Mother's Day here in Sweden! So, all of this means you really should book restaurants for this weekend in advance. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me directly for help.

May 23, 2015

Midsummer Weekend- 2015

Midsummer at Skansen,
photo by: Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se
It is a little less than a month before Midsummer weekend here in Sweden. This year it falls on June 19th through 21st with Midsummer's Eve on Friday and Midsummer's Day on Saturday. This is arguably the biggest holiday in Sweden... on par with Christmas as a holiday celebrated with family and friends. It is a very old holiday, celebrating the summer solstice, with roots going back to Sweden's pagan past. Here is a handy video that explains the holiday! Unfortunately, most tourists are taken by surprise every year as parts of the city can resemble a ghost town with many Stockholmers heading to the countryside to celebrate. But don't worry... as long as you are aware of the holiday, there are still lots to see and do. Most places geared for tourists tend to be open or at least partially open. Here are some tips on what is open/closed and what to expect:

Museums-

  • Skansen- open every day, all weekend.
  • Vasa Museum- open every day, all weekend.
  • Fotografiska (photography)- closed on Friday, open Saturday & Sunday.
  • ABBA the Museum- open every day, all weekend.
  • Royal Palace- open every day, all weekend.
  • Drottningholm Palace- open every day, all weekend.
  • Moderna (modern art)- closed Friday, open Saturday & Sunday.
  • Nobel (Alfred Nobel and the Nobel Prizes)- closed Friday, open Saturday & Sunday.
  • Nordiska (nordic culture)- closed Friday, open Saturday & Sunday.
  • Historiska (history)- closed Friday & Saturday, open Sunday.
  • Medeltidsmuseet (medieval)- closed Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
  • Spritmuseum (drinkable spirits)- closes at 4pm on Friday, closed Saturday, open Sunday.

If you are travelling with children (or are young at heart) both the amusement park Gröna Lund and Junibacken, the home of Pippi Longstocking and her friends, are open all weekend.

Restaurants-

Here is where you can get into a little trouble. Many restaurants are closed for the whole weekend, while others will be closed at least on Friday. Higher-end, Michelin star restaurants are almost all closed Friday through Monday. Most hotel restaurants are open to the general public (like the Rival Bistro) all weekend. There are also a few other restaurants that are open during Midsummer... your best luck will be with hotel restaurants, places in Gamla Stan as well as restaurants like Hard Rock Café. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me as soon as possible for help booking a table, as they will probably fill up and last minute reservations might be tough! 

Shopping-

Also a little tough. Many smaller boutiques will be closed for the whole weekend. Even large shopping centers, like Mood and Sturegallerian, will close on both Friday and Saturday (Sturegallerian is closed on Sunday as well). The two largest department stores, NK and Åhlens City, will close early on Friday (NK at 2pm and Åhlens at 4pm) and stay closed on Saturday. Officially, it is only Saturday which is a bank holiday... but Friday is about as close as you can come "unofficially", so expect many pharmacies, banks and liquor stores to be closed that day as well.

Sightseeing-

Large sightseeing companies like Strömma run as normal with bus, boat and combination tours available all weekend. Smaller, independant sightseeing companies may be closed. Public transportation runs as normal, though on a more limited "holiday" schedule, all weekend.

Experience Midsummer-

After all of this negativity, you may be wondering "but where do we experience the Midsummer celebrations?". Well, the best place to see how Swedes traditionally celebrate this holiday is at Skansen. Check their calendar for a program of what is going on all weekend long! While most Swedes do leave the city, the few that are left will celebrate with picnics and games in the different parks throughout the city. So, when in doubt, just head outdoors to celebrate. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel and need further information... contact me directly at the hotel!
Summer Night
photo by: Susanne Walström/imagebank.sweden.se

May 18, 2015

The Ultimate Summer Guide to Stockholm

Skeppsbron, photo by: Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se
Here at the Rival Hotel, we can tell that the summer season is gearing up... less businessmen and more tourists (even on the weekedays), more questions about the archipelago as well as a sharp increase in e-mails asking advice about what to see/do/dine while in Stockholm. I thought I would put togther a collection of my most popular summer-themed blog articles as well as links to some excellent websites to help you make the most out of your visit to Stockholm. Always good to do some research and plan ahead...

Arrival/Departure

Getting Around the City
Sightseeing (multiple blog articles, but here are links to the individual company websites)
Activities
Restaurants
Archipelago
Museums
This is really just some highlights and top tips. If you are booked at the Rival Hotel... contact me directly if you need assistance or more information.
Strandvägen, photo by: Henrik Trygg/imagebank.sweden.se

May 14, 2015

Art Museum Exhibitions- Summer 2015

Audrey Hepburn on the set of "My Fair Lady" 1963.
at Sven-Harry's Konstmuseum.
Photo: Cecil Beaton
©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby's
Another article to help you plan your summer visit in Stockholm. Below you will find the major exhibitions at museums and galleries, concerning art, happening in Stockholm this summer. There are many other museums and attractions in Stockholm which foucus more on history. Click here for a list and description of them. After each museum/gallery below, I have written a word (modern, classic, etc.) describing the type of art usually shown there. Keep in mind that this is just a generalization. These are also temporary exhibitions and many of the museums listed also have permanent collections on display.
The park at Waldemarsudde. Photo by Lars Edelholm.
Lots of great art! Personally, I am really looking forward to the Nick Brandt, Cecil Beaton and Less is More... Not! If you are staying at the Rival Hotel and need further help or information, talk to me directly at the hotel. Are you coming to Stockholm before the summer exhibitions start? Click here to see the main spring exhibits.
"Less is More... Not!" at the Spritmuseum.
Photo by: Per Myrehed
© All rights reserved