August = Crayfish Season in Sweden!

Crayfish party
Photo by Carolina Romare/imagebank.sweden.se
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! Swedish actress Alicia Vikander recently taught Jimmy Fallon about the tradition.
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 or even just a weekend). Here are the restaurants I could currently find. Interested in restaurants that serve traditional Swedish cuisine? Click here for a list.

Traditional Crayfish Party
Photo by Carolina Romare/imagebank.sweden.se

Södermalm: parks, beaches, allotment gardens and flea market

Allotment gardens
The island of Södermalm is not only the location of the Hotel Rival, it is also the largest of the 14 islands which make up central Stockholm. Södermalm is a popular place for visitors to spend time, whether at the museum Fotografiska or in the SoFo neighborhood. A favorite pastime with the locals in the summer months, which many visitors miss, is to stroll along the southern coast of the island... mainly the coast between Eriksdalsbadet (subway stop Skanstull) and Långholmen (subway stop Hornstull).
Rehydrating at Loopen Marina
You can actually walk around the coast of most of Södermalm, especially the southern and western parts of the island. The path is popular with joggers, bikers and people out for a stroll. Along the southern coast you will pass pools, beaches, allotment gardens, parks and (on the summer weekends) a popular flea market. It is fun to feel like you are in the countryside even though you are in the middle of a large city.
I usually start by taking the subway to Skanstull and then walking down to the waterfront right at Eriksdalsbádet, which is a large aquatic complex with indoor and outdoor swimming pools. As you walk west, there are a lot of allotment gardens ("kolonilott" in Swedish) along the way. This is a plot of land that is then subdivided into smaller gardens, each usually with a small cottage. These picturesque gardens are used by people living in the city to have a piece of land and grow flowers and vegetables. They are very popular and usually stay with a family for generations.
Beach at Tantolunden
Tantolunden is a large park along the way and a favorite with locals when it comes to outdoor activities and sunbathing. There is even a beach there which can get quite crowded on warm days. Swedes are, however, great at finding secluded spots where they can soak up the rays so you will see them all along the coast... anywhere they can find a rock, some grass or even tree limb in the sun.
Swedes can sunbathe anywhere they find sun
After the park, you reach Loopen Marina and Hornstulls Strand. Loopen has a nice floating restaurant and bar, complete with palm trees for that "tropical" feel. Good place to stop for lunch and/or a drink. At Hornstull Strand they have a popular weekend flea market called Hornstull Marknad which is open every Saturday and Sunday, April through September. It is a small but popular flea market and they sell all sorts of knick-knacks, clothes, vinyl records and more. They also have food trucks lined up which is a great option for lunch (picnic in the park).
Flea market at Hornstull Marknad
You can either end your walk here and take the subway back (Hornstull station- red line) or you can continue along the coast to Långholmen, which is a little island just adjacent to Södermalm. There is a little footbridge that connects the two islands. Långholmen is a favorite place for locals to visit on a summer day. They have beaches, park and forests as well as places where you can rent kayaks. The beach is popular with children while young adults prefer to sun on the more secluded rocks. You have great views of Stockholm from the island.
Crossing over to Långholmen
Speaking of views, if you are feeling adventurous, you can access the large bridge (Västerbron- "western bridge") which crosses the lake to the other side of Stockholm. It is a bit of a hike up but you are rewarded with amazing views of the city and lake from the top! This might all sound like a long walk but, all in all, it is only around 4 kilometers from Eriksdalsbadet to Långfholmen. Click here for information on beaches and here for kayaking in the city.
Food trucks at Hornstull Marknad

The view from the top of Västerbron


Restaurant Fjäderholmarnas Krog

Entrance to the restaurant
Fjäderholmarnas Krog is one of my favorite summer restaurants (and at Christmas too, but more on that later). Located on an island at the entrance to Stockholm harbor, the restaurant has an idyllic waterfront setting where you can enjoy late, summer evenings, or sunny days, and watch all of the boats pass by on their way in and out of Stockholm. The island itself is worth a visit as well with café, brewery, handicraft shops and picnic opportunities. Many Stockholmers go to the island to sunbathe and swim on warm summer days. Visiting the island is a good way of getting a feel of the Stockholm Archipelago without having to travel too far!
Arriving to the island
As it is on an island, you have to take a boat to get there. In my opinion, this is half the fun of eating at the restaurant. The boat trip only takes 25 minutes and the boats depart regularly. You have the choice of taking boats from the downtown area with the Strömma company or from Gamla Stan with Fjäderholmslinjen (the second option is better for Hotel Rival guests- just a 15 minute walk away). The boats take you through Stockholm harbor and past Djurgården and Nacka Strand... very picturesque.
This is a great way to eat at an archipelago restaurant without having to travel hours to get there. The restaurant serves Swedish cuisine with lots of fish and shellfish, though they do have vegetarian and meat dishes as well. When I was there last week, we had caviar (Swedish löjrom, salmon roe and arenkha caviar) and oysters for appetizers, then the seafood stew with aioli and the deep fried goat cheese salad for ther main course. It was all really delicious. We sat outside and it was a balmy evening.
Dinner and a show, you never know what type of boat will pass by
Whenever I visit this restaurant, I always try and time the boats so that we can spend some extra time on the island either before or after dinner. It is nice just to walk around the island and enjoy the views. Perhaps a Swedish craft beer at the brewery? Maybe a visit at the glass blowers or pick up some homemade chocolates? Or just a leisurely walk in the forest? The island isn't big so you can easily walk around the whole island in about 20 minutes. Keep in mind that some of the shops are only open during daytime hours.
During the four weeks leading up to Christmas, many restaurants in Sweden serve a traditional holiday smorgasbord called "julbord". Fjäderholmarnas Krog does have one of Stockholm's best julbords and is very popular... so if you are visiting the city then, try their julbord! It is especially nice if there is some snow which makes the boat trip extra special. The restaurant is only open during the summer months and these weeks before Christmas.
The restaurant during the Christmas season
As I mentioned, there is a great brewery & pub on the island which makes its own craft beer (served at the restaurant) and you can book beer tastings. Speaking of which, you do have the opportunity of tasting Swedish whiskey (Mackmyra) at the restaurant. You can book brewery or whiskey tasting packages through the restaurant. Fjäderholmarnas Krog is a popular restaurant so you should try and book your table in advance... either on their website or, if you are staying at the Hotel Rival, you can contact me directly for help. For the boats departing from Gamla Stan, you buy your round trip tickets on the boat. The boats departing from the downtown area can be prebooked. You can click here to see a collection of other restaurants I have visited and written articles about.
Boarding the boat in Gamla Stan
Leaving Stockholm
Passing Djurgården and...
...and Nacka Strand. 









Swedish Museum of History (Historiska)

Historiska Museet (The Swedish Museum of History) is a good and interesting museum but, unfortunately, is often overlooked in favor of more famous Stockholm museums like the Vasa Museum and Skansen. A little strange when you consider that Vikings (featured prominently in the museum) are one of the things, historically, that Sweden is most famous for. And an extra plus: the museum has free admission! My parents were visiting last month, and I took my dad to revisit Historiska last week.
The museum is probably best known for "The Gold Room", an amazing collection of silver and gold artifacts and jewellery from the Middle Ages, Viking period and even earlier. Many of the objects have been found by farmers, buried in their fields. Hoards hidden for one reason or another. The amount is impressive... the Gold Room contains a total of 52 kilograms of gold and 200 kilograms of silver. Of special note are all of the Roman and Arabic coins, which shows how interconnected Europe was during the Dark Ages and how far reaching the Vikings were.
The Vikings' presence in the museum is not limited to the gold they left behind... there is also an impressive, permanent exhibition at the museum dedicated to our famous ancestors. Here you can learn about Viking culture, history and everyday life. Hopefully you will come away with a better understanding of the Vikings. To start off with, "viking" was actually a profession not a people and while they are most famous for terrorizing Europe, they were more successful as traders and colonizers. Many of the artifacts here come from Birka, the old Viking trading town located just outside Stockholm (and a great place to visit during the summer).
When you consider that the Viking period only stretched for a little more than 250 years, then you understand that Swedish history is more than just the Vikings! The museum has one exhibition which gives a great overview of the history of Sweden from the 11th century until today. Another exhibition that I particularly like looks at medieval art with the majority of objects coming from churches (from Sweden's Catholic past- relics, crucifixes, madonnas and altar pieces).  Click here for a full list of current exhibitions.
Historiska is located in the Östermalm neighborhood. To get there from the Rival Hotel, take the subway to Karlaplan (red line, in the direction of Ropsten). But if you are on the island of Djurgården, visiting the Vasa Museum or Skansen... it is just a short walk to Historiska from there across the Djurgårds Bridge. In fact, after we visited Historiska, my father and I walked to the Museum of Spirits and had a well deserved beer on the pier. And if you are interested in history, don't miss these other museums that concentrate on history. And if you are especially interested in our Viking history, click here.
During the summer the Vikings move into the inner courtyard
and you can try different Viking activities (great for children!)

Day Trip to Vaxholm in the Archipelago

Hembygdgårds Café on the other side of bay
Four years ago, I wrote a blog article about taking a trip out to the island of Vaxholm in the Stockholm archipelago. It has been one of my most read articles. Last week I revisted the island with my family and I thought it would be good to do a new article with updated information and new pictures so that readers don't have top search through the archives for the article. Plus, a boat trip to the archipelago is a great way to spend the day in this current heatwave.
Entrance to Café...
With over 24,000 islands, there are a lot of options on what to see & do when visiting the archipelago. Time-wise, you are looking at between 4 and 8 hours... depending on how far out you want to travel, which islands you want to visit and how much time you wish to spend ashore (if any). You could even opt for a longer visit and stay a few nights on an island or two. Vaxholm is the perfect place to visit if you don't have a full day to spend (a ferry there takes about 1 hour), want to see some of the archipelago and spend some time on an island.
...outdoor seating and...
Vaxholm is the name of both a town and the island it is on and is located in the central portion of the archipelago. In fact, its central location has made it a hub for boat travel in the archipelago and its nickname is "Capital of the Archipelago". One of the main sea routes in to Stockholm passes by Vaxholm. So besides the town, you also have Vaxholm Fortress (Fästning) which was first built in 1544 to guard the city. You can visit the fortress, which houses a museum, and there are boats from Vaxholm harbor every 20 minutes which takes you across the narrow channel.
...pastry table. 
We did our annual, traditional visit to Vaxholm this time: boat to Vaxholm, walk along the water to our favorite seaside café and then a walk through town back to the dock for an ice cream before boat back to town. The café, Hembygdgårds Café, is located on a picturesque little bay, this popular café has great outdoor seating with views over the water. It also has one of best dessert/pastry buffets I have ever seen! Great lunch options as well as beer and wine.
Vaxholm town
After lunch, we made our way back through the town (with some shopping along the way) to the harbor. The town is quite cute and made up mostly of wooden buildings. In fact, wood was the only building material allowed by law up until 1912 so that it could be easily razed and kept out of the Russians' hands if they were to invade. The harbor itself can be very busy, with people getting on and off boats, but the town gets much quieter just a few blocks from the harbor. Don't miss a visit to Glass på Hörnet, for some great gelato before taking the boat back.
Main street!
You have a few options to get to Vaxholm from Stockholm. The Cinderella boats travel to the outer archipelago every day during the summer and stop at Vaxholm. They leave the city from Strandvägen around 9:30-10:00am and the trip takes just 50 minutes. They stop by Vaxholm in the afternoon (3-4:00pm) on their way back from the archipelago, depending on the day of the week. Check the website, linked above, for the schedule.
Boarding Waxholmsbolagt in Stockholm and...
Another good option is using the Waxholmsboalget boats (the commuter boats of the archipelago). These boats have more departures through the day and the trip takes between 50 minutes and 1 hour 20 minutes, depending on the boat. They depart from Strömkajen and you purchase your tickets onboard. There is a bridge connecting Vaxholm island to the mainland, so you have the additional options of bus, taxi or car. If you are staying at the Hotel Rival, contact me for help with schedules and tickets (Cinderella only). Click here for more information about visiting the archipelago.
...in Vaxholm

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