Tomorrow morning, my daughter and I awaken early to walk to the waterfront at Stockholm’s Royal Palace to board the world’s oldest cruise ship still in regular service. We’re transiting Sweden on the Juno, built in 1874.
Until the sail-away, though, we are exploring Stockholm, and we spent the last two nights in what will surely go down as one of my favorite hotels.
Owned by ABBA founder Benny Andersson, Hotel Rival holds the number-two spot of 160 hotels in Stockholm on TripAdvisor. For the moment, however, it holds the number one spot for my daughter and me.
Greeted by a friendly receptionist, we checked in and headed up to our Deluxe category room, number 307. The view over Mariatorget (Maria Square) was framed nicely by the oversized windows, and we found the room itself to be spacious and exceptionally pleasing to our tastes.
With Swedish music on our minds, we popped in an ABBA Gold CD, which was available in a small stack of CDs and DVDs in our room. Hotel Rival also offers a DVD library, with selections available for use free of charge. Of course, we checked out Mamma Mia.
Bathrooms were large, featuring a tub and shower, Crabtree & Evelyn bath amenities, bathrobes and slippers and a window into the bedroom that can be made private by pulling the blinds.
Superior rooms are about the same size as Deluxe rooms but with smaller bathrooms and showers only (no tub). Standard rooms are not advised for avid cruisers traveling with lots of luggage.
Our room also featured a mini-bar, safe, two large closets, ironing board, an extensive DVD library (free to use), large-flat panel television and plenty of workspace. WiFi was also available in our room at no additional charge. On the fourth floor is a business center with ice, free speciality coffees and a selection of tea.
Music and theater are central themes to Hotel Rival, which in fact began life as a movie theater in the 1930s. The hotel still features a theater, used for various screenings and events. This coming Friday, we learned, Elvis Costello will be performing on stage. There’s lots of entertainment during the year, mostly Swedish artists, musicians, comedians and the like.
Situated in trendy Södermalm, Hotel Rival is an easy metro ride (or walk) from Stockholm’s central attractions, including Gamla Stan. We used the convenient metro, perhaps three minutes walk from the hotel lobby, to reach our points of interest in Stockholm. Central Station is only three metro stops away; Gamla Stan only two.
Within walking distance is artsy and young SoFo (South of Folkungagatan). A pun on Soho, SoFo is one of the most popular areas in Stockholm and noted for its shopping, restaurants and Bohemian lifestyle.
“We’re in a real Stockholm neighborhood,” said Sean Naughton, Hotel Rival’s Concierge. “You don’t even have to go to Stockholm, because Stockholm comes to you.” In other words, Hotel Rival is a place where the locals hang out alongside the hotel’s guests.
Café Rival is especially popular among locals and guests alike as is the Bistro, with its balcony overlooking Mariatorget, a beautiful spot to enjoy the included (in most room rates) breakfast buffet on sunny mornings.
One thing I particularly liked about the breakfast buffet was that the food was exceptionally fresh and healthy, a focus on quality over quantity, plus additional items, such as omelets and pancakes, could be cooked to order at no additional charge.
When I check rates for two at the hotel, I typically find rooms from $200 to $250 per night, so with apologies to ABBA, it’s not “a rich man’s world.”
Hotel Rival exudes a certain warmth that is difficult to put into words. Perhaps it is telling that most of the staff, like Naughton, have been employed since the hotel’s inception in 2003.
My daughter and I certainly felt right at home at Hotel Rival. With its friendly staff, great location in a trendy neighborhood, easy access to Stockholm’s main attractions and comfortable guest rooms, Hotel Rival gets our vote for a memorable stay in an unforgettable city.
Be sure to check out Sean’s popular blog, The Stockholm Tourist.