Hotel Rival, Södermalm, Stockholm, Sweden *****

Q: What is it? A: Former ABBA-member Benny Andersson’s hotel in the “trendy, charming and unique” area of Södermalm in Stockholm. And for the record: Benny was the keyboard-guy.

Room with a balcony, facing the busy Mariatorget square, at the Hotel Rival. The balcony comes with a working ashtray. An option for smokers out there, all the remaining three of you.

Room with a balcony, facing the busy Mariatorget square, at the Hotel Rival. The balcony comes with a working ashtray. An option for smokers out there, all the remaining three of you.

For all you design afiçionados: ‘Bruno’, Easychairs by Swedish designer Mats Theselius and glass plate ‘Pond’ by the Queen of Scandinavian glass design, Ingegerd Råman.

For all you design afiçionados: ‘Bruno’, Easychairs by Swedish designer Mats Theselius and glass plate ‘Pond’ by the Queen of Scandinavian glass design, Ingegerd Råman.

Swim with a view: The folks behind the design of the Hotel Rival created a well working solution to the problem ‘What to do about the dark bathroom.’

Swim with a view: The folks behind the design of the Hotel Rival created a well working solution to the problem ‘What to do about the dark bathroom?’

With a slight touch of art déco: The Rival opened in 1937 as a cinema and entertainment palace. It re-opened after extensive renovations as the Hotel Rival in September 2003.

With a slight touch of art déco: The Rival opened in 1937 as a cinema and entertainment palace. It re-opened after extensive renovations as the Hotel Rival in September 2003.

Does it feel designed? Not very.
Does it feel modern? So-so. Does it feel cool? Well, not exactly. If you take a look at the different hotels in Stockholm, they are rarely mentioned among the coolest places in the universe. Zaha Hadid, Ron Arad or Marc Newson don’t have design outposts here. Design in Stockholm is just about sufficient, just right – the Swedish lagom syndrome is in full effect. Despite numerous articles hailing Stockholm as a modernist heaven, there are very few hotels in the city that feel very cutting-edge. When the second ‘B’ in ABBA decided to get his own hotel, he didn’t hire Karim Rashid, but the lesser known Karin Ahlgren. Instead of quirky, details or kidney-shaped bathrooms you will find comfy chairs by Mats Theselius and glass by Ingegerd Råman. It feels quite Swedish, (even for a Swede), but not in a very Wallpaperish sense of the word.

It is built around a former movie theatre, hence the name.
Hence also the decoration of the rooms and bistro – there are frames from Swedish cinema classics just about everywhere. A friend of mine stayed in one of the suites that reportedly had a giant ABBA photo on one of the walls. The movie theatre opened its doors to the public in 1937 and I remember seeing quite a few movies here as a kid. There may not be something happening every week, but it’s enough to give the place a more vibrant and less secluded feeling than many hotels. Rooms on the other hand feel cosy rather than flashy and there are clever little solutions such as the fold out DVD-player and the window separating bathroom from bedroom. The design is flawless but certainly not there to impress anybody.

More importantly, the staff is as good as it gets.
The Grand Hôtel may still be providing the gold standard for Sweden, but you won’t find many places in Stockholm with better service than at the Rival. Members of the staff are friendly, knowledgeable and they know how to turn a too early breakfast in the bistro into a pleasant meal experience. Speaking about breakfast, the Rival version is a very good combination of espressos and eggs made to order, (a novelty in Sweden where most hotels have adopted the buffet format), and a very fine selection of cheese, ham, fruit, cereal and whatever you might need. The hotel is constantly rated high in surveys and polls and I am positive that the staff play a huge part in this. With this being said, it’s not overly easy to get a room here. With 99 of them, the Rival is by no means a small hotel, but they tend to be booked quite fast. So will I give it five stars? Yes, five stars – with a smile!

Hotel Rival
Mariatorget 3
Box 175 25
118 91 Stockholm
Sweden

+46-8-545-78900

Click here to book the Hotel Rival through TabletHotels.com!

3 comments

  1. Thank you much for your very informative and helpful review and photos of the Rival Hotel. We will be visiting Stockholm (first visit) next month, and I am currently holding reservations at both the Rival and the Nordic Light. Based on hotel attributes alone, I far prefer the Rival, but is the location ideal for a base from which to explore Stockholm? Is Nordic Light more central and accessible? Any thoughts you may have on the two hotels and their respective neighborhoods would be much appreciated.
    Or if you feel inclined to ignore this inquiry altogether, I will totally understand and will not take offense ;)

    Reply
  2. Hi, and thanks for the cheer!

    If I’d be in your shoes, I’d stay at the Rival, not only for the attributes but also for the surroundings. The Nordic Light is by no means a bad hotel and the location is very convenient, but the surroundings are not exactly full of atmosphere – plus there are some heavy renovation/construction going on in the area.

    The Rival is located at the Mariatorget square in the Södermalm area of Stockholm. It’s two subway stops away from the Old Town and you will reach the epicenter of the Stockholm nightlife in 8 minutes, (also by subway).

    Taxis are fairly expensive but will take you to the same spots in just a few minutes more, (if you’re not hitting the morning commuter chaos – the same problem is valid for the Nordic Light Hotel).

    So, if you are lucky enough to have a reservation for the Rival, hold on to it. The ‘downside’ of Rival has been its popularity. As mentioned in the review, my experience is that it has been pretty tough to get a reservation there.

    Have a superb trip – and as a local 08, (Stockholm area code), I hope that you will like my little town.

    All the best,

    :: hakan ::

    Reply
  3. Thank you Hakan for more invaluable intelligence. You have solidified my resolve to stay at the Rival. I place a very high premium on atmosphere, so you’ve used the magic words in describing the difference between the two hotel neighborhoods.

    I’m very much looking forward to exploring Stockholm on foot and wouldn’t dream of missing out on all its charms and nooks and crannies by taking taxis and trains (unless I’m dying or something). I just wasn’t sure whether there were pedestrian-friendly connections between Sodermalm, Gamla Stan & the City, or whether our only choice would be to take the subway or taxi. I don’t mind walking for miles on end, like we’ve done in all our urban adventure trips. It’s actually what I look forward to most when visiting a new city, exploring all it’s passages, neighborhoods, and getting a little taste of life in that city. But this experience would be severly encumbered if staying on Sodermalm meant I had to take the subway everyday just to get off the island. I’ve studied maps of the connections between the islands and while I can see highways, I don’t know if they’re appropriate for foot traffic.

    Sorry to pester you with more questions. I do my best to research, but some flavors and details can only be provided by the locals who are familar with the lay of the land.

    I’m sure I will love your town. Speaking of towns, you must have been in mine last year (Denver, Colorado) if you made it to Steamboat. Denver’s not what I would call a world-class city, but it’s extremely user-friendly, civilized and offers a high quality of life, if you’re willing to live with limited variety. What Denver lacks in variety and worldliness I supplement with my world travels. Stockholm, here I come!

    Thanks again.

    Best regards,
    Pantea

    Reply

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