Hotel review: Hotel Rival, Stockholm

Sweden has long since been Scandinavia’s capital of cool. With a tried and tested fashion scene (hello H&M), a smart design sensibility (thank you IKEA) and a culture of digital innovation (Skype, Spotify, et al.) this is a country that, quite literally, keeps on giving – whether you visit it or not.

There are plenty of ways to tackle its capital city of Stockholm, be you a history buff, culture nerd, shopaholic or nature fiend, and you can do it with 24 hours, a few days or even a whole week on your hands. The city itself has 14 separate islands, whilst the county archipelago counts in almost 30,000 islands, islets and rocks. Head there over winter for a snowy city stay, or see it all under the long summer sun, with an island-hopping adventure.


Opened after extensive renovation in 2003, Hotel Rival was Stockholm’s very first boutique offering. Situated on the leafy Maria Square in Södermalm, this former 1930s cinema gives a proud nod to its history of entertainment. Retaining an Art Deco edge, you’ll find an inviting fluidity between the communal spaces; the entrance lobby leads easily to the bar, on to the theatre (yep, there’s a theatre) and all the way around to the bistro on the first floor.

We lucked out on check-in, arriving five hours early to drop our bags but finding our room ready to go. The elevator doors slid open on the third floor to reveal the hallway’s autumnal-hued walls in umber, yellow and red, all framing a vibrant carpet that showcases abstractions of vintage travel paraphernalia. Charmingly chaotic, this bold interior choice provided a wonderful contrast to the crisp white box that awaited us.


Our room was set at the back of the hotel, giving it a distinct feeling of calm. The furnishings adopted Hotel Rival’s vivid streak, and teamed bright reds with cooling pines and fresh, crisp whites. Our view was unique for a city scene – the bows of a horse chestnut tree and the roofs of the city beyond. This we shared with a little creature that we (unimaginatively!) christened ‘Ted’, AKA our room’s resident cuddly bear – a signature addition to each of Hotel Rival’s rooms.

With a distinct lack of light over half the year, few places do a lamp quite like Scandinavia, and Hotel Rival enthusiastically adopts this trend. I counted a total of six independent lamps and lights in our bedroom, so as the day unfolded into dusk, we could tailor the room’s ambience to suit our mood. I imagine this feature really comes into its own over the darker months, turning this fresh, contemporary space into a cosy haven of diffused glows.



We were well catered for should we fancy a night in, with a selection of CDs (including ABBA, naturally) and DVDs in our room, and a generously sized flatscreen TV, which was wall-mounted at the foot of our two, queen-size beds. Unfortunately, although definitely considered, the media collection wasn’t quite to our taste, not being in the mood for either Barbra Streisand or Sex and the City on this occasion. Had I had more time, I would have explored the other Swedish options on the racks. However, my inner-geek was pleased as punch to find a DVI cable, so we could get our laptop on the big screen and watch a movie online – the Wi-Fi is wonderfully reliable.

Coming from a London flat with no heating, I found the bathroom’s underfloor offering an absolute dream. This was teamed with a generously sized rainfall shower that looked out over the main bedroom by way of a provocatively placed window (complete with Venetian blind for the less exhibitionist prone). Fluffy bathrobes, soft slippers and a set of designer amenities by Malin + Goetz completed this pleasing picture; it all created an excellent setting for a leisurely pampering session or a quick refresh before dinner.



After a supremely comfortable night’s sleep, breakfast was served in the first floor bistro, which boasts a lovely balcony area overlooking the square and a room-defining tribute wall to the influential Swedish director, writer and producer, Ingmar Bergman. Atop antique Persian rugs, we tucked into the hot and cold buffet, complete with both hard and soft boiled eggs, pastries, cold cuts, cheeses and super-fruit shots. The coffee was hot, fragrant and on tap (just the way I like it) and a small menu of items from the kitchen extended this already generous spread.

Reluctantly packing to leave I gave the amenities another quick scope, admiring the thoughtful touches once again (an umbrella, a bowl of wrapped chocolates…) and stumbled across an interesting tome that was hiding in the wardrobe – Savor Stockholm, 7th Edition. A quick flick revealed that this bursting city guide was regularly published for the Stockholm’s leading hotels, covering the city’s cultural habits, differing districts, yoga spots and even how to shop tax-free.


Whilst I was disappointed to discover this polished publication as I was in the midst of leaving Hotel Rival, over a quick browse I was pleased to see much of what I’d enjoyed in Stockholm beautifully presented in its pages (see 48 hours in: Stockholm). So I placed it in the middle of the desk, willing it to stay put and left hoping that the successor to our room would be able to make much better use out of it than we had.

We departed Stockholm truly charmed, by both Hotel Rival and the city itself. Each of the city’s pockets, be them an island, a restaurant, a museum or indeed a hotel, holds a distinct personality that’s all its own. Whilst I spent just 48 hours here, I’m keen to return to see it covered it snow and to cruise between the thousands of islands that create Stockholm’s unique landscape and spirit.

Hotel Rival‘s room rates start from 1,695 SEK (£128) per night. Hotel Rival’s Bistro serves a popular brunch every Sunday from 1pm for both guests and the public.

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