The ultimate guide to Stockholm on a budget
I've had Stockholm on my hit list for a while but always ended up putting it off as it was so expensive (to get to and to live when you get there). But a few weeks ago, I bit the bullet and booked those flights. If you book well in advance, British Airways fly from £121/$156 return from Heathrow - Arlanda (Stockholm's main airport).
SEE ALSO: Why I'm solo hiking 1400km through Sweden
The quickest and cheapest ways to get to Stockholm from Arlanda airport
To get into Stockholm from Arlanda airport, the streamlined Arlanda express is the quickest option and costs 540SEK (£48/$62USD) for a return ticket (valid for 30 days), but a cheaper option is the Flygbussgarna coach at 198SEK (£18/$23USD) for a round trip.
The best new budget accommodation in Stockholm
To save money on accommodation in Stockholm, I booked myself in to Motel L in Hammarby Allé, which is a ten minute bus ride from the T-Bana (either Skanstull or Gullmarsplan - both of which are just a few stops from Gamla Stan for exploring the old town, Slussen - for the Djurgården ferry and Stockholm's T-Centralen train station).
The area around the hotel is all shiny glass buildings and new developments. There are a couple of cafes and a pub down the road, but seeing as breakfast is included (if you book through the hotel's website), and central Stockholm is so close, there's no reason to head out and explore straightaway.
What to pack for a weekend in Stockholm
Make sure to check the weather report before you leave too. During my stay, the temperature never got higher than 6°C (42°F), and my days flitted between sun and snowfall, whereas the week before, it was a balmy 20°C (68°F).
The best cheap eats in Stockholm
Eating out can be expensive in Stockholm, but many restaurants offer a set menu at lunchtime, which means you can still sample delicious Swedish food, but spend a little less. Meatballs for the People is a super cozy corner spot in Södermalm, and their early bird lunch - 11-11:30am (ok, maybe brunch in this case) costs only 95SEK/£8.50/$11USD (versus 179SEK/£16/$21USD in the evening)
The cheapest way to get around Stockholm
Getting around in Stockholm can also be quite pricey, but SL Travelcards can work out to be way more economical than the single trip tickets, if you plan on using public transport to get about (bear in mind that Uber is super expensive here!). This card lets you travel on buses, trams, T-Bana and the Djurgården ferry and costs 240SEK/£21.50/$28USD for 72hours of travel. You will also need to pay an extra 20SEK/£1.80/$2.30USD for the card itself, but this can be reused for future visits to Stockholm.
The cheapest way to visit the Stockholm Archipelago
One of the perks of the SL travel card, was going all the way to Vaxholm in the Swedish Archipelago! You can get the 670 bus from Universitetet T-Bana station. The 30km ride takes about 45 minutes, and as you leave the city, the landscape turns to lakes and pine trees, which was especially cozy when it started to snow. The bus terminates here and drops you off near the harbour, close to the Waxholmsbaloget ferry, should you wish to get back to Stockholm via boat - though this is not included in the SL travel card).
Top things to see and do on a day trip to Vaxholm
Leave Stockholm early in the morning so you get to Vaxholm in plenty of time for Magasinet's delicious set lunch menu. When the weather is good, they have a beautiful roof deck with views of Vaxholm Fortress across the water. It was quite chilly when I was there so I sat indoors by the window, watching the snow and sun. I had the lightly breaded fish served with potatoes, relish and dill, and I totally lucked out, as the pudding (included in the 98SEK/£9/$11 price) was home made apple and raspberry crumble with custard. You just go up to the counter and help yourself. They even let me charge my phone and have free wifi :)
Wandering around Vaxholm gives you a taster of life on the Stockholm Archipelago - storybook red wooden houses set against lush forests and lakes, a slower pace of life, and (in the summer) abundant wild swimming opportunities. Another good spot to relax by the water was Roddarhuset. A cute cafe, right on the shore (pictured above right).
Top things to do in Stockholm on a budget
Some of these are free, but others, like the Vasa Museum and Skansen, are worth the Krona. I've just put my personal favourites here. The VisitStockholm website is a great resource for further planning.
Go back in time with a trip to Skansen
Skansen is a huge open air museum (if you go during the week you can enjoy the peace and open space) - in Djurgården, this living breathing museum really captures a snapshot of historic life in Sweden. The buildings (such as a 15th Century farmstead from Northern Sweden, an 18th century townhouse from Stockholm, and even a Sami camp from Western Sweden) have been carefully transported and set in acres of beautiful woods and open space. You can also see native wildlife (reindeer, lynx, and even brown bears) in the Nordic animal section. Allow at least half a day.
Stare in wonder at the mighty Vasamuseum
The impressive Vasamuseum plays host to Swedish battleship sank just minutes into her maiden voyage in 1628. Due to the nature of the water in Stockholm's harbour, the ship has been almost perfectly preserved. It's quite a breathtaking site, walking in to the museum and taking in the sheer size of the vessel (5 stories high!). The displays give a captivating insight into life on the ship, the crew and the conditions they had to endure in the 17th century.
Tip: Take a packed lunch rather than spending money in the restaurant. There is a designated packed lunch spot right opposite the ship.
The changing of the guard and Gamla Stan
Avoid the main thoroughfares with touristy trinkets, and wander further into the medieval crooked alleys of Gamla Stan (Old Town). Once threatened by city planners intent on demolition, this atmospheric heart of Stockholm is home to Kungliga Slottet (The Royal Palace), where at 12:15pm daily, you can watch the changing of the guard in the courtyard for free.
(Entrance fees apply to the rest of the Palace).
Take the air in Djurgården
Stockholm is made up of 1/3 water (as it is a group of 17 islands on Lake Mälaren), 1/3 urban and 1/3 green space. The island of Djurgården is a dreamy mix of canal towpaths, amazing galleries, cafes and museums (Vasa and Skansen are both here, and of course the Abba museum ;), and tranquil parkland. Take a stroll, hire a bike or even a canoe.
Check out the underground art of the T-Bana
Even the underground is good looking in Stockholm. A couple of great examples are at T-Centralen, and Kungsträdgården.
Sample herring and lingonberries in Östermalm's Saluhall
When I visited, this vibrant food market, Östermalm's Saluhall was temporarily housed in a neighbouring site adjacent to the original building, whilst restoration is being carried out, but it's still a great place to browse stalls selling reindeer meat, huge salmon, herring and lingonberries.
Tip: for a bit of a splurge, sit at the bar and order the Skagen Toast (shrimps and dill in mayonnaise) at Lisa Elmqvist (go for the larger portion), washed down with the cheapest (but very quaffable) wine.
Preparation tips for your Stockholm trip
Listen to The Stockholmer Founded by BBC news reporter, Maddy Savage, who now lives in Stockholm, The Stockholmer is a real insight into the people who live in Stockholm, and trends in the city’s creative, tech, food and wellness scenes. I met up with Maddy when I was there, read the interview here.
Learn a little Swedish! Swedes are among the best in the world at speaking English but it's always fun to learn some useful words, and a friendly Hej and Tack will go down well. Two great apps are Duolingo (where you can buddy up with friends and also choose to learn multiple languages if you wish), and GoSwedish - which is a super-cute fun way of learning the language.
Free Scandinavian playlist!
Download this Northern Europe playlist:
What are your Stockholm tips? I'd love to hear them in the comments section below :)