Seeing Stockholm on a budget: The ultimate guide
Stockholm has a reputation for being a pricey place to visit, but it doesn’t have to be.
Sure, a beer in a bar often costs around 65 SEK ($7) and no-one ever described a taxi ride in Stockholm as a ‘bargain’, but there are ways to see the city without spending a fortune.
Here’s how you can get more bang for your buck (or kronor, in this case) next time you visit Stockholm.
Places to stay
If you’re looking for cheaper accommodation, don’t rule out a hostel; Stockholm has some wonderfully stylish, unique, and best of all, budget-friendly hostels to choose from. Check out The Red Boat Mälaren, STF Vandrarhem af Chapman and M/S Birger Jarl and tick ‘Stay in a floating hostel’ off your bucket list.
The only thing cheaper than cheap, is free. If this sounds like your budget, give couch surfing a go and stay with a local. You could find yourself spending the night in a swish Stockholm apartment all for the grand total of zilch kronor. What’s more, you might make some new Swedish friends during your stay.
So you’ve quickly and cost-effectively made it to the city on the Arlanda Express. Now it’s time to explore the city.
Stockholm is a city made for walking. Bring your walking shoes and pick up your free city map at the airport, Central Station, tourist centre or Swedish convenience store (Pressbyrån) and start discovering the streets on foot.
If you suddenly discover your boots weren’t made for walking, hire a City Bike. With approximately 140 bike stands around the city, you can pick up a bike nearly anywhere. A 3-day access card will set you back just 165 SEK.
Stockholm’s public transport system is a little more expensive but well worth it if you want to travel as far and wide as possible. Quick, efficient and far reaching, you can purchase a 72-hour ticket for 250 SEK for adults or 165 SEK for students or pensioners and use Stockholm’s buses, trains, metro, trams and inner city ferries.
Things to do
So, you’ve found a place to stay and picked your favourite mode of transport, now for the sightseeing. The good news is that in Stockholm there is a variety of free attractions like the Medieval Museum, Modern Museum, Natural History Museum, Royal Armoury, ArkDes, the Swedish Parliament or the City Library, just to name a few.
Many other museums also offer certain times every week with free admission, so check their websites for details.
In Stockholm it is very rare to be more than 300-metres from a park or green area, even in the city centre. Popular spots include the island of Djurgården, famous with locals for open green spaces, waterways, parks and walking tracks. So pack a picnic and park yourself on Djurgården or at one of the many tranquil and picturesque inner city parks, such as Hagaparken, Humlegården or Kungsträdgården.
Touring the city
If you’re short on cash and still want to see all Stockholm has to offer with an experienced guide, free walking tours are available from various locations, seven days a week.
See where Greta Garbo had her first job in a local barber’s shop and learn about the events which led to the term ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ being coined on the city tour, ending with the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace.
Wander the cobbled streets of the Old Town (Gamla stan) while learning about the spine-chilling events of the Stockholm Bloodbath and taking photos of the famous architecture at Stortorget.
Traipse the streets of the south island of Södermalm, discovering hipster hangouts and beautiful vantage points in the formerly rundown, working class area turned vibrant, artsy place you see today.
The Stockholm subway system is said to be the longest art exhibition in the world, spanning 110 kilometres, so check out the free guided tours that are offered on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
While technically free, it is advisable to tip your guide a little at the end.
Eating and drinking
When you’re tired of supermarket food, try the Swedish tradition of dagens lunch. Many restaurants offer special daily lunch packages at competitive prices. It means you get to try some of Stockholm’s top restaurants at a fraction of their regular price. Make lunch your main meal and fill up on main course, bread, salad, coffee, tea and biscuits all for around 85-125 SEK.
If you’d like to combine your sightseeing with lunch, make your way to Kaknästornet, an old television and radio tower, now a restaurant and cafe. Make sure to book a table on their website and for 125 SEK you can ascend the tower at no extra cost and dine while taking in a panoramic view of Stockholm.
Drinking is notoriously expensive in Sweden, so if you don’t fancy selling a kidney to pay for a glass of wine, or heaven forbid, a spirit, be on the lookout for happy hours at bars or take a trip to the state-run liquor store, Systembolaget.
A word to the wise: Pre-plan your trip to the bottle shop. With strictly limited opening hours (which don’t include Saturday after 3pm or the whole of Sunday), you don’t want to be caught short!
Sweden takes flea markets to a new level. Especially during the summer months, you will find a flea market or loppis on nearly on every corner. Swedes love their vintage finds so much that sometimes whole streets will be blocked off for huge pop-up flea markets, with people selling out of stalls and car boots. If you’re looking for some vintage records or some authentic ABBA-esque clothes from the 70s, you’re likely to find some hidden gems here.
There’s something to suit everybody when it comes to night-time activities. Comedy buffs can enjoy free standup in English at Big Ben on Södermalm; Parkteatern offers a variety of free musical and theatrical performances in beautiful outdoor settings, or you can stumble into many bars around Södermalm to listen to free live music.
Insider tip: Buy a green card at the amusement park Gröna Lund and for just 270 SEK you gain access to the park and a series of concerts by some of the world’s most famous artists. This year alone there have already been performances by Macklemore, Icona Pop, Marilyn Manson and Queens of the Stone Age.
Don’t miss a moment of sightseeing. Get to Stockholm’s city centre as fast and easily as possible by booking your airport transfer with Arlanda Express, the quickest route between Arlanda Airport and downtown.
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