I had never been to Sweden before this trip so was itching to get out and explore the country. I only had a couple of days to spare in my itinerary so only managed to visit Stockholm. Although it is a massive stretch to fully experience Stockholm in 24 hours, you can still see a lot. My Stockholm experience occurred during the depths of winter (a week before the shortest day of the year) so I had to pack everything into 5 hours of sunlight. I suspect the experience would be vastly different in summer.
So, here are my tips for enjoying a short visit in the Swedish capital.
Stockholm is bursting full of beautiful buildings
Arriving in Stockholm
The airports for the city are generally quite far out and there are several to choose from. Bromma is the closest airport but budget airlines do not seem to fly here frequently. The best airport for budget airlines is Arlanda which is about 40 minutes from the city centre by bus.
To get from the airport to the city I would recommend the company Flygbussarna. This is the cheapest way to get into the city and it is a good service. The buses are clean, leave frequently and have free WiFi on board. From Arlanda it cost me 99SEK ($14AUD) and I booked online so had the ticket ready to go.
Urban population: 1.5 million
Language: Swedish but English is widely spoken
Currency: Swedish krona (SEK)
Main station: Stockholm Centralstation
Gamla Stan is the old city of Stockholm and is a delight to visit. The meandering streets are filled with restaurants, coffee houses and trinket stores. All of the buildings are painted in lovely pastel yellows and pinks, and the occasional church or palace will spring out of nowhere. When you are in Gamla Stan be sure to check out the Royal Palace and the Nobel Museum.
Gamla Stan is also stunning to look at from afar, so try and seek out some vantage points on nearby islands and land masses.
If you want a coffee here then there are plenty of options. The Swedish coffee chain Espresso House has two shops on the island and they are pretty good value (think Starbucks but cheaper and better), but there are plenty of small local places for coffee too. I saw an espresso for as low at 14SEK ($2AUD) in one cute café which is a bargain by Scandinavian standards.
The beautiful streets full of shops and restaurants
Looking over at Gamla Stan from across the river
Outside the Royal Palace
More colourful Stockholm streets
City Hall (Stadshuset)
The City Hall of Stockholm is marvellous to visit. It is a very commanding building and definitely leaves an impression. From wandering through the arches you can arrive by the waterside where there are plenty of statues to admire. The City Hall is also a great place to get a good view of Stockholm.
One of the statues at the City Hall
Inside the courtyard
The archways leading to the waterfront
The island of Skeppsholmen is more than just great views over Gamla Stan, it is also worth visiting for its own attractions. The island is home to the Museum of Modern Art (Moderna museet) and af Chapman (a wonderful white boat which is also a hostel).
Skansen can be found on the island of Djurgarden and it has to be experienced to be properly understood. It is an open-air museum and zoo. The zoo/menagerie itself contains basically what you would expect (bears, etc.) but the rest of Skansen is where things get a bit more interesting. The area is full of Scandinavian buildings from different eras and styles. Skansen contains windmills, churches, pharmacies, bakeries, post offices, etc. all set out in different periods. It gives a glimpse into Scandinavian history and is worthwhile if you have time.
Near to Skansen is the Vasa Museum (Vasamuseet) which contains the ship “Vasa” which capsized in Stockholm back in the 1600s. It is fully restored and housed at this museum. The Vasa is the only ship from the 1600s that is preserved in the whole world, so it is cool to visit it.
Around this area is also the ABBA Museum which is good fun and a bit of a novelty, it does cost 195SEK ($28AUD) however.
Where I stayed
There are lots of accommodation options in Stockholm but unfortunately most of them are not for budget-conscious travellers. There are plenty of hostels in the city as well which might be a better option. Large chains like Generator exist in Stockholm but they are not the cheapest. I stayed at Hostel Dalagatan which was about a 15 minute walk from the main station and 25 minutes from the old town. It cost less than $20AUD a night for a dorm bed which is pretty good value.
Eating in Stockholm
Eating in Stockholm really is not cheap but can be done on a budget. Eating dinner in restaurants is generally more expensive than lunch so if you want a meal out I would suggest going at lunchtime. There are plenty of restaurants in the city so it is a matter of finding the cheapest ones. There are cheap Asian and Indian restaurants dotted throughout the city and I found there to be quite a few around the Central Station which were good value.
Eating at coffee houses such as Espresso House will cost you about 49SEK ($7AUD) for a toasted cream cheese and salad bagel. This price is similar to picking up a pre-made sandwich at 7-11/the supermarket so I would much rather have it toasted and served at the coffee house (plus enjoy the bathroom and free WiFi).
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