Visiting Stockholm for the first time? Eager to hear some tips for stealthy Stockholm savings? Here's how to stretch your Krona and Dollars!!!
At first glance, it seems like many of the stereotypes about Stockholm are true. The locals really are blond and gorgeous, the city really does look like a picture-perfect postcard, and the prices really are sky high!
But like most stereotypes, you'll find there's a lot more than meets the eye if you're willing to take the time and really dig deep. The locals are indeed gorgeous - but they are also very diverse. The city is gorgeous too - and there's diversity there as well in architecture and style.
And those prices? Well, with a bit of hard work you CAN make your money go farther! Here's how I get great value in Stockholm.
1.) Sightseeing Stockholm pro tip: "Stock up" on the Stockholm Pass.
Eager to check out as many things to see in Stockholm as possible - all while protecting your budget? The incredibly comprehensive Stockholm Pass includes virtually every museum in the city - and Stockholm has some of the best museums in the world! I love that the card includes both the "big" museums which are so well known (as many savings cards exclude them) and also the smaller ones as well. It also includes a lot of tours, including walking tours of the old city and even boat tours of the canals.
With careful planning to maximize your time, this pass is an incredible deal. One crafty tip to keep in mind is that the 1 day pass is actually good for 24 hours, so depending on the timing you can visit attractions on two days. This is especially helpful when you consider that most Stockholm museums are only open from 10:00 am to 4:00 or 5:00 pm.
Just how great are Stockholm's museums? Everyone has their own list of favourites. Ours include theNobel Museum (and they have great ice cream!) and the Vasa Museum. Alas, the finest attraction in all of Stockholm, the Abba Museum, isn't included. You can't have it all in life!
2.) Step aside, taxis! It's transit's turn to shine.
Of all the cities I've visited, Stockholm is the best in terms of its clean, comfortable, comprehensive public transit. Little details, like the patient, English speaking bus drivers who created a "special" stop for us when we got lost and then patched together a 3-bus route to get us back on track, makes all the difference in the world for a new visitor.
Individual rides are very affordable, and if you are using the Stockholm Pass with the added travel card (formerly the Stockholm Card) it's even more affordable. The travel card includes unlimited public transit (including the metro).
You can also use it to get to and from the airport. Airport transportation is expensive, with the private shuttle bus costing 110 Krona and taxis are close to 500 Krona. The commuter train (NOT the Arlanda Express) to the airport is included as it classified as public transit. You only have to pay a 75 Krona additional airport fee (payable at the airport station in cash or credit.) While these kinds of fees are annoying, at least you ARE saving some money overall.
(Traveling with a Eurail pass? Note that the Arlanda Express, the high speed train connecting the airport and Stockholm's Central Station, is an included service in your Eurail pass. This trick worked out perfectly for us - we were using a 'day' of our pass to travel from Stockholm to Copenhagen anyway, so our journey into the city center from Stockholm's airport was free.)
3.) Amazed by all the things to see in Stockholm? Hit the road with the Red Bus!
When visiting Stockholm for the first time, it's terribly tempting to spend all your time on the island of Gamla Stan. It's renowned for it's charming cobblestone lanes and, chances are when you picture "Stockholm", this is what comes to mind. But Stockholm is a large city, with dozens of neighbourhoods to discover.
The Red Bus is a hop on, hop off tour bus with pre-recorded commentary in over a dozen languages. Their main circuit takes you off Gamla Stan and helps you explore the rest of central Stockholm. Many of their stops correspond with the attractions covered by the Stockholm Card - but keep in mind that the bus only comes around about once an hour in the off-peak season.
While Stockholm is an immensely walk-able city, it was so nice to have a warm seat and let someone else worry about navigation and information! Making things even nicer was the fact that they included the central station as one of their stops. We were able to leave our accommodations, explore the city at dawn, and then finally take off our packs when we boarded the bus, relaxing until it was time to focus on the trip back to the airport.
We actually rode The Red Bus twice. We literally stayed on board and road the loop a second time. We really did enjoy learning about the city and it was great to relax, listen, and take in the sights. We absolutely would ride it again but we also have to point out that a Hop On/Hop Off tour (with another tour provider) is included in your Stockholm Pass, so plan accordingly if you purchase it.
4.) Where to stay in Stockholm: We have a plan!
I was also blown away by our view of the water. Even in a city like Stockholm, you can get a gorgeous waterfront view for less than $100 a night. And in the morning, breakfast was included. There was the standard fare of coffee, cereal, milk, bread rolls, and jams, as well as more traditional Swedish offerings of rye rusks, sliced cheese, and cucumber.
Gamla Stan is a historic island and this was a historic property - each room had a slightly unique shape and layout and reflected the character of the property. There is a small elevator that goes up to the 3rd floor (always a treat!) but if you've been out to a nearby pub, take note when you are coming back home that the property's stairs are very slightly uneven, no doubt owing to the building's age.
The second concern was our bathroom. It, like the rest of the room, was spotlessly clean. But there was a horrible smell, like an open sewer, that we could not remedy despite having the windows open for hours. We were unable to find the source of this awful smell - and certainly there was nothing in the gleaming room that would account for it. It really was overwhelmingly strong and we chose to use the shared washroom down the hall. We finally concluded that it was coming from the shower drain and, with the door closed, the rest of the room was unaffected. It seemed likely that renovation work was the culprit as there was construction on our floor.
I think it's important to judge a property not on a problem but instead on how it's remedied and, in fairness to them, we didn't ask for a solution. I feel confident that, had we approached them, the friendly staff would have tried to help us. But we were exhausted and there was a washroom just down the hall - we made the choice to stay put and didn't want to fuss around going up and down the stairs or gathering our belongings and moving. While the bathroom situation was unpleasant, I also believe it was most likely temporary and I would happily stay with Hotel Gamla Stan on a return visit to Stockholm.
5.) Get out of Gamla Stan for Gastronomy
We headed to LUX restaurant on Lilla Essingen (it's a favourite haunt of Anthony Bourdain) and our three course meal (complete with lobster, seafood, drinks, coffee, and dessert with homemade ice cream) came in under $200. This was a huge splurge for us, but it was also one of the best restaurant meals we ever had and it was worth every penny. Our money went much further on a less trendy island and we were also thrilled to see a quieter, more sedate side of the city. (Sorry, no photos at all! Sometimes the best nights are Instagram-free!)
YES, you CAN save in Stockholm!
- Looking for cheap eats in Stockholm? Here's an awesome list.
- Want to indulge in the Swedish coffee tradition of fika? Here's some great cafes to try it.
- Looking to stay in Hotel Gamla Stan like we did? You can read more reviews and search for bargains on Trip Advisor, Expedia, and Hotels Combined.
Here's what else we loved in and around Stockholm:
Inside Stockholm's Nobel Museum
Stockholm's Tiniest Cafe Serves Up Big Treats
Tales from the Anti-Adventurist: Stockholm's Wildest Boat Ride
Boden and Beyond: The Gateway to Swedish Lapland
Our visit to Stockholm was sponsored in part by the Stockholm tourism board, the Swedish branch of Hostelling International, and Red Bus Tours and we thank them for their support. As always, all writing, research, and opinions remain our own.
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