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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.

Seeing Stockholm on a budget: The ultimate guide
Photo: mikdam/Depositphotos

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.

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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.

Photo: hespasoft/Depositphotos

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.

Getting around

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.

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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.

Photo: steho/Depositphotos

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.

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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.

Photo: JuliVasylegaBO/Depositphotos

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.

Photo: tupungato/Depositphotos

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!

Shopping

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.

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Nightlife

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.

Photo: scanrail/Depositphotos

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.

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Arlanda Express

READER INSIGHTS

‘Painful’ – is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Following a survey that said Paris Charles de Gaulle airport was the best in Europe, we asked Local readers what they thought...

'Painful' - is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Recently, Paris Charles de Gaulle was voted the best airport in Europe by passengers.

The 2022 World Airport Awards, based on customer satisfaction surveys between September 2021 and May 2022, listed the best airport on the planet as Doha, while Paris’s main airport came in at number 6 – the highest entry for a European airport – one place above Munich. 

READ ALSO Paris Charles de Gaulle voted best airport in Europe by passengers

Given CDG’s long-standing reputation doesn’t quite match what the World Airport Awards survey said – in 2009 it was rated the second-worst airport in the world, while in 2011 US site CNN judged it “the most hated airport in the world” – we wondered how accurate the survey could be.

So we asked readers of The Local for their opinion on their experience of Europe’s ‘best’ airport. 

Contrary to the World Airport Awards study, users erred towards the negative about the airport. A total 30.8 percent of Local readers – who had travelled through the airport in recent months – thought it was ‘terrible’, while another 33.3 percent agreed that it was ‘not great’ and had ‘some problems’.

But in total 12.8 percent of those who responded to our survey thought the airport was ‘brilliant’, and another 23.1 percent thought it ‘fine’, with ‘no major problems’.

So what are the problems with it?

Signage 

One respondent asked a simple – and obvious – question: “Why are there so many terminal twos?”

Barney Lehrer added: “They should change the terminal number system.”

In fact, signage and directions – not to mention the sheer size of the place – were common complaints, as were onward travel options. 

Christine Charaudeau told us: “The signage is terrible. I’ve often followed signs that led to nowhere. Thankfully, I speak French and am familiar with the airport but for first time travellers … yikes!”

Edwin Walley added that it was, “impossible to get from point A to point B,”  as he described the logistics at the airport as the “worst in the world”.

And James Patterson had a piece of advice taken from another airport. “The signage could be better – they could take a cue from Heathrow in that regard.”

Anthony Schofield said: “Arriving by car/taxi is painful due to congestion and the walk from the skytrain to baggage claim seems interminable.”

Border control

Border control, too, was a cause for complaint. “The wait at the frontière is shameful,” Linda, who preferred to use just her first name, told us. “I waited one and a half hours standing, with a lot of old people.”

Sharon Dubble agreed. She wrote: “The wait time to navigate passport control and customs is abysmal!”

Deborah Mur, too, bemoaned the issue of, “the long, long wait to pass border control in Terminal E, especially at 6am after an overnight flight.”

Beth Van Hulst, meanwhile, pulled no punches with her estimation of border staff and the airport in general. “[It] takes forever to go through immigration, and staff deserve their grumpy reputation. Also, queuing is very unclear and people get blocked because the airport layout is not well designed.”

Jeff VanderWolk highlighted the, “inadequate staffing of immigration counters and security checkpoints”, while Karel Prinsloo had no time for the brusque attitudes among security and border personnel. “Officers at customs are so rude. I once confronted the commander about their terrible behaviour.  His response said it all: ‘We are not here to be nice’. Also the security personnel.”

Connections

One of the most-complained-about aspects is one that is not actually within the airport’s control – public transport connections.  

Mahesh Chaturvedula was just one of those to wonder about integrated travel systems in France, noting problems with the reliability of onward RER rail services, and access to the RER network from the terminal.

The airport is connected to the city via RER B, one of the capital’s notoriously slow and crowded suburban trains. Although there are plans to create a new high-speed service to the airport, this now won’t begin until after the 2024 Olympics.

Sekhar also called for, “more frequent trains from SNCF to different cities across France with respect to the international flight schedules.”

The good news

But it wasn’t all bad news for the airport, 35 percent of survey respondents said the airport had more positives than negatives, while a Twitter poll of local readers came out in favour of Charles de Gaulle.

Conceding that the airport is “too spread out”, Jim Lockard said it, “generally operates well; [and has] decent amenities for food and shopping”.

Declan Murphy was one of a number of respondents to praise the, “good services and hotels in terminals”, while Dean Millar – who last passed through Charles de Gaulle in October – said the, “signage is very good. [It is] easy to find my way around”.

He added: “Considering the size (very large) [of the airport] it is very well done.  So no complaints at all.”

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