Budget travel doesn't have to mean missing out on all the fun. Stockholm is renowned for being one of the most expensive cities to visit in Europe, but you can still eat, drink and sleep in style without breaking the bank.
Here are a few thrifty tips for enjoying Stockholm on a budget that I discovered on my trip to the Swedish capital this summer.
Getting There and Accommodation
Stockholm is serviced by four airports and you can save quite a bit of money (and time) if you're savvy about which airport you book. Arlanda (aka Stockholm Airport) and Bromma airports are really close to the city (about a 20-minute transfer), whilst both Skavsta and Västerås airports are approximately 1hr 20 mins away.
Budget airlines like Ryanair fly to the more distant airports but it's important to consider the price of the transfer when trying to find the best deal. Usually, the cheapest way to get to any of the airports is with the local coach service, Flygbussarna. Pre-booked tickets cost about £18 for Arlanda, £14 for Bromma and £26 for Skavsta and Västerås, which means the 'budget' airports are nearly twice the price. Plus if you miss that bus, you have one very expensive taxi ride to make your flight!
There are a couple of options for cheap hostels in Stockholm. This summer, 'poshtel' megabrand Generator opened a new location in Stockholm. A handy 10 minutes walk from central station (where the Flygbussarna stops), it's situated on the border of Norrmalm and Vasastan in the city's north. I really enjoyed my stay here and loved how fresh, modern and vibrant the hostel was. Prices start from around £20/night to stay in a 6-bed dorm.
A little closer to the action is the quirky AF Chapman. Docked on the island Skeppsholmen, near the Old Town, this lovely refurbished ship has dorm-style rooms and breakfast facilities. It has less of a party atmosphere than most hostels as there are no communal areas, aside from hanging out on the deck in the summer. Prices start from around £25/night to stay in a 6-bed dorm.
Getting Around Stockholm
Stockholm isn't a huge city so it's pretty easy to navigate entirely on foot and save yourself some money. You can walk the entire length of the main areas, from the top of Norrmalm to the bottom of Södermalm, in an hour. Plus it's an excellent way to stop and marvel at the beauty of the city as you cross the bridges between each island.
From April to October, you can hire a City Bike from one of 140 sites across the city. The bikes are thankfully nowhere near as clunky as London's Boris Bikes. The minimum hire period is 3-days for 250 SEK (about £23) which makes them great for a long weekend if you want to get outside the main area and explore the museums on Djurgården Island or head up to the impressive Hagaparken royal park Hagaparken in the north.
Free city tours
Trying one of the city's free walking tours is a great way to minimise your Stockholm budget. Free Tour Stockholm offer a 90-minute expedition of Gamla Stan, the Old Town, every day from 1pm. For those who are interested in the city's darkest secrets, try their Sinister Side of Stockholm’s Old Town tour, which is strictly over-18s and runs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons. With all free tours, you should bring along a little money to tip your guide. Trust me, you will definitely find the tour worth it!
Cash vs Card
I was really surprised how many places only took card payments. A number of cafes and bars didn't handle cash, so you should definitely make sure you don't bring all your money in Swedish Krona, or you might end up overdrawing your account. I would recommend a 50/50 split: just bring half your spending money in the local currency and pay by card for the rest of your trip.
Food and Drink in Stockholm
Stockholm is a very expensive city, especially for food and bevvies, but being frugal with your meal choices is a great way to keep costs to a minimum.
There are two 'food court' style restaurants on Kungsgatan St in Norrmalm (the north island). Kungshallen has more of a shopping centre vibe, with loads of different options - tacos, Indian and sushi - spread over multiple floors with ample seating. Down the road, K25 is more stylish and a great place to meet friends for food and a few drinks in the early evening. The industrial space is lit by exposed bulbs and has a range of well-known Swedish street food brands like Beijing8 and Zócalo.
If cheap and cheerful dumplings are more to your taste, head to one of Steam's three locations across the city. There's something for everyone here with Bang Bang chicken, steaming pork buns, gluten-free laksa and vegan dumplings. If you're in the hip Sofo area, then head to one of Falafelbarren's two locations for a tasty meal under £10 (a rare budget find here!). Their falafel and pita bread are baked fresh onsite in a stone oven and come stuffed with amazing salad, hummus and halloumi.
If you're searching for a stylish brunch that won't break the bank, try Pom & Flora. I had their 'Frukostförslag' (brunch deal) which included two dishes (egg and avocado on toast plus yoghurt with berries and toasted nuts) plus a coffee for only 115 SEK (roughly £11). This is extremely good value, especially for Stockholm, where food is generally twice the cost of London prices.
You should expect to pay festival prices for drinks in Stockholm, usually at least £6 for a small beer, which can really put a damper on your fun. Look out for any "afterwork" or AW specials: this amalgamation of the English phrase is their way of saying happy hour.
Restaurang Mosaik is the best option for cheap drinks without having to sit in a sports bar. Situated on the waterfront in Vasatan, this restaurant has booths where you can sip beer from 1-6pm for as little as 29SEK (about £2.70). PSB, the bar across the road from the famous Pet Sounds record store, has a happy hour every day from 4-7pm with beers for about £3.50. If you fancy something a little different, the Vampire Lounge has AW cocktail specials every weekday between 5-7pm.
One of the biggest gripes UK travellers have about Sweden is its lack of off-licenses. There is a chain of government-owned liquor stores called Systembolaget, which have very limited opening hours. With only a handful of them across the city, you have to make visiting one a priority if you're in need of some pre-drinks on a weekend as they are closed on Sundays and only open from 10am-3pm on Saturdays. Alternatively, as with most Nordic countries, buying your party drinks duty-free before arrival is always a good idea.