I visited Stockholm rather spontaneously in August of last year, having wanted to visit for a while, after finding cheap flights (£58 return). I went with a friend from the job I had last summer for four nights. Stockholm is the capital of Sweden and has a reputation for being one of the most expensive cities in Europe to visit.
We stayed at City Backpackers Hostel which was about 5-10 minutes walk from the central attractions and the train and coach station. At around £22 a night (and warning – no free breakfast!), this probably wasn’t the cheapest option, but we were sold by the website and ratings and we weren’t disappointed. Following Swedish tradition, guests take their shoes off by the entrance doors, and the whole hostel was pristinely clean. The rooms were plain, and the common areas were cosy and a good hang out spot. We made friends with some French men who we played cards with most evenings into the early hours. The kitchen was also kept very clean. The whole place was very, very IKEA!We took part in the hostel’s pub crawl one night, which took us to a number of bars (including an Irish bar with live music) and eventually to an open air bar down by the water which was amazing. But the best part of this hostel? The free pasta box. In the kitchen there was a massive tub of dry pasta to help yourself to, so you could simply buy a jar of pasta sauce and cook yourself some dinner if you’re having a cheap day!
But back to Stockholm! I feel like we absolutely CRAMMED our days full, so there’s lots of talk about…I better get started!
1. The Riksdag. This is the Swedish Parliament, which we stumbled across during our first hour in the city. They offer free tours of the building which last an hour. It was a really interesting tour, with information about how the Swedish government operates.
2. Free Tour Stockholm. This company offers free walking tours of the city and of the old town each day. Led by locals, they rely on people tipping so the tour guides are funny, lively and passionate about the city in the hopes that you will leave a generous tip at the end (there is no obligation to tip). We did both tours and really enjoyed them. I have to say the old tour tour was more interesting in terms of what we saw, but there was some really interesting stories told during the city tour too. I would certainly recommend them though – and you can’t complain – they’re free!
3. The Stockholm Card. We bought a 2-day card and made sure we got our money’s worth. The card gives you free entry to a large number of attractions in and around Stockholm and free public transport too. We visited:
- Skansen – an open air museum to show the way of life in different parts of Sweden before the industrial era. It had live actors doing demonstrations of things such as weaving and preparing food, and an animal/zoo section where I got to see reindeers!
- Vasa Museum – A maritime museum, displaying “the only almost fully intact 17th century ship that has ever been salvaged”, the 64-gun warship Vasa, that sank on her maiden voyage in 1628. Basically, it’s a really, really big war ship, almost perfectly preserved, accompanied by exhibitions explaining it’s voyage and how it was salvaged.
- Junibacken – A children’s museum dedicated to Swedish children’s literature, especially Astrid Lindgren, the author of the Pippi Longstocking books! There’s a cute little ride thing inside (similar to the Peter Pan ride at Disneyland if you’ve been on that!), which twists and turns, taking you through many stories and was completely magical! There was an amazing themed restaurant/cafe too where we stopped for a cup of tea. This would be a fab place to take young children, but we enjoyed it a bunch too as adults! Worth the visit if you’ve paid for the Stockholm card.
- Fotografiska – The Swedish Museum of Photography, which had some wonderful exhibits on. Definitely recommended. The cafe on the top floor has amazing views of Stockholm too!
- City Hall – The building is the venue for the Nobel Prize banquet, but we were interested in the tower. We went bright and early on our last day in Stockholm after hearing tours book up pretty early, and the views were amazing! Lots and lots of steps and circles round the tower to make it to the top, but well worth it on a clear day!
- Stockholm metro – My friend and I had read about the artwork that adorns various stations of the Stockholm metro and decided to spend the last hour of our Stockholm card (we bought a 48 hour card) riding the metro in search of some artwork. Apparently more than 90 of the 110 stations feature artwork created by some 150 artists; here’s what we discovered:
I would definitely recommend a trip to Stockholm, and I hope I can visit again in the future and see more of Sweden and the Stockholm archipelago.