As you probably know, Sweden is expensive. If you’re a bit of a budget traveller, it might not be top of your to-do list – however, with some careful strategising, it is possible to take a trip to Stockholm without remortgaging your house.
I’m quickly becoming an expert in how to save money in Stockholm, since the amount of money I’m currently earning from my remote work is roughly equivalent to the average salary in Slovenia (aka, not enough to have a decent life in Stockholm).
Nomadic Matt wrote a post a while ago about how he had to drop his plans to move to Stockholm because of the difficulty getting housing and the expenses of staying here. He also wrote some great tips on budgeting here too.
Here are some of my strategies for getting by in Stockholm on a serious shoestring.
1 – Accommodation
Now, here’s a harsh reality for you. There is no cheap accommodation in Stockholm. Not even really affordable accommodation.
Your options are as follows:
A hostel. The cheapest is Interhostel which offers dorm rooms for 149sek (15 euro) up. Not exactly the kind of backpacker prices you were hoping for, but do-able.
Try Couchsurfing. Now, I hesitate to recommend this too heavily, because I think a lot of people have started to use it to freeload their way around expensive cities like Stockholm. We’ve been bombarded with requests from people who want to stay for several days, often with a friend or partner, all for nothing at all in return. I think Couchsurfing is cool, but beware of treating it like a free hostel – please only couch surf if you are down with the concept of sharing something with your host and making it a real exchange not a one-way taking experience.
2 – Food
Eating out in Stockholm is ridiculously expensive. An average lunch out will cost about 100 sek (10 euros), whilst a dinner will be easily upwards of 20 euros per person, and I’m talking about very simple budget places here. Your best bet is to eat out as little as possible.
However, for the odd times you want to treat yourself, I recommend checking out this Buzzfeed list of the 29 best affordable places to eat here. So far we’ve tried Chutney (a fantastic vegetarian restaurant that offers dish of the day for 98sek (9.80 euro) with free flavoured water, tea, coffee, bread and salad. We also ate at La Nena, a cool Mexican place with a studenty takeaway vibe, where you can eat for around the 100sek mark depending on how much you eat. I also highly recommend a trip to Ikea. It’s out of town, but the cafeteria there sells meals for really low prices, such as around 60 kronor for meatballs. Also bear in mind that restaurants all give free tap water. I recommend sticking to water and not buying the cripplingly expensive drinks.
The rest of the time, I recommend you make your own food. Local supermarkets like Ica and 7-11 are very, very expensive. However there are several branches of Lidl where you can get food for normal prices. Cook at home or at your hostel and bring sandwiches out with you.
On the go, if you need a cheap meal or snack, the hotdog stands (they’re everwhere) are your best bet – you can get a hotdog for 30-40sek. Or try a Pressbyrån (newsagent) where you can grab snacks.
I’ll write a future post on the best cheap places to eat here as I’ve noticed it’s hard to find a comprehensive list.
3 – Drinks
Sorry to disappoint anyone who, like me, likes a beer or two. All alcohol here is insanely expensive. If you’re considering doing a dry week, do it here – it’ll save you a tonne. In an average pub or bar just one beer (500ml) costs upwards of 70sek. Often more. Forget wine or spirits because I don’t even want to write the prices down here. If you’re going out partying, do the British thing and pre-drink at home beforehand.
There is only one place to buy alcohol for private consumption here: the Systembolaget. Conveniently, these are all over the place. Less conveniently, they shut by 7pm or even earlier. The best value alcohol you can get here is probably the boxed wine at Systembolaget. A decent box (3l) costs about 200sek, which is what 1-2 glasses of wine will cost you out. Note that you CAN buy beer from supermarkets, but only up to 3.5%.
4 – Activities
Newsflash – almost everything fun in Stockholm is expensive. If you’re on a shoestring budget, you can’t keep wandering into shops, cafes and galleries without coming away bankrupt. If you’re lucky enough to visit during summer there are plenty of gorgeous parks, and place to swim, stroll and picnic. See some of the ideas here for starters.
But if, like me, you’re here in the soul-crushing winter of 5 hour days and sub-zero temperatures, swimming and picnicking probably are not on your menu. So what can you do!?
1 – Free museums
Whilst most museums cost at least 100kr to visit, a few are free or have free times. The Moderna Museet is partly free on Friday evenings from 18.00-20.00, where you can see a lot of modern art from Dali to Picasso to Duchamp for free. Or the Medieval Museum is always free and is absolutely great. The Nobel Museum (which is rather small to be honest) is also free on Tuesday nights from 5pm. See here for more info on which museums are free when.
2 – Stroll the city
Of course you can always sight-see for free. Take a walk around Gamla Stan, Slussen, Kungsträdgården or Djurgården, for example.
3 – Go on a free walking tour
There are several around the city, generally leaving from Gamla Stan tube station. In fact a friend of mine here runs one.
4 – Hang out at the Kulturhuset
If you’re a Londoner you’ll know the South Bank Centre, and this is very similar – a huge building (located in T-Centralen) with several floors of ‘cultural space’. Sometimes there are free exhibitions, there’s also a library and plenty of space to hang out and either have a coffee (not free of course) or just sit and chat (free!)
5 – Go up Gondolen tower
This is a funny tower/platform next to Slussen t-bana where you can simply go up and get an amazing view around the heart of Stockholm.
1 – The TV tower
The Kaknäs tower is the old TV and radio tower here and you can go up it for just 55kr or 5.50 euros. At the top you’ll have a great view of the city and you can chill out in the cafe. Although be warned that the cafe is eyewateringly expensive. If you happened to have a flask of coffee on you it might be a good idea!
2 – Visit Ikea
This might not be your idea of fun, but maybe it is! Just a bus ride outside the city there are not one but two Ikeas where you can browse Swedish furniture and eat super cheap meatballs.
3 – Ride the historical tram
The Djurgårdslinjen runs a lovely retro, historical tram around parts of the city. It’s 30kr to ride the tram, and if you catch what I call the ‘coffee tram’ which has a cafe onboard you can get a coffee and a pastry while you ride for 55kr.
4 – Ride the ferry
The price of the ferry is included in the SL transport pass, so it’s well worth it to get one and take the ferry from Slussen across to one of the other islands.
Worth a little splurge:
If you have a few kronor to spare and wonder what’s worth spending a little bit more on, there are one or 2 things that I do recommend here.
1 – Skansen
Skansen is an ‘old town’ over in Djurgården. It costs 100kr for an adult which I think is pretty reasonable for a great day out. Skansen features an extensive little historical town with old-fashioned buildings, many of which are operating as little old-fashioned shops or work-places. It also has a Scandinavian zoo with a bear (we didn’t see it… it was hibernating), elk, otters, lynx and more… I think it’s really reasonably priced and worth a visit.
2 – Concerts
There are a LOT of great bands playing here in Stockholm, especially if you are into metal like me, and it’s well worth keeping an eye out for what’s on and treating yourself to a gig or two. I always check this website for what’s on.
3 – Fika
If you don’t know about fika you don’t know Sweden at all. It’s an obsession. Fika is basically just coffee and cakes, but to Swedes it’s so much more. Companies have enforced corporate fika where all the staff awkwardly nibble cakes together to ‘bond’. In any case, you can’t miss trying the famous bullar here with a cup of coffee. I don’t know any cheap cafes unfortunately, and the average coffee and pastry will be around 80kr, but you have to do it at least once!
So, these are my top tips on how to get through the winter in Stockholm on a low budget. If you have anything else to add, either tips or links, please let me know and I’ll add them! Or if you’re taking a trip here and need some advice just ask 🙂