Stockholm is a vibrant little city with an amazing cafe culture (Fika means coffee and a sweet snack – its no surprise that Swedes are one of the highest consumers of coffee in the world). I have visited Stockholm, the city that self proclaims itself as ‘Scandinavia’s capital’ twice now, and have had a great time each visit. It helps that my girlfriend’s family have a flat there which we have stayed at for free, which keeps some of the costs down. While all of Scandinavia rightfully has a reputation for being expensive, it is definitely possible to have a great weekend in Stockholm without blowing the holiday budget for the year! Beers in a pub (not a club – we didn’t go to the clubbing district, as this is VERY expensive) were around London prices or slightly more expensive (50-60 kronor), food in a nice restaurant was 200-300 kronor (~£20-£30) and coffee 35 kronor. However, you can buy cheap enough food in the supermarket and cook yourself, and Sweden’s craft beer scene is starting to get popular – just make sure you get to the systembolaget (alcohol store) before 3pm on a Saturday as that’s when it closes! You can still buy 3.5% alcohol beer in the supermarkets, but anything harder you will need to plan around the early closing times of the only alcohol stores in town.
There is a lot to do in Stockholm, with plenty to keep you occupied for a long weekend or even longer if you wanted. As discussed above, the national pastime of Fika is a must. The photography museum is well worth a visit, (with great views of the river in the upstairs cafe/bar, taking a ferry down the archipelago to an island for a picnic day trip, visiting the best preserved sailing ship from the 16th century, visiting Skansen (zoo/ open air museum), cheering on one of the local football teams in the standing zones in the stadiums, and of course the Nobel Museum is a must visit.
Fika – snack and coffee 70 kronor (~£7)
Fika is a national pastime, and when you visit you can see why! The coffee is great, and the sweet snacks are even better. My favourite is the cinammon rolls (called kanelbullar for cinnamon and kardemummabullar for cardamom versions- my favourite was definitely the cinammon!). My girlfriend’s parent’s flat is based in Södermalm, which conveniently is where a large chunk of the cafes worthy of visiting are based. We visited three on our short weekend away there – KaffeBar (great food) johan & nystrom (coolest shop set-up, great coffee and a lot of tea choices too) and Drop Coffee (food and coffee in the photo below). If, like me, you don’t drink dairy milk, Sweden doesn’t seem to have soy milk, its all oat milk (oatly brand generally). I hadn’t tried oat milk before, but to me it tasted great in a coffee.
Skansen – 100-180 kronor (~£10-15)
Skansen proclaims itself as the first open air museum in the world, and opened in the 1891. It provides great insight into how Swedes lived generations ago – a significantly harder life than people in Sweden today. My girlfriend has a family holiday home in the south of Sweden, which looks quite similar to the old style cottages at Scansen. Large families were the norm – to help with labour on the land and also because large numbers of children died – modern medicine is truly a miracle in lowering child death rates. There is also a zoo there with local animals, including wolves and bears. I don’t usually like zoos, preferring to see animals in their own natural habitat – but this zoo does help with the awareness of indigenous animals, who like many animals around the world have seen their natural habitat shrink due to human expansion.
Photography Museum (Fotografiska), Sodermalm – 120 kronor (~£10)
The Fotografiska musuem, overlooking the river across to the other islands of Stockholm from Sodermalm, is definitely worth a visit if you like photography, and the cafe/bar at the top of the museum has great views of Stockholm and good food and fika!
Ferry trip down the Swedish archipelago – 90 kronor return (~£8)
If you manage to visit Stockholm on a clear day, a highly recommended trip is down the archipelago on one of the many ferries. We visited an island called Grinda, which cost around 90 kronor return. We took a picnic of Swedish food and some beer and wine and spent a few hours lazing on the beach.
Museums – Nobel (100 kronor, ~£8) and Vasa or ship (130 kronor, ~£11)
Gamla Stan is the small island connecting Norrmalm and Sodermalm. This is made up almost exclusively of a nice old town, however it is quite touristy. Right in the center of the old town is the Nobel museum, which is definitely worth a visit. In addition, on the same island as Skansen, is the Vasa museum – a museum solely of a ship which capsized and sunk in 1628 – 300m after launching for the first time! The Vasa museum is the only preserved ship from the 17th century, due to the preserving nature of the muddy estuary water it sunk in. The ship was also lost for many years, before being found by an amateur named Anders Franzén in 1956 who used a home made metal coring device dropped in the water to attempt to find cores of wood from the sunken ship. The incredible story is well worth listening to in a movie at the museum.
Getting to Stockholm
Flights from London – ~£60-200 return
Stockholm is well connected by a number of airports, with all of Europe and beyond, but be aware that Ryanair uses Skavsta and Vasteras airports, which are upwards of 2 hours out of Stockholm – not really a flight into Stockholm!
I have always flown into Arlanda airport, which has great fast train connections. You can also use the taxi website taxijakt which gives cheaper official taxi rides into the airport – 350 kronor for up to 4 and 550 for a larger taxi. A good website for airport connections is visit Stockholm. Norwegian has great connections to Stockholm and if you book early enough the prices are very reasonable for a weekend away.