Where to stay: Stockholm is a beautiful and vibrant city with a ton of different types of neighborhoods to choose from. Gamla Stan, the Old Town, is one of the most prestigious places to live in the entire country, so naturally, staying there as a tourist will cost you a pretty penny. I opted to stay in the neighborhood called Sodermalm, which is on the island south of Gamla Stan, but along the same metro line. I found this area to be bustling with chic bars and great restaurants, as well as plenty of boutique shops that didn’t make you feel like you were walking and breathing tourism every minute of the day. Add to the fact that some of the best views in the city are on this island, and I’d say this is the place to be if you really want to experience all that Stockholm has to offer, and not just the touristy old town.
Hostels have weird policies in much of Sweden, which often include a requirement to bring your own linens and towels. It may not seem like such a big deal, but when you have to pay upwards of $30 or $40 USD per night for the privilege of staying in a shared room, I believe that you should have a sheet on your mattress that you didn’t have to bring with you. Because of this, I opted to stay in an Airbnb since I was able to find one to split with my friend that worked out to roughly the same price as a dorm room in a hostel (here).
Where to eat: There are a ton of great restaurants of almost all cuisines in Stockholm, so the trick is just finding the ones that look most interesting! Unfortunately, nothing in Stockholm is super cheap, but there are certainly options off the beaten tourist path that are less expensive than in the old town near the attractions. For example, try visiting Lisa’s Cafe in Sodermalm. It’s an adorable little café where it’s clear that the servers know everyone who walks through the door, or will by the time the customer leaves. Eating breakfast at Lisa’s feels like eating in your grandmother’s kitchen- warm, cosy, and friendly; the perfect way to start the day!
I recommend visiting the Nya Carnegie Bryggeriet, a brewery in a suburb accessible by tram, bus, or ferry. I especially recommend visiting for lunch, as they have excellent lunch specials (and beer) that aren’t too expensive. The neighborhood where the brewery is is also really nice to walk around- it’s clearly in a more modern part of the city, so if you have some extra time, it’s worth a wander. If you’re looking for something distinctly not Swedish, I have two recommendations that came on good authority from locals. First, The Holy Cow, is a great Indian restaurant located in Sodermalm with relatively inexpensive food and a great atmosphere. While it isn’t exactly local cuisine, it is clearly a local “spot”, which counts for something! Secondly, I recommend a restaurant called Moso Jamrock. Also located in Sodermalm, but slightly closer to Old Town, this is an excellent Caribbean-style restaurant with delicious food and staff that are incredibly friendly and welcoming.
There are also some cultural food traditions in Sweden, which I really think we should all respect. My favorite of these traditions is something called “Fika”, which is essentially a mid-day break to have coffee and a pastry. You’ll find Fika menus and special pricing all over the city, and when you can no longer feel your hands because of the cold, you’ll find that it will always be a good life choice.
What to do: Stockholm is a really incredible city to explore at any time of year. Of course, visiting in the summer gives you certain advantages, as some sites and attractions are only open or have extended hours between May and August. If there’s something specific you want to see in Stockholm outside of the summer months, you should definitely do some research to see if it’ll be open when you’re there, otherwise you might be sorely disappointed. If you’re just visiting Stockholm to take in its history, beauty, and culture, you’ll have plenty to see all year round!
Start by taking a walk in Montelilsvagen, which is a path above the water across from Gamla Stan (old town). This path will give you absolutely INCREDIBLE views of the city (above), and is a great way to take in the atmosphere and architecture before heading over to the tiny streets of the old city. If you’re looking for the opposite view, head over to Riddarholmen, which is a small island connected to Gamla Stan. You’ll find a gorgeous cathedral, interesting food trucks, and a beautiful waterfront on this island. I found that sitting and looking at the brick facade of city hall from Riddarholmen was one of my favorite places to be in the city.
To orient yourself to the city, try a free walking tour of Gamla Stan with Stockholm Free Tour. There is so much history packed into those little streets, and so many ways to get lost, it’s really nice to have a guide giving you some ideas and suggestions for what to visit later. This company also offers tours of the more modern part of the city, so if you’re more interested in the current culture and architecture, you can check that out, too!
If you’re going to visit one museum in Stockholm, and there are many to choose from, I would definitely recommend visiting The Royal Palace. This is the former residence of the Swedish royal family, but is still used for visitors, and is a central landmark in the middle of the city. The great thing about a ticket to see the Royal Palace is that it will also give you access to the Treasury, where the crown jewels are now kept, which is a cool place to check out. Keep in mind that if there are royal visitors in town, access to the inside of the palace will be limited, so if that’s important to you, be sure to check their website in advance. If you have some time to get outside the city, you can also visit Drottningholm Palace, where the royal family currently resides.
And last but not least, if you’re looking to splurge and spoil yourself, you can have a Swedish spa experience! The spa at the Grand Hotel (across the water from the Royal Palace) is absolutely incredible, and while it is a bit pricey, it’s worth every penny.
Overall Opinion: Stockholm is a truly incredible city with a rich history and beautiful culture. Despite its notoriously chilly weather and dark winter days, you’ll likely find that the city is one of the warmest and coziest that you’ll visit. Even though there is often more to do in the summer months when there’s plenty of daylight and warmth, there are also far more tourists during these months than there are between September and April. Visiting Stockholm anytime through October will give you the opportunity to experience beautiful fall weather, empty streets, and an incredible atmosphere, so don’t be afraid of heading to Sweden after the summer ends! I would absolutely visit Stockholm again, it’s really an amazing place to be.