Stockholm. ‘Holm’ to beautiful people, great shopping and a must visit destination according to many. Also renowned for being incredibly expensive. So what was my verdict after spending four days there for Easter?
First, Stockholm was freezing. Literally. We landed mid-April to a snow storm. Temperatures were in the –6 to a top of tropical 2°C realm. So if you don’t like the cold don’t go unless it’s summer. Interestingly, for a city that spends a major portion of the year in sub-zero temperatures a lot of venues are geared towards summer, with outdoor beer gardens, bicycle paths everywhere and an abundance of waterfronts and parks. Perfect for hot, sunny days … which sadly do not frequent the city for most of the year.
The other key thing worth mentioning is that Stockholm is just as expensive as everyone says it is, if not more so. After arriving at 5pm, we went to bed at midnight feeling like we’d walked into the city, opened our wallets and promptly emptied them out. It’s the first city I’ve been to where I’ve seriously had to stop and think about what I want to do and whether it’s worth it. With an abundance of museums, not much of Stockholm is free to enjoy.
So is it worth it? My advice would be if you really want to see Stockholm make sure you are prepared. Go when it’s warmer weather to enjoy the beautiful outdoors, rather than when it’s cold and when you’ll be forced inside and spend more money. One day, when we found ourselves cycling in a snow storm, fearing we may never have full movement in our fingers again, we were literally forced to stop and have a glass of wine – for 105 SEK (A$15).
Book in advance to get cheap flights and reasonable accommodation. This will make you feel better about how much you spend when you’re there. Research what you’d like to see and do the most. Stockholm loves a good museum; in fact, there’s a museum for most things. Most of them also have entry fees, so prioritise which you’re most interested in and factor those into your budget.
Same goes for restaurants. Stockholm is home to an array of amazing restaurants, many of which are Michelin starred. Read up on which are the best value and in particular look at the prices of alcohol – which can be extraordinarily high. A city that rivals Melbourne when it comes to coffee culture, it’s hard to come across a bad brew, so have a decent breakfast and lighter lunch or dinner.
We flew Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) from London with return flights from Heathrow (LHR) over Easter at £200 (AUD $340) return. SAS fly into Arlanda airport. Skip the expensive express train ($43 each way) and jump on the bus ($34 return trip) which takes you into Central Station in 45 mins.
Not just for young backpackers, the Generator Hostel is ideally located near Central Station. We got a private room with an ensuite for £300 (AUD $510) for three nights. Just don’t frequent the bar downstairs, which charges $15 for a glass of wine.
City bikes cost 165 SEK (A$24) for a three-day pass with the majority of the city having well-indicated bike paths. Like most cities, simply pick up from one depot and drop back at any other with a pre-purchased card to touch on and go. Not only is this a great way to see the best parts of Stockholm but it will save your legs as well!
Breakfast: Mellqvist Kaffebar – an Italian/Swedish fusion which gives Melbourne cafés a serious run for their money. Great coffee, pastries and baguettes.
Lunch: Non Solo Bar – a buzzingy Italian place that dishes up mouth-watering salads, omelettes and pasta. Free sourdough bread and olive tapenade!
Dinner: Meatballs for the people – a local haunt on the Södermalm island. Serves great meatball dishes and reasonably priced wine.
Wine: Gaston – cozy and romantic wine bar in the old town, Gamla Stan. Just don’t ask to see the bottle list for the wines – the prices are enough to make you keel over.
For free: Modern museum
Old town – Gamla Stan
Djurgården – the ‘green island’ largely populated with parklands that have been royal land since the 15th century.
Splurge: ABBA Museum. As their tagline goes: Walk in, dance out. AUD $29.
Have you been to Stockholm? Share your thoughts on the Scandinavian city in the comments below.