A lot of travelers are put off by Scandinavia and its obscenely high prices (including yours truly, who has yet to feel financially secure enough to return!). Sweden is notoriously expensive: everything from accommodation to food to beer all seems to be shockingly costly. As a traveler who prides herself on the ability to travel on a budget and live frugally, I thought I’d answer the question that seems to be on traveler’s minds about Sweden’s capital, Stockholm: can you really visit Stockholm on a budget?
The short answer to this? No. No, you really can’t visit Stockholm on a budget. Because as I just said, everything is expensive in Sweden. One of my most expensive hostels I’ve ever stayed at was in Sweden. Bread in the supermarket cost $6. Accommodation, transportation, food and drink, and activities seem to cost a small fortune. It is simply not a cheap destination.
The long answer? Yes. You can do Stockholm on a budget if you really try. There are ways to cut costs and do it on the cheap. But it won’t be easy.
Here are a few tips for making the most of Stockholm on a tight budget:
18 and under is the age to be
If you’re 18 and under, you will get either free or drastically reduced admission to almost all museums (including the Vasa Musem, Nordic Musem, and Nobel Museum). To be honest: I lied and said that I was turning 19 in just a couple days to several places for reduced prices. I really don’t think I can get away with this anymore (hopefully the difference between 21 and 23 means I can’t pass as an 18-year-old…) but if you’re young you can score a big discount. If you’re not 18 and trying to pass as an 18-year-old, make sure you have a made up birth date in mind (with the correct year), so that you don’t have to pause and go “uhhh…. I was born in 1995?”
Bring your own sheets for hostels
Most places I’ve stayed in Europe have the cost of sheets included in the nightly price you pay, and many hostels have specific rules about not bringing your own sheets. Scandinavia is an exception to this rule—if you have the space (which unfortunately I did not), bring your own set of sheets and save some money. My sheets cost about 60 krona (SEK), or almost USD $10 extra per night (at the exchange rate then).
Pre-game whenever possible
Stockholm is one of many destinations where you should not underestimate the pre-game. If you’re going out for a night on the town, buy booze beforehand and drink before going out to save money on pricey drinks at bars! And once you’re out, NURSE. THAT. DRINK. I went out one night in Stockholm, bought precisely one beer, and drank it over the course of one hour. My beer was 49 krona, which was a little over $8 at the time. For a 12-oz. bottle of beer. Pre-game is the way to go.
Cook for yourself as often as you can
I’m not gonna lie, food is realllllly expensive in Stockholm. To buy. In a grocery store. So eating out was positively extravagant to me (I splurged for a $12 kebab on one of my four nights). Buying food from a supermarket and cooking for yourself is one of those cheap-travel-hacks that will go the longest in a place like Stockholm.
Stockholm is a fairly expansive city, and is mainly made up of many islands. It’s tiring to walk everywhere, but it is undoubtedly the cheapest way to get around. If you do buy a daypass for the Stockholm Metro, make sure you take lots journeys on it just for shits and gigs, and stop at a lot of different Metro stations to see the underground art.
Pick and choose your museums
Unless you’re 18 and under, chances are you will be handing over a lot of money to see some of Stockholm’s world-class museums. Try to pick and choose which ones you’ll visit to cut down costs: I chose the Vasa Museum over the ABBA Museum, and a tour of City Hall over the open-air museum Skansen (which I had visited on my first trip to Sweden at age 5).
Drottningholm makes a cheap daytrip
If you want to venture further than city center Stockholm, Drottningholm Palace (home to the Swedish Royal Family) is definitely worth the admission prices. If you don’t want to pay to see the inside though, the sprawling palace park is free for exploring.
Find the free things in Stockholm
The exterior of the Royal Palace and the Changing of the Guard are free for visitors, as are waterfront views across Stockholm and wandering around Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s Old Town. Almost all churches are free to visit as well—I visited nearly 10 different churches on my visit to Stockholm, including the Royal Cathedral for an Easter Sunday service, and Sankt Jacobs kyrka or St. Jacobs Church (close to the Royal Palace and next to the Royal Opera House) for a free Mozart organ concert. The Parliament, the Riksdag, also offers free guided tours in English—just check their website in advance to try to time your visit right. And as of February 2016, the History Museum in Stockholm is now completely FREE!
Don’t let the hefty price tag put you off—Stockholm is a great city that oozes Scandinavian class and charm. There’s no denying it though: Stockholm is an expensive city. But if you work hard and plan ahead, you can visit Stockholm on a budget!
Have you ever been to Stockholm? What do you think—can you visit on a budget? Share your thoughts in the comments below!