10 Ways to Visit Stockholm on a Budget

A lovely view of the streets of Gamla Stan on a sunny day in StockholmOne of my favorite places in the world is Stockholm (I even attempted to live there last year). I love the city’s historical beauty, the natural beauty of the archipelago, and the beautiful people. Throw in lots of parks, delicious cafes, and bars, and you have the recipe for one of the greatest destinations in the world.

Over the years, I’ve developed a good network of friends in Stockholm, and I’ve been there so much I feel like I know it like a local. If Stockholm didn’t suffer from arctic winter conditions (OK, a slight exaggeration), it would be the most perfect city in the world.

A lot of travelers skip the city because it’s expensive. There’s no denying that Stockholm is really expensive compared to other cities around Europe. But a visit there doesn’t need to break your budget, and by doing just a few simple things, you can drastically cut your expenses without much effort and make your visit here a lot more affordable:

Take a free walking tour – Like most major cities in Europe, there’s a free walking tour, here run by Free Tour Stockholm. The tour will take you around the old city (Gamla Stan) and provide some context and history of the city. They also offer a tour of the main modern city center. Each tour lasts a couple of hours.

Cut your food budget – While groceries costs are comparable to most major cities in the world, eating out in Stockholm is incredibly expensive. I try to avoid dining out as much as possible as a result. Here are a few ways to cut your food budget:

  • Cook – Groceries in Stockholm can cost 415 SEK ($63 USD) per week per person, which is a great value when the average prepared meal is around 100–200 SEK ($15–30). It’s much less expensive to cook your own food than eat out at the restaurants. Moreover, most hostels offer free pasta, so, while not the healthiest option, taking advantage of this perk can cut down on your food budget even more.
  • Avoid sit-down restaurants – If you still want to eat out, try to stick to the small outdoor stalls you see on the side of the street. You can get everything from hotdogs ($3) to Thai food ($10) to burgers ($10). It’s a much more economical way to eat. Additionally, skip anything on Drottinggatan (the city’s main shopping street) and in Gamla Stan. Both places are very overpriced.
  • Try the lunch buffets – Lunch buffets at the local restaurants are also another budget-friendly way to eat out, costing around 100 SEK ($15). They’re a popular option with locals and are dotted around the city. Ask the staff where you’re staying for the closest buffet. One of my favorite places is Hermans. Their buffet costs 98 SEK ($15). Though vegetarian, the food is always delicious, and you won’t even care about the lack of meat. It’s one of my favorite places in the city.
  • Refill your water bottle – A bottle of water costs about 20 SEK ($3). The tap water in the city is safe to drink, so buy a reusable bottle (or bring your own) and just fill that. Plus, you’ll help save the environment! Win-win.

Take advantage of the free parks
Sunny Stockholm, Sweden in the summer
The parks in Stockholm are free, and in the winter, there’s free ice skating. You can also wander Gamla Stan and Sodermalm and just take in the city’s beauty. My favorite parks are Djurgarden, Langholmen, Gardet, and Ralambshovsparken. They have huge open spaces and are good for a number of outdoor activities or lounging around.

Three free museums – Museums in Stockholm are not cheap (costing around $15 per visit), but there are a few that are free or at least offer free hours. They include the following:

Be sure to check with the local tourism office to see if any other museums are offering free hours or exhibits. There are many free art exhibits and events that come to town, and they’ll have a list of them all.

Manage your alcohol consumption – Alcohol is not cheap in Sweden. If you want to destroy your budget, drink. If you want to have your money last a little longer, cut down on alcohol. Avoid wine (way overpriced), skip the clubs (overpriced), and stick to beer, which is the cheapest alcohol you can get. Try to drink during the happy hours when beer is as cheap as 35 SEK ($5 USD). If you do want to “get wasted,” be sure to buy your liquor at Systembolaget, the Swedish government’s liquor store (your only option). Prices are cheapest there.

See the archipelago on the cheap
Stockholm's harbor is one of the most beautiful places in Europe
The Swedish archipelago is beautiful. Thousands of islands dot the archipelago, and there are many tours from the city that will take you around during the day (or during sunset). But those tours are expensive. If you want to see and experience the archipelago cheaply, take the ferries to the outer islands. Tickets are 50 to 150 SEK ($8–23) depending on what island you visit (by comparison, day tours are 240 SEK). Use Waxholmsbolaget for the most affordable tickets. From October to March, tickets are half off.

Get transportation passes – Stockholm metro tickets are costly (36 SEK per ticket), but you can buy a transportation card for 300 SEK ($45) that’s valid for seven days (50 SEK per day) and unlimited use. There’s also a 72-hour pass for 230 SEK ($36). While the city is incredibly walkable (I rarely, if ever, take the train), if you plan on taking the subway or buses, be sure to get a pass. All you need to do is use the train twice a day to make the pass a better value than individual tickets. And chances are, if you use the train once, you’ll use it twice.

Use hotel points – Got hotel points? Use them! Marriott, Starwood, and Hilton hotels all have locations here in the city that can be booked with points. Free is always better than spending money.

Stay at InterhostelInterhostel might not be the best hostel in the city, but it’s the cheapest, and if you want a cramped, cheap dorm, this is the place to be. They’re the cheapest and most centrally located hostel in the city. Dorms start at 149 SEK ($22) per night.

Use a hospitality network – Since accommodation is expensive in Stockholm, you should consider Couchsurfing, a site that connects travelers with locals who offer a free place to stay. You can cut out your accommodation costs and get to know the local culture since there are a lot of hosts here who take part in a very active Couchsurfing community. They organize a lot of meet-ups, and this is a great way to make some friends.

Visiting Stockholm doesn’t need to bust your budget completely. There are many ways to save money in this expensive city. I return here year after year, and while it’s never the cheapest destination in the world, I always find ways to make the trip affordable. And with the tips above, so can you. Stockholm is one of the best places on earth—don’t let the prices keep you away!

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  1. I LOOOVE Hermans. Such a great budget place — and I think I would still go there even if I was a millionaire. Food is great and healthy, and the view over the archipelago is simply wonderful.

  2. Also, forgot to mention: Hotel Hornsgatan is a great budget hotel worth looking into. It’s located on one of Sodermalm’s busiest streets and it offers small rooms with many options (ensuite, private double, family room, etc.) for less than $100 per night.

  3. Diggin the tip for the archipelago and I love free museums. Managing your alcohol budget goes for anywhere. However, there is usually something cheap that’s popular with the locals.

    Good luck with your course, have a great xmas and a happy new year!

  4. Great tips there, Matt… and I know you love Stockholm :)
    Putting tap water in the water bottle – right… one could also make warm tea (e.g. green tea) and re-fill the water bottle.

    Saving on accommodation, transportation is the hardest, though…
    If you’re into backpacking, you can stay at hostels. But mid-range travelers, business travelers and families will have a hard time saving on hotels…

    Sweden is a very expensive place. Norway is even more expensive…

  5. All of your tips and instructions will be very helpful for all new travelers. However you suggest “Three free museums” it will be helpful for me as $15 per visit. I will go Stockholm Jan 15th 2014. So I think your instruction will help me and I will enjoy there very much.

  6. Great tips, I avoided Sweden last time I was in Europe specifically because I thought it would be too expensive – wish this post had come out sooner! I did go to Iceland though, which everyone thinks is crazy expensive, and I didn’t find it too bad. Just goes to show you can make pretty much anywhere work within your budget, as long as you’re willing to make a few sacrifices.

  7. Thanks for this article! Stockholm is such and incredible city with so many places to explore. One thing I love most about it is that it’s incredibly safe, which means there are virtually no areas of the city that remain off limits and the consequences of getting lost while exploring are not terrible!

  8. Robert Ellerson

    Stockholm is a very special place, with its laid-back people, history and intricate island layout; it is a visually stunning place to be. When you think of anywhere in Scandinavia you will probably be skeptical of the weather.

  9. Hi Nomadic Matt. I’ve been lucky enough to ring in the new year in Stockholm in the past, and it was a once in a life time experience! I will thoroughly recommend it.

    Best wishes, sophia

  10. Jerry Mandel

    Stockholm is no different. Why did you omit B&Bs and people who rent rooms in homes, even without breakfast? Even though NYC says it is illegal (no city tax revenue), people rent rooms by the night and by the week.

    • NomadicMatt

      Airbnb is a good way to save money on accommodation. I should have included it for other travelers who might not like the super cheap options.

  11. Sylvia

    Hi! Here are some more tips for budget-stockholm:
    About travelling – getting to and from the airport is not touristfriendly at all. They want you to get the train (easier for you and they get more money), but not only does the train ticket cost. Getting in and out of the airport to the station cost around 65 sek (7,31 euro). TAKE THE BUS INSTEAD! The express one cost 100 sek (11,25 euro), which might seem expensive but you avoid the other fee. There’s one even cheaper but it’s slightly complicated (you need to take the bus to Märsta and then switch to train to Stockholm + you need to get one of these cards Matt wrote about). Just.. DON’T TAKE THE TRAIN FROM THE AIRPORT! I’ve met loads of confused tourists wondering why the airport charged them an extra 7 euro…

    About alcohol – Go to systembolaget (the only store we’re allowed to sell strong alcohol) and buy some to drink at home/the hostel before you go out. Or, if you want to have a beer, Lion Bar is one of the cheapest bars in Stockholm. Around 3-4 euro for one beer. If you want to go clubbing, most of the pubs have lists on Facebook you can write yourself on to get in for free (most of the times you have to come early, but it’s well worth it). Hit me up if you want to know more about the clubs :)

  12. It´s a shame that many people are discouraged by Stockholm´s reputation of an expensive city – I managed to spend certainly less than 50€/day (staying in hostel Dalagatan for an excellent value). I took advantage of all possible free activities – which means basically walking everywhere and admiring all those wonderful buildings from the outside. Plus Stockholm parks are amazing! There is one more museum with free admission – The Royal Coin Cabinet next to the palace which focuses on money, its history and economy – it was quite interesting even for me (and I´m probably the biggest ignorant of traditional museums) :)

  13. Zyad Khan

    Hey Matt! Thanks so much for mentioning about CouchSurfing I read it on here and immediately found a host in Stockholm, Now I can go ahead and cancel my Hostel for three days and keep it for only the remaining 3 days.

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