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Whether you are looking for a reasonable summer getaway or a snowy winter trip, Sweden has it all. The food is amazing, the shopping is great and the attractions are never-ending! And I can’t forget about all the good-looking people you will see there! If flying from North America, you will likely start your trip to Sweden in Stockholm. Stockholm is a great city to explore by foot because everything is concentrated in one small area. The city spreads out over 14 islands in Lake Mälaren and looks out to the Baltic Sea to the east. Here are a few tips to help you plan your trip:
When to Visit
Depending on what type of trip you are looking for, the best time to visit varies. If you are looking for a warm summer vacation, the best time to go would be during the summer months of June, July and August, as it is the warmest. Although if you go in July, be aware that this is the vacation month for everyone in Sweden so many stores and restaurants close down for the month. If you are looking for a snowy trip, November to February is the best time to go. The scenery is supposed to be spectacular and there are some great mountains for skiers. Also, if you go in the winter, you may be lucky enough to see the northern lights, which can be spotted from late September to early April.
Norwegian Air flies direct from Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York, Oakland and San Francisco to Stockholm, and prices can get as low as $380 round trip if you book in advance. The flight is about 10 ½ hours from the west coast and about 7 ½ hours from the east coast. More recently, as of March 14th 2016, SAS added an 11 hour direct flight daily from LAX to Stockholm to compete with Norwegian. SAS also has direct flights to Stockholm from Chicago and New York but this airline’s prices run quite a bit higher than Norwegian. Unfortunately, there are no non-stop flights from Canada to Stockholm yet. Also, make sure your passport is valid for at least 3 months after your departure date; otherwise the airport authorities won’t let you get on your flight.
What to Pack
If you are planning on taking public transportation around the country, it would be best to pack a carry-on as it will allow you to walk from the metro stations to your hotel much easier. And for the girls, because the streets are usually cobblestone, I would suggest packing flats or sandals instead of heels.
The Arlanda Airport is 45km north of Stockholm. The quickest way to get to the city is by train, which leaves for Stockholm every 15 minutes and take 20 minutes to get to the city. This costs ~$60US round trip. If you are on a budget, there are also buses that take you to the city but will take much longer and will cost about $30 round trip. If you are planning on using public transportation over walking, look into buying an SL card. A week costs about $35US (300SK). If you are under 25, you can also get a discount. Another transportation alternative is getting a hop-on hop-off bus & boat pass that takes you all around the city, especially if you are only here for a short amount of time. There will be many different companies that offer the hop-on-hop-off bus and boat service. They are all priced about the same at about $30US for a 24-hour bus pass or $45US for a 24-hour boat and bus pass. Make sure to try negotiating with the ticket vendors as I found that they will easily decrease the prices to give you a deal if there is a group of you.
Currency & Payment
The currency used here is Swedish Krona (1 USD is about 8 Swedish Krona). Generally, Sweden is very expensive so be prepared to spend a lot. Food, drinks and cabs can be up to double the amount that you would spend in Canada or the US. Tip isn’t expected here but people will usually leave their loose change or round up to the nearest big number. Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere.
You can find free Wi-Fi almost everywhere here, even on the tour buses, so there really isn’t a need to put your phone on a plan. (Editor’s Note: If you are going to rely on public Wi-Fi, make sure you protect yourself with a VPN. That will secure your connection. TunnelBear is free for 500MB /month and works well.)
Swedish food is largely based on fish, meat and potato. Unusual specialties include reindeer, elk meat and wild berries. Almost all places have lunch specials from 11am-2pm that usually come with salad, bread and coffee. The local spirit is akvavit (licorice liquor) and comes in many different flavors.
Wednesday night is a big night to go out in Stockholm so most bars and restaurants will be packed. If you can, time your trip to land during the summer solstice festival Midsummer, which is usually mid-June in Stockholm. Skansen on Djurgården is the city’s most popular venue for this.
Where to Stay
- Radisson Blu Strand Hotel – right by the water and is very central
- Hotel Hellsten – live jazz in the lounge on Thursday evening
- Hotel Birger Jarl – showcase for Swedish design; the lobby doubles as an exhibition space for local artists; rates include breakfast and free entrance to Kulturhuset and the National Museum of Fine Arts
- Victory Hotel – located in the old town; has 45 ship-shape rooms, top rated restaurant in hotel but only really serves meat
- Lydmar Hotel – small luxury hotel (if you want to splurge)
Where to Eat or Grab a Drink
- Bakfickan – small restaurant that serves Swedish classics. They don’t take reservations. The food is amazing and portions are big.
- Riche – great place for lunch and dinner but better for dinner as there are multiple bars within the restaurant that you can move along to after. Explore all ends of the restaurant to see what your options are, atmosphere and food wise. They serve many local dishes.
- Sturehof – for lunch or dinner. This is also a good place to go after dinner for a drink.
- Take a fika (a local saying for coffee and cake). The Vurma Café in Sodermalm is a great place for this but you can do this at any coffee shop. Make sure to try a Kanel, which is the famous local pastry. Chokladbolls are also really good. Swedes will usually have these for 2 hours, sometimes longer.
- Doden i Grytan (Death in a Pot) – a local spot that rarely attracts tourists
- Sibiriens Soppkok – great lunch spot if you like soup
- Speceriet – similar to a gastropub. They don’t take reservations so if you can, go early and get a spot at the community tables.
- Lasse i Parken – great summer restaurant with garden tables. The menu mixes traditional Swedish and Mediterranean food.
- Have lunch at SaluHall, an indoor food market in Ostermalm. Lisa Elmqvist, known for its fresh fish and seafood, is a good place to eat here. Lunch is served until 5:30pm. Order Toast Skagen, a beer, coffee and homemade truffles.
- Go to the Lydmar hotel lower level patio bar right outside the entrance of the hotel for drinks on a nice day. Some nights, they will have live music here.
- Kungstrad Garden has a lot of nice outdoor cafes/bars. On a nice day, grab a drink here.
- Lobby bar of the Grand Hotel is great for drinks and has a nice view of the harbor & Royal Palace.
- Le Bar Rouge for late-night drinks.
- Malarpaviljongen – an open air café lounge with 3 floating decks; a great summer hangout spot.
- Gondolen – great spot to get a drink with a view; on the edge of the Sodermalm neighborhood, which overlooks the Old Town.
- Och Himlen Dartill – a bar and restaurant atop a Sodermalm skyscraper with great views.
- East – modern Asian restaurant with great seafood and sushi.
- Moderna Museet – great brunch spot (buffet) serving all sorts of dishes. Reservations are essential as there are only two sittings at 11:30am and 2pm.
What to Do
- Check out the view of Stockholm from Soder Heights in Södermalm on a sunny day. There is a nice path that you can walk from Old Town, over the bridge along the north part of Södermalm that takes you to Hornstull (the west part of the island).
- Take a walk through Gamla Stan (Old Town) and see the changing of the guards at 11:15am near the palace. Here you will also find lots of tourist shops with souvenirs. One place that had some great local items at reasonable prices is Halldor (address: Skomakarg 24).
- Take a boat cruise to see the Stockholm archipelago beyond the main three. There is also an option to do a dinner cruise.
- Definitely visit the Djurgarden Park, including Skansen open-air museum and zoo, and the Vasa museum. These museums give student discounts and rarely check for ID. There are great walks here and perfect for picnics. You can also eat at the Rosendals Trädgård café. Get there easily from the city center by foot, or hop on a boat from Nybrokajen or Gamla Stan/Slussen.
- Visit the Fotografiska museum. This is a great photography museum that has a café with one of the best views of the city.
- Walk the five miles that loops around Riddarfjarden, Stockholm’s main body of water – start at the City Hall and cross to Riddarholmen; carry on to Sodermalm and stop at Mellqvist Kaffebar (one of the city’s best coffee bars); continue over the high bridge called Vasterbron and descend to the island of Kungsholmen.
- Go out to Bern night club or Sturecompagniet (the most popular club in Sweden made up of four rooms over two floors).
- Ugglans bar – has a ton of games and pretty good food. The entrance can be hard to find but if you go late, you will see it because there is always a long line. To play any of the games, you have to reserve them beforehand.
- If you are visiting with a group, the 24 hour “booze cruise” on The Viking that takes you from Stockholm to Helsinki is supposed to be fun.
About the Author:
Christie Lee is a sports consultant from Vancouver, BC, and is usually based in Los Angeles, CA. “Usually” because she’s combined her passion for travel and love of sports to hit the road as often as she can. From the MLB Playoffs in Kansas City to the World Cup in São Paulo to the Super Bowl in San Francisco, Christie was there to not only watch the action on the field, but to check out what the host cities had to offer. However, Christie’s wanderlust isn’t just limited to sports travel. Her big goal is to go and discover new countries every year. Recently, she’s been to Belize, Denmark and Cuba. Christie’s love of photography, printmaking and scuba diving serve as a guide to finding adventure and immersing into the native culture of her latest destination. Follow Christie’s travels in her blog Christie’s Chronicles and on Instagram.
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