After a short but turbulent morning flight from Amsterdam Schiphol (as in getting jostled around in a metal tube of panicking people turbulent), we landed at Stockholm Arlanda.
We spent the next hour-and-a-half staring at a merry-go-round of other people’s luggage before realizing ours was on the wrong carousel. (Shout out to Scandinavian Airlines for that one 👏)
From the airport, we hopped on Flygbussarna for cheap transport to our Airbnb, rumbling past green-washed landscapes reminiscent of the Pacific Northwest.
So, why Stockholm?
Neither of us had been to Sweden before but we’d heard “good things” about Stockholm. With a looming case of decision fatigue, “good things” was good enough for us at the time of planning.
In hindsight, I wouldn’t choose to spend an entire month in Stockholm for several reasons:
- To my own fault, I failed to realize the majestic Scandinavian landscapes akin to Norway’s Trolltunga require a minimum eight-hour drive from Stockholm. Which leads me to…
- Lovely parks and waterways aside, Stockholm is a city scrubbed clean of creative expression. Aside from a lone graffiti board on the outskirts of Tantolunden Park, the city remains beige.
- Dubbed the “startup capital of Europe” (second only to Silicon Valley), Stockholm bears an unsettling resemblance to San Francisco and Seattle. It’s more expensive than a round-trip ticket to hell and has terrible weather most of the year.
- Despite being a startup hotspot, very few expats seem to settle here. Cost considered, I don’t blame them. As a result, we struggled to find a coworking hub and English-friendly activities.
To be fair, Stockholm is not a bad city like, say … Fresno, California. And it really is lovely in the summer. Here are some of the nice things about Stockholm:
- It remains relatively tourist-free. We visited toward the end of high season and found most tourists confined within the city center. Even there, the tour groups were nothing compared to Europe’s other capital cities.
- Stockholm is a well-connected city, making it easy to get around through a system of punctual trains, trams, and buses. While not as bike-centric as Amsterdam, city bikes are also scattered throughout the city.
- The Swedes love nature. If you visit during summer (as you should), they’ll be in high spirits with plenty of al fresco activities for you to join: boules, swimming, jogging, kayaking, paddleboarding, pick your poison.
- FIKA. This lovely little Swedish tradition entails taking a coffee break during your day. Not just any coffee break, mind you. A moment to slow down and appreciate the little things … like flat whites and cardamom buns. No takeaway cups allowed. If you listen closely on the streets of Stockholm, you’ll hear the word “fika” begin to flow through casual conversations around half-past-one.
Now, if you find yourself in Stockholm (during summer, I hope for your sake), here’s a rundown of our favorite spots.
When to Go
Summer, of course. We arrived on July 31 to a sunny and humid 90+ F with sunset around 22:30. This lasted about a week before simmering down to a comfortable 70-78 F with a few days of light rain and one 15-minute torrential downpour.
By the time we left late August, days were becoming shorter and evening jackets more necessary. Pack light layers and a raincoat.
Where to Stay
The fact our Airbnb cost $2,611 for 28 nights should’ve been our first clue to the exorbitant cost of living.
That said, we loved our Airbnb, located on the waterfront in Hornstull, a laid-back local neighborhood on the island of Södermalm. Everything we needed was within a 10-minute walk, including the subway station, two grocery stores, Tantolunden park, an outdoor gym, and Langholmen island.
Side note: Langholmen used to be a prison island. The prison has since been converted to a hostel, where you can rent a room. Be warned, the windows are still prison-sized.
Our Airbnb host, a chipper Dane from Copenhagen, went above and beyond, even treating us to dinner during our stay. Over shared tapas and wine, we reveled in a shared love of travel. And with an impressive list of passport stamps, the fact he chose Hornstull as his home says something.
But really, you can’t go wrong with anywhere on Södermalm. Restaurants, cafes, vintage thrift stores, parks, and public transportation punctuate this island. You can still get to the old city center, Gamla Stan, in less than 10 minutes via subway.
If you’re planning your first trip with Airbnb, you can use our link to get $40 off your booking.
Where to Work
Although they supposedly exist, we failed to find a co-working space convenient to our apartment. As a result, we spent most of our time working from home.
However, we saw people working on laptops at various cafes including Drop Coffeehouse and Espresso House (an easy-to-find chain). If you feel especially unadventurous, you can also post up at Starbucks or Joe & the Juice. ‘Cause globalization.
Where to Eat
Unlike our previous month in Amsterdam, we scaled back on eating out in Stockholm due to the high costs. These places were worth the splurge:
Vurma – We only went out for breakfast once and it was to Vurma. The avocado toast felt like home, plus they offer tasty lunch bowls and vegan options.
Omnipollos hatt – Does going somewhere five times in a month qualify it as a local favorite? If so, Omnipollos hatt was our local favorite. Good pizza, good beer, good people.
Barbro – Sushi with a modern flair, served in a hip-but-cozy atmosphere with friendly service. Make a dinner reservation or try to snag a spot at the bar.
Bio Rio Bistro – Our other local favorite, serving flavorful and fresh vegan dishes in a vintage bistro adjacent to a single-screen theater dating back to the 1940s.
For any time in between
Drop Coffeehouse – Arguably the best fika spot on Södermalm. Go for the flat whites and cardamom buns, stay for afternoon sun beaming down on the sidewalk seats.
Rosendals Trädgård – Rosendals is so much more than a doting garden cafe serving tasty local and organic fare. It’s an oasis of sustainability, growth, and enjoyment nestled along the meandering paths of Stockholm’s garden island, Djurgården. Although pricey ($15–$20 USD per person), the experience makes it worthwhile.
Where to Shop
Price of eating out considered, we did a lot of grocery shopping in Stockholm. Here’s the rundown.
Hemköp – A pleasant all-in-one shop where you’ll find all the usual suspects: fresh produce, pre-packaged items, baked goods, vegan alternatives like Oatly ice cream (just try it), and personal toiletries. The only thing you can’t buy here are beverages containing more than 3% alcohol. Which leads us to…
Systembolaget – On our first visit to Hemköp, Matt picked up a 6-pack of Heineken: only 3% abv. So I picked up a bottle of wine: alcohol-free. We proceeded down the aisle like this for a few minutes before realizing alcohol required a special trip to Systembolaget—the Swedish government’s attempt to minimize alcohol-related problems. The state-run monopoly is the only retail store where you can buy alcoholic beverages containing more than 3.5% abv. It’s open Monday through Friday from 10:00 to 18:00 and Saturday 10:00 to 15:00. You read that right. Closed Sunday. Full stop. Not cheap. Bring your ID.
The English Bookstore – If you find yourself stranded in Stockholm without, god forbid, an English book, The English Bookstore’s got your back. You’ll find this quaint shop with helpful staff nestled along the side streets of Södermalm. If time allows, you can also place special orders for not-in-stock books.
What to Do
During summer, weekends in Stockholm are best spent outside. There’s a reason the locals have an extra bounce in their step, after all. Despite the high cost of living in Stockholm, there’s no shortage of inexpensive things to do. During summer.
Cruise the archipelago – While the city of Stockholm itself is built on 14 islands, its namesake archipelago stretches much farther. If you do one thing in Stockholm, sail through the 24,000 some odd islands and islets. You can book tours of varying length or—for the cost-savvy traveler—pick a single destination and hop on a public ferry for around $20 USD per person. We took the Cinderella ferry to Finnhamn, a sleepy island in the outer archipelago. The ferry ride there was less than luxurious but offered sailboat-studded views. Finnhamn itself is better suited for campers, as there’s not much to do besides lay about on the docks and grab a bite at the island’s only restaurant. Svartsö, one of the larger islands, might make for a more exciting day trip.
Visit Djurgården – Stockholm’s garden island has a little something for everyone. Into 70’s pop music? ABBA museum. Into cheap thrills? Gröna Lund amusement park. Into history? Skansen open-air museum. Into nature? Frolick through fields of flowers at Rosendals.
Tour the Royal Palace – After an over-crowded and anti-climatic changing of the guard, we toured The Royal Palace of Stockholm. The rich history and ornate interiors make it a worthwhile visit for beauty connoisseurs and history buffs alike.
Tantolunden Park – A popular Södermalm spot for swimming, picnicking, jogging, and strolling in the summer. With an open-air gym and waterside running trails, Tantolunden Park became our go-to exercise spot. It also has a playground, beach volleyball, minigolf, disc golf, and is home to more than 100 allotment garden sheds reminiscent of oversized dollhouses.
Kayak around Långholmen island – Stockholmers love summer watersports and kayaking is no exception. From Långholmen, you can rent kayaks or stand-up paddleboards by the hour and join in on the … um, fun.
See a film at Bio Rio – Ah, Bio Rio. A Hornstull neighborhood favorite screening international films year round. Check the schedule for English movies before you show up. We went twice. Coincidentally (or not), both films included a nod to Sweden. Normal movie prices—and every Sunday at 10:30 they host a movie with breakfast in the lounge.
Play games at Ugglan – Whether by fate or sheer luck, we stumbled into this underground game mecca the first day they re-opened for the season. A winter oasis of all games imaginable, they close for a couple months during the summer while locals get their vitamin D fix. Here you’ll find all the games: boule ball, shuffleboard, ping pong, pinball, board games, video games, and more.
Take a yoga class – I emailed every yoga studio within a 10-minute radius of our Airbnb looking for English-led yoga classes. It wasn’t until our last week in Stockholm that I discovered Yogayama. I emailed the Östermalm studio to confirm classes were, indeed, taught in English. They said, “Almost all of our classes are taught in English, to be sure you can always talk to the teacher before class starts and tell them you’re English speaking. There will be no problem.” As it turns out, the first class I picked fell in the non-English category. But the staff were welcoming and the teacher accommodating. Single classes are priced steep (around $22 USD) but get the job done when you need a yoga class fix.
How to Get Around
Stockholm is a highly-connected city, making it easy to skip from island to island without wasting too much time. If you plan to stay for a month or more, buy an unlimited SL Access card. This is the best way to get around and allows you to scan into any subway, tram, or bus.
Plus, some of the Stockholm subway stations feel like stepping into another dimension.
Is Stockholm a good place for digital nomads: 5/10 (-5 for high cost and lack of community)
Budget needed to live in Stockholm for a month: $4,500+ USD for two people, including shared rent, groceries, entertainment, and modest eating out
P.S. Wanna see Stockholm in action? Watch the video version.
P.P.S. If you visit any of the places mentioned in this guide, snap a pic and share with us using the hashtag #tentotokyo. We’d love to see your photos!