Heading to Stockholm was a bit of a random choice. I had wanted to visit Scandinavia for a while, as I’d never been to that part of the world and was curious about what it would be like. Originally I had been looking at Copenhagen (still on my wishlist), but it was a bit out of my budget so I literally followed the map along and chose the next city that looked interesting – which turned out to be Stockholm.
Although I’d done a fair amount of research about the city before I went, I still didn’t really know what to expect before getting on the flight. A few facts that I did know was that it is the capital of Sweden, spread out across several islands, alcohol is really expensive (I don’t drink when travelling solo so this wasn’t an issue) and that it is so far north that in summer there are tons of daylight hours – great for getting lots of sightseeing in!
I also discovered a week before I was due to fly out that Stockholm (and Sweden) is becoming a cashless society, which means that cards are more accepted than cash. I prefer to use cash when travelling and was able to use cash in a lot of the tourist areas, but if you are planning a trip to Sweden having a card is a must as many places, including restaurants and cafes, as well as the public transport I used, did not accept cash.
Stockholm old town
I landed in Stockholm on Monday afternoon and got the shuttle bus from the airport to the city centre. My hotel was only a 10 minute walk from the bus station so I was able to quickly find it, check in, dump my bags and head off to explore the city. My hotel was in the area of Stockholm known as The City, and to get to the main tourist area of the Old Town I simply had to walk down a busy shopping street. Soon I was walking over a bridge that led into the heart of the Old Town. This area of Stockholm is an amazing place to simply wander around. Many of the buildings date from the medieval period, with narrow streets that open up into large squares. There are lots of cafes and restaurants scattered throughout, many with outdoor seating which is perfect for summer.
As a vegetarian eating out can be a problem when travelling, but in the Old Town there were so many restaurants offering vegetarian meals that I didn’t have any problems finding somewhere to eat.
Surprisingly, there were lots of Italian restaurants in this area as well, which was perfect for me as I love Italian food, but for those wanting something a bit more traditional Swedish (reindeer meat is a speciality apparently) there were loads of restaurants offering more traditional foods.
Stockholm’s Royal Palace
Along with churches and medieval streets, the Old Town is also home to the Royal Palace, built in the 18th Century when the original royal castle burnt down in 1697. On my second day in the city, the weather wasn’t very good (cool and drizzling rain), so I decided to spend the afternoon discovering the Royal Palace. Tickets for all areas of the palace cost about £15 for an adult and allowed entry into four different areas of the building – the main Royal Palace, the treasury, Gustav III’s Museum of Antiquities and the Tre Kronor Museum.
In the middle of the Palace is a courtyard where there is a cafe with indoor and outdoor seating. On my second day I chose to sit indoors to have a long and relaxing lunch. It was a great place to just sit and relax and I could also get free coffee refills. On my third day the weather had improved and the courtyard was the perfect place to sit with a coffee and people watch.
I’m a bit of a history geek, so on the morning of my first full day in Stockholm I walked over to Djurgarden (one of the islands that make up the city) to visit Vasamuseet. Inside the museum is the remains of Vasa, a warship that sank in 1628 on its maiden voyage. It was an incredible experience to be within touching distance of an authentic ship that had been at the bottom of the sea for over 300 years but which was still almost fully intact. While the ship took up the majority of the museum space – it was huge – around the outside were smaller exhibitions about the ship, what life on board would have been like and the people who died when it sank. I particularly found the exhibition on women interesting, not only was the ship built in a shipyard owned by a woman, but also at least two women were onboard and died when it sank.
Djurgarden is an island known for being home to many museums, as well as Stockholm’s Royal National City Park. Always a fan of walking and being active, after visiting the Vasamuseet I headed off towards the park for a walk. The part of the park I walked through offered stunning views of Stockholm, but with the constant drizzling rain I decided to head back towards the Old Town for a coffee indoors. Back in the Old Town I found a lovely little cafe that offered coffee and cake.
Talking of coffee and cake; while in Sweden I discovered the Swedish tradition of Fika – which is basically a timeout of your day to enjoy a coffee and cake, preferably while catching up with a friend. As a lover of coffee and cake, and catching up with close friends, this is a part of Swedish culture I’m definitely bringing back home with me!
If I’d stayed longer
When talking to a local I was advised to take a boat trip to see the islands of the archipelago as I was told they are stunning, but with the weather not being great and having limited time in the city I decided to give them a miss. Another place I would have visited if I’d had more time is the island Drottningholm, which is the home of another Royal Palace and a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are boat excursions to both these places that leave from the city centre.
I loved Stockholm and found it a safe, modern, clean and friendly city with lots of culture and history to explore. I felt completely fine travelling as a solo female throughout the city and was relaxed the entire time I was there. It is definitely a city I would recommend visiting, whether on your own or with others, although be aware that it is not a cheap holiday destination, saying this I felt it was worth the money.
Stockholm fact file
Currency: The Swedish currency is Swedish Krona, but be aware that Sweden is fast becoming a cashless society so make sure you have a debit or credit card with you as well.
Language: The official language is Swedish, although everyone I spoke to was fluent in English.
Flights: I got a Ryanair flight to and from Vasteras airport, but there are many airlines that fly into Stockholm’s various airports.
Hotel: I stayed at Scandic No 53. The hotel room was basic, but clean and safe and ideal for a person travelling on their own. As well as this it was centrally located and only about a 15 minute walk to the Old Town.
Costs: Stockholm is one of the more expensive cities to visit in Europe. Museum entrance fees cost me £10-£15 each. I had dinner in restaurants in the very touristy areas of the Old Town, which cost me £20-£25 for a main and a soft drink. Lunch, again in very touristy areas, of a sandwich and drink was about £10.
Public transport: I prefer walking as much as possible so the only public transport I used was a shuttle bus taking passengers from and to the airport. This was about an 80 minute journey each way and a return ticket cost just under £30. There were many hop on and off buses and boats throughout Stockholm that could take tourists to the main sights, plus a metro and tram service throughout the city.