Built on 14 islands, Stockholm has one of the most picturesque settings of all European capitals. Comprising of many regal buildings and exclusive clothes shops, this city fuses the old and the new with little effort.
Stockholm gives you the opportunity to do over a couple of hours which, in other destinations around the world, would take a number of days – island hop. Built over 14 main islands, you can mosey from one island to the other at your hearts content, and then hop on a ferry to take you to another.
You may have heard one way or another that it is one of the most expensive capital cities in Europe. While it isn’t as cheap as some of its counterparts, it certainly doesn’t rank along the likes of Oslo or even Paris in some cases.
One thing to remember, however, is that, while it has some world-class museums, and its Old Town is as picturesque as any in Europe, it pays a lot to see what else is to offer. Give some time to exploration and you’ll discover bars where the locals drink, sports which the locals follow, and restaurants where the locals eat.
Unfortunately for the budget traveller, eating out in Stockholm can take its toll financially. The city is full of restaurants although many cater for a largely young and stylish clientele, meaning prices leave a lot to be desired.
Many chic, stylish and trendy eateries can be found in the equally stylish Sodermalm district, just south of the Gamla Stan. Many of these are lined up Gotagan, the island’s main thoroughfare. As it is the city’s tourist quarter, eateries in the Gamla Stan are geared towards tourists, although it does have some nice finds.
If you want to try some local delicacies during your stay in the Swedish capital, ‘Swedish meatballs’ is a good dish to start off on. But no matter what you order, something that will probably feature is loganberries.
By air: Stockholm’s chief airport is Arlanda Airport. Situated 45 kilometres north of the city centre, nearly all international and domestic flights arrive here. The best way to get to the city from Arlanda Airport is on one of the coaches which connect the airport and Cityterminalen.
Budget airlines such as Ryanair fly to Stockholm Skavsta which is 80 minutes from the city centre via coach. They drop you at the city bus terminal, Cityterminalen.
By train: There are direct train links between Stockholm and Scandinavia’s other capitals, Oslo and Copenhagen. It is also connected to all major Swedish cities by rail.
By bus: Stockholm’s major bus station where long haul buses arrive is Cityterminalen. This is opposite the central train station.
By ferry: It is possible to reach Stockholm via passenger ferry from all other Baltic states.
On foot:Many of Stockholm’s 14 islands are reachable via foot from the Gamla Stan, the city’s focal point. And to walk from one side of the aforementioned island to the other takes about ten minutes, once you don’t stop at any of its attractions, something which it has in abundance.
By metro: Locally known as tunnelbana, the metro is the easiest way to get around Stockholm. It has three lines – blue, green and red. Travelling by metro in Stockholm is particularly enjoyable as all the stations are beautifully decorated.
By bus: There are two colour buses operating throughout Stockholm – red buses and newer blue buses. The two routes used most with tourists are #47 which goes to ‘Gröna Lund’ and the Vasa Museum and #69 which goes to Kaknästornet.
By tram: ‘Museum’ streetcars travels to and from ‘Djurgården’ and are the same ones which operated throughout Stockholm 40 or 50 years ago. From April to December they run on Saturdays and Sundays, while in June, July and August they run every day.
In all its tourist-driven debauchery, Stockholm’s Gamla Stan is undoubtedly the city’s most attractive area. With its narrow, cobblestone streets, breathtaking architecture and undeniable character, nowhere is as pleasant to get lost in.
The city’s other most appealing island is Djurgarden where two of the city’s most prominent museums can be found within minutes walk from each other. Sodermalm, the island south of the old town, is packed with mainly furniture shops, bars and clubs, while X north of the old town is the true city centre.
To appreciate Stockholm properly, get a ferry around its archipelago. The city centre is built on 14 islands, but beyond that there are thousands more. A ferry will give you the chance to explore this unique characteristic.
If you want to join them you want to be heading for Sodermalm, the island south of Gamla Stan. Each bar has its own characteristic, and each bar is brimming with young Swedes on weekend nights, regardless of the time of year.
While Sodermalm is hopping regardless of season, Gamla Stan isn’t. During the summer the tourists who throng its streets in the day time, don’t move very far and can be found in the old town’s numerous Irish bars and underground caverns. But during the winter, even at 10pm on a Saturday night, its streets can be all but deserted.
North of the Gamla Stan on Norrmalm nightclubs rule the roost, although so do hefty beer prices and unapproachable doormen. If you do plan on going clubbing for the night, make sure to wear your Sunday best.
Most European citizens don’t need a visa to enter Sweden. Those planning on staying longer than for 90 days are required to obtain a temporary holiday visa. American, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand citizens have the same entry requirements. Natives of South Africa, China, and some Africa and Asian countries are required to get a holiday visa before entrance. These tourist visas are valid for 90 days.
To ensure you are aware of the full entry requirements for entering Sweden, contact your country’s Swedish embassy before travelling.
The official currency is the Swedish Krona (Kr) which is divided up into 100 öre. Notes come in denominations of Kr20, Kr50, Kr100, Kr200, Kr500 and Kr1000. Coins used are 50 öre, Kr1, Kr2, Kr5 and Kr10.
Swedish is Sweden’s first language and the most widely spoken in Stockholm. English is generally the second language and you will find most people in the service industry speak it.
Stockholm has a temperate climate and the best months to visit are May to September inclusive. Summers can be wet sometimes so you are better off carrying an umbrella with your in case of rain. Winters are quite cold and snow is commonly seen.
Visitors from EU countries are entitled to medical treatment under the EU Reciprocal Medical Treatment agreement. Before you travel you should collect an E111 form from your local social security office. This form may also be obtained in post offices.
For minor health problems the national pharmacy is referred to as ‘Apotek’. It is advised that you take out travel insurance before going.
Stockholm is one hour ahead of GMT and 6 ahead of EST. Daylight saving hours is in operation between the last Sunday in March and the last Sunday in October.
General opening hours for shops are between 9.30am-4pm Monday-Friday and until either 2pm or 4pm on Saturdays.
Banks are open from Monday-Friday between 9am and 3pm. Bureau de Changes are open every day until 6pm, and later in some cases.
Stockholm’s main tourist, Stockholm Information Service, is situated at Sweden House, Kungsträgården. It is open from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 5pm at the weekends. There is also a tourist office in the train station which is another good source of information.
There are three rates of tax in Sweden. The first is 25% which is the most widely used rate and is added on most goods and services. A reduced rate of 12% applies to food and hotel charges while a third rate of 6% is added to newspapers, books, magazines and entrance fees to sporting and cultural events.
Money can be changed in banks, post offices and at ‘Forex’ offices which are found nationwide and specialise in changing foreign currency/travellers cheques. Regardless of the amount you are changing, there is a service charge for changing money.
When calling overseas from Stockholm dial the international access number (00) followed by the country number, the area code (dropping the 0) and the local number. Public phones take pre-paid callcards which can be bought at kiosks, hotels, telephone stores and shops.
When calling Stockholm from abroad dial the country’s international access code, then Sweden’s country code (46) the area code which is 08 (dropping the 0), followed by the local number.
Post offices open between 9am and 6pm Monday-Friday and from 10am to 1pm on Saturdays. Posting letters to the rest of Europe should take 3-4 days approximately and 1 week to North America. Letters/parcels to Australia take longer.
The city’s main post office can be found at Drottninggatan 53, 10110 Stockholm.
An extra service charge is usually added to most bills. Whether you give anything more on top of that (ie round it off the nearest 5/10) is totally at your own discretion.
Sweden’s public’s holidays are New Years Day (January 1st), Eve of the Epiphany and Epiphany (January 5th/6th), Easter (March/April), Labour Day (May 1st), Ascension Day (late May), Whit Monday (late May/early June), Midsummer’s Day (July 21st)), All Saints Day (late October/early November), Christmas Day (December 25th) and Boxing Day (December 26th).
It is worth noting what Sweden’s public holidays are before travelling, as the majority of businesses, banks and shops shut for the day.