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The Breakdown: Stockholm

Exchange Rate: $1 Canadian = 6.5 Swedish Krona (SEK)

Overall
Sweden was never high on our list of countries to visit, but when we decided to go aurora hunting in Finland, a little stopover in Stockholm seemed like the perfect addition to our itinerary.

Things didn’t go exactly as planned, due to some unexpected financial difficulties, but we still managed to enjoy our time in this very expensive Scandinavian capital.

What we Did
We spent our time in Stockholm mostly walking around and discovering the beautiful centre. Built on 14 islands, with connecting bridges, huge green spaces and stunning architecture, Stockholm was a city where just strolling around was the perfect way to explore.

We wandered through atmospheric Gamla Stan, the serene Djurgรฅrden, busy Normalm and stylish Sรถdermalm, stopping for a fika or a dagens meal whenever we were tired. Looking back, it seems like all we did was amble aimlessly around the city for 72 hours, but those unexpected financial issues prevented us from doing more (details on that later).

With only 3 days, limited daylight, and a restricted budget (not a good thing in Sweden), we had to be very selective about the attractions we chose to visit. Ultimately, we decided to check out the Vasa Museum (Agri’s choice) and Fotografiska (my choice).

It’s not that there isn’t a lot to do in Stockholm. There is. With over 80 museums, ranging from the Nobel Museum to the Swedish Royal Armoury to the Moderna Museet, you’re actually spoiled for choice there. In warmer weather, you can catch a ferry to the Stockholm Archipelago, stay up late with the midnight sun, or even take full advantage of the Stockholm Card.

I wish we’d been able to. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Food and Drink
I’m convinced that Swedish people eat better than the rest of us. Not because each dish is super amazing and inventive, but because the freshness and quality of the ingredients themselves are second to none. I would swear on a stack of bibles that in it’s raw form, a Swedish potato tastes better than a Canadian potato. Ditto for smoked salmon, bread, cheese, and anything else we put in our mouths there.

We dined on Swedish meatballs (of course), herring – fried or pickled, with a huge assortment of different sauces, vibrant cloudberries, fresh cheeses, and rye crisp breads. With the country’s focus on using fresh, local ingredients whenever possible, there wasn’t a vast variety of choices, but everything we ate was flavourful, healthy and satisfying.

There were falafels, pizza, Thai food and other international options available, but since we were only in Stockholm for a short 3 days, we concentrated on sampling as much “Swedish” food as we could.

We didn’t indulge in any alcohol while there (we couldn’t justify $20 for a glass of wine in an average restaurant), but drank multiple cups of good Swedish kafi, and tried more than a few cinnamon-y kanelbulle. After being unable to stomach the taste of Finland’s coffee, it was a big relief that Stockholm had a drinkable version.

Costs
For the first time in a long while, we planned to visit a country without worrying too much about our travel budget. We know ourselves well enough by now, to know we aren’t going to go overboard, and Sweden seemed like a good country to just throw caution to the wind and enjoy.

Unfortunately the universe had other plans for us, and we had problems that I couldn’t possibly have dreamt up.

For some reason, NOT A SINGLE ONE of our credit cards worked in the country. Not at stores. Not at restaurants. Not to withdraw money from an ATM. It wasn’t because our credit cards were maxed or expired…because they worked perfectly, before and after Sweden, both in Finland and Estonia. They just didn’t work in Stockholm.

Now you can imagine what a conundrum this presented – to be traveling in one of the most expensive countries in the world without access to cash?

It definitely put a major damper on our plans. Now, I hate to admit this, but we’ve sorta taken for granted that we’ll always be able to access money through ATMs, and don’t carry too much cash. Our Sweden trip could’ve been a real disaster, but fortunately, I’d stuck some leftover euros in my wallet right before leaving our house.

It was enough to get us through 3 days of travel in Stockholm, albeit doing much less than we’d originally planned. Lesson learned: Always carry some cash because crazy things can happen.

Our time in Sweden cost $745.65, or $248.55 per day, not including flights. I’m pretty sure this figure would’ve been much, much higher if our credit cards had been working properly. Hmm…maybe this worked in our favour after all? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Unsurprisingly, accommodation was the most expensive part of our budget, at 35% of the total. Details can be found HERE on the Budget Your Trip website.

Travel Tip
If there are 2 of you, and you can afford it, book yourself into a hotel that includes a buffet breakfast. A hostel might be cheaper (for 2 beds, not by much), but it won’t include breakfast, and you’ll definitely be missing out.

The Best Western Plus Time hotel that we stayed at, might’ve been a bit further away than some of the other options (a 45 minute walk to Gamla Stan), but it more than made up for the distance in cost savings and the extraordinary breakfast it included. While not technically a full-on Swedish smorgasbord, it was pretty darn close, and included a mouth-watering array of choices.

We were able to eat enough at breakfast to keep us stuffed until dinnertime, which was good for both the wallet AND the tummy.

Attraction Tip
The Vasa Museum is Stockholm’s most visited museum and premiere tourist attraction with good reason. With huge masts rising high above it’s roof in the Djurgarden, it displays the world’s only fully intact 17th Century warship. Salvaged from Stockholm’s harbour in 1961 and carefully restored, the unfortunate 64 gun warship sank on her 1628 maiden voyage.

Joining the other 1 million visitors that pass through the Vasamuseet’s doors, every year, is well worth it. Details about our experience HERE.

When in Stockholm
Indulge in a fika. This simple coffee break, always with something sweet like a kanelbulle, is considered by Swedes to be an essential part of daily life.

Head over to Cafe Saturnus in ร–stermalm, for cinnamon buns as big as your head, hit one of the many Wayne’s or Espresso House locations peppered around the city, or find a ‘so hip it hurts’ cafe in unconventional Sodermalm, to get your fix.

Have you been to Stockholm? What are your favourite things to do in the city?

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26 Comments Post a comment
  1. Well, it feels like you made the best of your “luck”. In the very end it may have been not too bad to have no access to more money (Stockholm is so expensive, you may have burned even more cash :D).

    September 15, 2014
    • Lol…totally true. We totally would’ve burned through cash – there were so many restaurants we wanted to go to there, and eating is definitely not cheap in Stockholm!

      September 16, 2014
  2. I’m so sorry to hear about the ATM/credit card issue! Here in the US I often go out with little more than a few dollars in my wallet…in Japan we would carry a couple of hundred on average. I am not sure why because we could use credit cards, but it seems that it is safe and convenient to bring so much cash around. It is good to know about Sweden. I guess you have not encountered the same issue in other countries?

    September 15, 2014
    • I’ve never had any problems in any other country – even ones that are far less developed than Sweden. It was just so weird! especially since the cards worked immediately afterwards in Norway, Finland AND Estonia. It was totally just a Sweden thing. But yeah, I have definitely learned my lesson about relying too much on ATMs and banking systems. Thank god I had those euros with me! We would’ve starved in Stockholm otherwise!

      September 16, 2014
  3. Ohh Im sorry about the money problem…not a really good place really to not have enough money ๐Ÿ˜ฆ
    Stockholm is one of my favorite cities in the world, Ive been there 2 times and would go again in a heart beat… my first time I stayed in the same hotel as you ๐Ÿ˜€
    And you are right, its a pretty expensive city… but after living in Geneva, I didn’t find it so much!
    Great post ๐Ÿ˜€

    September 16, 2014
    • Lol, for real. Maybe one of the worst places in the world to be limited with cash. Haha, that’s so funny, you stayed in the same hotel. That breakfast was pretty amazing, no?

      We headed into Switzerland from Lake Como one time to do some outlet shopping (cuz people had told us it was really cheap), but it was so crazy expensive, we just turned the car back around and hightailed it back to Italy and ate there. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      September 16, 2014
      • Yesss the breakfast and the bed are somethings I will never forgot about this hotel hahaah so funny you mentioned! I liked staying there, but it was a but far from the T-Bana, so it wasnt so practical. Last time I stayed at the Mornington Hotel and the location was perfect ๐Ÿ˜€

        Ohhh an outlet in Switzerland? After living there I know that both doesnt match hahaha Switzerland is unbelievable expensive…especially if you are a student there as I was in 2011. You were right to turn the car back around ahahaha I guess you ended up saving some money!

        September 16, 2014
        • I’ll have to look up that Mornington Hotel if we ever go back. The Time hotel was a bit far…luckily Stockholm is a great city to walk in! Lol…seriously Switzerland does not equal outlets. The person that told us that must’ve been very rich. Oh yeah, it was the owner of the spa resort hotel we were staying at in Bergamo – so yeah, I guess he was probably doing okay. ๐Ÿ˜‰

          September 17, 2014
          • Yes do, I loved my stay there!! 200m from the T-Bana and you could also walk to Gamla Stan from there ๐Ÿ˜€
            Ohhhh yes, that explains why hahaha ๐Ÿ˜‰

            September 17, 2014
  4. That’s an extreme way to save money in an expensive city! Looks like you made the best of it and had a good trip anyway. Interesting to see how the prices stack up, it sounds very similar to Norway when I visited earlier this year โ€“ pricey but worth it!

    September 16, 2014
    • Yeah, extreme indeed! It was a bit frustrating while we were there, especially since we’d decided to throw caution to the wind on that trip, but in a funny way, it probably saved us from spending way too much money. Truthfully, I’m a bit frightened to head back to that part of the world again – I found it very expensive, especially since our Canadian dollars do not amount to as much as the pound!!

      September 16, 2014
  5. we’re heading here (along with finland, denmark, luxembourg and bruges) next year. Thanks for the info ๐Ÿ™‚ I can’t wait for the food!

    September 16, 2014
    • Wow! Sounds like a fantastic trip! I especially loved the food in Belgium, couldn’t get enough of the frites. So tasty, even though they’re sooo bad for you. ๐Ÿ™‚ Have an amazing time, and hope you won’t run into the same financial difficulties we did…

      September 17, 2014
  6. Do you have a chip in your credit card? We struggled over here in Malaysia until we *finally* got our US card company to get us one….an expat friend said she couldn’t use her card in Norway without one and many other parts of Europe….

    September 16, 2014
    • I do, and in phone calls to my bank, it definitely had something to do with the chip. They suggested I just get vendors to bypass the chip by having them manually run the card, but even THAT didn’t work in Sweden! It was so frustrating, and since we were only there for 3 days, there was no time for them to wire us emergency cash or send a new card. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Honestly though, I don’t even trust that a new card would’ve worked there… if I ever go there again, I am definitely bringing cash! Enjoy Malaysia!! ๐Ÿ˜€

      September 17, 2014
      • thanks Shelley. Good to know and will be prepared when we make our way over to Sweden. Cheers!

        September 17, 2014
  7. The exact same thing happened to me in Canada a few years ago. Luckily I managed to get through to my bank and sort it out, as I barely had enough money for breakfast! Glad you managed to make the most of it though, Stockholm has been on my travel list for a long time:)

    September 16, 2014
    • In Canada, wow! I always find it weirder when these things happen in “modern” countries. I had multiple phone calls with my credit card company AND my bank to try to sort things out, and NONE of their solutions worked. Soooo frustrating! Fortunately, they felt bad for me and gave me a bunch of free aeroplane points as an apology. ๐Ÿ™‚

      September 17, 2014
  8. Sha #

    Aww, that was such an unfortunate timing. I can certainly understand the frustrations of traveling on budget, I’ve had to restrict myself from indulging sometimes when I travel and miss out on some things. Looks like I’ve got to look out for this problem if I ever make it there. Did you ever find out what was the reason for the cards not working? Maybe that would help others to note…:)

    September 17, 2014
    • They seemed to think it had something to do with the chip on the card, and suggested I just bypass the chip by asking vendors to manually process the card, but that didn’t work either. It worked in Finland, Estonia and Norway though… so, I honestly can’t say for sure what the real problem was. I honestly think they don’t really know themselves!!! I’m just glad we survived and didn’t starve to death while there… ๐Ÿ˜‰

      September 17, 2014
      • Sha #

        Hmm, that’s weird for sure…definitely useful to have those cash at hand then…:)

        September 17, 2014
  9. haha oh dear! I’m sorry that happened to you! I’m guessing you booked your room at the hotel in advance? I’m not sure if I’ve ever carried around $700 at a time, which is why I ask! Sigh. Here in New Zealand, the food isn’t as expensive as it is in Stockholm… but it’s still seems really high to us, with our just-out-of-college budgets. We haven’t had a proper meal out yet, just meat pies, some cheap Chinese fried rice, and lots of fish ‘n’ chips. $10-15 for a nice, full dinner is what I’m used to paying, and that just isn’t a reality here.

    September 18, 2014
    • Lol…we did book our hotel in advance, but actually we had a 1000 euro bill, so even though it was a lot of money, it didn’t take up any space at all in my wallet. We were cautious with the money though, because we weren’t sure if our cards would work in Norway afterwards. Pretty stressful, let me tell ya.

      I have heard that Oz and NZ are more expensive, which is why we haven’t made it there yet…with our Cdn $, the exchange is just too painful…and I feel like we’d need to visit those places for a long time, not just drop in for 3 or 4 days. Wages are higher there though, no? to balance out the higher cost of living? I would kill for some good fish ‘n’ chips though! It’s hard to find a good version of that here…

      September 19, 2014
  10. Stockholm has a certain class and allure that singles it out. Hope to make it there someday.

    September 20, 2014
    • Hi Renuka…yes, that’s a good way to put it. Definitely a “classy” city to visit. It’s worth a visit, but bring lots of money. ๐Ÿ˜‰ It’s definitely not cheap.

      September 21, 2014

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