The Breakdown: Stockholm
Exchange Rate: $1 Canadian = 6.5 Swedish Krona (SEK)
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 Djurgården, busy Normalm and stylish Södermalm, 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. 🙁
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.
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? 😉
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.
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.
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 Östermalm, 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?