Almost a month after Ukraine swept away the public vote for Eurovision 2016 and Stockholm has regained its composure to being the prosperous Nordic city of the north. Banners taken down and ABBA packed away for another year, Stockholm’s breath-taking ochre buildings of the Gamla Stan are once again the centre of attention.
An archipelago stretching across the Baltic Sea, Stockholm boasts history and art entwined with a trendy café culture and a thriving night-life for both straight and the LGBT crowd – and being the capital for Eurovision I’d expect nothing less!
But how was the Euro-celebratory atmosphere in Stockholm? From the Euro Village in Kungsträdgården to the Euro Club outside the Royal Palace the centre was bustling with tribute acts, patriotic dress, and a feeling of fabulous festivities throughout. So much so that even the pedestrian crossings were playing a merry tune; you could barely prize me away from the melodic beat of Sweden’s 2012 winner ‘Euphoria’ by Loreen. Perhaps next time pedestrians will be tapping their feet to the sound of ‘Heroes’?
The lovely Måns Zelmerlöw was certainly a pleasant surprise as his voice welcomed eager metro users heading towards the Ericsson Globen Arena, announcing each nearby stop over the tannoy. Also with ABBA playing aloud from many a shop window, Stockholm was truly in the spirit of the Eurovision Song Contest.
For those wishing to visit Stockholm on a budget sans Eurovision, below are included some of the more affordable and worthwhile tips for sight-seeing and experience.
The Thrifty Traveller
The “Scandies” are notorious for being some of the most expensive countries in Europe, and Sweden is no exception. But, when there’s a will, there’s a way! Pack your walking boots, stock up on energy bars and away we go!
If you’re not averse to walking then…. off you pop! It’s certainly the cheapest way of getting around. Armed with a decent city map and a spring in your step no city is impossible. Most Swedes you meet along the way are very friendly and helpful, so asking for directions should never be a problem.
But for those of you who favour a more speedy means of travel the metro is efficient and regular and will take you to all four corners of Stockholm. Purchase a multi-day travel pass (ranging from 1, 3, 7 days approximately) for a princely sum and you can travel as much as you like. Although, if you enjoy ‘train surfing’ be sure there isn’t a stocky Norse Viking nearby as the stopping and starting may cause you to inadvertently hurl yourself onto their person. Be careful who you grab!
Wishing to include a traditional Swedish feast into your itinerary can be a little difficult when on a budget. For a decent lunch time meal there are numerous varyingly priced eateries ranging from street vendors to haute cuisine restaurants, but one which we recently sampled near to the centre and close to the Slussen metro stop, was Axela on Götgatan. Here, at a cost that will not break the bank, you can dine on one of their lunch-time specials, ranging from burgers to a more traditional salmon steak with dill sauce – being surrounded by water on all sides there’s no surprise that fish is one of the more common dishes to favour the Swedish palate. Axela also offers an all-you-can-eat salad bar and a self-serving tea/coffee station as well as a free half-pint of beer with any lunch time special meal, and cake! Fill your boots! Although it may not be the most romantic of locations it’ll certainly fill a hole!
However, if fine “Viking” cuisine of hearty reindeer venison is more your idea of a traditional Nordic dish, then be sure to take out a loan! Those on a more meagre budget may be tempted to simply purchase some “Swedish” meatballs from the supermarket. For the frugal traveller this is certainly a cost-effective way of experiencing a bit of a Swedish cliché. After all, where better to consume “Swedish” meatballs than in your rented kitchenette, hostel, or apartment in Sweden, right? However, if the-cheaper-the-better is your motto then be prepared to stink-out the rest of your roommates with your microwavable brown balls.
Axela on Götgatan. A decent lunch at a decent price (circa 2016). Photo by Dave.
Stockholm’s nightlife is one of the most flourishing scenes for electro fans, founding the likes of Swedish House Mafia. And it is also one of the friendlier locations towards LGBT groups. Although, if you plan on having a big night out with drinks free-flowing down your gullet, pray that a distant relative bequeaths you her priceless heirlooms, or find yourself a rich date because booze ain’t cheap!
Also, if you intend on stocking up on bevies at the local Swedish supermarket before your night out, you’ll be in for a shock. Most supermarkets only sell 2% beer and cider. There are alleged “special shops” from which you can purchase regular alcohol at a phenomenal price, but they tend to close around 3pm and are near-impossible to find. Please contact us and let us know if you’ve found any!
My recommendation; buy your tipple at the airport.
For the more Cultured
The Stockholm Cathedral houses some of the most beautiful wooden sculptures of the 13th and 14th century. When Vasari claimed that the Renaissance began in his beloved Italy in the 16th century, he may have just swallowed his own words had he seen Notke’s masterpiece George and the Dragon (1489). A thing of sheer beauty, with lavish detail from the defecating dragon, cowering in fear from the wrath of George’s mighty sword, to the horse’s testicles! You wouldn’t believe this thing was made of wood!
If you’re a lover of historic art then this is a must-see. For a small-ish entry fee you can enter the Cathedral and gaze upon its breath-taking spectacle.
George and the Dragon (1489) by Bernt Notke in the Stockholm Cathedral. A wooden masterpiece of the pre-Renaissance (circa 2016). Photo by Steph.
For a cheap winter thrill – do as the Swedes do and traverse the frozen Djurgården Brunnsviken waters by foot. You’ll spot many Swedes on skis as they seem to attempt at flat-land skiing across the snow but never appear to go any faster than a tourist in their soggy trainers.… Perhaps they know something we don’t.
Of course, we don’t recommend putting your life at risk by stepping onto thin sheets of treacherous ice, melting in the early Spring thaw, but if you’re visiting Stockholm during a season of freezing winter, and the snow-capped treetops are beckoning you towards the Djurgården national park, wearing skis or slippers, with the notorious Scandinavian winter freezing everything (including your bodily extremities) in sight, you can literally walk on water. If it’s cool with the locals, it’s cool with us!
Ski-walking across the frozen Djurgården Brunnsviken water and a bit of buoy-racing! (circa 2010). Photos by Steph.
From the Djurgården Brunnsviken national park you can access the Kaknästornet TV tower and scale its height onto its observation deck to feast your eyes upon the vistas of Stockholm. It costs a small fee to enter, but if you wish to view the city from on high then this is a perfect spot for your Stockholm “selfies”.
A 360 ° panoramic of the archipelagos and surrounding waters account for some beautiful scenery. Whether you’re battling against glacial Arctic winds of the Scandinavian winter, with blues, greys, and whites for your perspective palette, or whether the warmth and vibrancy of Spring and Summer colours your vision, this is definitely worth seeing.
The Kaknästornet and a snowy view of the Ericsson Globen in the distance. Thar be Eurovision! (circa 2010). Photos by Steph.
So there you have it! Book yourself a cheap flight to either of Stockholm’s modest airports and enjoy yourself. Whether travelling in the lap of luxury or on a shoestring budget there is always something to see and do and experience. The journey is whatever you make of it. So make it a good one!
Featured image; view of Stockholm (circa 2010). Photo by Steph.