If you are contemplating backpacking Stockholm you may think it is out of your price range. However, this guide will share how to tick off the highlights and hidden gems on a budget. We’ll be honest, we only had one day in Stockholm as we were we backpacking Europe on a budget and felt the Swedish capital would be too expensive.
However, thanks to our Scottish, bargain hunting ways we found so many free things to do in Stockholm and we’ve shared our secrets below on how to make your Stockholm itinerary cheap yet cheerful – ticking off the main attractions without breaking the bank!
Although our visit was short and sweet we did lots of research prior to find the best area to stay in Stockholm on a budget alongside the best things to see & do. We’ve also sprinkled this guide with tips and ideas you could also use whether you’re there for a day or a month!
So add Abba to your Spotify playlist, download our free budget planner and get ready to take a few notes!
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WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT STOCKHOLM ON A BUDGET
If you are interested in backpacking Stockholm then many would argue that the Summer months are the best time. This is because in July and August the sun rises around 4am and doesn’t set until around 10pm so you have maximum daylight around this time of year, and you can really make the most of your one day in Stockholm.
However, like all European cities this is peak tourist season so will be the most expensive and most crowded. If you are looking for budget accommodation, then this books up in advance for the Summer months, so you’ll need to be organised!
Some say the best time to visit Stockholm on a budget is September as flights and accommodation are cheaper than high season yet the weather is still pleasant enough to explore the outdoors.
For us, we visited Stockholm in November and found this was an excellent time for two reasons – the Christmas decorations and ice rink made the city extra beautiful and travel and accommodation were cheap!
If you only have one day in Stockholm keep in mind during the Winter months, (January for example) the sun won’t rise until 9am and then sets around 3pm which isn’t everyone’s ideal but we loved seeing the city lit up and the Wintery grey skies were stunning.
WHERE TO STAY WHEN BACKPACKING STOCKHOLM
Cheap accommodation in Stockholm is hard to find but we cannot recommend Birka Hostel enough! Situated in Luntmakargatan in the city centre, it was an ideal area to stay in if visiting Stockholm on a budget as you can easily walk to the major city attractions, saving money on transport.
Drottninggatan shopping street is just a few minutes walk and the nearest metro (Hötorget Metro Station) was only a 1 minute walk away from the hostel. In just a 5 minute walk you will be amongst the luxurious complex of Stureplan Square.
The hostel itself was formerly a brewery and offers private rooms as well as dorms. There is a guest lounge and kitchen with free tea and coffee as well as free Wi-Fi in the public areas. As we were backpacking Stockholm on a budget, we prepared a picnic (purchased in a nearby Lidl) in the communal area and brought it with us the following day to save money on eating out.
Best of all, if you’re also visiting Stockholm on a budget, it is an amazing £32 for the night for a private room with ensuite bathroom!
As we only had one day in Stockholm, we didn’t want to carry our luggage around with us after checking out, but the staff at the hostel stored our backpacks until late in the evening, when it was time to catch our ferry from Stockholm to Riga.
For cheap and cheerful accommodation in the city centre, we cannot fault our stay and would highly recommend it – you can book Birka Hostel here.
HOW MUCH DOES BACKPACKING STOCKHOLM COST?
As mentioned, we put off visiting Stockholm deeming it too expensive. However, the trick to visiting anywhere on a budget is research – decide one or two activities that you really want to see (and spend money on) then enjoy the rest of your time with the many free things to do in Stockholm.
To help you plan your budget for your one day in Stockholm, below is a round up of the costs to expect for your trip.
As mentioned we paid £32 for a private room in a hostel. Below are other options for finding cheap accommodation when backpacking Stockholm.
You can get a basic Airbnb for as little as £50 a night and best of all you’ll have access to kitchen facilities so you can save money on eating out. Expect to pay triple that for accommodation in Gamla Stan (Stockholm’s Old Town) so plan your accommodation further from the centre.
A tip we use for finding cheap accommodation is on Booking.com we search price “lowest to highest” but also tick rating “highest to lowest” that way you can compare the best rated but cheapest accommodation for your trip.
HousesittingWe have used Trusted Housesitters in Australia, but it is available worldwide. The concept is simple, you stay in someone else’s house to water their plants/feed their pets and your stay is completely free to say thank you. With our referral code you’ll also get 25% off the joining fee (the joining fee for the entire year is still cheaper than 2 night’s accommodation in Stockholm!)
When we were backpacking Stockholm, we walked everywhere to save money on transport. However, in Winter this is not always ideal so public transport will need to be used. It costs around 44 SEK for just one journey which is expensive, so instead get a travelcard as it allows unlimited travel in the county for the duration of the card. The travel card lets you travel on buses, trams, T-Bana and the Djurgården ferry (where some of the best Stockholm museums are.)
Note the fees below are for adults between aged 20-64. If you are under age 20, a student, or 65+ you pay the discounted rate.
- 24 hours: SEK 155 (adult fare); SEK 105 (discounted fare)
- 72 hours: SEK 310 (adult fare); SEK 210 (discounted fare)
- 7 days: SEK 405 (adult fare); SEK 270 (discounted fare)
The 24 hour travelcard and the 72 hour travelcard can be purchased via the app (search SL Journey planner and tickets) and use your mobile as your ticket. For tickets longer than 72 hours you will need to purchase an SL Access card which is 20 SEK but you can reuse it (like an Oyster card in London).
Food & Drink
If you’ve seen our post on how much backpacking Europe cost, you’ll know this is usually where our budget goes out the window. Thankfully we were prepared for our one day in Stockholm and actually had breakfast at our hostel, then packed our own picnic (purchased from a nearby Lidl) for our lunch. Dinner was on the ferry that evening. Below is our top tips for food and drink in Stockholm on a budget.
Alcohol: Beer in a restaurant is around 50-60 SEK (approx. £5) If you want to save money, we’d avoid alcohol in Stockholm as its simply so expensive. Our tips would be to either purchase wine etc at the airport on arrival where it’s tax free or use the Systembolaget (the liquor store in Sweden) and drink in your hostel before going out.
Bottled Water: 25 SEK (over £2!!) so don’t forget your refillable bottle, water in Stockholm is safe to drink.
Main Meal/Dinner: For dinner, you will struggle to find a main course in a restaurant for under 150 SEK (approx. £12) but to save money we recommend dining at one of the many food trucks dotted around the city for cheap street food instead. Also, avoid the main touristy areas such as Gamla Stan if searching for cheap eats.
Meatballs on a Budget: Even if you are backpacking Stockholm on a budget, you cannot leave without sampling the traditional meatballs. Although the cheapest place to try them would be Ikea’s food hall, for a more tasty experience, the most affordable places to try them are Mom’s Kitchen, where they cost around 140 SEK, Kalf & Hansen where they are 110 SEK or try Meatballs for the People who specialise in the Swedish dish and offer special variations every day!
When Stockholm itinerary would be complete without visiting atleast one of the many museums. While some are free (mentioned later in our Stockholm itinerary) the most popular ones such as the Abba Museum do have an entrance fee.
- ABBA The Museum: Probably top of many people’s bucketlists for their one day in Stockholm, entry costs 250 SEK (approx. £22)
- Vasa Museum: Home to the world’s only preserved 17th century ship 150 SEK (around £13)
- Skansen open-air museum: The world’s oldest open air museum showcasing traditional Swedish life. The entry fee is cheaper in Winter at 160 SEK but then 220 SEK in Summer.
- Swedish history museum: Not only is it one of the biggest museums in Sweden, it welcomes over 250,000 visitors per year and it is one of the best free things to do in Stockholm.
- Fotografiska: One of the best photography museums in Europe and admission is 155 SEK (approx. £13)
- The Royal Palace: One of Europe’s largest palaces and home to His Majesty the King. Entry is 160 SEK (approx. £13) but one of the best free things to do in Stockholm is watch the changing of the guard here – more on this later.
- Nobel Museum: Enjoy the work of over 900 creative minds and the discoveries of the Nobel Laureates 120 SEK (approx. £10)
FREE THINGS TO DO IN STOCKHOLM
Explore Gamla Stan – The Old Town
One of the first things to do if backpacking Stockholm is to explore the beautiful cobbled streets of Old Town. Known as Gamla Stan, it is one of the best preserved Old Towns in Europe and you will be able to admire the stunning medieval architecture and bustling cafes completely car free and expense free. It is said Gamla Stan is particularly well preserved due to the lack of cars and pollution.
Spend your morning amongst the quirky tourist shops filled with the country’s iconic Pippy Longstocking and Scandinavian favourite, Moomins. It is also here where you can walk the oldest street in Stockholm called Köpmangatan and if you’re feeling small, head down the narrowest – Mårten Trotzigs Gränd.
Hire a Bike
Cycling round the city is one of the best free things to do in Stockholm. Thanks to the Stockholm City Bikes scheme, there are over 1000 bikes available for free throughout the city. All you need to do is pay a small joining fee for a 3 day pass, then once you join the City Bikes Program all rentals are free and unlimited.
The three day pass is 125 SEK (around £10) and you can buy them from any SL Centre, Central Station or the Stockholm Tourist Centre. If you are backpacking Stockholm for longer than 3 days it is worthwhile getting the season pass, which is 250 SEK and lasts the entire season from April 1st – October 31st. It is often even cheaper if you book your pass on the City Bikes website.
Once you have your pass, simply go to any of the 80 bike stations dotted around the city hold your pass to the machine and you’ll be assigned a bike.
You can then cycle anywhere in the city for 3 hours and return the bike to any station. You can rent multiple bikes in one day, the rentals are unlimited.
Note the bikes are not available in the Winter months for safety reasons, so you can only explore the city by bike from April – October.
Tour the Archipelago
Stockholm is actually made up of 14 islands as part of a massive archipelago with over 20,000 islands in total. At 250 SEK for a day tour of the archipelago, it’s not exactly a free thing to do in Stockholm BUT there is a way to visit the archipelago without spending a penny!
This is because Vaxholm is included in the SL travel card, meaning you can enjoy the picturesque 30km bus ride there for free! Take the 670 bus from Universitetet T-Bana station and in just 45 minutes, you’ll have swapped the city for lush forests, postcard worthy red wooden houses and endless opportunities to hike or even swim in the calm waters during the Summer!
If you didn’t fancy the bus journey home, you can take the ferry back to Stockholm instead, again by avoiding the touristy tours and opting for the public transport ferries it is very affordable! Waxholmsbolaget ferries offer the cheapest tickets (often just 50 -165 SEK) and from October to March the prices are much cheaper in comparison to Summer months.
Go on a Free Walking Tour
If (like us) you have zero sense of direction and are likely to get lost, going on a free walking tour will maximise your time in the city – especially if you only have one day in Stockholm.
To avoid hours wandering aimlessly, we recommend Free Tour Stockholm for an informative tour of Gamla Stan as well as Södermalm the newer side of the city. Although the tours are free, it is recommend to tip your guide as a wee thank you.
Enjoy the Free Parks (and Ice Skating)
As mentioned earlier, to cut costs when we were backpacking Stockholm we packed our own picnic with food from the supermarket. Luckily there are many beautiful places to enjoy a picnic in Stockholm thanks to the many open spaces and pretty parks. The most popular parks are Djurgarden, Langholmen (especially for swimming in Summer) and Ralambshovsparken which also has a skate park.
One of the best free things to do in Stockholm during Winter is ice skating in Kungsträdgården. The ice rink is open to all for free from 9am to 8pm during the week and 10am to 8pm at weekends. Out photo doesn’t do the area justice, but after dark it is beautiful all lit up!
Changing of the Guard at the Royal Palace
Witnessing the changing of the guard at The Swedish Royal Palace (Kungliga Slottet) is one of the best free things to do in Stockholm.
Based on the island of Helgeandsholmen, in the Gamla Stan (old town), the Swedish Royal Palace is made up of five museums and 1,430 rooms (not all are open to the public.
Entry cost approx. £12 but if you are backpacking Stockholm on a budget we visit to watch the spectacular ceremony, The Change of Guard instead. This occurs daily around midday and is completely free.
We recommend arriving before 12 noon to get a “front row” view as it soon becomes crowded – even in the freezing Winter months. When we were backpacking Stockholm, the official ceremony didn’t start until 12:15 so be prepared to stand in the cold (we could barely feel our toes!)
Alongside the marching and music, the guard shares insightful history into the tradition of The Change of Guard so if you only have one day in Stockholm, this is something not to be missed!
Tour Sveriges Riksdag (The Swedish Parliament)
Pretty much next door to The Royal Palace is another popular free thing to do in Stockholm – visit the Swedish Parliament Building (Riksdag.)
Interestingly, anyone can visit the Chamber to listen to debates, votes and question times, as well as public hearings. You can also join guided tours for free and learn more in depth about the historical buildings and Swedish politics.
What we found particularly fascinating is that there are 349 members of parliament, 44.7% of whom are currently women – compared to British parliament where only 26% are women!
Enjoy the Subway Art
If you are on a budget, this is definitely one of the most unique free things to do in Stockholm. At 110km long, the subway system in Stockholm could be considered the world’s longest art exhibition. In total there are 100 subway stations – 90 of which are decorated with paintings, light installations and mosaics from over 150 artists. Another reason we recommend the transport card, so you can squeeze in as much subway art as possible!
From artwork depicting the historical architecture of the city at Kungsträdgården subway station, to themes of women’s rights and environmental issues at Östermalmstorg station.
Just ensure not to time your subway tour at rush hour (like we did). To truly capture the stations in their entirety aim for mid morning, or early afternoon when most people are at work and read this subway art guide to decide the stations you want to see to make the most of your time.
Visit the Stockholm Museums – for Free
The city is renowned for its museums and while some do have a hefty entrance fee, there are many which are free – ideal if you are backpacking Stockholm on a budget and need somewhere to warm up.
If searching for free things to do in Stockholm, Museums are the perfect way to escape the cold outside, enjoy free Wi-Fi and learn something new. There also the perfect spot to refill your water bottle and have a quick toilet stop before continuing your tour of the city.
The best free Museums in Stockholm are:
- Museum of Natural History
- The Museum of Modern Arts
- The Museum of Medieval Stockholm
- National Museum of Sweden
- The Swedish History Museum
- The Maritime Museum
- National Library of Sweden
- + Many more here
Admire the view from Monteliusvagen
If you are travelling as a couple, this is one of the most romantic spots on the city. Even if you’re not travelling as a couple, it is well worth taking a stroll along Monteliusvägen as its a 500m path that offers stunning views of Lake Lake Mälaren, Stockholm City Hall, and Riddarholmen, making it one of the best free things to do in Stockholm. It is particularly beautiful at sunrise or sunset, so if you only have one day in Stockholm this is the perfect place to start or end your day.
Admire the Northern Lights
It is no secret that Scandinavia is partial to a Northern Lights display or two in the evening. However, although they are usually only visible in the very north of Sweden, it is not unlikely to see them in the far South too.
During peak solar activity, they have been seen in Gothenburg and indeed Stockholm. October to early April are the best times for viewing Aurora as the nights are dark enough. Don’t get your hopes up, however there is always that tiny chance – track the aurora here to ensure you’re not disappointed.
Enjoy Swedish Fika
Not gonna lie, this was probably a deciding factor for us to visit Stockholm. When we heard Sweden is the king of baked goods we booked flights immediately. “Fika” essentially means meeting up for a pastry and coffee, or heading to a bakery for a catch up. Although technically it is not one of the free things to do in Stockholm, it is super cheap and very much part of the Swedish culture so a wee visit to a “Fik” needs to be included in your Stockholm itinerary.
Although there are many café, cake shops and bakeries all boasting the typical scandi design (and hipster price tags to match) we recommend Waynes as a cheap Fika stop when visiting Stockholm on a budget. There are several dotted around the city, you can sit in or take away. As you can see by Loz’s face – Swedish pastries are definitely worth booking flights for.
Catch the Ferry to Riga
Okay, this is definitely not one of the free things to do in Stockholm, but if you are looking for an inexpensive way to continue your travels through Europe, this is something we cannot recommend enough. Our ferry trip to Riga (although 17 hours long) was absolutely hilarious – it involved a buffet with unlimited alcohol, karaoke with some Abba-esque middle aged women and a very poor Titanic attempt. All topped off with the fact we fell asleep in Sweden and woke up in Latvia. Add it to your bucket list ASAP. Read about our full (and very honest) review of our Stockholm to Riga ferry trip here.
How to find more Free Things to do in Stockholm
We squeezed in as many free things to do in Stockholm as we could, but as our time in the city was limited we would love to return to add a few more to this guide. If you are backpacking Stockholm and would like to find free events during your visit, we recommend visiting the I love Stockholm website.
It is a great resource for those visiting Stockholm on a budget as it is regularly updated with all the free events and attractions in the city. Expect events such as food festivals, outdoor concerts and art exhibitions – all without paying a penny!
Hopefully this guide has inspired you to visit the Swedish capital now that you realise backpacking Stockholm on a budget is possible! Although we didn’t have long in the city, we tried to squeeze in as many free things to do in Stockholm as possible but let us know in the comments if you have any more suggestions, we’d love to add to our list!