Date: November 2016
Accommodation: City Apartments (check them out here)
E&J’s travel tips:
- Grab a cab from Arlanda airport to anywhere in the city for a set price (Around £40)
- Don’t be tempted for a cab whilst you’re in the city. EXTREMELY PRICEY
- Stay in Östermalm for walking distance to Gamla Stan and other sites and museums
- Book accommodation in advance to avoid price hikes
- Wrap up warm in winter and wear well gripped boots!
- Eating in a restaurant chain can be pricey
- You cannot buy wine in a 7/11 or any local shop! Only from a restaurant or a wine merchant which have strict opening hours.
Stockholm is definitely a city which needed a bit of planning prior to arriving. For a 2 night stay, there was definitely plenty to do, but all of the main sites and attractions were separated vastly from each other.
The first thing we found difficult before we had even ventured to Sweden, was choosing the right accommodation. It took more research than usual, as we couldn’t afford to get this wrong! With all of the places of interest being so scattered throughout the city, we wanted one that was central to all (within reason).
For this reason, we chose City Apartments, an apartment block found in Östermalm (one of the main districts) but right by the main road Strandvägen. It’s about a 20 minute walk from here (even in the snow!) to Gamla Stan the main district/island, which to many people, is the “old town”. A lot of cobbled streets, old shops, the palace and the infamous Christmas markets can all be found here. Östermalm is also a 20 minute walk to the island of Djurgården, where many museums can be located such as the Vasa museum (definitely worth a visit IMO) and the ABBA museum.
For us, Östermalm was the ideal location! Walking distance to everything we hoped to see.
So we’d arrived in Stockholm Arlanda airport and we did our research and read that you can get a taxi from the airport to the city for a set fee. If we remember correctly, it was around 425SEK which works out about £40 and the journey was around 45 minutes. We thought this was reasonable as the alternative was a train and then a 5 minute taxi. Not what you want when time is of the essence!
Our apartment block City Apartments was a great experience. We’d never chosen to go with an apartment before but not for any real reason. When we were searching for accommodation using booking.com, we found that plenty hotels were expensive. We think this is because it was nearing Christmas, and many travellers are searching for that festive buzz! The apartments came up very reasonably priced, and after some review reading, we were set on them. Prior to arrival we were in constant contact with who we presume is the building owner, who directed us to find our keys (in a key safe within the building). The apartment itself was most definitely spacious, enough for the two of us! It came fully equipped with a working kitchen area (which I’m afraid we didn’t use, guilty!) and a fully stocked mini bar.
After we settled in, we went exploring. Gamla Stan was on the top of our list. Wrapped up and in appropriate footwear, we ventured along the strand and across the bridge to the old town. One thing that caught our eye was how clean and fresh it was.
Hunting for the Christmas Market
The snow had started to come down but that didn’t deter us from being the keen explorers that we are. In November there are a little under 8 hours of sunshine and by the time we got to the old town in Gamla Stan, it was twilight. We followed the flow of the crowd and within a matter on ten minutes from crossing the bridge to the island of Gamla Stan (and a few wrong turns may we add!), we were stood in the centre of a quaint yet extremely beautiful Christmas market. The central piece was a large 30 foot, well decorated Christmas tree and scattered around it were around 10-15 small wooden huts each selling their own Christmassy treats. They ranged from hot dogs, mulled wine or Glogg as the locals call it, waffles, extremely large Daim bars, and a number of carnival attractions.
The backdrop presented itself with these tall, elegant terraced buildings which were each painted bright colours. The atmosphere was festive but not TOO busy that you couldn’t wander and enjoy. It was perfect. Hand hand, we ate plenty of hot dogs and drunk enough mulled wine that we soon after turned in for bed.
Other “must do’s” in Stockholm
Stockholm is home to many museums and royal buildings as well as a very metropolitan shopping area. Here’s a few must do’s that we did:
1. Vasa museum- check it out here
Price: 130SEK (£11) per person
This is a museum solely built for the purpose of housing the Vasa ship, an old 17th century battle ship which capsized 20 minutes after leaving harbour to fight on the seas. It was rescued from the sea bed in the 1900s and due to the conditions of its preservation, it is in great condition for a nearly 400 year old ship!
Our advice would be to ask at the reception to take part in the FREE guided tour for whatever language you speak. They have dedicated times. The English speaking tour was amazing and highly interesting, well worth it!
Recommended time spent inside museum: 60-90 minutes.
2. Boat trip
Price: £35 each (roughly)
On our last day in Stockholm, we decided what better way to see areas of the city we haven’t yet, than by taking a boat ride. Stockholm is made up of lots a small islands which are accessed via bridges and boats. We payed around £35 each for an hour boat trip which may seem expensive but we didn’t want to come home thinking we’ve only scraped the surface of Stockholm. We got on the boat along the Strandvägen Adjacent the Hotel Diplomat. We found out so much about Stockholm that we didn’t know and saw so many elegant buildings, how the waterways we’re used back in the 1800s to develop the city.
Time spent on boat: 1 hour
3. Stockholm Palace/ The Royal Palace- find it here
Price: 160SEK (£13) per person
The Royal Palace is the official residence and major royal palace of the Swedish monarch. The entrance fee includes entrance into the royal apartments and a museum adjacent to the palace. Well worth the price to witness the monarchy’s history!
E&J’s tip: Remember to check opening dates and times when planning your itinerary!
4. Explore the shops
This one may seem silly but the modern side of Stockholm is pretty cool! If you head from Gamla Stan to Norrmalm, and just keep going you’ll witness real hustle and bustle. Ellis is most definitely a keen shopper, so this was right up her street!
All in all, Stockholm was a great city to explore especially to get the festive feel! There’s definitely plenty to do to keep you busy for 3 days and we felt extremely safe whilst wandering the streets. The mixture of old and new made it a fascinating stay. Its reputation of being an expensive city is however, well earned. A lunch in wagamamas came to around £45 and we weren’t being absolute beasts and a 10 minute cab journey in traffic came to well over £30. Still, time is much more valuable than money. Would definitely recommend this city to anyone wanting a wintery getaway.