Traveling alone promises a certain freedom and elation which you might not be able to grasp while traveling in a group. Whether you are with your family or friends, as much as you adore their company, you will inevitably have to make compromises if you go with them. As you are strung along to yet another shoe store or maritime museum, your vacation morphs more into a chore than anything else. How glorious it can be to travel on your own, free from the responsibility of others, fully experiencing a city for what it really is, on your own terms.
Yet traveling alone can be terrifying, however, especially as a first-time jet-setter. As you’re booking your flight across many miles and oceans, it is easy to be overwhelmed with the decisions and options available to you. I know the feeling, as that was me on my first solo trip abroad. Although you are journeying to the frigid land of Scandinavia on your own, try not to stress. With this guide, you’ll be able to traverse Stockholm like a local and pick up unforgettable memories along the way.
What to Bring with you to Stockholm
First, before you can strut down the Strandvägen, you need to figure out how to get to Sweden! I encourage you to check out my article on booking flights for some tips that will save you time and money in your venture. By making informed choices, you will be equipped to focus on what is truly important: experiencing the beauty of a country.
When you’re plotting your trip to Sweden, it is crucial for you to consider the fact that the weather there is a tad bipolar. Depending on which time of the year you visit, how you pack will make a huge difference in the quality of your trip. With this in mind, here are two examples of packing essentials, Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer. This is my list for a week in Stockholm, but you can adjust your packing list according to how long you’ll be there.
- Two to three long-sleeved shirts
- Two pairs of walking/casual shoes
- One pair of more formal shoes
- Two to three sweaters
- One dependable jacket
- Five to seven pairs of underwear
- Three to five pairs of socks
- One backpack to carry stuff you need for the day
- Three to four shirts
- Two pairs of shorts
- One pair of jeans
- One pair of pants
- One sweater/sweatshirt
- One pair of sneakers
- One pair of sandals
- One pair of formal shoes
- Five pairs of socks
- Five to seven pairs of underwear
- One backpack to carry what you need for the day
Money in Sweden
Swedish krona is the currency which rules the gambit in Sweden. If you plan on eating, drinking, or experiencing a variety of places in the capital, you will need to get your hands on some krona. You can convert your currency in any number of places from the airport to a booth along the streets of Stockholm. As a word to the wise, I would suggest not taking this route unless you really have to. Rather, I would check with your home bank to see what their standards are for purchasing currency. Most of the time, if you have an account with them, your home bank will not charge a fee for buying or selling currency, a blessing on the wallet.
Getting Around the City
After a long and arduous flight, you have arrived. A string of banners greets you as you exit the long aluminum tin you have just spent the last several hours in. “Welcome to my hometown” they read to you, accompanied by the iconic faces of such famous Swedes as Ingrid Bergman, Ingmar Bergman (no relation to the former, I assure you), and Björn Borg. This will become a reoccurring trend as you traverse Stockholm, the city has a lot of pride for their global figures. This is the city that has an entire museum dedicated to Abba, after all!
Stockholm’s most famous and popular airport, Arlanda, provides many means of getting to and from the city. Although the airport is about 30 minutes away from Stockholm, there are several cheap ways to get to the city from here. From experience, I highly suggest you take the train. The Arlanda Express is a lovely way to get to your destination and take a breather after your arduous flight. At 540 SEK for a round trip ticket, this is most definitely the best way to watch the Swedish tundra roll past you.
From zooming into Stockholm from Arlanda airport to setting off down one of the city’s streets, contemporary chic and clean lines decor the classic buildings here. Stockholm has a unique setup. Situated on fourteen islands, many of the city’s islands are accessible by bridges. Because of Sweden’s neutrality in all wars since the early 1800s, you’ll discover much of the country’s skyline perfectly intact. For a country which can have 20 hours of darkness a day during the winter, you see the vibrancy of the city asserting itself at a glance. Bright citrons and muted scarlets pepper the skyline from across all fields of vision, and it is a glorious sight to behold. With a cityscape akin to and inspired by Vienna, you will soon discover how Stockholm is one of the most underrated European destinations on the continent.
Where To Stay As In Stockholm as a Solo Traveler
Once you have dived headfirst into Scandinavia, where can you kick up your heels to take a breather from all the planes, trains, and automobiles? You can stay at any of the old boutique hotels in the capital, but how can you choose the perfect home base for you? There are any number of places for you to stay, from castles to hostels, you can cozy up in Stockholm in anyway you wish. Here are some places within Stockholm you aren’t likely to find in any other place on the planet.
If you’re open to being a little bit further away from the city center, Akeshofs Slott will pay you in turn with a truly one of a kind experience. In a past life, this spacious oasis was a castle. Today, the hotel still holds all the trimmings of a bygone era with modern amenities. Free wifi, comfortable rooms, and a gorgeously intricate garden are just some of the amenities here. In this vein, Akeshofs Slott serves as a perfect base of operations for the solo traveler.
Photo by Magnus Johansson
Have you ever taken a gander at the slides of ice, grinding each other in the ports of Stockholm, and thought “Hey, I want a piece of that”? If so, your tastes are odd. I like you. The Af Chapman had a former life as a sailing vessel in the late 1800’s, now serving as a floating hostel on Skeppsholmen island. Depending on your preference, you can either stay on a docked ship for the night or an annex on dry land. The decision here is pretty clear, but be prepared to spend a little more krona for the right to brag about sleeping on a 19th-century ship.
This hotel might not be for everyone, but this is by far my favorite hotel in the city. Situated ideally along the famous Strandvägen, Hotel Diplomat is lovely in every imaginable way. Downstairs, the kitchen makes a delectable Swedish breakfast, with phenomenal kanelbullar to boot. Up the elegant elevator, you can discover all the comforts of home in your own little suite, and then some.
What to Eat in Stockholm
When it comes to eating in Sweden, you will quickly discover two very important things: the Swedes LOVE their fish and Fika. Just Fika. You absolutely must experience Fika in order to get a grasp of the “typical” Swedish mindset.
To put it simply, Fika is a Swedish ritual revolved around drinking coffee and eating pastries in a cafe. To participate, all you need do is find a nice place to hang out for an hour or so, get whatever coffee and/or pastry strikes your fancy, and voila; it’s fika! Gamla Stan is an excellent place to fika. As you sit on a stool by a window, warm coffee in hand, 90’s alternative rock playing over the stereo, watching the bodies of locals and tourists alike streaming along the streets, there is great beauty in this simple experience.
What to do in Stockholm
While you’re in Sweden, or truly anywhere in Scandinavia, now would be the time to pitch a tent anywhere you please. Quite literally. Allemansträtten is a constitutional policy in which anybody can hike, wander, or set up camp anywhere they wish, aside from private property. As long as you do right by the land while there, you can preserve this policy for generations to come. Indeed, you can even pick mushrooms, berries, and wild flowers to your heart’s content.
Photo by Franklin Heijnen
Moderna Museet i Stockholm
Inconspicuously concealed on Skeppsholmen island, the Modern Museum in Stockholm is a fun and mesmerizing way to spend a day. The museum swaps through exhibits on a quarterly basis, but there is always something for you to discover here. On my trip, one of my fondest memories was when I wandered into a dim, red-lit room to watch hundred year old propaganda films, as a group of Swedes around me laughed at the absurdity of it all the while. On display, you will see jaw-dropping works from artists like Bacon, Picasso, Duchamp, Dalí, and de Chirico.
This is the most popular museum in Scandinavia, and it is definitely easy for you to see why. The museum’s primary attraction is the remnant of a 17th-century ship, called the Vasa. In a hilariously sad twist of fate, this beautifully ornate ship sunk on its maiden voyage from Stockholm harbor. It sat at the bottom of the harbor for hundreds of years until it was rediscovered in the 1950’s. Regardless of your interest in ships or naval warfare, the Vasa is a jaw dropping combination of art and engineering.
On days which you aren’t sure what you should be doing, how about lush scenery to feast your eyes upon? If you like history and are content to observe tranquility unfold before you, a boat tour around Stockholm might be perfect! Lasting anywhere from fifty minutes to three hours, you can tailor your sights depending on your preferences. As your boat floats its charted course under the many bridges and through the canals of the city, you can truly get your bearings and understand the Viking homeland in a unique way. If you’ve arrived in Sweden during winter, don’t worry! You can still go on a boat tour, complete with snacks and hot drinks at an additional charge.
Shopping in Stockholm & Must-Have Souvenirs
When you’re in Stockholm, one of the first things you will see are all the shops decorating the streets of the city. Indeed, Swedish fashion is a hugely desirable commodity in the modern industry. It’s easy to see why as you observe effortlessly chic clothes, worn in an eternal stream in every street, corner, and edge of the city. From H&M, Acne, Fjallraven, and IKEA, Swedish fashion and design influencers are famous for doing things differently.
As a word to the wise, not only in Stockholm but all over Europe, keep an eye out for a VAT sticker plastered on shop windows. If the store you shop at participates in this program, you will save a potential chunk of money by shopping tax-free! There are several intricate details to this policy I won’t go over here, but you can check the official website for more info.
While you’re in Stockholm, amongst the rows and rows of souvenir shops, you might be asking yourself: what should I be getting here which I cannot buy anywhere else? This is a justified concern. When you find yourself pausing Viking rune stones or Swedish clogs in one of old town’s many shops, it is easy to find yourself confounded by your choices. You can definitely carry yourself with whimsicality during your shopping spree, choosing whatever suits your aesthetic, however, here is a brief list of things you can get in Stockholm which you cannot get anywhere else.
1. Cloudberry jam
Cloudberries are a tart, unique berry you most likely have never tried. The delectable berry is irresistible once paired with ice cream, pancakes, or crepes! You might be thinking that this berry is like lingonberry jam or any other jam you have tried. I can tell you right now, this is not the case. With a dollop from a jar, this jam will inevitably put you on cloud 9!
Clogs are a stereotype and staple of Swedish wardrobes for good reason. The cozy and well-made shoes are perfect for any sort of casual setting. Although clogs fell out of fashion for a time, they are back in full force and an awesome addition to your wardrobe!
A brand crafted out of the necessity to ease the backs of Swedish youth, Fjallraven has expanded its territory into outdoor necessities and apparel. However, getting their classic product is a trendy gift for yourself or a friend. The unisex backpacks (or kånken) come in 43 colors and 16 varieties, so you can definitely find something for everyone!
4. Swedish films & books
On top of everything else, Sweden is home to great international talent.