If you are backpacking Stockholm, this guide has everything you need including the best area to stay in Stockholm on a budget alongside the best things to see & do. Travelling Europe on a budget should not mean giving the Swedish capital a miss as there is so much fun things to do in Stockholm for free! This itinerary covers our 24 hours in Stockholm on a backpacking budget – sharing exactly what we did and exactly what we spent.
So add Abba to your Spotify playlist, download our free budget planner here and get ready to take a few notes!
What is the best time to visit Stockholm to save money?
Stockholm is actually made up of 14 islands as part of a massive archipelago with over 20,000 islands in total. If you have longer than 24 hours in Stockholm and have intentions to visit the Archipelago (Skärgård) for a truly unique experience, the best time to visit Stockholm would be in Winter. You can explore the islands via Waxholmsbolaget ferries and capture the stunning frozen waters, snow capped architecture and picturesque seascapes. Be warned, although incredibly beautiful to witness and photograph, not the most safe conditions to travel in and therefor the ferry schedule may be altered.
For the sunnier sorts, the best time to visit Stockholm’s inner islands, Fjaderholmarna or Vaxholm would be Summer. During this time you can swim on some of the islands or hike amongst the stunning scenery in islands such as Grinda, Sandhamn and Moja.
If you are interested in backpacking Stockholm then avoid travelling in the Summer months such as July and August. Although the sun rises around 4am and doesn’t set until around 10pm, during the Summer months is the most expensive time of year. Some say the best time to visit Stockholm is September as flights and accommodation are cheaper than high season yet the weather is still pleasant enough to explore the outdoors.
Due to our Europe itinerary we visited in November and found this the best time to visit Stockholm as the Christmas decorations and ice rink made the city extra beautiful, but travel was cheap. If you only have 24 hours in Stockholm keep in mind during the Winter months, (January for example) the sun won’t rise until 9am and then sets around 3pm giving you less time to explore.
Best area to stay in Stockholm if you’re on a budget?
Cheap accommodation in Stockholm is hard to find but we cannot recommend Birka Hostel enough! The best area to stay in Stockholm if you’re on a budget as it was an amazing £32 for the night for a private room with ensuite bathroom, which you can book here.
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 WiFi in the public areas. As we were backpacking Stockholm on a very tight budget, we prepared a picnic (purchased in a nearby Lidl) in the communal area and brought it with us the following day.
It was the best area to stay in Stockholm for easy access to the rest of the city, as Drottninggatan shopping street is just a few minutes walk and the nearest metro (Hötorget Metro Station) was only a 1 minute walk away. For the party animals, in just a 5 minute walk you will be amongst the bustling nightlife of Stureplan Square. Staff were friendly, allowing us to leave our backpacks until our ferry time in the evening and the area felt perfectly safe.
How to spend a Morning in Stockholm
Gamla Stan – Stockholm’s 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 in Europe and you will be able to admire the stunning medieval architecture and bustling cafes completely car 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.
If you don’t fancy winging it and wandering on your own, book a guided tour which will reveal colorful stories and legends of the city’s history, also allowing you to ask as many questions as you wish – instead of googling it all, like we did. This was the most recommended walking tour of the Old Town we could find and lasts around 90 minutes.
If you are more of an adrenaline seeker you can explore the Gamla Stan from the rooftops of the beautiful buildings that line the cobbled streets. Not for the faint hearted however as you are harnessed up with a guide as they combine sight seeing with climbing and all the historical facts in between. If backpacking Stockholm on a budget this will cost approx. 350 KR (around £30) however, will ensure unforgettable views and memories of the city, and is undoubtedly one of the most fun things to do in Stockholm! More information can be found here.
Time for Fika
No 24 hours in Stockholm would be complete without a Fika stop or two. Fika is a Swedish word meaning “to have coffee”. In the way we enjoyed all the Kaffe mit Kuchen in Cologne ,the Swedish equivalent “Fika” usually involves sweet pastries or cake. When backpacking Stockholm, you will notice sometimes pastries are referred to as fikabröd meaning “Fika bread” – we definitely recommend the cinnamon swirls, which Loz took a particular shining to.
Changing of the guard at The Swedish Royal Palace
Now suitably filled with coffee and cake it is time for one of our highlights from backpacking Stockholm – the changing of the guard at The Swedish Royal Palace (Kungliga Slottet.)
Based on the island of Helgeandsholmen, also 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). However, as we only had 24 hours in Stockholm (and on a budget – entry fee is approx. £12) we visited to watch the spectacular ceremony, The Change of Guard. 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 24 hours in Stockholm, this is something not to be missed!
Sveriges Riksdag – The Swedish Parliament
Pretty much next door is The Riksdag parliament building. 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!
How to spend an Afternoon in Stockholm
How to find the Subway Art in Stockholm
If you are backpacking Stockholm, this is definitely an interesting way to spend your afternoon. 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. 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.
Moderna Museet – Contemporary Art Gallery
After touring the art underground, it’s time for some art above ground at Moderna Museet. Located on the island of Skeppsholmen, the Moderna Museet is the city’s modern art gallery, showcasing both Swedish and international art.
When we discovered it was warm, free and had a coffee shop (alongside the epic artwork of course) we were instantly sold. If you are backpacking Stockholm it is an ideal place to spend a cold, dark afternoon amazed by the fabulous artwork (and free WiFi?)
After we had suitably thawed out indoors, we enjoyed the garden exhibits outdoors. We particularly loved the Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely “paradise” sculptures. It is possible to download a map which explains the numerous outdoor sculptures – ideal for an arty treasure hunt on a sunny day.
A little heads up, the gallery is closed on Mondays and the entire building is not free, only certain areas. There is a fee of 150 SEK (around £10) to view the visiting exhibitions, whereas the permanent works are free. We easily spent 2 hours here and definitely recommend it – even if you’re not a huge art lover, it’s a funky spot for a Fika stop and some people watching.
How to spend an Evening in Stockholm on a Budget
How to find the best free events in Stockholm
As mentioned earlier, depending on your views of the best time to visit Stockholm you will now have hours of sunshine left or it will already be dark. In the Summer months the Sun won’t set until after 10pm – allowing the perfect opportunity to continue exploring the city, and enjoy the numerous outdoor pop up bars and concerts.
A great resource if backpacking Stockholm is this site. It is the best place to find FREE events regardless of the time of year as it is updated regularly. Expect events such as food festivals, outdoor concerts and art exhibitions – all without paying a penny!
Can you see The Northern Lights in Stockholm?
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 completely 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.
Fotografiska Museet – The Photography Museum
If you feel you still haven’t had enough art, the Fotografiska Museet is a great way to spend your evening as the museum is open until 11pm on weekdays and 1am at the weekends. Opened by no other than Annie Leibovitz in 2010, Stockholm’s Photography Museum is one of the most popular attractions in the city. If like Daz, photography isn’t your thing, the top floor café certainly will be. Offering beautiful views across the water to Djurgården and with a bar open until til late it is a unique way to spend your evening!
During our 24 hours in Stockholm, we headed to the ferry terminal in the evening to catch the ferry to Riga. If you are looking for an inexpensive way to continue your travels through Europe, this is something we cannot recommend enough. Our ferry trip (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.
For more photos of our adventure in Sweden, please take a peek at our gallery.
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