Although it has a reputation for being expensive, Stockholm can be enjoyed on any budget, and there's an array of free experiences and activities just waiting to be discovered.
Here are ten of the best wallet-sparing things to do in Stockholm.
Wander the medieval backstreets of the Old Town
The Old Town (Gamla Stan) is the perfect place to start exploring. Take in the hustle and bustle of the main streets such as Västerlånggatan and Stora Nygatan in the daytime, and stretch your legs across Mårten Trotzigs Gränd, the narrowest alley in Stockholm. The best time to explore is around dusk, when you can bathe in the golden light of the lanterns that line the squares and cobbled laneways. Whichever way you turn you can’t go wrong.
Visit the greats at Moderna Museet
Situated on the island of Skeppsholmen, directly opposite the Old Town, Moderna Museet provides some contemporary flavour to an otherwise quaint and often overlooked area of Stockholm. With pieces by world-renowned artists such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Andy Warhol, the museum's permanent collections provide the gateway to a variety of modern art from the 1840s to the present day. Check out their free audio guide app (see modernamuseet.se) for a better insight into the artworks as you walk through the spacious surroundings.
Take a free walking tour
A walking tour is a great option for those on a budget who want to get under the skin of the city. Free Tour Stockholm (freetourstockholm.com) offers three separate tours spanning all central areas of the city. Local guides keen to share their knowledge and experience will help you delve into Stockholm’s history. Meander through the alleyways of the Old Town, visit trendy Södermalm or opt for a tour of the more modern areas of the city. Although the tours are free, if you enjoy the experience you can leave an optional tip with your guide.
Take a seat with a view on Monteliusvägen
It won’t take you long to realise that Stockholm is a photographer’s dream. The rocky hills of Södermalm provide the most iconic viewpoints of the water and the Old Town. Snugly nestled behind the backstreets of old Södermalm, Monteliusvägen is a scenic path precariously perched on the cliff’s edge. Relax on a bench to take in the view, or wander up the spiralling pathways to get the perfect panorama snapshot of this marvellous city.
See ancient artifacts at The Royal Armoury
Venture into a forgotten world of imperial excess at The Royal Armoury (Livrustkammaren). Situated in the belly of the Royal Palace itself, this is a museum exhibition like no other. Established by King Gustav II Adolf in 1628 to house his war loot, it is the oldest museum in Sweden. The collection contains everything from knightly armour and crown jewels, to gold plated carriages and even a journey through royal fashion trends. Try not to miss the king’s stuffed warhorse either!
Stimulate your senses at Östermalm’s Saluhall
Although Scandinavian cuisine has rustic roots, modern-day Swedes have also learnt to appreciate the finer things in life. At Östermalm’s Saluhall you can have it all. Take a sneak peek at Swedish delicacies such as pickled herring and the national treasure that is Västerbotten cheese, or delight in the variety of international favourites on offer. This indoor delicatessen is a great way to while away some time in grand surroundings, and serves as the perfect jumping off point to explore the upmarket district of Östermalm.
Stand straight for the Changing of the Guard
Experience part of Swedish history by viewing the Changing of the Guard at Stockholm’s Royal Palace. Taking place in the royal courtyard, members of Sweden’s military conduct this impressive ceremony every day at 12.15pm (1.15pm on Sundays). Steeped in tradition, the Royal Guard has been stationed at the palace since 1523. The Changing of the Guard takes place all year round, but be sure to check the official calendar (forsvarsmakten.se) for special events that include marching bands and gun salutes.
Flags held aloft at the Changing of the Guard. Image © Adam Grimshaw / Lonely Planet
Discover the wonders of nature at the Natural History Museum
Fun for kids and grown ups alike, The Natural History Museum boasts nine permanent exhibitions where you can discover your roots by learning about our closest ancestors. Explore the secrets of the Swedish wilderness or marvel at the museum’s animal collections – the specimens have been gathered by Swedish scientists for over 200 years.
Hang with the locals at Tantolunden Park
Only a two minute walk from trendy Hornstull in western Södermalm, Tantolunden Park becomes the beating heart of Stockholm in spring and summer. The park itself is vibrant and enticing in the warmer months; Stockholmers come out to enjoy a picnic, work out at the outdoor gym or have a swim at the park’s very own beach. Relaxed and serene in winter, the harbour freezes over and you can watch daring locals skate on the ice from the comfort of the shoreline.
Make your appointment for the parliamentary experience
Sweden’s Parliament (Riksdag) is hard to miss. Conveniently located between the Old Town and the central shopping street (Drottninggatan), you’ll actually have to pass under its arches to go between the two areas. It's a great spot for a photo in the midst of many town landmarks but, while you're there, you can use the opportunity to take a free tour inside the Parliament buildings (riksdagen.se). Tours last around 45 minutes; be sure to get there in good time as there are a limited number of places available.