For an early birthday present from my boyfriend Adam, I spent this weekend with him in Stockholm, capital city of Sweden. It was a bit of a random choice if I am honest. I saw return flights for £60pp and thought, ‘why not eh?’
I am very glad I did!
The city is beautiful, and so friendly. I felt extremely safe, especially considering it is a capital city. There was no litter to be seen anywhere, and everyone we met seemed genuinely happy to talk.
First things first. The flights, as I mentioned before, were £60 return per person to Stockholm Arlanda airport with Monarch (booked direct) from Birmingham International airport, and the flight takes about 2.5 hours, give or take. We got an afternoon flight and landed in Stockholm for about 7pm that evening. I had pre-booked our train tickets to and from the airport into the city centre, but you can easily do this on the day. The train is called the Arlanda Express, and leaves every 15 minutes, and takes 20 minutes to get into the centre. Easy peasy! The train itself was very modern, sleek and clean, with comfy seats.
Once in the city centre, we walked about 15 minutes to our hotel, the Crystal Plaza Hotel on Birger Jarlsgatan road, which is a big-ish, busy-ish roads with plenty of shops, bars and restaurants. We felt right at home! The hotel was well presented, everything being shined to perfection. Check in was a doddle, and we got the lift up to our room on the 6th floor. The room was small but comfortable. Two twin beds had been pushed together to form a double. Huge windows let in lots of light and fresh air, and allowed us to hear a bit of the hustle and bustle from the street below. The bathroom was spacious, with big shower (no bath). We also had a safe and a mini fridge, which was perfect for storing water/coke that we got from the 7-11 convenience store a few doors down. The safe was very small and my boyfriend couldn’t fit his tablet in there, so if you wanted to store a large tablet or laptop, you may have to ask at the reception desk. Overall I felt that the hotel was great considering its location. Small but cosy and very comfortable, and walkable to everywhere we wanted to go. I booked this on Hotels.com for £182 for two nights.
On our first night, after freshening up a bit, we headed to the Hard Rock Café to really get our touristy-selves going! This was only 10 minutes’ walk from the hotel, and very cool with a great atmosphere. Plenty of cocktails on offer, and my twisted mac and cheese was lovely; the perfect comfort food after a long day. My boyfriend enjoyed his burger, and we were pleased to get some good, hot food and a few drinks down us. I, of course, couldn’t leave without a t-shirt… The meal came to £62 for the two of us including cocktails.
We had a lazy walk back to the hotel as we were too tired for much else, and saw the stately building of the public library, sadly closed at that time.
We were up bright and early Saturday, since this was going to be our only full day in the city. We headed to the city hall, Stadhuret, first of all, since the views from the tower were meant to be incredible. This was only 50kr to go up, which is about £5, and well worth the effort of approximately 365 steps. You got a ticket for a specific time slot, ours being 11:10, so we wandered the grounds for a bit before heading up. You had 10 minutes to get up to the top, 15 minutes to look around and 10 to get down again. The views were indeed stunning, helped by the gorgeous weather we had the whole weekend we were there!
After we left the tower we grabbed some gelato and headed across the bridge to the Old Town, Gamla Stan, which is full of character. Cobbled streets, little alley ways, independent craft shops and many ice cream parlours. We even saw a live band playing in the street, and the atmosphere was great! I adored this place, and could have happily wandered these little streets all day.
Alas, there was so much to see, so after an amazing lunch of traditional Swedish meatballs, we headed over to another island, Djurgarden, to visit a couple of museums.
First on the agenda was the Vasa Museum, which is home to the Vasa, a huge ship that was salvaged from the ocean bed some years ago in near perfect condition. This was truly awe-inspiring to see, and cost approximately £13 to enter, so definitely worth the visit. You can clearly see so much detail still on the ship, and learn so much about what the different features meant to the Swedes when it was constructed. The museum is on several levels, so you can see the ship from many angles, and truly take in its huge size. I came away from the museum gift shop with a guide about the Vasa, so hope to learn (and retain) a bit more information after reading it.
Next was a slightly different cultural experience, a visit to ABBA: The Museum, at the Pop House Hotel. This was fab! So much fun with lots of memorabilia to see, you can even have a go at karaoke, quizzes, sound mixing and recording your own singing voice. It is a great exhibition, if a little over-priced in my eyes, being £25 each. Still, it was fun, and worth a visit considering ABBA are one of the most famous Swedish exports. You do also get to see a small Eurovision exhibit too, so that is a nice addition. My boyfriend was slightly less enthused.
I grabbed a cool little disco ball key-ring memento and we had a slow walk back to our hotel to recharge the batteries before heading out for the evening. I ended up napping for an hour-it had been such a long day!
We ended up heading out for a late meal about 9pm, and used Trip Advisor’s ‘Nearby’ function to find somewhere good to eat. It did not disappoint! We ended up in a steak restaurant called Grill about 15 minutes’ walk away, and as it was still light and warm we sat outside where could watch the world go by. The food itself was divine. We both ordered the tenderloin steak, which was what I would class as a fillet. I had mine rare and it was cooked perfectly. We were served our sides first, which included a bowl of salad each, a bucket of roasted potatoes and another of chips, and two pots of sauces, béarnaise and red wine. Then our server brought our steaks out, and left us to serve ourselves. It was delicious! Everything was seasoned extremely well, and complimented each other. We had a bottle of house red to go with our food, and the server let me taste it before pouring the rest, which was nice. For dessert I had white chocolate cheesecake with rhubarb coulee and a cinnamon ice cream, which was divine. My boyfriend had his favourite, crème Brule, and was not disappointed. We did nearly have a heart attack when the bill came, as there were four digits before the decimal point-FOUR! This meal came to approximately £137 for the two of us, which is expensive yes, but we enjoyed it, and food is our ‘thing’ so we didn’t mind one big blow out such as that. We partly decided to have a blow out anyway since our only full day was over, and we didn’t need much cash for the Sunday.
Sunday, our last day! The weekend had flown by so fast, I couldn’t believe it was nearly time to leave. Luckily, our flight home wasn’t until 7:20pm, so we had a good chunk of the day left for wandering about this beautiful city.
We checked out early, at 10:30, instead of waiting until the checkout time of 12-we didn’t see the need to wait! I’m sure we could have left our bags there but since we only had backpacks we just took everything, to save us having to return later on. We walked down to the water and stopped at a little café for a drink and a muffin, to watch the world go by for a while.
I had booked us a boat trip at 12pm with Stromma, called the Under the Bridges Tour. I didn’t realise until afterwards that the reviews on Trip Advisor were more than a little mixed, but I needn’t have worried. The cruise was lovely, and a great way to relax and see the city from the water. It was nice way of using our time wisely without lugging our bags around for hours. I would recommend the tour, as it was great to feel like you’re still ‘doing stuff’ whilst actually putting your feet up! The tour was approximately 2 hours 15 minutes, though could be longer depending on the time taken getting through the main lock on the water.
The cruise was smooth and you could get perfectly good photographs from your seat. I sat third from the window (we were pretty much the last ones on the boat) and I still got great photos. The boat has four seats either side of the main aisle, and everyone has their own personal headset on which you can hear an audio guide describing what you’re seeing in whichever language you chose (I believe there was 11 languages to choose from). There was also a map for two people to share, giving a basic view of the route to be taken. The two crew members were friendly, and there was both toilets and a minibar on board which sold drinks, alcohol and snacks. The boat did have a roof, though there was a very small section at the back which was open air. I was glad for the shade, as it was scorching and sunny when we were in Stockholm!
After the tour we decided to head back to the Old Town, since we loved it so much, for one last wander and some lunch. We spent the last of our pennies, I got a print of Gamla Stan, and Adam got a Viking style tankard mug, and we found a lovely Italian called Da Peppe for our last meal. We shared bruschetta siciliana, which had mozzarella, tomatoes and prosciutto to start. For main I had the nachos de luxe pizza, which had mozzarella cheese, ground beef, taco sauce, sour cream, nacho chips and rocket. My boyfriend had the mafiosa, which had mozzarella, salami, pepperoni, tomatoes, onions, cayenne pepper. The bill came to approximately £45.
We headed straight for a lovely gelato place, Muran, for dessert, and in the window you could see one member of staff making the waffle cones herself which was pretty cool. I had coconut and pistachio, which was delicious, and so refreshing in the warm weather. It was also huge! I had to have a spoon with my cone, which I don’t normally (I have a big mouth ha!).
We had a leisurely walk towards the central station, which again was only 15 minutes away. Everything here was so walkable, though I suppose if you wanted to fit more in you could get the tram to zip about the city. The airport was a short train ride away, and before we knew it we were boarding the plane!
We had approximately 6000kr to spend, just under £600, which is definitely a lot for a weekend break. Sweden however, is expensive! There is no escaping that! Ice creams £4-5, a bottle of wine £30, a meal out £60+. Attractions are probably cheaper than food and drink, but it still adds up. Vasa Museum was £13 and cannot be booked online, just turn up. If you can book things ahead I would recommend it, as it prevents things eating into your spending money. I booked the Arlanda Express return tickets and the boat tour ahead, which eased our spending considerably. We also got snacks from the local shop so we weren’t starving in the morning, and could often wait till lunch time for a proper meal. I think I came home with about £20! I did get quite a few souvenirs though, which I always do, my most expensive being the Hard Rock Café t-shirt at £36.
I didn’t want to leave this city. Stockholm is a beautiful, cosmopolitan, chic capital, with a calm tranquility that is at odds with the amount of tourists and sports cars speeding about the place. I felt safe and secure, and happy walking around these streets, as if I’d been doing it for years. I’m not sure I would have considered visiting Stockholm if not for the cheap flights, but I am so glad I did. I would definitely return in future and see more of this wonderful place. There are at least four more museums I would love to visit, and countless attractions and restaurants waiting to be discovered.
If you ever get the opportunity to visit Stockholm, I urge you to go. You will not be disappointed!