Surviving Stockholm as a Solo Traveller

With a whopping 14 islands and 800,000 people, Stockholm is a bubbling metropolis of trendy restaurants, hip cafés and beautiful parks.

But it can be sprawling and confusing at times!

Do you stay in green Långholmen or nostalgic Gamla Stan? And what’s the difference between Norrmalm and Södermalm? You may easily find yourself lost on the outskirts instead of in the heart of the action. In Stockholm, there’s no end to hip cafes, excellent restaurants, and fun corners to hang out.

Here’s our short guide on where to stay, what to do, and how to get around as a solo traveller.

 

Orientation

Though it’s easy enough to navigate the city, Stockholm still deserves a bit of orientation for the newcomer. Gamla Stan, “Old Town,” is—you guessed it—the oldest part of the town and displays a beautiful cluster of 17th- and 18th-century buildings. Södermalm, the southern island just south of Gamla Stan, used to be the heart of the working class but in the last few decades has really blossomed to take its place among the hipsters and trendy bistros.

Then there is Norrmalm, the city’s commercial hub, full of shops and cinemas—and Östermalm, where you’ll find the more fashionable homes. Djurgården is worth multiple visits, as the island is home to a verdant park, several interesting museums, beautiful architecture, the Gröna Lund amusement park and the Skansen open-air museum.

 

Where to Stay?

It’s no secret that Stockholm is expensive, with hotels easily running into the 100-euros-a-night range. With some careful sleuthing, though, you can find some great budget options right downtown.

City Backpackers is a light, airy hostel set in a renovated 1897 building. The hostel offers dorms, doubles and private apartments, starting from 190 SEK per night. It’s a fantastic way to meet fellow travellers, and you can even opt for a fun bike tour around the city. Don’t miss the adjacent Nomad Bar, with its very own inner courtyard.

For something completely different, grab a room—that is, a cabin—on the Chapman boat from 330 SEK per night. The af Chapman is an 1888 full-rigged steel ship that now doubles as a youth hostel. Perched right on the harbor of Skeppsholmen Island.

Långholmen Prison is not budget, surrounded by parks and leafy paths. Don’t let the name fool you—it’s been well over 40 years since the hotel operated as a prison. Built in the 1840s, 1995 SEK can now get you the unique experience of sleeping in a former jail cell. Stop by the Prison Museum for a quick history lesson.

 

How to get around?

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Stockholm’s public transport system is impressive, to say the least, with metro, buses, trams, and commuter trains. The Swedes love their metro so much that it’s called “the world’s longest art exhibition,” with sculptures, mosaics and paintings from over 150 artists squirreled away in the tunnels.

Hej Hej pedicabs offer a fun and cheap way to see the city—touring downtown or Djurgarden by pedicab, what’s not to love?

 

Where to Eat?

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With its cosmopolitan makeup, Stockholm offers its fair share of diverse and delicious cuisine. It’s one of the few places you can go from Ethiopian to Georgian in just 30 minutes.

You can stick to super-cheap fast food like hot dogs and kebabs, available just about anywhere you can throw your hat. Or spring for burger heaven at Vigårda, where burgers and fries go upper-class. Munch on cinnamon buns and waffle wraps at Ãlskade Traditioner. Or grab a traditional English brunch at the Greasy Spoon (avocado sandwiches, anyone?).

Summer breezes will blow in the Hornstull market, a line-up of flea antiques and food trucks galore sitting pretty on Södermalm’s southwest riverbank.

Stockholm is all about the bakeries, too, with old-fashioned Vete-Katten giving the “old world vibe” a run for it’s money. Here you can take part in fika, the Swedish afternoon coffee break, with a cardamom bun to die for.

 

What to Do?

Though Stockholm can be pricey, there are loads of fun events the solo traveller can do on the cheap. Wander around the cobblestones of Gamla Stan or Södermalm to spy your next tasty meal, or better yet join Free Tour Stockholm and Stockholm Free Walking Tour to see it all with a guide. Take advantage of the city’s free museums: the Maritime Museum, the Medieval Museum, or the Nobel Prize Museum on Tuesday evenings.

Summertime means swimming in Stockholm! If you fancy a swim, a terrific option is Smedsuddsbadet on Kungsholmen island—or head to quieter Lake Trekanten in Liljeholmen to avoid the crowds. From April to October, the bike rental program is alive and well, at barely any cost.

Cinemaphiles will love Bio Rio, Stockholm’s answer to the art-house theatre. Victoria, another small cinema in Södermalm, is a thankful break away from the multiplexes that otherwise dominate the town.

What’s your favourite thing to do in Stockholm as a solo traveller?

Wailana Kalama is a travel writer living in Stockholm, a dabbler in linguistics. She's travelled through 40+ countries and lived in six and counting. Read more of her writing at www.waikalama.com and follow her at @whylana

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