Finally, a post about my favorite continent, Europe!
Dan and I wanted to get away for a long weekend in January. Somewhere new, somewhere not too expensive (this one didn’t exactly pan out) and somewhere that we felt we could experience over a long weekend. I did some online research and, surprise, Stockholm, Sweden came out as our destination! Crazy you probably think! Actually, Stockholm made for a great long weekend and I plan to do something similar next year!
Here are some pictures of the old town, Gamla Stan! So cute, and very Old Europe!
Why Sweden? First and foremost, a few airlines run GREAT deals from the New York area to Scandinavia in the off-season. The premier discount airline is Norwegian Air, which flies direct from JFK to Oslo, Norway, Stockholm, Sweden and Copenhagen, Denmark (and I think they are adding destinations!). We found tickets in January for $380 round-trip, non-stop. Yes, that happened. $380 to Stockholm roundtrip – SOLD! SAS and United were price matching when we bought our tickets.
Was It Worth It?
Before we went, and even more-so after we returned, people kept saying that we were crazy to go so far on such short notice, and crazy to go to Sweden in the winter. Was it worth it? YES – ABSOLUTELY!
As mentioned, our flights were direct, which is always key for a short trip, and the flight over was overnight – perfect. The return flight (also direct) left at 5:55 p.m. and arrived at 8:00 p.m. EST at JFK – again, perfect! The Stockholm airport is only a 20 minute train ride from the city via the Arlanda Express, a very convenient train running between the airport and Stockholm’s main train station. The direct flights and simple airport transfer certainly contributed to the ease of the trip.
In terms of weather, the temperature was a few degrees warmer than NYC (although we were probably lucky…it only snowed once on our last day!) In addition to being chilly, the other issue with Scandinavia in the winter is that it gets dark early – starting around 3:00 in December. In January, it stayed light until about 4:30 p.m. So yes, it was completely worth it and much more doable than I initially envisioned.
What Did We Do?
We started our vacation with a free walking tour of the old town, or the Gamla Stan. Stockholm Free Tours offers several free tours year-round, and I recommend taking advantage of them! Here is ours, quite packed for a Saturday evening in January!
In addition to the free walking tour, we took a food tour of Stockholm (about $60 US a person) and a boat tour around the city!
If you didn’t know, Stockholm is located right on the water where the Baltic Sea meets Lake Mälaren. As a result, the sea is very important to the city and a lot is centered around the water! The boat tour was a cool means to see Stockholm from a different perspective, but it would have been much better in the Summer! We also visited the Vasa Museum, which was my favorite site in Stockholm (!), and saw the changing of the guards.
Changing of the guards:
And the famous food hall, Östermalms Food Hall from our food tour:
Per usual, we ate and drank really well in Stockholm. Some of our favorites restaurants were Meatballs For the People, Stockholm Gastabud and Pubologi! Note – Stockholm restaurants book up early. Make reservations online before you travel!
Another favorite activity was walking around the Gamla Stan, especially at dusk when the tourists had cleared out and we could get some great shots of the streets and old buildings!
Was It Super Expensive?
Honestly, Stockholm was pricey! The cheap flight definitely cut down on cost, but day to day living is costly. Stockholm uses the Swedish Crown, not the Euro, and the exchange rate will get you! Drinks out consistently start at $12+ USD and go up from there…food follows suit! We were able to save some money by researching restaurants beforehand, finding some cheap ones and knowing where we wanted to splurge! While Sweden is expensive, it should not be avoided for this reason alone! There are certainly means to cut costs. For example, if you are on a BUDGET:
- Buy tickets for the Arlanda Express (train from Stockholm Airport into the city) online before you go. There are often deals if you purchase ahead online! This is what we did and saved $20 USD.
- Find an apartment on AirBnB or stay in a hostel in a non-touristy area (i.e. not Gamla Stan)
- Walk as much as possible and take public transportation elsewhere! Taxis are really expensive!!!
- Definitely take advantage of the free tours! Tip is expected, but leave what you want!
- See the changing of the guards – its totally free!
- Pre-game before heading out – drinks are crazy expensive!! We brought 2 bottles of wine over with us to cut down on drinking costs.
- Do some research and plan activities/food/purchases on which you want to splurge! You will almost certainly need to splurge on a few things and I think it makes it easier if you pre-plan for these splurges!
- Check out these restaurants we visited for some good food at a decent price (well, decent for Stockholm…).
- In the non-summertime, bring winter layers, including heavy jacket, scarf, gloves, socks, boots, hat, etc. Nothing will ruin your budget and schedule more than having to unexpectedly buy these items in Scandinavia!
STEAL OUR TRIP
Radisson Stockholm Waterfront Blu – We stayed at the Radisson Stockholm Waterfront Blu, which had an amazing location right next to the train station with views of Stockholm’s City Hall. Rates weren’t as bad as other hotels, and it was very nice! Note – there are a number of Radisson Blu properties in Stockholm. Make sure you have the right one! Arlanda Express – 20 minute train from the airport into the city! Buy early online to take advantage of special deals! Free Tour Stockholm – Offering good free tours, although tips are very much appreciated! Vasa Musuem – my favorite museum in Stockholm! Meatballs: For the People – Yum, make reservations!! Stockholm Gastabud – Possibly the best deal in Gamla Stan! Pubologi – Cute and upscale in Gamla Stan. Make reservations!