Visiting Stockholm on a budget is certainly doable, but it needs careful planning. Flights and accommodation may well be expensive, but with so many free things to do in Stockholm, you can live cheap and still have action-packed days and nights.

    One issue for budget travellers in Stockholm is the country’s reliance on credit cards – many places no longer accept paper money. It’s strongly advised to have a credit card with you. Most travellers can do without buying a SIM card while in Stockholm because free Wi-Fi can be found in cafés, hotels and subway stations. One final tip for families: if you have a pushchair, you ride buses for free in Stockholm.


    The Royal Palace is the home of the Swedish monarchy. It houses more than 600 rooms, 3 museums, and features a daily changing of the guards. Officially known as the Royal Guards Ceremony, the show of pageantry starts at 11:45am and lasts for around 40 minutes. It includes a marching band and a parade of soldiers. The main parade area is on Slottsbacken, which runs along the southern side of the palace. You should arrive early to get a good vantage point.

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    Location: Stockholm Palace, Slottsbacken, 107 70 Stockholm, Sweden

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +46(0)8-402 61 30


    photo by W. Bulach (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified



    Enjoy the cherry blossoms in full bloom every April

    Kungsträdgården, meaning the King’s Garden, is a beautiful expanse of woodland in downtown Stockholm. It hosts many free festivals and events throughout the year. A particular highlight is the cherry blossom season in late April, when the whole area is swathed in pink. The park contains many cafés and bars, which are great places to sit back and enjoy the surrounding nature.

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    Location: Jussi Björlings allé, 111 47 Stockholm, Sweden

    Phone: +46 (0)8-611 00 13


    photo by Liridon (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified


    Katarinahissen Elevator

    Climb the stairs up to this 38-metre-high viewpoint

    Katarinahissen is one of Stockholm’s best free vantage spots. Located next to Slussen subway station, this prominent landmark was built in 1936 as a shortcut from Slussen to Södermalm, and although the lift no longer works, you can still climb the stairs up to the top. The views are excellent, right over the waterways of Stockholm on one side and Södermalm island on the other.

    Location: Stadsgården 1, 116 45 Stockholm, Sweden


    photo by Peter Haas (CC BY 3.0) modified


    Stockholm subway art

    90 subway stations each filled with different distinct artworks

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    Stockholm’s subways are some of the most artistic in the world. Known locally as the T-bana (Tunnelbana network), you will find vibrant art pieces in 90 stations throughout the capital. It took 150 artists several decades to create more than 100 km of art. Locals claim it’s the world’s longest art exhibition. You can pay for a guided tour or simply explore on your own for the price of a single ticket.

    Highlights include the cave-like, excavated artwork at Kungsträdgården station, the 1970s Olympics motif used at Satdion station, and the pixelated, computer-game-inspired reliefs at Thorildsplan station.

    Location: Kungsträdgården T-Bana, 111 47 Stockholm, Sweden


    photo by Tony Webster (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Relax at the beach

    Jump into the Baltic Sea (in summer)

    Stockholm has several beaches in the city centre, all of which are packed in the peak summer months. A convenient spot to have a swim and relax on the sand is Långholmsbadet on Långholmen island. The swimming area is marked out in buoys, and there’s a wooden jetty so you can dive straight into the water.

    For families, Tanto strandbad is a popular swimming spot. Located further south, on Södermalm island, you can spend the whole day here thanks to activities like mini golf and climbing nets in Tantolunden Park nearby. The prime sandy spots are filled quickly, but people set up on the rocky coastline or on the grassland behind. It’s suitable for the disabled and has public showers.

    Location: Långholmsbadet, Långholmsmuren 21, 117 33 Stockholm, Sweden


    photo by Holger.Ellgaard (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Explore the Old Town

    Gamla Stan is Stockholm’s medieval centre

    Stockholm’s origins lie on the atmospheric island of Gamla Stan, where merchants and monarchs occupied the medieval streets around the Royal Palace. Stroll along the ancient, meandering streets to the Nobel Museum (free admission on Tuesdays from 5-8pm), celebrating the achievements of the Nobel Prize winners. To the west is the tiny island of Riddarholmen, home to grand palaces and noble houses. They are so perfectly preserved, the whole area feels like a film set.

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    photo by Julian Herzog (CC BY 4.0) modified



    Learn how people used to live at Stockholm’s Medieval Museum

    This free-to-enter museum contains finds from historical digs that have been used to recreate scenes of life in Stockholm in the Middles Ages. The highlight of the Medieval Museum is a well-preserved 50-metre segment of the city’s original city walls. Other exhibits include remnants of an ancient warship and a recreation of a town square. The museum has free guided tours in English at 2pm in July and August.

    Location: Strömparterren 3, 111 30 Stockholm, Sweden

    Open: Tuesday – Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +46 (0)8-508 316 20


    photo by Jorge Láscar (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Free street festivals in Stockholm

    Join the street parties taking place throughout the summer

    Throughout the summer months, Stockholm has a steady stream of events and festivals – and many of them are free! The biggest of them all is Stockholm Kulturfestival, a 6-day cultural event of music, literature and performing arts that takes place every August in Gustav Adolfs Square. Other notable events include Stockholm Pride in July, which brings over 500,000 people together in support of LGBT rights, Stockholm Street Festival, also in July, celebrates the diverse world of street performers, such as jugglers, acrobats and magicians. If you’re in Stockholm in the winter, the Christmas Market in Gamla Stan is a suitably festive alternative that runs throughout December.

    photo by AleWi (CC0 1.0) modified



    Escape to the country and enjoy the great outdoors

    Hellasgården is just 30 minutes from downtown Stockholm, but it feels a world away from the bustling streets of the capital. This natural landscape features a crystal-clear lake popular for swimming and fishing, many walking trails, and skiing tracks in winter. Other sports available at Hellasgården include tennis, beach volleyball, golf, and ice skating in the winter. For a small fee, there’s an excellent sauna that’s popular throughout the year.

    Location: Ältavägen 101, 131 33 Nacka, Sweden

    Open: Monday – Friday from 10 am to 9 pm (weekends from 10 am to 6 pm)

    Phone: +46(0)8-716 39 61


    photo by Johan Fredriksson (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Sjöhistorika museet

    Browse the scale models at Stockholm’s Maritime Museum

    Sjöhistorika museet celebrates Sweden’s proud naval and shipbuilding history. It’s located in Östermalm, along the waterfront. The exhibits are mostly scale models of important vessels built in Sweden from the 18th century up to the present day. Several archaeological finds are also on display. The Maritime museum is completely free to enter. Complimentary audio guides are available in Swedish, Finnish, English, French and German.

    Location: Djurgårdsbrunnsvägen 24, 115 27 Stockholm, Sweden

    Open: Tuesday – Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +46 (0)8-519 549 00

    Paul Smith | Compulsive Traveler

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