How would your weekend plans change if the sun didn’t go down until after 10 p.m.? What if it came blazing back up again before 4 a.m.?
That’s the schedule for Stockholm in July, when a bunch of travel bloggers like me head to Sweden for TBEX Europe. This Travel Bloggers Exchange conference has been hosted in some fun places before, but this is going to put a new twist on the “party ’til dawn” objective for some. They can toast the sunset, toast the sunrise, then still get some sleep before the first session. Assuming they have a room with good blackout curtains or they packed an eye mask.
Daylight savings time is a non-issue in this situation. You can be out on a boat or playing golf hours past dinnertime and since it never gets totally dark in the summer, it seems the city ghost tours would be more surreal than spooky. The light shows at the summer concerts at the Gröna Lund amusement park might not be very dramatic—even by encore time. The evening music cruises get back just as the sun is setting.
A Less Stratospheric Stockholm
I know what you’re thinking: “Hey, isn’t Sweden part of Scandinavia, one of the most crazy expensive travel regions in the world?” Well yes, there’s that, but thankfully the Swedish kroner has been dropping some against the pound sterling and dropping a lot against the U.S. dollar. The chart below from fxtop.com is for the latter. A buck used to average around 6.5 kroner from 2011 through the beginning of 2015. Now it fetches between 8 and 8.5. That’s not going to suddenly make this prosperous nation a bargain, but it does take out a fair bit of the sting.
As is often the case in pricey destinations, you can put a lid on some of the biggest costs by booking your time in Stockholm with an offer you can find online. This does not mean joining the retirees on a planned-out bus itinerary. It just means booking air and hotel together on one of the booking services you’re used to using anyway. This way you take advantage of discounts these agencies receive for bringing in lots of volume.
When I pulled up options from London for early July, for a four-night holiday, most of the packages were in the range of £213 to £359 per person including airfare (US$301 to $509). The hotels were mainly 3- and 4-star places in good locations. That seems downright reasonable for a quick change of scenery in another capital city. If you go down a notch or two on the hotel, it can go below £200.
Naturally it’s going to cost more to fly across an ocean, so prices from New York are higher. Still, they’re not much more than if you were going to other parts of Europe. You can squeak in for around $1,000 per person in the busy summer season for flight, 4-star hotel, internet, and breakfast buffet, which is probably about what you would spend on airfare anyway. Plus you’ve got one meal covered. Pick the lodging carefully though: they love small spaces and twin beds in this part of the world.
If you’re on a backpacker budget, you’ll feel the pain of the high real estate and labor prices more acutely. This is one of the few places in the world where “dorm bed” and $71 can appear on the same page. Thankfully there are cheaper options. Most hostels are in the range of $30 to $45 per bed per night and there are a few under $30. As usual, if you’re a couple you might be better off finding a double room in a cheap hotel instead.
Finding Free & Budget Options in Stockholm
With so much daylight in the summer, there’s plenty to do during all waking hours and some of it won’t cost you. Besides just soaking up the scenery and strolling along the waterfronts, I’m looking forward to picking from lots of outdoor events. There are also a number of museums with free admission, including the Swedish History Museum, the National Maritime Museum, and Skokloster Castle. See a full rundown here.
The city runs two free walking tours that leave from the Gamla subway station. One is of medieval Stockholm, one of the modern city. Each lasts an hour and a half and starts at 10 a.m.
When you need to get from place to place around the capital of Sweden, it looks like the best bet is to get an integrated transit pass card. It’s around $27 for 72 hours, so less than 10 bucks a day. That’s definitely less than renting a bike, which will cost you that much for just one day. You can rent for two hours though for around $16.50. Or go on a guided tour. If you take a ferry out to one of the islands in the archipelago, you may find other bike options at the end point. One-way ferry rides run $9 to $16.
The birthplace of Spotify is one of the most wired cities in the world and there are public high-speed Wi-Fi hotspots around the city.
All photos courtesy of Visit Stockholm. See their official website for loads of great information and photos.