Travel through Time in Stockholm (For Cheap!)

Five ways to see the past and the present in Sweden’s capital city

By Lance Harrell

Stockholm is a lot of things. It’s the capital of Sweden and arguably the most important center of Nordic culture (although residents of other Scandinavian areas might disagree). It’s a great place for student travel. And it can also be pricey.

However, not everything in Stockholm is expensive. And that’s good, because this is a place that has a lot to offer students and indeed everyone. One of the most fascinating things that Stockholm provides is a bridge between the past and present. And exploring this link doesn’t wreak havoc with travel groups’ budgets.

Stockholm’s Glimpse Into Sweden’s Past

No discussion of Swedish museums would be complete without Skansen, the world’s first open-air museum. If you’re a sucker for seeing how people lived way back when, Skansen is the place to go. Called a “miniature historical Sweden,” it showcases rural life in various parts of the country over a 500-year timeframe. Buildings, domestic and wild animals, farms, traditional crafts, and costumed historical interpreters are all part of the experience. And the price is a modest 100-180 Swedish krona (SEK), which is about $10-20 USD, depending on the time of the year.

Gamla Stan and the Royal Palace Stockholm

Gamla Stan and the Royal Palace Stockholm

Gamla Stan and the nearby island of Riddarholmen are another way to experience history in the open air. Gamla Stan is where Stockholm was founded (in 1252) and it’s one of the largest and best-preserved Old Towns in Europe. You can wander its twisty cobblestone streets and admire its gold-toned buildings, or you can visit the many shops, museums and churches in its boundaries.

Vasa Museet

Vasa Museet

The Vasa Museet is another of Sweden’s extraordinary museums. In this case, the entire museum was built around a ship – the Vasa, which sank in 1628. Over 330 years later, it was salvaged and turned into what it is today: Scandinavia’s most-visited museum and the world’s only almost fully intact 17th century fighting ship. Four other ships are anchored outside the museum, ranging in age from 50 to 113 years old. A ticket to the Vasa Museum will set students back around $11 USD.

Exploring the Present in Stockholm’s Trendy Shopping and Design Centers

Let’s now swing from the past to the present and even the future. After all, anyone who has ever looked at an IKEA catalogue knows that Sweden is far from being stuck in the past! And where better to see modern life and design than in the city’s diverse shopping districts?

For a bit of everything in your Stockholm shopping experience, head to Drottninggatan. Sure, you’ll run across familiar international stores, but you can pass them by for a more Swedish experience. For example, you can find national chains selling household items designed by Scandinavian designers as well as department stores selling everything from clothes to decorative art glass.


Drottninggatan – Credit

In keeping with the idea of time-travel, fans of retro, quirky and independent will love Stockholm’s Sodermalm district. It hosts a blend of Swedish designers, trend-setting stores and vintage shops. Of course, there’s a nice sprinkling of cafes and restaurants thrown in as well.

Ostermalm isn’t anyone’s idea of low-budget; it’s Stockholm’s version of Rodeo Drive, packed with big-name and big-ticket brands. But hey, a little window shopping never costs a dime, does it? And should hunger strike, the Ostermalm Food Hall is great place for food lovers to find some traditional Swedish favorites for a reasonable splurge. The building itself dates from the 1880s, although an ongoing renovation means that the food stalls and restaurants are being housed in a nearby covered market.

Budget-Friendly Accommodations in Stockholm

Lobby at the Generator Hostel, Stockholm

Lobby at the Generator Hostel, Stockholm

If you’re looking for a place to stay that’s both budget-friendly and design-led, check out Stockholm’s Generator hostel. This hostel is one in a multinational group that features locations in trendy places, with eclectic decor to match. Generator Stockholm is in the center of the city; it includes shared and private rooms for reasonable rates. The private rooms come nicely equipped with en-suite bathrooms; all rooms share a decidedly hip design aesthetic. And there’s a cafe, meeting rooms and other group areas available onsite as well.

Shared rooms at the Generator Hostel, Stockholm

Shared rooms at the Generator Hostel, Stockholm

One Last Thing About Saving Money Touring Stockholm

If you’re interested in visiting several of Stockholm’s biggest draws, like the Royal Palace, the Nordic Museum and the Nobel Museum, you may want to look into a Stockholm Pass. This card combines popular attractions, rides on public transportation and sightseeing tours for a single price.

Stockholm might be a bit on the spendy side as a destination, but that doesn’t put it out of the reach of student travel groups. With some planning, you can enjoy what this Swedish capital has to offer without spending every last krona.