Stockholm is incredibly expensive. Three or four days living comfortably in Sweden’s capital city successfully made me broke. Accommodation, transportation, and food were on our list of priorities to survive and live not like vagabonds. Really, traveling to Scandinavian countries requires not only a lot of guts, but also a lot of money. You need more preparation for arranging your budget if you want to travel properly inside the country.
Fortunately, Stockholm is generous enough to provide some free attractions and places, and even museums to visit. Whether you are seeking a short adventure taking you back to the era of Vikings, or museums that are quiet yet full of history, here are my picks for the best places to go (for free or with an entrance fee) in Stockholm.
With Ticket Admission
Skansen is an open-air museum and zoo that has an unusual concept about how a zoo should be. It is different from any other zoos you may visit in any other countries, where the animals are inside cages and irresponsible visitors throw their own food to the animals to wake them up or just because they’re idiots. Skansen is considered an animal-friendly zoo. They are placed inside barns secured by wooden gates (for goats, pigs, and so forth) or deep down the valley (for bears and wolves), trying as much as possible to imitate the countryside or natural habitat of those animals.
If you like history and would like to know what Sweden looked like in the past, don’t forget to stop by the small houses along the way where you can find a guide explaining to you how life was at that time, and anything you are interested to know about that subject.
2. Museum Vasa
Vasa is a huge ship that sank in Stockholm in 1628. After about 333 years on the sea bed, the government decided to salvage Vasa so its journey could be continued… as an exhibition in the museum. Consisting of 5 or 6 floors (I forgot exactly), Vasa museum is designed and built to accommodate this unbelievable mighty ship. So, the first thing you will notice as you step inside the museum is the immense size of the wooden ship under the spectacular dim light to give it a dramatized effect. If that is not enough for you, the adventure seeker, you can go up to the next floors, exploring its every corner while discovering its history from scratch.
3. Museum Three Crowns (Kunliga Slotten)
If you are a history aficionado and curious about Sweden and its kingdom from time to time, Museum Three Crowns is one of the ideal places in Stockholm to satisfy your curiosity. The museum itself is divided into different sections with different admission prices. Visiting the royal palace is undoubtedly more expensive than just taking walks up and down the underground museum depicting the castle’s life during its golden age.
We chose to visit the underground one with an admission price of around 10 euro (I forget how much it was in kronor), and it wasn’t disappointing at all. There are hundreds of displays including weapons, armor, map, costumes (and plates) looking like a leftover from a bygone era, inviting you to think back to what everyday life was like around 100, 200, 300 years ago, inside the freezing dirty stone castle (I hope it wasn’t as dirty as I described and imagined).
4. The Nordic Museum
Another paradise for a history addict, this 4-storey museum exhibits a wide range of folk object that give an insight into Nordic country life over the centuries. All you need to know about history, culture and trends in Nordic countries can easily be found in this museum.
Without Ticket Admission
1. Gamla Stan
Gamla Stan is an old town that dates back to the 13th century. Known historically as a slum, Gamla Stand has transformed into one of the main tourist attractions in Stockholm due to its long history, its classic medieval alleyway, its cobblestone streets, and its archaic buildings spread throughout the area. Gamla Stan is also home to Stockholm Cathedral (which I didn’t visit), Nobel Museum (which didn’t attract my attention), and Riddarholm Church. The area itself is right beside the Royal Palace. So, if you still have some bucks left in your pocket, you can check it out before meandering around the old town. And if you don’t, don’t worry—there are still dozens of things you can do to enjoy Gamla Stan. For example:
- Photograph the two iconic buildings situated in the square of Stortorget. «If you forget to take photos, you never went to Stockholm,» said some silly tourists like me.
- Visit the facade of the Royal Palace and witness how the palace guard marches from one post to another.
- Buy a cup of coffee and walk through beautiful alleys while indulging your eyes in antique buildings that make you think back about how life was in that era.
- Go to the free museum in Gamla Stan.
Livrustkammaren a.k.a the Royal Armoury has free ticket admission (mentioned above) and is located exactly on Gamla Stan. The museum is considerably small (let’s say, modest) and consists of two floors: one is for souvenirs and the other comprises the exhibition itself. But hey, what more can you expect from a free museum?
To make it short, the museum collections are mostly artifacts of Swedish military history and Swedish royalty, including armoury, coronation robes, and wedding dresses!
3. Historiska Museet
Situated in the heart of Stockholm, Historiska Museet is the first free admission museum, and the best I have ever visited. At first glance, judging from how big the building is, I was hesitant about going in, afraid that it would bleed us dry like all the other famous museums in Scandinavian countries (or in Europe). But, surprisingly, it is actually free all year round.
The collections are complete enough for a free admission museum, spanning from the Mesolithic era to present day, from Viking collections to tapestry. The good news is you can take as many pictures as you want in all sections!