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10 hacks that make life in Stockholm much easier

10 hacks that make life in Stockholm much easier
Make the most of Stockholm throughout the year with our hacks. Photo: Lola Akinmade Åkerström/imagebank.sweden.se
Stockholm can be a difficult city to crack, due to long dark winters, high prices, and cultural codes that take a while to adjust to. But these tips will help make things run more smoothly.

Venture outside the centre

Stockholm is a compact city, and outside the centre you will find that restaurants, cafes and other amenities are often few and far between. But there are exceptions and it’s well worth getting to know some of the livelier suburbs, each with their own character. Try Hökarängen’s pedestrianised high street, sample the pubs and cafes of Hammarbyhöjden and Kärrtorp, experience Fruängen’s laid back vibe, and wander around the villas of Lidingö for starters. All of these spots are close to sprawling forest walks and water as well.

To the north of the centre, Eggeby Gård at Järva is closed during the pandemic, but otherwise organises cultural events, and Tensta Konsthall is a great arts centre. It’s also worth checking out Stockholm’s House of Culture’s local branches outside the city centre (more about this further down).

You can head out for a day trip or to sample new food (some of Stockholm’s best foodie spots are utanför tullarna, such as the Scarfo gelateria in Bromma, Erssons in Fruängen for fish lovers, and upmarket restaurant with a view Göteborg in Hammarby Sjöstad), or you might decide to base yourself in the suburbs permanently for the combination of community feel, proximity to nature and cheaper rents or house prices.

Join the library

With a library card, you get access to books from all of the city’s libraries, including a wide selection in English and other languages. For a 10 kronor fee (and for children’s books it’s free of charge), have them sent to your local library for pick-up. Beyond the books, libraries also host free activities such as language cafes, book groups, and storytelling events for children, often in languages other than Swedish.

More of an outdoorsy person? The Fritidsbanken is like a library for sports equipment ranging from ice skates to snowboards, where you can borrow items for free for up to 14 days. The closest ones to Stockholm are found in Tyresö, Botkyrka, and Upplands Väsby.

Kulturhuset

This deserves a special mention because as well as housing a centrally located library, Stockholm’s House of Culture has large sections devoted to children of different ages, with books in over 50 languages and cosy reading corners as well as spots for other creative play, making it a great place for families to spend the afternoon.

You’ll also find regular exhibitions, theatre productions and concerts catering to all ages, as well as a rooftop cafe. While Sergels Torg in the city centre has the most going on, the branches in Skärholmen, Husby and Vällingby are also worth a visit if they are more local to you.


Kulturhuset’s Rum för Barn (Room for Children) is full of possibilities. Photo:
Ann-Sofi Rosenkvist/imagebank.sweden.se

Recycle right

Sorting and disposing of your recyclable waste correctly is a must in Sweden. If your housing association doesn’t own its own recycling bins, the chances are you’ll be using Stockholm’s återvinningsstationer or recycling stations. Save yourself a wasted trip or the trouble of trying to cram your rubbish into an overflowing bin by checking when it was last emptied using the FTI website, which is the company responsible for these stations.

Along similar lines, use the Stockholms Stad website to find out when the mobile miljöstation will be in your area, for recycling hazardous waste like old cosmetics, paint or small electrics without needing to travel to the larger recycling centres on the city’s outskirts.

Learn the public transport tricks

If you have a monthly or annual SL card, you can use it on Stockholm’s commuter ferries. The most popular runs between Slussen, Skeppsholmen and Djurgården, but you can also take longer trips, including from Klara Mälarstrand or Nybroviken, perfect for exploring the city or showing visitors around without booking a pricier river cruise. And the boat trip between Hammarby Sjöstad and Södermalm is free, with or without an SL card.

When travelling to Stockholm’s Arlanda airport using public transport, you need to pay a surcharge if you take the pendeltåg (commuter train) the whole way, because the airport express train owns a stretch of the tracks. However, you can get there for free if you have an SL card and are OK with a slightly longer journey, by changing to a roughly 15-minute bus from Märsta pendeltåg station.

Of course, the sprawling archipelago is not to be ignored, and many islands can be visited on public transport. Catch a bus to Vaxholm or Värmdö, take the bus or a (long but rewarding) bike ride to Älgö, or take the Waxholmsbolaget boats for free using your SL monthly or annual card between May and September.

Maximise age-linked discounts

Like many cities, you can score deals if you’re a student or senior, including with cheaper admission to museums, cinemas, and discounts on items from clothes to electronics. But what you may not realise when you first move is that Stockholm also offers discounts for many young professionals.

Look out for ungdomsrabatt (youth discount), which is often the same rate as a student discount but offered to everyone aged under 26, whether or not you are still in education. That includes treats like youth tickets with SAS airline, and significantly discounted tickets to cultural venues like the Royal Swedish Opera, arthouse cinema Bio Rio, and football matches. Perfect for making a starting salary go further and experiencing all that the city has to offer.

Buy unwanted

Buying secondhand is a great option in a capital city which loves thrifting culture and promotes sustainability as much as Stockholm. You can sometimes get a bargain at the vintage shops in areas like Hornstull, but try the charity shops (Stadsmissionen, Röda Korset and Myrorna for starters) and embrace the loppis or flea market culture for the cheapest price tags.

Don’t forget the apps either: there’s Karma, which advertises hefty discounts on food which would otherwise go unsold by shops or restaurants; Too Good To Go, which also allows you to buy surplus food from your favourite cafes and restaurants, and Olio, where private individuals can offer their unwanted but still usable items for free or a small price.

Embrace the sharing economy

In a big city, it’s not always economical to buy your own car, and parking in Stockholm is difficult, but that doesn’t mean you’re completely limited to public transport. Car-sharing solution Aimo allows you to rent electric cars and use their free parking spaces around the city, and there are other options for rental cars from garages for example. The various e-scooter companies such as Voi and Lime divide opinion but make it easy to zip around the centre.

For the more adventurous, there are even options to rent your own boat for an afternoon or longer (you’ll need to pass a sailing test first) using boatshare companies like Skipperi so you can sail to spots off the beaten track and escape the crowded beaches in the warmer months.

On the smaller end of the scale, it’s always worth checking if your neighbourhood has a local Facebook group where you can see if someone has an item you need before you buy it new. Many suburb centres, and even housing associations, have spots where you can drop off and collect unwanted plants and books, and your housing association may have a stock of tools that you can borrow.

Join the club

A common gripe of Stockholm residents is that it’s hard to meet people, and that the culture lacks spontaneity with Swedes typically preferring organised fun. But if you can’t beat them, join them, by signing up to a group activity like a choir, running group or sports team. This is often cited by foreign residents as the key to finally making local friends, and at the very least you’ll get to try something new.

These don’t even need to be pricey activities: Park Run is a volunteer-led 5k run in Haga Park and during the summer you can often find free or donation-based outdoor yoga and zumba classes.

Know where the toilets are

Don’t allow your days out to be ruined by traipsing round in search of a clean public toilet. Stockholm’s public toilets often cost money to use (though you can often pay by card if you don’t have the right cash), but you can find toilets at the state-run museums which are free to enter, most libraries (you may have to ask at the desk), as well as in almost all shopping centres (where they will still often cost money but are generally cleaner than the ones on the street). Failing that, try asking in the lobby of a hotel.


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