Of all the assumptions travelers tend to make about Sweden’s capital city (Everyone speaks in sing-songy flurgen durgens, whistles Abba, lives entirely on a diet of meatballs, etc.), nobody ever mistakes it for being a cheap place to visit. It’s definitely not.
Even so, Stockholm does have a few big advantages over other European cities that make it a workable destination for budget travelers.
For starters, flights from the US to Stockholm are some of the lowest you’ll find to Europe. How low? It’s not uncommon to see fares from the West Coast to Stockholm Arlanda for less than it costs to fly to many East Coast cities.
As with most things in Sweden, meals out can account for a big chunk of your budget, especially if you’re unsure of where to go and when to go. Lunch is the best time for bargains, with most restaurants offering some sort of discounted lunch menu.
These days, it’s much easier to eat cheaply in Stockholm. The city has really stepped up its food game over the past 10 years, embracing take-away and food truck culture, and introducing more options for casual, modestly priced meals out.
Below are 10 cheap eats to satisfy both your budget and your stomach.
Recently moved from Södermalm’s Slussen station across the bridge to Gamla Stan, this modest little kiosk serves up take-away plates of fried herring along with potatoes for 75 kronor (about $8.65). Pile on the lingonberry sauce and thinly sliced pickles over knäckebröd, a type of Swedish flatbread. Fish taco fans should opt for the strömmingsrulle, a Swedish take on the burrito, with herring, mashed potatoes, salad, and red onion, wrapped in soft Swedish Polarbröd. (Kornhamnstorg in Gamla Stan)
Forget whatever bad experience you may have suffered with hot dog carts in the States. Stockholm has a much more artful approach to the hot dog. It’s easy to grab one anywhere in the city, quickly and cheaply. You’ll find them prepared in a variety of ways, especially at Gunters, where the menu features hot dogs from around the world. Many of these are served tunnbrödrullar-style, with the hot dog wrapped in bread with mashed potatoes, or more exotic fillings like shrimp salad. Prices start at 20 kronor ($2.30) for a plain hot dog to 70 kronor ($8) for a double dog. (Kalsbergsvägen 66)
Even carnivores will find it hard to beat the million dollar views at this $20 vegetarian buffet. Wedged in the cliffs of Södermalm, this Stockholm staple overlooks the harbor towards the islands of Skeppsholmen and Gronaland. Lunch specials are available weekdays from 11am to 3pm for 115 kronor (about $13), with buffet options changing nightly for dinner (179 kronor or about $21). (Fjällgatan 23B)
In Stockholm’s trendy SoFo area (that’s South of Folkungagatan), Chutney cooks up vegetarian plates that skew towards Indian. The dagens menu is inexpensive and usually includes stews or veggie lasagna with salads and a variety of freshly made breads. Tables line the sidewalk outside, giving you a prime view of SoFo’s cool set as they come and go. (Katarina Bangata 19)
It wasn’t so long ago that canned corn on the cob was considered a perfectly acceptable part of any Swedish taco night. These days, Stockholm’s Mexican scene has evolved from tinny to fresh, and now includes several taquerias and food trucks almost as good as anything you’d find in California.
La Neta, with locations in both Södermalm and Norrmalm, serves tacos, quesadillas, chips and guac, and other Mexican standards in an unfussy setting. A pork and grilled pineapple taco will set you back 22 kronor (about $2.50). This is a popular place among Stockholmers so be prepared to wait in line, especially when hitting up the Söder location. Check the menu for daily lunch specials. (Östgötagatan 12B and Barnshusgatan 2)
Just a short stroll from Kungsträdgården, this buzzy food hall really packs ‘em in during lunch hours. What it lacks in peace and quiet, it makes up for in value with quick and inexpensive cafeteria style options from 11 restaurants serving anything from Southeast Asian to Scandinavian. (Kungsgatan 25)
Essentially a gussied up food court anchored to an otherwise snoozy little mall, Teatern allows visitors the chance to sample dishes from some of Sweden’s most acclaimed chefs without blowing a hole in the budget. Teatern houses 10 restaurants, including the Plant by chef Maximillian Lundin, completely organic and vegan. Pastry devotees should beeline to K-Märkt from chef Daniel Roos, the man responsible for Swedish Princess Victoria’s wedding cake as well as Nobel banquet desserts. Dishes here range from about $7 to $25. (Götgatan 132)
Are you sitting down? Meatballs, it turns out, aren’t even a Swedish invention. Credit goes entirely to the Turks. That factoid isn’t likely to deter anyone from seeking out at least one meatball dinner while in Stockholm, and Meatballs for the People is a good place to start. You’ll find over 14 variations of meatballs including reindeer, bear, duck, and salmon. Take-away is available or, in the summer months, drop in on the food truck at Djurgårdsbrunn. (Nytorgsgatan 30)
If your one reference for Swedish cuisine is the Ikea Cafe, time to fix that. For a sense of what traditional Swedish food is all about, head to Tennstopet, an old-style eatery in Stockholm’s Vasastan neighborhood. Menu items change seasonally, but include classics like herring, meatballs, skagen toast, and potato pancakes. Dinner prices may strain some budgets, depending on what and how much you order, but the lunch menu is much more reasonable at around 129 kronor (about $15). (Dalagatan 50)
Those familiar with Pressbyrån may roll their eyes at the suggestion, but this ubiquitous chain of Swedish convenience stores can really save the day when trying to keep spending to an absolute minimum. Grab a quick to-go coffee and a kannelbullar (a Swedish cinnamon roll) or, if later in the day, a hot dog, and press on with your sightseeing.