19 Great free things to do in Stockholm
Stockholm is one of the most amazing cities I have ever visited. It is a great destination if you want to combine city life with nature, leisure, and a great amount of culture. Whether it is the clear waters of the lakes, the quaint Christmas markets, dozens of free museums, beautiful views and vast parks you will find something worth doing all year round, regardless of the season.
While Stockholm might be one of the most beautiful cities I´ve ever visited, it is certainly not the cheapest one. Luckily, there are lots of ways to enjoy this amazing city on a budget and even completely free!
If you read my post about Stockholm in Winter and Traveling Scandinavia you will find helpful tips on how to limit your costs for transportation, accommodation, sights and attractions while in Stockholm. Combine that with the free things to do and you will be able to enjoy Stockholm without breaking the bank.
19 Great free things to do in Stockholm
Free Guided tours
Walk the city
There are several companies offering free walking tours of the city. The tours are led by enthusiastic local guides and are a great way to enjoy the city and learn about Swedish history while also meeting other travelers. Depending on the season there are generally free walking tours around different areas of the city every day.
My favourite company is Three Crowns offering four different tours. If you don´t know where to start or if you´re short on time, go for the Stockholm City tour. It is a great introduction to Stockholm that will definitely leave you wanting more. Another favourite of mine was the “Söder Tour”. The Söder Tour really shows you the everyday life of a Swede, with everything from hipster shopping to Swedish food culture and even teaches you some useful Swedish phrases.
If you want a more historical approach, I highly recommend the Old Town, gamla stan Tour offered every day at 10.00 am by Stockholm Free Tour. Our guide really knew how to tell the history of ancient Stockholm with a great amount of personality and humour, not leaving a dull moment.
The world’s longest art museum
Throughout the Stockholm subway system, you find 110 km worth of paintings, sculptures, mosaics, and art installations. It is often referred to as the world’s longest art museum. It is put together by 150 artists in over 90 of the city’s 100 stations and is a great way to experience Swedish history and culture in a unique way. Storstockholms Lokaltrafik, also known as “SL”, the public transport company run free weekly guided art tours of Stockholm’s subway.
The art and the guides are truly amazing and put most other metro systems to shame. The tour itself is around 75 minutes, but I easily spent one day on my own after exploring the art in the different stations, my personal favourite was Tensta Subway station. Tensta has always been a place with a lot of immigrants and the art installations were made over one year to make everyone arriving in Sweden feel welcome and excited about new beginnings.
Get lost in the Old town
Stockholm´s Old town, “Gamla Stan” is one of the biggest medieval city centres in Europe. It is made up of 4 islands and filled with beautiful churches, colourful buildings, ancient architecture, narrow winding cobblestone streets and new foodie hotspot restaurants and bars. This part of Stockholm was created well before cars were invented nor was it designed to allow horse and carriage through its streets. Hence, it is a beautiful maze of centuries-old buildings that tower above the narrow and winding streets. Make sure to find Mårten Trotzigs alley, the narrowest street in Sweden. And when I say narrow, I mean narrow! It connects the two main roads with a very skinny staircase and a few lamps that hang from the wall. At its narrowest, it is just 90 cm (35 inches) wide, and it is impossible for two people to walk next to each other.
You can easily spend a whole day getting lost in the old town but beware, there are a lot of tourist traps here so be wise about where you spend your money!
It doesn´t matter what time of the year you visit Stockholm, Djurgården is always beautiful and you have to go there, trust me. Djurgården is an island in the middle of Stockholm, surrounded by water and known for its many sights, parks, green spaces and tourist attractions and you can easily spend hours there, maybe even a full day, especially in the summer. There are plenty of cafés and restaurants as well as lots of great spots for having a picnic and taking a swim.
Worth the extra walk is Rosendals Trädgård. Here you will find botanical gardens, greenhouses, a long winding line to their café serving amazing Swedish delicacies. The best part is, not only is it free to visit, even if they have their own café, you can still bring your own picnic and sit wherever you want! In August and September, you find the apple trees full of apples free to grab. I´m pretty sure you can find all types of Swedish apple here, as each tree is a different kind.
Walk across the bridge of Skeppsholmen and admire its gilded crowns and get the most beautiful postcard view of the Royal Palace. Here you will also find the Museum of Modern Art, “Moderna Museet”, a museum filled with works by Andy Warhol, Picasso, Dali and Matisse. Admission to the entire museum is not free, but admission to some parts of it such as the museum’s own collection as well as some of its temporary exhibits are. If you can spare the extra cash though it is well worth the visit to the entire thing. But more than anything I would say you go for the view, it might be the best in Stockholm!
Cherry blossoms in Kungsträdgården
Yes, I know it’s Japan that is known for its cherry blossom in spring and not Sweden. However, it is definitely worth seeing them in Stockholm as well. Most tourists are unaware that in early April you may enjoy the pink and white roof of beautiful flowers over Kungsträdgården. It is a sight to behold and Swedes, as well as tourists, gather here, whenever they are lucky enough to catch that spring afternoon sun, for coffee, ice cream, games of chess and those beautiful kodak moments.
It is a pretty expensive location, but if your stomach calls and whether you want a meal or just a coffee, check out Café Söderberg, their food is reasonably priced and good, including the traditional Swedish pastries.
The Medieval museum
Thinking about Sweden I always think about the medieval times, the wars, courtyards and castles. That’s why, to me, one of the most interesting museums in Stockholm is the Medieval Museum. It is built around the findings from the largest excavation in the city and features 55 meters of the original 16th-century city wall, a medieval graveyard of Helgeandshuset, a warship, Riddarholmsskeppet and the King´s secret tunnel to the castle. Luckily admission is free.
My favorite part is a large part of an old wall and a part of an old boat in the main room which was found by accident when they were digging for a parking garage for the parliament, making it every bit more exciting.
The Nobel Price Museum
Ever dreamed of winning a Nobel prize? …or wondered why the peace prize is awarded in Oslo, Norway and not in Stockholm like the other ones? Then the Nobel Museum is definitely for you. The Nobel Prize Museum tells the story of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish scientist who invented dynamite and established the Nobel Prize as well as showcasing discoveries made by past Nobel Prize winners. If you´re in Stockholm on the 10th of December, you might also be able to catch a glimpse of the Nobel prize winners heading to the banquet in the City hall.
The Swedish History Museum
At Historiska Museet, the Swedish History Museum, one of the largest museums in Sweden, you will learn all about Swedish history. The collections include 10 million different objects that span from over 10,000 years. You will find Viking treasures, relics, armour, gold and silver, Madonnas and much, much more. The museum hosts one of the biggest Viking collections in the world. The museum gives you the chance to experience Sweden from the ice age until the present day. Plan to spend at least three hours here and be prepared to be amazed by the vibrant history of Sweden. Needless to say, the part about the Vikings is the most exhilarating one…
Museum of Science and Technology
At Tekniska Museet, the national museum of science and technology you get a chance to see, feel and understand technology in our society. At the museum, which dates back to 1923, you can experience exhibitions on inventions, energy and the environment in a fun, interactive and inspiring way. The museum is free on Wednesday nights between 5-8 pm.
Honestly, this was probably my favourite museum as it is more like playtime for grownups rather than just looking at science and technology – perfect for the winter.
Parks and recreation
Tantolunden is a great getaway from the city centre. It is one of Sweden’s most varied parks, where you can enjoy a picnic or the outdoor gym or the open-air theatre in the summer or why not ice skating and sledging in wintertime. Regardless of the time of the year, you visit you will find locals relaxing, playing boule, or taking waterside walks here.
You find Tantolunden on Södermalm, Stockholm´s hipster paradise. So while you are here, make sure to take a stroll around the area for some vintage shopping, flea markets and cinnamon buns to die for at Café Fabrique next to the subway station of Hornstull. The cinnamon bun there might break your daily budget, but it is the best one you will ever have! I have tried almost every pastry they have there, that’s how addictive this place is.
The Woodland Cemetery
The Woodland Cemetery, Skogskyrkogården is a UNESCO World Heritage site and besides being a large green oasis it offers unique architecture, so even if a graveyard might not be on the top of your list when traveling, this one should be. After a day full of sightseeing it is the perfect place to wind down and it is easy to see why it is a world heritage site. It is only a few train stations from the city centre and easy to get to from Stockholm Central station. There isn´t much else around here so make sure to bring water or coffee and don´t miss out on the grave of the Swedish icon Greta Garbo.
As Stockholm is situated in Sweden´s largest archipelago and is made up of multiple islands you will find clear water bordered by grass, cliffs or sandy beaches wherever you turn. When visiting Stockholm in summer your thoughts will instantly transport you to a holiday destination in Southern Europe as you will see Swedes enjoying a swim, a lazy beer or just soaking up the sun anytime anywhere during the day. For a great relaxing summer dip, I would recommend Långholmen, an oasis with a sandy beach that you would no way believe is in the middle of a big city. As the days are really long during the Swedish summer you´ll have plenty of time to both sightsee and relax on the same day. Usually, I would do my sightseeing in the first half of the day and then I headed to a beach in the afternoon or even in the evening.
Enjoy Stockholm from above by visiting one of the many rooftop bars. While most of them actually require that you buy a drink you are in luck when it comes to “Takpark” at Urban Deli. This impressive rooftop bar with lush vegetation gives you the vibe of being in a relaxing park at the same time as you get an amazing view all over the city. As it is a bar you probably should buy something if you plan on spending extended time there, but just having a look is for free. It is one of my favourite places for a drink though. In the summer Swedes gather here after work making it a hard to beat the combination of an amazing view, the tranquillity of an oasis and the buzzing expectations of what the night might bring.
Located in a valley and surrounded by the beautiful and clear waters of Lake Mälaren as well as cliffs and forests is Vinterviken, which has become one of the biggest recreational areas in the Stockholm area. From the city centre take the red subway line to Aspudden and stroll along the water to Vinterviken. Vinterviks caféet serves delicious vegetarian meals or a beer in a botanical garden setting. There´s plenty of green areas for relaxation and beaches for swimming and even activities like kite surfing, paddle boarding and tennis.
With the Swedes healthy way of living and Stockholm’s many parks comes an abundance of free outdoor gyms. They vary in quality and size, but you will find them all over the city and one of my favourite ones is the one in Vinterviken. All you need is a water bottle and sports clothes and you´re good to go.
Free Events Stockholm
Changing of the guards
Every day, outside the Royal Palace Drottningholm, you can witness the changing of the guards. It is a free 40-min ceremony that takes place all days around midday, except on national holidays. It is one of the most popular events for tourists in Stockholm and for sure something you don´t want to miss out on as it is pretty spectacular and really gives you that royal feeling. The time of the ceremony change depending on the season, so make sure to check the specific time before heading there!
Open-air movie theatre
All through August the city of Stockholm shows free movies in Rålambshovsparken on Kungsholmen. Make sure to get there early to get a good seat! Rålambshovsparken is also popular for other activities such as soccer, boule, beach volleyball, softball, free aerobic sessions, picnics, concerts and swimming in the lake. If you are a foodie there are lots of food trucks here with authentic food from all over the world for a reasonable price. My favourite one is Lucy´s food truck serving delicious homecooked Ethiopian food. Make sure to try the mouthwatering savoury pancake injera!
If you are traveling to Stockholm in winter don´t miss out on the magical Christmas markets. There are plenty of markets all over the city and they all differ from each other, so if you are lucky enough to visit Stockholm in early December, make sure to visit a few of them. You will find plenty of different stalls, bonfires to keep you warm, traditional Swedish Christmas food and candies and make sure to get yourself a cup of “Glögg”, the Swedish mulled wine to keep you warm while strolling these winter wonderlands.
Around the city, you will find local food markets and market halls. One of the most impressive ones is Östermalms saluhall, a Swedish institution since it opened in 1888. In all the market halls you will find local traders of fresh fish, divine cheeses, meats, baked goods, and traditional delicacies. Even if it´s Danish, Nybroe Smørrebrød offers open-face sandwiches and the delish cured salmon quickly became a lunch favourite for me.
The produce in the market halls doesn´t come as cheap as in the local supermarkets, but is of a high standard and will give you an insight to Swedish food culture for free. In most market halls you will also be offered free samples!
Do you have anything to add to my list of free things to do in Stockholm? Please let me know in the section below.
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