You’ll find children in every city in the world, but there are some cities that seem to have families completely at the centre of everything. Stockholm is definitely one of them.
Now, it’s not a cheap place to visit, but a bit of prep and a save vs splurge style of spending will get you through a long weekend without worrying about bankruptcy. In this post, I’ll be sharing everything we got up to on our summer weekend away, along with how much it all cost.
Here we go!
We flew into Stockholm Arlanda from Manchester around 4pm on Friday and arrived around 7pm. Arlanda is the main airport serving Stockholm, but it’s around thirty miles out of the city. Worry not, though! Getting into town couldn’t be easier. And after reading about the Lazy Travelers’ experience of doing the journey solo with a bambino, I knew we wouldn’t have a problem.
The station for the Arlanda Express train is situated within the airport, and gets you into central Stockholm in about twenty minutes. It’s not cheap, but if you book tickets online in advance, you can save a bit of dollar. I failed on that account (I hear you: call yourself a travel blogger!), because although I kept meaning to sort it, I just kept getting distracted. In the end, we bought our tickets in the airport, where one way cost 350 SEK for both of us (£30-ish), which was part of a weekend travel summer deal, so not too bad then.
The trains are frequent and pretty swish, so it was really a faultless journey which just makes life so much easier when you’ve got a lively toddler and a buggy in tow.
I’d chosen a hotel a few minutes walk from the train terminal in town (Grand Central by Scandic), so after grabbing a sandwich from the hotel’s mini shop, we just settled in for the night and got to bed early so we could get off to a flying start in the morning!
Breakfast was included in our room rate, so we filled our boots at the buffet and then got to work on walking around some of the city to get a feel for the place. We were aiming for the museum island of Djurgarden where we hoped to visit at least one or maybe two attractions.
The walk was lovely – and I knew Stockholm was a city of islands, but I don’t think I understood just how much water there was in the city until we started strolling. On a summer’s day, the scenery was something else, and there were plenty of lovely waterfront refreshment pit stops we clocked along the way for reference later.
Once we arrived at Djurgarden, we headed first of all to the Vasa Museum which is home to a 17th century warship. Unfortunately, the queue looked like it would take a couple of centuries to go down, so we gave it a miss and mooched over to the next spot on our list – Junibacken.
Junibacken is a perfect place to head to if you have little ones – it’s essentially a kids’ attraction dedicated to Swedish children’s literature. There are exhibitions that double up as play areas, and then there’s main event – the story train, which takes you on a trip into Swedish storybook land. Don’t worry if you don’t speak Swedish, there is an option for an English commentary (other languages are catered for, too).
We spent more than two hours here in the end – our little boy absolutely loved it. And we also had lunch in the self serve cafeteria overlooking the water after all the fun and games. It was nothing fancy, but we were perfectly happy with the food, and the price.
Following the refuel, we figured it wouldn’t be long before Holiday Baby nodded off, and we headed back the way we came. About ten minutes into our walk he was asleep, so we nabbed a table at the nearest waterfront watering hole, where we stayed for two hours!
Sometimes it’s just lovely to sit with a beer, people watching in the sun and chatting about nothing, so that’s exactly what we did. It was getting on for 4pm when the wee man eventually woke, so that’s when we made a move. I’d been told via twitter by Lazy Traveler Ashley, that Humlegarden was a lovely park to visit, with a good children’s playground, so we set off on another sunshine stroll to get there.
This area of Stockholm felt really quite residential, and I liked kind of pretending Humlegarden was our local park! (Don’t judge me, I can be right cheesy sometimes.) I enjoyed myself probably a bit too much on the swings, but it was perfect for Holiday Baby who was now fully energised and refreshed from his outdoor kip. We spent around an hour or more there altogether.
We figured it was getting close to dinner time as 6pm approached and a half hour walk would get us back to the hotel where we had decided to eat that night. It was relatively early by Saturday night dining time standards, so it was great for us. The restaurant was almost empty which meant we didn’t disturb anyone trying to have a quiet, romantic meal! After that, well, these city breaks ain’t what they used to be! 8pm meant a wind down with a bit of TV in our room, and early to bed for us all.
After breakfast, we headed straight to Stockholm’s town hall which was a departure point for several of the boat trips you can take in and around the city.
We opted for a trip that took in some of Stockholm’s history – there looked to be some other lovely boat trips on offer, but really with a two year old in tow, we had to bear in mind that a peaceful two hour cruise was off the cards, and we picked a shorter fifty minute trip instead.
Afterward, it was time to visit the most photographed part of the city – Gamla Stan. This is Stockholm’s old town and it’s incredibly photogenic. Even more so in the summer sunlight. We got to the palace around midday, just in time for the changing of the guard, so we watched for a bit and then headed to the main square, Stortorget, for a photo opportunity and some lunch.
We decided dining al fresco in this heart of the old town was one real splurge we were happy to spend some serious dollar on, and serious it was! That said, we were in a lovely spot and while the food at Ebenist was good, the setting was pure city break gold.
Once we’d eaten, we hit the streets again, winding our way around the bits of Gamla Stan we still hadn’t seen. Our wee guy had fun wandering about, until the tiredness started to get the better of him. That’s when we meandered over to kungsgatan – a lovely park in central Stockholm, where once again, mum and dad enjoyed the scenery of the city in an outdoor cafe with a couple of well earned beers.
Later, when we were back on mad family mode, we explored the rest of the park and let Holiday Baby take his shoes off and have a frolic with a few other tots like him in the fountain. Perfect impromptu summer fun!
Walking back to our hotel, we were all feeling wiped out and really I wasn’t in the mood for the toddler in a restaurant experience (neither was our boy – we could tell). So we did the unthinkable – we went to Burger King across the and brought take out back to our suite. It was one of the best decisions we could have made, given our knackeredness levels. We ate it in our pj’s, totally relaxed, and let’s face it, the cost definitely offset our posh lunch!
Our flight home was early evening, so we still had plenty of time to enjoy the city. Once again, we enjoyed a big brekkie before heading off to take a look at what’s sometimes referred to as Stockholm’s living room, Kulturhuset. It’s a cultural hub and home to the children’s library, which is what we wanted to check out. We absolutely loved it.
It was warm, welcoming and cosy – everything a children’s library should be! There were nooks and crannies, tunnels, little reading dens and so, so many books. Plus, everyone took their shoes off. Mega chilled. Honestly, it was just the perfect place to wind down from a busy but brilliant weekend.
After we finally managed to drag Holiday Baby out, we headed up to the top floor cafe and roof terrace where we munched our last Swedish lunch of sandwiches, coffee and cake (very fika), whilst taking in the view over the city.
With full tums, we wandered back to retrieve our bags from the hotel lock up, and enjoyed one last nap time beer before heading back to Arlanda on the express. It was time to go home.
We flew to Stockholm Arlanda with Monarch (alas, they are no more, but alternatives from Manchester are SAS and Norwegian). Our outward flight cost £140 for the three of us. Coming home, we flew with Norwegian (cost £139)
The Arlanda Express Train cost 350 SEK total each way for all three of us. This is approx £62 spent on airport transfers in total. (Holiday Baby was free.)
We stayed in the Scandic Grand Central Hotel which does nice, big family rooms. Cost for three nights with breakfast was 6,800 SEK (around £600)
Entrance to Junibacken cost 159 SEK for adults (about £14), and 139 SEK (about £13) for children. More details here). Lunch at their cafeteria cost 280 SEK (about £25)
Dinner in our hotel, the Scandic Grand Central cost 646 SEK (about £58). Note that this includes a glass of wine which was about 12 quid! We had two fancy burgers with fries, and a kids meatballs meal.
Our Historic Canal Cruise cost 200 SEK each (£18) and young children travelled free. We were also allowed to take his buggy on board, though I think that does depend on which boat you travel on.
Lunch in Stortorget, Gamla Stan at Ebenist, cost us about £90 in total for two adult meals and a kids meal along with drinks (ouch).
Meal deals in Burger King (!) cost us about £20 in total (including a kids meal) as they were on some sort of special offer.
Entrance to the Children’s library in Kulturhuset is free. Lunch at their Cafe Panorama cost 270 SEK (£24). We had a couple of sandwiches and cakes to share, with drinks. It was plenty.
Finally, a large beer in a cafe bar set us back between 62-67 SEK (around the £5-6 mark), depending on where we were.
I think that’s it! You can see that flights and hotel were our biggest splurge. Followed by our one fancy lunch in Gamla Stan. Nobody anywhere seems to expect you to tip, which is worth remembering.
Please do note that Stockholm is becoming an increasingly cashless city, so always have a payment card with you, just in case. And don’t take more money than you need in Swedish currency – I’d underestimate and either use cards to pay, or grab more money from an ATM while you’re there.
We loved Stockholm – I had been wanting to go there desperately ever since we cancelled our 2014 trip due to my pregnancy sickness. It didn’t disappoint. That said, I’m well aware that it’ll cost us about the same amount of money to go to Majorca half board for a whole week later this year.
If you have the funds saved, Stockholm is great, but if you want a value city break – maybe look elsewhere. We’ve found Porto, Barcelona and Hamburg to be more cost effective as family friendly city breaks. But Stockholm is lovely, and just so easy. I’m really glad we went.