A Weekend in Stockholm

Back in October, I went on a short but sweet solo weekend trip to Stockholm. Whilst I wasn’t there long enough to put together a huge, comprehensive travel guide, I wanted to share some tips and recommendations from what was an amazing trip.

Getting there

There are four international airports in or nearby Stockholm; Arlanda, Skavsta, Vasteras and Bromma. Arlanda is the main airport and is located 40km north of Stockholm. It’s really straightforward to get from Arlanda to the city by train, bus or taxi. The bus is the cheapest option; book ahead on the Flybussarna website. Tickets are valid for 3 months from date of purchase and a return costs 198 SEK (£17.50). The buses are regular, with one leaving every 12 minutes.

Accommodation 

I stayed at the cool and well-located City Backpackers Hostel, check out my full review here. 

 

img_0229City Backpackers Hostel

 

Things to see and do 

  • Check out some cool modern art at Moderna Museet. (Main collection free)
  • Wander around the beautiful Gamla Stan (Old Town). Head there early morning to beat the crowds (free). 
  • Stop for Fika, a Swedish ritual where you take the time to enjoy a coffee and perhaps a sweet treat (Swedish cinnamon buns are highly recommended!) with friends. Travelling alone? Grab a book and relax with your coffee instead.
  • Head to photography museum Fotografiska to check out some beautiful and thought-provoking exhibitions.
  • Fan of the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson? Head on the tour which will take you around the Sodermalm neighbourhood where much of the books and films are based. Book your place here here. (Please note that tours only run on Saturdays). 
  • Visit Stockholm Public Library and marvel at the incredible architecture by Gunnar Asplund (free)
  • Go on a boat trip. Stockholm is an archipelago made up of 3000 islands, skerries and rocks, so there’s plenty to see.
  • Tour the metro to see the art installations in the stations. The network is known as the world’s longest art exhibition. Check out my post for more info here.
  • Get lost in Sodermalm. Across the water from Gamla Stan, this is undoubtedly the coolest neighbourhood in the city.
  • Explore indoor food market Ostermalms Saluhall.

 

Stortorget, Gamla Stan

 

Gamla Stan, Old Town

 

img_0660-1Gamla Stan, Old Town

 

img_0182-1Fika

 

img_0667Stockholm Public Library

 

6243761712_img_2012Stockholm Public Library

 

6174602096_img_1857T Centralen Metro Station

 

Places to eat and drink 

  • My favourite meal of the whole trip was Meatballs for the People in Sodemalm, a cool and laid back restaurant. I had, you guessed it, Swedish meatballs and they were amazing. Head there during a weekday lunch if you can, the prices are much cheaper.
  • Although not quite as tasty as Meatballs for the People, Nomad is worth checking out for meatballs and beer. There’s a hefty discount on both for those staying at City Backpackers.
  • Giro Pizzeria is also worth visiting if you’re a fan of proper, wood-fired Neapolitan in pizza. I ate here alone but would say the vibe is quite romantic and cosy. Grab a seat at the bar if you’re dining solo.
  • Hotdogs are a cheap and tasty option if you’re looking to save some money in a very expensive city. Head to Gunters Korvar in Vasastan for hotdogs with a twist; they offer over 140 types of sausageon freshly baked bread.
  • La Neta is a backpacker-orientated restaurant, offering cheap but tasty tacos in a no-frills environment.
  • Espresso House and Wayne’s Coffee are decent chain coffee shops, dotted around the city. Perfect for grabbing a quick drink between exploring. Try the yummy coconut latte at Wayne’s Coffee.

 

Meatballs for the People

 

img_0136Meatballs for the People

 

Other tips 

  • Explore the city by foot. Public transport is expensive and the city is relatively compact, so you might as well take it all in above ground.
  • Pack a refillable water bottle, particularly in the summer. Bottled water (as with everything else) is on the pricey side and the tap water is perfectly safe to drink.
  • Be aware that a lot of places don’t allow you to pay with cash (weird I know!). Card is king in Stockholm.
  • Buy alcohol at the airport in duty-free if you plan on drinking a lot. Yup, you guessed it… alcohol is expensive, particularly if you’re drinking in bars and restaurants.
  • Tipping is expected in restaurants, usually 5-10% of the bill is fine.

Cuba Travel Tips

Although Cuba is undoubtedly a beautiful and interesting country, it’s also a slightly odd one when it comes to travelling there. It’s likely to be completely different to any other country you’ve visited before. That’s no bad thing, it’s great to be different, but it can mean that you’re not sure what to expect. Although my trip was only 2 weeks long, I feel I got a good grasp of the country and potential pitfalls whilst travelling around it. Here’s a list of Cuba travel tips that I picked up along the way, hopefully they’ll make your planning and actual trip a little snoother…

 

Organise a visa (tourist card) before you fly 

 Most countries will need a visa to visit Cuba, and the UK is one of them. As a standard holidaymaker, you’ll need a 30-day tourist card. You must buy this before you fly, if not you’ll be refused boarding in the UK. The easiest way to get hold of one is to visit the Cuban Embassy in London, although obviously this isn’t feasible for a lot of people. You can apply for a tourist card from the Cuban embassy via the post or use an online travel company such as The Travelvisa Company.

Make sure you keep the cards in pristine condition, no folding or bending, as otherwise this might be rejected at the Cuban border.

IMG_1374Independence Square, Havana

Take cash to exchange when you arrive in Cuba

 There are two currencies in Cuba and visitors tend to use the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). You can’t buy this outside if Cuba, so I’d advise you to take cash to change once you arrive in the country. Take some small sterling or Euro notes for tips when you first arrive in Cuba. You can use cards in hotels and major cities but it’s wise to carry cash at all times.

 

 Tip generously 

It’s expected that you’ll give a small tip following a meal, to a bellboy or to a driver. I’d encourage you to embrace this and give what you can; Cuban people are extremely friendly and helpful even though they’re likely paid a pittance for the long hours they work.

 

A laid-back local

 

Pack extra toiletries to give to the locals

 In a similar vein, many Brits take toiletries and other gifts for hotel workers and local people. Again, I’d encourage you to do the same if you’re able to. The best things to take are probably soap and shampoo, which are expensive and can be difficult to get hold of for the locals. You may get Cuban ladies coming up to you in the street asking for soap; take some in your bag when you’re out and about.

 

Remember to pack toilet paper and hand sanitiser when travelling 

When travelling between towns, your bus or taxi will likely stop at local restaurants or the Cuba equivalent of a service station. Be aware that’s it very unlikely these will have toilet paper, make sure you pack your own when on the move. I’d recommend hand sanitiser too.

IMG_1477

Vintage cars

 

Don’t leave your accommodation without plenty of bottled water 

 It goes without saying that you shouldn’t drink Cuban tap water. Make sure that you take bottled water with you when you leave your accommodation; there are very few supermarkets in Cuba and it isn’t easy to find somewhere to buy water like in other countries. Even in Havana, we struggled to find places to buy water from (we flew up for the day so couldn’t take this with us).

 

Don’t expect to be delighted by the food

 Cuba is not renowned for its food, so don’t go expecting culinary delights. I had some delicious meals whilst there but these certainly weren’t comparable to the food you’ll find in Europe or South East Asia. Be sure to try Cuban speciality Ropa Vieja (shredded beef). The seafood is particularly good, as are exotic fruits such as papaya.

Enjoying a sunset dinner

Embrace the lack of wifi

 Wifi is not widely available in Cuba, as this is regulated by the government. There is no free wifi anywhere, we didn’t even have this in our 5* resort. You can buy a government issued wifi card from hotels or internet cafes, which last for an hour. The cost varies; we paid around £1.50/hour. My advice would be to embrace the lack of wifi and go technology-free if you can, it’s refreshing for a change and will give you a taste of the real Cuba.

 

Get ready for a slower pace of life

Life in Cuba is pretty laid back and things don’t get done particularly quickly, whether that’s organising a taxi or serving your food. Embrace the slower pace of life and relax.

 

Deserted beach

Enjoy your trip

Do your research and know what to expect before you go but most of all, enjoy your trip. Cuba is a beautiful, diverse and enchanting country with lots to offer.

Have you been to Cuba? Do you have any other travel tips?