Sweden

Hiking in Ingmarsö, Sweden

There are many ways in which travel can go wrong.

You may realize you’ve left your passport at home only when arriving at the airport. The accommodation you’ve booked is nothing similar to what you had expected. You got food poisoned the day before an 8 hour car ride across sunny Mexico. Maybe you were confident that your skin could do with sunshine in Buenos Aires… and yet you got seriously sun burned on your first day in the city. Or maybe your summer festival gets partly cancelled due to extreme wind conditions and a threatening fire.

True stories.

However, it might as well have been something much simpler: an unexpectedly long lasting rain shower in the middle of a full day hiking adventure.

Hiking in Ingmarsö, Sweden

That was the case of our hiking trip in Igmarsö.

We were warned a few days in advance. Even 5 days before the trip, my mobile weather widget announced showers on saturday afternoon.

Showers. – I thought – We’ll be hiking in fields and forests. I’m sure we can find shelter for those few rain drops.

After a two and a half hours boat ride, passing hundreds of islands, we reached Ingmarsö – one of the comparatively larger islands in the Stockholm archipelago. We were warmly greeted by our local guide, who patiently waited at the dock and offered us two very convenient rain jackets.

As we began our walk our walk, we quickly understood that we weren’t at an ordinary place – Ingmarsö, which is 10 kms long and only 1 km wide, is populated by not more than 150 people all year round. There is one grocery store, conveniently located at the docks. Locals walk or ride small 4×4 carts to get around and rarely take the ferry to Stockholm – our guide hadn’t been back for over a year’s time. It was clear to me that living in the Archipelago is something a few heart, independent and very hard-knocking souls can do.

It started raining more violently – so our guide kindly invited us to have lunch at her home, which wasn’t that far away from where we were.

Hiking in Ingmarsö, Sweden

When I think of the Stockholm Archipelago, I think of red-burgundy wood houses surrounded by high contrast green. As we approached our guide’s home, I couldn’t believe the authenticity of what we had in front of us. It was all I had imagined… and more. Piles of wood were stocked next to the house for the cold days (which were plenty). And from the porch, a plain view over the water and neighbor islands. From inside the house, emerged a man (our guide’s brother) who was kindly preparing an abundant hot lunch.

We chatted over food, coffees and deserts. About Sweden, Latin America, life choices and learning to listen to one’s heart. Our guide was, during the rest of her time, a life coach that helps people find their vocation. Who would have thought that our rainy hike through Ingmarsö would teach us such great life lessons!

Hiking in Ingmarsö, Sweden

After the lunch break, we continued our way east to reach the point in which we would have to row to Finnhamn. Now don’t get me wrong – I’m all about adventure. But rowing in heavy rain was probably a bit too much. We arrived at the next island soaked wet and cold, and still had more than an hour walk until we reached the island’s hotel. I couldn’t be more thankful for that cup of hot tea.

It might have not been the most convenient time to hike weather wise (I do wonder how Igmarsö looks like with a shiny sun and people jumping in the sea) – but it was a great insight into rural life in the Archipelago. Plus, I’m quite sure I’m now one step closer to not noticing the rain any more, british style!

Practical Information

Route: Ingmarsö and Finnhamn (Sweden). I wish I knew the route, but it was partly trail-less!
Elevation gain uphill: practically none
Elevation gain downhill: practically none
Length: around 7 km
Duration: 2 hrs (a bit more if you count in the rowing!)
Difficulty: Super Easy, like – there’s no excuse, really.
Tour guide: Stockholm Adventures

Have you ever had a weather catastrophe during your travel plans? How did you get over it?

Stockholm at Dusk, Sweden

Does it ever get dark in this city? – I wondered while I looking over the city from the Gondolen Restaurant in Södermalm.

This time of the year, the night usually starts to fall at 10pm and the days begin again at 3am – my friend answered.

Isn’t it fantastic, to have 19 hours a day to explore a city that has that has so much to offer? It really gives you time and flexibility to structure your day the way you like – starting early to avoid the crowds, sleeping in late to rest from a big night in the city or even having an afternoon nap to recover in between sights. On the saturday night, instead of going out partying (which isn’t a budget friendly alternative in Stockholm), we went out sightseeing. We walked the streets and squares of Södermalm, Gamla Stan, Riddarholmen and Östermalm. After all, when you’ve got a city like Stockholm – add a dusky sky and romantic street lights and you’re in Wonderland.

I have the tendency to fall for expensive cities. What I can say – high living standards, overall efficiency and beautiful surroundings come with hefty price tags nowadays.

After my first year in Switzerland, I had gotten so used to the prices that I no longer felt the need to complain about them. 

Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm reminded me of Switzerland in many ways. The winding streets in Gamla Stan resemble Lausanne’s old town. Their clean streets holding simple and colorful buildings. And of course, the prices of pretty much anything.

Prices are relative, though. When coming from Portugal or Spain, ordering dinner in Stockholm is almost an investment. But if comparing them to Switzerland or London – you’ll realize the country is more expensive, but most of the time, it’s nothing you haven’t seen somewhere before. What I’ve learned from my trip is that, with a bit of thoughtful planning, even quite limited budgets can survive a 4 day holiday in Stockholm.

Accommodation

Stortorget Square in Gamla Stan, Stockholm

Before choosing to go with Roomorama on my first trip to Sweden, I browsed and surfed looking for a variety of accommodation alternatives in the capital. Hostels, hotels, B&Bs – all of it. I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy task to stay on the affordable side. I was prepared for the worst. Hotels started up by 65 GBP per night – if spending the night next to a motorway and 20 minutes drive outside the city sounds appealing to you (because it certainly wasn’t for me). Anything more centrical already doubled the price (set that as a minimum – from there, it only goes upwards). We found a few cute B&B, but generally had an issue on being 3 friends instead of the harmonious 2 (or 4).

My TipWe were thankful for the credit I got from Roomorama – Stockholm is certainly one of those cities where you can appreciate this most. However, Roomorama’s selection on apartments in the city is still rather limited, so I’d recommend to check AirBnB and Wimbu as well. Hostels mostly offer single beds in reasonable sized dorms for 20 to 30 GBP per night, but if you want to cut accommodation costs as a whole, Couchsurfing is definitely the best option!

Food

"Capers" at SMAK, Stockholm

You know me. I partly travel through food, and Stockholm was no exception. Even before landing, I was already dreaming of smoked salmon, meatballs with lingonberry jam and all the fresh and exotic game – like reindeer and moose! But freshly cooked food comes for a price – specially in central locations frequented by tourists.

On our first night in the city, some friends took us to SMAK (flavor) – a restaurant tucked away in an obscure side street in Östermalm. SMAK’s concept is simple: few dishes, simple names and 3 sizes (3, 5 or 7 plate menus). Each dish carries the name of the predominant flavor. Each dish was a creation for itself. Prices were mouth-opening, but let me tell you: It was totally worth it.

My Tip: Get familiar with your local supermarket and unleash your inner cook. By having breakfast at home and preparing picnics for lunch (as simple as nordic bread with cream cheese and smoked salmon), you won’t feel bad about letting go for a special dinner.

Transport

Hiking in Ingmarsö, Sweden

WALK. Don’t even think about taking a taxi. I’ve done it, and believe me – it’s no fun. Only use the tube whenever completely necessary (like those days it’s pouring non-stop and you only wish to be teleported to the closest mall). We got ourselves a tube pass for 18 GBP (200 SEK) that we could use 8 times and could be shared among a group of friends.This was enough for 2 people and 4 days in the city (including one of those forced mall days).

My Tip: Pack comfortable walking shoes, an umbrella and a hardcore rain jacket – Even if it’s summer time, some days might be really wet. When you arrive at the tube station, look for a kiosk inside or around the station (tickets and passes are a bit cheaper than at the counter) and choose which option suits you best depending on time, weather prediction and condition. Note that single tickets are sold at almost 4 GBP!

Alcohol

Systembolaget - Swedish Alcohol Monopoly

Alcohol is one of those things that make Stockholm seem prohibitively expensive. Sweden has high alcohol prices because of the high tax rates imposed on it. Herewith, the governments intention is to reduce overall alcohol consumption or at least moderate the regular intake. If you want to buy wine, beer or spirits to have some drinks at home, you’ll need to search for a Systembolaget shop – a state own monopoly for alcohol sale. Their opening hours are quite restrictive, which is why many swedes and expats stock up! In restaurants and bars, drinks become even more pricey – I’ve paid between 6 and 8 GBP for a glass of wine (and I wasn’t being very picky!).

My TipIf you can, buy a bottle of wine in the duty free shop before departure. If your luggage restrictions don’t allow for this, make sure to check the opening hours of your nearest Systembolaget shop (and don’t forget to bring your ID).

Do you have any other recommendations to keep basic costs low when traveling to expensive destinations?

As we arrived in Stockholm and walked towards the tube station, it immediately hit us: the city has something magical and fairy-tale feel. Perhaps it’s the golden details of its majestic buildings, the round towers that make me wonder if a swedish Rapunzel is trapped up there or the way the dreamy street lights reflect on the peaceful water – but there’s certainly something.

Round Tower in Stockholm, SwedenCan you see Rapunzel waving from the balcony?

Stadshuset (City Hall) is one of the best surprises: from the street, it seems to be not more than a simple red brick building – but once inside, it’s beauty is undeniable. The construction’s waterfront offers, in my opinion, one of the best afternoon views of the Gamla Stan (Old Town) and Södermalm (heart of bohemian culture).

Golden details on top of the City Hall

Stockholm Skyline, Sweden

Afternoon view over Gamla Stan from the City Hall waterfront

Stockholm is a walkable city – If you pack a pair of comfortable shoes, you will hardly need to use the tube to move in between islands. The walk from Östermalm (the district that holds the City Hall) to Gamla Stan is only about a 10 minute walk! Gamla Stan is Stockholm’s old town and one of the best conserved medieval city centers of the World. Stortoget Square is known to be one of Sweden’s oldest squares and is now popular for its many cafes and restaurants.

If you happen to be walking close to Stortoget Square and feel like coffee and something sweet, I recommend trying the Valrhona chocolate ball at Chokladkoppen. If you like dark chocolate – you’ll love this!

Stortorget Square in Gamla Stan, StockholmIconic buildings around Stortoget Square

It is easy to get lost in it’s small winding streets, but it’s also easy to find yourself back again since it really doesn’t take you more than 15 minutes to walk from one corner of Stadsholmen (its main island) to the other. The streets are packed with cozy cafes, art galleries and (pricy) handcraft shops.

Small Alley in Gamla Stan, StockholmRomantic alleys in Gamla Stan

One of my favorite parts of the visit was discovering these small alleys – each of them seemed to be taken out of a fairy tale. I tried to imagine a medieval life happening on theses streets, and am sure they have kept secrets for centuries. Is there anything more magical than that?

As soon as I had booked my flight to Stockholm, I began to think about the consequences of my spontaneous decision. Sure, my flight was ridiculously cheap (probably the one and only advantage of flying with Ryanair) – but wasn’t Stockholm one of the World’s most expensive cities? Looking back at the SEK/EUR exchange rate for the past 3 years, I realized that, where once I would have received almost 11 SEK for 1 EUR, I now hardly get 9 SEK.

I was going to get ripped off.

When Roomorama offered me credit to review their service, I jumped at the opportunity. I was going to save a lot in accommodation – giving me much more to spend in experiences!

Roomorama: An Introduction

Roomorama

Roomorama believes that there is more to travel than visiting a city’s main attractions. They defend the idea that, when living like a local in one of their many short term rentals Worldwide, you improve your experience and understanding of the country your visiting and its culture.

As a firm believer of the good behind getting lost in cities, living like a local was exactly was I was looking for.

The Search And Booking Process

Stockholm Apartments Roomorama

Roomorama not only offers apartments, but a wide range of accommodation that ranges from a single room in a shared flat to luxurious villas with infinity pools. Booking at their website is very simple: you choose your destination, dates and number of guests, and they will provide a list of available places. You then can refine your search to match your price range and needs (elevator, internet, TV, etc).

If, like me, you have a specific neighborhood or area in mind – you can use their virtual map to spot each choice. As I was particularly looking for a centric place to avoid paying too much for transport, I chose a room in Östermalm (one of the wealthy and calm areas of the city, close enough to walk to the buzz of the center).

Before booking a room, you need to get in touch with the landlord or agency. This can be complicated when visiting countries in which english isn’t a first language or isn’t widely spoken. Sweden is a country with a very high level of english among young people, but can get difficult when talking with previous generations.

The Room & Neighborhood

Östermalm Neighborhood Roomorama

I admit it – having your own room is really relaxing. I had booked it with 2 very close friends and it turned out to be perfect: 3 single beds, a place to put our luggage, a window overlooking the neighborhood and our own separate bathroom. We had full access to the kitchen (which we took good use of!), coffee and tea for free throughout the day and two sets of keys to come and go whenever we wanted. Helena, the landlord, kindly provided us with city guides and maps of the city center.

The apartment was located in a residential neighborhood in Östermalm, only 50 meters from the tube and 15 minutes walk to the city center. There were very few hotels in the area, so we hardly ever passed tourists at all. On the first day, we explored our area and soon found what we soon started to call our supermarket.

The Pros and Cons

Breakfast in Stockholm with Roomorama

The Benefits

  • Privacy – You get your own space, allowing you some time to relax whenever wanted. Plus, you don’t have to lock up your stuff whenever you go out (even for going to the bathroom!)
  • A Real Kitchen – Having access to a proper kitchen to prepare breakfast and sandwiches to take away for the day. This helped us keeping our costs relatively down and eating healthy fresh and unprocessed food.
  • Flexibility – Our landlord arranged for an extra bed without any additional cost and allowed us to check out late in the afternoon.
  • Local Experience – Knowing your way around the area, being just another neighbor feels gratifying. You know that prices in the surrounding shops are for real, and not just for tourists!

The Drawbacks

  • Internet vs Reality – There is a possibility that the accommodation you book isn’t as good as it seems. Marie from EurotripTips had an unlucky experience in London, where she didn’t have hot water nor a reliable internet connection. One way of avoiding this is by revising other people’s reviews on this property and owner.
  • Additional Costs – To the daily price, you will usually have to add a Roomorama fee and, in some occasions, a cleaning fee. Before booking a room, always check these additional charges as these can be high for very short stays.
  • Cost Effectiveness – It might not always be the most cost effective option for a solo traveler – it really depends on your destination.

My Final Veredict

Overall, my experience with Roomorama was great. Throughout the whole booking process, I got every question answered clearly and timely by a member of the team – I was taken care of and valued as a customer. I was glad to choose their services to cover my accommodation in Stockholm – a city I had never visited before and now I believe I know quite well. The website is simple to use, effective and offers something for any sort of traveler (yes, as demanding as you may be!). I’m already checking apartments for my next destination… and you should, too!

Note: Roomorama has offered me a discount for my stay in Stockholm in exchange of a review on my blog, but my opinions and impressions are as always my own.