No need to sell your entire ABBA vinyl collection in order to have a quality good time in Stockholm. There's plenty of culture and nature to explore and, lucky for you, OTP has uncovered the best of this expensive city without spending a single öre.
Move Like Jagger... On Ice
Show off your ice dancing skills at Kungsträdgården, a Rockefeller-inspired ice-rink. From mid-November until March, locals come here to practice their triple axles. Live music and hot drink/food stalls round out the experience. Even if you look like Bambi taking his first steps, breaking your ankles here costs you zero.
Stuff Your Pie-Hole
Smacka på ("Taste of Stockholm") is one of Stockholm's largest culinary events. Sample Sweden's gastronomic adventures with the other 700,000 visitors who come to gorge on food and listen to the live bands playing in the background. The entire event is built on organic, sustainable and environmental principles so you can eat that free food with a pristine conscience. Local restaurants also get into the spirit offering up special menus for the week if you're willing to pay more than nothing for a bite.
Run for Office
Practice lying, cheating and ordering prostitutes as you tour Riksdag, the Swedish Parliament building. If you're a policy wonk, or just really like listening to endless debates in Swedish, this is a great place to spend a few hours. Tours in English are frequent during the summer but fill quickly and are only offered on Saturdays and Sundays during the winter. Be sure to call in advance to reserve your place. After inhaling all that political rhetoric, clear your mind with a walk across the canal to old town Gamla Stan and enjoy a stroll through Swedish medieval architecture.
Get Funky at the Festival
Held over six days in August, the Stockholm Cultural Festival promises a smörgåsbord of entertainment. Over a quarter million visitors come each year to see comedy, world music bands, street art, dramatic presentations and dance performances. Almost all of the events are free, and if you try a little, you can get educated in Swedish culture from multiple angles.
Stoke Your Stroke
Stockholmers won't hesitate to let you know that the city's surrounding water is as pure as Britney during the Timberlake years. Feel free to take to the waters around any of Stockholm's thousands of islands but save your major lounging for its two main beaches, Långholmsbadet and Smedsuddsbadet, where the locals head to swim and grab an arctic tan. Both are popular in the summer, but less so during the winter months when few people are willing to risk icing their family jewels for a casual dip in the frigid waters.
Laugh 'Til You're Wearing Piss Pants
Just because the Swedes are serious about their furniture design doesn't mean they're a humorless bunch. To pick up a few chuckles, head to the Big Ben Pub on Thursday and Sunday nights for free stand-up performances with both Swedish and English comedians. Laughter is definitely the best medicine and because health care in Sweden is covered, they throw in the laughs for free.
Taste the Rainbow
Pride Week, usually held in late July to early August, is the perfect time to wrap yourself in a multi-colored flag and enjoy the free events, most of which take place on Stockholm's largest island, Södermalm. Expect exhibitions, bands, debates, food, a big parade and hours of fabulous people-watching, all without spending a krona.
Picnic Picked From the Park
Make your way over to the island of Djurgården and wander through the Rosendals Trädgår garden. Go there at lunchtime and grab some fruit off the trees or veggies on the vines to reconnect your stomach with nature, then take an afternoon garden nap. Whip out your wallet for fresh garden fruit jam from the gift shop, and show your friends back home that Smucker's tastes like sludge.
If too many days of binging on Absolut have shriveled your brain cells, revive them with a trip to the National Library, Kungliga Biblioteket. Exhibits are free and you can spend hours re-filling your head with foreign and local literature, maps, manuscripts, posters and films. If the knowledge just won't stick, use the massive building as cover to pass out on the front lawn.
Jingle Your Bells
The weather in Stockholm might be frightful during the winter but wandering through Christmas markets sipping glögg and eating saffron buns will fatten you up enough to forget. Skansen's Christmas market is one of the largest in Sweden and is open each weekend in December. The market closes on Christmas Eve, when the locals light candles and form church-going processions. Light up your eyes with window shopping and spring for some straw ornaments and polkagris (giant candy canes) to deck out your backpack.
No need to feel guilty for being a cheap bastard around these parts. Keep your wallet shut, follow the long-legged blondes around town and get wrapped up in Stockholm's Swedish situation.
-- Sarah Binion
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