How To Eat Cheaply + Recommendations
On New Year’s Day, I experienced a happy wake-up at 7.30am to get on a bus from Dalarna to Stockholm…to arrive to a dead city. “There’ll be plenty of places open”, my boyfriend said confidently. “The restaurants will definitely be open.”
“Are you sure?” I said doubtfully.
“Yes, us Swedes are not like you Brits.”
I rolled my eyes , got off the bus and found myself in a dead city. A few coffee chains were open and the usual fast food suspects. Nothing serving a hearty lunch could be found.
The trouble with Stockholm is that, even when the restaurants are open, the prices are going to damage your wallet almost beyond repair. The cheapest main courses start from around £15, and that will be for a pasta or risotto. You want meat, my friend? Well, be prepared to pay £25 upwards for a main.
You can try and see the positive side of eating out in Stockholm by visiting Norway, a land where no-one can afford take-out food (4 small portions of fish and chips at a street café = roughly £72).
Sweden isn’t nearly so bad, but for students and travellers on a budget, eating out in Stockholm is a challenge.
So how can you eat cheaply in Stockholm?
The short answer is: you can’t. Not really. You aren’t going to find much Swedish food at a reasonable price, and you are not going to find the same value that you can find in the UK. But here are some tips for those that find themselves in Stockholm without access to a kitchen.
- Eat your main meal at lunch
Many restaurants and cafés offer a “dagens” or daily lunch, which is a deal that ranges from 75 – 15kr (roughly £7.50 to £15). This is the best way to get a good meal at a reasonable price.
Food quality can be hit and miss. Take for example the above picture of a “Mango chicken balti” at an Indian restaurant (Indisk Mukat Restaurang) that my boyfriend insisted was “all right for lunch”. No. No, it wasn’t. The chicken was the awful processed stuff that is like eating a very soft sponge, the sauce was so sweet that I felt sick pretty quickly, and that thin, orangey sliver is really all the mango I got. All for a reasonable 10,5kr (£10.50!). ARGH.
- Get fast food or take-out
As a self-confessed food snob, this really goes against all my principles. But needs must. And weirdly, Swedish fast food isn’t quite as dire as some of the stuff served up in Britain. Pizzerias are commonplace, and are almost cosy. Take Pizza Hörnet by George, for example. The inside was clean, and the service friendly and efficient. As for the pizza, it was unfortunately the most salty thing I had ever eaten which, after one slice, left my mouth burning like I’d been ingesting seawater. I complained to my boyfriend and he shrugged. “Swedes like their salt. This pizza is normal.”
Also common are kebab houses. If you don’t trust the meat, go for the apparently ubiquitous falafel.
When all else fails, get a take-out and find somewhere to sit where you won’t freeze. I was lucky enough to get introduced to a Szechuan dish, “twice cooked pork“. The pork is first boiled with ginger and salt, and then fried with vegetables. Whilst the execution of this was fairly poor, I bet the authentic dish is fantastic, and it’s now on my “to-eat” list.
- Just eat cinnamon buns, pastries and/or sandwiches
Stockholm is packed with cafés, bakeries (bakerei) and cake shops (konditori) serving sandwiches, which always seem to include a salami and brie combo. Be warned – these sandwiches will set you back £7 – £8, and they’re often dry.
If you have a sweet tooth, there are plenty of cakes to try. Popular are Sarah Bernhardt biscuits / chocolate biskvi, which consist of an almond biscuit base, a chocolate cream middle, topped with chocolate. All in all, it’s a little too sweet for me. However, these are valued national biscuits as I saw them on the Swedish equivalent of the Great British Bake Off, Hela Sverige Bakar (“All of Sweden is baking!”)
There are also plenty of chocolate balls. These used to be called negerboll (“negro balls”). I say no more.
- Avoid Gamla Stan
Gamla Stan – or Old Town – is the centre of tourism in Stockholm. Don’t even think about eating there, not even in a café. It’s very pretty and there are LOTS of things to check out, including Kungliga Slottet (the Royal Palace) and Storkyrkan (church), which has a spectacular interior with a very impressive statue of George slaying the dragon. So by all means visit Gamla Stan – just make sure you’ve eaten well in advance.
We were desperate for refreshment and visited Chokladkoppen, which is a take-away and sit-down café. I can’t remember how much it stole from my wallet – although it is definitely not the worst offender price-wise – but I had a miserably milky hot chocolate and the cinnamon bun was underwhelming too, even if it was HUGE.
- Starve, and go back to your respective country
It’s a great excuse to lose some weight, right?!
Well, you’ve probably guessed by now that, for obvious reasons, I haven’t eaten out extensively in Stockholm! But there are a few places that I would recommend.
- The Muffin Bakery
Drottninggatan 73 or Linnégatan 42
The coffee might not be up to much, but it’s all about the Chocolate Brownie and Cheesecake muffins. I cannot visit Stockholm without devouring one of these. It’s cheesy but chocolatey and gooey in the middle. It’s 34kr but one can easily be shared between two. There are other varieties of muffins and they also do decent sandwiches at prices that are reasonable for Stockholm. There are two cafés – I go to the Drottninggatan one as it’s really central. Their website (Swedish only) can be found here.
Rådmansgatan 58, 11359 StockholmFriendly lunch place that serves up tasty and reasonably-priced Japanese set lunches. I had a surprisingly good chicken katsu (breaded cutlet) lunch here and my boyfriend appreciated the veggie gyoza (dumplings). The portions are decent too.
- Café 60
Really trendy, slightly kitsch café that is eternally busy. I’ve only eaten here once where I had a cake that was almost as good as Nando’s choc-a-lot cake, but not quite. There are plenty more scrummy looking cakes, and sandwiches and salad. It has free WiFi so it’s often packed with laptops/iPads and coffee cups. Their website is here.
Ringvägen 110 – 116 61 Stockholm
It’s always a good sign when a Chinese restaurant is packed with Chinese people! I only had two dishes here – some meatballs (pictured far top) and some amazing hoisin pork with dumplings and spring onions – but I was impressed with the quality, flavours and presentation. The food is flavoursome but light and I didn’t end up feeling sick, which often happens to me after a Chinese. China! is not cheap, but it’s not outrageous – sharing two dishes might set you back £30, but you’ll leave satisfied.
I’m by no means an expert on Stockholm, so if anyone has any recommendations, please get in touch 🙂
Update: One recommendation I’ve received is to target Stockholm University’s restaurants and cafés. Apparently, the restaurant next to Södra Huset in Stockholm University serves dagens for 60-80kr. You can choose one main (fish, meat, vegetarian), and enjoy an all- you-can-eat salad, pasta, and bread bar, and an all-you-can-drink drink bar. Thanks to Toru Anraku for the suggestion.