In this edition: All about good eats
No matter where you go, finding a decent meal is a fundamental human need. This is especially true for a self-proclaimed foodie that wants to experience new flavors all over the world. In Scandinavia however, meals come with a hefty price.
As a tourist living in a shared Airbnb apartment (free $25 Airbnb travel credit) with two other parties, it can be kind of hard to cook especially when the day is dedicated to sightseeing. Let’s face it, eating out in Stockholm is very expensive. Luckily, Stockholm has many street carts selling everything from hotdogs to kebabs in the sub-$13 USD range (39–89 SEK) and you can find McDonald’s Golden Arches just about everywhere.
Street food options are “cheap” eats in their purest form and I didn’t get the sense of quality from any of the carts. I was actually pretty unhappy with their hot dogs and burgers, forcing me to default to McD’s whenever we needed a budget bite to cure the hunger pangs. Local “Pizza Kebab” places are also common, offering thin crust pizza fusions and carved mystery meats for traveler friendly prices starting at 69 SEK ($10 USD). If you’re visiting the mother of IKEAs, their 5 SEK ($0.71 USD) hotdogs are a great option for a super affordable bite (and ironically reminded me most of home).
Alternatively, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from, and a theme that Deb and I quickly picked up on is the Swedish love of buffets. They are everywhere and at 99–179 SEK ($14–25 USD), “affordable” when compared to most sit-down restaurants where entrees can each exceed 189–245 SEK ($27–35 USD) or more.
As buffets go, Deb and I visited several, ranging from the bland and oily Asian kind to Herman’s, the very best vegetarian restaurant I’ve ever been to. Herman’s was actually a suggestion from our Airbnb host, who offered it as an option for special occasions. I admit that I started out a skeptic when I heard that a vegetarian buffet might be a good choice for a romantic birthday dinner, but after my first bite I was sold. Their buffet line options change throughout the night but some of the memorable bites we enjoyed were the eggplant lasagna, spicy olive pizza, and their vegetarian Thai curries. What’s more, Herman’s is located practically on a cliff so you get a full panoramic view of the city from Gamla Stan to Djurgården.
Protip: Skip the Chinese buffets and grab a 2-for-1 coupon to Herman’s in the city’s Restaurant Guide. Not only will you score what might be the most affordable meal in town, but it will also be one of the highest quality and healthy bites in the city.
Another incredible local recommendation we enjoyed was the 175 SEK ($25 USD) breakfast buffet at Stallmästaregården Hotel. The food itself was excellent with a smörgåsbord of options (including such rare luxuries as eggs and juice!), but what put it over the top was the incredible lake and wilderness surroundings of the Royal Haga Park that makes it feel miles outside of the city.
Fika (coffee break) is a a major cultural and social institution across Stockholm. Swedes enjoy an average of 4.5 cups of coffee per day and there is no shortage of completely packed chain coffee shops around the city, all providing incredibly beautiful spaces in which to spend time with friends and colleagues. Basic coffees are about 25–29 SEK but can cost as much as 39 SEK or more for the fancy stuff, and it’s essential to pair a cup with a sweet pastry or slice of cake. Not all coffee shops are created equal, so it’s worth sampling several and definitely ask locals where their favorites are.
One of the biggest tourist traps in Stockholm has to be the Icebar at the Icehotel. From the outside, the novelty of drinking vodka-based shots at 19 degrees Fahrenheit (-7 degrees Celsius) seems like waste of 185–195 SEK ($27 USD). But when in Stockholm… Turns out it was a super unique and fun experience that I would gladly repeat! It’s little more than a walk-in freezer lined with clear ice blocks, but there’s something eskimo-like about plopping on a parka and freezing your ass off while sipping a watered-down cocktail, itself contained in a shot glass made of ice. As far as I’m concerned, it was a once in a lifetime experience and I really enjoyed the novelty of it.
It’s worth mentioning that alcohol is extremely expensive in Stockholm, perhaps prohibitively so. The government holds a monopoly on the taxation and regulation of alcohol. Since it is taxed based on alcohol content, liquor is very pricey and can even double or triple the price of a bottle. Needless to say, duty-free shopping on flights and ferries to/from Finland and Germany are popular with Swedes who want to stock up and get their drink on.