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Moving to Stockholm

Expats moving to Stockholm will find a stunning capital city that is sophisticated and funky, traditional and modern, and global yet undeniably Scandinavian. The charm of the city has no end, from the enchanting medieval streets of Gamla Stan – the old town dating back to at least 1250 – to the sleek, bright Swedish design that characterises so many apartments, stores and museums.

Stockholm is a major draw for expats moving to Sweden, serving as the cultural, media, political and economic hub of the country, with over 20 percent of the national population residing in its districts.

The city rests upon fourteen islands which connect with the Stockholm archipelago and reach into the Baltic Sea. This unique geographical location was not only historically important as a measure of defending the city but lends a shimmering watery beauty to the "Venice of the North", as the city is often referred to. Expats and locals delight in and take full advantage of a city that is one-third waterways and one-third green space.

Expats working in Stockholm will find an economy that is flourishing in relation to much of the rest of Europe. The last decade has seen significant growth in many areas, including high technology, finance and entrepreneurship, and many international companies have offices here. Stockholm consistently finds itself high on the lists of global and European rankings of innovation and competitiveness, while also coming in near the top for the greenest and most liveable cities.

The cost of living in Stockholm is generally considered to be high. The relatively high cost of housing matched with the very tricky rental market in the city can make finding a place to live difficult even for those born and raised in Stockholm. Finding a home in the leafy suburbs is far easier and cheaper, and with a well-planned and generally reliable transportation network, the inner city is quite accessible for those living in and around it.

While long and cold winters can be a difficult adjustment for those unaccustomed to such a climate, with around just six hours of daylight in December, many remark that Stockholm adapts well to this time of year with decidedly cosy cafés and restaurants which invite one in with candles and lanterns placed by the door frames in the snow. The summers more than make up for winter’s difficulties, with an abundance of daylight, music festivals, the glorious midsummer holiday, and a population that revels in every chance there is to get outdoors.

Some, including many Swedes, say that Stockholm is an overly proud city in the context of Scandinavia's prevailing modesty. But with a city so abundant in culture that keeps a well-preserved sense of history while taking innovative strides forward in technology, fashion and design, one cannot help but see the attraction for expats from all over the globe.

Accommodation in Stockholm

The rental market in Stockholm is highly regulated, with a long waiting list. Property prices in Stockholm are high and are generally considered to be overvalued.

Most expats rent accommodation in Stockholm and leverage their network of local friends to find a place to stay in the city. Subletting is very common, but downsides include having to relocate when the short sublet contract is over, so expats taking this route may end up having to move multiple times a year. 


Types of accommodation in Stockholm 

Apartments are the most common form of expat housing for people living in Stockholm. Most apartments are unfurnished but basics such as bathroom and kitchen fittings are provided.

Finding larger houses will be harder, especially in the city centre. Family-friendly accommodation can be found in the outlying suburbs of Stockholm. 


Finding accommodation in Stockholm

Kungsholmen and Södermalm are popular areas for expats in Stockholm. Buildings in the city centre are generally historical and have height restrictions, so depending on the area, many have been renovated.

How close a property is to the public transport network is an important factor to consider when looking for an apartment in Stockholm. This is largely due to the tough winter conditions and expensive costs associated with driving, parking and fuel in the city.

Expats can browse online property portals and local newspapers for listings. Expats should also go through their personal network to find accommodation, and try to get local friends to spread the word that they are looking.


Renting accommodation in Stockholm

There is a general housing shortage in Sweden, but this is especially the case in Stockholm. Locals often find it more economical to live in their own homes than rent them out to tenants, although subletting is common.

Many of the rental properties in Stockholm are obtained through the Housing Service. A house-hunter pays the Housing Service to allocate available housing to them, based on a set of preferences they provide the service with. There is usually a long waiting list, however, which means that some tenants opt to rent directly from private landlords at inflated prices.

This leads to its own challenges, however, as unscrupulous landlords may try to get tenants to make a down payment before they have even seen the property in person, use the high level of competition to inflate the rental prices they originally quoted and then increase rents above market levels for furnished apartments.

To avoid some of the pitfalls of the Stockholm rental market, expats are advised to use only reputable online property portals, act quickly if they identify a property they are interested in and sign up to the Housing Service waiting list. It can take years to find a property through official channels, but it usually pays off in the long run.

Given how complicated renting property in Sweden can be, it may be in an expat’s best interest to work through a real estate professional. Many expats who are certain that they will be staying in Sweden for a long period of time choose to buy property in Stockholm.

It is very common to pay one month’s rent as a deposit. Common practice is also to give three months’ notice when moving out, so expats should be prepared and make sure to read the lease terms and conditions carefully before signing.

Home insurance often covers registered residents of the property; it is important to ask to see the coverage. Utilities are typically included in the rental amount and can include electricity, water and internet.

Areas and suburbs in Stockholm

Expats will have a variety of areas and suburbs in Stockholm to choose from. If they choose to live near the city centre, they'll have everything at their fingertips without needing a car, whereas those living in suburban areas just outside of Stockholm are close to parks, lakes and international schools.

Public transport does exist in the suburbs, but commuting to the city can be time-consuming, meaning that a car may be necessary. On the other hand, living in the inner city tends to be more expensive and the demand for housing is generally higher.

Choosing where to live in Stockholm ultimately depends on an expat’s individual needs. Young working couples often enjoy a city life close to their workplaces and nightlife venues, while many expat families prefer a leafy suburb near good schools so that their children don’t have to commute. 


City living in Stockholm

While some areas are more popular than others, expats don’t seem to favour any specific neighbourhood in Stockholm. Some of the most popular areas in Stockholm include Södermalm, Kungsholmen, and Östermalm. 

Kungsholmen

The western part of inner-city Stockholm is an island called Kungsholmen. This island is a residential area but is also reasonably industrialised. There are many down-to-earth bars and restaurants in this neighbourhood, making it perfect for young expat couples.

The island has its own shopping mall and excellent access to public transport. The views from this area of Stockholm are particularly beautiful and the centre of the island has many quaint streets to explore. 

This area is still developing and is growing in popularity because of its beautiful parks and waterfront. 

Östermalm

An extremely affluent area in Stockholm, Östermalm is where the wealthy live and socialise. The area has beautiful parks, leafy streets and stately buildings, and is home to some of the most upmarket shops, restaurants and bars in Stockholm. 

It also has a large protected green area known as Djurgården, which makes up a large part of the National City Park. Östermalm also boasts museums, an amusement park, the Royal Library, and the main campus of the University of Stockholm. 

Accommodation in Östermalm is expensive but certainly worth it for those who can afford it.

Södermalm

Södermalm is an island to the south of the city centre and is a lively area filled with trendy restaurants, bars and clubs. One of the most popular and trendy areas in Stockholm, its bohemian feel makes it seem less pretentious than Östermalm.

Accommodation in Södermalm is diverse, ranging from apartments to little cottages by the sea. Housing here is also more affordable than in other parts of Stockholm. The island’s southern side is more residential, with apartment blocks being the most common form of housing. 

Södermalm is known as being home to the Swedish hipster movement, which is seen in the area's artsy, quirky atmosphere. This area is best suited to young expats looking to experience diverse local culture during their move to Sweden. 


Suburban living in Stockholm

The suburbs of Stockholm surround the city and are commonly divided into the northern and southern suburbs.

To the south lie Gröndal, Midsommerkransen and Hammarby. To the northwest are Bromma, Rinkeby and Akalla; Djursholm, Sollentuna and Täby are to the northeast; and finally, to the east of the city is the Stockholm archipelago, where many locals have second houses in towns by the seaside.

Bromma

Bromma is a borough in the city’s western outskirts and is home to the Stockholm-Bromma airport. Bromma also has the oldest church in Sweden and a lovely beach. Expats will find plenty of entertainment in these areas due to the two sports arenas and a large stadium. 

There is a branch of the International Engelska Skolan in Bromma, making it a convenient place for expats with children to settle.

Danderyd

Danderyd is a municipality that includes the suburbs of Djursholm, Stocksund and Enebyberg. The area is around six miles (10km) north of Stockholm and surrounded by water on three sides. Djursholm is especially popular with expats, given that it only takes 15 minutes to reach the city on the underground and is where the British Primary School is located.

Ekerö

Ekerö is a suburban island about 18 miles (30 km) outside of Stockholm. It is a quiet residential area containing two UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Birka, an archaeological site on Björkö Island, and Hovgården, another archaeological site on the neighbouring island of Adelsö.

Ekerö has access to public transport but this mainly consists of buses, so travelling can be slow. Another option is to take a ferry to the mainland, but this can be time-consuming. Ekerö is a good place to live for expats who want a peaceful lifestyle in Sweden. 

Lidingö

Lidingö is a beautiful island to the northeast of Stockholm. Affluent and exclusive, it nonetheless has many opportunities for expats to buy or rent property. 

Public transport reaches the entire island, so expats will have no problem commuting into the city. Lidingö also has its own private school, which is convenient for expats with children. The island boasts its own golf course and some beautiful seaside properties.

Education and Schools in Stockholm

As the country's capital, Stockholm is at the centre of education in Sweden. It hosts more international schools than any other Swedish city and is home to the University of Stockholm, one of the best in the country.

In addition to Swedish public education, expat parents also have the option of sending their children to one of the many private or international schools in Stockholm.


Public schools in Stockholm 

Schooling in Sweden is compulsory and free in public schools for all children between the ages of seven and 16. 

The majority of Swedish children go to public schools but instruction is in Swedish, so most expats choose to send their children to an international or private school instead. This allows expat children to be taught in their mother tongue and continue with a syllabus that is familiar to them. 


Private schools in Stockholm 

Private schools in Sweden are called Friskolor. These schools are independent and do not have to follow the Swedish National Syllabus, although some still choose to. There are only a few private schools in Stockholm, and generally the standard of education they offer is very high.


International schools in Stockholm 

The international schools in Stockholm are the most popular choice for expat parents in the city. These schools often teach children in their home language and follow the syllabus of a specific country. There is, however, a high demand for places in international schools and as a result, there are usually long waiting lists. Tuition is also usually expensive.

These schools generally have classes taught in English or a different language, with Swedish language lessons forming part of the weekly syllabus. 

International Schools in Stockholm

There is a fairly wide selection of international schools in Stockholm that cater to students from all over the world. 

Expats can opt to have their children taught in a variety of languages including English, German, French or Dutch. Some expat parents prefer to have their children taught in Swedish, especially if they are younger, easing their transition into their new country. 

The conventional route for expat families is, however, to have their children taught in English while taking Swedish language classes. 


International schools in Stockholm

 

British International School of Stockholm

Websitewww.bisstockholm.se

Curriculum: British

Gender: Co-educational

Ages: 3 to 16

 

Dé Nederlande School Stockholm

Websitewww.nlschoolstockholm.se

Curriculum: Dutch

Gender: Co-educational

Ages: 3 to 18

 

Deutsche Schule Stockholm

Websitewww.tyskaskolan.se

Curriculum: German

Gender: Co-educational

Ages: 3 to 18

 

French Lycée Saint Louis de Stockholm (Lycée Français)

Website:www.lfsl.net

Curriculum: French

Gender: Co-educational

Ages: 3 to 18

 

Futuraskolan International School of Stockholm 

Websitewww.futuraskolan.se

Curriculum: International Baccalaureate (IB)

Gender: Co-educational

Ages: 6 to 15

 

Internationella Engelska Gymnasiet Södermalm

Websitewww.engelskagymnasiet.se

Curriculum: Swedish and IB

Gender: Co-educational

Ages: 15 to 18 

 

Internationella Engelska Skolan (Nacka)

Websitenacka.engelska.se

Curriculum: Swedish and IB

Gender: Co-educational

Ages: 9 to 16

 

Stockholm International School 

Website: www.intsch.se

Curriculum: IB

Gender: Co-educational

Ages: 3 to 18

Lifestyle in Stockholm

With all the options expats have when it comes to lifestyle and shopping in Stockholm, a weekend in the city never has to have a dull moment. From museums and restaurants to entertainment for the children, there is something to interest every personality and age group.

Expats can eat and drink their way through the city, or educate themselves about Swedish history and culture. They can shop to their heart’s content at upmarket shopping centres or at quirky markets.

Either way, expats living in Stockholm won't be disappointed with the city’s leisure activities. 


Shopping in Stockholm

Stockholm has great shopping, but it doesn’t come cheap. The classic Swedish items expats should look out for are glass products, blonde wooden furniture and ceramics. A favourite shopping area in Stockholm is Gamla Stan. Västerlånggatan is the street to visit and expats will see many beautiful antique shops here; however, they can be very expensive. 

Kungsgatan is also a major shopping district in Stockholm. Here, expats can find the Drottninggatan pedestrian mall. The mall is home to popular high-street stores as well as smaller speciality stores.

Fashion-conscious expats should visit Bibliotekstan near Östermalm to discover what Swedish designers have to offer. Here one will find brands of unique Swedish companies. Birger Jarlsgatan in Östermalm is where expats can get their luxury fix, with most high-end designers having stores here. 

The most eclectic of all the city’s shopping areas, the famous SoFo district is in Södermalm. SoFo stands for South of Folkungagatan and this area is full of quirky, trendy and creative boutiques. 

Shops in Stockholm are generally open from 10am to 6pm, with extended hours on Thursdays and Fridays. 


Nightlife in Stockholm

Expats in search of exciting nightlife in Stockholm will not be disappointed. There is a multitude of bars and clubs in the city and many stay open until late, but expats should expect high prices for entry and drinks.

The areas known for having the best nightlife in Stockholm include Stureplan, Södermalm and Djurgården. Expats should not miss the Ice Bar, a permanent feature near Central Station, with an interior that is made completely of ice from a river in northern Sweden. Thankfully, guests are able to borrow a warm hat and gloves. 

Stockholm also boasts theatre and jazz scenes for expats with more sophisticated tastes, while adventurous expats might want to explore the country’s famous heavy metal scene. 

From classic gourmet cuisine to experimental modern cooking and relaxed dining, there is also enough of a variety of restaurants in Stockholm to cater to any expat’s tastes.


Sports and outdoor activities in Stockholm

The city’s famous green spaces and waterways mean that there is no shortage of outdoor activities in Stockholm to enjoy. Expats will get to take part in a wide range of activities, from hot-air ballooning and golf to fishing and hiking the nature trails on its outskirts.

The easiest way of getting around Stockholm is on two wheels, but the city’s many cycle paths and bike lanes are also one of the best ways to see the city’s sights. Expats can easily rent a bicycle and explore areas such as Djurgården, which is home to a variety of attractions as well as breath-taking natural beauty.

Recent arrivals wanting to explore their new home can also hire a kayak or canoe and paddle between the city’s many islands. Expats could hire a boat and paddle past some of the city’s most recognisable sights, enjoy the natural beauty of Lake Mälaren and settle down for a bite to eat at the end of their adventure.

See and Do in Stockholm

A city defined by water, green spaces and history, expats will have plenty to see and do in Stockholm. Whether they are interested in the city’s medieval origins or exploring the tranquil waterways of the Stockholm archipelago, the city has something for a variety of tastes and preferences.

Expats may want to consider seeing as many of Stockholm's attractions as they can by bicycle. By purchasing a membership from the City Bikes website or a selection of stores across the city, expats will be able to hire a bicycle from one of more than 100 bicycle hubs across the city. Cycling through Stockholm is not only a healthy way for expats to get to know their surroundings, but is an attraction in itself, affording expats striking views of this beautiful city.


Recommended sightseeing in Stockholm

Moderna Museet

Recognised as being on the cutting edge of art since it opened in 1958, the Moderna Museet has introduced avant-garde artists such as Andy Warhol to Swedish audiences for more than 50 years. The gallery is organised from newest to oldest, showcasing recent exhibitions as well as work by great artists such as Picasso and Jackson Pollock.

Museum of National Antiquities 

A must-see for expats interested in ancient Scandinavian history, expats with children will also find the Museum of National Antiquities to be a worthwhile trip. The museum contains archaeological artefacts, gold objects and Viking treasures. The museum is also home to the famous gold- and jewel-encrusted casket that contained the skull of Saint Elisabeth of Thuringia. 

Royal Djurgården

The island of Djurgården is in the heart of Stockholm and it is the location of many museums, restaurants and parks. Expats can purchase souvenirs at the Handarbetets Vänner or visit Gröna Lund, Sweden’s oldest amusement park. On the other hand, children can enjoy Nordic wildlife at the zoo and explore the Junibacken fairy-tale fun centre. The best part of this attraction is that it is only a 10-minute walk from the city centre. 

Royal Palace and Gamla Stan

No visit to Stockholm would be complete without seeing the Royal Palace and spending some time in Gamla Stan. Expats can visit some of the palace’s 608 staterooms, the Hall of State, the Royal Treasury and can witness the changing of the guards. The streets of Gamla Stan are lined with restaurants and boutiques. Expats should also not miss the Storkyrkan Cathedral, which dates back to the 13th century. 

Stockholm City Hall

A major landmark in Stockholm, the City Hall is located on Kungsholmen. Expats who are interested in architecture will appreciate this building’s practical red brick exterior, the three golden crowns on top of its tower, and its Art Nouveau interior with a vaulted ceiling. Expats looking for a spectacular view of Stockholm will find it at the top of City Hall’s tower. 

Stockholm Globe

Sporting enthusiasts will enjoy a visit to this massive arena which holds the title of the world’s largest spherical building. Restaurants, bars and shops are also available for those who are not as fascinated by sports trivia. Expats can also experience SkyView, a glass elevator that carries visitors up the outside of the building to the top. 

What's On in Stockholm

Whether during the endless daylight of summer or winter’s biting cold, expats will always be able to choose from a variety of events in Stockholm. A broad selection of events celebrate every aspect of life in the city, giving expats a glimpse into Stockholm’s diverse culture and a chance to interact with local residents.

Whether just visiting the city or planning to stay for a few years, it is worth knowing about some of Stockholm's most popular annual events.


Annual events in Stockholm

Stockholm Marathon (May/June)

City residents have been running in the Stockholm Marathon since 1979. The course loops around the city twice and finishes in the iconic 1912 Olympic Stadium. Every year more than 20,000 runners take to the course and are cheered on by thousands of spectators. Participants get to enjoy some of the city’s most famous attractions, while spectators can take in the atmosphere and cheer on the athletes.

Stockholm Pride (July/August)

Held between the end of July and the beginning of August every year since its inception in 1998, Stockholm Pride consists of a week worth of celebrations, cultural performances and educational events. The highlight of the festival is the Pride Parade, the biggest in Scandinavia, which attracts as many as 60,000 participants and 600,000 spectators every year.

Stockholm Jazz Festival (October)

Having first taken place in 1980, the Stockholm Jazz Festival is one of the oldest festivals in Sweden. Originally an outdoor summer festival, it now takes place indoors in autumn at a variety of the city’s premier jazz venues over the course of the week. The one thing that has stayed constant is that the festival continues to attract jazz superstars from all over the world and is a must-see, whether an expat is a jazz aficionado or uninitiated novice.

Stockholm Film Festival (November)

While not as prominent as its French counterpart, the Stockholm Film Festival is nonetheless the biggest event of its kind in Northern Europe. Festival goers not only get to enjoy some of Europe’s best films and a unique glimpse into Swedish culture, but the festival also hosts a variety of themed parties – a perfect opportunity for expats to mingle.

Nyårsafton New Year Celebrations (December)

Held every year at Skansen, Stockholm's open-air museum, the city’s residents brave the cold to enjoy the lively celebrations, illuminated by spectacular fireworks displays. At midnight the Skansen bells chime and the New Year is ushered in by Alfred Lord Tennyson’s famous poem, ‘Ring Out, Wild Bells’. Many city residents simply enjoy the celebrations from the comfort of their homes, or at other sites such as the Västerbron bridge, which provides breath-taking views of its own. Wherever they are in the city, expats should be sure not to miss the revelry.

Getting Around in Stockholm

Wherever one chooses to live in the city, getting around in Stockholm is easy. The Swedish capital's public transport network is extensive and consists of the metro, bus, tram, regional rail, light rail and archipelago boats.

Tickets bought from Storstockholms Lokaltrafik (SL), which runs all land-based public transit in the city, can be used on all modes of public transport – except the archipelago boats which usually need separate tickets. 


Public transport in Stockholm

Public transport plays a big role in the lives of the city's residents. Around 800,000 commuters make use of public transportation in Stockholm every day, which is impressive given the city's estimated population of 950,000 people.

Tickets

While expats living in Stockholm are blessed with such an extensive public transport system, unfortunately, this convenience comes at a cost, as Stockholm has some of the most expensive public transport in the world. 

A few ticketing options are available. Expats could buy an SL travel card that is valid for a specified amount of time, from 24 hours up to a year, depending on the card.

Alternatively, passengers can purchase single-trip zone tickets which are valid for an hour from when they first start their journey. There is also the option of purchasing a strip ticket, which works like a zone ticket but allows more than one person to use it at the same time.

Buses

There are a number of bus lines running through Stockholm and passengers can hop on and off any bus using an SL card. The special inner-city buses are blue, while regular buses servicing the rest of Stockholm are red.

The city's bus routes include the blue inner-city and suburban lines as well as service bus lines. The Flygbussarna bus line is available for transport from Arlanda Airport into Stockholm.

Metro

Stockholm’s Tunnelbana is an extensive metro system which runs both above and below ground, and serves the city centre and surrounds. There are three main lines (green, red and blue) which run to 100 stations, many of which connect to the local bus system.

While Stockholm’s metro is a convenient mode of transport, it does get busy during morning and evening rush hours.

Suburban rail services

Expats living outside the city and commuting to work on a daily basis will be able to make use of Stockholm’s suburban rail services. There are a number of suburban rail systems in Stockholm that service the city's outskirts, including Saltsjöbanan and Roslagsbanan.

Light rail and tram

In addition to the Djurgården line, the city's heritage tram, Stockholm has other light rail services including the Nockebybanan, Lidingöbanan and Tvärbanan. 

Boats

There are several archipelago boat lines in Stockholm, run by Waxholmsbolaget. Some of these operate year around. One boat line, Djurgårdsfärjan, operates in central Stockholm between Slussen and Djurgården. While SL travel cards are usually valid on this line, single trip tickets and strip tickets are not accepted.


Walking and cycling in Stockholm

Stockholm is well-equipped to accommodate both pedestrians and cyclists with its brilliant network of cycle paths, green parks and safe walkways. Many locals choose to walk or cycle to work.

Cycling has become very popular in Sweden as locals have embraced the benefits of this simple, fast, inexpensive and environmentally friendly mode of transport, no matter what the weather. Stockholm city authorities have made the city's cycling infrastructure a priority and are constantly working on improving accessibility for cyclists.

Expats don’t even need to spend on their own bicycle in Stockholm, as the city has made hundreds of bicycles available for people to rent. All that's needed is a bike card from Stockholm City Bikes. Commuters can either purchase a season or three-day card. 


Driving in Stockholm

While having a car is not essential in Stockholm, it is easy to drive in the city as the roads are well signposted and, in comparison to other European cities, Stockholm is far less congested.

A congestion charging scheme to reduce traffic in Stockholm has been in place since 2006. If someone lives in the city their car is automatically connected to their bank account, while those who live in the suburbs need to pay before they enter the congestion charging zone. 

Most locals and expats prefer to take advantage of Stockholm’s convenient public transport network instead of driving as parking fees in the city are expensive and finding a good parking spot can be difficult. For these reasons, expats rarely need to rent or purchase a car unless they are travelling outside the city.