Living in Stockholm: A Comprehensive Guide for Expats

Adam Fayed
16 min readFeb 7, 2024

Whether you’re still considering living in Stockholm or have already taken the leap, this guide is your key to unlocking the secrets of the Swedish capital’s charm and practicalities. The city has different districts, beautiful nature, and a great quality of life. We’ll cover everything from the cost of living in Stockholm,

locating the best places to live and knowing the local culture to navigating the healthcare system and enjoying the city’s unique lifestyle in this guide. There are other topics relevant to moving to Stockholm which we will discuss below.

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What is living in Stockholm like?

Stockholm is the largest city in Sweden and the Nordics, located on the east coast. Some, however, could argue that when seen globally, Stockholm may not be that huge for a metropolis.

Stockholm is notoriously hard to establish friends in, despite its progressiveness and open-mindedness. Swedish people are courteous and friendly, although they are guarded when talking to strangers. Even so, individuals are willing to help you navigate public spaces.

Is Stockholm safe for expats?

Although minor crimes like pick-pocketing can occur, Stockholm is usually considered to be a safe city. However, crimes like robbery and kidnapping happen rarely. In Stockholm, you can feel safe and confident using any kind of public transportation as well.

In terms of natural calamities, snowstorms and harsh cold can occur in winter.

Recent instances have shown that Stockholm is vulnerable to terrorist attacks, organized crime, gang activity, and dangerous circumstances, but they are rare.

Rinkeby, Tensta and Norsborg are among the neighborhoods in Stockholm that are more dangerous than others.

How is Stockholm weather?

Summer days in Sweden are characterized by their extended daylight hours that seem to stretch on endlessly, offering pleasantly warm temperatures and reliable weather. If you yearn for a location that lets you enjoy all four distinct seasons, the Swedish capital city, fits the bill perfectly.

On the flip side, winters in Stockholm are protracted, frigid, and shrouded in darkness. Frequently, temperatures dip below freezing, and on the shortest day, the sun dips below the horizon before 3pm. However, autumn graces the city with stunning displays of orange hues, while spring brings the delightful sight of cherry trees bursting into bloom.

Stockholm Language

While Swedish is the official language, foreigners can get by without it since locals are typically fluent in English. However, not learning Swedish can be difficult if you’re moving to Stockholm for without knowing the language, it will be impossible to fully integrate into Swedish society and to fully appreciate the culture. In addition, socializing can be considerably more difficult than usual.

Furthermore, not being able to communicate well in Swedish can limit your work options. Even though English is commonly used in business, some employers still give preference to applicants who can speak and understand the local tongue well.

To stand out to potential employers, you need to have skills that are noticeable even in English-speaking environments. Furthermore, many Swedes prefer speaking Swedish in social contexts.

The good news is that Swedish is not too difficult to pick up, especially if you already know English. The process is simplified even further if you know Norwegian or Danish.

Accommodation in Stockholm

Stockholm is, in many ways, just like any other major city, despite its charming small-town vibe. Expats who are not fluent in Swedish may have a more difficult time navigating the already competitive market for housing in Stockholm Sweden.

Amid the severe housing crisis, a black market has developed in the Swedish real estate industry, where individuals participate in activities like renting out their homes to one another or selling their leases for a commission.

You might choose to rent a first-hand or a second-hand apartment in Stockholm throughout your stay. Your name will be on the lease and you’ll communicate directly with the landlord if you sign a first-hand renting agreement. A sublet agreement between you and the present tenant is required for a second-hand rental in Stockholm.

However, securing a first-time rental contract is often challenging for expats. You may need to give a Swedish personal identification number or proof of a stable income in specific circumstances.

If you want a shot at getting your first rental unit, you need to sign up with the city and ask to be put on a waiting list. Keep in mind that such waiting lists might be extremely lengthy in places like Stockholm. There’s a chance you won’t be eligible for your first rental opportunity for months, if not years. Subletting and other forms of secondary rental are becoming increasingly common as a result.

Best places to stay in Stockholm

Locals and foreigners alike express a great deal of dissatisfaction with the Stockholm housing market. It can be difficult and competitive to find a rental within the central city. It’s best to extend your search to include outlying neighborhoods.

  • Although the chances of finding a rental property in the Old Town, or Gamla Stan, are extremely slim, it’s worth taking the time to wander through this historic area. Explore the cobblestone streets and charming eateries that make up this island neighborhood, soaking in its unique atmosphere.
  • Norrmalm is home to Stockholm’s bustling Central Station. In addition to housing many popular shopping streets like Drottninggatan, which features Stockholm’s largest retail stores, this neighborhood also hosts the National Parliament building. Norrmalm has a dearth of lodging options and some of the city’s highest real estate costs.
  • Looking for a hip neighborhood that has a little bit of everything, from boho chic to artistic vibes? Start your search for a new home on Södermalm. Some of the apartments in the southern areas of Södermalm are cheaper than those along the main thoroughfare, Götgatan, making it indeed one of the best places to live in Stockholm. Young, progressive people who relish the sights and sounds of a major metropolis are drawn here in large numbers. Some of Södermalm’s peripheral areas are more residential and kid-friendly than the rest of the island.
  • Kungsholmen is a residential neighborhood option that is a bit of a commute to the city center, as it is located on an island across the river from Norrmalm. It has great connections to the other islands via public transportation and has all the basics like restaurants, cafes, and grocery stores.
  • Djurgrden is one of Stockholm’s more compact neighborhoods, and it’s home to various parks that are ideal for family outings like picnics after checking out the zoo and museum at Skansen. A 15 square meter room in a shared apartment will run you about 7,000 kronor per month, while a one-bedroom will cost you about double that.
  • The Vasastaden neighborhood is highly recommended as one of the best places to stay in Stockholm for expat families. This quiet area has a nice selection of both historic buildings and trendy cafes. If you want to save money and get away from the throngs of tourists in the capital, this is a fantastic choice.
  • The Ostermalm neighborhood is a popular place to live for wealthy people. The posh Ostermalm district of Stockholm is home to some of the city’s finest boutiques, buildings, and dining establishments. If you can’t afford it, nearby Humlegrden and the Royal Library are beautiful and worth visiting anyhow.
  • Bromma is a neighborhood in northwest Stockholm that caters to those who value an active lifestyle with its many recreational facilities. Sports facilities, a major stadium, and an international school designed for children of expats may all be found in the area.
  • Djursholm and Stocksund are suburbs of Danderyd, which is also the location of another international school. The city is only 20 minutes away, so you and your family may relax and enjoy the scenery while you work.
  • Residential areas of Solna and Sundbyberg can be found just outside of Stockholm. Rental and property purchase prices are far lower than in the city center, while just being a 20-minute journey away. Because of the abundance of green spaces, these regions are perfect for families with kids and young people who want to get away from the city.

Buying an apartment may be better than renting if you can afford it. Home ownership can provide stability and make Stockholm life easier. Early in your move, you may want to look into short-term rentals and then choose a long-term one after getting to know the city. You can better understand your Stockholm housing needs and have more flexibility with this technique.

Can foreigners buy property in Stockholm?

Expats looking to buy a home in Sweden normally follow the same procedures as Swedish citizens, with a few additional prerequisites. A valid residence permit is required, while neither Swedish citizenship nor a Swedish ID number are required. Registration with the Swedish tax office may be required for EU nationals.

However, non-EU/EEA nationals conducting real estate business in Sweden are typically required to obtain a residence visa. Buyers of Swedish real estate are better protected from those who don’t meet the country’s legal and immigration standards thanks to these rules.

A property can be a good investment, particularly with the elevated demand. But if you’re looking to grow your money, you can also consider other alternatives like investment funds.

Can I get a mortgage?

Certainly, expats can apply for mortgages in Stockholm, but there are some important factors to consider in 2023. It’s worth noting that Swedish mortgage rates experienced a significant increase in 2022 compared to the previous year, as reported by Reuters.

Swedish banks typically follow guidelines to determine the amount that can be borrowed. In response to concerns about a property bubble due to two decades of rising real estate prices in Sweden and the popularity of interest-only mortgages, there has been a recent tightening of lending controls.

Stockholm expats seeking mortgages may need to show proof of credit and assets. Expats must also examine how higher interest rates may affect their mortgage payments. Expatriates seeking a Stockholm mortgage in 2023 must organize their finances and comprehend the mortgage market.

Education and International Schools in Stockholm

In Stockholm, most pre-schools offer day care, including for special needs children. The city provides pre-school and family day care to children of working or university parents. Free day care is available for special needs children too. Unemployed or on parental leave parents can use family day care and get 15 hours of free pre-school for their children starting at one year old.

School attendance in Sweden is mandated for all children aged 7 and up. All youngsters in the community above the age of six who want to start school must do so through the municipality.

An optional preparation year is available for children living in Stockholm, which might be helpful for expat parents who want to ease their children into a new school and community. Compulsory education in Sweden extends across nine years.

Stockholm parents can pick where their child attends school, taking advantage of the country’s high-quality education. Your child will always be accepted at your local school, but you can enroll them in another if space is available.

Most Stockholm schoolchildren attend upper secondary school. Though Stockholm’s public schools are great, they may not be right for every child. This commonly happens when expat children are a specific age, don’t speak the local language, or have parents in Stockholm for a short time.

In such instances, enrolling your child in one of Stockholm’s international schools, which serve a broad community of expatriate children, may help them adjust. The city has several renowned international schools:

  • Stockholm International School: Located in the city center, this school offers courses from Kindergarten (K) to Grade 12 (K-12).
  • International Engelska Skolan: With 11 branches in and around Stockholm’s city center, this institution also provides education from Kindergarten (K) to Grade 12 (K-12).
  • British International School of Stockholm: This school accepts students aged between 3 and 16 years old, offering a comprehensive educational program.

What’s the cost of living in Stockholm?

Two people can dine on three courses at a moderately priced restaurant for about 800 kronor (72 USD). In a downtown café, you can have a cappuccino or a soft drink for 24 kronor to 43 kronor.

Monthly adult fitness club memberships average roughly 470 kronor, weekend tennis court bookings cost more than 371 kronor per hour, and a movie ticket costs 159 kronor, all of which are respectable pricing.

The average monthly utility bill for a modest 85 square meter apartment in Stockholm is around 1,550 kronor. Apartments in the heart of Stockholm cost from 14,590 kronor per month for a one-bedroom to 23,520 kronor for a three-bedroom. These rents drop to between 10,255.5 kronor and 16,392 kronor in the outlying areas.

Stockholm’s real estate market is currently experiencing a period of exceptional growth, following years of exponential price increases. However, costs vary widely depending on factors including exact area and property type.

On average per month, the cost of living in Stockholm can reach 11,155 kronor for one person and 40,500 kronor for a family without accounting for rental expenses.

How to open a bank account in Stockholm as a foreigner

To create a bank account in Stockholm, you must have a Swedish personal identity number (personnummer) or coordination number (samordningsnummer). Non-EU/EEA citizens need taxpaying resident status.

  • Select a bank: SEB and Swedbank are among the banks in Stockholm that provide services to foreigners. Finding the right bank requires researching their services, such as priority and private banking.
  • Gather required paperwork: To open a bank account in Stockholm, provide these documents to your bank: Swedish National ID, EU/EEA passport, or non-EU/EEA passport with Swedish residency permit; Swedish address proof (utility bill, leasing contract, government form); proof of employment or school enrolment.
  • Apply for an account: Gather all required paperwork and apply for a bank account at your preferred bank. You may need an appointment.
  • Wait for approval: The bank reviews your application and paperwork and informs you of approval status. Upon approval, you will receive your bank account information and can begin using it.

How is transportation in Stockholm?

The center and suburbs have a big bus network, an efficient metro system, and two ferry lines.

The Stockholm commuter train costs more to get to Arlanda Airport and beyond. The tram can take you into the city center, depending on where you live.

Stockholm’s SL-operated public transit system uses a single ticket. At metro stations, ticket machines and staffed kiosks sell single tickets and passes for longer periods, but the app is simpler.

  • First, buses: both downtown and in the suburbs, bus service is available at all hours. The biodiesel used in city buses is good for the environment. A single ticket costs 39 kronor (26 kronor for seniors and children/teens/students up to the age of 20), is good for 75 minutes, and may be purchased at any SL customer service outlet, on the SL app, and at the turnstiles and on buses itself using a credit card. You can also purchase tickets valid for one, three, seven, or 30 days.
  • The Stockholm underground metro is recognized as the world’s longest art gallery due to its numerous art-decorated stations. On weekdays, the red, green, and blue underground metro lines run from 5 am to 1 am and on weekends until 3 am.
  • Stockholm’s commuter rail network has experienced significant improvements, including new stations at Stockholm City (linked to T-Centralen) and Odenplan (further north). This train is a fast and convenient means to travel the capital and day trips outside the city core.
  • During the warmer months, you can take a tram from the city center to Djurgrden Island. The city’s historic trams go from the mainland to the island of Djurgrden every summer.
  • For decades, those who were fortunate enough to reside along the city’s waterfront have used ferries as a mode of transportation to and from work. Your SL network card is valid for all city center commuter services.

You can choose your own taxi service in Stockholm from among several different options. However, licensed taxis that use meters will be clearly identified by their yellow license plates. To avoid getting ripped off, it’s best to take one of these cabs.

There are various rates for daytime and nighttime travel, so the price of your cab ride in Stockholm may vary dramatically. Larger taxis, as a general rule, charge more each mile driven. Before getting into a cab, it’s smart to find out how much it will cost and get the driver’s confirmation if you have any doubts.

Can foreigners drive in Stockholm?

Yes, foreigners can drive in Stockholm.

Foreign driving licenses may be valid in Sweden, depending on the country of issue. Ask the Swedish Transport Agency if your driving license is valid in the country.

  • To drive in Stockholm, foreigners with non-English driving licenses must get an International Driver’s Permit (IDP).
  • To drive lawfully, you must be 18 years or older.
  • In terms of traffic regulations, Swedish laws apply even with a foreign driving license. Driving after drinking or using drugs is illegal. If you breach Swedish traffic laws, the police or Transport Agency can revoke your foreign driving license.
  • To drive in Sweden, you must bring the following documents:
  • Driving license or IDP
  • Insurance proof
  • Vehicle registration documentation
  • Headlamp converters (for unadjustable headlights)
  • Wear a luminous vest for emergencies.
  • Put a warning triangle behind your car for emergencies.

How is the Wi-Fi in Stockholm?

Stockholm has excellent Wi-Fi, making it easy for residents and visitors to connect. Cafes, hotels, and museums offer free access throughout the city.

Stockholm has multiple internet service providers offering residential internet services in addition to public Wi-Fi. T-Mobile Home Internet, HughesNet, and Starlink are all names that come to mind as potential service providers in your area.

Download speeds in Stockholm average 107.85 Mbps as of August 2023, while upload speeds average 102.68 Mbps, according to Stockholm’s mobile internet speed is ranked 13th in the world, and the city’s fixed broadband speed is ranked 40th in the world, thanks to these impressively fast download and upload times.

Dining and Entertainment

It’s crucial to keep in mind that the majority of Swedes have their primary meal of the day at midday while entertaining for business purposes. Planning ahead and making reservations can help an outing go off without a hitch.

Sweden’s commitment to sustainability and culinary innovation is reflected in its wide food and drink offerings, including plant-based options.

Stockholm has many bars, clubs, and music venues for after-work relaxation in addition to dining. Stockholm also has many cultural and leisure alternatives, including museums, art galleries, and historical places, so you may experience its rich legacy and creative expression.

Healthcare and Insurance

Stockholm’s decentralized, publicly funded healthcare system prioritizes comprehensive medical services for all citizens. Stockholm has a high life expectancy due to its high-quality healthcare.

The city of Stockholm, the county councils around it, and the national government all have a hand in providing medical services to the population.

Health centers may be found all across Stockholm, serving the city’s population and visitors alike. The many doctors and surgeons at these clinics provide comprehensive medical care for patients. Your rights as a patient include the flexibility to select the healthcare provider and facility that best meets your individual requirements.

Notably, you are not confined to a single choice of medical facility or provider. It also means you can visit any Swedish healthcare provider for care, whether public or private. Many of these private hospitals also provide specialist treatments in addition to general medicine, expanding the healthcare options available to Stockholm locals and expats.

Can I bring my pets to Stockholm?

Living in Stockholm with your pets from back home is possible, but doing so legally and without incident will necessitate meeting certain standards. These are the most important guidelines to follow while importing pets to Sweden:

  • Documentation of your pet’s microchip, rabies vaccine, and EU health certificate must be included in the pet’s passport.
  • All dogs, cats, and ferrets entering Sweden are required to have an ISO microchip implanted for identification purposes.
  • Rabies vaccinations must be given at least 21 days before a trip to Stockholm. It is possible that a rabies titer test will be required of you if you are entering from a nation outside the European Union. Vaccinating an animal requires that it be at least 12 weeks old.
  • Those from outside the European Union must provide a veterinary-completed health certificate before entering the EU. The immunization record is an essential part of this certificate.
  • In general, those moving to Stockholm are only allowed to bring five (5) pets with them.
  • If you’re bringing a dog or cat into Stockholm, you’ll need to let customs know when you arrive ; otherwise, you’ll be violating Swedish laws.

Jobs in Stockholm

Sweden’s job market is robust, and its working conditions and processes are outstanding. The capital and commercial center of Stockholm contributes to this solid job market.

Construction, banking, insurance, manufacturing, and real estate back Stockholm’s economy. Tech has also grown rapidly, attracting foreign talent to the city.

The city of Stockholm attracts many foreigners because of its dedication to a healthy work-life balance. In contrast to some other countries, where work is generally prioritized above personal time, Swedes place a premium on striking a good balance between the two. This way of working is one reason why people from countries where work-life balance isn’t as highly valued are drawn to Stockholm.

Stockholm’s strong labor market, diversified sectors, thriving tech sector, and dedication to work-life balance make it a desirable location for qualified professionals and expats alike.

Swedish Residency

Sweden is known for its diversity and inclusivity, with a large percentage of its population being foreign-born.

Those without EU or Nordic citizenship must complete extra paperwork to immigrate to Sweden and move to Stockholm. Key immigration points to Sweden:

Citizens of EU, EEA, and Switzerland

  • EU, EEA, and Swiss citizens can move to Sweden for job, study, or business with no paperwork.
  • Sweden allows three-month stays without a residency permit. You need documents to stay in the nation after this initial term.
  • Stay in Sweden for at least a year to become a resident. In addition to job and education, you can move to Sweden if you can show you can financially support yourself, such as with savings.

Non-EU Citizens with EU Residency

  • If you’re not an EU citizen but have lived in another EU nation for five years and can prove your financial independence, you may be eligible to relocate to Stockholm under special regulations. These rules apply to several nations, and the Migration Agency’s website has more information regarding this permit.

Family Reunion

  • Residence permits can be difficult, but living in Stockholm is possible for couples if at least one of them has EU citizenship. Family members can stay as long as you can lawfully live in the country.

Nordic Citizens

  • Nordic cooperation allows citizens, including those from other Nordic countries, to move to Stockholm without a residence permit.

Non-EU/EEA/Nordic Citizens:

The procedure of moving to Stockholm is more complicated for people who are not EU, EEA, or Nordic citizens. Relocating to Sweden can be difficult for those who are not European Economic Area or Nordic descendants. Here are some essential details to keep in mind:

Crossing into Sweden:

  • Do not enter Sweden until and until your permit application has been approved, if you are not an EEA citizen.

Permit to Work:

  • You need a Swedish job offer to get a work permit. Before employing a non-EEA employee, the company must promote the job in Sweden, the EEA, and Switzerland for at least 10 days.

Permission to Conduct Research:

  • A residence permit application is required if your intended study program in Stockholm will last more than three months. An entrance visa is available for shorter visits.

Other Residence Permits:

  • Foreigners can apply for additional Stockholm resident permits depending on their situation. You can apply for a permit to join your Swedish partner.

Swedish Citizenship:

  • If you match the requirements, you can petition for Swedish citizenship once a specified amount of time has been spent living in Sweden.

Registration with the Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket):

Within the first three months of your arrival in Sweden, you must register with the Skatteverket. To get your Swedish personal identity number and be formally registered under your address, you will need to contact the local Skatteverket office. Citizens from the Nordic countries typically do not need to register.

In order to make a comfortable transition to life in Stockholm as a non-EU or non-EEA citizen, it is recommended that you speak with the Swedish Migration Agency and obtain all relevant papers and information.

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