Why living in Stockholm’s suburbs is the ultimate Swedish experience
Publish date: 30 November 2023
Stockholm is famous for its iconic pastel architecture, picturesque islands, clean streets, and green parks. If you’re new to the city or thinking about moving, you are probably looking for the best neighborhoods to set up your nest.
You may have heard of the upscale neighborhood of Östermalm, the eclectic night-life of Södermalm, the pristine garden neighborhood of Kungsholmen, and the wide-streets of Vasastan. All in all, Stockholm is a beautiful city – but you don’t need to live in the center to reap the benefits of what Swedish life has to offer.
Ever since I moved to Stockholm in 2012, I have been moving farther outside the city with every apartment upgrade I make. This is simply because I realized for my lifestyle, the benefits of living in the suburbs by far outweigh those of living in the city. While I work in the heart of Stockholm, my Home Sweet Home is a 35-minute train ride door-to-door in the beautiful municipality of Järfälla. My family and I moved to Barkarbystaden because of its future neighborhood vision, access to great shopping, and the most amazing nature reserve which you can get completely lost in. Also, we were able to find a big apartment for a fair price, and score a ‘first-hand’ contract fairly quickly due to the low demand of the area.
Bigger and newer apartments
Like many European cities, older apartments in city centers may be very large or extraordinarily small – but either or, they can be pricey. Apartments tend to have shared laundry facilities in basements, older structures, and long waiting lines to rent ‘first-hand’ from the apartment buildings (like 20 years long).
However, with the booming business opportunities, Stockholm is growing and welcoming people from around the world to its capital. To accommodate for the swelling population, new apartment complexes are being built across the city and its outskirts, as well as radhus (townhouses), and parhus (duplex). Receiving a ‘first-hand contract’ for an apartment on the outskirts of the city can take less than a year by simply researching where new neighborhoods are forming and joining a ‘queue’ to gain points. Accommodation options in suburbs, like in my area of Barkarbystaden, are often bigger, cheaper, include laundry machines in the apartment, and are built to be eco-friendly.
My favorite word in Swedish is allemansrätten, or ‘the freedom to roam.’ Protected by Swedish law, this gives everyone the right to sleep, eat, walk, or forage for free in nature. As someone who fell in love with Sweden on a fluke travel adventure, this country still makes me feel free to wander without restrictions.
“Sweden has no Eiffel Towers. No Niagara Falls or Big Bens. Not even a little Sphinx. Sweden has something else – the freedom to roam. This is our monument.” – What to Do, VisitSweden.com
While Barkarbystaden is famous for the Outlet mall and Ikea, within a five-minute walk in the other direction, you’ll be frolicking amongst the herds of highland cows, grazing horses, and cooing birds of the Järfälla Nature Reserve. The endless wooded bike and horse trails are dotted with large, open views of Säbysjön, a lake where bird watchers gather all year round. My most recent observation about the reserve is Järfälla Kommun leaves free, chopped firewood along grilling stations for nature lovers to sit back and grill their lunch. This really shows how much the kommun (municipality) cares about the happiness of their residents, and they make it easy for people to enjoy their experience in nature.
Jump on a train? A bus? A ferry? A metro? Or maybe your bike? Sweden’s transportation options are what puts the country on the map for being eco-friendly. The best part about living in ‘the ‘burbs,’ is you can still enjoy a city life within 20-40 minutes. Staying out late is also not a problem, as most major suburbs have night buses that will get you home after that last cocktail with your friends.
Järfälla is also home to one of the three locations where you can take a driving test. With more than 20 traffic schools in the community, if you decide to go for your license, you won’t need to walk far to get started.
Building your life in Sweden means paying special attention to your work-life balance. While I have a full 40-hour (or more!) work week at a tech company in the city, I cherish my time wandering the forests of my suburb. For families with children, spending less time traveling to endless open space is an ideal experience – which is what makes living on the outskirts of the city ideal.
While working from home during the pandemic, I discovered new activities that made me elated to be far out from the urban jungle. If I wanted to take a lunch break, I could jump on my bike and within 15 minutes I was sitting in an open field munching on my lunch, with only the company of butterflies and the occasional deer. If I wanted to pop into Ikea or Sweden’s other popular stores, I could take an 8-minute jog and be standing at their doors.
Where you live in Stockholm is really up to your lifestyle and how you want to spend your time. With the many options to move to the surrounding suburbs, you can expand your horizons and find somewhere that helps you to feel settled in Sweden.