Surviving a layover at Stockholm Arlanda Airport

Stockholm is the biggest city in Scandinavia and people often end up changing planes at Arlanda, the main airport. 

If you’re in the same situation you’re probably wondering what there is to do when you land, and whether it’s worth making a trip into central Stockholm between flights.

How to do a layover at Arlanda Airport in Stockholm
Pic: Stefan Leijon (CC)

Here’s the good news: as one of the Nordic region’s biggest airports, Arlanda is a modern and relatively stress-free place to be.

Now, we’re not claiming that a layover here will be a life-changing experience, but there are definitely worse places to be stuck for a few hours while waiting for your next plane.

It’s also fairly easy to get from Arlanda into the city centre. Here’s all the info you need to make your stopover in Stockholm as enjoyable as possible.

Staying at the airport

If you have anything less than about five hours in Stockholm, our advice would be to stay at the airport.

The airside part of the building (i.e. the bit for passengers who’ve cleared security) has all the usual facilities, including restaurants, bars and shops.

But if you have time – and the right visa – it’s worth getting yourself to the ‘landside’ area of the airport, where there’s a lot more to see and do.

SkyCity is a good place to wait during your Stockholm layover
SkyCity at Stockholm Arlanda

Eating and drinking

If you’re hungry or thirsty during your layover in Stockholm, your first port of call should be SkyCity, located between terminals 4 and 5.

It’s like a big indoor shopping mall, with loads of places to eat, drink and generally kill time.

Options run from cheap fast food joints like Swedish burger chain Max to fancier restaurants such as The Social Bar & Bistro, which is located inside the Clarion Hotel (it isn’t the cheapest hotel but is literally right inside the airport, which we think is super handy, especially if you have an early onward flight).

There are also plenty of food options in the terminals themselves, such as La Giraffe in Terminal 5, which is overseen by the Swedish celebrity chef Pontus Frithiof.

But, if you’d prefer something more typically Swedish, Taste in Terminal 5 serves organic, locally-sourced traditional Swedish dishes.

Shopping

SkyCity is also the best part of the airport for shopping.

It’s a good (if expensive) place for stocking up on clothes, Swedish souvenirs and travel essentials.

There’s also a pharmacy, a bookshop and a Forex bank where you can change money to or from Swedish kronor (although, as Sweden is virtually cashless these dats, it’s more important to make sure you know the PIN for your credit cards).

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Dumping your bags

This might not be a problem if your bags are checked in all the way to your final destination. But if you’re waiting for a flight with another airline at Arlanda and want to dump your bags, there are handy left luggage facilities at the airport.

Bagport in terminal 5 (landside) runs a left luggage and storage service from 5am–11pm, where they’ll take your luggage to your transport, or the check-in desk, wrap any purchases for travel and store any baggage.

Alternatively, there are left luggage lockers landside in SkyCity and terminals 2, 4 & 5. Rates cost around 80–120 SEK per 24-hour period.

Getting some sleep

Take yourself to the landside section of Arlanda and there are some good options for sleeping. Quirkiest of all is JumboStay, right at the airport.

JumboStay hostel at Arlanda airport, Stockholm
JumboStay hostel, Arlanda

It’s an old Boeing jumbo jet that’s been converted into a hostel, with bright dorms and rooms squeezed into the fuselage. We love how quirky it is and think it’s worth staying a night even if you’re not normally into hostels.

Otherwise, really cheap options at the airport are pretty limited. If you’re travelling alone, our tip is to go for one of ‘compact single’ rooms at the Comfort Hotel Arlanda.

This place also has unusual XXL rooms for groups of up to 8 people travelling together, complete with bunk beds. Cosy!

If you want a more traditional hotel, try Clarion Hotel Arlanda, which has runway views and a roof-top swimming pool, or the Radisson Blu Arlanda.

Neither option is especially cheap, however, and you may find better deals at one of the off-airport hotels like Aidan by Best Western. It’s a five-minute taxi ride away, and there’s a free shuttle bus to and from the airport.

Can I sleep for free at the airport?

Arlanda is open all night (except Terminal 3) and is big enough that you should be able to find yourself a quiet place to curl up for a sleep, especially late at night.

There are benches and reclined seats dotted around the airport and as long as you’re not in the way, it’s unlikely people will bother you.

SkyCity has some lounge chairs on its upstairs level, so head here for a bit more comfort.

Note that you may need a blanket or coat, however, as the airport air-con can be quite fierce.

What about airport lounges? Are they worth the money?

Airport lounges used to be the preserve of upmarket business travellers, but nowadays passes can be bought online quite cheaply, and many airlines offer access via their frequent flyer schemes.

Arlanda has six airport lounges, four in Terminal 5 (including an Amex lounge) and one in Terminal 2.

They all offer light snacks, drinks, newspapers and wifi. Most importantly, if you’re trying to survive a long layover, they offer a quiet place to chill or have a nap.

Freshening up

Even if you don’t have time for a sleep, there are a couple of other options for freshening up between flights and making your stopover more enjoyable.

You can get your hair cut, styled or coloured at Flygfrisören in SkyCity, or use the gym, sauna and swimming pool at the Clarion Hotel Arlanda, inside SkyCity. It costs around 195 SEK per person.

Hairdresser at Arlanda airport

Seeing a doctor

Feeling bad after your flight? The Airport Sky healthcare clinic in SkyCity is open Monday–Friday from 8am–5pm for nurse and doctor consultations.

It also offers vaccinations, so if you’re travelling to an exotic country, you can use your stopover time to get your jabs done.

And for more alternative therapies, Flygterapeuterna in SkyCity, offers sports massages, acupuncture and chiropractic services, while Aktiverakliniken in SkyCity does massages and ultrasound scans.

For minor healthcare issues, Apoteksgruppen pharmacy has branches in SkyCity landside and terminal five airside. Its SkyCity branch can also dispense prescriptions.

Staying connected, getting info… and tying the knot

There’s free (time-limited) wifi throughout the airport.

Plug sockets for phones and laptops are also easy to find. If you need a paper map, there’s a Visit Stockholm tourist information shop in arrivals.

There’s also a chapel at the airport, where you can get married if you fancy coming home with a fun story to tell.

Heading into Stockholm

Got a long time between flights? Comfy as the airport is, it’s definitely worth making the journey into the centre of Stockholm during longer transfers.

The options for eating, drinking, sleeping and having fun are all a lot better than you’ll find at the airport.

Getting to Stockholm from Arlanda during a stopover

Arlanda Airport is just 40 km from the centre of Stockholm and it’s well served by public transport.

As we mentioned above, you’ll need a minimum transfer time of at least five hours between flights to make the journey into Stockholm worthwhile – even then, you’ll only have a couple of hours to enjoy the city.

Bear in mind that although the journey itself is pretty quick, you’ll have to allow time for checking in and clearing security on your return to the airport.

Getting to the city

Bus, train, taxi or helicopter? There are a whole load of different options for getting to the city centre from Arlanda.

Our detailed guide has tips on the cheapest and fastest ways, and should help you decide on the best mode of transport for your trip.

To give you a rough idea, the fastest train (the Arlanda Express) makes the journey to central Stockholm in around 20 minutes.

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Do you need a visa?

Even if you just want to get into Stockholm for a look around while you wait for your next flight, you’re going to need a valid visa.

If you’re from the UK or an EU country, or if you already have a valid tourist visa for the Schengen Area, you shouldn’t have to worry – for all other types of visa, check ahead.

Note that some visitors – including those from Iran, Iraq, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Sri Lanka – must obtain a transit visa in order to change planes at Arlanda and other Swedish airports.

Check here for a full up-to-date list of which nationalities require airport transit visas.

Helpful guides for spending time in Stockholm between flights:

110 free things to do in Stockholm
Getting around Stockholm
Stockholm Pass: is it worth buying?
Finding cheap accommodation in Stockholm
Where to stay: neighbourhood guide
Stockholm prices: what to expect
Stockholm to Copenhagen

Our main getting to Stockholm guide has info on connecting with other Stockholm airports, including Bromma, Skavsta and Stockholm Västerås.

See also
The best Stockholm boats and cruises
Stockholm archipelago: five of the best islands to visit

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Matt
Matt
1 year ago

This guide is perfect and exactly what I’ve been searching the internet for, thank you! I have the option of a layover at Stockholm Arlanda, Copenhagen or Oslo airports, can you do a similar comparison of CPH and OSL please?