My Stockholm life: a card read

More and more of our lives, memories and prized possessions are compressed into our digital devices. And yet, my wallet is still brimming with physical cards: membership cards, travel cards, student cards, ‘I’m not sure where I got this but I will keep it cause it might be important’ cards. This morning I laid out all my cards on my fake wood IKEA desk and I realized that they tell a tale about my two years in Sweden! They reveal the practicalities of my daily life, the places I love the most, and the positive experiences I’ve had and apparently, wish to have over and over again. So here is a glimpse into my life in Stockholm via the cards in my wallet (and no – I will not post a pic of my credit card).

The practical cards : Mecenat and SL cards

These cards are not very exciting (plain boring) but they are definitely useful. How many time have I felt the surge of panic when I could not find my SL card in my purse (full disclosure: it’s usually because I throw it in there rather than safely place it in my wallet).



The SL card is your daily travel card. You will top up your weekly/monthly or trimestrial subscription on this card – just like an Oyster card in London, but with a less ridiculous name. Once you buy your SL card, you should register it on the SL website; Go to Mitt SL on If you lose or get your card stolen, you can notify them and so they will cancel your card and send you a new one with the same monetary content on it. Here’s the hitch though: you need a personummer. When don’t you?!

This card can be used for the subway, train (only within the city and suburb), bus and ferry. Whilst you can buy day tickets at subway stations, you cannot buy tickets on buses. If by any chance you forget your card, you can use the text-me-a-ticket service. You register at and send a text message to 076-720 10 10 which includes the letters for the zones you want to travel in and a letter for full (H) or reduced (R) price. Find out more info here:


In Sweden, the student discount system differs from a number of other countries. It is not your student card you show to baristas, ticket controllers or museum staff, but rather the Mecenat card. You will be issued this card if you pay your membership to the student union (Medicinska Foreningen). The card offers you all sorts of discounts: coffee, electronics, clothes and travel. Please take note: It is the only valid justification for student travel prices. If you don’t have it – you will get fined 1000 kr. Guess how I know this? I lived it. I guess my honest face was not evidence enough of my student status. Fortunately – if this happens to you, you can still get the fine cancelled by sending an email with a photo of your card to the SL (travel) company (though they will lecture you!). (You can also download your card on your app if you don’t want to carry the physical card around).

The most used (and most loved) card: Fotografiska museum membership

Provides: free access to the museum for a one year-period (395 kr – student price)

I don’t think I ever truly appreciated photography until venturing into Fotografiska. Now my walls are covered with posters and postcards of imaginative or raw photographs which, at one point, hung upon the surfaces of this house of photography. The key to its greatness is the building itself, a spacious three-story loft, which enables them to offer several exhibits simultaneously. Let’s face it, appreciation of photography is subjective. Some enjoy raw snapshots of reality, while others respond to aestheticism. And then there are those who appreciate a good framing of Brad Pitt’s face (I mean, who wouldn’t?). Fotografiska will offer all of this within one afternoon. The museum also makes the most of multimedia, explaining or complementing an exhibit with videos and soundbites. Nevertheless, the museums’ most breath-taking installation is its top floor café – the floor-to-ceiling windows frame a vista of Stockholm’s Lake Malaren. There are only a few seats by the windows, so you had better come with a Hunger Games attitude and the odds ever in your favour.  I have done things I am not proud of to secure one of those seats. That’s a lie; I regret nothing.

The recently acquired card: City bike rental card

Provides: access to a bike from any City Bike (rental bike) station throughout Stockholm.

Membership can be 3 days long (165 kr) or the whole season (300 kr – April to October).

Once the good weather breaks out in April or May, central Stockholm becomes one big playground for cyclists. The abundance of bike paths across the city makes it possible for you to bike all around Stockholm, whilst almost never sharing the road with cars. This is a huge relief to a countryside cyclist like me, who feels more confident near a tractor than any other motorized vehicle. Instead of cars, it is often with disgruntled pedestrians that you will share the sidewalk. They hate the amount of space you take and the carelessness with which you speed by. You hate their slowness and inability to stay within their delineated space (probably because they are searching for pokemons). It’s a hate-hate kind of story – but a pretty harmless one.

I purchased my City Bike season membership card a few weeks ago and I’ve never looked back. I regret not obtaining the card sooner (bike stations open from April 1st). The city is so pleasant, quiet and warm in the summer months. Why venture down into the sweaty, noisy subway when you can glide breezily above (while working off that extra kanelbulle)?! City bikes are the easiest option if committing to buying a bike for your whole stay involves way too much ‘adulting’ (I feel you!) or if the biking season feels too short (don’t even try riding in the winter). Of course there are also some drawbacks with these bikes. They can only be rented from 6am to 10pm (keeping those drunk cyclists off the road), there are less stations on the outskirts of the city, and the rental time is for 3-hour periods only. City bikes, as their name implies, are…city bikes, with only 3 speeds. In the US, they are developing new electric bikes which provide extra juice to augment your leg power. This is designed so that older individuals can feel 20 again. City bikes can lead to the reverse. After a hill or two, you may feel that your physical condition compares to a 70 year old. (They also have an app which shows you all the stations on a map and how many free bikes there are in each, all in real time).

The card I wish I used more: Stockholm cinema festival membership card

Provides: Access to up to 12 member exclusive screenings during the year/ tickets for the international film festival


For you culture vultures who seek to widen your horizons by watching movies from all around the world, contending for the prestigious Stockholm International Film Festival prize, this is the card for you. During two whole weeks in November, cinemas across Stockholm will show various acclaimed/ often not yet worldwide distributed movies. There’s nothing more fun than browsing through all the movies, watching trailers and planning all your evenings/ weekends with the movies you want to see. Of course, the movies you really want to see will be shown at the same time, in different parts of town. One evening, my friend and I decided to go watch an indie movie about a pregnant woman feeling existential. We rode all the way out of to the suburb where the cinema was. As we were eating pizza and leafing through the movie program, we came to the realization that there was a more intriguing Indian movie, described as ‘the hangover but with women’ being shown the other way across town. So as sane, logical individuals, we commuted all the way back into central Stockholm. This is what too much choice can do to you. And I don’t regret it. I got to see an incredibly moving, thoughtful and disturbing movie (and no, it had nothing to do with The Hangover). If anyone asks, our 30 minute detour was for the incredible fast food pizza we got to enjoy.

I wish I had gone to see more movies and attended some of the screenings. If I were staying longer in Stockholm this year, I would definitely buy it again. And maybe I will…there are some intriguing screenings coming up this month, and I’m feeling all artsy and cultured.

If you enjoy free movies more than anything, and outside cinema even more – don’t miss out on the upcoming summer movie festival in the park from the 17th to the 21rst of August.

The one-time use card: IKEA family membership

Provides: discount to IKEA Christmas buffet….and other IKEA products too…I guess….I wouldn’t know.

You will get a discount for the Christmas IKEA buffet. Is there any other real reason to have this card? I can’t think of any ;P

The new card in my life (almost): The Stockholm Stadsbiblioteket membership card.


The card is free. Case closed. But in all seriousness, it is whilst discussing this post with a friend that she informed me about the existence of this card. This was yesterday. With this card, you can loan books from any library within the city ALL FOR FREE. And whilst I plan to use it to borrow Swedish children’s books (because my Swedish is still at child-level), they also happen to have a large English book section. I am finally going to be able to finish Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan book series….once the 15 currently loaned out copies return.

The website is also super useful. You can register for the card on there (I have just done so) and then pick it up within a week at one of the libraries in the city. It also lets you know how many copies of your book are available (in my case none – can you hear my literary heart breaking?!) and which library they are available at. (you can register for a card on the website and pick it up within a week at any of the libraries).


So these are the Stockholm cards I have accumulated so far. For you other Stockholmers out there – am I missing out on something super useful/cool/potentially free (like I found out yesterday). Let me/all of us know!!! 😀

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