Stockholm’s iconic hostel ship with a stunning view
First of all, Af Chapman and Skeppsholmen offers you the opportunity to stay on a sailing ship from 1888. Then, it is the location, placing you next to the National Museum, on the same island as the Modern Museum and a quick boat ride away from Gamla Stan and Södermalm. It is no wonder why this hostel is considered one of Stockholm’s best.
All opinions are my own. I paid for this stay in full and had checked out before revealing that I wanted to review it. If you book your stay through a link in this review, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Af Chapman and Skeppsholmen Hostel at a glance
The ship Af Chapman has been a Stockholm landmark ever since its hostel inauguration in 1949. Once, this English steel-ship from 1888 sailed all around the world as a school ship. Nowadays, it is one of the most popular hostels in Stockholm. As much as there is a Stockholm skyline, Af Chapman is an essential part of it.
The hostel has 77 rooms of various kinds, spread over the ship and the large yellow 19th-century building next to it. Beware that popularity means that you might need to book early.
The Location – Stockholm’s Museum Island
Af Chapman and Skeppsholmen Hostel is located on the island Skeppsholmen, which might be best known for housing the Modern Museum. But this green island also offers activities. Enjoy a walk, or visit the East-Asian museum, the Toy Museum in an old mountain vault, or the theatre scene Galeasen. A few minutes walk from Af Chapman, a ferry will take you over to Gamla Stan, or Djurgården with the Vasa Museum, Skansen and Gröna Lund (with a valid SL traffic card). A few minutes walk in the other direction, and you’ll find the National Museum.
If you’d rather hit the clubs or raid the shopping streets, you’ll have them rather close by as well.
The Reception – uneven levels of enthusiasm from staff
Af Chapman’s reception in the 19th-century building is open 24/7. Its staff gave a mixed impression. At check-in, I asked whether my room had a view or not (it did!). The cheery summer worker produced maps over the ship, just to double-check. I overheard staff raving to guests about the ABBA museum and the best places for great meatballs. But when I later asked about the ferry to Gamla Stan, a different reception crew wasn’t sure how to get there – ”aren’t there some roadworks?” – or how long it would take to walk. That felt like an obvious piece of information that the staff should know. Okay, I can excuse a lack of knowledge if you recently started your job. But disinterest or nonchalance never looks good. Unfortunately, that’s the impression I get when the giggling staff can’t tear themselves from a Youtube video.
You check in after 15:00 and check out before 11:00. When checking in, you receive a pack with your bed linen and towel (included in the price).
The Room – basic but fresh dorm with the city’s best view
I booked a bed in an eight-bed mixed dorm on the ship for 375 SEK, bed linen and towels included, plus breakfast 90 SEK, with bathroom and toilet in the corridor, staying 9th-10th of June, 2018.
While the room kept hostel standard, the porthole offered a five-star view over the Royal Palace and Old Town.
The room had good-sized lockers (bring a small padlock), a small table with chairs, and a wash basin with mirror. I appreciated that the bunk beds were sturdy and had proper ladders, with bonus points for a small shelf and charging socket for each bed. All in all, the room felt clean and fresh.
Unfortunately, the room’s door gets minus points as it didn’t close without a strong push, making it noisy. Waking up in the morning, I realized a late-arriving roommate missed closing it completely, so the door was left ajar for part of the night.
One part of me is impressed that there are functioning showers and toilets on an old ship. The other part thought they needed a revamp and barely passed the freshness-test. The push button showers had uneven timers; some were short, others so long that it caused a roommate to frantically call out to me for help as she couldn’t turn it off.
The Facilities – enjoy the sun from the ship’s deck
The ship offers toilets and bathrooms, and a summertime bar. The rest of the facilities are in the 19th-century building next to the ship. Next to the reception, you’ll find a simple café, also serving food and some alcoholic beverages. The coffee was decent, but the cinnamon bun impressed neither with looks nor with taste; go someplace else if you want to enjoy the Swedish cinnamon bun experience.
Upstairs, there’s a modern guest kitchen with an adjoining seating area. Guests can also hang out in the spacious, bright living room area to read and play board games or a game of pool.
During the summertime, guests and non-guests alike can enjoy the bar on the ship’s deck. While many guests seemed content with a beer, glass of wine or Aperol spritz, the bar also offered a short menu of classics. Luckily, my ungenerous assumptions about the kitchen’s capabilities were wrong. The classic Toast Skagen was tasty and elegant, and gravlax with stewed potatoes surprised with its amount of flavor.
The Breakfast – a decent buffet without aspirations
The breakfast buffet (90 SEK) included different types of bread; condiments, jams, and cold cuts; eggs; cereals and oat porridge. Among the beverages, you’ll find juice, hot chocolate, coffee, and tea.
Af Chapman and Skeppsholmen Hostel was up against a hard comparison. My most recent stay had been at Långholmen Hotel and Hostel, which serves the best hostel breakfast I’ve seen. Even so, this buffet gave a sloppy impression. Without any significant complaint, it is little things that show the level of care… Bread for toasting left in its unopened plastic bag. Large fruits that would have been better sliced. Staff that was slow to refill bread rolls and loaves as well as cold cuts and sandwich spreads. The breakfast hall was neither overly busy nor close to the end of the breakfast hours, meaning I can’t find a good excuse.
Hot food consisted of oat porridge, and it is fortunate that I like mine or the thicker side, as it was quite lumpy. That said, some of the ingredients on the buffet were organic, the food was fresh, and allergy-friendly items were well-marked. Also, coffee was good and strong. At the end of the meal, you dispose of your own dishes, canteen-style.
So, the buffet didn’t impress, but it is alright and convenient, and you’d have to walk for a while to find another breakfast option. You can always buy food elsewhere and prepare your own breakfast in the guest kitchen.
Who should stay at Af Chapman and Skeppsholmen Hostel?
Out of the high-value budget options in Stockholm, Af Chapman stands out. Whether you are a lone backpacker or traveling with family or friends, the hostel offers plenty of room options. The location makes it convenient for visiting nearby museums. Also, the ferry takes you to Old Town or Djurgården in about 10 minutes.
While staff efforts were uneven, and the decent breakfast didn’t impress, I can see why the hostel has amassed such raving reviews and fans returning again and again. You’ll get to stay in a piece of history, turned into a basic but modern hostel.
I’ll certainly return to enjoy a drink and an incredible Stockholm view from the ship’s deck.