To say that Skyrim encourages stealing might be an understatement. There are few possessions in any NPC’s house that you can’t simply walk off with if your sneak skill is high enough. There’s even a whole organization and questline associated with ambitious larceny.
Thievery isn’t without its dangers, however. Only fences will buy stolen goods, and you can face jail time, fines, and the confiscation of your ill-gotten gains if you’re caught. It’s good to pick your targets carefully if you want to make the most of what’s available to you, and fill your inventory with the best stuff rather than 200 wooden plates.
10 The Scorched Hammer
Riften’s blacksmith, the Scorched Hammer, sits right off of the city’s marketplace. It is run by Balimund and his adopted son. They’re pleasant enough, though also outside during the day enough that taking a look around inside isn’t too tough.
Inside, you can find some containers and the shop’s takings inside a strongbox. Down on the lowest level is what sets it apart. There are large stacks of ingots on a table, enough to help you smith a number of items to boost your skills. They will regularly refresh, so you can always pick more up if you need to top up your supply. If you’re feeling really brazen, you can even go and use the smithing equipment outside with your newly-acquired ingots.
9 The Dwemer Museum
Stealing from here can be a little more tricky than an average heist, as there are a number of guards patrolling the area. If you have the sneak skill, however, this place is a mine of valuable Dwemer materials.
It is also possible to lockpick into Calcelmo’s Laboratory. If you have the Wax Key perk, you can get all the way to the top, even without the usual requisite quest. His quarters have lots of potions, ingredients and gold stashed away, as well as more Dwemer items that can be offloaded for gold at the nearest fence.
8 The East Empire Company Warehouse
If you’re part of the Thieves Guild, you may find yourself coming here as part of the quest ‘Scoundrel’s Folly’ to trail the shifty Argonian Gulum-Ei. You don’t necessarily have to wait for that, though. The key can be pickpocketed from Gulum-Ei while he’s drinking in the Winking Skeever, or you can pick the lock.
There are many things to be found inside the place. Several chests, enough cheese to make Sheogorath stop in his tracks, and rare noble clothes. You can also find a wieldable table knife near the back of the warehouse. If you’re in the Thieves Guild, there is an East Empire Shipping Map that can be traded in to Delvin in the Ragged Flagon for a handsome fee.
7 Mistveil Keep
Riften’s Jarl is more of a face than an actual authority in the city of Riften. Maven Black-Briar holds the real reins of power there. That doesn’t necessarily mean Jarl Leila Law-Giver isn’t quite well-off. Sneaking into Mistveil Keep is quite worthwhile.
Downstairs in Anuriel’s bedroom, you can find a display case with three valuable necklaces, a ring, and a scattering of gems. Upstairs in the Jarl’s Quarters are several display cases with weapons and armor. You’ll also find a few coin pouches scattered throughout. You’d think the Jarl in a city full of thieves would keep some of the shiny things more closely guarded.
6 The White Phial
The White Phial can refer to a quest, and an item that is the object of the quest, though in this case it refers to the apothecary shop in Windhelm. Run by the grumpy, ailing Nurelion, this shop is, even by potion-shop standards, loaded with goodies. There are various valuable ingredients and potions scattered about. Just be careful when you enter for the first time.
There is a scripted scene between Nurelion and his assistant Quintus that may take place at any time of day, so could ruin and attempt to creep in unnoticed at night.
5 The College Of Winterhold
Skyrim’s premier institution of magical education, The College of Winterhold is an expansive place and has quite a few items sitting around for the taking. On joining, some will be available to freely take in the Hall Of Attainment, others, like most things in the Arcaneaum will be thoroughly under lock and key.
A trip into the Hall Of Countenance yields lots of valuable alchemical ingredients, as well as whatever you can lift from the tutors’ personal effects.
If you’re feeling brave, you can also dive into the Midden, which yields all sorts of strange and sometimes disturbing discoveries.
4 Thalmor Headquarters, Castle Dour
Who doesn’t dislike the Thalmor? They’re brutal, arrogant, and make everyone’s lives worse. It’s great to have a chance to bother them in any way possible, and if you can make some money as well, why not?
In Castle Dour, a door on one of the towers will bring you to the Thalmor Headquarters for the Imperial base. Scattered around are all kinds of valuables, from foods, to potions, to several display cases with weapons.
Even better, it is completely unguarded, as most of the Thalmor appear to be residing at the Embassy. So feel free to take your time checking the place, you won’t be bothered.
3 Bits & Pieces
As the pawn shop of the wealthy city of Solitude, Bits & Pieces yields a little of everything. It is possible to sneak in at night, though Kayd, the youngest of the family will sometimes be wandering around. Inside you can find potions, equipment, and a couple of display cases with weaponry.
If you can risk a trip upstairs, you will find the shop’s strongbox with its takings and other valuables just inside Kayd’s room. Careful on entering and exiting the place, as it opens right onto Solitude’s main street, and a lot of guards are patrolling.
2 Markarth Treasury House
As the name might suggest, the Markarth Treasury House is a very good place to fill up on valuables. Owned by the obscenely rich Silver-Blood family, the place is such a shameless display of wealth it’s almost inviting a quick burglary.
There are people around a lot of the time, though a high enough sneak skill makes their presence trivial. The big gate in the middle contains ingots and a safe. It’s tough to pick, though the key is usually on Thonar Silver-Blood.
If you’re supporting Madenach in the escape from Cidhna Mine, you may end up taking it off Thonar when the Forsworn are done with him.
1 Honningbrew Meadery
Honningbrew Meadery (or the second Black-Briar Meadery depending on your actions) is found a little way outside Whiterun, and its name gives a clue as to what you can expect. There is a lot of mead, a truly overwhelming amount. There is also a valuable decanter that can also be stolen and given to Delvin Mallory for a gold reward.
The real fun comes in when the Thieves’ Guild quest ‘Dampened Spirits’ is completed. Sabjorn is ousted from his ownership of the meadery, and his assistant Mallus Maccius becomes the proprietor and also a guild fence, if not an astute one. He will buy back mead that you steal from around the meadery, making it incredibly easy money.