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Stockholm vs. Copenhagen: Which should you visit?

Scandinavia is a beautiful place, brimming with incredible destinations to explore. Whether you’re keen to see for yourself what Denmark is famous for, or you’re interested in sampling the unpredictable weather in Oslo, there’s something for everyone in this Nordic landscape. 

Possibly the biggest decision that many travelers make when they’re exploring Scandinavia for the first time is which capital city they’re going to visit first. 

In the choice of Copenhagen vs. Stockholm, you’ll have a lot to consider, from access to arts and culture, to the locals that you’ll meet on your travels.

The good news? No matter which direction you choose to go in, you can expect a vibrant place packed with culture and history. 

Although you’re ultimately the only person who can make a choice between Copenhagen or Stockholm, we’re here to help you make a more informed decision.

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Stockholm vs Copenhagen: Culture and art

If you don’t have the budget to travel from Stockholm to Copenhagen as part of your adventure, then you’ll need to make your choice between the two cities according to whatever matters most to you. 

For instance, if you’re a fan of culture and art, Copenhagen and Stockholm have something wonderful to offer. 

Lovers of incredible Scandinavian design consider Copenhagen to be their go-to destination. The Design Museum Denmark showcases everyday items like gloves and chairs into must-see exhibitions. 

However, you can also find traditional artwork in the National Gallery of Denmark. This location is home to paintings dating back to the 14th century. 

The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek with ancient Roman and Greek sculptures is a great option too. 

If you’re happy to go on a bit of a Danish day trip, you might even visit Frilandsmuseet — the open-air museum that allows visitors to travel to Danish villages from centuries ago, complete with horse-drawn carts, windmills, and timber houses. 

So, how does Stockholm compare? 

Well, let’s start with one of the most eye-catching exhibitions that Stockholm has to offer — the Vasa Museum. Here, you’ll see a 17th-century warship that is now the only one like it in existence. 

Stockholm, like Copenhagen, also has an open-air museum, where you can check out houses, farmsteads, and other old-fashioned destinations. 

We couldn’t reference culture in Stockholm without a brief shout-out to the ABBA museum too. This interactive exhibition is a testament to the incredible accomplishments of one of the world’s most famous bands. 

If you’re looking for contemporary art in Stockholm, you’ve got plenty to choose from, ranging from the Wetterling Gallery that opened in 1978, to the Fotografiska, which stages international photographers.

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Stockholm vs Copenhagen: Historical architecture

When you’re deciding “Is Copenhagen better than Stockholm?”, there’s more to think about than just arts and culture. Both Denmark and Sweden are very well-known for their incredible historical architecture, including lots of ancient palaces and castles. 

In Copenhagen, you’ve got the Rosenborg castle, a historical museum, showcasing amazing sights from the 17th century. There’s the Christiansborg palace, which provides fantastic tours of opulent stables and royal palace destinations. 

Another amazing option, and perhaps one of the most beautiful, is the Amalienborg palace. 

The Amalienborg palace comes equipped with a dainty cobblestone square, changing of the guards (just like in London), and beautiful ornate buildings. 

You’ll have the opportunity to visit various rooms in this space, including the King’s study and the Queen’s salon. If you want a break from all the royalty, you could also take it easy with a walk around Nyhavn

Home to famous fairy-tale writer Hans Christian Andersen, Nyhavn is a popular tourist spot. It’s also beautiful from an architectural perspective, thanks to the charming, multi-colored houses along the harbor. 

Stockholm has plenty of historical architecture of its own to boast about, of course. 

The must-see destinations here start with the Royal Palace, a Baroque Italian structure with regular changing of the guards and a parade of soldiers. Guests can tour various museums here, including the royal stables. 

If you’re looking for a glimpse into the 17th century, then you could check out the Lakeside Karlberg palace instead. Alternatively, take a trip back through time with the stunning Kastellholmen castle. 

Stockholm is unique in its architecture for a variety of reasons. Although you can find plenty of old-fashioned historical buildings here, there’s also a wide variety of modern structures. 

For instance, in the suburb of Kista, you’ll see the Victoria tower, which is around 386 feet in height.

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Stockholm vs Copenhagen: Food & drink

Food and drink is an important part of any Scandinavian adventure. As a port city, Copenhagen is naturally swimming with seafood. The waterways surrounding the city are a massive supply of food. 

If you want to enjoy a traditional meal when soaking up the weather, pickled herring is a popular choice. However, the Danish are also huge fans of meatballs. 

If you’ve checked out some popular Danish dishes before, you may have also heard of the open-faced sandwich, the smørrebrød. Usually, this dish consists of bread piled high with cold cut meats. It’s an excellent lunch-time treat. 

Danes are particularly famous throughout Europe for their wide selection of pastries, generally known as wienerbrød. These flaky and buttery products generally contain chocolate or fruit.

If you’re keen to enjoy as much food and drink as possible from Denmark during your Copenhagen trip, make sure that you make reservations in advance. Some of the Michelin-starred restaurants in the location are often sold-out well ahead of time. 

Stockholm isn’t without its culinary delights either. Swedish locals enjoy eating foods that are comforting and warm — often to help them get through cold winters. 

Meatballs and dumplings are a popular choice. Herring also finds its way onto Swedish menus frequently. 

The Lingonberry is an appealing fruit in Sweden, and it’s usually in jam form — offering a unique kick to various plates. Another interesting taste that you’ll get in Stockholm will be salty black liquorice — which many people agree is an acquired taste. 

Sweden has a considerable coffeehouse culture, so you can find plenty of opportunities to chat to a local by sitting down at a café. You might also have a chance for a quick snack break with some delicate pancakes — although these are often a dessert-style treat. 

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Stockholm vs Copenhagen: People and authenticity

Whether you visit Stockholm for its live music festivals or Copenhagen for the Vestamager nature area, one of the first things you’ll notice about both regions is how wonderful the people are. 

Copenhagen is the home to various Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales, so it’s unsurprising that this location has a lot of child-friendly appeal. 

The entire city is anchored around a unique amusement park, where you can see people having fun at all ages. You can also take the whole family to snap a picture with the Little Mermaid statue at the waterfront. 

As a destination deeply entrenched with fairy tales, it’s probably no surprise that the people in Copenhagen are genuinely magical. These wonderful people are warm and creative. 

Many are happy to chat with tourists, and even answer questions when you’re walking around, exploring the available destinations. 

You can also check out Copenhagen’s innovative side, by visiting its Planetarium, among other locations. 

Both Copenhagen and Stockholm are decent places to visit if you’re looking for authenticity, beauty, and wonderful people. Tourists haven’t quite overrun these cities yet, so they’re still a hidden gem for many travelers. 

In Stockholm, the Vasa Museum represents a great place for kids to visit, as it gives them a chance to explore the closes thing, they’ll get to an authentic pirate ship. There’s Grona Lund amusement park on the same island of the Vasa, which offers plenty of thrills and chills. 

Sweden’s open-air museum also allows children to explore Swedish life with a zoo, farmsteads, and more. 

Stockholm is a little more spread-out than Copenhagen, which means that you’re less likely to worry about crowds. However, like Copenhagen, you can rely on the people to be warm and welcoming, with a friendly demeanor that doesn’t go sour. 

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Stockholm vs Copenhagen: Travel and day trips

In the battle of Copenhagen vs Stockholm, it’s also worth considering the nearby locations you can visit. Whether you travel to Copenhagen or Stockholm, or even from Copenhagen to Stockholm, you’ll encounter plenty of surrounding attractions, cities, villages, and towns. 

Copenhagen is a compact central city, which means that you can travel around most of it on foot. Walking and biking are excellent choices for getting around, and you can check out places like the metro, and busses too.  

If you feel like venturing outside of the city, Copenhagen offers day trips to Sweden and Malmo — the third-largest city in Sweden. 

You can also visit Odense, where you’ll discover tons of wonderful, cobbled streets, lined with houses painted in various amazing shades. Bakken amusement park is a must-visit. There’s also a forest surrounding Bakken that’s a UNESCO site

Copenhagen, along with the rest of Denmark, is free to enjoy as much alcohol as it likes. You can buy spirits in various convenience stores and supermarkets, as well as alcohol boutiques. It’s also much cheaper to buy alcohol in Denmark than in Sweden. 

Compared to Copenhagen, Stockholm’s attractions are a little more spread-out. You’ll find places to visit across the various islands, but it’s easy to traverse the landscape thanks to a comprehensive public transit system. 

If you’re keen for a day trip, you can once again take the journey to Malmo if you’re looking for something truly unique. 

Explore some sun and sea in Islands Brygge, or get lost in the many pretty castles and palaces within reach. 

If you’re looking for nightlife, the bars and nightclubs in Sweden and Denmark are similar. However, there’s a big difference between these two destinations if you’re wondering where to buy alcohol. 

In Sweden, like much of the Nordics, the government heavily regulates the sales of alcohol. 

This means if you’re looking to buy anything beyond a weak beer, you’ll need to go into a bar or in a specialist store. The stores selling alcohol generally close quite early throughout the day, and they’ll close completely on Sunday. 

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When to choose Copenhagen 

The choice between Copenhagen vs Stockholm is a tough one for any traveller to make. However, some things might appeal to you more depending on your preferences. 

Copenhagen is the perfect destination for travellers who want a short-term vacation or prefer to discover a city by bike or foot. Picturesque neighbourhoods are everywhere. 

There are tons of amazing pieces of architecture to discover, and plenty of places to go if you’re looking to stay inside the city or just go on a brief day trip. Denmark is also home to various historical personalities, including Hans Christian Andersen and Niels Bohr. 

Copenhagen is home to Nyhavn, a canal where you can explore some of the heritage and history of the city. There’s also the Niels Bohr Institute, which was founded by a Nobel Prize winner in 1921. 

Alternatively, you can check out cultural events and music festivals. 

Through the spring and summer months, Copenhagen is an excellent place to visit, but you can also check out some fantastic experiences during the colder months, like the Culture Night. 

For a really special experience, keep an eye out for the music festivals of the city, covering a range of genres from ambient music to jazz, electronica, and metal. 

Another bonus of Denmark is that the rules on alcohol aren’t particularly strict. If you like having a nice drink with your friends, then Denmark could be a good place to go. You can definitely soak up the sun in the summer with a cold beer or two. 

If you’re looking for things to do, you’ll never run out of amazing destinations in Copenhagen. There are endless unique places to explore, and everything is close enough together that you can hit multiple spots with one bike ride

Copenhagen is brimming with wonderful sights and experiences for those who love architecture, art, and even fairy tales.

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When to choose Stockholm

So, is Stockholm better than Copenhagen, or is the opposite true? 

Well, if you’re looking at Copenhagen vs Stockholm and you’re swaying in the Swedish direction, then you might note that in Stockholm during the winter, you can ski almost anywhere. 

Swedes sometimes skate over frozen lakes in the colder months and enjoy plenty of snow during the holidays — which makes this a picturesque location for a family winter. 

In terms of local public transport, most locals agree that the metro system in Stockholm is a work of art. There are 110 stations to explore (compared to just 22 in Copenhagen). Additionally, you’ll be amazed by the things that you see when you’re on the underground too. 

This is essentially the world’s largest and longest art gallery, with stations that feature artwork from sculptures and paintings, to mosaics. 

Stockholm and Copenhagen have historical city centres, and one of the most beautiful, eye-catching archipelagos in Europe. 

There are around 30,000 islands extending for about 80 kilometres along Sweden’s East Coast. You can escape the city here and kayak around the water in the summer months. 

There’s also the option to check out one of Sweden’s many islands if you have a regular bus ticket or transportation card handy. 

Sweden is also an obvious choice if you’re looking for an insight into the world’s best design and fashion. Stockholm is a household name around Europe for its amazing fashion labels. The location is even responsible for some of the clothes you might wear every day, from companies like H&M, Mark O’Polo and Cheap Monday. 

If you’re more of a fan of interior design than clothing design, remember that Stockholm and Sweden are also responsible for companies like IKEA! 

While Copenhagen probably beats Stockholm in terms of variety and amazing things to do, it’s Stockholm that gets ahead of the game in terms of beauty and visual attraction. 

Stockholm is one of the most stunning places in the world — and somewhere that everyone should see once. 

Stockholm or Copenhagen: Finishing thoughts

So, which one is it for you? Stockholm or Copenhagen?

Ultimately, it’s a difficult decision for anyone to make. In our opinion, you should never try and choose between Copenhagen vs Stockholm, because there’s always a reason to visit both destinations. 

However, if you’re stuck on a budget right now and can only afford to check out one iconic space in Scandinavia, then hopefully the guidance above will assist with your decision. 

Copenhagen is one of the most versatile and engaging places in the world, with countless things to do and see, and plenty of amazing culture and heritage. 

In Copenhagen, you’ll meet some of the world’s nicest people and eat some of the most delicious food — including stunning pastries that make your mouth water!

Copenhagen also offers a host of ways to branch out and explore the world around you. If you’re willing to travel a little out of town, you can visit a host of other spaces — including making the trip to Stockholm! 

On the other hand, Stockholm is a beautiful place that harnesses the wonder and warmth of the Swedish people. This must-see environment is packed full of beauty, with so many unique pieces of architecture and special places to visit. 

Stockholm has an edge over Copenhagen in terms of visual appeal alone, but it can lack a little when it comes to things to do and nightlife. If you’re hoping for a night on the town, then you might not have the best experience in Stockholm. 

For some people, Copenhagen just has that extra gritty edge that makes it more appealing to people of all ages. 

Why choose one?

Our advice? 

If you have a little extra time to save up for your trip to Scandinavia, why not make the plan to visit both locations instead? It really doesn’t cost too much to update your visit to Copenhagen with a quick train visit to Stockholm. 

You could even split your time away in half and spend several days in each destination. 

Only you can answer the question “Is Stockholm or Copenhagen better?” But we think that the only way you can come up with a comprehensive answer is to experience the unique vibe of each city for yourself. 

Spend a day or two soaking up the vibrancy of Copenhagen, and the amazing night life that Denmark has to offer. 

When it’s time to relax and unwind with the family, head over to Stockholm for a taste of some of the most amazing home comforts you’ll ever experience. 

Scandification: Discovering Scandinavia.

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