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Norway vs Sweden: The key differences between life in Norway and Sweden


Today, we’re going to be covering the differences and similarities between Norway and Sweden. Here, you’ll learn what you can expect when you visit each of these countries, as well as what you might need to consider when migrating. Norway vs Sweden? You decide…

Choosing which stunning Scandinavian location to explore isn’t easy.

Though many of the regions throughout Scandinavia have similarities, like shared traditions and languages which may look and sound alike, each country is unique. The experience you get when you visit Sweden is a world apart from the one available in Norway.

In an ideal world, you’d be able to take your time adventuring through each part of Scandinavia at leisure. You could start in Sweden and work your way through to Iceland and beyond.

However, if you’re limited in your visitation options, or you’re looking for somewhere to settle, you need to make a more concrete choice.

If you’re considering visiting or living in either Norway or Sweden, this guide was created for you. Let’s dive in…

Norway vs Sweden: An initial overview

Whether you pick Norway or Sweden as your must-see destination, you can expect a wonderfully Scandinavian experience. Both countries share similar cultures, with magical traditions to explore, and breath-taking sights to enjoy.

Sweden is around 174,000 square miles in size, and it’s not a particularly cluttered or crowded place, with a population of just over 10 million. Sweden is a great place to visit if you’re looking to explore life in the great outdoors, and it also has a deep and varied culture.

It’s easy to get around thanks to public transport, and the locals are warm and welcoming too.

Norway is a little smaller than Sweden, at 148,729 square miles, Although the country is also far less populated, with only a little over 5 million residents. Much of Norway is covered in frost and fjords, making it less habitable, but incredibly beautiful.

The region is home to various world records, and it’s one of the best regions in the world for dramatic views.

If you’re looking for an outdoor adventure, both Sweden and Norway have a lot to offer, though each will give you a vastly different view.

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Norway or Sweden: What to expect from Sweden

Sweden, located on the Scandinavian Peninsula, is an eye-catching environment popular among expats for its wonderful quality of life. If you’re considering whether to visit Sweden or Norway, Sweden can promise a much simpler tourist experience, thanks to fewer fjords.

In Sweden, you can travel easily between must-see destinations like traditional villages and the beautiful Abisko National Park.

You can also learn about Sweden’s history with the Vikings at destinations like Sigtuna Viking Town or check out some of the local museums for a deep dive into the heritage of the locals.

Everything in Sweden is universally accessible thanks to a wonderful public transportation system. Sweden even makes it easier to visit other parts of Scandinavia, with roads leading between both Denmark and Sweden.

If you’re looking for the ultimate Swedish experience, it’s a good idea to start in Stockholm, where you’ll find tons of delicious Swedish food, as well as stunning sights, attractions and boutiques where you can spend your money.

Sweden is also home to locations like Malmo — a beautiful city capable of attracting tourists from all over the world with modern and historical architecture. You can even take a trip to Gothenburg and check out the bohemian Haga district.

Sweden vs Norway: What can you do in Sweden?

When it comes to choosing between Sweden or Norway, it’s worth checking out some of the wonderful things you can do in each region. Sweden is a lot greener than Norway, with tons of forests and beautiful landscapes to explore.

You’ll discover some wonderful wildlife here, alongside waterfalls and lakes which make you feel like you’ve stepped into a fantasy world.

There are more than 90,000 lakes in Sweden, but the region is about more than just flowing water. This environment is also home to popular brands like IKEA and Volvo, and tons of forward-thinking designers with their eye on a sustainable future.

While you’re in Sweden, it’s definitely worth checking out some of the local food, like the incredible smorgasbord, and local seafood.

You’ll also want to take some time learning about the history of the region with visits to locations like the Vasa Museum. This museum hosts the best-preserved 17th century ship in the world.

Beyond the city centers, you’ll find a unique range of experiences, like Gamla Stan (old town), and Drottingholm Palace, just a short distance from Stockholm.

There’s also the Liseberg Theme Park for families, and the Lund Cathedral if you’re looking for a glimpse of some wonderful architecture. 

You’ll love every moment spent exploring Sweden. However, if you do feel like a change of pace, you can always hop on the Oresund bridge in Malmo and make your way over to Denmark for a quick daytrip too.

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Norway or Sweden: What to expect from Norway

Sweden and Norway are vastly different in terms of scenery and experience. While Sweden is brimming with magical forests and lakes, Norway is packed full of sensationally beautiful fjords and icy locations.

While both countries are brimming with history and Viking heritage, Norway feels more like another planet with sights you won’t find anywhere else.

When you’re deciding whether to visit Norway or Sweden, make sure you think about your outdoor options. Norway is a great destination for hikers and those in search of a challenge.

You can visit UNESCO World Heritage sites, like Geirangerfjord, and check out some amazing waterfalls, or you can check out locations like Priekstolen and Pulpit rock.

Norway is a great location for budding photographers and checking out wildlife you may not see elsewhere in the world. You can even see whales if you visit the right location at the right time.

It’s worth noting, however, that it can be a little colder in Norway, so make sure you wrap up warm.

Aside from stunning landscapes, Norway is also home to the world’s longest road tunnel in the world, and it’s packed full of extremely happy people. Consistently, Norway is ranked among other Scandinavian destinations for being one of the happiest places in the world.

Should I visit Norway or Sweden? What to do in Norway

So, is Sweden better than Norway for things to do? Not necessarily.

Sweden definitely makes it easier to get around from one sight to the next with its public transportation system, but you should still have plenty to do if you visit Norway.

Start by checking out the amazing capital city of Oslo, where you’ll find some forward-thinking architecture and even heated roads to tackle the snow.

Oslo combines the natural and urban elements of Norway into a unique experience travellers love. You can also take the opportunity when you’re here to visit places like the Munch museum, or Viking Ship museum.

For outdoor fans, there are tons of opportunities to go hiking along the fjords, with trails for people at every experience level. Head over to Bergen as the gateway to the fjords and grab a guided tour to check out the scenery.

Outside of Bergen, there are plenty of other spots to soak up some natural beauty, like the Lofoten islands, where you can board a ship and interact with the locals.

Alternatively, why not take a trip to the Vigeland Sculpture Park, where you’ll see more than 650 sculptures created by the amazing Gustav Vigeland.

You can head to the largest city in Northern Norway (Tromso) or take some time out at the casual small town of Flam. There’s something here to suit almost every type of tourist, so Norway is great for entire families to visit.

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Sweden vs Norway: Which is better to visit?

For a trip into the heart of Scandinavia, both Sweden and Norway have a lot to offer.

On the one hand, you’ve got Sweden, where you can dine on delicious fish-based meals, buffet-style foods, and sip delicious drinks. Sweden is a little warmer than Norway, especially if you visit at the right time of year, and it’s easier to see more of the country in one go.

If you like the idea of splitting your days between nature walks among forests, museums, and shopping districts, then Sweden is a wonderful place for you. You can embrace the culture like one of the locals or get the full tourist experience with things like guided tours.

In Norway, you can expect a more dramatic selection of scenery and experiences. Norway is best known for its unforgettable fjords, and it’s also a wonderful place to check out natural phenomenon like the Northern Lights.

Norway has plenty of delicious food and drinks to explore, just like Sweden, as well as happy people who will welcome you into the area. You can check out cities like Oslo or break away from the rest of the world on a walk around some of the most beautiful natural environments in the world.

While the scenery is far more impressive in Norway for most people, you’re going to need more time and money to get around all the best attractions, as it’s not as easy to explore this unique landscape.

How is Sweden different from Norway for expats?

If you’re trying to decide whether to live in Sweden or Norway, you’ve got a much tougher decision to make. The first thing you should know is life in both of these countries can be wonderful. Scandinavian countries are known for their amazing quality of life.

Regions like Norway and Sweden are both ranked high on the list of cultural happiness, thanks to excellent work-life balance, wonderful employment opportunities, and a general sense of community.

The Nordic countries can be difficult to get used to at first, but once you settle in, you’re sure to fall in love with the experience.

Both Norway and Sweden require you to learn a new language if you decide to move there and learning Norwegian can be a little tougher than learning Swedish for some.

Both locations can also make it quite difficult to find a job, as employers in Norway and Sweden can hire from anywhere in the Nordic region to get the best talent.

On the plus side, if you do live in Norway or Sweden, you’ll benefit from things like excellent healthcare coverage, fantastic schooling opportunities for your children, and a wonderful environmental protection strategy.

Norway is the first in the world for environmental friendliness, and Sweden ranks close to the top too.

Both regions are low on crime, and both can be quite welcoming to new community members, so you shouldn’t worry too much about not fitting in.

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Should you live in Sweden or Norway?

When you’re deciding whether to live in Norway or Sweden, it’s worth noting both countries give you an excellent opportunity to absorb the best experiences in nature.

In Sweden, everyone gets the Right of Public Access, which means you can camp and walk anywhere you like, as long as you treat nature with the right respect.

Norway has the same kind of right, where you can walk around freely, as long as you protect nature, and don’t leave any trash wherever you go. Norway is a bit more restrictive with things like camping — as you can only stay for one day wherever you go.

In both countries, it feels extremely liberating to have the freedom to go wherever you choose.

Norway does have a few more limitations for locals, including restrictions on where you can build farms or use the land for architecture. This could be down to the fact Norway has limited liveable spaces due to all the fjords.

Norway is usually considered to have a bit of a “little brother” complex when it comes to Sweden. There’s a lot of competition between the two countries, because Sweden is more populated than Norway.

However, the two locations do share a lot of similarities. For example, you can find stories about trolls and other magical creatures in Norway and Sweden.

Sweden is also a little kinder to some of the wildlife, as they don’t support things like whale hunting. While you can still sometimes go whale hunting in Norway, although it’s becoming more of a taboo topic. Additionally, Sweden is a little more restrictive with alcohol.

In Sweden, you can find low-percentage alcohol in the supermarkets of up to 3.5%, Norway sells alcohol in the supermarkets up to 4.75%, and everything else needs to come from a specialist retailer. Both countries follow a similar approach to distributing alcohol, like most Nordic countries.

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Is Norway more expensive than Sweden?

If you’re choosing whether to live in Norway or Sweden, you’ll need to consider the costs associated with both locations. Norway and Sweden have a lot of similarities, but Norway can be a lot more expensive when it comes to food and restaurant prices.

Eating at a restaurant in Norway will cost around 35% than it does in Sweden. Buying groceries is up to 34% more expensive.

The price of meals throughout both countries will vary depending on where you choose to eat. There are a lot of high-quality restaurants in Sweden where you’ll expect to pay a lot more. In terms of general living costs, the amount you spend will often depend on where you choose to live.

When you move to Sweden, the most expensive places to live will often be the regions tourists visit most often, like Stockholm. The same applies in Norway, with Oslo often measuring up as more expensive than places like Bergen.

Sweden has about 10% higher purchasing power than Norway, even though you can earn more with a career in Norway.

Rent is much more expensive in Norway than Sweden, up to 32% higher in fact. This is why a lot of people who work in Norway will actually live outside of the country and commute every day.

Of course, the exact price you’ll expect to pay for life in Norway or Sweden will depend heavily on a lot of different factors. Make sure you do your research before you plan your transition.

It’s also worth thinking about other expenses you may need to consider, such as the price of transportation if you’re going to be using public transport or owning your own car.

Choosing between Sweden vs Norway

Both Sweden and Norway are among the top places in the world to visit and live. If you just want to visit the best destination in Scandinavia, we’d recommend planning to go to all of the regions whenever you can.

Usually, you can move between Scandinavian regions quite easily when you’re there, so you can split up your days however you choose.

If you’re planning on going to just one destination, then we’d recommend checking out Norway if you’re interested in dramatic sights and incredible experiences. The fjords are definitely worth adding to your bucket list of sights to see, and there are great opportunities to view the Northern Lights too.

If you’re searching for wonderful outdoor adventures in green spaces, as well as plenty of opportunities to learn about the history of a destination, and experience local fare, then Sweden is a good choice.

Sweden is a happy and comfortable place, ideal for people who want to get outdoors, but not expose themselves to too many challenges at once.

If you’re looking to live in a new Scandinavian region, then it might be tougher to make your decision. As mentioned, Norway is a lot more expensive than Sweden in a lot of ways, but it also has higher salaries, and wonderful sights to see.

Sweden is less expensive, but it can be a little more densely populated than Norway.

Sweden vs Norway? You decide!

Scandification: Discovering Scandinavia.

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Iceland and Greenland, how they differ

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