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Stockholm or Copenhagen?

We are considering a vacation in western Norway to visit the fjords. Afterwards, we will have about four days to visit one Scandinavian city. We have narrowed our choice down to Stockholm or Copenhagen. We were wondering whether anyone who has visited both cities has a preference and why. (We are not really museum people, generally confining our museum visits to one or two when we visit a city. Mostly we like to putter about looking at architecture and absorbing the atmosphere of the city. The possibility of a day trip to look at the natural surroundings is always appealing.) Thank you.

Posted by
44 posts

Susan, you give both cities a try with 4 days? We did it a couple years ago but if that is moving too fast I understand. I can say Western Norway was the highlight of our Scandinavian trip. Both cities you're looking at have great architecture and vibe. I will agree Stockholm is a bit more stiffer. Tivoli in Copenhagen is fun place to check out--beautiful grounds. Gamla Stam was very expensive but is fun to walk around in. I did get out the country in Denmark but it sounds like you wouldn't have enough time to visit Aero Island-really enjoyed. Good luck--tough choices!

Posted by
4521 posts

I really prefer Stockholm which I think is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. There is water everywhere (the city itself is on 14 islands) you turn and it is a great city to walk around. With four days, you could easily take a day trip to one of the islands in the archipelago. Just google "Stockholm photos" ... that might convince you.

Posted by
4521 posts

A few more comments on Stockholm. I felt that I had to come back and defend it after reading that people think Stockholm is stuffy! I've never felt that way ... but I lived in Stockholm for a couple of years so perhaps I am biased; I've only spent a few days in Copenhagen. Even if you don't like musuems much, don't miss the Vasa museum (a wonderful museum and the story of how they raised the ship is fascinating). The Stadshuset (City hall where the Nobel dinner is held ... make sure to take an English tour as the guides are excellent) is also a great visit. Gamla Stan (the old town) is very nice. You can also visit Drottningholm either by taking the boat or a combination of subway and bus. The gardens are beautiful and there is an interesting theatre from the 1700s on the grounds. Uppsala is a good day trip (about 45 minutes from Stockholm by train). It is a university town with a large cathedral. If the weather is nice, you could also take a boat to one of the islands on the archipelago; I particularly like Utö. Another nice day trip is Gripsholm Castle in Mariefred.
Östermalms Saluhallen (www.ostermalmshallen.se)is an indoor food market that sells produce, cheeses, baked goods, etc. It is a great place to pick up things for a picnic and there are also a couple of places in the market where you can eat. You will see lots of traditional Swedish foods. There are other food markets at Hötorget and in Södermalm, but I think the one in Östermalm is the most impressive and traditional. Another place that I love for lunch is Rosendals Trädgårdscafe www.rosendalstradgard.se. This is an apple orchard and garden on Djurgården (the island in Stockholm where Skansen and the Vasa museum are) which has a wonderful café that makes excellent sandwiches, salads, and baked goods. It is very Swedish ... sit outside at picnic tables in the orchard.

Posted by
11798 posts

Been to both, liked Stockholm, loved Copenhagen. IMO Copenhagen has a much larger list of things to do and see in and around the city. We stayed nearly six days and didn't see everything we would have liked. In town there are palaces, parks, art and history museums, a long pedestrian mall, canals, Tivoli - lots of putting around/people watching opportunities. Outside of town, you can train west to Roskilde for the Cathedral and Viking Ship museum (more open air boat building, less "museum"), north to Helsingor for Kronborg castle or further to family beaches, or northwest to Rosenborg Palace and it's gardens. Stockholm has a really nice downtown and we loved visiting the Vasa museum. After those I'd recommend spending some time in the Djurgarden parks or visiting nearby Uppsala. We didn't think Skansen, or the other ship museum near Vasa, was worth the time. Are people stuffy? I never thought that was a problem. Like the Scots in UK, Swedes are stereotyped as country bumpkins in Scandinavia. In Sweden's case, I can see where the stereotype comes from, workers in Skansen knew nothing about the history of Sweden (or even where to find an ATM). We picked up wine in a liquor store downtown and the clerk literally couldn't spell a simple word (she reminded me of how Tigger spells his name in Winnie the Pooh, "T-I-double guh-ER" (but remember, she was speaking to us in her second language). On the other hand, a teacher friend, in the US, says they have one of the best education systems in the world (because teachers are held in very high esteem). Draw your own conclusions.

Posted by
4521 posts

Brad, That is interesting. In Sweden, the Norwegians are stereotyped as being the "country bumpkins" of Scandinavia :) with the Danes being stereotyped as hedonists. I always thought the Danes stereoptyped the Swedes as being arrogant. I can't say that Brad's experience matches my own, but I've only spent 3 or 4 days in Copenhagen and it was overcast and raining the entire time. I've spent more than 2 years in Stockholm, so got to benefit from many lovely days and got to know many great people. It seems a bit unfair to draw conclusions about a country's education system based on a clerk at the Systembolaget. Regardless of which city you choose, I don't think you can go wrong.

Posted by
284 posts

My vote would be for Stockholm. Copenhagen is far more continental than either Oslo or Stockholm, and I think the natural beauty of Stockholm surpasses Copenhagen quite easily. Four days is a nice amount of time to see the city and explore the surrounding area.

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you very much to everyone who responded. It's all very helpful, although I'm not sure that the decision has become any easier. I do like the comments about not going wrong whichever city we may choose. For us, I'm afraid it will have to be one or other, at least for this trip. We generally like to stay in one place for several days and get to know the area in depth. Of course, the trade-off is that we travel to fewer places. However, we all have our own styles of travel and whatever works for each of us is best. Thanks again.

Posted by
1395 posts

You are absolutely right, Susan, you can't go wrong with either destination. We have stayed a week in each spot on different trips - stayed in one spot and did sights from there. Stockholm is gorgeous, but we loved both cities and found much of interest in both locations. We are going back in July with our granddaughters - only Copenhagen this time.

Posted by
12040 posts

For the record, Rosenborg Slot is the palace in the middle of Copenhagen. I only spent a few hours in Stockholm, but in that time, I got the distinct impression that it's the most metropolitan and busiest of the four Nordic capitals. I found it quite a bit more colorful than Copenhagen, but that may be because I've seen too many episodes of "The Killing"... One big distinction between Copenhagen and Stockholm is that the former is far easier to navigate by bicycle.

Posted by
4522 posts

You really won't go wrong with either, both are wonderful cities with friendly, beautiful people. The others have well covered the things to do in each. I'll add that Stockholm's setting will remind you of Vancouver. Taking a ferry ride out into the archipelago is a must and has stunning beauty. The Gamla Stan is as good an old town as any other intact Medieval European city. Copenhagen is flat but scenic with the canals. An easy city to stroll on foot or bike. Some easy daytrip opportunities too. With just 4 days, I might suggest Copenhagen. Plenty of time to see the city and do at least one daytrip. I strongly suggest those that go to Stockholm take a few days to take the overnight ferry to Helsinki and/or Tallinn. Since you only have 4 days, save that trip for next time with more time to do it justice.

Posted by
11246 posts

I'll agree with those who say you can't go wrong. I would choose by which one are you less likely to be able to return to easily in the future. In other words, if you think you will have an opportunity to go to Copenhagen on a future trip, pick Stockholm for this trip. If that fails to help, flip a coin.

Posted by
3 posts

Yes, we really did discuss "flipping a coin" and it does remain an option. The interesting thing is that, when we first started talking about visiting Scandinavia, the choice was between the west coat of Norway and Stockholm/Helsinki/Talinn by ferry. We ultimately decided on fjord Norway, together with certain small towns/cities, e.g., Bergen, Alesund, Trondheim. However, when we talked about itineraries, we realized that there would be 4 days or so unaccounted for. So, then the Stockholm/Copenhagen debate ensued. If we are fortunate enough to return to Scandinavia at some point, it would likely be to do some sort of Baltic cruise, whether by ferry or by larger ship, that would include St. Petersburg as well. So that may weigh in favour of Copenhagen this time. Many thanks again for all the input. (I really must buy lottery tickets more often. Then these sorts of delightful choices would not arise. We'd simply get on our private jet and go. In the meantime, we should probably get out a "loonie" (the Canadian $1.00 coin) or "toonie (the Canadian $2.00 coin) and just make a decision!)

Posted by
11798 posts

Ron is right. I meant Frederiksborg Slot northwest of the city. Rosenborg is in the city. Yes there is a rivalry in Scandinavia (like the rest of Europe). Talk to a Dane and they'll tell you why they are better to visit than Norway or Sweden. Talk to a Swede or Norwegian and they'll tell you why they think they are superior. That's why you have to draw your own conclusions.

Posted by
30 posts

I haven't been to Stockholm but I did go to Copenhagen in the summer of 2011. It's a pleasant city but it seemed like everywhere I went, there was SO much construction which was a bit of an eyesore. Even with the tourists sites, there was some sort of renovation going on. Last I remember, the city was constructing a major upgrade to one of it's metro stations in the heart of the city with a completion date of 2014 or 2016...I can't remember. My friend did take me to Palace, New Harbour, saw the Opera House from across the water which was quite relaxing. Not sure what the the scene is now but next time I visit Copenhagen, hopefully much of the construction would be cleared up.

Posted by
12040 posts

"Not sure what the the scene is now but next time I visit Copenhagen, hopefully much of the construction would be cleared up." I visited last spring. I didn't notice any more building renovation or construction than would be typical of a city of Copenhagen's size. However, I did see quite a bit of street renovation, and the work on the metro station previously mentioned (I think it was Nørreport).