If you’re looking for the perfect Nordic adventure, you may be trying to decide between two of the region’s most beautiful cities: Copenhagen or Stockholm.
These two cities are both known for their stunning architecture, rich history, and delicious food. But which one is the better destination for your next trip?
In this article, I’ll pit Stockholm vs Copenhagen in a battle of the cities, and see which one comes out on top.
So grab your Viking helmet, and let’s dive into the best of Copenhagen and Stockholm. Whether you’re looking for culture, history, food, or outdoor activities, we’ve got you covered.
Let the battle begin!
Is Stockholm or Copenhagen better?
Both Copenhagen and Stockholm offer good food and drink options, beautifully historical buildings, great cultural experiences and are easy to get around. Stockholm is slightly cheaper than Copenhagen, but Copenhagen has a better food scene and, overall, tends to be more popular with tourists.
Of course, one city being more touristy than the other doesn’t necessarily make it better. Instead, it’s going to largely come down to personal preference.
And with the massive comparison of Stockholm vs Copenhagen differences and similarities below, you’ll be perfectly placed to decide which one is better to visit for you.
Related: 17 Best Places to Live in Sweden (for Your Best Swedish Life)
Must-dos for visitors to each city
Stockholm and Copenhagen have plenty to offer visitors to each city, with a great mix of history and more modern culture to take in. While of course there’s much more than the following, this at least shows you some of the most popular spots in each city to visit.
In Stockholm, that includes:
- Gamla Stan: Stockholm’s old town, known for its narrow streets, colorful buildings, and historic landmarks, including the Royal Palace, the Stockholm Cathedral, and the Nobel Museum.
- Vasa Museum: A museum dedicated to the Vasa, a 17th-century warship that sank on its maiden voyage and was salvaged in the 20th century.
- Skansen: An open-air museum and zoo that showcases traditional life in Sweden and culture, with more than 150 historic buildings, including houses, farms, and workshops.
- ABBA The Museum: A museum dedicated to the iconic Swedish pop group, with a wide range of interactive exhibits, memorabilia, and live performances.
On the other hand, in Copenhagen, don’t miss the following:
- Tivoli Gardens: A historic amusement park and gardens in the heart of Copenhagen, with rides, gardens, restaurants, and theaters.
- The Little Mermaid: A famous statue based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, located on a rock in the harbor (and yet only one of several mermaids of Denmark!)
- Nyhavn: A picturesque waterfront area with colorful buildings, restaurants, and bars, known for its charming atmosphere and historic sailing ships.
- Rosenborg Castle: A 17th-century castle in the center of the city that was once the home of the Danish royal family, now open to the public as a museum.
- Christiania: Christiania has a unique culture and way of life that is unlike anywhere else in the world. Visitors can experience this culture firsthand by walking through the community, visiting its shops and cafes, and interacting with the locals. Just make sure you Google it beforehand to know what you’re getting yourself into (and to learn some of the do’s and don’ts for when you’re there).
Stockholm and Copenhagen have fairly similar climates, despite Stockholm being further north.
For the question of Stockholm vs Copenhagen in winter, then sure, Stockholm is slightly colder. Both do, however, have fairly mild, dark winters overall (yes, it gets dark in Sweden in winter, but the sun does rise even in winter in Stockholm). They also both get a fair amount of wind and rain year round.
Similarly, summer is mild in both cities and they each have the characteristically long days that make visiting Scandinavia in the warmer months so great.
You’re more likely to get snow in Stockholm as while Copenhagen often gets a dusting, it tends not to stick around much. If you want a winter wonderland, at least to some extent, the Swedish capital may be the way to go.
Both Stockholm and Copenhagen are known for their vibrant food and drink scenes, but there are some key differences to be aware of. In particular, Nordic cuisine is having a moment these days, with a focus on fresh, local ingredients and innovative, modern twists on traditional dishes.
Copenhagen is seen as the capital for this in the region, where you’ll find a mix of Danish and international cuisine, with a strong emphasis on locally-sourced ingredients and organic produce.
If your budget can handle it, you should try to visit one of the best restaurants in Copenhagen, which are regularly ranked amongst the best in the world. These include:
- Noma, a Michelin-starred restaurant known for its innovative Nordic cuisine and local ingredients
- Geranium, a Michelin-starred restaurant known for its modern, elegant dishes and beautiful rooftop location
- Relæ, a Michelin-starred restaurant known for its contemporary, sustainable cuisine and focus on organic ingredients.
(And don’t forget the Danish pastries and other great Danish bread products you can get at a bakery on every corner!)
That said, Stockholm can certainly hold its own. While you’ll find a wide range of traditional Swedish dishes there, from hearty stews and meatballs to fresh seafood and crisp, light salads, you can also go more upscale. Some of the best restaurants in Stockholm include:
- Oaxen Krog, a Michelin-starred restaurant known for its innovative Nordic cuisine and beautiful waterfront location
- Gastrologik, a Michelin-starred restaurant known for its modern, seasonal dishes and local ingredients
- Operakällaren, a classic, elegant restaurant known for its traditional Swedish cuisine and fine dining experience.
When it comes to drink, Stockholm is known for its strong coffee culture and wide range of microbreweries, although Copenhagen easily matches that with one of the best craft beer scenes in the world, thanks to its long history of brewing.
Stockholm has a vibrant bar scene, with a wide range of bars, pubs, and clubs to choose from. In particular, it has a number of great cocktail bars, where you can enjoy creative, expertly-made drinks. Some of the best cocktail bars in Stockholm include Pharmarium, Kvarnen, and Brasserie Bobonne.
Stockholm also has a number of excellent wine bars, which offer a wide range of wines by the glass, as well as food and other drinks. Check out Primeur, D.O.C., and Gondolen.
However, Copenhagen nightlife is renowned in Scandinavia thanks to the number of bars it has on offer. Depending on your taste, try Nørrebro Bryghus, a microbrewery known for its wide range of local beers and live music; Ruby, a chic, stylish bar known for its creative cocktails and relaxed atmosphere; or Mikkeller, a popular craft beer bar with a wide range of international and local beers on tap.
There’s also no shortage of wine bars in Copenhagen, with Vinkælderen, 108, and Vinstue 90 being particularly good spots for a glass or two. And if you’re not sure how to spend your night, head somewhere like the Meatpacking District in Copenhagen where you can get a taste of everything in the one place!
Architecture and design
When it comes to architecture and design, both Stockholm and Copenhagen have a lot to offer.
Stockholm is known for its stunning waterfront, with its colorful buildings and beautiful parks, as well as its mix of old and new architecture. You’ll find a mix of medieval and modern buildings throughout the city, from the imposing Royal Palace to the sleek, modern Opera House.
In particular, make sure you pass by the following key architectural marvels:
- Old town: Stockholm’s old town, known as Gamla Stan, is a great place to see the city’s historic architecture, with its narrow, winding streets and colorful buildings. Highlights include the Royal Palace, the Stockholm Cathedral, and the Nobel Museum.
- Modern architecture: Stockholm is also home to a number of impressive examples of modern architecture, including the City Hall, the Opera House, and the KTH Royal Institute of Technology. These buildings showcase the city’s innovative and forward-looking approach to design and architecture.
- Wooden houses: Another distinctive feature of Stockholm’s architecture is its wooden houses, which can be found throughout the city. These houses are often painted in bright, cheerful colors, and are a unique and charming part of the city’s architectural landscape.
In Copenhagen, the architecture is equally stunning, with its beautiful cobbled streets, colorful buildings, and charming canals. In particular, keep an eye out for the following:
- Cobbled streets: One of the most distinctive features of Copenhagen’s architecture is its cobbled streets, which can be found throughout the city. These streets are lined with colorful, picturesque buildings, which give the city its charming, historic feel.
- Canals: Another key feature of Copenhagen’s architecture is its canals, which crisscross the city and are lined with beautiful, historic buildings. Some of the most impressive canals to see include the Nyhavn and the Christianshavn Canal.
- Modern architecture: Despite its historic charm, Copenhagen is also home to some impressive examples of modern architecture, including the Royal Library, the Opera House, and the Black Diamond. These buildings showcase the city’s contemporary and cutting-edge approach to design and architecture.
The city is also home to some of the world’s best examples of Scandinavian design, from its iconic furniture and textiles to its cutting-edge fashion and accessories (including some amazing Danish shoe brands). There’s a reason, after all, it’s often referred to as “Danish design” internationally.
You may also be interested in: 9 Best Cities to Live in Denmark (For Your Best Life)
Museums and galleries
Both Stockholm and Copenhagen are cultural hubs, with a wide range of museums, galleries, theaters, and other cultural attractions to explore.
In Stockholm, you’ll find a mix of traditional and contemporary art and culture, from the historical collections of the Swedish National Museum to the modern installations at the Fotografiska gallery.
The Vasa Museum, which is dedicated to the famous 17th-century warship that sank on its maiden voyage, and the ABBA The Museum, which is dedicated to the iconic Swedish pop group, are both also worth a visit.
Stockholm is also home to a number of excellent galleries, including the Moderna Museet, which has a wide range of modern and contemporary art; the Fotografiska, which has a focus on photography; and the Millesgården, which has a collection of sculptures and outdoor installations.
In Copenhagen, the focus is more on contemporary art and culture, with a thriving music and nightlife scene and a wide range of galleries and performance spaces. Both cities also offer a wide range of festivals and events throughout the year, from music and film festivals to food and drink events.
Some of the best museums to visit in Copenhagen include the National Museum of Denmark, which has a wide range of exhibits on Danish history and culture; the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, which has a large collection of ancient and modern art; and the Rosenborg Castle, which is a 17th-century castle that was once the home of the Danish royal family.
Copenhagen also has a number of excellent galleries. This particularly includes the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, which is a must-see with its wide range of contemporary art and sculpture. The Arken Museum of Modern Art, which has a focus on modern and contemporary Danish art, and the Nikolaj Kunsthal, which has a wide range of contemporary art and exhibitions, are also great spots for art fans.
You may also be interested in: Sweden vs the US: 13 Key Similarities (+ 24 Major Differences)
Canals and waterfront
Both cities are known for their canals and waterfront areas, which have long been an important part of each place’s history and culture. These are lined with old (and newer) buildings and, on a nice day, people enjoying what the water has to offer, so spending some time wandering the canals or waterfronts is always a great part of a trip to either Stockholm or Copenhagen.
(You can also rent boats by the hour to drive around each city’s canals which I seriously can’t recommend enough, it’s so fun to do.)
Stockholm’s main canal is the Strömmen, which runs through the heart of the city, and is surrounded by a number of historic buildings, museums, and other attractions. Djurgårdsbrunnsviken, the Karl Johanssons Kanal, and the Riddarfjärden are examples of other canals in Stockholm.
For Copenhagen, the city’s main canal (which is actually a harbor, but many people mistake it as a canal) is Nyhavn, which is one of the city’s most famous and picturesque landmarks – it’s the one with all the colorful buildings along it, if that rings a bell.
Other canals in the city include the Christianshavns Kanal, the Slotsholmen, and the Frederiksholms Kanal.
Day trips from Stockholm and Copenhagen
If you have time, there’s also plenty to see in the rest of Sweden and Denmark. These day trips are a great way to see a bit more of the country and are all super easy to get to from the capitals.
In Sweden, take a look at the following:
- Drottningholm Palace: A UNESCO World Heritage Site located just outside of Stockholm, with a beautiful palace, gardens, and theater.
- Mariefred: A charming town located on Lake Mälaren, known for its historic buildings, including the Gripsholm Castle and the Mariefred Convent.
- Sigtuna: Sweden’s oldest town, located just outside of Stockholm, with a charming old town, historic churches, and beautiful lakeside views.
- Grinda: A small island located in the Stockholm archipelago, known for its peaceful atmosphere, beautiful nature, and hiking trails.
On the other hand, you could take a few hours to see the following outside of Copenhagen:
- Louisiana Museum of Modern Art: A world-renowned museum located just outside of Copenhagen, with a wide range of contemporary art and sculpture.
- Kronborg Castle: A UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the town of Helsingør, known as the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
- Roskilde: A historic city located just outside of Copenhagen in the heart of one of the biggest fjords in Denmark, with a beautiful cathedral, a Viking ship museum, and a vibrant music festival. In fact, given the age of this city, it’s one of the best places in Denmark for Viking tourism.
- Frederiksborg Castle: A stunning castle located in the town of Hillerød, with beautiful gardens, a moat, and a large collection of historical artifacts and art.
Both Sweden and Denmark have royal families, with their long histories having resulted in some beautiful buildings for you to visit today. In most cases, you don’t even need to enter each palace or castle to fully appreciate them.
In Copenhagen, make sure you include the following on your itinerary:
- Amalienborg Palace: Amalienborg Palace is the home of the Danish royal family, and is one of the main palaces to visit in Copenhagen. The palace is made up of four identical buildings, which surround a central square, and is a great place to see the changing of the guard. And if you turn around, you’ll be faced with the so-called Marble Church, one of the most beautiful churches in Copenhagen.
- Rosenborg Castle: Rosenborg Castle is another of the main palaces to visit in Copenhagen. The castle was built in the early 17th century, and is an impressive example of Renaissance architecture. Today, the castle is open to the public, and houses a collection of royal treasures, including crown jewels, tapestries, and furniture.
- Christiansborg Palace: Christiansborg Palace is the third main palace to visit in Copenhagen. The palace is located on the small island of Slotsholmen, and is home to the Danish parliament, the supreme court, and the royal reception rooms. Visitors can take guided tours of the palace, which offer an overview into its history and architecture, as well as its current role as the center of Danish political life.
For Stockholm, don’t miss the following:
- Royal Palace: The Royal Palace is the main palace to visit in Stockholm. The palace was built in the 18th century, and is an impressive example of Baroque architecture. Today, the palace is open to the public, and houses a number of museums, galleries, and other attractions, including the royal apartments, the royal treasury, and the royal stables.
- Drottningholm Palace: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this palace is located on the island of Lovön, and is the private residence of the Swedish royal family. It’s an impressive example of Baroque architecture, and is surrounded by beautiful gardens and parkland. Visitors can take guided tours of the palace to take in its history and architecture, as well as its current role as the royal family’s private residence.
- Skokloster Castle: The castle was built in the 17th century, and is an impressive example of Baroque architecture. Today, the castle is open to the public, and houses a collection of art, furniture, and other treasures from the era. Visitors can take guided tours of the castle, which provide an insight into its history and architecture, as well as its current role as a museum and cultural center.
- Gripsholm Castle: Gripsholm Castle is another of the main palaces to visit in Stockholm. The castle was built in the 16th century, and is an impressive example of Renaissance architecture. Today, the castle is open to the public, and houses a collection of art and historical artifacts, including paintings, furniture, and other treasures.
Both cities are famous for their bicycle infrastructure and it’s for this reason that getting around by bike is often by far the easiest and quickest way to see each city – not to mention that it’s a great way to feel like a local!
For some reason, cycling is one of the things that Denmark is famous for, but Sweden should absolutely get credit for this as well.
Each of them has a wide network of dedicated bike paths, which make it easy and safe to get around the city by bike. These paths are clearly marked, and are separate from the roads, so you don’t have to worry about cars or other vehicles.
So if you can rent a bike for the time you’re visiting Stockholm or Copenhagen, you won’t regret it. They both have a number of bike rental companies, which allow you to rent a bike for a day, a week, or longer.
Other ways to get around
If you’re not keen on bike riding, then public transport is great in both Copenhagen and Stockholm. They both have an excellent network of buses, trams (in the case of Stockholm), trains, and metro (underground) lines.
At the same time, if the weather allows it, they’re both also very walkable. In particular, the Old Town in each city is quite small so once you’re in the main area, there’s really not much reason to need public transport to see the main sights.
Of course, as two major cities, taxis are readily available in both Stockholm and Copenhagen, and you can hail them on the street or book them in advance. They can, however, be relatively expensive, so they may not be the best option for longer journeys or for those on a budget.
Even for getting from each city’s airport, I’d really recommend you get a train or metro rather than a taxi. It’s going to be quicker and far cheaper.
Stockholm and Copenhagen are both generally safe cities, with low crime rates and high levels of public safety.
However, like any large city, it’s always a good idea to be aware of your surroundings and take basic safety precautions to ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable trip.
Pickpocketing can occur in the main tourist areas of each city, but isn’t common. The most likely crime you’ll encounter is if you hire a bike, as failing to secure it properly can result in your bike suddenly going missing. For this reason, make sure you tie it well to something to deter would-be thieves.
Related: 31 Best Reasons to Move to Sweden
Cost of visiting
Neither city is overly cheap to visit, reflecting the high costs across Scandinavia in general.
In particular, expect relatively high prices for accommodation, food, and attractions – or at least more than you may pay in other European cities.
However, there are also ways to save money, such as staying in budget hotels, eating at local restaurants, and taking advantage of free or discounted attractions.
In general, I’d say that Copenhagen is slightly more expensive to visit than Stockholm, but the difference isn’t significant.
Is Stockholm worth visiting?
Stockholm is definitely worth visiting and makes for a fun weekend trip (or longer!) for anyone looking for a solid mix of history, culture, nightlife and nature. While the weather isn’t always ideal and it’s not cheap to visit, Stockholm offers a lot to visitors wanting to see a great Scandinavian capital.
In particular, the highlights are definitely as follows:
- Cultural attractions: Stockholm is a great city to visit for its cultural attractions, including its museums, galleries, and theaters. Some of the city’s main cultural highlights include the Vasa Museum, the Moderna Museet, and the Fotografiska.
- Food and drink: Stockholm is also known for its excellent food and drink, with a wide range of restaurants, cafes, and bars to choose from. The best restaurants and bars include Faviken, Oaxen Krog, and Fäviken Magasinet, although there are more budget-friendly options that are just as good..
- History and architecture: Stockholm is also a great place to visit for its rich history and beautiful architecture. The city’s old town, known as Gamla Stan, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is home to a number of beautiful, historic buildings, such as the Royal Palace and the Stockholm Cathedral.
- Outdoor activities: Stockholm is also a great city for outdoor activities, with a number of parks, gardens, and green spaces to explore. Some of the best outdoor attractions in the city include the Djurgården, the Royal National City Park, and the Skansen open-air museum.
Is Copenhagen worth visiting?
Copenhagen is definitely worth visiting and is becoming much more popular thanks to its food scene. When combined with its history and beautiful architecture, the city is a great place to see. Just be aware of your budget and the fact you should always have a coat or umbrella nearby.
It’s cliched to say that there’s something for everyone, but I genuinely believe that to be the case with Copenhagen.
- Cultural attractions: For cultural attractions, including its museums, galleries, and theaters, Copenhagen is a fantastic city to visit. The National Museum of Denmark, the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, and the Tivoli Gardens are a few of the city’s top landmarks.
- Food and drink: The vast selection of restaurants, cafes, and pubs make Copenhagen a great place for food and drink, including that it’s home to (literally) some of the best restaurants in the world.
- History and architecture: “Wonderful Copenhagen” isn’t just a marketing slogan thanks to its fascinating history and stunning architecture. The Royal Palace and the Round Tower are only a couple of the older buildings that can be found in the city’s historic center, called Indre By, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Outdoor activities: With so many parks, gardens, and other green spaces to explore, Copenhagen is also a fantastic city for outdoor activities. The King’s Garden, the Copenhagen Lakes, and the Botanical Gardens are among of the city’s top outdoor attractions.
- Location: Finally, Copenhagen is a great destination to visit because of its convenient location (Denmark isn’t far from Germany, for example, if you want to combine your trip with some other European countries), which makes it easy to access from other parts of Europe and the world. The city is well-connected by air, rail, and road, and is a great starting point for exploring the rest of Denmark and the surrounding region.
Stockholm vs Copenhagen: Which is better to visit?
While both cities offer so much, if you have to choose one to visit, I would suggest visiting Copenhagen. Its cultural and historical attractions are excellent, its restaurant and bar scene is superb and the city itself is beautiful, making it a great choice for anyone wanting to visit a Nordic capital.
It’s a tough call though. As always, it ultimately comes down to personal preference when deciding whether it’s better to visit Copenhagen or Stockholm. Both cities are beautiful, historic, and culturally rich, with a range of attractions, museums, galleries, restaurants, bars, and other things to see and do.
Copenhagen is known for its charming, historic center, its beautiful canals, and its world-class museums, such as the National Museum of Denmark and the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. It’s also home to Christiania, the self-proclaimed autonomous neighborhood that is known for its unique culture and way of life.
Stockholm, on the other hand, is known for its stunning waterfront, its beautiful old town, and its world-class museums, such as the Vasa Museum and the Moderna Museet. You’ll also find a number of beautiful palaces here, such as the Royal Palace and the Drottningholm Palace, which offer a glimpse into the city’s royal history.
One big point in the Swedish capital’s favor is that it’s slightly cheaper than its Danish counterpart. That said, the difference isn’t really enough to swing the vote in its favor (as, honestly, neither of them are going to be an overly cheap trip for you).
In the end, the decision of whether to visit Copenhagen or Stockholm comes down to personal preference, and what you’re looking for in a travel destination. Both cities have a lot to offer, and are well worth a visit for anyone interested in the history, culture, and beauty of the Nordic region.