Copenhagen or Stockholm: Which City to Visit?

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by Olivia Ellis


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Is Copenhagen or Stockholm the right city for you? The Scandinavian capitals are two of the most visited cities in the region, both with beautiful surroundings, and thriving scenes of art and culture, with a truly stylish air that’s unrivalled anywhere else in the world.

Perhaps you only have time to visit one of the two, or your budget will only allow you to visit one. In that case, you’ll likely want to dive deeper into what sets the cities apart and makes them both unique.

While Copenhagen might be the better choice if you’re after an edgier city with modern art and thriving nightlife, Stockholm has more Nordic history and is slightly more affordable. However, there is a lot more to unpack when comparing Stockholm and Copenhagen.

Copenhagen

Home of the Little Mermaid and consistently holding the title of the best restaurant in the world, the city of Copenhagen has grown to become one of the most thriving capital cities.

From offering visitors a generous glimpse into the past at Nyhavn Harbour to proudly becoming a major hub for modern architecture and sustainability, the city is incredibly exciting.

Copenhagen is a quintessential “cool” city with some of the most exciting food & beer scenes and the title of one of the happiest cities in the world. 

Nyhavn Harbour in Copenhagen
Nyhavn Harbour in Copenhagen

Accessibility

The accessibility of a city is an incredibly important factor when planning a trip and choosing a destination to visit. Luckily, Copenhagen is an incredibly accessible city with reliable transport and walkability. 

It’s possible to reach the city center of Copenhagen from Copenhagen’s Kastrup Airport in just under half an hour on the metro, giving you abundant time to enjoy the city even if you’re visiting for a quick city break.

Copenhagen also has a central station in the city center with rail links connecting throughout Denmark as well as the rest of Scandinavia and even to German cities like Hamburg. You can view schedules here.

The city’s public transport system is efficient and well-organized. Public transportation options range from trains, city buses, and even zero carbon-emission boats traveling along the city’s coast, cutting a lot of time in comparison to buses and metro.

Copenhagen is a pretty compact city, making it a walkable destination especially if you’re planning on mainly exploring the city center. If you prefer to skip public transport and would like to take quicker transportation than your own two feet, herein lies the bicycle.

Copenhagen is the most bike-friendly city in the world and within moments of entering the center of the city, you’ll see how cycling is such an important part of the city’s culture.

Cycling is a quick, efficient, and health-conscious way to explore the city as well as an opportunity to experience Copenhagen like a local. Bikes can be rented throughout the city, and you’ll also find electric scooters to rent at an affordable cost.

If you’re torn between Stockholm or Copenhagen and you’re interested in biking throughout your trip and choosing more sustainable transport, Copenhagen is the best option. 

Bikes parked in Copenhagen
Bikes parked in Copenhagen

Affordability

The affordability of your destination will likely be a large factor when deciding between Copenhagen or Stockholm to visit. In this category, Copenhagen comes out below Stockholm.

Copenhagen is one of the most expensive cities to visit in Europe and you’ll want to plan much of your trip in advance to keep costs as low as possible.

To give you a better idea of prices and affordability in Copenhagen vs Stockholm, I’ve compared what are most likely the 3 most important costs of a trip for both destinations.

First off, the average hotel room cost. In Copenhagen, this starts at around $100 per night for a budget hotel and can increase to an average of $150-200 per night for mid-range to upmarket hotels.

They can likely be less or more expensive depending on how far you book in advance as well as the time of year. For example, if you visit Stockholm or Copenhagen in the winter months, costs will likely be more affordable than in the summer months.

Conversely, the average cost of a hotel room in Stockholm comes out slightly cheaper. While the cost is only slightly more affordable in Stockholm, if you intend to stay for more than a few days, it will take a dent in your budget.

Transportation costs in Copenhagen and Stockholm are roughly the same, so this shouldn’t impact your decision-making too much.

Finally, where prices can really vary between are in restaurant prices. While Copenhagen is known for its gastronomic scene, you can expect to pay a high price, with an average of $40 per person for a sit-down meal in a casual mid-range restaurant. 

Tourists in Stockholm, expect to pay an average of $20 per person for a sit-down meal in a casual mid-range restaurant. Notice that the costs in Copenhagen are double that of a meal in Stockholm. 

With that being said, the two most significant costs of a trip; accommodation and food are noticeably higher in Copenhagen than in Stockholm. You can save some money in the Danish capital by purchasing the Copenhagen Card if you plan on going to a lot of attractions and using transport frequently.

These are still the average prices so if you stay in a hostel or mainly eat street food or food from a local supermarket, prices will be lower at both destinations. But all in all, Copenhagen is more expensive than Stockholm. 

Copenhagen skyline
Copenhagen skyline

Things To Do In Copenhagen

Copenhagen is a city flourishing with things to do and is a city of booming culture in a wide array of areas.

If you’re someone into design and architecture, Copenhagen is an incredibly exciting destination to visit. In fact, in 2023, Copenhagen was designated the World Capital of Architecture. Even just wandering around the city you’ll get an idea that the old-style architecture is still given thanks, but the modern design takes lead in the Danish capital city.

You’ll also find quite a few design and art museums in Copenhagen worth the visit such as the world-famous Louisiana Museum of Modern Art and the Design Museum. If you’re a food or craft beer lover, you’ll also find it hard to be at a loss for things to do in Copenhagen.

From an extensive range of restaurants and cafes to one of the best craft beer scenes in the world, Copenhagen is a land mine of new, delicious, and unique spots to eat and drink at, particularly in neighbourhoods such as Nørrebro and Vesterbro.

Even if you’re traveling on a budget, spending time wandering the city by bicycle by the canals is a wonderful way to get to know Copenhagen and see what truly makes this city unique and such a popular destination. 

You can also spend time out on the canals of Copenhagen, touring the Royal Palace, exploring the bizarre area of Freetown Christiania or seeing the colorful buildings of Nyhavn.

The Danish capital is also home to one of the oldest theme parks in the world, Tivoli Gardens, located right in the center of the city.

And if you’re interested in exploring some of the surrounding area, consider going on one of many day trips from Copenhagen, including to nearby Malmo, Sweden or to Helsingor, the setting of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

The world-famous Tivoli Gardens
Tivoli Gardens

Where to Stay in Copenhagen

Ascot Hotel – Situated in a historic, 19th-Century building, this hotel in the center of Copenhagen is an excellent choice. Situated within a stone’s throw of all the Danish Capital has to offer, they have many wonderful rooms to choose from, as well.

The Square — Those looking for a hip and trendy place to stay in Copenhagen will love this hotel, located moments from the famed Tivoli Gardens. They have a range of cool clean and comfortable rooms to choose from and plenty of other amenities to ensure you have the best stay possible. 

Copenhagen Downtown Hostel — If you’re looking for a budget option when visiting this notoriously expensive city, then this hostel is a great option. Located in the city centre. they have a number of both dorm and private rooms available, excellent common spaces, 24-hour reception, and even a bar on site!

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Copenhagen hotels!

Christiansborg Palace
Christiansborg Palace

Stockholm

Head further north in the Scandinavia region and you’ll find yourself in the Swedish capital city, Stockholm. While Copenhagen has an edgier feel to it, Stockholm is the definition of Nordic style and flair. 

Composed of 14 islands as its archipelago, Stockholm is an incredibly stunning city rich in history, and style, with one of the biggest coffee and cafe cultures in the world as well as the most museums of any global city. 

Accessibility

Stockholm’s main airport is Arlanda Airport, and from there you’ll be able to reach the center of Stockholm in around 40 minutes via the Arlanda Express. This train line is a company independent of the Stockholm metro or Swedish rail, making it more expensive than taking the metro in the city.

When comparing Stockholm vs Copenhagen, you’ll likely save more money on airport transfer in Copenhagen than Stockholm as the Danish capital has metro transport connecting the airport and the city.

From Arlanda Airport, you’ll arrive at Stockholm Central Station. From here you can either leave to explore the city or you can also continue to other Swedish or Scandinavian destinations. 

The city of Stockholm is marginally bigger in population than Copenhagen and the city size itself is a lot more spread out than condensed Copenhagen. If you’re someone that prefers to mostly walk around in a city, getting around in Stockholm may be more of a difficult feat for you unless you’d like to stay in the precise center of the city.

Stockholm may not be the world capital for city cycling, but it’s still a great way to get around the city, especially with the large number of green areas and parks that the city offers. With that being said, even though Stockholm is large and quite spread out, it also has a brilliant transportation system including metro, bus, city ferry, and tram transport.

It’s also pretty safe to say that in both Stockholm and Copenhagen, you won’t need to rent a car for your stay unless you plan on venturing out of the city, and even in that case, both countries have wonderful train transport. 

Stockholm Metro Station
Stockholm Metro Station

Affordability

Having already gone through a comparison of costs in both Copenhagen and Stockholm, it’s apparent that Stockholm is the more affordable city of the two.

Accommodation and food are both observably more expensive in Copenhagen compared to Stockholm, but Stockholm still isn’t a cheap city to visit in comparison to further south European destinations. Plan well and ahead and you’ll manage to get the biggest value for your Stockholm trip budget.

Another thing worth pointing out regarding prices in Stockholm is alcohol. Sweden is quite strict when it comes to alcohol and that’s reflected in the country’s state-run liquor monopoly.

Alcohol is noticeably more expensive in Sweden than in neighboring Denmark and anything over 3.5% ABV can only be purchased at these government-run shops, which also close quite early and aren’t open every day. Because of this, alcohol at bars and restaurants in Sweden is quite pricey as well. 

As for costs such as coffee and museum and attraction fees, costs are relatively quite affordable and pretty on par with most other European capital cities. 

Vasa Museum in Stockholm
Vasa Museum in Stockholm

Things To Do In Stockholm

As mentioned before, Stockholm is the city with the largest number of museums in the world, at just under 100. This leaves plenty of museum options when visiting the Swedish capital, and you’ll likely find something for everyone.

Whether you’re an ABBA fan and would like to visit the ABBA Museum, or you’re a history buff and are keen to explore the Vasa Museum, a maritime museum displaying an almost fully intact 17th-century ship that had been salvaged after sinking in 1628, you’re in luck.

Sweden is also said to be the home of the highest coffee consumption worldwide and it’s easy to understand that title when you visit the many cafes within the city. The coffee is strong, the pastries are delicious, and the environment is both cozy and stylish at the same time. 

Being the city of islands, it’s also a fun adventure to visit some of the nearby islands near the center of the city. This is something best done in the summer, but just a 20-minute ferry ride away to the neighboring islands of Fjäderholmarna and you’ll feel like you’re somewhere far off in rural Sweden, soaking up the sun and enjoying an ice cream and fresh seafood. 

Stockholm is also one of the most beautiful Scandinavian cities. Whether you’re wandering around the harbor, shopping in the modern side of the city full of futuristic design, or strolling through idyllic Gamla Stan (old town), your eyes will be in for a feast.

Fjaderholmarna island
Fjaderholmarna island

Where to Stay in Stockholm

Scandic No 53 – Located within easy reach of the Swedish capital’s top attractions, this hotel is a great base for mid-rage visitors to Stockholm. They have a range of lovely rooms on offer, an excellent location for exploring the city and there’s even an on-site bar.

Downtown Camper by Scandic – If you’re looking for something a little bit more upmarket, then this centrally-located 4-star hotel is an excellent choice. They have several great rooms to choose from, are situated perfectly for exploring the highlights of Stockholm and they have plenty of other amenities for guests to enjoy.

Gamla Stan Apartments – These apartments are an excellent choice for those looking for their own space in the Swedish capital. They have many flats to choose from, ranging in size, and a perfect location for exploring all Stockholm has to offer.

Castanea Old Town Hostel – If you’re travelling solo or on a tight budget, then this hostel is an excellent choice. Centrally located, they have both dorm beds and private rooms to choose from, good self-catering facilities and are one of the highest-rated hostels in the city.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Stockholm hotels!

Beautiful Stockholm
Beautiful Stockholm

Copenhagen vs Stockholm: The Verdict

When exploring the upsides and downsides of both Stockholm and Copenhagen to visit, both are great options. Ultimately, where you decide to visit will likely depend on your personal interests as well as your needs when planning a trip.

If you’re searching for somewhere to visit on the more affordable end, I would choose Stockholm over Copenhagen. The costs aren’t significantly higher in Copenhagen than Stockholm, but the main costs will add up quite quickly.

For those looking for greater accessibility in a city and would like to move around as effortlessly as possible, I’d recommend heading to Copenhagen.

Both cities are extremely beautiful with rich history and design; if you’re looking for modern art/design and an edgier city, head to Copenhagen. If you’re someone searching for more classic art and history with Nordic flair, Stockholm will likely best suit your interests.

As for nightlife, both cities are vibrant options but Copenhagen comes out ahead with a larger nightlife scene with cheaper and more available alcohol options.

Both cities are wonderful cities to head to for a winter break. Whether you’re keener on enjoying classic Danish hygge or heading out to ski in Sweden, Stockholm or Copenhagen are cozy and fun spots to enjoy winter.

Last but not least, both cities are prime destinations for things to do and ways to spend your trip.

Whether you head to Copenhagen or Stockholm, you won’t be at a loss for ways to fill your time and explore the city. 

Are you struggling to decide between visiting Stockholm and Copenhagen? Have any questions about these cities? Let us know in the comments!

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Olivia is a writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from Michigan, USA, she is currently living in Athens, Greece exploring Europe and filmmaking. When she’s not travelling or writing, Olivia can be found cooking delicious new recipes from around the world, reading, and spending time outdoors.

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