Oslo vs Stockholm: Which City to Visit?

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by Emily Marty

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The Scandinavian capitals of Stockholm and Oslo are both popular destinations among tourists worldwide. For those needing to choose between one or the other, the question of Oslo vs Stockholm can be a tricky one. Both cities have their own distinct identities and lots to offer, so how do you choose between the two? 

In general, Oslo is a great option for nature enthusiasts looking for a compact city with easy access to some of Scandinavia’s most dramatic landscapes and nature reserves. On the other hand, Stockholm is great for history buffs looking for a cosmopolitan city break.

If you’re trying to pick which to visit, then read on! In this guide, we’ll be breaking down the major differences between the cities to help you figure out which one you should be heading to on your next Scandi city break. 


While on the smaller side, Norway’s capital city, Oslo, has plenty to see and do. It’s home to some unique museums, gorgeous nature reserves, is incredibly safe, and is very compact and walkable to boot. 

Royal Palace in Oslo
Royal Palace in Oslo


Oslo is home to two international airports (Gardermoen and Torp) which both have connections across Europe and beyond as well as within Norway. The larger of the two is the Gardermoen airport.

You can also reach Oslo from nearby cities within Norway (such as by the famed Bergen to Oslo train) and even by bus from cities like Gothenburg in Sweden.

Perhaps one of the best parts about visiting Oslo is how simple it is to get around the city. The Olso city centre can easily be traversed on foot, and the rest of the metropolitan area is quickly accessed via the comprehensive public transport network.

Public transit in Oslo consists of trams, buses, ferries, and a metro, with services operating late into the night. If you plan to use a lot of transport in the city, you should consider purchasing an Oslo Pass.

In fact, if you’re planning on sticking predominantly to central Oslo during your trip there, then hiring a car can be more of a hindrance than anything else.

Parking is expensive and isn’t always that easy to come by; besides, the city is so easily navigated via public transport that you’re unlikely to save much time by driving anywhere yourself. 

Oslo Town Hall
Oslo Town Hall


Norway is one of the most expensive countries in the world, and, naturally, this is something that visitors to Oslo certainly notice! 

All the basics, including groceries, eating out, accommodation, drinks, and so on, are considerably costlier in Oslo than they are in Stockholm.

Norway on the whole is more expensive than Sweden, so you can expect to pay more for the same goods even in rural parts of Norway than you likely would in Stockholm city. 

The only real exception to this rule is that public transport prices in Oslo and Stockholm are more or less identical.

This is maybe worth keeping in mind if you plan on using public transport extensively on your holiday and are still weighing up whether to visit Stockholm or Oslo, but, by and large, given how much pricier Oslo is in every other respect, it’s unlikely to make much of a difference. 

Both are home to a number of museums and attractions with free entry. Otherwise, most activities – be they museums, concerts, and so on – are a fair bit pricier in Oslo than they are in Stockholm. 

Norsk Folkemuseum
Norsk Folkemuseum

Things to Do in Oslo

Oslo, as a relatively cosmopolitan, relaxed city, has plenty to offer visitors. While smaller than Stockholm, it boasts a wide range of museums, many of which are fairly unique.

For instance, the Munch museum is dedicated to, well, Munch, the Norsk Folkemuseum is a massive open-air exhibit of traditional ways of living and architecture across the centuries, Vigeland Park is a lovely outdoor sculpture park and there are a number of other museums in the Bygdøy district provide visitors a great opportunity to learn about Norway’s most successful seafarers and navigators. 

It’s worth noting that the famed Viking Ship Museum is currently closed for renovations, so this isn’t something you should be looking forward to visiting if you’re planning a trip to Oslo in the near future.

No visit to Oslo is complete without taking in the Akershus Fortress – also referred to as the Aksrshus Festning in Norwegian. This is one of the top things to see in the city.

Oslo is also home to the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, which is held at Oslo City Hall annually. If you want to learn more Oslo, you can consider booking a walking tour or going on a bike tour.

Fans of metal music are sure to love Oslo, too, thanks to its thriving underground music scene and the impressive number of venues, festivals, and record shops dedicated to heavy music. It’s also known for its craft beer bars and is an ideal destination for enthusiasts of more exotic kinds of alcohol, provided that the prices aren’t too offputting. 

Nature enthusiasts will love Oslo for its proximity to peaceful, relatively unspoilt nature; indeed, the city’s nature reserves, known as the Oslomarka, are largely accessible from the city centre via public transit.

A number of providers also operate cruises along the Oslofjord (Oslo Fjord) from the city, which are a great way to immerse yourself in the beauty and majesty of the Norwegian natural landscape. 

Perhaps one of the most exciting times to visit Oslo is during Norwegian Independence Day, which falls on the 17th of May. Norwegians are, on the whole, deeply patriotic, and the 17th of May is one of the biggest days of the year in Norway.

Many Norwegians take to the streets wearing their regional traditional dress (bunad), which is truly a sight to behold (and far less common to see in the other Scandinavian countries, with the exception of the Faroe Islands).

So, if you’re especially interested in immersing yourself in different cultures during your travels, then visiting Oslo during the 17th of May is a fantastic way to do so. Note that it’s also a public holiday, so public transport typically runs a reduced service and not all shops will be open.

Akershus Fortress in Oslo
Akershus Fortress in Oslo

Where to Stay in Oslo

Hotell Bondeheimen – Located in the centre of Oslo, this 3-star hotel is perfect for those after a clean and comfortable place to stay in the Norwegian capital. They have many rooms to choose from along with plenty of other great amenities.

Clarion Hotel Oslo – Luxury travellers will love this hip and modern hotel located in the centre of Oslo. Situated close to all Norway’s capital has to offer, they have a range of cool rooms to choose from along with a great location for exploring the city.

Frogner House Apartments – These apartments are great for those who’d like to have their own flat while visiting Oslo. They have several fully-furnished flats to choose from along with an excellent location for seeing the highlights of the city.

K7 Hotel Oslo – This hostel is perfect for those looking to stick to a budget while visiting Oslo. Centrally located, they offer both dorms and private rooms along with good common areas and self-catering facilities.

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

Oslo harbour
Oslo harbour


The elegant Swedish capital of Stockholm is easily one of Europe’s most alluring cities. A must-visit for history and culture enthusiasts, Stockholm is sure to impress, no matter what you’re into!


Stockholm is home to Arlanda Airport, a large, international airport without countless connections within Sweden and abroad. The Swedish capital is also easily reached from other cities within the country and via ferry from cities such as Tallinn, Riga, Helsinki and more. You can view schedules here.

Central Stockholm, while larger than Oslo’s downtown area, is still reasonably compact and walkable. Public transport in Stockholm is also excellent; you can navigate the city via its bus, ferry, metro, train, and tram networks. There are also overnight services on Friday and Saturday nights in case you’re planning on going out on the town. 

Just like in Oslo, hiring a car in Stockholm can end up being more trouble than it’s worth. Parking isn’t always that easy to come by in central Stockholm and can also be fairly expensive.

Given that the city is on the smaller side and how reliable and comprehensive its public transit is, you’re unlikely to really need a car unless you want to be able to go on day trips to the surrounding countryside. 

Stockholm Metro Station
Stockholm Metro Station


When people consider visiting Oslo or Stockholm, the cost associated with travelling to Sweden and Norway often comes up. To put it simply, neither of these places are what you’d call affordable destinations.

Now, with that being said, on pretty much all counts, the prices in Stockholm tend to be somewhat cheaper than Oslo.

The price of an average meal out in Stockholm, for example, will usually set you back several euros less than what you would expect to pay in Oslo, which means you can fill up on delicious local seafood and other specialities for less than you would in the Norwegian capital.

By the same token, groceries are also more affordable, which is good to keep in mind if you’re planning on catering for part or all of your stay. 

If you like going out or sampling the nightlife of the places you travel to, then you’ll be pleased to know that alcohol is also somewhat cheaper in Stockholm than it is in Oslo.

Consider, for instance, the fact that it’s fairly common for residents of the Norwegian cities on the Swedish border to drive to Sweden to buy groceries and alcohol. Sweden may still be one of the most expensive countries on earth, but it’s all relative! 

Note that, just like in Norway, a major reason for the high cost of alcohol is the hefty government taxes levied on it. If you’d like to drink during your trip to Stockholm but are travelling on a budget, then purchasing your alcohol at the airport will be your best bet, as you can get it duty-free. 

Vasa Museum in Stockholm
Vasa Museum in Stockholm

Things to Do in Stockholm

One of Stockholm’s most-visited and iconic attractions is the Vasa Museum. It makes for an incredibly unique experience; the entirety of the Vasa, an enormous 17th-century warship, has been salvaged, restored, and put on display in the museum. You can learn about the history of the ship, as well as the process of retrieving it from the water and restoring it after it sank on its maiden voyage. 

Additionally, Stockholm is home to a number of other world-class museums; there’s the ABBA Museum, which needs no introduction, the open-air museum of Skansen, the photography gallery of Fotografiska, the Swedish History Museum, and a number of other, smaller galleries, too. 

You’ll also want to check out Stockholm’s royal palaces; not only is Sweden’s Royal Palace in Stockholm, but the gorgeous Drottningholm, which is about an hour away from central Stockholm via the metro, is well worth a visit. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, too.

While Oslo is home to Norway’s royal palace, it doesn’t quite match the splendour and charm of Sweden’s castles. 

Royal Palace of Stockholm
Royal Palace of Stockholm

Gamla Stan is also a must-see; Stockholm’s old town, which is located on its own island, boasts some incredibly distinct architecture and absolutely oozes fairytale charm. You can take this walking tour or this bike tour to learn more about this part of the city.

The brightly-coloured buildings of Gamla Stan help it feel cheerful and cosy, even on the dreariest of winter days. This is the perfect place to try some traditional Swedish baked goods, too; the cinnamon buns are to die for!

Cruises of the Stockholm Archipelago are a lovely way to get to see some of the Swedish landscape. The Stockholm Archipelago consists of some 30,000 islands, and a cruise is the perfect opportunity to take in some quintessentially Scandinavian vistas. A number of companies offering cruises operate right out of downtown Stockholm, which is very convenient, too. 

If you want a truly unique insight into Swedish culture during your trip, then you may want to plan to visit Stockholm during Midsummer’s Eve.

Swedish Midsommar is one of the absolute festive highlights of the year; an ancient pagan festival, many of the traditions practised during Midsommar, including dancing and burning bonfires, have remained unchanged for centuries. 

To really take your Midsommar experience to the next level, you can also make the most of the opportunity to try some very Swedish delicacies. Potatoes are typically eaten around this time of year, as are fresh strawberries, Aquavit, and pickled herring (which is certainly not to everyone’s taste!). 

Note that Midsummer’s Day is a public holiday in Sweden, so if you are visiting during this period, expect for public transit to be disrupted to an extent, and for other services to be operating at a limited capacity. 

Old Town of Stockholm

Where to Stay in Stockholm

Scandic No 53 – A good mid-range option in the centre of Stockholm, this hotel is a great place to rest your head in the Swedish capital. They have several great rooms on offer along with plenty of amenities and an on-site bar.

Downtown Camper by Scandic – This 4-star hotel is perfect for those looking for a bit of luxury while visiting Stockholm. They have lovely and elegant rooms to choose from along with a perfect location for exploring the capital.

Gamla Stan Apartments – These apartments are an excellent choice for those who’d rather have a self-catering option in Stockholm. They have fully-furnished flats to choose from along with an excellent location in the city.

Castanea Old Town Hostel – This hostel is an excellent choice for those looking to cut back on accommodation costs when visiting Stockholm. They have both dorms and private rooms available along with excellent self-catering facilities and common areas.

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

Beautiful Stockholm
Beautiful Stockholm

Oslo or Stockholm: Which is Better to Visit

Nature enthusiasts will probably want to head to Oslo rather than Stockholm. While Tyresta National Park, the largest nature reserve in the south of Sweden is just 20 kilometres south of Stockholm, Oslo’s nature reserves (Oslomarka) can be accessed directly from the city via public transport. 

And, travellers who would be keen on seeing the most dramatic natural landscapes that the Scandinavian Peninsula has to offer should probably head to Oslo, too; from there, travelling to Norway’s incredible fjords, mountains, and glaciers is relatively straightforward. Typical Swedish landscapes, while beautiful in their own right, are, on the whole, much flatter and less varied. 

If you’re a fan of history or older styles of architecture, you’ll probably want to pick Stockholm over Oslo. The historic district of Gamla Stan truly has to be seen to be believed, and Oslo’s old town, Gamelbyen, while certainly charming and worth seeing in its own right, lacks the same sense of grandeur, with most of its buildings being comparatively much newer, too. 

It’s also worth remembering that Stockholm is the larger and more cosmopolitan of the two cities. There’s a greater diversity of restaurants, bars, museums, and attractions than there is in Oslo. As such, travellers looking for a traditional city break-type holiday will likely find that there’s simply more for them to sink their teeth into in Stockholm. 

Finally, while we wouldn’t call Stockholm the most budget-friendly destination, it’s certainly the better choice if you’re hoping to keep costs as low as possible during your trip. It’s more affordable than Oslo in just about every area, so that should be a pretty major part of the Stockholm vs Oslo debate settled. 

We hope that you find this guide helpful when planning your trip to Oslo or Stockholm. While the two cities have their own unique strengths, you really can’t go wrong with visiting either; they’re both fantastic destinations with plenty to offer. 

Are you trying to choose between these two cities? Have any questions about either city? Let us know in the comments!

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Emily Marty

Emily is a writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, she is currently based in the UK. She enjoys exploring Northern & Western Europe and Southeast Asia and has a bit of a thing for islands in particular.


  1. It’s cool to visit both cities but if I had to choose only one, I would choose Stockholm.

    I could spend a few days in Stockholm easily. As for Oslo I was “done” in less than 5 hours and that felt like too long. Fortunately, I was only there on a day trip from Gothenburg, Sweden.

    Stockholm is a beautiful city with lovely architecture whereas Oslo felt drab to me. The only place I thought was nice in Oslo was the Royal Palace and surrounding royal gardens. A major turn off in Oslo was how incredibly expensive it was: 50% more than Sweden on average for anything.


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