Reindeer, lingonberries, midsummer night festivals, fjords, cinnamon buns and minimalist furniture. Find out whether Oslo or Stockholm is a better fit for you in this Travel Honey Tiebreaker.
The Nordics! Reindeer, lingonberries, midsummer night festivals, fjords, cinnamon buns and minimalist furniture. Visiting Norway and Sweden have always been at the top of your to-do list and you’re off in a few shorts weeks. Where should you fly into first? What are the best things to see and how much time should you allocate for each place? We’ll focus on Oslo and Stockholm in this post and cover Copenhagen and Helsinki in a future post. Just make sure to pack mittens and a sweater!
The first option is Oslo, the largest city and capital of Norway. The city is located on a fjord jutting out into the Skaggerak strait and then the North Sea. Nature abounds as the city covers 40 islands and is surrounded by forests and more than 300 lakes. There is a thriving marine and shipping industry and each year, the city comes to life with the Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies. Stockholm is the capital of Sweden and the largest city in the Nordics. The city lies on the Baltic Sea and spreads over 14 islands connected by bridges. Sweden has a hip music and festival scene and the capital is home to 100+ museums.
Hi, I’m Lids. I’m a U.S. ex-pat in my early thirties. I have lived in London for four years and work in the creative industry. During this time, I have visited both cities to catch up with friends or on my way to explore Nordic backcountry. Outside of traveling, I like to spend my free time skiing, sailing, eating amazing food and painting.
THE PROS AND CONS
There are a ton of things to see and explore in both places, but here are the main points of comparison:
If you are a contemporary culture vulture, head for Oslo which is home to the Astrup Fearnley Museum and the Oslo Opera House. The museum is a work of art in itself – the structure is made of glass and wood which float on water. Inside, there are pieces from art world heavyweights like Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst. After the museum, walk to the opera house where you can climb up to the roof and take in expansive views of Oslo. The opera house stands on the water as well and the building has won international acclaim in contemporary architecture. If you love culture and have a special interest in photography, head to the Fotografiska in Stockholm. Fotografiska is one of the world’s best centers for contemporary photography. The center hosts 4 large and 20 small exhibitions per year and the top floor has a tasty cafe with terrific views the Stockholm skyline.
Both cities have incredible, cutting edge food scenes. In Stockholm, make reservations at Michelin starred Frantzen and Gastrologik. These restaurants emphasize foraged, locally sourced produce with a creative twist. In Oslo, book hip Maaemo far in advance. Maaemo means “mother earth” and the food reflects Norway’s changing seasons.
If you want to take a quick dip polar bear dip in the city center, head for Oslo and stay at The Thief. There are swimming and diving platforms just outside the hotel. After the swim, head inside for the saunas, pool and juice bar at the hotel’s top notch spa.
If you are willing to travel and want to see some of the world’s most beautiful fjords, make Olso your first stop. Then take one or two days to drive, catch a train or cruise to see the stunning saltwater inlets. However, if you are fascinated by snow and ice, head to for Stockholm where you can catch a flight to the Ice Hotel for a day or two. At the hotel, you can sleep in a room made of ice slabs and drink at a bar made out of ice. When not sleeping and drinking, head outside to ride snowmobiles and dog sled.
Stockholm is larger than Oslo and thus offers more cultural choices, so if your time is limited and you do not have a specific reason to visit Oslo (like seeing a friend or catching a show), make Stockholm the first stop on your tour of the Nordics.