Stockholm vs Oslo: which one should you visit? 

So you fancy a trip to the Nordic countries, but only have the time – or budget – to see one Scandinavian capital. Which should you visit: Stockholm or Oslo?

Stockholm has a more historic centre than Oslo.

In our opinion, there are so many reasons to visit both the capital cities of Sweden and Norway. Although Stockholm is more traditionally beautiful, Oslo is stuffed full of world-class museums and interesting contemporary architecture.

But if you really have to choose, we’ve done the comparison for you. So read on to find out which is better: Stockholm or Oslo?

Sightseeing and attractions
Culture and history
Free things to do
Guided tours and experiences
Outdoor activities and nature
Weather and when to go
Accommodation
Food and dining
Local specialities
Nightlife
Shopping
Getting there
Getting around
Safety and friendliness
Budget and costs
Our verdict

Sightseeing and attractions

So, first things first, what can you see and do in Stockholm and Oslo? Well, since both cities are built on the water, taking a boat trip is a no-brainer.

Oslo has a lively waterfront.

Oslo sits at the top of the Oslofjord, while Stockholm is built on 14 islands and surrounded by thousands more in the Stockholm archipelago. 

If you wanna know which islands to explore in the Stockholm archipelago, see our guide

The classic under-the-bridges boat tour in Stockholm shows you the city’s sights from the water and takes in the old town, the waterfront and the royal palaces, and gives you a nice intro to the city from the water.

In Oslo, electric boat trips run round the main sights, including the historic Akershus fortress, the contemporary Munch Museum and the leafy Bygdøy Peninsula.

But overall, we think that Stockholm is the winner for the sight-seeing and attractions.

Culture and history

Both cities are rich in culture and history. Stockholm is probably more historic with its beautiful medieval old town, Gamla Stan, to explore, while Oslo’s main square Stortorvet is home to the city’s 17th-century cathedral.

Oslo is know for its contemporary architecture, including the modern Munch Museum

Stockholm also has some great museums, including the Skansen open-air museum and, of course, the ABBA Museum.

We think, however, Oslo wins out in terms of museums and galleries, with the award-winning Munch Museum, the fascinating open-air Norwegian Folk Museum and the Astrup Fearnley Museet of contemporary art. 

All are free to enter with the Oslo Pass – see our guide to find out if it’s worth buying.

Free things to do

Both Stockholm and Oslo are perfect for just strolling around and admiring the views, the beautiful buildings and the waterfront. 

In Stockholm, the winding streets and narrow alleys of the Gamla Stan are a joy to get lost in, while in summer you can swim in the lakes and in winter you can skate on the frozen ice.

In Oslo, you can visit one of the city’s best-known attractions for free – the open-air Vigeland Park, home to more than 200 sculptures by Gustav Vigeland. 

Or you can take a free guided walking tour of Oslo – you just tip the guide, if you’ve enjoyed your walk.

For more free and cheap things to do, see guides to Oslo and Stockholm.

Guided tours and experiences

Our favourite Stockholm activity is kayaking round the archipelago. On this full-day trip, you’ll paddle round islands, look out for white-tailed eagles and even take a dip in the sea if you want. 

Kayak in the Stockholm archipelago.

You can kayak in Oslo too, though personally we think the Oslofjord is best seen from the deck of this classic wooden sailing boat.

But we think Oslo just pips the tours and experiences category with this floating sauna and dip in the Oslofjord – a classic Nordic activity.

Outdoor activities and nature 

Both cities have plenty of outdoor green spaces, parks, islands and beaches, where you can go wild swimming. And it’s easy to get out of both cities into the surrounding countryside.

Oslo is great place for hikes out of the city.

Oslo is a great option for hiking – we particularly like this hike up Vettakollen mountain along forest trails with great views over the Oslofjord. 

For more ideas for treks, see our guide to the best hikes near Oslo.

But in terms of nature and activities, we think Stockholm is the winner with this full-day wolf and wildlife tracking tour. An experienced guide will take you out into the wilderness in search of wolves and other wild animals.

Weather and when to go

Oslo lies around 260 miles west of Stockholm and a little bit further north. They’re both within the same climate zone, but Oslo tends to be a few degrees colder than Stockholm in both summer and winter.

Oslo also has almost twice as much rainfall as Stockholm, which often falls as snow from December to March.

Average monthly temperatures

MonthOsloStockholm
January-5ºC-2ºC
February-4ºC-1ºC
March0ºC1ºC
April6ºC7ºC
May12ºC12ºC
June15ºC16ºC
July18ºC20ºC
August16ºC19ºC
September12ºC14ºC
October6ºC8ºC
November1ºC4ºC
December-3ºC0ºC

Average monthly rainfall (in millimetres)

MonthOsloStockholm
January68mm52mm
February71mm50mm
March66mm46mm
April70mm43mm
May140mm70mm
June151mm76mm
July154mm81mm
August162mm82mm
September142mm58mm
October140mm78mm
November126mm72mm
December94mm60mm

Accommodation

Both cities have good accommodation options, ranging from cheap-and-cheerful hostels to five-star luxury hotels.

They also have their fair share of unusual accommodation too. Fancy a stay in a converted theatre in Oslo anyone? Or a refurbished jumbo jet in Stockholm?

What we particularly like about Stockholm is that you have the option of staying out on an island, and visiting the city from there. 

Waxholms Hotell on the island of Waxholm, for example, is just an hour by ferry from the centre of the city.

However, Oslo wins a bonus point for having a free campsite on the island of Langøyene in the Oslofjord.

But overall, because accommodation is generally cheaper in Stockholm than in Oslo, we think Stockholm wins the accommodation category

Average price in shoulder season for accommodation

AccommodationOsloStockholm
Dorm bed in a hostelNOK 480 (US$44)SEK 360 (US$35)
Double room in 2-star hotelNOK 1200 (US$110)SEK 900 (US$90)
Double room in a luxury hotelNOK 4400 (US$408)SEK 3000 (US$300)
Pitch plus 1 adult on a campsiteNOK 400 (US$37)SEK 300 ($US27)

Food and dining

Both Stockholm and Oslo have some great places to eat from Michelin-starred fine dining places to fun food halls and street markets.

Eksted in Stockholm and Maaemo in Oslo specialise in using local ingredients to prepare innovative New Nordic cuisine dishes.

If these restaurants are beyond your budget, check out the Mathallen food hall in Oslo and Stockholm’s upmarket Östermalms Saluhall and good-value Hötorgshallen

Both Oslo and Stockholm have good food halls to visit.

All have stalls selling an interesting variety of food and dishes at reasonable prices.

For more ideas on affordable food, see our guides to cheap food in Stockholm and how to eat on the cheap in Oslo

Local specialties and traditional dishes

Oslo is known for its fresh seafood and Norwegian waffles, topped with sour cream and jam or brown cheese.

However finding genuine Norwegian dishes in Oslo isn’t always easy – see our guide to where to find authentic Norwegian food in Oslo for some tips on where to go.

In Stockholm, hot dogs, pancakes, pickled herrings and meatballs are widely available – see our guide to Swedish fast food for tips on the local specialities to look out for.

Or for some expert help, why not sign up for a food walk in Stockholm or Oslo?

Nightlife

Both cities have decent clubs, bars and nightlife, though a night on town isn’t cheap in either city.

Kicking back with a cocktail in a rooftop bar and admiring the view is a great way to spend the evening. 

The Thief Rooftop bar in Oslo gives great views over to the Holmnekollen hills, and you can check out a whole host of rooftop bars in Stockholm in our guide.

Both cities have big-name summer musical festivals. Stockholm Fields features Doja Cat and The Hives in 2024, while Olso’s Øyafestivalen boasts the likes of Pulp, Loyle Carner and Raye in their 2024 line-up.

Shopping

Norway is perhaps best known for its traditional knitwear and sweaters. See our guide for the lowdown on how and where to buy a Norwegian sweater

Sweden, of course, is the home of Ikea (the country’s biggest branch is just outside Stockholm) and is known for its stylish, minimalist but accessible home furnishings. 

Norway has also embraced the trend for minimalist Nordic design, but its shops tend to be more upmarket and pricey.

So, we think Stockholm is the winner here, simply for the range of shops, and the fact that they’re cheaper!

Click here for more Swedish shops to check out.

Getting there

Both Oslo and Stockholm are easy to get to by plane from the UK and the US, with large international airports that serve most European capitals and a selection of US cities.

However Stockholm has more flights to a bigger variety of cities than Oslo.

There are several daily direct flights from London to both Stockholm and Oslo on British Airways, SAS, Ryanair and Norwegian.

New York is the only US city with direct flights to both Scandinavian capitals (on Norse and SAS) – from other US cities, you’ll have to change planes.

Journey times for direct flights


StockholmOslo
New York8hr 30 min7hr 30min–8hr
London2hr 30min2hr

Train and ferry connections between Scandinavian cities

Once you’re in Scandinavia, it’s easy to travel between Stockholm, Oslo and the other capital cities.


CopenhagenStockholmOsloHelsinki
Copenhagen
5hr+ by train (direct)8hr+ by train (indirect)n/a
Stockholm5hr+ by train (direct)
5hr+ by train (direct)18hr by ferry
Oslo8hr+ by train (indirect)6hr by train (direct)
n/a
Helsinkin/a18hr by ferryn/a


Getting around

Both Oslo and Stockholm have good public transport systems, with trams, trains, buses, a metro system and ferries connecting various parts of the city.

Transport is run by Ruter in Oslo and SL in Stockholm, with tickets valid on all types of public transport in both cities.

Cycling and walking is also easy and fun in both cities, so for ease of getting around we call it a draw.

★ SUGGESTED DISCOUNT
Save with the Stockholm Pass

Get up to 50% off at Stockholm's top attractions, including the Vasa Museum, SkyView Stockholm and The Viking Museum, plus discounts on some of the city's best boat trips.

Is the Oslo Pass worth buying?

Read this guide to see how much you could save during your trip!


Safety and friendliness

Neither Norwegians or Swedes have the immediate friendliness of the southern Europeans, but once you get to know them, or after a few drinks, you’ll find them hospitable and friendly.

As in all large cities, pickpocketing and petty crime is always present, but serious crime against tourists in Oslo and Stockholm is rare.

Oslo generally ranks slightly lower than Stockholm in the crime figures but, contrary to what you may think from Nordic crime dramas, both cities are pretty safe.

Budget and costs

So, which city is cheaper to visit – Stockholm or Oslo? We’ve looked at the prices of a few things you may buy on holiday in each city.


OsloStockholm
Meal in a budget restaurantNOK 230 (US$21)SEK 150 (US$14)
Three-course mid-range mealNOK 1000 (US$91)SEK 900 (US$82)
Coffee in a caféNOK 47 (US$4.50)SEK 45 (US$4)
Local beer in a barNOK 110 (US$10)SEK 75 (US$7)
Bottle of wine at supermarketNOK 155 (US$14)SEK 120 (US$11)
One-way public transport ticketNOK 40 (US$3.50)SEK 42 (US$3.80)

As you can see from the table above and from our accommodation table, Stockholm comes out as a cheaper city to visit than Oslo. 

In almost all categories Oslo is about 10 percent more expensive than Stockholm – except for alcohol.

Drinking beer and wine in Oslo will cost you a whopping 25 percent more than in Stockholm. 

So overall, Stockholm wins out on costs.

For more detailed information about prices in each city, see our guides to the cost of living in Norway and Sweden and Stockholm prices: what to expect.

Our verdict

Of course, they’re very different cities so which you choose will depend on your likes, what you want to see and do – and, of course, your budget.

If you like picturesque medieval streets and squares, palaces and museums, then Stockholm will appeal. For modern architecture, great art and a lively waterfront, then Oslo is your city.

We started Routes North in Stockholm, so perhaps we’re a bit biased towards the Swedish capital and its beautiful islands. But Oslo is undoubtedly a really cool city too, in a beautiful setting, with fresh air and a more modern, contemporary vibe.

Your money will go further in in Stockholm it’s true, but there are plenty of ways that you can visit Oslo without spending a fortune – even more so, if you don’t drink!

So, our advice is to see both if you can – especially as you can travel between the two cities by train in just over five hours.

But, what do you think? Which city do you prefer – Stockholm or Oslo? Leave a comment and tell us what you think about which city is better: Stockholm or Oslo.

See also:
Sweden vs Norway: which should you visit?
Which are the cheapest Scandinavian countries?

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