Two Scandinavian Capitals in One Long Weekend: Stockholm and Copenhagen

I realized as I was writing my Helsinki blog post, comparing it to other Scandinavian cities, I never wrote a post for Stockholm and Copenhagen. I’m trying my best to get caught up on blogging as I continue to take new trips, which inevitably requires even more blogging. It was a busy summer in the best possible way, and I’m still trying to write about the spring!

Another reason I haven’t written a blog post about Stockholm and Copenhagen is that I really don’t have much to say. Both cities were extremely expensive, with prices in Stockholm being outrageous to prices in Copenhagen being just a bit more than outrageous. That made it hard for me to really enjoy the food culture, as I was spending about $12 on a beer, $15 for a small single slice of toast with avocado and prosciutto, and upwards of $20 on a small bowl of spaghetti carbonara. Regardless, I had a nice trip and I got to do it with my British friends, Connie and John, so it’s always fun with those two.

Our trip started in the Swedish capital of Stockholm. The city is spread out over a ton of islands, which you can see as you’re flying in. This also makes it a not-so-walkable city, because places are farther apart from each other. Not to mention the entire city was basically one big construction zone, making it hard to appreciate its cute streets. In Germany, I’m very used to construction but this was extreme. My other main complaint about Stockholm is that there’s not that much to do. We were in Stockholm for about 48 hours and that was more than enough for us. We got so bored on our second day that we went to the flagship Ikea. We did a walking tour to learn more about the city’s history, and we visited the Nobel museum because admission is free on Fridays from 5 to 8 p.m. So sad the ABBA museum doesn’t have any free hours!

The “old town” of Stockholm is on the island of Gamla Stan. The buildings are just adorable and the cobblestone streets make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. The disappointing part was that the cute houses on the square that are icons of the city were covered in scaffolding, so I couldn’t get a basic Stockholm Instagram.

As far as food, I was pleased with the Swedish dishes I got to try. Meatballs for the People had a delicious variety of traditional dishes, including a platter where you could sample beef, pork, deer, and moose meatballs, served with mashed potatoes, gravy, pickled red onions, and lingonberries. Highly recommend! And when in Sweden, you have take part in “fika,” their daily hobby of meeting friends for coffee and a bite to eat. I call that breakfast, and my favorite spot for it was Vete Katten, where I had the most delicious vanilla bun. And you can’t miss the classic cardamom bun either! I had one from the bakery chain Fabrique, and it really sold me on cardamom.

From Stockholm, we took a 4.5-hour train ride to Copenhagen. This city felt like a mix of the Scandinavian sense of Stockholm with the architectural styles and canals of Amsterdam. The only difference was that when we were in Amsterdam, it was super cold and dark all day, and in Copenhagen, the sun was out, so the city felt much brighter for me. The temperature was in the high 50s when we were there, which is quite unbelievable for the beginning of April. We even had time to spend an afternoon drinking beers in the park (that by the way cost $3 per can from the grocery store for the lowest of quality) the way other young people our age would do. I think the weather is a huge contributing factor to why I loved Copenhagen so much more than Stockholm, and even more than a lot of other cities I’ve been to.

I was particularly drawn to the over-touristy Nyhavn canal. If you’ve seen a picture of Copenhagen, it’s probably of this. The houses are so cute and all different colors (Amsterdam should take notes!), and I love all the sidewalk cafes and restaurants, even if they are tourist traps. As crowded as the iconic spots can be, like the Eiffel Tower, for example, there’s a reason they’re icons.

The other major tourist attraction is the Little Mermaid statue. Most people find her underwhelming because of her size, but I thought she was underwhelming because she wasn’t looking out to sea and her backdrop was super industrial. 

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I’m always down to climb a tower for a view, and Church of Our Saviour delivered. If you watch Somebody Feed Phil’s episode in Copenhagen, it starts with Phil climbing this tower. You can even see Sweden from the top!

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Copenhagen is also home to Noma, which many consider the best restaurant in the world, but I’m of course not made of money and would have had to book a table months in advance I’m sure. But we did walk by, and on that same island is Freetown Christiania, a hippie commune where marijuana is sold openly from stands on the streets. It has upwards of 1,000 residents who are self-governing, and although they have a lot of tension with Danish authorities for their illegal drug trade, they enjoy keeping to themselves. They don’t allow photography or video either, so you have to just walk through and try to imagine what it’s like to live in a community like this. It’s a really interesting part of the city.

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The picture I got of Christiania before I noticed the “No Photography” sign

If you’re planning a trip to Scandinavia , I hope you started saving your money months ago! But there is such a high standard of living there that it almost feels like home, which is a big deal for me after living abroad for so long. People who are interested in museums and don’t care about warm weather will probably see more value in going to these cities, but for me, they don’t compare to southern Europe. I am SO glad I got to go, though, because any opportunity to experience another country or culture is worthwhile to me!

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