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Oslo vs. Copenhagen: Which City Should You Visit?

Oslo vs. Copenhagen - Oslo Opera House and Copenhagen Nyhavn

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Oslo, Norway and Copenhagen, Denmark are two of Scandinavia’s most popular cities to visit. But if you’re planning a Scandinavian adventure, which city should you visit? Let’s break down everything Oslo vs. Copenhagen to help you make the right decision for YOU.

Of course, if you have time, we think going to both cities is great! But if you have to choose, here’s what you need to know.

Oslo vs. Copenhagen in Summary

Don’t have time for this whole post? Here are the highlights you should know when comparing these two cities. (Personally, Copenhagen is my favorite, but both cities are great!)

Oslo

  • Has a more big-city, cosmopolitan feel.
  • Is slightly more expensive.
  • A great city if you love museums.
  • A great jumping off point if you want to visit the fjords of Norway.

Copenhagen

  • Has a more relaxed vibe.
  • Has more family-friendly activities.
  • Generally more beautiful (at least in my opinion.)
  • Has more to see if you are interested in royalty.

Oslo vs. Copenhagen: Attractions and Things To Do

There is truly so much to do in both Oslo and Copenhagen! We can’t cover it all here, but here’s a look at some of the most popular attractions in each city.

Things To Do in Oslo

Oslo Opera House

The Oslo Opera House sits right on the Oslo fjord and it’s a modern architecture masterpiece. The coolest thing about it that that you can WALK on the roof! The whole roof is slanted from the ground in a way that encourages people to walk, sit, and enjoy the views.

Walking on the roof of the Oslo Opera House
Walking on the roof of the Oslo Opera House

MUNCH Museum

The MUNCH Museum is one of Oslo’s newer museums. It features the works of Edvard Munch, of course, but it also has collections of other Norwegian artists. It’s a beautiful space, and also has some fun interactive elements that kids will love.

Oslo City Hall

Oslo City Hall is known for their amazing artwork inside. Yes, it’s a government building with working people. But there is a huge mural depicting life in Norway that’s worth seeing and entrance is free.

Viking Ship Museum (Closed for Renovation Until 2026)

The Viking Ship Museum features a Viking Ship and has been one of Oslo’s most popular museums for tourists. However, it is closed for renovations until 2026, at which point it will reopen as the Museum of the Viking Age.

Norwegian Museum of Cultural History

The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History is an open air museum on the Bygdøy Peninsula has over 160 historic buildings from different areas for Norway and different time periods. There are shops, apartments, a farmstead, and a Stave Church. (It’s a super convenient place to see a Stave church if you can’t get out to any of the other existing ones!)

Oslo Museum of Cultural History

Fram Museum

The Fram Museum is another museum on the Bygdøy Peninsula, this one dedicated to the Fram polar exploration. The entire ship is located inside the museum and you can climb aboard! There are lots of interactive elements, and you can learn about the incredible history of Norwegian exploration in the Arctic and Antarctic regions.

Kon Tiki Museum

Learn about the Kon Tiki expedition of the 1940s, where a group of international explorers (headed by Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl) built a balsawood raft and crossed the Pacific Ocean in it. It’s one of those stories that seems impossible, but it really happened! And this small museum brings this unbelievable story to life. Of course, the Kon Tiki raft sits at the center of the displays.

Kon Tiki Raft
Kon Tiki Raft

Frogner Park

Frogner Park is like Oslo’s Central Park. It’s a big open space, perfect for residents to get outside on beautiful days. One of the most popular attractions here is the Vigeland Sculpture Park. This area of Frogner Park houses over 200 sculptures by artist Gustav Vigeland.

Royal Palace

The Royal Palace is open for tours in the summer, usually from late June to mid-August. But if you’re visiting at a time when it’s closed, you can still stop by a see it and maybe catch the Changing of the Guard.

Nobel Peace Center

Oslo is home to the Nobel Peace Prize, and you can visit the museum at the Nobel Peace Center to learn more about the history of the prize and the previous winners.

Things To Do in Copenhagen

Nyhavn

Nyhavn seems old, but it’s actually the “new harbor.” This is the spot you see all over Instagram with the colorful buildings and the canal out front. And it’s definitely worth strolling through or maybe even stopping for dinner there!

Colorful Nyhavn Buildings in Copenhagen

Canal Tour

A canal tour is a great way to get your bearings in Copenhagen. The tour will point out most of Copenhagen’s major landmarks and tell you some of the history of the city.

Tivoli Gardens

Tivoli Gardens is one of the world’s oldest theme parks! It’s a charming and beautiful place with both family-friendly and thrill rides. I truly recommend spending a day here, because not only is it tons of fun, but you really can feel how historic this place is.

Tivoli Gardens Boat Ride with Roller coaster in background

Rosenborg Castle

Rosenborg Castle is my favorite castle in Copenhagen! It was built in 1607 as the summer home for Christian IV. The rooms are so beautiful, and there are some really amazing pieces and displays here. Plus, check out the King’s Gardens behind the castle during your visit too.

Botanical Garden

The Copenhagen Botanical Garden is such a peaceful place to get outside. You can enjoy strolling through the gardens, check out the conservatory, and don’t miss the butterfly house! We actually have an amazing butterfly house in my hometown, and I thought the variety of different butterflies they had here was so interesting!

Round Tower

Climb the sloped circular ramps of the Round Tower for some incredible views of Copenhagen! This used to be an astronomical tower, and they actually built the sloped spiral ramp so that horses and carts could carry books up and down to the library!

Little Mermaid Statue

The Little Mermaid Statue is the most iconic sight to see in Copenhagen. I’ll be honest. I think it’s overrated. But if you’re in Copenhagen, it does seem like you have to add this to your “must do” list. (But also, don’t feel bad if you skip it. It’s not that exciting.)

Little Mermaid Statue

National Museum of Denmark

The National Museum of Denmark is a big museum that gives a full overview of the history of Denmark, beginning with the Vikings (or honestly even before) up to the present day. They also have a great children’s area for younger kids!

Church of our Savior

Okay, this one may not be for people afraid of heights. Church of Our Saviour is known for their tall spire, which you can climb for the best views of Copenhagen (or at least the tallest ones!).

Freetown Christiania

Freetown Christiania is a really popular area to visit and is home to a more “alternative” community of anarchists and freethinkers. It’s definitely different than everywhere else in Copenhagen, and while it is safe to visit you will want to stick to the tourist areas.

Oslo vs. Copenhagen: Food

Food in Oslo

In Oslo, you’re going to get both traditional Norwegian food as well as lots of international cuisine. There are great restaurants all around Oslo. And if you want a big variety, you can head to Vippen, a food hall/market.

To be honest, the food in Oslo didn’t blow me away. Maybe we didn’t go to the right restaurants, but most of what I had there was pretty standard. I also found the food in Oslo to be much more expensive than it is in Copenhagen (at least relative to the same type of food).

Food in Copenhagen

To me, Copenhagen really shines when it comes to food. Of course, they are known for having a super high number of Michelin-starred restaurants. But even if you aren’t there for the gourmet cuisine (we weren’t, because honestly I wasn’t going to take my elementary school aged kid to a Michelin-starred restaurant), their everyday restaurants are great too.

You’ll definitely want to get pastries at one of their many bakeries (our favorite was Skt. Peder’s Bageri) and try smørrebrød (a traditional open faced sandwich). But, surprisingly, I was also super impressed with Copenhagen’s hamburger scene. Definitely don’t miss Gasoline Grill.

Spandauer pastry (my favorite!) in Copenhagen

Oslo vs. Copenhagen: Transportation and Getting Around

Getting to both Copenhagen and Oslo is very easy. They both have major airports, and getting to the city center is an easy train ride away.

Both cities also have robust public transportation systems. Oslo has buses, trams, and trains that can get you all over the city and the surrounding area. Copenhagen has the same.

However, I did find the public transportation in Copenhagen to be a better experience. Their underground metro system is SO intuitive and SO clean. Seriously, I’ve never been in such a clean train station before in my entire life.

Metro Station in Copenhagen

Oslo vs. Copenhagen: Cost

Scandinavia is known for being one of the most expensive regions of the world to live in or visit. And both Oslo and Copenhagen were pretty pricey when it came to every day expenses.

Food, of course, is going to be one of your biggest expenses as a traveler. And while both cities were pricey, I was actually floored by how much more expensive the food in Oslo was compared to Copenhagen or even other Norwegian areas we visited. So keep this in mind.

I also found lodging to be slightly more expensive in Oslo, but generally the prices were pretty similar in both cities.

Oslo vs. Copenhagen: General Vibes

You can talk about food and attractions all you want, but what really makes a city it’s own place is the unnamable vibe it gives off.

Oslo struck me as a more chic city than Copenhagen (although not as chic as, let’s say, London). While it is more laid back than other European capitals, it still did have that general metropolis feel. There were several times I commented that I felt like I was just in a general big city.

Copenhagen, on the other hand, is more laid-back and has more of a cozy feel. People ride bikes EVERYWHERE in Copenhagen. Families seem to be all over the place. It has more of a quaint feel to it, even though it has a very similar population to Oslo.

So for general vibes, I like Copenhagen better.

Oslo vs. Copenhagen: Which is Better for Families?

Both Oslo and Copenhagen are fantastic places to visit with kids! Scandinavian culture really seems to embrace childhood, and you’ll find that in the playgrounds all over the place and kid-friendly displays in the museums.

It’s really hard to say which city is better for kids. We thought Oslo was very family-friendly and had some of the best playgrounds. However, Copenhagen has the added bonus of Tivoli Gardens.

Either way, you can’t go wrong if you’re traveling with kids!

Oslo Harbor

Oslo vs. Copenhagen: Which City Should You Visit?

So, which city should you visit? Honestly, my preference is Copenhagen. I like the more laid-back vibe and the food, and I felt like there was more to do in Copenhagen.

But which city is right for YOU?

Visit Oslo if you want to go to lots of museums, like a bigger city feel, and don’t mind spending a bit more money.

Go to Copenhagen if you want to more easily immerse yourself in the culture of a place and like a more laid-back vibe.

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