For the luxury traveler, Copenhagen and Stockholm offer a chance to explore two of the world’s most sophisticated urban destinations. These two Scandinavian capitals share a common ethos of pure-lined design, Nordic-centered gastronomy, and forward-thinking sustainability. Both offer a soul-soothing setting of wide-open nature and centuries-old history. With endless summer sunsets and some of the world’s most magical winter experiences, Stockholm and Copenhagen are true year-round destinations.
Your Scandinavian adventure can be reached by air in just over seven hours, from the U.S. East Coast to Copenhagen, Denmark. Add another hour’s flight from Copenhagen to Stockholm in Sweden—or opt for a five-hour train ride from city center to city center, traveling in creature comfort while the lush woodlands and sparkling lakes of the Swedish countryside drift by.
The Danish capital is a city of leafy and livable neighborhoods easily explored by pedal power. With a medieval city center boasting almost a square mile of pedestrian-friendly shopping and with historic attractions that invite both relaxation and enjoyment, Copenhagen is easy to love at any time of year. Sophisticated urban design, sustainable cuisine, and clean and swimmable waterways add to the city’s charm and appeal.
Visiting Copenhagen also means experiencing the Danish Hygge – a certain sense of happiness that can be experienced whilst sharing a Danish pastry by candlelight amongst good friends, or when by strolling the streets of Copenhagen alone during the long summer nights. Hygge is found everywhere in Copenhagen.
A bikeable city, Copenhagen not only allows you to crisscross its historic neighborhoods along easy-to-navigate bike lanes, the city also invites you to explore open nature, such as in the 14-square-mile urban nature reserve, Naturpark Amager, which in 2019-2020 sees the addition of new recreational landmarks. Other bikeable destinations include the Harbor Circle, an eight-mile designated cycling route, complete with six designer bike bridges, that takes you along the city’s harbor front through new dockland developments. For less experienced cyclists, there are plenty of guided cycling tours available.
Urban exploring in Copenhagen also lets you discover the roots of Nordic-centered dining. The poster child of New Nordic cuisine, Copenhagen’s restaurant Noma has recently relocated to a lakeside location just a short distance from the city’s shipyard-turned-foodie-haven, Refshaleøen. Here, Noma dedicates the summer season to vegetable-based dining, while spring offers seafood, and winter is the season of game. And after visiting the former shipyard, head to Copenhill, a ski and hiking slope that sits atop Copenhagen’s visionary new waste-to-energy plant. Not only does Copenhill let you take part in alpine winter sports at any time of year, but it also offers sweeping views of the cityscape.
A city by the sea, Copenhagen can also be explored by tour boat and waterbus—or you can opt for the Hey Captain luxury guided tours for small groups. Glide down historic canals and past gleaming new waterside landmarks, including the new home of the Danish Architecture Center (BLOX) and the Royal Opera House—all while sipping a glass of wine. That’s if you don’t want to jump right into the clean, swimmable harbor like the locals do. In fact, the waterways in Copenhagen are so clean that some residents have even taken up oyster aqua-farming.
Balancing modern living with its age-old historic past, Copenhagen offers plenty of heritage attractions. The Baroque district of Frederiksstaden is the grand setting of the royal palace, Amalienborg, home of the current head of state, Queen Margarethe II. Close by, Rosenborg Castle in the leafy King’s Garden is the jewel-box home of Denmark’s royal regalia. For centuries, Danish monarchs have added to the splendor of the city with magnificent edifices, including the whimsical spiral Round Tower. In the heart of Copenhagen, one of the world’s oldest and most magical amusement parks, Tivoli Gardens, offers rides, restaurants, and family entertainment throughout four distinct seasons: summer, Halloween, Christmas and winter. All these attractions and more are included in the Copenhagen Card.
You can discover more of Denmark’s royal history on day trips. One prime destination is Royal North Sealand National Park. Ride through the Dyrehaven deer park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) in a horse-drawn open carriage—or rent mountain bikes instead. Also under UNESCO patronage, Kronborg Castle in the historic city of Elsinore is the fictional home of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Equally regal, Frederiksborg Castle is surrounded by lush Baroque parkland. Those traveling along the romantic coastal road can also visit the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, which is one of Denmark’s top attractions. And in 2020, travelers can explore the redefined Ordrupgaard art museum with its new galleries designed by Norwegian architectural practice Snöhetta.
The Swedish capital is a splendid city of modern design, fashion, and creative Nordic dining. Stockholm is also a destination of age-old history, with medieval alleyways and airy boulevards offering elegant boutique shopping. Nature also defines Stockholm, with its almost endless archipelago of 30,000 islands, stretching from the woodland deep to the Baltic Sea.
Stockholm is a true city of design. Recently reopened, Stockholm’s 19th-century National Museum of art, design and crafts is now furnished with bespoke Nordic interiors and serves creative Swedish cuisine. A short stroll from the museum to the next lush island, Skeppsholmen, will bring you to ArkDes, Sweden’s national center for architecture and design. Stockholm Design Week also adds fanfare to the snow-dusted city in February.
Quintessentially Swedish is the tradition for fika—an afternoon coffee break complete with a sweet treat, preferably enjoyed with friends. Delight in famed Swedish pastries at Mr. Cake or the grand classic Wiener Caféet located on Biblioteksgatan, a street lined with flagship fashion stores. Within easy walking distance, you can also visit such Scandinavian design emporiums as Nordiska Galleriet, Kasthall, and Designtorget.
The bustling shopping districts of Norrmalm and Östermalm are also home to some of Sweden’s top restaurants. The eponymous restaurant Frantzén, headed and owned by Björn Frantzén, is Sweden’s first three-starred Michelin-rated restaurant, offering Nordic cuisine with subtle Japanese influences. Also in the Michelin league, restaurant Gastrologik is exclusively dedicated to the culinary drama of the Swedish seasons of the year.
Stockholm’s medieval Old Town is a walkable island of narrow alleys and major attractions, including Stockholm Palace. Close by, the museum island of Djurgården celebrates Swedish history. Here, you will find the Skansen Open-Air Museum with historic farms, mills, and rural dwellings relocated from across Sweden. The Vasa Museum houses the most intact 17th-century vessel ever salvaged, the battleship Vasa. And close by, ABBA The Museum is dedicated to the famous 1970s Swedish pop band. “Walk in. Dance out." the museum promises its visitors.
With a waterfront location on Södermalm, Fotografiska Museum is not only one of Europe’s top destinations for contemporary photography, but the museum is also home to a restaurant with a culinary philosophy of organic, sustainable, plant-based cuisine.
Heading out of central Stockholm on a tour boat lets you cruise among endless islands and discover the freedom and tranquility of open nature.
Easily reachable from central Stockholm by boat, Drottningholm Palace is a royal residence and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here, you can marvel at the Baroque gardens and visit the Chinese pavilion. Culture lovers visiting the archipelago also shouldn’t miss Artipelag. Dedicated to modern art, design, crafts, and fashion, the museum enjoys a dreamy waterside location surrounded by nature. The museum restaurant is also noted for its organic cuisine, made with local ingredients including herbs and greens from the museum's roof terrace.
The more adventurous may also wish to try a foraging experience in Sweden’s pristine wilderness. “The Edible Country” is a unique dining experience where you book a remote picnic table online and head out to do your own foraging, fishing, and cooking inspired by recipes created by Sweden’s top chefs. The nearest "Edible Country" picnic table to Stockholm is in Uto, about 1 hour by car and boat from the city.
To create your very own Nordic luxury journey, discover our new Exploring Denmark & Sweden trip and start planning today.