Scandinavia offers many opportunities and experiences for all students. Studying abroad in either Stockholm or Copenhagen have immense benefits, each offering a rewarding and life-changing experience. As someone who has experienced both, I know first-hand how difficult it can be to choose. Nonetheless, there are some important factors that contribute to the decision.
Stockholm public transportation includes buses, trams, trains, metro, and ferries. The green SL card gains access to all of these, which makes getting around Stockholm very simple. Copenhagen has similar systems, but separate tickets are needed for the different zones of the city and outlying neighborhoods. Both offer easily-accessible public transportation that can get you anywhere you need to go.
Along with Amsterdam, Copenhagen is famous for being a bike capital. If you are a cyclist, this city will not disappoint. With bike lanes everywhere, Copenhagen is extremely cyclist and pedestrian friendly. This was one of my favorite parts, and the DIS offices are only a 20 minute walk from my housing.
Weather and Nature
The capital of Denmark, Copenhagen sits along an intricate maze of canals with colorful houses and unique landmarks. As the most southern part of Scandinavia, its climate, culture, and events stand out from its northern neighbors. With the warmer climate in Denmark, there is more rain. As a rain-lover, I adored the rainy days in Copenhagen, but if you are less of a fan, make sure you have an umbrella and raincoat.
Stockholm is much farther north, so the climate is generally slightly cooler. Sweden gets slightly less rain, but is more unpredictable. Since Sweden is close to the arctic circle, the summer includes the famous “midnight sun”, where there is still sunlight as late/early as 3 a.m. Stockholm is also home to the famous archipelago, which includes more that 30,000 islands and lakes. If you are a nature lover like me, Stockholm is better suited, as there are hiking trails and countless outdoor activities in nature.
Even without vast forests, Copenhagen has beautiful parks, including Christiania and the King’s garden. Either way, there are ample opportunities to enjoy the Scandinavian summer.
Stockholm’s archipelago and Sweden have vast opportunities for travel. The ample public transportation makes it easy to do day trips around Stockholm. I have taken amazing day trips to Sigtuna, Vaxholm, Drottningholm, and Uppsala.
Copenhagen’s location is much better suited for weekend trips to larger Europe. Sitting as a buffer between Scandinavia and Northern Europe, it is easy to schedule quick weekend trips to hot spots like Berlin, Hamburg, Vilnius, and Amsterdam. In addition to that, you can take a quick train into Sweden to cultural destinations such as Malmö and Gothenburg.
Scandinavia is one of the most sustainable regions of the world, ranking highly in renewable energy and recycling. With this, there is a difference in expenses for both Stockholm and Copenhagen. Stockholm generally is more affordable for daily expenses such as coffee and groceries. Copenhagen is more expensive for dining out, but the amazing quality is worth the price tag.
Copenhagen generally has cheaper attractions, mainly free or heavily reduced museum tickets. My favorite places I visited were the National Art Gallery (Statens Museum for Kunst) and Christiansborg Royal Palace, both of which were surprisingly affordable with the student tickets. Stockholm has more outdoor attractions, such as Skansen, the famous outdoor museum and Gröna Lund amusement park. Overall, either city has benefits and disadvantages, but you can be sensible with money in either location.
Events and Entertainment
Both Copenhagen and Stockholm are home to great festivals, museums, parks, and shops. I have found that if you prefer vintage, antique and second-hand stores, Copenhagen is the place for you. Stockholm on the other hand is better for local shops and handmade items.
Stockholm and Copenhagen have a plethora of events year-round. Some favorites are Stockholm Pride, Copenhagen Jazz Festival, Midsommar Festivals, and Copenhagen Art Week. All of these, combined with regular sports events, theater, operas, and outdoor games, both locations have plenty of things to do both indoors and out in nature.
Classes are vital to the study abroad experience. Originally, I made my decision based on the classes offered in both DIS locations, rather than the city. Since sessions 2 and 3 offer Study Tours, it is important to take those into account when choosing classes. However, I do not recommend choosing a class solely for the Study Tour, since it is only a small part of the course, and you want to enjoy the entirety of the course.
DIS staff are present at both locations, and are extremely helpful with anything you might need. DIS Copenhagen is a larger program, and therefore has more class options, but the smaller class sizes in Stockholm can be more appealing. Regardless, either location will provide substantial support, opportunities, and success from staff and students alike.