Have you ever had that feeling where you go to a new place and have a certain expectation of what it’ll be like, but then be completely wrong about it? That was me going from Stockholm to Copenhagen during my time in Spring/Summer 2022 through the DIS Study Abroad in Scandinavia program! It genuinely felt as if I was entering a whole new world, which was honestly really refreshing and allowed me to explore and fall in love with so many new places. But for everyone reading this, you may be wondering; How different are they really? Are there any commonalities? Will I like them both?
I’m here to give you all the details on these cities, and hopefully showcase the uniqueness and beauty of each place so that you too can fall in love with both!
Clean AND Green
In both of these cities, no one can argue that they are some of the cleanest places you’ll ever find yourself in. The cobblestone streets are kept tidy, and you’ll rarely find litter scattered anywhere, including in the water. As you can also see in both photos, bikes as well as other forms of public transportation are being utilized much more than cars, as a means of trying to reduce their carbon footprint! Another thing I noticed was how seriously they took protecting the environment—especially when it comes to recycling (in some cases, if you don’t separate your recyclables/trash properly, you along with the neighborhood surrounding you could face big fines). I will certainly take this as a lesson when I head home and try to work on my own carbon footprint.
DIS Stockholm vs. DIS Copenhagen!
Even though the program didn’t change, the DIS environment had a different feel in both locations, which was really cool to experience both!
In Stockholm, DIS Classrooms along with the Student Hub are all housed in the same location. There are multiple floors (so prepare to get lost—I don’t think I ever successfully made it to the right classroom on the first try in the whole first 3 weeks that I was there) and the building is very pretty, surrounded by glass to look out onto the surrounding areas! Some other nice perks were that each floor had a kitchen where you could store your lunches in the fridge, make a cup of tea or coffee, and just chill and hang out after class with so many different people! On the bottom floor there also is a little restaurant/cafe which comes in handy if you have a break in between classes and need a bite to eat. I felt like I was in a high school setting when taking a class here, in the sense that you had your class going on in one room, but in the next there’s a whole new group learning something completely different. I always found myself meeting and talking to new people and seeing how what they’re learning differs so much from me, and you’ll always find a student or faculty no matter where you’re at.
As for Copenhagen, the “school” wasn’t found in one building, but rather spread out across a few different streets (all within walking distance). This definitely felt more like a college setting, going from building to building for classes (and had me getting lost on different streets sometimes, but what’s a true study abroad experience without getting lost?) The building where my class was in had a top floor that housed a few DIS classrooms, and the rest of the building were for things completely unrelated. About a 10 minute walk from my classroom is where you’d find the Student Hub, which had multiple floors and was the hangout spot after class if you wanted to grab food to-go and eat, study, check out some books and play some board games, or just for taking a break in the middle of the day! The location was also right in the heart of so many stores, restaurants, and cafes, so you would never find yourself without something to do once you got out of class.
So Many Things To Do And Places to See
To make it simple, I’ll make a list of must see things in each city! I have yet to check out all of these places, but I will make the most of these last few weeks to do it.
- Check out the views from high points in the city! I recommend Skinnarviksberget, you will be blown away!
- Museums, museums, and more museums! (Nordic Museum, the ABBA Museum, the Modern Art Museum, the Vasa Museum, the Viking Museum, the list goes on and on!)
- Check out Hornstulls Marknad! Every weekend you’ll hear live music, and you can hop around to try some amazing food trucks and buy from many different art stands!
- Visit the lakes or the numerous beaches!
- Not necessarily in Stockholm, but take a boat ride out to the many islands off the Archipelago
- Gamla Stan – must see
- Visit the Royal Palace!
- Gröna Lund, a really fun amusement park!
- Tivoli, another fun amusement park
- The Little Mermaid sculpture!
- Nyhavn Harbor – typically the first thing that’ll pop up when you search for Copenhagen! Colorful buildings along the street with great restaurants, a beautiful view of the water, and the real heart of the city
- Christiania, a beautiful spot where people live so freely and home to cool art, great food, and lakes to check out
- More museums! (SMK, Planetarium, and the National Museum of Denmark)
- Christiansborg Palace, Amalienborg Castle, as well as Rosenborg Palace!
Old Town Charm vs. Comfortably Chic!
Stockholm has a reputation for making a really big city feel much smaller. You visit parts like Gamla Stan and really feel in tune with Stockholm and its rich history. Although it isn’t a busy and crowded city, you’ll always see people out at all hours of the day, but in a much more relaxed nature. If you go by the waterfront, people will be having picnics and spending time with family, or just strolling through the many parks and scenic spots to take in the amazing views. Stockholm as a whole is like a puzzle, and with each place you go to you find a new piece that makes you want to go and explore all the hidden pieces that put the city together. It is a picture perfect area and creates the most peaceful and historic filled atmosphere that you will never get tired of!
Copenhagen on the other hand makes you feel a lot different. It feels more like a city, in which there are a lot more stores lined across every street, and people shopping and lines running out the door. The best way I can describe it is by imaging the city of Chicago but not as intense. That’s why I find the Comfortably Chic term to be so fitting—you have the city feel, where so much is happening all around you, but at the same time you never feel in any way anxious. People are very kind and chill, which you can tell by their style (a lot of blazer + jeans combos, or dresses + sneakers), and their warm welcoming energy no matter where you find yourself. It’s the perfect balance if you are on the fence of being a city vs town person. I often found myself doing a double take thinking I was in the middle of Times Square, but I absolutely loved it! Although it has certainly had me constantly charging my credit card (I can’t help that I’m a window shopper; I also can’t keep track of the amount of times I’ve said “Hey can we stop in this store really quick?” to my friends as we walk down almost any street).
The Cities At Night
Not really much to say, other than the fact that the cities really have a new type of beauty at night. If you’re looking for a calm and serene night that’s not too busy? Stockholm is the place for you! If you are looking for a huge nightlife scene and the whole city to really light up? Copenhagen has got you covered! Both have so many things to do in the night, to any degree that you’re looking for!
There has indeed been much debate on which city is better than the other. But, is there really a “better city”? The answer, which some may not enjoy… is no! While in Stockholm I thought “Wow I love this place so much, Copenhagen could never top this!” Then once getting to Copenhagen, I started to be swayed over to the other side. And now just in being back in Stockholm, I’m once again both loving it here and missing Copenhagen at the same time (it’s quite the messy relationship, a battle of the two cities to win me over!) My advice is to really sit back and think about what you look for in a city (or figure out if you even like a city to begin with). I certainly have love for both cities, but it took a lot of adjusting to find my groove in each. No matter what, there will always be a little home for you in both Copenhagen and Stockholm, that’s waiting to be explored.
This story was adapted from a Discover Study Abroad article on the DIS Blog.