Whether you're enjoying the midnight sun of Nordic summer nights or chasing the aurora borealis in the dead of winter, a trip through Scandinavia isn't complete without visiting the Swedish and Norwegian capitals, Stockholm and Oslo. While both cities share cultural and linguistic roots, each also has its own unique personality. You'll have to explore them both to see what Stockholm and Oslo truly have to offer.
The fastest way to get from one to the other is by plane, which is a quick one-hour flight that's generally inexpensive. Flying, however, means missing out on all of the mind-blowing scenery between them. Taking the train, a bus, or driving your own car are the only ways to experience the endless woodland, beautiful lakes, and charming Swedish villages that dot the landscape. The train is potentially the cheapest way to travel to Oslo, but you'll need to book tickets early.
How to Get from Stockholm to Oslo
- Train: 6 hours, from $20
- Flight: 1 hour, from $45
- Bus: 7 hours, 30 minutes, from $28
- Car: 6 hours, 325 miles (522 kilometers)
High-speed trains started running between Stockholm and Oslo in 2015, completing the long journey in a swift four and a half hours. However, rail modernization projects have put the high-speed trains on a halt until at least the end of 2021. You can still take a direct train from Stockholm to Oslo in the meantime, but it now takes six hours.
Tickets are purchased on Sweden's national rail service, SJ, and prices start at $20 if you book far enough in advance. Unfortunately, they rapidly rise in price as your travel date gets closer, and last-minute tickets can set you back up to $75. Tickets tend to be cheaper on weekdays, so if you're flexible on your travel dates, look around for the days and times with the cheapest rates.
If you plan to continue traveling by train—perhaps to Copenhagen or other Northern European destinations—it may be worth getting the Eurail Pass, allowing you to travel a set number of days on trains across the continent.
You can get from Stockholm to Oslo with a quick and direct one-hour flight. These flights depart several times daily, most offered by SAS and Norwegian. Even when you take into account the time it takes to get to and from the airport, go through security, and wait at your gate, flying is still significantly faster than any of the other methods of transportation. It can also be one of the most affordable, with last-minute tickets being even cheaper than the train.
Pay close attention to the fine print of your flight details before booking, as the cheapest tickets usually come from low-cost airlines with strict rules and few amenities. Some airlines charge extra even for flying with a carry-on bag, so add up all of your costs and fees before making your purchase.
The most budget-friendly option is the bus, especially if you're making last-minute plans. The trip from Stockholm to Oslo is direct through FlixBus, but the ride is an arduous seven and a half hours. You can choose a morning or early afternoon bus that gets you to Oslo in the evening, which lets you enjoy the roadside scenery by daylight but forces you to lose an entire day of your trip seated on a bus. The other option is an overnight bus, but it arrives in Oslo at 5:45 a.m., potentially leaving you stranded outside while you wait for the city to wake up.
Tickets for the bus start at $28, which is often not much cheaper than the train or a flight if you're buying in advance. However, it's not uncommon to find even same-day bus tickets for $28—assuming it isn't a holiday weekend or other high-demand time—when train and plane prices have already skyrocketed.
If you're traveling with a group and can split the cost of car rental and gas, then driving to Oslo is not only an affordable option but also the most liberating, giving you the freedom to explore the Swedish countryside as you please. The total trip takes about six hours if you drive without stopping, but if you don't plan to stop you might as well take the bus. Make a road trip out of your drive and visit some of the towns along the route, such as Karlstad, which is about halfway between the two cities and sits on the shore of Lake Vänern, the largest lake in the entire European Union.
Norway uses a toll system on its highways that automatically charges the driver based on the license plate, and there are no manned booths to pay in cash. If you're renting a car in Norway, the rental company will normally take care of it and add the tolls to your final bill. But if you're renting a car in Sweden and driving to Norway, you'll need to register the vehicle with Euro Parking Collection.
It's also important to know that rental companies will often charge a hefty fee if you drop off a car in a different country from where you picked it up, so keep that in mind if you aren't planning to return to Stockholm.
What to See in Oslo
Oslo is Norway's capital and largest city, and the best way to get a sense of the city is to take a guided tour of the main sites, especially if you're there for a short amount of time and need to fit in as many landmarks as you possibly can. Highlights of Oslo include Viking ships that you can board, the massive Vigeland Park, and a museum dedicated to Edvard Munch with his famous "The Scream" painting. What people love most about Oslo, however, is found just outside the city limits. If you have the time, get out of the city and explore Norway's natural beauty, whether you go on a hike, take a boat ride through the fjords, or head out farther toward the glaciers. You won't find landscapes like these anywhere else.
Sweden and Norway are both members of the Schengen Zone, meaning that even though you are crossing an international border, you should be able to travel between them without any type of border control. You'll still need your passport to purchase transportation tickets or rent a car, but when you're crossing into Norway, there shouldn't be any long lines or agents checking ID. Sweden isn't quite as lax as its neighbor, and you'll likely be asked to show your passport if crossing the border into Sweden.