A Tale of Three Cities: Differences Within Scandinavia

Rachel Slappy is a student at University of Tennesse at Knoxville and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying abroad with EuroScholars in Stockholm, Sweden

Recently, I have been spending some time sightseeing around several Scandinavian cities including Stockholm, Oslo, and Copenhagen. During my travels, I have noticed many similarities between these locations, but also many small differences that make each city completely unique and very fun to explore!

Stockholm fascinates me in its ability to be simultaneously modern and historic. After living here for nearly two months, I have explored some of the oldest areas of the city while also constantly being surrounded by a contemporary city. For example, Gamla Stan is the oldest part of Stockholm dating all the way back to 1252, but the city center just to the north is populated by stylish, industrial buildings. This blending of modernity with tradition can also be seen in the social progressiveness within their government, while still retaining the tradition of having a royal family.

The campus of my university, Karolinska Institutet, is a harmonious blend of traditional brick buildings and modern architecture such as Aula Medica.

In contrast, Copenhagen looks like the setting of a Hans Christian Andersen story at nearly every turn. Walking through the city on the cobblestone streets made me feel as though I were in a different era. The architecture in Copenhagen is very traditional, and features brightly colored buildings scattered along waterways filled with sailboats. Despite the cold weather, the incredibly welcoming people, abundance of pastry shops, and the densely populated streets make this city feel extremely cozy.

Nyhavn is one of the most famous neighborhoods of Copenhagen and features traditional architecture along an old canal.

On the other hand, Oslo is an extremely modern city that is very cool and sophisticated without even trying. The city sits on the water across from the beautiful, hilly Norwegian landscape creating a stark contrast between nature and the contemporary city. Within the city of Oslo, the historical landmarks are surrounded by a suave city full of handsome high-rise buildings and abstract street art. Being such a cosmopolitan city, Oslo is demographically diverse, which is seen in its cuisines. On my first day, I enjoyed Danish-style pastries for breakfast, Norwegian vaffles for lunch, and Italian food for dinner!

The ultra modern Oslo Operahuset is located on the harbor and features a breathtaking view of the natural landscape of Norway as well as the Oslo cityscape.

A dominant theme that can be noticed among these three distinct places is that nature is highly valued and was carefully incorporated into each city albeit in different ways. Stockholm sprawls across many islands and does not dominate the landscape as a result . In Copenhagen, many plots of land are set aside so that nobody has to travel far to reach greenspace. Oslo also seems to be conscious of its footprint and additionally has built several large parks for all to enjoy. Overall, Scandinavia is a wonderful place to explore. From the breathtaking natural landscapes to the unique cultural hubs found within this large region, it is impossible to run out of things to see and do!

Protecting the natural beauty of the land is a priority across Scandinavia.


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