Terri Mapes specializes in giving first-time Scandinavia visitors practical tips for their travels.
Updated on 10/05/21
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Fact checked byJillian Dara
Jillian Dara is a freelance journalist and fact-checker. Her work has appeared in Travel + Leisure, USA Today, Michelin Guides, Hemispheres, DuJour, and Forbes.
A comprehensive Scandinavian tour requires obligatory stops in the capital cities of Copenhagen, Oslo, and Stockholm. Luckily, all three of them are relatively close together and are well-connected via a variety of transportation methods, so you could design your itinerary in whichever way works best for your unique travel plans.
If you're departing from Copenhagen, you'll find that Oslo is slightly closer than Stockholm, saving you some time if you're traveling by bus, train, or car. All three land options take around eight hours, so it's still a lengthy journey and you'll have to plan ahead. If you want the experience of traveling by sea, the ferry ride is a long trip but may end up being the best deal if you're traveling with someone, not to mention it offers killer views. Travelers who don't have the luxury of time can also take a plane, which is the fastest transit between the two cities and takes just over an hour.
How to Get from Copenhagen to Oslo
- Train: 8 hours, from $76 (with transfer)
- Flight: 1 hour, 10 minutes, from $67 (fastest)
- Bus: 8 hours, 5 minutes, from $28
- Ferry: 16 hours, from $65 for two-person cabin
- Car: 6 hours, 45 minutes, 375 miles (603 kilometers)
Even though you're departing from Denmark and arriving in Norway, the vast majority of the trip takes place in Sweden. Accordingly, train tickets are purchased from the Swedish national rail service, SJ, whose website is in English and very user-friendly. As you type in "Copenhagen" for the departure city, the website will automatically change it to the Danish spelling of "Köbenhavn H." For the arrival city, type in "Oslo" and two options will come up: Oslo S and Oslo Bussterminal. You can choose either one, as you'll get results for both anyway.
Most trips include a train from Copenhagen to Gothenburg, Sweden, which is nearly four hours, followed by a bus ride to Oslo that's an additional three hours and 20 minutes. There's also an option to change to another train in Gothenburg, but it takes longer and is more expensive than the bus transfer. The train stations and bus terminals in both Gothenburg and Oslo are adjacent to each other, so there's really no disadvantage to switching to the bus for the second leg. You'll also see some train routes with two changeovers instead of one that start at $60, saving you a little bit of money and with virtually the same total travel time.
If you plan to explore more of Northern Europe or Scandinavia using the train, then the Eurail Pass may be the best deal for your money.
With a flight time of just over an hour, flying directly from Copenhagen to Oslo is a time-saver. Even once you factor in time to get to and from the airport, check-in, go through security, and wait at your gate, flying is still significantly faster than any of the other available options.
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 to take the bus, which is a long ride but direct from Copenhagen to Oslo, operated by the bus company FlixBus. The total trip is between eight and nine hours, and riders have the option of a midnight departure so you can—ideally—sleep on the bus and arrive in Oslo in the morning to fully enjoy your time there. You can also choose departure times in the morning or afternoon and spend the day on the bus, instead. Tickets start at about $28 when you purchase them in advance and get more expensive as tickets sell-out, but even last-minute bus rides should only cost about $40.
Perhaps the most relaxing way to get between Copenhagen and Oslo—assuming you're not prone to seasickness—is to take the ferry. DFDS Seaways sets sail from Copenhagen daily at 4:30 p.m., arriving in Oslo at 9:45 a.m. the next morning. The ferry is really like a mini-cruise, with restaurants, bars, a pool and jacuzzi, and planned children's activities. Make sure to set an alarm and get yourself out on deck around 7 a.m., as the ship is passing through the Oslofjord, a stunning way to enter Norway.
Prices for the ferry start at $65 for a two-person interior cabin but can vary greatly depending on demand, day of the week, and the type of cabin you choose. If you're traveling with a friend who can split the cost with you, then the ferry ends up being a great deal considering it covers transportation and a night of accommodation. Prices are lowest on weekdays during the low season, and you'll get the best deal if you book tickets as far in advance as possible.
If you'd like to rent a car to get from Copenhagen to Oslo, you have two options. The faster option is a 600-kilometer (seven-hour) drive using the Øresund Bridge that crosses from Denmark to Sweden. From there, you drive up through Sweden along the western coast, pass through Gothenburg, eventually crossing the border into Norway and onto Oslo. It's a gorgeous drive through the Swedish countryside, but the tolls quickly add up—just crossing the bridge from Denmark to Sweden costs $60.
The second option is an 800-kilometer (10-hour) drive from Copenhagen to Oslo across Denmark, skipping over Sweden altogether. The trip requires two separate ferry rides with your vehicle, first to Aarhus in Denmark (70 minutes) and then another to Larvik, Norway (3 hours, 45 minutes).
What to See in Oslo
If you're only in Oslo for a short amount of time, consider taking a guided tour of the main sites to get a comprehensive overview of the Norwegian capital. Some of the highlights include being able to board a real Viking ship, exploring the extensive Vigeland Park, or learning about the artist Edvard Munch and seeing his most iconic painting, "The Scream." If you really want to enjoy Oslo as the locals do, you'll have to spend at least a day outside of the city to appreciate Norway's unmatched natural beauty. Whether you rent a car and head out on your own or go with a guide, don't miss out on scenic hiking trails, a boat ride through the fjords, or getting up close to glaciers. Few capital cities in the world have such natural phenomena so easily accessible, and you don't want to miss out.
Depending on which route you take, you'll be crossing at least one border on your journey, if not two. All three countries are a part of the Schengen Area, which ostensibly allows for free travel between countries without any type of border control. However, a valid passport is still required and possibly a visa, depending on the duration of your trip and the country you're from. Sweden and Denmark are particularly diligent when it comes to border control, so have your passport ready if you're entering Sweden whether by car, train, or bus.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long is the drive from Copenhagen to Oslo?
It takes six hours, 45 minutes to drive to Oslo.
Where does the ferry from Copenhagen to Oslo depart?
The DFDS ferries leave from DFDS Copenhagen Terminal close to the Nordhaven St. metro stop on the B line.
How long is the ferry ride from Copenhagen to Oslo?
The ferry takes 16 hours to get from Copenhagen to Oslo, but there's plenty of entertainment options available.