Denmark Or Norway: Which Scandinavian Country To Visit?

Norway
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Denmark and Norway may be two utterly stunning Scandinavian countries that are pretty similar but that’s probably why their differences stand out so much. From their many traditions and customs to their attractions, wildlife, and landscape. Choosing between Denmark and Norway can often be tricky. 

Denmark is a country full of beautiful, colorful towns and cities, glorious docks and fishing areas, as well as countless places to explore with friends, family, and loved ones. It’s also one of the happiest places on the planet and when you visit you’ll understand why. Norway, on the other hand, is known for stunning fjords and jaw-dropping scenery. Many think of Norway as a cold country and while that may be true it does see some hot days for a short period throughout the year. 

Each country has its perks, so we’ve put together this guide to help you choose between the two. We’ve looked at how much you’ll need to budget for a seven-day trip to each place, what kinds of accommodation you can book, and the hidden beaches you never knew existed. Our guide will give you a broad overview and by the end, you should have made up your mind as to which to visit first.

Accommodation

The view at Steinsdalsfossen in Norway
Photo by Tobias Tullius via Unsplash

Whether you are traveling to Denmark or Norway, you’ll need to find a place to stay for your vacation. Denmark has a lot to offer visitors from romantic getaways in a 20th-century Moorish-inspired palace to a unique Copenhagen city-style break onboard a converted barge, Denmark has every type of accommodation you can think of to match your reasons for your vacation. 

Just like the locals a trip to Denmark will have you fall in love with its way of life, and living like a local by staying in AirBnB’s, you’ll surround yourself entirely with the goodness Denmark brings. But other options include sleeping in a beer can, up in the trees in your very own treehouse, and even camping in the Scandinavian wildlife park. Prices for accommodation vary greatly depending on what you are looking for. 

Norway isn’t much different in terms of variety. From villas and self-catering apartments to luxury lodges, five-star hotels, and romantic ‘birdhouses’ surrounded by nature, you can truly enjoy your surroundings. However, if you prefer being at one with nature, then you’ll be happy to know that there are over 1000 campsites across Norway. Some of these campsites are rather unique and allow you to sleep on the bank of a river. 

When backpacking, it can often be more appealing to wild camp. Norway’s right to roam means you have free access to the countryside and as long as you are respectful you can camp and stay pretty much anywhere. So sleeping under the stars and the northern lights has never been more accessible. 

Winner: Norway. Not only is it cheaper than Denmark, but you can also sleep under the stars and the northern lights absolutely free. 

Budget

Lofoten Islands, Svolvær, Norway
Photo by John O’Nolan via Unsplash

Before deciding between two destinations for your vacation, you’ll want to look into how much things cost. From accommodation, food, and drinks to sightseeing, transport, and flights. We’ve looked at the average costs of three key components of any vacation; accommodation, food, and sightseeing activities. All our figures are what you’ll need to budget daily for each part and they do not include flights or additional transport. 

A seven-day trip to Copenhagen in Denmark will cost a solo traveler on average around $1,379. For a couple, it will cost on average around $1,967 and for a family of four, you’d be looking to pay around $3,731 for just 7 days. You may find that hotels work out a little more expensive per night than booking a holiday home and vice versa.  You can also save a bit of money by looking for free activities or by cooking some meals yourself instead of eating out every night.

Solo TravelerCouples VacationFamily Vacation 
Accommodation$73.00$147.00$205.00
Food & Drink$46.00$92.00$184.00
Sightseeing$36.00$72.00$144.00

When comparing these same components for a vacation in Norway you’re looking at things being a little cheaper. The average cost of a seven-day trip to Norway for a solo traveler will cost you around $500 dollars cheaper than in Denmark. For a couple, the average cost is roughly $300 dollars cheaper than in Denmark, which works out at $1,673.00.

And for a family of four, you’d be expecting to pay around $800 less than you would for a seven-day trip to Denmark. This is an incredible saving if you’re looking for a cheap destination.

Just like Denmark you can also visit Norway on a budget if you opt for free attractions, hostels over up-market hotels, or book into a self-catering apartment so you can cook your own meals on some days. 

Solo TravelerCouples VacationFamily Vacation 
Accommodation$60.00$121.00$181.00
Food & Drink$39.00$78.00$156.00
Sightseeing$20.00$40.00$80.00

Winner: Norway. Everything is a little cheaper from accommodation to food and sightseeing.

Beaches

Denmark, Skagen, lighthouse at the beach
Photo by westend61 via Envato Elements

You may not realize this but Denmark is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe. It has over 7,400 kilometers of coastline, an incredible 174 Blue Flag beaches, and 18 blue flag marinas. Breathtaking sandy beaches stretch along the east and west coast of Denmark, so no matter what you’re searching for, whether that’s a child-friendly beach with shallow waters or a remote coast where you can perfect your water sports skills, Denmark has you covered. 

Some of the best beaches in Denmark include Lonstrup Beach, Sondervig Beach, Nordstranden, and Palm Beach. Norway on the other is filled with underrated beaches that not many people know about. From golden strips of sand that are great for surfing to small bays overlooking glorious mountains and striking coastline, Norway has plenty to offer the discerning traveler no matter what time of year your visit. 

Some of Norway’s best beaches include Godalen Beach, Paradisbukta, Haukland Beach, and Uttakleiv. Norway’s beaches don’t just offer great views of the mountains, from some of them you’ll even be treated to an unspoiled view of the Northern Lights in all their grandeur. Some of Denmark’s beaches on the other hand offer some rather spectacular photo-worthy sunsets. So beach walks in the evening are just as romantic in person as they are in the movies. 

Winner: Denmark. It only just pips Norway to the win here, simply because of the incredible amount of award-winning beaches you can find.

Food

Open sandwich with prosciutto on black bread (pumpernickel) on cutting board
Photo by Brebca via Envato Elements

Traditional Danish cuisine centers heavily around meats and fish, but it’s also known for its rye bread and fruit and cream desserts. A lot of Danish food is based on foods that can be easily farmed or gathered during the country’s short summer. Norwegian cuisine is very similar with a heavy focus for most dishes being on meats and fish, however, it’s less about robust, powerful flavors and more about the quality and subtleties of the foods in front of you. 

While you will Smorrebrod (open-faced sandwiches) in both Denmark and Norway, you’ll also find that Denmark has some of its own traditional dishes, just as Norway has its own. Caramelized potatoes or kartofler are often served as a side dish at Christmas in Denmark whereas in Norway you’ll find that it’s a Christmas tradition to have Lutefisk.

The national dish of Denmark is called Stegt flæsk med persillesovs which is essentially a combination of crispy pork, potatoes, and parsley sauce. The national dish of Norway however is called fårikål which is a mutton and cabbage stew. 

Here are 3 traditional Danish foods you need to try:

  • Frikadeller – Savory pork meatball served with brown sauce, potatoes, and cabbage.
  • Koldskål – ‘Cold bowl’ is a traditional summer dish made from cold buttermilk soup, biscuits, and fruit.
  • Pølser – the ultimate street food. Known as a gourmet hot dog it’s normally made using red sausages, bread, and a range of toppings.

Here are 3 traditional Norwegian foods you need to try:

  • Fiskegratin – known as the ultimate comfort food, fiskegratin is essentially fish macaroni cheese. 
  • Reindeer Steak – no trip to Norway would be complete without trying reindeer meat. It’s normally served with mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. 
  • Skoleboller – ‘School buns’ are essentially like donuts and have a custard filling, with grated coconut sprinkled on the top. 

Winner: Both. Whether you’re in Denmark or Norway, tasting their regional traditional foods is a must, and both offer something a little different.

Nightlife

Cheerful friends with flutes talking at party in night club
Photo by Pressmaster via Envato Elements

Denmark may be known widely for its historic architecture and idyllic landscapes, but there’s a little side to Denmark not many people may be aware of. Its nightlife, especially in Copenhagen, is on a whole new level compared to Norway. One of Copenhagen’s most well-known clubs is Culture Box. The club itself is divided into four different areas and bars, with each differing in ambiance and theme. 

Another well-known club is Rust which blasts out varied music from indie-pop to hip-hop and electronic music. It’s one of the best places for a party. If you’re looking for something a little different you’ll want to try Vega where you’ll be treated to jazz, rock, and disco music to dance the night away too. However, there are plenty of other bars, nightclubs, and pubs to choose from for a good night out. 

Norway may be known as an otherwise cold country but its nightlife is anything but cold. In fact, it can be rather electrifying, especially in Oslo. But it’s not only Oslo that has a rocking nightlife scene, Bergen, Tromso, and Stavanger are also places in Norway where the nightlife is off the charts. If you’re looking for the whole package of ample spaces for your dance moves, good vibes, and great food then you’ll want to spend at least one night of your vacation in Oslo at Kulturhuset. 

Other great clubs in Norway include Stratos, No Stress, Bardus Bar, and Bar Bache. When comparing the price of drinks, you’ll realize that Norway works out a lot less expensive than Denmark. Although both have a lot of great clubs where you’ll be able to have fun and drink to your heart’s content, you’re wallet with certainly be happier with a nightout in Norway. But remember you’ll need to budget for this, especially if you’re on a booze-filled hen or stag party. 

Winner: Norway. There are loads of bars, clubs, and nightclubs you can go to, plus alcoholic drinks are a lot cheaper.

Attractions

View to fjord and water from drone in Norway
Photo by  Raimond Klavins via Unsplash

The kingdom of Denmark is a sovereign state littered with palaces and castles across its landscape. Arguably, however, many of Denmarks top attractions happen in the great outdoors. After all, it is home to some of the most stunning natural sights on earth, such as floating sand dunes, majestic cliffs, and vast pine forests. Depending on your interests, you can discover Thy National Park, take a trip to Copenhagen Zoo, or revel in the magnificent Egeskov Castle. 

But that’s not all, Denmark is filled with history, religion, and fun in the form of Viking burial grounds, churches, and amusement parks. Norway however, seamlessly blends the old with the new. It’s one of the most affluent countries in Europe so you can expect to find a range of high-quality experiences wherever you go. Norway has some fantastic rail routes all across the city so it would be a shame to miss the opportunity to use them. They offer some truly extraordinary views of the country. 

For the hikers and walkers, you’ll love exploring the 399-meter summit of Mount Floyen where you’ll have views overlooking Bergen city. You also won’t want to forget or miss out on the numerous Fjords that cover the country, the most well-known UNESCO World Heritage Site of Geirangerfjord. But Norway also offers you a chance to visit the Arctic Circle, Ski the Lyngen Alps, and marvel at the Arctic Cathedral. 

Winner: Both. Whether you visit Denmark or Norway you will have plenty to fill your days no matter your interests.

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Justine King is from the UK and has been a full-time traveller and freelance writer since 2020 after a 6-year career in Hospitality. Clients benefit from her love and knowledge of the sector as she creates informative and inspiring articles to help guide readers totheir next travel destination.