Romantic showdown: Oslo vs Stockholm

Romantic showdown: Oslo vs Stockholm

Norway and Sweden, Oslo and Stockholm. Both iconic winter destinations, but which one will come out on top in this epic romance off?

Oslo, Norway

What to do?

1. Oslo Opera House

There are few things more romantic than the unbridled passion of opera, and that is available in abundance at the Oslo Opera House. Its current repertoire offers the tragic tale of the sorceress Alcina, the reimagining of the classic story La Bohème, and Kaija Saariaho's critically acclaimed love-struck opera L'amour de loin - where a man falls in love with a woman he has never met. Tickets are from NOK 100-395pp (£9.80-£38.90) via http://operaen.no/en/. Or if opera isn't your thing, why not take a tour and soak up the building's majestic architecture, designed by Tarald Lundevall? Entry is NOK 100pp (£9.80).

2. Langøyene (Long Island)

Sunbathe, go fishing or camp out under the stars in Langøyene, an isle located in the inner part of Oslofjord. With sandy saltwater beaches and forest-clad hills, the island is great for hiking or spending a few secluded days in a tent.

3. The park at Lake Bogstad

With manicured gardens and beautiful landscapes, the park that surrounds the listed Bogstad Manor seem like they have been plucked from an English romance novel. The grounds boast winding canals, cascading fountains and hidden bridges, masked by more than 400 rare trees and plants. Formed around 1780, the atmospheric park is not just a wonderful setting for couples seeking solitude, but is also the first of its kind and a model for parks across the country. The estate is open all year-round.

4. Holmenkollen ski jump

Don't worry, you won't need your skis for this one! Head to the jump - a goliath of steel and concrete - at the end of the day and you'll witness a tangerine sunset over Norwegian spruce. And unless you're planning to take on the sporting feat or visit the museum, the attraction won't cost you a penny either. See www.holmenkollen.com/eng to find out more.

5. The Oslo Pass

Experience pretty much everything that Oslo has to offer with the Oslo Pass. Spend from just NOK 290 (£28.60) and you and your partner will get the keys to the kingdom: free entry to more than 30 museums and attractions, free travel on all public transport, free parking in municipal car parks, free entry to outdoor swimming pools *if you dare!) and free walking tours. If that's not enough, you'll also receive discounts on ski and bike rentals, sightseeing tours, concert tickets and entry to Tusenfryd Amusement Park (in Norwegian). Opt for 24, 48 or 72-hour passes. Check out www.visitoslo.com/en to purchase your pass and discover exactly what's included.

Stockholm, Sweden

What to do?

1. Monteliusvägen

Lined with quaint houses, the postcard vistas from the scenic walkway of Monteliusvägen - overlooking Riddarfjärden, Kungsholmen, the City Hall and Old Town - are some of the best in Stockholm; and they're free! The 500m-long path also offers sweeping views of the calm Lake Mälaren, and is particularly popular for a proposal at sunrise or sunset.

2. Stockholm Archipelago

Catch a ferry to one of 30,000 islands, islets and skerries within the Stockholm Archipelago, a veritable smorgasbord of different landscapes. The inner parts of the archipelago will offer green hills, while further out are flat rocks and never-ending skylines. Sandhamn in particular offers lazy days sunbathing, or for more energetic couples, kayaking, cycling and golf. Take a hike along one of its many walking paths or white sandy beaches too, before enjoying your evening in one of its abundant restaurants or bars. Ferries run regularly from Stockholm to Sandhamn - except on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.

3. The gardens of City Hall

Stockholm's City Hall is the embodiment of Sweden's romantic architectural style. Its south-facing gardens, overlooking the north shore of Riddarfjarden, house two famous statues of a man and woman who look as though they are dancing above the lake, celebrating life. The hall itself is open to the public through guided tours only, held daily in Swedish and English.

4. Free walking tours

Take a 90-minute stroll through the cobbled streets of the Old Town, courtesy of a local volunteer guide. You'll pass by iconic buildings like the Royal Palace and Stockholm Cathedral, learn about the city's history - from the Stockholm Bloodbath of 1520 to the Viking colonisation - and discover its narrow alleyways and popular public squares. The tour is completely free (unless you want to tip your guide!) and can be booked via www.getyourguide.co.uk.

5. Balloon over Stockholm

Stockholm is different to other capital cities: it allows hot-air balloons to drift above it. Between the glorious months of May and September, you and your spouse can get the best view in the house, looking down over the city's multi-coloured facades, fairytale spires and tranquil waters. Try Sweden's oldest ballooning company, Scandinavian Balloons, which offers rides from 1,995 SEK pp (£187.80).

The verdict

Oslo and Stockholm are both beautiful in their own ways, but with its fairytale charm and romantic architecture that inspires loved-up couples, Stockholm wins the title in this face-off.

Image courtesy of www.visitstockholm.com, photographed by Jeppe Wikström.

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