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WhereToGoForMyHoliday.com

The best destination comparison site!

Stockholm or Madrid; a vs city comparison and travel guide

Both Madrid and Stockholm are fantastic cities, but which is better for your city-break or holiday?
We understand your dilemma. There is an abundance of travel guides for both cities, but few actually comparing them, and advising you which is the better for your trip.
This article will provide our unbiased and independent views of Madrid and Stockholm, hopefully making your choice that little easier.

The article is divided into the following sections, and can be jumped to using the links:
• Introduction to the cities
• Scores and ratings
• Which one should I, friends, or family visit?
• When to visit and weather
• Who is the city suited for?
• The perfect 48hours (with map)
• Tourism details (where to stay? airport details?)

Introduction to Madrid and Stockholm

Being the original artisan city of western Europe, Madrid’s galleries and museums are unrivalled, and are a staple for any cultural holiday.
However beneath this formal exterior is a young and passionate city, with thrilling nightlife, delicious food and genuinely welcoming locals.

The visitors who rave most about Madrid are the long-stay residents – and there is something captivating about the city. The Museo del Prado, the Reina Sofía and the Bernabéu Stadium, for a different type of culture. Just avoid Madrid in August, when the entire city shuts down for the summer holidays.

Magical, mystical Stockholm spreads over a speckling of islets surrounded by the icy Baltic Sea. At its centre is the fairy-tale Gamla Stan. Cobbled lanes wiggle and writhe around medieval rowhouses in those parts, opening onto a kitschy plaza filled with gingerbread cafés and grand Neo-Classical palaces.
Next door is happening Södermalm, a lived-in quarter with hipster meatball dives and ethnic eateries. Then there are Norrmalm and Östermalm, where amazing museums meet shopping strips and food halls.

Reputation has it that Stockholm isn't cheap. And it's true, this Scandi capital will set you back a bunch. But try not to let that put you off. There are rewards for loosening the purse strings, from days of fika (cosy coffee breaks) to encounters with ABBA the band to experiencing the buzz of a city that's at once modern and historic.

Stockholm Lake Malaren

Stockholm lies on an Archipelago of islands between Lake Mälaren and the Baltic Sea

Plaza Mayor madrid

The Plaza Mayor and the historic centre of Madrid

Madrid vs Stockholm: City Ratings

Summary
Which city would I go to?
Madrid
Which one would I recommend to my parents?
Madrid
Which location for my 19-year-old cousin?
Madrid
Which for my food obsessed friend?
Madrid
Note: The above comparison does not consider the weather, and assumes travel at the best time of year - which is detailed later in this article.

The following sections compare the two cities and considers; how long to spend in them, when to visit, and provides suggested 48hours in each city (along with an interactive map).
The final section is tourism practicalities and includes which airport to fly into, what district to be based in and how best to explore the city.

We hope that you find all of this information useful, in planning your next exciting trip!

Destination details

How long to spend each city?

Stockholm is a perfect city break spot. Two or three days is a great amount of time to while away between the historic Gamla Stan and the museums of Östermalm. What's more, planning a fly-in, fly-out jaunt has never been easier. There are no fewer than four airports serving the town, from big Stockholm-Arlanda to low-cost favourite Skavsta Airport. The advantage? It should be a cinch to find affordable connections in and out, say 72 hours apart.

If you've got a little more time to spare, then use it. Stockholm has secrets that aren't on the main tourist menu. For example, you could venture out to the rugged islands of the outer Stockholm Archipelago. They're for sailing, swimming, fishing, and wandering quaint villages. There are also the Viking relics of Birka and the idyllic forests and lake lands of Bornsjön. All those will require more than just a weekend.

For Madrid, the length of stay greatly depends on how much you want to devote to visit the three famed art galleries (Prado Museum, Thyssen-Bornemisza and Reina Sofía), or immerse into Spanish culture. The city can be seen in two days of sightseeing, and a third day is often given to the galleries.

There are many outstanding day trips from Madrid and a trip can be easily extended to 5 or 6 days. A selection of the best day trips includes the medieval town of Segovia, charming Toledo, and the magnificent El Escorial. Madrid makes for a good base from which to explore the region, and is served by inexpensive public transport

Stockholm Sodermalm district

The waterfront of the Sodermalm district in Stockholm

Palacio Real Madrid

The magnificent Palacio Real in Madrid

Wrap up warm if you're heading north in the winter months. Stockholm is a cold capital, but it comes with hefty sides of festive charm. At Christmas, you'll find lovely markets on Stortorget square in the middle of the Gamla Stan, the scents of mulled wine and hot chocolate floating up through the pastel-painted guild mansions. On the flip side, November to March also means uber-short days (think sunset as early as 3pm!) and lots of rain and snowfall.

If you prefer a dose of Vitamin D, consider the white nights of summer. It doesn't get dark until well into the evening between June and August. What's more, the weather is usually warm and mild, with daily averages in the low 20s. Of course, this is also the most popular time to come, so expect hotel rates to be inflated.

The major consideration for Madrid, is to avoid August. The entire city shuts down for the month, and everyone heads to the slightly cooler coastal towns.
The best time of year for Madrid is late spring (Jun/Jul) or early autumn. Madrid can be surprisingly chilly in the winter, but is comparatively drier and milder than the rest of northern Europe. As Madrid is in the centre of the Iberian Peninsula, it tends to get more extreme weather than the coastal cities.

Madrid is one of the finest cities in Europe. The city may not have the iconic monuments and attention-grabbing tourist attractions, but in reality, there is a lot to see during a city break.
Much of Madrid’s tourist literature focuses on the museums and galleries (which are world-class), but this should not deter you; this is a fun-loving city, which has the best nightlife in Europe. No matter your style of trip, there will be something to love about the Spanish capital.
Madrid excels as a long-stay destination, and if you can work here, the city offers the perfect work/life balance.

If you're a fan of culture-brimming capitals and enchanting old towns, then Stockholm is sure to impress. Whole days of wandering between waterside parks, centuries-old terraces, cobbled squares and stooped taverns are on the menu. And so are visits to places like the Vasa Museum, with its 17th-century Swedish warship pulled up from the deep.

In addition to all that, districts like Södermalm are there to entertain the foodie and the art lover. It's a vibrant mix of multicultural cafés and restaurants. On one corner you'll see a Bahian curry stall, on the next you'll catch a Lebanese rice kitchen. And that's not even mentioning the wealth of fair-trade coffee shops and roasteries that make an appearance.
It's also quite pricy, so we'd recommend anyone on a budget to steer well clear.

Museo Nacional del Prado madrid

The Museo Nacional del Prado, is one of the finest art galleries in the world

Royal palace in Stockholm

The Royal palace in Stockholm

48hours in Stockholm
Let's get stuck into Stockholm with this curated 48-hour itinerary. It whisks you from the aged heart of the town to some of its lived-in outer areas, and passes acclaimed museums and eateries as it goes…

Day 1: Hop out at Gamla Stan station in the early morning. Doing that puts you right at the meeting point of the Free Walking Tour Stockholm. Their trips typically take around two hours from start to finish, but they're a fine intro to all the secrets and monuments of the amazing district.

You'll probably encounter the bustling shopping thoroughfare of Stora Nygatan, the narrow alley of Prästgatan, and the handsome Stortorget square, all topped off with the stunning Royal Palace of Stockholm to learn about the boundary-breaking monarchy of Sweden. Once it's finished, be sure to stroll down cobbled Österlånggatan between the toyshops and Nordic taverns.

Have something to eat there and then move south across the water to Södermalm. One of the first things you'll encounter is the Katarina Elevator, with its high lookout points gazing across the old town. A few blocks to the south and you'll be in SoFo. This is the hipster hub of the city. If you can get a place, be sure to dine at quirky Meatballs for the People – expect modern twists on Scandi staples. If not, there are oodles of ramen places and Indian joints to boot.

Stockholm 5

Stockholm 5

Day 2: Breakfast at the Hötorgshallen. A colossal, two-floor food court, it's bursting with pretzels, smoked-salmon outlets, New Yorker delis, and more. It's also on the edge of Norrmalm's chic shopping area. Wander that to see designer outlets galore before emerging onto the salt-washed quays around Berzelii Park.

From there, you'll be able to see the forested island of Djurgården – your next destination. It's a short walk, with a few riverside cafes like the Sjöcafeet to enjoy en route. Then you delve straight into the Vasa Museum. Simply not to be missed, it's a chart-topper of Stockholm. The whole exhibit revolves around a mighty warship that sunk in Stockholm harbour just minutes after launching in the 17th century.

If time allows, ABBA the Museum is also next door, complete with glitzy pop paraphernalia and the piano on which some of the band's hit tracks were written. Behind all that is the vast open-air museum come park of Skansen. It's got living history that'll transport you back to medieval Sweden, along with a fun funicular train ride and even enclosures with brown bears.

Stockholm Stortorget

The colourful house on the Stortorget, the main Square of Stockholm

Madrid
48 hours in Madrid is not just the sights but also the atmosphere of the city. Below is an interactive tour map - day 1 is highlighted in green and day 2 in yellow, with optional sights marked grey.

Day 1 - 1) Puerta del Sol 2) Plaza Mayor 3) Plaza de la Villa 4) Mercado de San Miguel 5) Plaza de Oriente 7) Palacio Real 8) Almudena cathedral 9) Basílica de san Francisco 10) Calle de la Cava Alta
Day 2 - 11) Prado museum 12) Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum13) Museo Nacional Reina Sofía 14) Parque de El Retiro 15) Puerta de Alcalá 16) Palacio de Cibeles 17) Gran Vía 18) Malasaña district 19) Plaza de España 20) Templo de Debod

The 48 hours in Madrid begins in the Puerta del Sol, then wanders through charming streets of the El Madrid de los Austrias, which is the oldest section of the city. This leads to the Palacio Real, surrounded by its formal gardens and the Catedral de la Almudena to the south.
For the last part of the day explore the La Latina district and have a delicious tapas meal at one of the restaurants along the Cava Alta or Cava Baja. La Latina boasts numerous bars and is always a great place to start a night in Madrid.

The morning of the second focuses on the three art-museums, the Prado Museum, Thyssen-Bornemisza and Reina Sofía. Close to the museums is the pretty the El Retiro Park.
For the afternoon head down the Gran Vía, the main shopping street of Madrid, and visit the Malasaña district, with its artisan vibe, independent shops and trendy nightlife. For sunset watch it at the Templo de Debod, and then head back to Malasaña for a memorable meal and evening.

Templo de Debod madrid

The atmospheric Templo de Debod, is Egyptian temple which was moved to Madrid in 1968, due to the construction of the Aswan dam (which would have flooded the temple)

Gran Vía madrid

The Gran Vía is the bustling main avenue of Madrid

If you choose a good season to visit, then Madrid is ideal for a city break. There is just one airport severing Madrid and is only 13km from the historic centre. For onward travel take the metro (€1.50 single – 30 minutes). For flights, there is always high demand for Friday/Sunday flights to/from Madrid, so if planning a city break always book at least 6-8 weeks in advance.

On initial appearance Madrid seems to have ample supply of hotel and rental rooms, but this is slightly misleading, as the city is so sprawling.

Catedral de la Almudena madrid

The Catedral de la Almudena

For your first visit, you would want to be based in the Centro or Retiro districts, and this will limit accommodation options. If you do wish a more remote, budget option always ensure it is close to a metro station. While exploring Madrid, you will do a surprising amount of walking.

Stockholm has four individual airports. Stockholm-Arlanda is the largest. That's where you're likely to land on long-haul connections. The direct Flygbussarna transfer can get you back and forth in just 45 minutes, but there's also express rail straight to the terminal.

Skavsta Airport is a hub for low-cost carriers like Ryanair and is linked to the city by private coach transfers (travel time: 1.2 hours). Bromma Airport is mainly for domestic links and also has buses straight to the city. Finally, there's Västerås Airport. Over 60 miles to the west, it's popular for Sweden-UK flights. A coach transfer there takes around 80 minutes in total.

If you're struggling on deciding where to stay in Stockholm, look no further than the northern quarters of Södermalm. That's a good balance between affordability, convenience, and proximity to the Gamla Stan. Of course, there are also hotels in the middle of the old town, but you'll usually need to fork out more for the immersion.
Related articles: Where to stay in Stockholm

By far the best way to navigate is on the Storstockholms Lokaltrafik network. The metro is very efficient and clean, running regularly from stop to stop. Get yourself a combined SL Travel Card that allows for unlimited travel for the duration of your trip. These cost around 240 SEK ($25) for three days but will certainly save you money in the long run.

Stockholm Royal Palace

The Royal crown of Sweden and the Royal Palace to the rear

Stockholm is one of the safest capital cities in Europe, though problems are not unheard of. There are still pickpockets and muggings but stay sensible and calm and they are very unlikely to affect your trip. The most common places to fall victim to these sorts of crimes are on the subway, in the Gamla Stan, and in busy food halls..

Never stand on the cycle lane in Stockholm. Getting around on two wheels is an important mode of commuting for many locals. They don't take kindly to folk who get in their way!

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