What to Expect When Taking the Train from Stockholm to Copenhagen
If you’re looking to travel from Stockholm to Copenhagen, there’s a few options. The fastest, or what seems to be the fastest, would be flying, with a 1 hr flight. However, besides that one hour, it’s 20 minutes on the train to Arlanda, another one hour or more that you’re spending in security and ticket lines at the airport, then more time on the Denmark side getting out of the airport and into the city. It’s also going to be the most expensive option, all in saving a couple of hours. The bus would be the cheapest option - though at 10 hours, you’re definitely losing a day to the journey. Or, you could be environmental, economical, and save yourself a lot of hassle by taking the train. It’s definitely the way to go. Here’s what you need to know.
Buying Your Ticket
Book your ticket in advance on SJ.com. Preferably at least two weeks in advance if possible, as prices will go up closer to the date. Tickets can also be bought at the station, but you’re going to get the highest price. On the website, you can book refundable vs non-refundable, and 1st vs 2nd class. Both classes give you assigned seats. 1st will give you a free meal and a slightly nicer seat. I don’t know if it’s really worth it, to be honest. The food is relatively inexpensive on the train and the 2nd class seats are perfectly comfortable. Look for a train that goes from Stockholm C to Köbenhavn H without transfers. There should be several each day, at about 5 hours from one place to another. There’s also an option for a longer night train with a couchette bed for a little extra, if you’re looking to maximize your daylight hours in each city. My ticket was $50 for a refundable ticket, though had I booked a week earlier, it would have been $40.
You’ll be able to select your seat on the website when booking. The site will show the direction of travel to aid you in deciding your seat. You won’t see a big difference in landscape facing east or west, so I wouldn’t worry about that, but there are a few things to keep in mind: The train generally heads southwest, which means full sun exposure on the left side in the morning, right in the afternoon. Seats can either go forwards or backwards - are you someone who gets disoriented when you’re facing away from the direction of travel? Also, do you think you’ll want to visit the cafe car? In which case, I would book close to that car for ease of walking through the train.
Getting onto the Train
On the day, you’ll arrive at T-Centralen, the Stockholm central train station. The station is a maze of above and below ground trains and metro lines. It’s well-marked in English and Swedish, and there’s also several staffed information booths along the main corridors. Find your way to the SJ platform that shows your train number and destination. There’s no need to get there super early - the train will only arrive about 10 minutes prior to departure. I would plan to get to T-Centralen about 20 minutes before departure to have time to make it to your platform. Maybe a little more if you want to grab food at the station. There will be markings on the platform itself of which cars are stopping in which areas. The train cars themselves will also be marked on the outside so you can make sure you’re entering the right car.
Once the doors open, it’s going to be a bit of a rush to get onboard. A lot of people will have luggage. There is a small luggage rack on either end of the car that will fill up quickly. It was definitely full by the time I got onboard. There’s also a rack that goes above the seats that will fit fairly heavy luggage (my suitcase was about 25lbs) assuming you can lift it up there. Thankfully I was able to without any help!
On the Train
I had a window seat that was on the right side, facing the direction of travel. I didn’t have much of a sun glare for the first few hours of the trip, thankfully. Once we got moving, I was excited to see the wifi did actually work, though was a bit slow (no uploading of photos, but lots of looking at a map). The train makes about 8 stops between Stockholm to Copenhagen.
Once you get out of suburban Stockholm, the views are primarily forest, mixed with occasional farmland. It’s a lovely view, and one that reminds you how rural much of Sweden is.
The cafe car is reminiscent of Amtrak in the US, in that it has a decent selection of premade sandwiches and salads, along with both soft drinks and alcohol for purchase. Prices are not that bad - A sandwich and a sparkling water came to about 80kr, or $8USD.
The train stops in Malmö, on the edge of the strait separating Sweden from Denmark, where a lot of the passengers get off. After that, you’re crossing the large and impressive Øresund Bridge, crossing from Sweden into Denmark. At a certain point, you can look back and forth at both countries at the same time. There’s no stopping for passport checks heading south, though I have heard they do one heading north.
Arriving into Copenhagen
The train stops first at the airport, and then the city, the final stop being Copenhagen Central Station. Make sure once you exit that you walk all the way to the front of the train for the main entrance to the train station. When I got off the train, I went up the first set of stairs I saw, which took me up to a random street. This was very confusing!!
I had to head back down and go all the way to the front of the train to enter Central Station. The station itself is also not as well marked (nothing is as orderly as Sweden), however it is beautiful. The station is a large, red brick, well-lit Victorian station with architectural flourishes. The change from practical, orderly Sweden was evident already. Eventually I found a machine that sold Metro passes and tickets for Copenhagen’s transit system, known as DOT. In addition to selling single tickets, the Copenhagen DOT sells city passes that covers all buses and trains on the network within a certain zone. If you’re staying in the central areas or going to the airport, the Small City Pass, which covers regions 1-4, will suite you just fine. Because it’s Scandanavia, the DOT also has an app for you to load fares onto. Enjoy your trip to Copenhagen!
To learn more about what to do in and around Stockholm, check out my guide here.
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