For our first excursion, let’s visit the crown jewel of Scandinavia, Stockholm, Sweden. Home to international icons including IKEA and H&M, Stockholm is a vibrant city filled with great people, great food and lots of activities for the GLBT community. On a recent vacation to this fabulous destination, I spent three magical days in a city that I rank as one of the top vacation spots in all of Europe. Gay life in Stockholm is easily accessible, hugely fun and always welcoming. First-time GLBT visitors to Stockholm will be quick to realize that Stockholm is a fun-loving city which is also steeped in tradition. Stockholm is built on 14 islands, set in the magnificent Baltic Sea, just as spectacular as the city itself. Although the city is vibrant in the warmer months, travel deals are abundant in the winter if you are brave enough to face the long, harsh starry nights.
Traveling to the city from the United States is simple but can be somewhat costly depending on the time of year you wish to travel. SAS Scandinavian Airlines departs daily from several destinations in the United States, as do many other carriers, although a lay-over in London is not uncommon. Once you arrive at Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport, jump on the Arlanda Express Train, which departs every 15 minutes, and is the quickest and most environmentally friendly way of getting to and from the city centre.
The abundance of chic, gay-friendly hotels in Stockholm makes the city a must-see destination. The hotels are scattered throughout the city, with most situated within walking distance to Gamla Stan or “Old Town”, which is home to much of the city’s vibrant gay nightlife. The Nordic Light Hotel features minimalist Swedish style at its very best, and has been voted ‘The World’s Sexiest Hotel’ by the readers of Elle magazine. The hotel also serves as a perennial sponsor of the Pride Festival. At the Nordic Sea Hotel, its sister hotel located right next door, you’ll find Stockholm’s coolest bar, the Icebar, which is the world’s first permanent ice bar. Situated close to Old Town, the Berns Hotel is a chic art-deco boutique property that calls itself the ‘Designer Hotel for people tired of designer hotels’. The Berns’ previous guests have included diva-extraordinaire, Diana Ross. For those who like to dream of the splendors of a bygone age, there is the brand-new Hotel Stureplan, a small, intimate hotel located in an elegant 19th century building whose interior design is inspired by traditional Swedish craftsmanship.
Stockholm offers a variety of attractions and historical sites. Some suggestions include The Hallwyl Palace, home to then Count and Countess von Hallwyl, which upon completion in 1898, was Stockholm’s most modern private residence. Millesgården Sculpture Park is the former home and sculpture garden of Carl Milles, Sweden’s foremost sculptor, and currently displays his most stunning work. The Stockholm City Museum organizes gay-themed city walks and boat trips around the city, focusing on Stockholm’s gay heritage. Visitors are welcomed by the museum’s bright pink mascot, Rose the Poodle, which stands guard at the museums front door. Drottningholm Palace, also known as the “Swedish Versailles”, is home to the Royal Family and is located just outside the city. The palace houses the Drottningholm Court Theatre, which dates back to 1766 and saw its glory days 11 years later, when gay King Gustav III took charge of the palace.
Stockholm abounds in fashionable restaurants with enticing menus, rivaling those of any European capital city. The restaurant scene in Stockholm is known for its wide selection of dining options, high standards, and professional service. The city puts its very best face forward in restaurants where the food, the ambience, and the attractive clientele all compete for your attention. Many gay-friendly restaurants have sprung up all around the city, including hotspots such as Göken and Mälarpaviljongen . Sofo Roxy is a lesbian-run restaurant/lounge located in Södermalm's fashion district. Other suggestions include Chokladkoppen, a small café in the heart of Old Town, with outdoor seating during the summer, when the sun barely sets.
It isn’t hard to find gay nightlife in Stockholm, just pick up QX GAYMAP, which highlights all the clubs, restaurants, and cafes in the city, where you are also likely to find information on local parties and events. QX is also available from on the Internet, so GLBT visitors can plan their vacation accordingly before even stepping foot in Stockholm.
The city is also home to the Stockholm Gay Network, a project within the Stockholm Visitors Board, which works to market and develop Stockholm as an interesting and attractive destination for the GLBT community.