City Guide: Stockholm
By OUTTraveler Editors
Europe’s undiscovered gem is truly one of the world’s most distinctive cities, perched on 14 islands on the southeast coast of Sweden. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo craze may have put the city in the consciousness of many Americans, but gay tourists would be wise to move Stockholm to the top of their list of must-visit destinations in Europe.
The first country in the world to deem that homosexuality is not an illness (way back in 1944), Sweden has become a pioneering force for gay rights throughout the continent. In fact, being gay is such a non-issue in Sweden that Stockholm doesn’t really have a “gay area”—the gay clubs are everywhere, and gay restaurants and coffee shops are dispersed throughout downtown, old town, and even the burbs.
For a truly unique experience, party on the Lady Patricia, a day dance club built on a boat. (How often do you get to boogie on the Baltic?) and for some distinctly gay culture, check out Mellesgarden, a sculpture garden named for Carl Milles that boasts a number of homoerotic (and downright gay) pieces.
EAT: Meatballs and More
The city is bursting with options for inventively clean cuisine, from Michelin-starred to meatballs and, because you’ll be surrounded by the Baltic, you should never go a day without seafood.
• Grill: Sit in a Swedish grandma’s kitchen, overlooking a brothel—with a crowd as buzzing as the food is good. And the interior is insane. (Drottninggatan 80; Grill.se)
• Restaurant Baggen: Located in the Artipelag, this restaurant serves elegant food in the new Nordic style, meaning none of the ubiquitous herring here; instead a lightly grilled perch with mounds of new potatoes and horseradish. (Artipelagstigen 1; artipelag.se/en/restaurant)
• Sturehof: A diner where the waitstaff wear braided epaulettes on their coats, the Dalaro sandwich (smoked herring, roe, and egg yolk) is the Swedish larder on a plate, and everyone races to the terrace tables to watch the Swedes glide by. (Sturegallerian 42; Sturehof.com)
SLEEP: Scandinavian Style
Sure Sweden is home to IKEA, but you won’t need any confusing instruction manual to put a killer holiday together when you start by staying in one of these hotels.
• Hotel Skeppsholmen: A short walk from the old town on a small island that it shares with the Modern Art Museum, Hotel Skeppsholmen has the most idyllic setting of any hotel in Stockholm, comprised of former marines barracks, dating back from 1699 and overlooking the water. Breakfast on the terrace in summer is heavenly. A nearby ferry terminal can whisk you to hipster central, Södermalm, in minutes. (Grona gangen 1; HotelSkeppsholmen.com)
• Hotel Berns: For impeccable luxury, this place is unbeatable. The Asian restaurant and Berns Bistro earn top scores from foodies, but with dishes like shitake-glazed reindeer fillet available through room service, why go downstairs? (Nackstromsg 8; berns.se/en/hotel)
• Grand Hotel: The Grand Hotel Stockholm is almost as grand as the royal palace across the river. The interiors (including the Hall of Mirrors and Winter Garden) are so elegant they’ve been designated a “Swedish National Treasure.” Be sure to sample the Grand Hotel’s own 1874 Grand Aquivat, flavored with cumin, aniseed, fennel, and a squeeze of sherry. (Södra Blasieholmshamnen 8; grandhotel.se)
SEE: Fun for Every Season
Spread out on 14 islands, with over 30,000 more in the surrounding archipelago, Stockholm lays out a seductive smorgasbord of activity timed to the seasons.
• Vasa Museum: The Vasa is a 17th-century warship that sunk as soon as it was launched in 1628. She sat at the bottom of the harbor for more than 300 years until crews excavated and meticulously rebuilt the ship. The Vasa Museum, which itself has been under renovation and will re-open on May 1, is simply one of the most uniquely-Stockholm experiences there is. You’ll always remember the Vasa. (Galärvarvsvägen 14; vasamuseet.se/sv)
• Artipelag: It describes itself as a “meeting place for art, culture, music, design, and gastronomy,” and it scores remarkably well on all counts. Designed by the late Johan Nyrén, the building blends beautifully with the island on which it stands, a convergence of art, nature, and architecture that doesn’t preclude a touch of whimsy. (Artipelagstigen 1; Artipelag.se)
• Acne: Acne cofounders Jonny Johannson and Mikael Schiller started with jeans back in 1996, but the brand has since expanded and deepened. The flagship store is located in the former Kreditbanken, famous for the 1973 hostage crises that resulted in the use of the expression “Stockholm Syndrome.” You can even try on a pair of jeans in the vault-turned fitting room that once held the captives. (Normalmstorg 2; AcneStudios.com)
Also, check out these other amazing attractions in Stockholm:
Swedish Museum of Architecture
ABBA The Museum
Swedish Music Hall of Fame
Stockholm City Museum
PLAY: Bars on the Baltic
Sweden may never escape the global reputation of her child Abba, but Stockholm's nightlife has certainly moved on. Still, most of the nightlife, like Abba, is unabashedly queer-friendly.
• Mälarpaviljongen: This floating bar and restaurant on the island of Kungsholmen is a magnet for gays on warm summer evenings, when it becomes a great starting point for a night of revelry. (Norr Mälarstrand 64; Mälarpaviljongen.se)
• Patricia: On Sunday nights, make sure to end up at this floating boat–turned-nightclub with several dance floors that hosts a popular gay party. (Stadsgårdskajen 152; Patricia.st)
• Side Track: The restaurant and bar draws consistent crowds Wednesday through Saturday with its friendly atmosphere and great, reasonably priced food. There really isn’t anything better than a late-night elkburger with lingonberry ketchup. (Wollmar Yxkullsgatan, 7; sidetrack.nu)
MY CITY: STOCKHOLM
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