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)
• Nobis Hotel: The Nobis Hotel is a contemporary luxury hotel comprised of two 19th century buildings that exude modern elegance. It also has a surprising history. Formerly, the hotel was the site of the bank Kreditbanken, where a famous 1973 robbery, in which the hostages sided with the hostage takers, inspired the term “Stockholm Syndrome.” Just steps from some of the city’s best shopping, dining and entertainment options, it’s an excellent choice for discerning travelers of business and pleasure. (Norrmalmstorg 2-4; nobishotel.com)
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)
• The Royal Opera House: Kungliga Operan, also known as the Royal Opera House, has been the Swedish national venue for opera and ballet since January 18, 1773. You can visit Kungliga Operan as a member of the audience at one of the performances or take a guided tour. On the tour, you will have the opportunity to look backstage, visit the royal rooms, and peer down into the orchestra pit. Learn about the fascinating history of Kungliga Operan and get a glimpse of what backstage life is like today. (Gustav Adolfs torg 2; operan.se)
• Stockholm City Museum: The Stockholm City Museum is responsible for preserving nearly 300,000 items of Swedish historical interest, including 20,000 works of art, 3,000 oil paintings, 3 million photographs and a comprehensive library and archive. (Visitors can preview this impressive collection of photographs, which date from the 19th century to present, online at digitala Stadsmuseet, a digital database.) It’s a wonderful place to get to know the city. Here, visitors can sign up for gay heritage city walks and boat trips, and find a guide for the “Millennium Walking Tour” that showcases highlights from Stieg Larson’s popular novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. (Ryssgården; stadsmuseet.stockholm.se/In-English)
Also, check out these other amazing attractions in Stockholm:
Swedish Museum of Architecture
ABBA The Museum
Swedish Music Hall of Fame
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
DJ Martin Blix spins us up some Stockholm secrets.
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