Having escaped the wholesale architectural devastation wrought on other European countries by the world wars, Stockholm, Sweden, can seem like a patchwork of historical neighborhoods. Each exudes its own charm and style, making the city seem at once delightfully compact and remarkably spacious.
On the central island area of Gamla Stan, literally "Old Town," colorful 13th-century medieval buildings preside tightly on cobblestone streets lined with some of the 14-island city's chicest boutiques and nightclubs.
Other areas of "the Venice of the North," however, have been razed and rebuilt in the sort of clean, modern Swedish design we've come to love at Ikea.
Because Stockholm lacks heavy industry, its streets and metro system are among the cleanest in the world.
Civil unions are legal in Sweden and afford most married couples rights, but same-sex marriage is not -- although a new push may change this in 2009. Same-sex couples have had full adoption rights, however, since 2002, and lesbian couples have the option of assisted insemination in public hospitals.
Legal language aside, Swedes -- especially in Stockholm -- have the deserved reputation of being one of Europe's most LGBT-friendly people.
Tips: Night after night, day after day
Daylight shrinks to about six hours around late December's winter solstice, so by summer the Swedes -- as gorgeous in real life as in stereotype -- are ready to take on late June's summer solstice. Not for the faint-hearted, the city and her LGBT beaches positively teem with life during summer's 18-hour, 70-degree days.
With EuroPride taking Stockholm by storm from July 25 to Aug. 3, 2008, you can expect a literally nonstop party like no other.
Any time, however, the local LGBT guide, QX publishes up-to-date listings in print and online as a downloadable PDF (www.qx.com/pdf/qxgaymap2008.pdf).
Tricks: Dancing queens
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.
Like a rite of passage, most first timers spend a night clubbing at Patricia (Stadsg?rdskajen 152, S?dermalm; Slussen T-bana metro stop). Docked off S?dermalm island, Patricia weathers queer clubgoing storms every Sunday. The old military vessel-cum-dance club has also weathered World War II missions in Normandy and visits from Queen Elizabeth II and Winston Churchill.
Saturdays, check out Lino Club Sthlm's (Riddark?llaren, S?dra Riddarholmshamnen 19, Old Town) four bars, two dance floors and large outdoor terrace.
Wednesday through Saturday, the gay Side Track (Wollmar Yxkullsgatan, 7; +46-0-86-41-16-88; from 65SEK) restaurant and bar draws consistent crowds with its friendly atmosphere and great, reasonably priced eats. There really isn't anything better then a late-night elkburger with lingonberry ketchup; trust us.
At the height of Swedish design, the glow of the Nordic Light Hotel (Vasaplan 7; +46-0-8-50-56-30-00; from 2,200SEK) can be seen from blocks away. By night, some of Stockholm's best-designed people can also be seen dipping into martinis at the bar. By day, try the light therapy, tasty brunch, and startlingly calm White Room. The Black Room, designed by IKEA, is also worth a peek, but is better suited to its function as a meeting hall.
For impeccable luxury, the Hotel Berns (N?ckstr?msg, 8; +46-08-56-63-27-33; from 1,350SEK) is unbeatable. The Asian restaurant and Berns Bistro earn top scores from foodies, but with dishes like shiitake-glazed reindeer fillet available through room service, why go downstairs?
The Hotel Berns is also an entertainment hub, booking top talent like Erykah Badu, Cat Power, The Breeders and John Digweed for almost nightly performances.