Scandinavia’s largest capital is also the most mesmerizing, straddling 14 islands on the southeast coast of Sweden. In the summer, especially, there’s almost nothing more captivating than a boat trip through the Stockholm archipelago, with its approximately 24,000 islands and islets. In June and July the sun barely sets, giving visitors plenty of daylight hours to make the most of their trip.
There’s plenty of reasons to visit Sweden, but not least of them is the country’s renowned tolerance: it was the first country in the world to remove homosexuality from its register of mental illness, way back in 1944, some 29 years before the U.S. took the same step. Not surprisingly it has also legalized same-sex marriage, further helping to cement its position as a top LGBT destination. Swedes are so accepting, in fact, that there’s never been the need for a specifically “gay neighborhood” in Stockholm — gay clubs, restaurants, cafes, and bars are spread throughout the city, while Stockholm Pride draws visitors from all over the continent. Mark your calendars: this year’s festivities are set for July 27 to August 1.
Stockholm’s electric food scene is alive with possibility. From seafood to meatballs, many restaurants subscribe to the New Nordic ethos of sustainable and delicious.
Franzén/Lindeberg: This restaurant is the epitome of farm to table eating. The chefs select the best ingredients from their own gardens outside the city and combine them with local and seasonal produce and proteins. There are only 16 seats in the main dining room so book ahead! (Lilla Nygatan 21, SE-111 28, www.frantzen-lindeberg.com)
Wedholms Fisk (pictured): Seafood is and always has been at the heart of Swedish cuisine. Combining old traditions with new influences and techniques, this restaurant offers breathtaking views of the ocean, and a taste of the very best that the sea has to give. (Nybrokajen 17, SE-111 48, www.wedholmsfisk.se)
Volt: Billing itself as a gastro-bistro, Volt features the collaborative work of four young chefs who migrated from top kitchens (Oaxen, Mathias Dahlgren, Lux) and the pay-off is a pared down menu of cleanly updated Nordic dishes like Arctic cod dressed up with almond, tarragon and lemon confit (Kommendörsgatan 16; 8-662-34-00).
Oxelblom: The homey, old-fashioned decor is reflected in this small restaurant’s menu. Taking advantage of Sweden’s rich culinary traditions, dishes from various regions of the country come together in this stylish location. (Skånegatan 51, Stockholm, www.oxelblom.se)
Hermans: Using organic ingredients and inspiration from around the world, this restaurant proves that vegetarian food can be exciting. Situated with a beautiful panoramic view of the Stockholm inlet, the outdoor garden is lovely in summer. (Fjällgatan 23 B, Stockholm, www.hermans.se)
Meatballs For The People: No trip to Sweden would be complete without a taste of the nation’s iconic meatballs. This restaurant serves them up using old family recipes — it’s a taste of home, or, as the owners say, of heaven. (Nytorgsgatan 30, 116 40 Stockholm, meatball.se/hem/)
Speceriet: Traditionally off the radar for international travelers, this small restaurant offers a fresh take on traditional cuisine. They don’t take reservations, but the asparagus with egg and nettle cream and smoked trout roe is definitely worth the wait. (Artillerigatan 14, 11451 Stockholm, www.speceriet.se/?lang=en)
Mälarpaviljongen: This floating bar and restaurant is always buzzing in spring and summer. Located on Kungsholmen, it’s the place to go for casual luncheons, drinks, dinners and pre party evenings this summer. (Norr Mälarstrand 64, Mälarpaviljongen.se)
From boutique to luxury, Stockholm boasts a huge variety of places to rest your head.
Nordic Light Hotel: For a truly unbeatable Scandinavian experience, this hotel is a must. It’s a world created by hundreds of different sources of light, varying in color and intensity. Centrally located, it’s the perfect place to stay in winter, when natural sources of light are few and far between. (Vasaplan 7, 101 37 Stockholm, www.nordiclighthotel.se)
Nobis Hotel: Situated in a stellar location on Norrmalmstorg, Stockholm’s most exclusive square, the public areas are all high drama (including the Orrefors crystal chandelier in the atrium lounge). (Norrmalmstorg 2-4, nobishotel.se/en/)
Nordic C Hotel: Located right across from Stockholm’s Central Train Station, this hotel offers impeccable design, friendly staff, and an Ice Bar. (Vasaplan 4, 111 20 Stockholm, www.nordicchotel.se/)
Hotel Skeppsholmen: Housed in a building from 1699, despite extensive renovations to modernize and streamline the hotel, the building retains incredible details like its original wooden floors and large windows. (Groena Gangen 1 Stockholm, www.hotelskeppsholmen.se)
Ett Hem: A converted townhouse, this is not your typical hotel. Here, guests are treated like family, and free to roam the beautiful gardens and finely decorated interior. (Sköldungagatan 2, 114 27 Stockholm, www.etthem.se)
Hotel Rival (pictured): Stockholm’s first boutique hotel, Hotel Rival is co-owned by ABBA member Benny Andersson; among its signature features are large blow-ups of Swedish film stills above the guestroom headboards, so you can drift off to sleep under the watchful (ok slightly disdainful) eye of Greta Garbob. (Mariatorget 3, rival.se/en/)
Hotel Diplomat: Stylish and elegant, Hotel Diplomat stands by the Stockholm waterfront in an iconic Art Nouveau building. The hotel combines the green scenery of Djurgården with the vibrant city center. (Strandvägen 7C 11456 Stockholm, www.diplomathotel.com)
Lydmar Hotel: This five-star hotel is not about formality. Rather, the staff expresses a personal style and possess local knowledge about what’s happening in town. It’s the perfect spot for visitors who want to “live” during their stay, while still enjoying top service and relaxed elegance. (Södra Blasieholmshamnen 2 Stockholm, www.lydmar.com)
Prince Van Orangiën: At the hotel ship Prince van Orangiën, guests can hear the waves cluck outside the window.The ship is moored by the Beckholmen bridge and belongs to restaurants Oaxen Krog & Slip. It features six double cabins with comforts that one does not usually expect while sailing the sea. (Beckholmsvägen 26, 115 21 Stockholm, www.oaxen.com/prince-van-orangien)
Hilton Stockholm Slussen: Located between trendy Södermalm and medieval Old Town, this hotel’s northern facing rooms feature a wonderful view of the gateway to Stockholm’s ridiculously beautiful archipelago. In the morning, try their famous breakfast and also taste their very own honey, which is produced on the hotels terrace, in the middle of the city, by 100,000 bees. (Guldgränd 8, 104 65 Stockholm, www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/sweden/hilton-stockholm-slussen)
Hotel Hellsten: From the jazz nights in the bar to the individually decorated rooms with specially designed beds that will improve your sleep, this hotel is perfect for everyone in search of impeccably good taste. (Luntmakargatan 68, SE-113 51 Stockholm, www.hellsten.se/en/Hotel_Hellsten)
Sheraton Hotel Stockholm: This five-star hotel is located in the very heart of Stockholm. After sleeping in one of the hotel’s 465 rooms, with their distinct Scandinavian design, you begin to understand why one guest stayed here for 25 years in a row. (Tegelbacken 6, 101 23 Stockholm, www.sheratonstockholm.com)
Perched across a series of 14 islands, there’s always something nautical to do — but that’s not all Stockholm has to offer.
The Museum of Spirits: Dedicated to the history and practice of alcohol, this unique museum has an exhibition on Beer through the beginning of 2016. Learn all there is to know about your favorite brew, and then indulge in a taste. (Djurgårdsvägen 38, Stockholm, www.spritmuseum.se)
Junibacken: For flat-out fun that doesn’t make any conceptual claims head out to the island of Djurgården. That’s where you’ll find Junibacken, an amusement center devoted to the work of Astrid Lingren where a replica of Pippi Longstocking’s villa is always filled with fledgling Pippis gone wild (8-587-230-00; www.junibacken.se).
ABBA The Museum (pictured): A must for any fan of the pop icons, the museum first opened in 2013. The collection includes costumes, albums, memorabilia, and even hologram experiences. (Djurgårdsvägen 68, Stockholm, abbathemuseum.com)
Sturebadet: This luxury spa dates back to the 1800s, and offers a range of services. It’s a great way to unwind in a piece of Stockholm history. (Sturegallerian 36 11446 Stockholm, www.sturebadet.se)
Swimming in the City: Canals run through Stockholm, sparkling in summer, frosted in winter. Incredibly for a major city, the water is clean enough to swim in — which is exactly what people do when the weather is right. There are designated swim spots spread throughout the city, making it a great way to explore. (Various locations throughout the city, www.visitstockholm.com/en/see--do/guides/swim/)
Vasa Museet: Fan of all things boating? Head to Vasa Museum located on the island of Djurgården to see the only preserved 17th century warship—the Vasa. (Galärvarvsvägen 14, 115 21 Stockholm, www.vasamuseet.se)
Royal Opera: The Royal Opera is Sweden’s national stage for opera and ballet. This season catch Madama Butterfly, La Traviata, and Don Quijote. (Gustav Adolfs torg 2, 103 22 Stockholm, www.operan.se)
Royal Palace: The official residence of the Swedish royal family, visitors can explore the Royal Apartments and collections of art and artifacts. One of the largest European palaces, it’s located in the heart of Stockholm. (111 30 Stockholm, www.kungahuset.se)
Additional Art/Museum Locales: If you’re craving more culture, make sure to check out the sculpture garden at Millesgarden (Herserudsvägen 32, 181 34 Lidingö, www.millesgarden.se), late 19th century and early 20th century art at Thielska Galleriet (Sjötullsbacken 8, 115 25 Stockholm, www.thielska-galleriet.se), and stunning photography at Fotografiska (Stadsgårdshamnen 22, 116 45 Stockholm, www.fotografiska.eu).
The great thing about a culture as open as Sweden is that gay life doesn’t need to be confined to one small area — it’s spread out across the city.
Patricia: On Sunday nights, this floating nightclub offers several floors of the best dance music. This weekly gay party is a truly Scandinavian experience. (Stadsgårdskajen 152, Patricia.st)
Torget: Located in the beautiful Gamla Stan (Old Town), this is one of Stockholm’s oldest gay bars. Open every night, it offers an array of homemade food, specialty drinks, and has a DJ every Friday. (Mälartorget 13, 111 27 Stockholm, torgetbaren.com)
Sidetrack (pictured): This bar and restaurant offers wholesome food and a kitschy atmosphere. There’s electronic dance music on Wednesday nights, but it’s a great place to unwind Wednesday through Saturday. (Wollmar Yxkullsgatan 7, 118 50 Stockholm, www.sidetrack.nu)
F12 Terrassen: Located in the historic Royal Academy of Arts building, during the summer the outdoor terrace is packed with people drinking, dancing, or just enjoying the spectacular view of Gamla Stan (Old Town) and the Riksdag (Parliament). (Fredsgaten 12, Stockholm, terrassen.f12.se)
Trädgården: An open air club located under a bridge, the space comes alive once the sun sets. With a variety of music and a range of clientele, it’s a must for anyone in Stockholm in the warmer months. (Hammarby Slussväg 2, 118 60 Stockholm, facebook.com/Tradgarden?fref=ts)
Club King Kong: Head to Club King Kong for indie beats and a thriving gay crowd. Mingle, drink, and enjoy the night in this multi-floored dance club. (Mariatorget 1A, Stockholm, tripadvisor.com/clubkingkong)