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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, and Ikea, 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. The first country in the world to deem homosexuality as 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 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.
• Nytorget 6: (Pictured) This restaurant is a perfect place to explore classic Swedish cuisine. Located in Södermalm, Nyortget 6 features items like potato pancakes and porridge all for very reasonable prices. (Stockholm, 116 40, nytorget6.com)
• Meatballs for the People: A humble deli that serves one of Sweden's most beloved exports. You'll forever forget the cheap balls at Ikea. (Nytorgsgatan 30, meatball.se)
• Oaxen Slip: The Guardian put this restaurant at the top of their list of amazing restaurants in Stockholm. Recently relocated to the central city, the restaurant is split into a fine-dining side and a more casual "Nordic bistro food" side. The restaurant looks pretty gorgeous, too. (Beckholmsvägen 26,oaxen.com)
• 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)
• Brasserie Le Rouge: Located at Brunnsgrad 2-4, this restaurant opened Oct. 30, 2007 in two locations adjacent of each other offering a restaurant in one and a bar in the other. There are 125 seats divided among the restaurant, private dining room, chambre separee and the bar. French cuisine is king at this restaurant but the owner also says Italian influence is obvious. Access to Le Bar is possible at Osterlanggatan 17. (lerouge.se/en/)
• 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
Stockholm is no sleepy burg; there is a wide variety of hotels, hostels, inns, and motels to stay at. Here's some to consider:
• Nobis Hotel: This independent 201-room hotel is located in the city center in two late 19th century buildings on Norrmalmstorg square. (Norrmalmstorg 2-4;nobishotel.se/en/)
• Nordic Light Hotel: Another centrally located hotel, Nordic Light Hotel is just a short walk to the city center. The hotel boasts a contemporary, designer hotel feel influenced by the colors of the Nordic Lights. The hotel has even made its own color "the Nordi Light white." (Vasaplan 7;nordiclighthotel.com)
• Hotel Rival: Originally an art deco cinema, Hotel Rival had an extensive renovation and expansion from 2002-2003. The hotel was inaugurated as the first boutique hotel in Stockholm and has 99 rooms (194 beds), a cafe, a cocktail bar, a lounge seating 700 people and 5 conference rooms. (Mariatorget 3;rival.se/en/)
• 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 over 14 islands, with over 30,000 more in the surrounding archipelago, Stockholm lays out a seductive smorgasbord of activity timed to the seasons.
• ABBA The Museum: No trip to Stockholm is complete without a whirl through the ABBA Museum, which only opened in 2013. Celebrate the band that has inspired countless gays and filmmakers (Muriel's Wedding, Mamma Mia!). (Djurgårdsvägen 68, abbathemuseum.com)
• The Modern Museum: (Pictured) This 56-year-old museum features a wonderful collection of 20th- and 21st-century art, and photos dating back to 1840. Don't miss the gift shop. (Skeppsholmen, modernamuseet.se)
• Walking tour: Explore this gorgeous city on food with these free walking tours. The 90-minute tour is in English and Spanish and no booking is required. (freetourstockholm.com)
• 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)
• 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)
PLAY: Kicking Up Your Heels
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.
• Naglo Vodkabar: This mixed hole-in-the-wall is serious about their vodka, with over 70 varieties. Make sure to check out their pop music nights. (Regeringsgatan 4 11153, naglo.com)
• Göken Restaurang & Bar: This LGBT-favorite is an all-in-one-place; grab dinner, settle in for a few drinks, and meet the locals. The pink-hued interior will make you comfortable, if the cocktails don't do the trick. (Pontonjärgatan 28 11237, goken.se)
• Copacabana: This gay-friendly cafe is located in the same building as the Rio theater. After a night out, chill out with some orange-chili hot chocolate and people watch. (Hornstulls Strand 3 11739, kafecopacabana.com)
• Mälarpaviljongen: (Pictured) This floating bar and restaurant on the island of Kungsholmen (near Göken, FYI) 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)
Also, check out these other popular clubs and hotspots:
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