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In 2014, Sweden announced its intent to spearhead the pursuit of global LGBT equality. Not surprising, considering this Scandanavian country's long history of social progressivism—particularly in regard to LGBT rights. Same-sex relationships were legalized in 1944, and in 1972 Sweden became the first nation to legalize gender change, which was followed in 1979 by the declassification of homosexuality as a medical disorder. In other words, Sweden puts legislative muscle and government money behind their progressive principles.
Or more simply put, Sweden loves the gays. Same-sex marriage has been legal since 2009, and discrimination against LGBT people has been illegal since 2011.
In short, Sweden might well be the paradise you seek—and particularly Stockholm, one of the world’s most beautiful capitals. Here are eight great gay reasons to go:
Cocktails for two at Hotel Diplomat: You know you’re in good company when you cross the portal of Hotel Diplomat beneath a full-size rainbow flag flying proudly alongside the national flags of Sweden and Britain. Located along Strandvägen, one of Sweden’s most posh waterfront promenades, the erstwhile Art Nouveau palace was built as a prominent apartment building for diplomats and embassy luminaries before its conversion into a luxury hotel. Independently owned and managed by four generations of the Malmström family, the 130–room hotel offers splendid harbor views and elegant rooms furnished in plush period décor with Dux beds. Swedish artworks adorn the lounges and line the corridors. The hotel’s Restaurant T/BAR is a classic Scandinavian brasserie, while the hotel’s secluded Cocktail Bar is a veritable speakeasy, perfect for clandestine trysts with a newfound Swedish boytoy.
Très gay glamour at Gustav III’s Pavilion at Haga Park: “I can’t say,” replies the docent, smiling slightly at the query about the sexual proclivities of Sweden’s most royal aesthete, HRH Gustav III. Whether or not he was, it takes only one look at the sumptuous Neo-Classical interiors of Gustav III's Pavilion to recognize that “the Opera King” had exquisite taste—as well as the good fortune to collaborate with the masterful interior designer Louis Masreliez. From the Pompeian anteroom to the Apollonian Drawing Room, the Pavilion features stunning décor. Blue silk damask walls frame Gustav III’s bed alongside a matching divan and two armchairs. Evocative of Versailles, the Mirror Room offers both a mirror wall and a glass wall with endless variations of the exterior park landscape. One of the highlights of Swedish art history and, arguably, the finest example of late 18th-century European Neo-Classicism, the Pavilion is a brilliant reflection of Gustav III’s rarefied aesthetic.
The rainbow waters of Mälarpaviljongen: A verdant floating oasis on Lake Mälaren, Mälarpaviljongen is a waterfront restaurant, bar, and lounge with resplendent views across the waters of Riddarfjärden. Situated on three pontoons alongside the lakeside promenade Norr Mälarstrand, the seaside summer favorite evokes a beloved LGBT beach resort (with seating for 700)—and especially at sunset when the scene is suffused with rainbows and romance. For a truly enchanted evening, book a table in the original Mälarpaviljongen, a 19th-century wooden Swedish pavilion enveloped in willow trees and wildflowers at water’s edge.
A private sanctuary at Hotel Skeppsholmen: An urban resort on its own bucolic isle, Hotel Skeppsholmen has been justifiably celebrated for its design savvy since its opening in 2009. Located in the government-listed “Long Row” of 17th-century structures that once housed the Royal Marines, the hotel retains original floorboards alongside customized furnishings and lighting designed by the award-winning Claesson Koivisto Rune. Neighbors include Moderna Museet, as well as sculpture gardens with works by Niki de Saint Phalle and Picasso, amidst a sylvan landscape of manicured walkways and waterfront vistas. Managed by the delightful Joachim Olausson, the Skeppsholmen offers a restorative sanctuary of calm and culture. Small wonder it’s become a favorite of a certain West Village gay icon.
Clandestine trysts at the Chinese Pavilion: A gift to the Swedish Queen on her 33rd birthday, the Chinese Pavilion is located on the grounds of the royal palace Drottningholm, the 17th-century Swedish Versailles, one of Stockholm’s three UNESCO World Heritage sites. Surrounded by landscaped lawns alongside Baroque and English gardens, the China-inspired pleasure palace features rococo interiors and a surfeit of porcelain, silk, and lacquer. Equally impressive is a dining room called The Confidence, so named for the Swedish royals' ability to dine "en confidence" without servants—thanks to a dining table and dumbwaiters that could be raised and lowered by machinery, enabling a fully-dressed table to appear at the ringing of a bell.
Top left: The Chinese Pavilion is located on the grounds of the royal palace Drottningholm, the 17th-century Swedish Versailles. Top right: Located along Strandvägen, one of Sweden’s most posh waterfront promenades, Hotel Diplomat was originally a resident for diplomats and luminaries. Bottom: Gustav III’s Pavilion in Haga Park is notable for its sumptuous Neo-Classical interiors. Photos by MRNY.
No place like home at Villa Godthem: Built in 1874 for a beloved Swedish opera singer, Villa Godthem received its name when the owner walked home from the opera and declared, “I have got home”—or so say the locals. Located on the island of Djurgården, the richly-appointed, Swiss-style villa complete with gables and roof vane has been a restaurant since the 1897 Stockholm Exhibition. Now owned and managed by PDF Brasserie Group, Villa Godthem features seasonal cuisine complemented by garden and water views.
Greta Garbo at Haymarket Hotel: Garbo talks! Garbo worked here! Back in the 1920s, when this Art Deco hotel was a luxury department store named PUB, Garbo worked the counter as a salesgirl. Now, the Hollywood icon lives on in a stylish café and champagne bar named Greta's, decorated in shades of pale pink and ivory. As a flagship for Scandic’s new signature collection of luxury hotels, the Haymarket by Scandic retains the glamour of its Art Deco interiors, complete with private screening room and a sleek cocktail bar Americain that evokes Rick’s in Casablanca. Located on the Hötorget, one of Stockholm’s most famous outdoor markets, the hotel is situated directly across the plaza from Stockholm Konserthuset, home to the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra.
Sausage stories at Wienercaféet: Imagine a Viennese café along one of Stockholm’s most tony streets and then stir in the romantic atmosphere of a grand brasserie in Paris—et voila, it’s Wienercaféet. Behind the leadership of gifted pastry chef Per Bäckström, the open kitchen in the all-day restaurant focuses on freshly-baked breads and sweet confections, with an afternoon tea and a popular weekend brunch.
Breakfast in bed from Broms: If you dine at Broms once, then it’s almost inevitable that you start thinking about your return to this popular restaurant and delicatessen in posh Östermalm. Your home away from home for breakfast, brunch, or cocktails, Broms features homemade baked goods in a bistro setting with a private dining room, as well as an outdoor patio for enjoying the pedestrian promenade. There’s even delivery service if you can’t pull yourself out of bed.