Stockholm is a beautiful city and its modern perspective (eg. going cashless) puts it at the top of the list when comparing 31 cities around the world on aspects of technology maturity, economy, social development and environmental progress. Our experience in Stockholm was a blend of the old and the new and quite simply, we had a ball in this proud gay city.
From talking to locals we discovered there are very few exclusively gay bars in Stockholm. The gay community seems to be well integrated into the fabric of the city and gay acceptance is the norm. We did not visit Torget bar but this is one of the only exclusively gay bars in Stockholm and is found in the Old Town at 13 Mälartorget. There is also something for the leather men to find and if you have a look at (https://slmstockholm.se/en) you’ll find all the necessary details.
On the Monday evening before the launch of Gay Pride we met friends at a restaurant called Victoria at 6 Kungsträdgården (http://vickan.nu). Victoria is a modern Swedish brasserie in the Royal Gardens which, in the late evening, transforms itself into a reservations only night club. Monday is gay night and the entertainment, although all in Swedish, was incredibly up-beat, local, and highly entertaining. The group of entertainers had stunning voices and throughout the evening they invited patrons to join them on stage. Many of those invited to join in also had fantastic voices but the big surprise was when the incredibly handsome, hunky, security guard arrived on stage and sang like a pop legend to the total delight of the crowd. Welcome to Stockholm!
Further into the evening two guys were invited up onto the stage so everyone could help them celebrate their wedding night. Stockholm certainly embraces their gay community. Perhaps this is something which could be a lesson to some other countries around the world, and something which also makes Sweden a very innovative and inclusive society. By 2am we left Victoria as the place became very crowded and three hours of non-stop Swedish music was quite enough. Victoria say they ‘stand for entertainment in the way they know best‘ and we agree. On any Monday evening in Stockholm, this gay event is well worth a visit.
The next day we visited Drottningholm Palace which is Sweden’s best preserved royal palace. On a perfect summers day we used the train and bus to travel to the palace. We lunched on arrival at the stunning little white cafe under the shady trees by the lake. Looking across the lake while finishing with a divine Swedish espresso and just a little dessert for energy, the palace itself is an imposing and stately structure in the distance. This grand and impressive residence is currently home to the Swedish Royal family. They live in the south wing, the rest of the palace is open to the public. The palace has extensive grounds and one of the most interesting parts of the day was our visit to the palace theatre (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drottningholm_Palace_Theatre) and the Chinese Pavilion, after a stroll through the meticulously manicured gardens. At the end of the day we caught a steam powered boat from the palace wharf. The boat took us back, via the lakes, to the centre of Stockholm. A really delightful day long excursion in this beautiful part of the world.
On another fine, sunny day in Stockholm we walked from our apartment in Hornsgartan Södermalm into the old town, through the cobbled ancient narrow streets, to find one of the oldest gay bathhouses in the world called Storkyrkobadet at 20 Svartmannagatan. Entrance fee is 40 Krona per person. Unfortunately, these historical baths were not open on the day we visited. The baths have contributed to Stockholm’s gay history for many years, including special events for Viking bears. At the town’s central square we had a delicious lunch at an outdoor restaurant. With buskers playing by the fountain we enjoyed fresh salmon in oyster emulsion with vinegary lemon zest and grilled leeks, delicious modern Swedish food. We sat on the shaded terrace and took advantage of the cool breeze to reenergise after such a long walk in the extraordinary heat which all of Scandinavia was experiencing at that time.
After lunch we walked past the Prime Minister’s house, Parliament House and the Royal Palace (don’t miss the uber cute guards in uniform outside the palace grounds) and then to the waterfront. The Grand and KAK hotels are located here, where the rich and famous stay and play in Stockholm. We then passed more gorgeous old buildings and boats on the river which were flying rainbow flags and we saw a host of Swedes enjoying wine, food and good times on their yachts.
Our walk further around the harbour took us to the Vasa Museum (http://www.vasamuseet.se/en). The Vasa, built in 1626-1627, was constructed to be a fierce fighting ship with a large number of heavy cannons. On its maiden voyage it sank, to the dismay and disgust of the Swedish King, and the ship lay at the bottom of the harbour for hundreds of years until 24th of April, 1961 when it was brought back up to the surface and a magnificent piece of 17th century history was suddenly returned for all to see and share. The Vasa is quite an exceptional ship and the story about the process of raising it from the sea bed in the 1960’s is even more amazing.
On our last day in Stockholm we were taken to the opening of Gay Pride at Pride Park in the centre of the city. After a very long 90 minute line up to buy entry tickets (tip– buy tickets online in advance) we walked around to the entrance gate in the warm summer evening, to the sounds of Abba, to find a park filled with market and exhibition tents, a huge stage, giant TV screens and plenty of places to buy food and drink. We headed straight for the Kinky Quarter, a meeting place for the already initiated and the curious, to talk and get to know each other. The Swedes can be very friendly. Here we tried to buy some beers but again another hefty line up so this time we decided to double our drink order. Pride Park was more like a country fair, with about two to three thousand people sedately mingling around in the almost never ending twilight. (For Sydneysiders, we can compare it to Fair Day during Mardi Gras).
The opening of Pride was hosted by Kayo and we were led on a ‘walk through the decades‘. She was flanked by inauguration speaker Nadja, and Stockholm Pride’s chairperson Sandra. During the whole evening the stage was filled with Swedish solo artists, groups and the Stockholm Gay Choir. The crowd became very excited when 2014 Eurovision winner and special guest star of Europe, Conchita Wurst sang the now famousRise Like A Phoenix to the rapturous applause of the adoring crowd.The next three nights of Pride would see lots of partying mixed with opera singers, up-coming stars and world famous artists. Pride Park is relaxed and casual, an easy place to meet new and old friends, where the nights are filled with sparkling colours and sounds. Next time we visit this fabulously exciting city we’ll make sure we get our dates right in order to enjoy the full Pride experience including the parade, which unfortunately we missed this time around (http://www.stockholmpride.org/en/Pride-Park).
We only had 5 nights in Stockholm altogether (see our other articles about Söder and Patricia) and as we said our final goodbyes to some great new friends we made while staying here, we just knew instinctively we would be back soon to enjoy another summer in this vibrant, modern, proud city. If you haven’t already seen it, don’t wait any longer. And if you have already seen it, then you’re probably like us, already making your plans to return.