By Don Church and Tony Schillaci, Out & Travelin’™
There’s no news like positive gay news, especially when it’s from one of the most picturesque and gay-friendly destinations in the world – Stockholm, Sweden, in the land of the midnight sun- and then some. .
The Stockholm Visitors Board, owned and operated by the city, has just rolled out a wider red carpet with the launch of a Gay & Lesbian Facebook page, and a new blog. It highlights the hundreds of attractions and activities that await visitors to the capitol of Scandinavia. The city, built on 14 islands connected by bridges, including the mainland, spreads along the shores of Lake Mälaren and the Baltic Sea, preserving the incomparable old-world charm of its legendary Viking past.
For general information and another link to the gay and lesbian pages, visit the new and improved www.visitstockholm.com. It highlights the hundreds of attractions and activities that await visitors to the capitol of Scandinavia. The city, built on 14 islands connected by bridges, including the mainland, spreads along the shores of Lake Mälaren and the Baltic Sea, preserving the incomparable old-world charm of its legendary Viking past.
If you take a Baltic Sea cruise from the port of Stockholm, fly in a few days before to not only explore the stunning city, but to get two holidays for the price of one airline ticket. Three of the finest, gay-friendly cruise ships that embark from the city are Azamara Club Cruises’ Journey, Royal Caribbean International’s Vision of the Seas and Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Voyager. If the city is just a port of call for a day or over-night, many of the docks are in town or close enough to the compact center to use buses, ferries, and the tram network to enjoy the many local pleasures of Stockholm, day and night.
Stockholm attracts 10 million visitors a year so it pays to book a room early in an openly gay-friendly hotel that suits you. Here are hotels that are active members of the Stockholm Gay & Lesbian Network, centrally located and close to all the action. Highly recommended:
Clarion Hotel Sign, is the city’s largest hotel adjacent to the Central Station and Arlanda Express, a sleek, non-stop train for airport connections. It’s a first-class hotel that combines the best of Scandinavian architecture and design.
Lydmar Hotel, is a five-star hotel that provides outstanding personal attention and its staff has extensive local knowledge about what’s happening in the town.
Berns Hotel, is a glorious art deco hotel has a lot to offer and attracts celebrities like Bill Gates, Rihanna and Dalai Lama – so how far behind could Richard Gere be? We saw the Mr. Gay Sweden championship in its grand ballroom.
Try the Nobis Hotel, the city’s latest contemporary luxury hotel that was created from two 19th century buildings.
The Rival Hotel, a first-ever boutique property that was reborn from a 1930s Art Deco cinema by ABBA’s Benny Andersson. Guests love it for its creative vibe and in-room ABBA CDs. Perfect for those dancing queens. Hotel
Skeppsholmen, has 81 rooms and a popular restaurant.
Hilton Stockholm Slussen, near the Medieval Old Town. The rooms facing north have a spectacular view of the gateway to Stockholm’s archipelago. You must try their own honey for breakfast; relax in the hotel’s Jacuzzi and workout in the gym.
The comfortable Hotel Hellsten, has individually decorated rooms with specially designed beds that will improve your sleep. A jazz night in the bar and breakfast in the exquisite conservatory will recharge your batteries.
Look for the Nordic Light Hotel, a gem of contemporary Swedish architecture and décor. The fine accommodations offer a multitude of light-themed perks, including Mood rooms with light beds than can be adjusted to fit your disposition (red for energy, blue for rest, or green for refreshing). The restaurant, bar and guest business center are all first-cabin in this port city. Need a concierge who can do almost anything?
The Sheraton Hotel Stockholm, has an OMG vibe – when a guest asked to have 19 white bear pelts delivered to his room, it was, of course, arranged. The guest? The famous artist once-again-known as Prince. That’s service. The hotel’s 465 rooms have distinctive clean and simple Scandinavian decor. To keep buffed, the Sheraton has a fitness center, gym, sauna and rejuvenating massages.
Once settled in a hotel, it’s time to explore friendly Stockholm, which has become a favorite spot for gays and lesbians who want more than just one neighborhood with gay-friendly bars and clubs. They are scattered throughout the city and rainbow flags fly high in many of Stockholm’s central districts. But the greatest concentration of gay bars and clubs is to be found in two areas: the trendy Södermalm district and Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s Old Town.
Nightlife in any city is ever changing, but not to worry; just before leaving for Stockholm, go online to “QX” – the most popular gay magazine in Sweden. It can be counted on to have updated information on clubs and the party scene, the week-long Stockholm Pride, which has the city’s unprecedented help in securing a whole park for concerts, special events, and securing the parade route. QX’s Gay Map is widely available around town, including the Stockholm Tourist Center. For more details, go to http://www.qx.se/search.php?search=English.
Here are a handful of great gay/lesbian- and gay-friendly places to dine and party through the night and into dawn’s early light…and beyond.
Patricia (a former British royal yacht) is at Stadsgårdskajen Quay, there are seven bars, a restaurant, and a nightclub. The music varies from party, pop, and disco to rock hits and covers. The Sunday club has been incredibly popular with the gay community for more than sixteen years. It’s everyones’ favorite place to cruise in a port city famous for its cruises.
Roxy is a fun and intimate meeting place with a restaurant and bar in the chic-bohemian Nytorget Square on Södermalm. Run by three female restaurateurs, it attracts especially – but by no means exclusively – a female crowd. We can swear to that statement because a group of us guys had terrific foods, drinks and service with these fabulous women.
Mälarpaviljongen is an open-air crowded and fun local restaurant and high-spirited bar on a landscaped barge. Docked on the Norr Mälarstrand waterfront in a leafy setting with stunning views across the water, you order and pickup your own dinner and drinks from the bustling bar.
Chokladkoppen is a cozy little café at idyllic Stortorget Square, not far from the Royal Palace in the medieval Old Town. Serving exquisite sandwiches, hot chocolate and pastries, and in summer has a popular alfresco section.
Naglo Vodkabar is very popular small hole-in-the-wall place bar with great atmosphere and about 70 brands of vodka. It has a mixed clientele and a particular favorite with the gay community. No e-mail. Street address: Regeringsgaten 4, Norrmalm, Stockholm.
The Göken Restaurang & Bar is aglow in shades of pink – how gay is that – and is inexpensive, imaginative and has wonderful food, good drinks, and a party atmosphere.
Side Track bar has long been a gay watering hole on Södermalm. Many people see the place as an old, reliable friend because of its intimate atmosphere, pleasant staff, and good, inexpensive food. The DJ plays a mix of pop and old hits.
At Copacabana Café you’ll find a charming, bohemian atmosphere and a good breakfast available all day.
Most great world capitols have one-of-a-kind attractions that have everyone talking and Stockholm has it share starting with The Vasa Museum, a virtual time-travel experience back to one of the glories of the 17th century. It’s a ship of unequaled magnificence that had an extremely short maiden voyage in in1628. And the bigger-than-life salvage operation from the deep muddy bottom of the harbor in 1961 is a great story. This is an attraction not to be missed as are so many others in Stockholm.
As this is an ancient sea-faring town, there are many sightseeing boats of all types to explore the city’s islands. We took the M/S Prins Carl Phillip to Drottningholm, the royal family’s 16th-century summer palace and its small, opulent opera house, on a leafy secluded island. We stayed the whole day because there was so much to see, including a long walk on the palace grounds and a visit to the palace’s own opera house.
Another favorite experience is the spectacular Stockholm Pride week. It is one of the city’s as well as Scandinavia’s largest annual festivals that is celebrated by gays and straights. The government helps by setting aside an entire park for the many venues, including a concert area that hold more than 15,000 to enjoy great bands and Scandanavia’s biggest stars. This year it’s happening July 29 – August 4, 2013.
In addition to a fun year-round calendar of LGB T events, there are some that hold a surprise that thrill the community and its visitors. At this year’s QX gay magazine’s 15th annual “Gay of Year Award,” as the winner was announced, and without prior notice, Sweden’s Crown Princess Victoria walked on stage to honor Swedish gay author Jonas Gardell. He won for his book and TV series “Never Dry Tears Without Gloves” about the treatment of gay men during the onset of the AIDS crisis of the early 1980s. The orchestra immediately welcomed her by playing ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” What a civilized country, and it has been for a long time: Sweden sanctioned gay marriage in 2009.
To add value to your getaway in Stockholm, here’s a way to save money and your precious vacation time by not having to stand in line to buy tickets for admission to attractions, public transportation, and to get discounts of all kinds – be sure to buy a Stockholm Card. It gives you free admission to 80 museums and attractions in Stockholm and the surrounding region. It’ll save you capital in the ‘Capitol of Scandinavia.’
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