Normally when we travel, Lindsay stands out like a sore thumb. It sounds bad – but it’s just her reality but it’s also the reality of many LGBT travelers exploring the world.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
She’s usually the tallest person in the room in Mexico. In the US people stare or make snarky comments. In some countries, she’s constantly misgendered. Traveling while androgynous can be a whirlwind adventure.⠀⠀⠀
I’ve held her hand on flights where she was terrified to be arrested for being queer in the immigration line. I’ve guarded the bathroom door in places where she was afraid to use the facilities. I’ve even verbally berated people for their nasty comments and stares in multiple counties.
But in Sweden – watching her experience a country that was designed with people like her in mind was a breath of fresh air. I could physically see her relax when she realized she didn’t have to plan her entire day around using the bathroom because there are gender-neutral washrooms in every public space. She was able to eat and drink normally without having to think about whether having one too many glasses of water would put her in a position where using the bathroom was a safety concern.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
It wasn’t only bathrooms – it was clothing stores where the garments were labeled by size rather than gender and Pride celebrations where businesses had to be told to fly the rainbow flag – not because they weren’t supportive but because the idea of being homophobic towards customers was so out of the realm of possibility that they hadn’t even considered needing a physical symbol of acceptance.
Experiencing Sweden through the eyes of my wife, a gender nonconforming traveler will always be one of my most powerful travel memories. We loved Sweden so much that I visited from North America twice in three months. The first time we were experiencing Euro Pride in Stockholm and Gothenburg and the second time I was invited to speak at the LGBT Travel Symposium from Stockholm LGBT and Visit Stockholm. It was a great opportunity to experience Sweden in two different seasons and experience the city at it’s finest points for the LGBT community.
Getting to Stockholm
On this trip we flew from Fort Lauderdale Florida to London via Norwegian’s Premium Class. It was an 8-hour flight in comfort with our large seats, upgraded meals, and unlimited beverage service. The transfer was short and sweet in London before we transferred to our connecting flight to Stockholm.
We arrived at Stockholm Arlanda Airport from London and hopped on the Arlanda Express. After about 20 minutes we arrived in the City Center of Stockholm. It was like everything else in Sweden, clean and wildly efficient.
Once you’re in the city, Stockholm’s public transportation system is the stuff of traveler dreams. Take the train cars all around town or wail into the city on the Djurgården ferry. The ferry is a uniquely Stockholm form of public transport affording beautiful views of the city and waterways.
Cabs are also an option for getting around Stockholm, but keep in mind cabs are unregulated in Stockholm and prices can vary significantly as drivers are allowed by law to set their own prices. If you are taking a taxi anywhere in Stockholm, we advise the “Taxi Stockholm” company, characterized by it’s 15 00 00 phone number. Public transportation runs 24 hours, although with reduced services in the early mornings and is very safe. The city is also, for the most part, walkable.
Fun Facts About Stockholm:
- The local currency is the Swedish Kronor (SEK)
- With its many islands and bridges, Stockholm is a stunning city on the water. Surrounded by Lake Mälaren and the Baltic Sea, Stockholm consists of 14 islands and has 57 bridges.
- Sweden is what happens when a country invests in new ideas, art, sustainability, creativity, and practical design. You end up with cities filled with clean streets, lush gardens, and greenery built into urban development. Stockholm is one of the most unique big cities I’ve experienced – and I’ve been explored a lot of big cities. In Stockholm, you can find all the same glossy restaurants, clubs, and shopping experiences that you’d find in New York, London, or Tokyo but with a fraction of the people, no traffic and zero pollution. Linds and I often joke that cities have personalities – if New Yorkers are driven by type A achievement and Angelenos are driven by personal training sessions – the people of Stockholm are driven by progressive inclusion. It’s my kinda city.
How to Sound Like a Local: Useful Swedish Words and Phrases for Travelers
Swedish is a language spoken by the 10 million people living in Sweden and many people in the Nordic countries. While most people in Sweden speak fluent English with very little accent, however, it’s polite to learn a few key words and phrases to help you get around.
Thank you – Tak
You’re Welcome – Varsågod
Coffee hour with friends – Fika
Cheers – Skål!
How much is….? – Hur mycket kostar den?
Where to Stay in Stockholm
Pop House Hotel
While we were in Stockholm during EuroPride, we stayed at the Pop House Hotel located within the Abba Museum. I’m not going to lie to you, before this trip, the only Abba song we could identify was Dancing Queen but now we’re virtually experts on the Swedish pop icons. The ground floor of the hotel has an adorable restaurant, bar and Abba-themed gift shop with the museum in the basement. The exhibits are interactive and experientially based which makes for a bit of fun. I tried to get Linds to do a bit of Abba Karaoke but she wasn’t getting on stage in front of a bunch of people. If you’re looking to splurge upgrade your adventure and snag one of the theme rooms.
On my second trip to Stockholm, I stayed at HOBO and absolutely love the Scandi minimalist design with hipster vibes. The rooms are smaller but unbeatable for the $100 per night price point [at the time I visited]. Your stay includes breakfast and access to some of their super hip community spaces like the lobby bar and restaurant. It’s also the perfect backdrop for your Instagram stories with the adorable locally emphasized design shop when you check in.
Hotel Skeppsholmen is Stockholm’s urban oasis on a peaceful and lush island, connected by a gorgeous bridge in the middle of the bustling city lies a more than 300-year-old house. The hotel was created within a building from 1699 with an exciting history and stunning waterside views. The property is the perfect example of Swedish design in a beautiful and practical form.
If pop music isn’t your thing, the Hotel Diplomat is an elegant option. The Diplomat is set in a giant art nouveau–style mansion formerly used to house – you guessed it – diplomats. My favorite features of this sophisticated hotel are the view overlooking Stockholm Harbor and it’s close proximity to some of Stockholm’s iconic sights like Stockholm Palace. During your stay at the Hotel Diplomat make sure to indulge in a beautiful afternoon tea. There’s just something fun and Indulgent about an afternoon tea on a European holiday. Enjoy the warm scones with homemade marmalade, exquisite finger sandwiches, and delicate pastry creations.
Find other great deals on Stockholm accommodations HERE!
4 Events You Can’t-Miss in Sweden
Twelfth Night and Epiphany
Twelfth night and Epiphany are January holidays that mark the end of the Christmas holiday season. Religiously speaking, the 12th Night is a feast day and celebration of the visit of the Magi to the Christ child. Modern-day Swedes are rather secular but according to Swedish tradition of yesteryear, the dead could leave their graves for Christmas and had to return on the 6th of January. Today the whole – dead leaving their graves thing is more Halloween than Christmas but in some places in Sweden, julgransplundring is celebrated in its place. It’s a children’s party where they take down the Christmas tree and decorations.
Walpurgis Night & May Day
April brings Walpurgis Night or ‘Valborgsmässoafton Swedes all across the country will light bonfires to welcome spring. Walpurgis is celebrated on April 30 which is also the birthday of King Carl XVI Gustaf. Which makes it a double national holiday. You’ll see flags displayed all over Sweden in his honor. The following day is May Day which brings a wide variety of events, parades, and festivities.
Midsummer’s Eve and Midsummer’s Day
Midsummer is the longest day of the year where some parts of Sweden never see sunset. Midsummer Eve is celebrated in the countryside with by picking flowers and making wreaths to place on the maypole, where dancing and singing traditional songs takes place. Many people eat a traditional meal of pickled herring, boiled new potatoes with fresh dill, sour cream and chives with summer strawberries for dessert. Plus, it’s all washed down by a cold beer and some Swedish schnapps. Nighttime is where the party really comes alive. Most people go out dancing and enjoy the nightlife in an outdoor bar.
Stockholm Pride is at the beginning of August and one the largest pride festival in Scandinavia. This year we were there for the EuroPride festival and it was one of the craziest, busiest, and most fun Prides we’ve experienced. One interesting thing about Stockholm Pride is that everyone, LGBT folks and straight folks participate. You’ll find all-night parties, street festivals, and of course the parade itself.
What To Do in Stockholm
Explore the Old Town
Gamla Stan or Old Town is Stockholm’s historical center. During both of my trips to Sweden, we did tours with Stockholm’s gay history guide Lars Bjorkman who works with Stand Out Travel, an LGBT focused tour agency.
Stockholm dates back to the 13th century and is chock-full of interesting historical tidbits. If history isn’t your thing it’s not a huge deal because Old Town is filled with picturesque cobblestone streets lined with cafes, restaurants, and small shops.
Gamla Stan’s many attractions include:
- We all know about the Nobel Prize, check out the Nobel Museum to learn more about the history of the Nobel family and their contributions to the world.
- Stuténska huset. The picture-perfect square centrally located in Stockholm’s Old Town. The red, orange and yellow buildings are often splashed on Stockholm’s postcards and tourism advertisements. This is the perfect place to stop and enjoy a fika, the Swedish practice of afternoon coffee and cinnamon buns. In fact, Kaffekoppen is located in the square and was the first business to ever display an LGBT flag.
- The Royal Palace is another fun stop in Old Town. The baroque style palace has three museums, as well as a library and is absolutely massive totaling 600 rooms divided between eleven floors. More importantly, if you do the tour with Stand Out Travel, you’ll get a bit of the low down on all the queer royals like Queen Kristina and King Gustav III.
The world’s only preserved 17th Century ship capsized and sank in Stockholm in 1628. After years on the seafloor, the ship was given new life in the Vasa Museum. This stunningly beautiful museum is the most visited in all of Scandinavia for good reason. You’ll get an amazing glimpse into what life on the ship was like during that time period. Sweden is making a very conscious effort to preserve Maritime and Transportation history. To get the complete picture, check out the Vasa’s sister museums The Maritime Museum, and The Railway Museum.
Check out the Subway Art
The long, cold Swedish winters are well documented. Sweden and most notably Stockholm have developed a creative streak to combat that darkness. The subways are a place where creativity is highlighted in a way that is easily accessible to all people. You could easily spend hours exploring the painted and tiled underground works of art. This Self Guided Street Art Tour takes you to 12 of the most Instagrammable spots in Stockholm. While you can find art in the stations throughout the city everything on this list is centrally located. Pro Tip: the Stadion Station is where you’ll find that big beautiful rainbow.
Explore Hipsterville in Södermalm
Södermalm sort of feels like Williamsburg in NY or Silver Lake in LA. This once rough section of the city underwent a full transformation into the trendy Stockholm hipster hotspot. Without much effort you stumble upon beautifully designed cafes and coffee shops. What Linds couldn’t stop pointing out was all the beautiful barber shops in the area. We spent an entire afternoon sipping coffee and popping in and out of shops. Linds could have easily gone home with an entirely new wardrobe if it fit the budget. There are also some beautiful vantage points to relax overlooking the water.
Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Walking Tour
The Millennium Series, also known as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series shot to international acclaim around the world and still attracts travelers to the streets of Stockholm, For literature (or movie) lovers retraces the footsteps of the characters and discover some of the alternative sides of Stockholm through the eyes of Lizbeth Salander.
A full Millennium map can be bought in the Tourism Office or simply check here for a downloadable free version:
Shop on Drottninggatan Street
Sweden is home to the most effortlessly stylish and creative people I’ve ever encountered. Stockholm is chock full with people who have that “I don’t have to try” level of aesthetic perfection. That will never ever be me, girl – I definitely did not wake up like this. My morning routine is a minimum of an hour and involves fake hair and a variety of cosmetics. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
But I have a deep appreciation for minimalism and Scandinavian style. Drottninggatan is full of unique design shops selling everything from clothing to housewares. If you have a minute make sure you stop into HOPE. HOPE is one of Stockholm’s fashion success stories and an internationally renowned Swedish brand. Under the mentorship of Frida Bard, who spearheaded ACNE Studios for 13 years, HOPE once defined by Swedish utility and minimalism now has an added
and desirable element, a punk soul. HOPE makes clothes for people, not genders. When you shop with HOPE you will find every item is labeled with numeric sizing in both genders and the clothing is displayed in gender-neutral displays throughout the store.
Confession: we knew next to nothing about ABBA before we visited Sweden for the first time. Knowing nothing about the iconic band didn’t prevent us from having a fabulous time at the ABBA museum. The museum is interactive so you’ll be able to pose for photos, sing karaoke, and explore the exhibits featuring tidbits from their long musical careers. You’ll find ABBA’s spectacular costumes, gold records, and original items and much more. Plus earlier this year, the museum opened a brand new wing to document ABBA’s journey after the band stopped performing together.
Take in the Exhibits at Fotografiska
The world-class Fotografiska center of contemporary photography is an original Swedish institution. It’s a photography museum with sexy vibes and a rooftop bar with spectacular waterfront views. Grab a glass of champagne at the bar and tour the rotating exhibits. This is the perfect spot for a date night adventure. They’re about to blow up on the international stage as they open branches in London and New York, but originating in the cultural heart of Sweden.
Explore Gröna Lund Stockholm’s, Amusement Park
Gröna Lund‘s is a vintage art deco themed amusement park in Stockholm. The park is next door to the ABBA museum and the perfect way to spend a fun afternoon. Ride the roller coasters for a birds-eye view of Stockholm, enjoy some carnival foods, and pose for snapshots with their funky backdrops. Gröna Lund is open from late spring April/March to September.
Best Restaurants in Stockholm
The amazing views are what you’ll notice first when you climb to the top of the very top of a hill to dine at Södra Teatern. The vegan restaurant with incredible food that will impress even the most staunch meat eaters amongst us. The warm summer air, fresh food, and a gorgeous sunset provided the perfect backdrop for our favorite night in the city. Sodra Teatern is also an in incredible nightlife venue. After finishing our meal we headed inside to enjoy multiple DJ’s on throughout the different floors. There is a rooftop patio with plenty of seating to take in the skyline view.
Meatballs to the People
It’s a safe bet that if you’re coming to Sweden for the first time, Swedish Meatballs are on the top of your “what to eat in Sweden list”. Meatballs to the People is kicking out some of the best balls in the city. They keep the menu small, clearly focusing on quality over quantity. The Classic Swedish Meatballs are served in with potatoes, lingonberries, and pickles on the side.
Taverna Brillo is one of Stockholm’s trendiest restaurants. It’s a hybrid bar and restaurant with a menu might be described as Italian with strong Nordic influences. The ambiance is a very trendy vibe where you’ll want to dress to impress. Try the stone-baked pizza, you won’t be disappointed.
TAK – Raw Bar
Sashimi, tartars, and oysters at TAK they serve raw food in unexpected combinations. Try their ceviche – it’s divine. You’ll also want to order one of their signature cocktails like the TAK martini or Charlie’s Champagne cocktails. If you’re like us, we washed it down with some Sake and more than our fair share of sushi.
Enjoy the late evening sunshine with dinner and drinks at the beautiful Mälarpaviljongen. Set along the lakeside is this gay-owned floating restaurant and bar. Mälarpaviljongen is truly a special place unlike anywhere else – and they are activists for the LGBT community. Their own brand of gay-Rose raises hundreds of thousands for LGBT causes across the world and they largely recruit staff who are LGBT asylum seekers escaping persecution in their home nations, to train and help them adapt to Swedish gay life. NOTE: Mälarpaviljongen is only open in the summer months.
Best Gay Bars in Stockholm
Moxy is Stockholm’s rotating party for queer women. Scandinavia’s largest girls club that organizes the queer parties in Stockholm. Moxy’s own DJ Fride sets the perfect mood. The party is at a different location each month so check out their website for more information.
The Secret Garden is a mixed LGBT bar that welcomes everyone under the rainbow. Depending on what time of the day or night you visit, there are very different vibes. During the day you’ll find a chilled out cozy bar with a great wine and cocktail list. At night, expect more of a club scene with a fast-paced vibe, dancing, and rotating DJs.
For the male perspective check out the Gay Backpacker’s review of Stockholm.
Thank you to Stockholm LGBT for inviting us to visit Sweden. As always, all opinions are our own.