Steffen Michels reports on the essential Stockholm sights for LGBTQ+ travellers
As an LGBTQ+ traveller, you’d be hard-pressed to find a country more welcoming towards, and inclusive of, the queer community than Sweden. The Scandinavian nation, which has recently been named the world’s safest for LGBTQ+ tourists, proudly calls itself ‘gay since 1944’, having legalised same-sex relationships an astounding 76 years ago.
Transgender people have been able to change their sex legally since 1972 (Sweden was the first country in the would to permit this), and marriage equality arrived in 2009.
Nowhere is the Nordic nation’s embrace of the queer community more tangible than in its capital, Stockholm. The largest and most diverse city in all of Scandinavia, the ‘Venice of the North’ boasts a cosmopolitan vibe that makes it a meltingpot for progressive minds. But Stockholm isn’t just about fun: it’s also a place where history and tradition are celebrated and exhibited, much to the joy of visitors who flock here to learn about the Scandinavia of yesteryear.
You could easily spend a week and still only see half the capital. Though however long you end up staying, the following attractions are the most essential to add to your itinerary.
The Royal Palace
If you get excited at the mention of history, the Swedish Royal family’s main administrative seat, the Kungliga Slottet, should be at the very top of your bucket list. The imposing palace, which sits at the heart of Stockholm’s old town (the Gamla Stan) is nothing short of an architectural masterpiece – though its true magic unfolds on the inside.
There are several museums housed inside the enormous complex featuring a staggering 600 rooms. Wander around the Royal Palace for an insight into the country’s history throughout the centuries, making sure to stop by the Royal Apartments. Here, you’ll find the 17th-century silver throne of Queen Kristina, who is known for having cross-dressed and entertained romantic relationships with women, giving the Swedish monarchy its very own LGBT+Q connection. Now that’s our kind of history.
The Vasa Museum
The single most visited tourist attraction in all of Scandinavia, this museum is a must. The Vasa is the only surviving 17th-century warship in the entire world, and though it sounds contradictory, that’s solely due to the vessel’s early demise… When the Vasa sank on its maiden voyage just outside Stockholm’s then city limits in 1628, it slipped into the icy and salty embrace of the Baltic Sea – an environment so void of microorganisms, the ship quite simply never decomposed. In 1961, it was pulled back ashore.
The Vasa now serves as a museum ship on Stockholm’s greenest island, Djurgården, where culture vultures from all across the world come to marvel at its gorgeously adorned exterior and the weaponry found aboard the wreck. An ever-changing schedule of exhibitions and guided tours provides another layer of access, should you want to dive deeper into the vessel’s untimely sinking, the reasons behind it, and the lives lost in the tragedy.
ABBA The Museum
A museum devoted to a more recent, and much lighter, Swedish phenomenon, is this one, telling the story of the country’s most famous pop music export: the legendary ABBA.
At ABBA The Museum, visitors don’t just have the opportunity to find out about the group’s early beginnings and record-breaking career – they also get to participate in interactive displays and have a blast doing it. Ever wanted to step on stage and perform with holograms of ABBA’s four members? This is your chance.
ABBA The Museum has been a favourite among LGBTQ+ tourists since the day it opened, not in the least due to the band’s iconic song catalogue and the Mamma Mia film franchise, starring gay icons Meryl Streep and Cher. Both the cinematic adaptions as well as the music – and all the fancy stage costumes that came with them – form part of the museum experience.
If you’re a serious fan (and who isn’t?), you might also want to consider checking into ABBA-owned adjoining Pop House Hotel, which gives you the chance to bed down amid the group’s golden records.
This stylish outdoor bar-cum-event-venue is where you should be headed for an afternoon fika (Sweden’s traditional daily snack time), or for a glass of vino in the evening. Floating on Stockholm’s vast Lake Mälaren, Mälarpaviljongen is perhaps Stockholm’s most raved about place to grab a drink or two – or a vegan burger: you can order sumptuous, plant-based meals from the adjoining Green Queen restaurant and savour them here.
The pavilion on the lake plays host to countless events and gigs during its annual season, beginning in early April and ending at the end of September, and it serves as magnet for both locals and tourists in the know (you can thank us later!). Best of all, with the sale of its in-house rainbow rosé, gay-run Mälarpaviljongen supports LGBTQ+ charity Regnbågsfonden in strengthening the rights of the queer community in countries where discriminatory laws are in place. There’s really no excuse not to visit.