Stockholm Travel Guide

Stockholm Travel Guide

While undeniably breath-taking, Stockholm’s postcard-perfect archipelagic landscape offers much more than meets the eye. A compact city of 14 islands connected by 57 bridges, this Scandi classic pulses with unpredictable energy that simultaneously celebrates its medieval history while living firmly in the über-contemporary present. Take for example the boho-chic Södermalm district, where modern art and fashion stores exist in perfect harmony with the heritage area of Gamla Stan and Royal residence, Drottningholm Palace. Or how about swanky Östermalm for a stroll along the banks of Lake Mälaren, before breaking for a coffee in fashion capital Rorstrandsgatan. Cutting-edge to a fault, with innovation on every easily accessible corner, Stockholm may also surprise you as it switches gears to provide natural island-style retreats where pristine forest trails await. Wondering what to do in Stockholm? For your definitive Stockholm gay travel guide, you know you’ve come to the right place!

The best hotels in Stockholm

Let’s start this Stockholm gay city guide with a roundup of the best places to stay in Stockholm. Originally built on pristine, tree-covered land to house King Karl XII’s royal marines, the 300-year-old Hotel Skeppsholmen went through many incarnations before becoming the modern eco charmer it is today. The renovated suites are spacious with a clean, refined aesthetic and excellent views across the harbour to the old town. The public areas are equally minimalist with tall windows and well-crafted furnishings against a backdrop of muted colours. The vibe is one of optimum comfort and tranquillity; a utopian urban oasis just moments from the city centre. Another centrally located stunner is the 5-star Bank Hotel, a turn-of-the-century financial hub turned boutique stay, boasting high-glass ceilings with dazzling rooftop views, moody, mahogany-lined bar, Papillon, and modern European eatery, Bonnie’s.

Once upon a time a school for girls, the boutique hotel Miss Clara by Nobis has retained its coquettish, Art Nouveau disposition. Rooms are tastefully stark, with patterned wood floors, rust-coloured walls, arched windows and just the right amount of modern design flair to keep things interesting. The lobby and dining areas are dominated by dark woods and moody light fixtures that retain an opulent feel without a hint of pretention. For the serious foodie with a discerning taste for all things lavish, the aptly named Grand Hôtel Stockholm was created with you in mind. The first Stockholm hotel to cater to Europe’s well-heeled bon vivants, the exquisite suites are adorned with an old world, continental style of plush, classic furnishings and indulgent 5-star comforts. Of the four dining spaces, the Michelin-starred Mathias Dahlgren restaurant, arguably the most prestigious table in town, is disarmingly casual in ambience but decidedly upscale in style.

Set apart from the rest is the charming boutique NOFO Hotel, based out of an 18th century listed building in the hip Södermalm district. With rooms inspired by great global cities, including London, Paris, Rome and New York, featuring private views over Katarina Church and the serene inner courtyard, NOFO Hotel is a perfect choice within walking distance of the Old Town and offering great transport links. Opt for the BW Premier Collection for plush comfort in the extreme.

Bank Hotel

Bank Hotel

Miss Clara by Nobis

Miss Clara by Nobis

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Recommended hotels in Stockholm
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Miss Clara by Nobis

Miss Clara by Nobis

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The ABBA Museum is a fun, interactive fantasy; visitors can opt to “audition” with the ultimate goal of performing with the band on a simulated stage

Things to do in Stockholm

Stockholm’s unique island landscape is only enhanced by the wide range of landmark attractions on offer. For picture-perfect historical sights, visit the usual suspects including the scenic old town, the awe-inspiring Vasa Museum and a collection of archipelago wonders nearby.

But if it’s unique roads you seek, travel to Skansen, Stockholm’s first open-air museum housing a collection of, well, houses and a plethora of flora and fauna, reconstructing Sweden’s pre-industrial, bucolic way of life. The offbeat Spirit Museum bases its unique exhibits on Sweden’s bizarre love/hate relationship with alcohol (distribution is solely controlled by the government). Visitors are lead through different rooms to sample different taste sensations, view memorabilia and even simulate a hangover. Even if you aren’t a fan of the 70’s pop icons, The ABBA Museum is a fun, interactive fantasy; visitors can opt to “audition” with the ultimate goal of performing with the band on a simulated stage.

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Photo: Evren Aydin

Photo: Evren Aydin

What to see in Stockholm

If you are able to pry your eyes from the revoltingly hot locals for just a second, there are a whole host of things to see in Stockholm, offering architectural heritage, modern culture and more. Start off in Gamla Stan, the city’s Old Town – one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe, in fact – now packed to the gills with award-winning restaurants, bars, stores and various worthwhile museums. Walk the cobblestone streets slowly, taking time to soak up the easy-going, pedestrian-friendly ambience, before finding veritable Stockholm sightseeing favourites; the oldest street in Stockholm named Köpmangatan, as well as the narrowest named Mårten Trotzigs Gränd.

Just 20 minutes from downtown Stockholm on the island of Lidingo, painter Olga and her sculptor husband, Carl Milles, created one of the city’s most impressive working studios. Part art museum, part sculpture garden, where the couple are now buried, the site is now filled with their lifeworks, while also being a work of art in itself with its maze of stairways, fountain centrepieces and lush gardens. Offering something a little more regal is Drottningholm Palace, while just one of a number of palaces dotted throughout the country,  this one is the real home of the royal family, built on Lovon island in the late 16th century. Anglicized as ‘Queen’s Islet’, Drottningholm Palace, has seen a colourful history, having fallen into disrepair in the 19th century and since being modernized and restored. On the grounds, visitors will find an 18th-century church as well as a series of manicured gardens dating back to the 17th century.

Photo: John Fornander

Photo: Claudio Schwarz Purzlbaum

Boasting such balmy weather throughout spring and summer, Stockholm’s gardens are key attractions in the city, affording laid-back afternoons cycling, playing and relaxing with friends. Our favourite park in the heart of the city is Djurgården, an island drawing a nice mix of locals and tourists during the summer’s long days and short nights. Forming part of the Royal National City Park, Djurgården is also home to top museums – including the Vasa Museum and Abba the Museum – and other attractions, such as cafés, restaurants and even hotels. Although the park is accessible by tram or bus, a fun option is to arrive by ferry from Gamla Stan or Slussen, before hiring a bicycle to explore the park’s many forest trails, or, alternatively, taking to the waterways in a canoe.

As you might have guessed from the watery island locations of the best Stockholm points of interest, the city is in fact comprised of a series of islands – as many as 30,000 in the entire archipelago! Within Stockholm city proper you’ll also find the offerings are pretty diverse, with an island to suit every personality type; whether with the lively sophistication of Sandhamn or the remote wilderness feel of Möja. Choose between a day trip on one island, or experience a variety by island-hopping over a whole weekend. Either way, you’re bound to be enchanted by Stockholm’s varied shores.

Photo: Erik Nielsen

Photo: Erik Nielsen

Nationalmuseum | Photo: Mao Yuqing

Nationalmuseum | Photo: Mao Yuqing

For the ultimate bio feast in a quietly elegant setting, splurge on Gastrologik, a restaurant that only serves high-end dishes sourced from fresh, local ingredients, including homemade breads and butter

Where to eat in Stockholm

The essence of Swedish cuisine is as pure as Stockholm’s, minimalist sense of style. It centres on regionally grown seasonal products: dairy, fish and meats specific to the part of the country from which they hail. Time-honoured tradition plays a big part in how dishes are prepared, though the capital offers a bit more adventure by incorporating other global influences, most notably from Asia and the culinary grande dame herself, France.

Tiny and unassuming, Pubologi elevates typical pub-style dining with carefully crafted menus available in three basic variants in style-forward surroundings. Diminutive in size but not in look and flavour, Frantzén serves an artful 13-course Scandinavian menu in a setting so intimate that patrons can practically whisper their preferences directly into the chef’s ear. For the ultimate bio feast in a quietly elegant setting, splurge on Gastrologik, a restaurant that only serves high-end dishes sourced from fresh, local ingredients, including homemade breads and butter. The unpretentious duo of chefs is on hand to discuss options and at the end presents guests with an attractive keepsake booklet detailing product origins.

To wet your whistle, return to simpler days at the 1960’s throwback Erlands, featuring killer cocktails served in retro glasses (the bow-tied barmen are a delight) in a jazz-infused, teak-furnished mini den. For those who like a more classic setting, the newly minted Tweed combines heady spirits and cigars with tartan walls, leather couches and wood finishes in a snazzy gentleman’s club setting. And for your trip back to the future, stop by the Guldbaren for creative cocktails in dazzling, golden surroundings fit for a king.

Restaurant Frantzén

Restaurant Frantzén

For over 125 years, Östermalms Saluhall, a vintage food court located in the most exclusive part of town, has been providing high-quality seafood, game meat, produce, and hard-to-find gourmet items in intricately carved antique stalls. Visitors can elect to purchase items to take home or eat in situ thanks to a choice of eateries en suiteTeatern upgrades this tradition for the 21st century with a modern food court featuring take-away nibbles from Sweden’s most influential young chefs. Wine lovers have not been forgotten; The Burgundy offers a mini food court sampling of the wine, cocktails, craft beers and foodie flavours served at partnering gastro restaurants.

Coffee is a major part of Sweden’s social scene. To illustrate, a fika is a common practice where Swedish people get together for coffee and cakes, for just about any occasion including dates, family get-togethers and friendly chats. Johan & Nyström was founded in 2004 by a group of coffee connoisseurs passionate about sustainability. The result of their efforts produced several locations including a roasting factory, an industrial-chic concept store/bar and a homey coffee roaster showroom where visitors are invited to take a load off and sample their wares. If a kitsch vibe is more your speed, drag your lazy lounging heart to Gilda’s Rum, a cosy espresso bar serving fine roasts and baked goodies in a whimsical setting resembling your eccentric great aunt’s parlour room; red and gold striped walls, wallpapered bookcases, oversized sofas and hazy framed photos of forgotten faces. Another spot worth a mention is the award-winning Drop Coffee featuring uniquely flavoured organic slow-roasted green coffee beans from around the world.

Teatern

Teatern

Grand Hotel Stockholm

Grand Hotel Stockholm

Shopping in Stockholm

Stockholm style has always possessed an effortless quality; classic lines with a tailored fit and a sprinkle of colour. But with the trendsetting Södermalm district forever blazing trails, fashions are becoming more daring whilst retaining a certain love for quality textiles and fine stitching.

For a convenient collection of both classic and current brands including Etro, Paul Smith and Oscar Jacobson, shop one of three fetching Jupiter boutiques in the city. The secret behind a well-dressed man is his ability to accessorize, or so it seems at Nitty Gritty, and JUS, two edgy shops featuring accessories, and a line of trendy separates, which make these crucial components seem effortless and essential. If you’re looking for a little pizazz, the avant-garde Acne Studios features clothing in an upscale style category with a price point to match.

When limited on time but not willing to skimp on style, shop at one-stop stores featuring clothes, accessories as well as home décor. Notables to include are the trend-happy concept shop Grandpa and the retro-cool Herr Judit/Brandstationen, housed in two separate stores across the street from each other on Hornsgatan. And to pull it all together, book an appointment at Roy & Son, a tasteful, authentic 50’s style barbershop with a social twist; patrons can enjoy drinks or even book a table to eat before or after a slick, straight razor shave.

Herr Judit

Herr Judit

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For an unexpected pleasure, venture to the 26th floor of the unassuming Skrapan building, one of the tallest in town, and visit Himlen for classic cocktails and the most magnificent views over the city

Stockholm nightlife

And now for Mr Hudson’s Stockholm gay scene guide. In recent years, Stockholm has become intent on shedding its reserved Nordic image as evidenced by the new generation of inventive after-work drinks venues and boho-chic bars in the trendier parts of town. Still, due in part to the high cost of alcohol, at the weekend, Stockholmare (locals) generally begin their social drinking at home before deciding on a club for the night. Fortunately for those who prefer conversation and a lively scene over strutting their stuff on the dance floor while ear-deafening music is blasting, there are lounge-friendly alternatives.

The Orangeriet Bar has everything a posh dandy might enjoy; comfy, velvet-draped, candle-lit seating, inviting English garden exteriors and creative cocktails with a punch. Hotellet offers a sophisticated one-stop solution in a tony, modern setting. Patrons can dine, lounge, party or groove to live jazz in an assortment of social spaces including one of the city’s longest bars. And for an unexpected pleasure, venture to the 26th floor of the unassuming Skrapan building, one of the tallest in town, and visit Himlen for classic cocktails and the most magnificent views over the city.

Bank Hotel

Bank Hotel

Guldbaren

Guldbaren

Photo: John Fornander

Photo: John Fornander

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