Sweden is pretty gay.
From ABBA to Ace of Base to Robyn, the Swedes have given us decades-spanning soundtracks to gay bars. They’ve given us the H&M outfits to wear there and the IKEA couch for curling up with Grindr when not in the mood (to dance). They’ve even given us hunky Prince Carl Philip, who is straight (bummer), but presently a thirst trap du jour for Gay Twitter.
Oh, it was also the first country in the world to legally recognize gender transition and was early on the marriage equality train. As progressive-minded Scandinavians tend to do, they generally embrace LGBTQ people and issues as part of their larger political and cultural fabric.
Photo: Ola Gustafsson
Photos: Frida Winter
So it’s fitting that Sweden is the setting for this year’s supersized EuroPride celebrations (July 27 to Aug. 19), the first time the continent’s annual LGBTQ Pride series, which changes location each year, will be held across two cities: Stockholm and Gothenburg. Whether you want to hit the parades wrapped in a rainbow flag or just explore in an especially festive environment, it’s a good time to soak up Sweden’s sunny summer days and breezy Nordic nights.
First, hop Scandinavian Airlines, with flights from Boston to Stockholm (via Copenhagen) Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays. The recent in-flight entertainment included Will & Grace and RuPaul’s Drag Race. Together, now: YASSS.
Stockholm hosts the first half of EuroPride this summer, and most of the official happenings—including the live concerts, food trucks and “Kinky Quarter,” an adults-only section for fetish fans—will take place at the sports arena Östermalms IP. But expect to find plenty of happenings at other LGBTQ-favorite hot spots like King Kong, where party animals thump their chests in a subterranean gay bar adorned with camouflage military nets, and the Patricia, a riverfront lightship converted to a multi-floor club with stunning cityscape views. (Sundays are a dedicated gay night.)
There’s a queer sensibility to the generally bohemian spirit of Stockholm’s Södermalm neighborhood, home to hipster-skewing vinyl and vintage design shops like An Ideal for Living Stockholm AB, restaurants like Urban Deli, where you can chill over craft beer and charcuterie, and java joints like Cafe String, outfitted in midcentury tchotchkes and the perfect place for a not-too-traditional fika break, which is Sweden’s coffee-based answer to British tea time. You’ll also find the gorgeous Södra Teatern, a 19th-century theater with seven stages and bars hosting everything from performance art to DJ dance parties such as Moxy, Stockholm’s lesbian nightlife series, which will pop up here during EuroPride.
When you need a disco nap, head to the classically refined Hotel Diplomat, a historic property steps from the harbor and cultural landmarks including the Royal Swedish Opera, site of the infamous assassination of supposedly-gay King Gustav III, inspiration for Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera. More modern tastes will love Hotel at Six, where DJs spin at the retro living room-inspired Hosoi lounge and the massive neighboring rooftop bar, Stockholm Under the Stars.
Photo: Jennie Smith
Photo: Anders Wester
It’s on to Gothenburg for EuroPride part two, where the lineup of free events includes an exhibition of queer art, a burlesque gala headlined by Drag Race winner Jinkx Monsoon and a Boy George and Culture Club concert.
In recent years, Gothenburg’s roots as a working-class, industrial seaport have yielded to an influx of tech and life-sciences firms—and the inevitable arrival of hipper restaurants, bars and shops that tends to accompany such urban transformations. Pay tribute to its maritime legacy with a boat cruise of the famed archipelago, stopping at small islands for lunch and leisure—we recommend the captains of 57° Nord—and a stroll through Feskekôrka, the “Fish Church,” an indoor market hiding Restaurant Gabriel, where you can slurp bivalves shucked by chef Johan Malm, multi-time winner of the World Oyster Opening Championship.
Then dive into the city’s contemporary side: Sip craft suds at Beerbliotek Brewery & Tap Room, peep the massive street art murals scattered throughout the city, dine on haute cuisine at Michelin-starred restaurant Bhoga and boogie at Bee Kök & Bar, where rainbow flags flutter at a buzzy joint in the city center.
This year’s EuroPride slogan is: “Two cities, one country—for a united Europe open to the world.” To that ideal, we proudly pledge allegiance. ◆
— If the red phone displayed at the interactive ABBA: The Museum rings, answer it. A different member of Europe’s all-time best-selling supergroup calls every few weeks to surprise a lucky visitor.
Bee Kök & Bar, beebar.se; Beerbliotek Brewery & Tap Room, beerbliotek.com/taproom; Bhoga, bhoga.se; Cafe String, cafestring.se; EuroPride, europride2018.com; Hotel at Six, hotelatsix.com; Hotel Diplomat, diplomathotel.com; The Patricia, patricia.st; Restaurant Gabriel, restauranggabriel.com; Urban Deli, urbandeli.org