On paper, Stockholm should be one of the gayest cities on earth: it is not only achingly fashion-conscious and home to Abba, but also capital of a country proud of its record of tolerance. Next week, Stockholm will temporarily be elevated to the status of Europe's gay capital, as it hosts Europride, a kind of ambulating cocktail of parties, parades and politics. This means the city's bars, clubs and restaurants are gearing up for a gay invasion.
Tourist officials in search of the pink krona are keen to make the most of the city's gay credentials. Gay tourists from France and the United States have been particular targets, says Bo Söderström at Visit Sweden. He says they are attracted by the “openness and tolerance of Stockholm. There is a lot on offer for this target group.”
Sweden's reputation for tolerance is well-deserved: it was one of the first countries to introduce gay civil partnerships; these are soon likely to be replaced by full marriage. The buses are flying rainbow flags for the duration of Europride. And in this city of out-and-proud metrosexuals, your gaydar has to be on top form to sort out the gay boys from the stray boys.
During the ten days that make up Stockholm Pride, the gay crowd will be taking over a host of venues in the city. Berns, a glorious nineteenth-century gilt-encrusted pleasure palace , is turning itself over to Europride for the whole festival, culminating in the Boybar XL party on August 2nd.
It would be wrong to give the impression that the Swedish capital has a massive gay scene - San Francisco, London or Berlin it is not. It is, like Abba, not all that gay, just incredibly gay-friendly.
This is in evidence if you head out for a gay bar crawl: drinkers in Stockholm gay bars usually have to jostle for space with diners, who could just as well be middle-aged straight couples as members of the gay crowd.
Even the cruisier joints in town, such as cellar bar Sidetrack on Södermalm, serve food, mainly thanks to a law requiring all bars to have fully-equipped kitchens. The upside to this is that your chilled-out dinner can drift seamlessly into partying. There is also an undeniably glamorous edge to many of the city's bars, with the ‘gayish' Leijonbaren at the upmarket Victory Hotel in Gamla Stan a case in point – its vaulted ceilings tastefully complemented by hip modern furniture in its restaurant.
Roxy, on Södermalm, and Torget, in Gamla Stan, are popular with the pre-club crowd. Torget, with its big gilt mirrors and lashings of red velour, combines a chilled atmosphere with style and a sense of fun, and camp movies frequently playing in the background.
While most of the city's gay bars are in Södermalm or Gamla Stan, there are others a bit further off the beaten track. One such place is Göken on Kungsholmen, popular with gay men and lesbians. While it might be best known for its decent food, its tiny, sparkly bar is also a good spot to chill out with a cocktail.
The nightclubs have something that makes them uniquely Swedish: their dedication to schlager. There are few gay clubs in Stockholm without at least one floor dedicated to these Eurovision ditties. Many clubs are purists, with not so much as a snippet of Madonna allowed to interrupt the stream of cheesy Swedish pop.
There are other options, though, with Lino devoting one floor each to schlager and house. This glam club, with great views over Riddarfjärden from its base in the former Swedish parliament, is these days widely viewed as the best gay party in town. Usually a Saturday night event, Lino will be also be open on Thursday during Pride week.
One place that cannot be left out of any description of the Stockholm gay scene is Patricia. This former British light vessel played a role in both the Dunkirk evacuation and the Normandy landings, before briefly serving as an extra yacht for the British royals. These days the decks throng with a different kind of queen, and Patricia's gay night on Sunday has become a fixture. During Pride, Patricia's gay fans will be the focus throughout the week, with events planned most evenings.
Below is our pick of Stockholm's gay scene, to get you in the mood for next week's big bash:
Down by the water, this open-air bar and restaurant can get pretty packed when it's hot, particularly on the new floating bar that opened earlier this year. But Mälarpaviljongen's stunning views of Gamla Stan, fun mixed gay-straight crowd, DJs and reasonably-priced food make it a must for a balmy summer evening.
Open every day (weather permitting) 11am-1am
Planned for Pride:
Friday 25th July and Friday 1st August: We love Fridays, with DJ Marcus Ullmarker.
Saturday 26th July and Saturday 2nd August: Club Before, featuring DJs and live performers.
Location: Norr Mälarstrand, by the water. T-bana Fridhemsplan.
This popular, stylish bar in Gamla Stan is a stalwart of the gay scene and is a popular place to get fuelled up before a night on the tiles. For those who stay late, it can get pretty busy and there's always a friendly vibe. Decent menu, featuring DJs every night from 10pm-1am during Pride. Tickets for Pride on sale here.
Location: Mälartorget 13. T-bana: Gamla Stan
Since Lino burst onto the scene a few years ago, Stockholm's gay scene has never looked back. The most sophisticated gay party the city has to offer, with house/trance on one floor competing with Swedish schlager on the other floor. Usually a once a week thing, Lino is slotting in an extra night on the Thursday.
Planned for Pride:
Saturday 26th July, 10pm-4am - PPP@Lino (pre-Pride party) – Lino gets the party started
Thursday 31st July, 10pm-5am – Neo vs Lino – A ‘very well-known' personality will be guest DJ during the evening
Saturday 2nd August, 10pm-5am – Europride Specialos – ‘Party until dawn' with September on stage.
Location: Restaurant Riddarkällaren, Södra Riddarholmshamnen 19. T-bana Gamla Stan.
If this was a gay club all the time, it would be rated as one of the best in the world. The magnificent nineteenth century ballroom, the stunning modern terrace and a harbourside location make this one of Stockholm's fanciest nightspots. Berns is ‘going gay' for the duration of pride, with a couple of big parties slated for the latter half of Pride week.
Planned for Pride:
31 July 10pm – 2am - The Swedish Legend -This years most glamorous gay party
Boy Bar XL – This is Disco2 - 2 August 10pm – 4am
Location: Berzelli Park, Stockholm. T-bana Kungsträdgården
For complete gay listings in Stockholm, visit Swedish gay site www.qx.se/english