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Gay Stockholm: The Local's guide

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17:38 CEST+02:00
It's the city that gave the world gay icons like Abba and Greta Garbo, so the fact that Stockholm is becoming a favourite destination of gay tourists should be no surprise. Stockholm's tradition of tolerance and openness means it never developed a gay ghetto, so gay life is integrated into the life of the rest of the city.

While there's no equivalent of the Marais or Castro in Stockholm, the pretty areas of Gamla Stan and Södermalm have more than their fair share of gay establishments.

Bars and restaurants

Gamla Stan

The queen of Stockholm gay bars is Torget in Gamla Stan. With its chandelier and flock wallpaper, Torget has a glamorously decadent ambience. Kitsch vintage movies play silently on a big screen next to the bar. The weekend crowd is mainly gay men aged 20-50, although earlier in the evenings the decent food draws a mixed bunch.

Nearby is Leijonbaren at the Victory Hotel, which markets itself as ‘gayish'. Truth be told, this tiny but sophisticated bar doesn't always feel gayer than the next place, but it's certainly worth popping in for a martini.

Södermalm

Over on Södermalm, basement bar Sidetrack is enjoyably seedy, an atmosphere partly created by the willy-shaped brackets which hold the tables to the walls. Patronised by a mainly middle-aged clientele, this is a beer drinking establishment (although Swedish laws compel it to serve food, which is surprisingly good) and is popular with those planning a visit to nearby Scandinavian Leathermen(SLM – see below).

Many of the most popular haunts for Stockholm's lesbian crowd are located on Södermalm. One favourite is gay-owned Roxy, a trendy gay-owned bar and restaurant. Also a favourite with the girls is the gay-friendly Pappa Ray Ray & Morfar Ginko, which holds weekly lesbian club night Club Gaysha. On Fridays, the girls (and a fair number of boys) head to Momma on Renstiernagatan for Lezzie Friday, where the city's best gay female DJs take control of the turntables.

Kungsholmen

The island of Kungsholmen was once a bit of a gay desert, but not any longer. Leading the gay invasion is Göken, a dinky little bar and restaurant near Fridhemsplan. The handbag-shaped lights in the bar and the flamboyant staff make this place worth a diversion. Göken's food, while not cheap, is worth the money.

Also on Kungsholmen is one of Stockholm's summer favourites: Mälarpaviljongen. A lakeside café by day, on a balmy summer evening this place becomes one of Stockholm's favourite gay bars. A large floating pontoon has extended the bar into Lake Mälaren, where you can knock back a glass of rosé while enjoying superb views of the Summer Night City. Mälarpaviljongen can get very busy when the weather's fine and the pontoon can only hold a limited number of people, so arrive early to avoid queues.

Clubs

The Stockholm gay clubbing scene has been in a state of flux in recent years. The dominance of Eurovision pop, or schlager, has weakened somewhat, but those searching for a dose of Boom-bang-a-bang or Alcazar are still spoilt for choice.

The upmarket action for lovers of house music is found at Guldrummet at the Ambassadeur club on Fridays and Saturdays. A ‘VIP pass' is needed to get in, although the club claims that gay tourists are unlikely to be turned away at the door.

If you're looking for something a bit less snooty, Kolingsborg is a good bet. This idiosyncratic venue, within the Slussen flyover complex , is home to Paradise on Fridays and Libra on Saturdays.

Paradise has three dance floors playing R&B/House, hits and schlager (defined here as any song associated with the Eurovision Song Contest – a favourite genre among the Stockholm boys). The club also hosts frequent drag shows from local pros and amateurs. Libra is exclusively house-oriented, and attracts the well-toned shirtless crowd.

For those Stockholmers without a job to go to, Sunday nights are party nights. Nowhere is this more in evidence than on Patricia, a former British lightship. The vessel participated in the Dunkirk evacuations and briefly served as an escort for Britain's royal yacht, but is now a floating bar and restaurant. Legendary Stockholm drag queen Babsan hosts Stockholm's longest-running gay club every Sunday. The music is mainly pop and schlager and the night attracts a fun, young studenty crowd.

At the other end of the spectrum is the famous fetish club Scandinavian Leather Men (SLM). The strictly men-only SLM is something of an acquired taste, but for those on the scene this place is legendary. Be warned, though, this is a serious fetish joint and is not for the easily shocked. It also operates a very strict dresscode, so check out the website before you go. SLM is members-only, but you can buy monthly membership on the door for 100 kronor.

For up-to-date information about gay-related venues and events in Stockholm, visit gay website QX ,or pick up their monthly magazine in gay venues across the city.

Further information:

Torget , Mälartorget 13, Stockholm. +46 8 20 55 60. Metro: Gamla Stan.

Leijonbaren ,Lilla Nygatan 5, Stockholm. +46 8 506 400 84 Metro: Gamla Stan.

Sidetrack , Wollmar Yxkullsgatan 7, Stockholm. +46 08-641 16 88. Metro: Mariatorget.

Roxy , Nytorget 6, Stockholm. +46 8 640 96 55 Metro: Medborgarplatsen or Skanstull.

Pappa Ray Ray & Morfar Ginko, Swedenborgsgatan 11, Stockholm. + 46 8 6411340. Metro: Mariatorget.

Momma , Renstiernas gata 30, Stockholm. +46 8 640 19 19. Metro: Medborgarplatsen or Skanstull.

Göken , Pontonjärgatan 28, Stockholm +46 8 654 49 28. Metro: Fridhemsplan.

Mälarpaviljongen , Norr Mälarstrand 64, Stockholm.+46 8 650 87 01. Metro: Fridhemsplan.

Ambassadeur , Kungsgatan 18, Stockholm. +46 8 545 07602. Metro: Hötorget or Östermalmstorg.

Paradise , Kolingsborg, Slussen, Gula Gången, Stockholm. +46 8 64 33 946. Metro: Slussen.

Libra , Kolingsborg, Slussen, Gula Gången, Stockholm. info@librasthlm.com. Metro: Slussen.

Patricia , Stadsgårdskajen 152

Stockholm. +46 8 743 05 70. Metro: Slussen.

SLM ,Wollmar Yxkullsgatan 18, Stockholm. +46 8 64 33 100. Metro: Mariatorget.

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