Stockholm: Scandinavia’s LGBT Capital
While the United States prepares to celebrate the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," it’s telling to remember that more than thirty years ago, back in 1976, Sweden integrated its entire military, enabling gays to serve without being closeted. 1976 - a lifetime ago! And furthermore, in 1979, Sweden was the first country in the world to declassify homosexuality as a medical disorder, which followed Sweden’s legalization of same-sex sex - way back in 1944. Think about it: you and your parents could’ve lived your life in Sweden as first-class LGBT citizens.
With a history of acceptance, openness, and diversity, it’s no surprise that Stockholm, Sweden’s capital, is widely considered the LGBT capital of Scandinavia. There has been same-sex marriage in Sweden since 2009 - and each summer, Stockholm Pride (one of Europe’s more popular Prides since its debut in 1998) becomes a citywide celebration.
As Sweden’s largest city, with more than twenty percent of Sweden’s nine million citizens living within the fourteen-island archipelago that comprises what is often referred to as the "Venice of the North," Stockholm is as stunning as it is socially progressive. While many of Stockholm’s tourists arrive in the summer, when the days stretch long into the white nights, those who visit Stockholm in the winter are rewarded with a setting as romantic as Zhivago’s winter palace. Under a blanket of freshly-fallen snow, with ice floes on the river, and mounds of meringue atop the statuary, Stockholm is as gorgeous as a gay wedding cake.
One of Europe’s Most Beautiful Medieval Town Centers
The city dates from 1252, but many visitors might know Stockholm best from Stieg Larsson’s "Millennium Trilogy" and the travails of Larsson’s protagonist, Lisbeth Salander. More than even Pippi Longstocking, the erstwhile heroine of Sweden, Salander has captured the imagination of global travelers and Stockholmers alike - and to walk in the footsteps of Larsson’s characters is nearly an act of literary transference.
Gamla Stan (also known as Old Town) contains one of Europe’s most beautifully preserved medieval town centers - and in the winter, the snow-covered narrow streets become a catwalk for some of Stockholm’s more stylish citizenry. Long celebrated for their beauty, Stockholmers are a walking testament to their country’s love of cool and chic fashion. Lest you’ve momentarily forgotten, this little country has clothed the planet with H&M’s fashion-forward designs, while filling the world’s homes with merch from Ikea, the world’s largest furniture retailer.
With more than one hundred museums and over a thousand restaurants, Stockholm is one of Europe’s more cultured destinations - and, therefore, perfect for LGBT travelers. Furthermore, Stockholm is green - and environmentally-savvy. Thirty percent of the city is waterways traversed by ferries, boats, and ships, with another thirty percent given over to parks and green spaces, resulting in a city that rewards every camera-bearing visitor with breathtaking vistas.
As Alluring to LGBT People as Shangri-La
Invariably, Stockholm appears on those ubiquitous "Most Livable Cities" indices, and in 2009, Stockholm became the first city to be granted the title of European Green Capital. Situated at the mouth of Lake Malaren, Stockholm has an abundance of clean water (which is perhaps connected to the absence of heavy industry within the city proper) and a plethora of fountains.
All these attributes, combined with the country’s strong sense of secularism (rather than an overreliance on religion), make Stockholm as alluring to LGBT people as Shangri-La - and it’s small wonder that a record number of entrants participated in VisitSweden’s recent "Love Is In The Air" promotion. Three LGBT couples won the right to be married in Sweden - two in the air, 38,000 feet above Sweden, and one couple at the IceHotel, nearly 100 miles above the Arctic Circle - and it wouldn’t be at all surprising to hear that all three couples moved to Stockholm to live happily ever after.
(Continued on next page: What to Do in Stockholm..)