Sweden – an open country where LGBTQ+ rights are the norm
Celebrated as one of the world’s most inclusive and progressive countries, it’s easy to see why Sweden is a particular draw for the LGBTQI community. According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), Sweden is one of Europe's most gay-friendly countries. As a testament to this, EuroPride has been held in Sweden three times over the past three decades – in both Stockholm and Gothenburg.
Swedish society as a whole is open and welcoming and there’s extensive legislation in place protecting LGBTQ+ rights, including anti-discrimination and same-sex marriage rights, which was legalised in 2009.
In 2019, meanwhile, Sweden celebrated the 75th anniversary of another key LGBTQ right – namely the decriminalisation of homosexuality. On these grounds, Swedes like to say their home country has been “gay since 1944”.
Sweden certainly lives up to its reputation as a LGBTQ freezone, and this is true across this rainbow-flag waving country. At 30 and counting, there are more Pride festivals per capita in Sweden than anywhere else in the world – some of which we’ll introduce here.
Since the start in 1998, Stockholm Pride has grown into one of Stockholm's largest and most appreciated festivals and the largest Pride celebration in the Nordic region.
Photo: Magnus Liam Karlsson/imagebank.sweden.se
Photo: Magnus Liam Karlsson/imagebank.sweden.se
Photo: Melker Dahlstrand/imagebank.sweden.se
Photo: Magnus Liam Karlson/imagebank.sweden.se
Gay-friendly travel highlights in Sweden
Across the country, you’ll find unique Pride celebrations tying in with the respective cultural heritage of each destination. Sápmi Pride, to mention one, was inaugurated in 2014 in Kiruna as a celebration of the indigenous Sami population of Sweden and its LGBTQI community. Sápmi Pride is held on rotation between Sweden, Norway and Finland, as the Sami culture extends across these countries (as well as Russia).
Stockholm Pride – the Nordics' largest Pride
On a wider scale, the capital plays host to Stockholm Pride – the biggest festival of its kind in the Nordic region and one of Sweden’s largest events. This perennial summer highlight – taking place 2-8 August 2021 – attracts tens of thousands of Swedish and international LGBTQ+ visitors each summer, transforming this beautiful city into one big party. As you partake in the city-wide festivities, you’ll have ample opportunity to discover Stockholm’s many districts, including the island of Södermalm, with its creative vibe, the elegant district of Östermalm, and the downtown area of Norrmalm. Wherever you set foot, you’ll be immersed in the country’s design heritage. There are stylish cafés and shops aplenty and foodies are in for a treat, too – Stockholm, like the rest of Sweden, has a proud culinary heritage with focus on sustainable cuisine based on organic, local produce.
As for specifically LGBTQI-frequented spots in Stockholm, Mälarpaviljongen bar and restaurant – idyllically set by the waterside – is a definite summertime draw, though, in the true name of inclusivity, everyone is welcome. As its owner Arto Winter put it to us in a previously published interview: “There aren’t many bars and restaurants targeted solely at gays in Stockholm – instead, the whole city is tolerant.” This may be why there isn’t a specific LGBT area or enclave like some other European cities have – Swedish society is so open and friendly towards the LGBTQ+ community that people feel welcome wherever they go.
West Pride in Gothenburg
Gothenburg, located on Sweden’s west coast, boasts an equally strong LGBT community. Sweden’s second largest city has its own version of Pride – West Pride – which attracts visitors from Sweden and beyond every summer. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the next edition will be held in autumn – between 27 September and 3 October 2021. So what can you expect? Aside from the all-important Pride parade – joined by some 15,000 people at the last event in 2019 – there will be hundreds of programme entries, spanning talks, concerts and performances, all developed in line with West Pride’s mission to promote an “equal, inclusive society free from prejudice and discrimination”.
Don’t miss the opportunity to sample some of the city’s world-class seafood served up at the diverse restaurants found here, including a respectable number of Michelin-starred ones. The wonderful Bhoga, just to mention one eminent example, will give you an introduction to the modern Swedish kitchen via its delicious tasting menus.
WorldPride comes to Malmö
In Sweden’s very south, a global event with Scandinavian flavour is afoot – Malmö Pride and Happy Copenhagen will be hosting WorldPride and the inclusive sporting event EuroGames together 12-22 August, allowing visitors to soak up the LGBTQ-friendly Swedish lifestyle as well as that of Denmark. Highlights to look forward to in the charming city of Malmö include street parades, live concerts, various parties and even wedding ceremonies and celebrations. Additionally, all manner of talks and workshops will take place in the event’s designated hub – the enormous WorldPride House and in the playful WorldPride Park – you’ll be able to catch art exhibitions and inspiring performances, with the opportunity to refuel in one of these green space’s many cafés.
These events are all testament to Sweden’s undisputed status as an LGBT-friendly country, but this naturally open country will welcome LGBTQI travellers with open arms whenever you choose to visit.