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Love in Stockholm
Sweden is considered one of the world's most LGBT-friendly country.
Photo credit: onceuponajourney/stockholmLGBT/Visit Stockholm

Sweden – an open country where LGBTQ+ rights are the norm

Sweden’s inclusive reputation as an LGBT-friendly country has found favour with the international LGBTQI community, making it an ideal destination for gay-friendly travel – a place where you can walk down the street with whomever you love and just be you.

This article covers:

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. And in 2021, Malmö played host to WorldPride together with Copenhagen.

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.

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Stockholm Pride

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

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Stockholm Pride

Photo: Magnus Liam Karlsson/imagebank.sweden.se

Pride festival

Photo: LANDEROS/Visit Sweden

Stockholm Pride

Photo: Magnus Liam Karlson/imagebank.sweden.se

West Pride EuroPride, Gothenburg

Photo: BeatriceTörnros/Göteborg&Co

Pride parade, Gothenburg

Photo: Beatrice Tornros/Göteborg&Co

Pride festivals 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 1-7 August 2022 – attracts tens of thousands of Swedish and international LGBTQ+ visitors each summer, transforming this beautiful city into one big party.

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. The 2022 edition was held 13-19 June.

Malmö Pride in the south

Malmö Pride highlights LBTQIA+ rights through culture, education and advocacy. In 2022, the festival was held 6-10 July.

At Happy Pride’s Pride Calendar, you can see a list of all pride festivals in Sweden 2022.

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.

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Enjoying the sun at Mälarpaviljongen

Rainbow flags swaying in the wind at Mälarpaviljongen, a popular restaurant with a LGBTQ profile, in Stockholm.

Photo: Anna Hållams

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Enjoying the sun at Mälarpaviljongen

Photo: Anna Hållams

ABBA the Museum, Stockholm

Photo: Agence les Conteurs

Hotel room at Hobo Hotel, Stockholm

Photo: Nordic Hotels & Resorts

The rooftop at the hotel At Six, Stockholm

Photo: Cimon Nicolas/At Six

Art in Stockholm

Photo: Viktor Gårdsäter/Visit Stockholm

Melodifestivalen 2020, Friends Arena, Stockholm

Photo: Live Nation

Gay-friendly travel highlights in Sweden

There aren’t many spots targeted solely at the LGBTQI community in Sweden, and there isn’t a specific LGBT area or enclave like some other European cities have. Instead, Swedish society is so open and friendly towards the LGBTQ+ community that people feel welcome wherever they go. With that said, there are still many places that are popular among the gay crowd. Here are a few:

Stockholm

Eat & drink:

  • Mälarpaviljongen, a restaurant and bar, idyllically set by the waterside. Open summertime only.
  • Chokladkoppen, a classic café in the Old Town and one of the first LGBT-orientated establishments in Stockholm.
  • Side Track, the oldest gay bar in Stockholm, describes itself as “cosy on weekdays, wild on weekends”.
  • Patricia, an old ship that turns into a gay club on Sundays. A restaurant, several bars and a nightclub open until 5 am.
  • Club Backdoor, a large and popular gay nightclub, open Friday and Saturday until 5 am.

Hotels:

  • Pop House Hotel and Hotel Rival, both founded by Benny Andersson from ABBA. Pop House Hotel is located at the same address as the ABBA Museum, and Hotel Rival is close to many of the places mentioned above.
  • Hobo Hotel and At Six Hotel are located next to each other and both belong to Nordic Choice Hotels, a hotel chain known for supporting Pride. Hobo has a hipster vibe, and At Six is a sleek five-star hotel.
  • Other hotels frequently recommended within the gay community are Nordic Light Hotel, Hotel Berns, Grand Hôtel and Rex Hotel.

Events:

  • Melodifestivalen, this year the final will be held in Friends Arena on 5 March.
  • CinemaQueer, an international film festival held 3-9 October.

More tips:

The LGBTI guide to Stockholm by Visit Stockholm, QX Queer Map, Stockholm LGBT.

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Wedding

Equality is fundamental in Sweden. It is about everyone having the same rights, opportunities and obligations regardless of sexual orientation, gender, ethnic origin, religion, disability or age.

Photo: Maskot/Folio/imagebank.sweden.se

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Wedding

Photo: Maskot/Folio/imagebank.sweden.se

Clarion Hotel Post, Gothenburg

Photo: Clarion Hotel Post

Restaurant Atelier, Hotel Pigalle, Gothenburg

Photo: Hotel Pigalle

Rooftop bar, Scandic Rubinen, Gothenburg

Photo: Scandic Rubinen

The nightclub Gretas in Gothenburg

Photo: Gretas

Gothenburg

Eat & drink:

  • Bee Kök & Bar, a popular “straight friendly” restaurant and bar open from lunch until late.
  • Haket, a LGBTQ-friendly pub with quiz every Friday.
  • Gretas, Gothenburg’s oldest gay bar and nightclub with occasional live shows.
  • Club Queer, a mixed gay club usually held the last Friday of every month at Park Lane.

Hotels:

  • Hotel Dorsia and Hotel Pigalle are two extraordinary hotels in central Gothenburg, often described with words like “decadent”, “Parisian-inspired” and “seductive”.
  • Avalon Hotel and Clarion Hotel Post both belong to Nordic Choice Hotels, a hotel chain known for supporting Pride. Avalon Hotel is feng shui certified and Clarion Hotel Post is set in a beautiful historic post office building.
  • Other hotels frequently recommended within the gay community are Scandic Crown, Scandic Rubinen, Gothia Towers, Upper House, Hotel Dorsia, Pigalle.

More tips:

LGBTQI Gothenburg at Goteborg.com, Queer Calendar Gbg on Instagram, QX Queer Map.

Selma Lagerlöfs estate Mårbacka, Värmland

Mårbacka in Sunne, Värmland, is the former home of Swedish author Selma Lagerlöf.

Photo: KM IDÉ, Östra Ämtervik

Other spots around the country worth a visit

  • Klubb Chroma, the largest LGBTQ+ nightclub in Norrbotten.
  • Author Selma Lagerlöf’s home Mårbacka in Sunne, Värmland.
  • Singer and acress Zarah Leander Museum on Vikbolandet, Östergötland.
  • ABBA-member Björn Ulveaus’ restaurant Slottsholmen in Västervik, Småland.
  • Opera singer (soprano) Birgit Nilsson Museum in Båstad, Skåne.