According to The Guardian, Gaytimes, and Pink news, Sweden often comes within the Top 10 chart of safest countries for LGBTQ people. Proud to be “gay since 1944”, this year LGBT Stockholm are celebrating 75 years of the decriminalisation of homosexuality (52 years in the UK, although it still came with restrictions!) and 10 years of equal marriage (6 years in the UK).
To celebrate this momentous occasion, we were invited to Stockholm for the weekend to experience Stockholm in the flesh. We’d always wanted to visit a Scandinavian country, so to visit one of the top Scandinavian countries, as well as one of the busiest cities, was incredibly exciting. To say I was shocked to receive this invitation was an understatement.
On top of experiencing LGBT Stockholm, we were also invited to visit the Christmas Markets that were in full swing at various locations across the city. Nordic countries take Christmas very seriously, therefore we prepared ourselves to experience every inch of Christmas festivities.
Here’s what we got up to on Day One
To make sure we made the most out of our trip, we decided to fly Friday afternoon, arriving in Sweden late into the evening the same night. This wasn’t an issue at all as T had just broken up for the Christmas holidays that day – what a way to start the holidays! We hadn’t told T about this trip, so with every mile that got us closer to the airport he got more and more excited. By the time we reached the airport, and he realised he was going on an aeroplane, he was beside himself.
From the moment we arrived at Gatwick, everything went really smoothly and once we boarded the flight it didn’t take that long, with Sweden only being a short two hour flight. Once we arrived, we were then taken to our hotel for the weekend.
Sweden is made up of several small islands, and it is one of these islands; Skeppsholmen, where our hotel was located.
Originally built in the 1700’s for Royal Marines, the buildings, known to locals as “The Long Row”, before becoming Hotel Skeppsholmen, was never used for the soldiers as intended, as most of them never made it home from the wars. They were therefore left inhabited until 1710, when the city started using them as a hospice for poor people infected with the plague (!). Several years later and after some renovation work, the buildings became offices and storehouses for the Navy and then later listed as government buildings.
Today, the hotel sits in a gorgeous rural setting with stunning views of the surrounding river and city, with fantastic and direct links to the islands. Inside, you’re greeted with a more modern setting, with contemporary art and design being the focus in the decor, as well as a celebration of Swedish cuisine, fashion and culture. The hotel also boasts an ‘Eco-Label’ for how eco-friendly they are.
During our stay, we stayed in one of their loft apartments; named their Junior Suite, which is located at the top of their buildings overlooking the rest of the island. This spacious suite boasts a large lobby area with desk and space for another single bed (which is where T slept during our stay), as well as space to house bags and coats. Moving through the suite, we then came to a landing where you could enter the bedroom / lounge, as well as the bathroom. This area also housed a generous wardrobe which also featured a modest snack bar and amenities such as extra shirts (and underwear!)
The bathroom was an ultra modern, but eco-friendly, space with rainfall shower with it’s own lighting and heated flooring. Towels were provided, as well as toiletries, dressing gown and slippers. Although the bathroom felt like a complete contrast to the rest of the room, it fit perfectly with the rest of the hotel which offered pockets of modern design amongst the more traditional Swedish design.
Moving into the main lounge and bedroom, we were presented with a spacious but cosy room with a large double bed, TV, two comfy arm chairs, a coffee table, and several lighting options. This is where the suite really shone thanks to the beautiful wooden flooring and ageing wooden shutters. This is where we spent most of our time whilst at the hotel, either getting ready for the day or relaxing of an evening.
After checking in, we ordered room service from their night menu and then hit the sack, but not before going through some lovely gifts the folks at Visit Sweden and LGBT Stockholm had left for us. Little did I know that this was just the beginning…
Breakfast at Hotel Skeppsholmen was like no other I have ever experienced, with rows upon rows of Swedish delights, ranging from fresh breads and pastries, to continental meats, cheeses and fish. There was also a selection of fruit juices and teas, as well as cereals and yoghurts.
Just like our room and the rest of the hotel, the dining room was absolutely stunning with soft furnishings, wooden floors, and gentle lighting throughout. We were advised to eat plenty, but to take our time as we had a long day ahead of us. With this, I made sure I packed a few cinnamon buns in my pocket!
Exploring Slussen & Old Town
Once we had finished breakfast, we explored the rest of the island and then made our way to the ferry port where we could take a short ride to various points around the city. It was a bit foggy that day, but it didn’t stop us taking in the views!
For our weekend we had been given a ‘Key of Honour’ which allowed us unlimited rides on the ferry as well as entry to several attractions. This was a brilliant way to plan your trip as it meant you didn’t have to wait or work out the different fares. A lot of the city is also cashless – so this was the perfect tool to get around the city.
On our first day, we headed towards Slussen; which is where we would meet our tour guide; Elisabeth Daude, who would take us on a tour of ‘Old Town’; including a visit to a traditional Swedish sweet shop, and the Royal Palace, which is where we also caught the ‘changing of the guard’. There was something for everyone, even T who managed to squeeze in a visit to one of the city’s play parks.
This was an excellent introduction to the city as we got to learn about all the hidden secrets; including the city’s LGBT history old and new, as well as it’s rich history; such as why the city is currently sinking and what happens in Stockholm during advent! We’ve never taken advantage of having a tour guide whenever we’ve visited a new city, but after meeting Elisabeth we’ll certainly be giving it food for thought. We learnt so much about Stockholm, not to mention walked several miles, and found the whole experience incredibly fascinating!
Our tour lasted us until lunchtime which is where Elisabeth left us, but not before dropping us off in one of the city’s many locations to get some Swedish Fika which, little did I know, I do quite regularly! Fika is a Swedish concept or ‘state of mind’ and is an essential part of Swedish culture. It’s, basically, making time for friends and colleagues to sit down and have a coffee (or tea) and a sweet treat. No to-go cups or meetings on the move. I took this traditional very seriously and made sure we made time for Fika regularly throughout our trip – I wouldn’t want to insult the locals!
Our Fika moment took us to Chokladkoppen, which is located at the heart of Old Town and is an LGBT community hub. It was one of the first ever businesses to proudly fly the rainbow flag and has history dating back to the early 90’s. The cafe is everything you would hope for when it comes to a Swedish cafe. The lighting is low, with candles on the wooden tables, and staff are as diverse and welcoming as the cakes and pastries being sold at the counter. Lunch was complimentary, so Sharon chose a rather large sandwich, whilst T and I took part in some pastry tasting with a side of coffee and hot chocolate!
After our well-earned rest, we spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the remainder of Old Town as well as the Christmas markets that were located right outside the cafe. The atmosphere was electric, with the smells of Glogg (mulled wine) and spiced cider surrounding us.
Despite it being very busy, I felt incredibly safe and I was able to comfortably browse the stalls without worrying where T was. Unlike some of the UK Christmas markets, there was a huge array of things for sale, from gifts and decorations, to food and jewellery. We easily spent a good hour going back and forth throughout the market as well as spending time looking at the colourful lights and buildings.
Once we had browsed the markets, we then made our way through the rest of the city, exploring the shops we had marked down to visit during our tour (including a second visit to the sweet shop), as well as the historic narrow streets which, by now, were lit up with Christmas lights and Nordic stars from neighbouring apartments. Sweden in the winter only has a few hours of daylight each day, meaning by 2pm it was almost dark, but with the Christmas atmosphere it was hardly noticeable. If anything, it added to the setting.
After exhausting Old Town, we then made our way back to the hotel via the ferry where we had dinner reservations at the hotel restaurant. Just like breakfast, the hotel offered all sorts of Swedish cuisine, and because it was Christmas there was the added luxury of taking advantage of their Christmas buffet.
For our meal, Sharon and I followed the main menu, whereas T was happy to graze on the Christmas buffet, which offered a selection of hot and cold dishes; both meat and vegetarian, as well as a generous dessert table! It was truly the perfect end to our day.
Our meal was the perfect end to our long day, as in no time we were upstairs and in bed – trying to decipher Swedish television! Once we were asleep we all slept like logs and were ready for what the following day had to offer.
Despite the room being open plan, we were warm throughout the night and T slept incredibly well. I imagine all the walking we did (6.8 miles in fact) had massive contributing factor.
During our tour, Elisabeth gave us several insights into LGBT life in Stockholm, and by that I mean it’s no different to anyone else! Of course there were tons of LGBT-owned businesses and members of the community who were famous for various skills; from singing to shoe-making, but unlike large cities in the UK – Brighton, Manchester, and London – there are no LGBT quarters, zones, or villages. Everyone is just welcome everywhere.
With this knowledge it was incredible how safe we felt not only as a family in a new city, but as a rainbow family. I didn’t feel the need to look around before giving my wife a kiss and I don’t remember suddenly shoving my hands in my pockets. No one gave us side glances and no one tried to work out “which one was mum”. It was a wonderful feeling.
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End of Day One
Thanks for following our first day in Stockholm, Sweden. I hope you enjoyed seeing what we got up to – we certainly had a blast!
If you want to find out what we got up on Day Two, where we talk about our visit to Skansen; the open air museum, more Christmas Markets, The Vasa Museum, and the Nordic Museum, then you can find our second post here.
We were given complimentary travel (excluding UK transfers and any extra expenditure), accommodation, and entry to the mentioned attractions in exchange for promotional content during our visit and a blog review upon our return, however all thoughts, opinions, and imagery remain our own.