Originally published on Advocate.com February 20 2002 12:00 AM ET
Stockholm: A cool place for all seasons
Craig on the rocks at the Ice Bar
The Ice Bar--made entirely of ice--lasts only a few months each winter, but Stockholm offers gay and lesbian travelers fun and comfort year-round.
Click on the images below to see a full version of each photo.
Stockholm is downright cold in the winter!
"I'm sure that we can make the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most queens in a deep freeze," my friend Thom exclaimed during a recent visit to the Scandinavian city. But he wasn't talking just about the temperature outside.
We joined a group of gay friends at the Ice Bar in the Old Town area of Stockholm. It's a bar made entirely of ice, with ice walls, ice sculptures, ice chairs, and even ice glasses for serving a traditional lingonberry juice cocktail or perhaps a whisky "in the rocks." On some occasions, we were told, the Ice Bar also serves up, on ice plates of course, some interesting Swedish bar fare: shiitake mushroom soup, slices of reindeer meat, and a bit of salmon.
The Ice Bar is actually part of the Ice Gallery, which is an information center for the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjarvi, where, you guessed it, overnight visitors can sleep on ice beds. Ice for both the hotel and bar is pulled from the frozen, crystal clear water of the Torne River in northern Sweden.
The temperature inside the Ice Bar hovered around 22 degrees, but the "coolest" bartender in town provided us with ponchos and gloves to keep us warm and cozy while we enjoyed the icy ambience. "They look like something Edina and Patsy would wear on AbFab," commented Thom. Which was perfect for our visit!
A trip to the Ice Bar is a must for any visitor to Stockholm. Just keep in mind, this bar is only open from noon to 5 p.m., and it is best to call ahead for a reservation, as it can only accommodate 15 guests at a time. It's a perfect way to start an evening out on the town. >>ICE BAR: Osterlanggatan 41, Gamla Stan, Stockholm; phone +46 08-790-5500
Here are some other "cool" places and events to check out in Stockholm, no matter what time of year you visit (and you won't need a poncho!):
If you want to stay where Madonna hangs her hat when she comes to town, check into the ultrahip Berns Hotel. The Berns is a small, friendly, and exclusive hotel located in the very heart of Stockholm. The sleek rooms are decked out with mod furniture, and you can entertain friends in the stunning, vaulted two-story lobby bar that feels more like a cathedral than a hotel. And be sure to check the wall of celebrity guests in the lobby hallway.
>>BERNS HOTEL: Nackstrosmgatan 8, Stockholm; phone +46 08-566-322-00
For those in search of something a little more traditional and European to call "home away from home," the Grand Hotel is the way to go. Built in 1874 on a stunning harborside location, it has long been the choice of visiting political leaders and Nobel Prize winners. >>GRAND HOTEL: S. Blasicholmshamnen 8 SE-103 27, Stockholm; phone +46 08-679-3500
The perfect restaurant for a gay date is Torget, a charming space with gold mirrors, vaulted ceilings, sweeping velvet drapes, and a screen showing old camp films to the beat of pop music. It's in Stockholm's delightful Old Town, and it's a perfect place for cocktails and dinner before hitting one of the gay discos. >>TORGET: Malartorget 13, Gamla Stan, Stockholm; phone +46 08-20-5560
For a taste of traditional Sweden, the seasonal buffets at Ulriksdals Wärdshus cannot be beat. Built in the park of an 18th-century palace in 1868, the traditionally decorated country inn overlooks orchards and a peaceful lake. This restaurant is arguably one of the most expensive in Stockholm, but the impeccable service and outstanding cuisine make the splurge worthwhile. Don't forget to ask if you can check out the wine cellar. >>ULRIKSDALS WARDSHUS: Slottspark Solna, Stockholm; phone +46 08-850-815
Get as sleazy as you wanna be at Tip Top, which is a bit more skanky than swanky. Despite having the decor of a run-down disco, Tip Top does bring in a crowd--mostly gay, but part lesbian--ranging in age from teens to the old men who love them. But regardless of age, the crowd is very friendly, and if you are lucky, you just might befriend a native who can lead you to more swanky venues. >>TIP TOP: Sveavagen 57, Stockholm; phone +46 08-32-9800
If this boat is rockin', you better come knockin'. The good ship Patricia sponsors a weekly Sunday-night ritual for a diverse crowd of regulars, both gay and lesbian. Shipmates sip drinks at one of three bars, including an outdoor cocktail lounge above decks. Deep in the hold, techno and house spin until 5 a.m., bringing young stallions, dykes, femmes, and drag queens to the dance floor. >>PATRICIA: Stadsgårdskajen 152, Stockholm; phone +46 08-743-0570
The Bloomingdale's of Stockholm, NK, is the most upscale shopping center in town, complete with designer clothing outlets, perfume and makeup counters, leather goods shops, a glass and crystal store...well, you get the idea. Go ahead, buy yourself some Swedish underwear, just so you can get one of the fabulous shopping bags. It can be a very busy place, which makes for some excellent people-watching. Also, don't miss the bakery on the lower level. >>NK: Hamngatan 18-20, Stockholm; phone +46 08-762-80-00
The Stockholm Pride festival (late June to early July, www.stockholmpride.org) has already become the leading celebration of queerdom in Scandinavia, and it's building steam every year. Buy yourself a dog-tag pass at Rosa Rummet, which gets you into all the parties, debates, theater performances, films, and concerts. This festival demonstrates how open this city is to gay life: The tourist office backs the event, hotels and taxi companies offer discounts to pass-bearers, and the Swedish national airline is an official sponsor, offering reduced fares.