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Stockholm for modern families

Easter Weekend in Stockholm

Our first Scandinavian break as an LGBT family unit has to be our favourite City Break to date, offering something for us all be it Abba, Minecraft or fine dining.

We arrived at Arlanda Airport, after a comfortable flight with SAS on Thursday evening, and took a 35 minute rush hour taxi ride coming off the busy motorway past some enchanting allotments on the outskirts of the City. These we were later told were created in the early 1900s to allow the workers from the City the chance to enjoy green spaces and fresh air.

We arrived at our first base for this weekend, a privately owned 1910 residence in the Embassy district to the north of the City centre. We were greeted by Kenneth and Peter the couple who run this charming and luxurious boutique hotel for owner Jeanette Mix. Called Ett Hem (A Home) we were immediately made to feel at home with a tour of the communal areas including an open plan kitchen/dining area stocked with organically grown produce, a library/dining area, a lounge boasting some great design and fashion bibles, and bar. With a delightful courtyard garden and cozy conservatory as another dining area. There was also a sauna and gym in the basement. All furnishing and décor was stylish, contemporary, not intrusive, homely yet luxurious. Our room was a sheer delight, with a king-size bed for us and a single bed for our daughter Ruby, ample wardrobe space, a marble bath and wet room as an en-suite.

With just enough time to unpack and freshen up, we were taken on a 90 minute tour by taxi with local guide Elisabeth Daude, talking us around the city to help us get our bearings, whilst providing some insights not found in your average guidebooks. First was a drive out to Djurgarden to show us where each of the museums were situated: In particular The Nordic Museum, which had a stripe themed exhibit and the Vasa Museum , the amazing wooden wreck of a ship that lay for 300 years in Stockholm Harbor with recommendations to watch the film of the raising of the ship too.
Plus some landmarks and spaces like Grona Lund, the amazing funfair (that was not due to open un later in April) Skansen a park built to recreate Sweden in miniature and provide a space for city folk to come and enjoy and Roselund , former royal gardens that were opened to the public so they could be at one with flowers.

Our first walk about stop on the tour is a Saluhall (food hall) in the up market Ostermalm district where we had coffee at Robert’s Coffees which we were told was one of the best Coffee houses in Stockholm. Then we head to Sodermalm where we were shown some useful, shops, bars and cafes in the area known as SoFo plus a stop to take in the view across to other islands.

We stopped for a walk through a German built churchyard in Gamla Stan, the oldest part of the City, with its square, cobbled streets and yellow, red and orange colored buildings housing some 400 people.

After pointing out main gay bar Torget (Square), we left pretty Gamla Stan and finished our tour with Elisabeth pointing out the homes or former offices of some Swedish celebrities like Abba Manager Stig Andersson, gay writer Jonas Gardell and actor Michael Nyqvist, plus the offices of RFSL (who have been fighting for the rights for homo, bi and transsexual people in Sweden since the 1950s) on our way back to Ett Hem for an Easter themed dinner of white Asparagus with Riesling, then Lamb with Spinach and glass of Pinot Noir, followed by Rhubarb and Raspberry meringue cake and mint tea all served in the homely kitchen area.

Easter Friday started with a Swedish style breakfast in the library at Ett Hem
We then took the metro from, walk and tram to Djurgarden to start our day at the Abba Museum. Visiting shortly after the 40th anniversary of their Eurovision win on 6th April 1974 at the Brighton Dome meant we could pose for a family photo for the Waterloo sleeve outside. The Museum already packed by 11am had a great display memorabilia dating back to each band member’s childhood, former bands and the earlier days as group, through to their Eurovision winning, disco to drama years. Special rooms have been recreated from a recording studio scene, to waterside songwriting setting, to a kitchen scene used in a certain video. The Gold Room is a real treat, mixing sleeve art, stage costumes and gold discs. Sadly the interactive dance, and karaoke areas were jam packed, but we did get to sit in a helicopter similar to the one on the cover of Arrival. (If only I’d worn white).

Next we headed up to Skansen initially for a quick stroll and ended up staying the afternoon in awe of the parks’ views, its Easter market and its sleepy young brown bears.

Our evening meal was at Grill a restaurant serving mainly grilled meat dishes based on funky décor and themed rooms including: a traditional Swedish dining room, a library, Little Italy or The Orient Express. We ate grilled chicken or steak, salad and fries in the Burlesque room with a pair of stockinged legs over my head! The bar area was very lively and bustling with energy, yet cleverly the dining areas felt more exclusive and cozy.

Easter Saturday saw us move from the gorgeous Ett Hem, after a sumptuous breakfast in the conservatory to the more centrally placed Hotel Hellsten in Normalm. This hotel and the Rex across the road are owned by Per Hellsten a charismatic collector of Asian and African artifacts and our room was a feast of Indian art and furniture with a lovely four poster bed and wet room en-suite.

After settling in, we took the metro headed further downtown to Sodermalm’s SoFo, the city’s southernmost, more edgy and Indie Island. SoFo is to me of East London’s Hoxton, the only difference being it is not over crowded and the staffs in shops, cafes and restaurants of SoFo are a lot more welcoming and helpful! After wandering around these shops such as Parlans, Chokoladfabriken and Iitala Outlet and Bjorn Borg underwear, we stopped for lunch at Meatballs for the People at Nytorgsgatan 30, and had the lunch special of Rooster Meatballs; mash and crème sauce for 125 Kronor each. I also got a great recipe for pickling carrots! (We have an allotment).

Urban Deli was our next stop for a meet and greet with its owner, Anna Ungh, who is proud to have a mix gay and straight women and men working at this buzzing food hall, bakery and café serving seafood, charcuterie, breakfast, brunch, lunches and dinner.

After coffee at Urban Deli, we headed by 66 bus to Mariatorget and Hotel Rival for a Swedish Fika (an informal afternoon tea-break), which we took in the main bar after a tour of three of the different types rooms of this Art Deco gem owned by Abba’s Benny Anderson and re-opened in September 2003 being renovated from a former Cinema to an Hotel, Theatre and Café. All rooms are movie or music themed and have a DVD player and movies to watch, plus en-suite with shower and a teddy bear. The Rival has been restored with all former decor and fittings so there is a real ambience of the 1920s about the main communal areas, yet the rooms have a very bright and modern feel to them, some with great views across the Sodermalm roof tops or across the main square and garden of Mariatorget.

We rested up that evening for a sandwich and Hot Chocolate at gay favourite Café Chokoladkoppen in Gamla Stan, a quiet haven away from the busy little shops selling tourist nik naks.

Easter Sunday saw us up early for a 9am swim at the Clarion Sign Spa’s rooftop pool with great views across the City and a pool temperature of 35oC. Once freshened up and revived we took off to the beautiful little Island of Skeppsholmen for most of the day. We had a self service style smorgasbord at the stylish and idyllically located Hotel Skeppsholmen. After our delicious brunch we walked the island around Kastell Holmen to take in the views across the water towards Djurgarden, then Sodermalm, Gamla Stan, Ostermalm and Blasie-Holmen areas.

Then we visited the Swedish Centre for Design and Architecture (Arkitekturmuseet), which had exhibited Jean Paul Gaultier last summer. We were there for Blockholm a Minecraft game recreation of Stockholm. We walked around the exhibit, whilst Ruby found a computer and built her own space. We then took a stroll around the Modern Art museum grounds and sculptures before continuing to walk around this lovely island to enjoy the best the weather at 19 degrees and the bluest of blue skies where we stayed until early evening taking photos across the water, before heading back to the hotel for a rest away from the busy crowds in the Kungstragartan area.

Easter Monday after checking out from Hotel Hellsten, we decided to visit to some department stores have a picnic in Millesgarden before taking the metro to T-Centralen to get the Arlanda Express for a comfortable and fast 20 minute journey to the Arlanda Airport

Sadly we had run out of time to fit everything in and the weather being so good on Sunday and Monday in particular, had us make more of the outdoors attractions than originally intended. Some things we had recommended but ran out of time to do were: The Vasa Museum, Royal Canal Boat Tour, Sunday Dinner at Berns, The Royal Palace, Fotografiska, a trip on the Blue Line metro to see the architecture from the carved granite tunnels, plus a visit to gay friendly riverside restaurant and bar Malarpaviljongen or Copacabana Café and bar out to the far West of town popular hang-out for lesbians, vegans and vegetarians. We will do all of this next time! Stockholm is a very relaxed and friendly city. Gay friendly, family friendly and welcoming and friendly to everyone. If coming to Stockholm do get a Stockholm Card to get around the City, wear good walking shoes and expect to pay a lot more for alcohol (it is super taxed) or don’t drink!

We flew from London Heathrow to Stockholm Arlanda Airport flights it took 2 hours 30 minutes each way.
The train takes 20 minutes from Stockholm’s Central Station Arlanda Express train

Hotel Hellsten
See also under eating and drinking Hotel & Café Rival and Hotel Skeppsholmen

Eating & Drinking
Urban Deli, Nytorget 4 Urban Deli
Hotel & Café Rival
Hotel Skeppsholmen restaurant
Meatballs For The People
Grill , Drottningattan 98
Ostermalm Saluhall and Roberts Coffee

Urban Deli (as above) Chokoladkoppen, Gamla Stan
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