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A Gay Travel Guide to West Sweden

 Pulling Mussels

If you're not staring at a glorious vista, you're probably not in West Sweden.


Gothenburg may not offer the grandeur of Stockholm, but what this seafaring city lacks in pomp it compensates for in charm, from its many parks and gardens -- there are 274 square meters of green space for every citizen -- to its queer-friendly vibe: For West Pride, the city is decorated annually with 1,000 rainbow flags that flap and flutter high over churches, schools, and government buildings. It's also a dining mecca, with its Michelin-starred seafood restaurant Sjomagasinet, housed in a 1775 wooden structure on the waterfront, and Norda Bar & Grill in the Clarion Hotel, a major supporter of 2018 EuroPride, which takes place this summer in Stockholm and Gothenburg over two separate weeks (July 27-August 5 in Stockholm, and August 14-19 in Gothenburg). There's plenty to keep you occupied in this cheery northern metropolis, but you'd be denying yourself one of life's great pleasures if you didn't use it as nature intended: as a stepping stone for a trip up Sweden's bewitching West Coast.

DematteobreakfastFirst though, do as the natives do, and make time for a fortifying fika in Gothenburg. There's no shortage of choices to enjoy a strong coffee and pastry, but on a sunny morning, sitting in the courtyard outside Da Matteo (Magasinsgatan 17) is heaven. The strong, ethically-sourced coffee pairs equisitely with the caramom buns baked on the premises. At weekends, a spread (shown above) of breads, jellies, and cheese is laid out for customers to craft their own feast. Sated and caffeinated, you are ready to start your west coast adventure.

NYX Cosmetics for PrideLadfabriken
Few places are more tranquil than Ladfabriken, a small bed-and-breakfast tucked into the granite rocks of Orust, a large island of fishing villages and buttercup meadows. Gay couple Johan Buskqvist and Marcel van der Eng have designed the former fish box factory in their own image -- it's filled with whimsical curios like the colorful alphabet letters that adorn a wall. "It's how we are, and who we are," says van der Eng, originally from Amsterdam. The same keen eye for color that has turned the building into a giant toy box has also gone into the garden, an explosion of lupins and poppies fringing the fjord on which Ladfabriken sits. If you're brave enough, you can take a plunge in the ocean, where Buskqvist learned to swim. Or, after you're fortified by a breakfast of local cheese, herring, and eggs, borrow one of the bikes for a cycling trip.

Although you can feast on sweet and briny bivalves at Gothenburg's historic fish market, Feskekorka ("Fish Church"), you don't have to travel too far north to reach picturesque seaside towns like Ljungskile, where organic mussels are sustainably grown on ropes and harvested for you to eat within the hour. Join Janne Bark on his boat for a seafood safari, and then watch him cook the catch with wine, garlic, onions, chopped parsley, and chilis, before serving lunch in his rustic restaurant Musselbaren -- a converted clock tower overlooking the dancing waves.

Henning LarsenNordiska Akvarellmuseet
Watercolors don't always get a fair shake of the art brush, so Sweden's Nordiska Akvarellmuseet (Nordic Watercolor Museum) is something of a revelation -- both for its collection and its spectacular location in Skarhamn on the island of Tjorn. Situated on the waterfront, and hedged in by huge rocks, the museum's star attraction is gay Swedish artist Lars Lerin's collection of paintings, which range from the snow-bound birch forests of his childhood to urban apartment blocks, captured Rear Window-style. Lunch or coffee in the adjoining waterfront restaurant, Vatten, is a must.

More information on Gothenburg available here, and for West Sweden here.

Photos courtesy of Ander Arena (Nordiska Akvarellmuseet). Courtesy of Ladfabriken. Courtesy of Aaron Hicklin (Musselbaren).

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