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Stockholm is the gay capital of Scandinavia, and Sweden ranks along with Norway, Denmark, and The Netherlands as among the most tolerant and gay-friendly nations on earth. Even gay marriage is now legal in this enlightened, sophisticated country. The age of consent is almost uniformly the same as for heterosexuals, usually 15 or 16. However, outside Stockholm and Gothenburg, you'll find few gay bars.

Many gay and lesbian organizations in Stockholm welcome visitors from abroad. Foremost among these is the Federation for Gay and Lesbian Rights (RFSL), Sveavägen 57 (Box 350), S-10126 Stockholm (tel. 08/501-62-900; www.rfsl.se), open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm. Established in 1950, the group has headquarters on the upper floors of the biggest gay nightlife center in Stockholm. Meetings are held weekly -- a Wednesday 3pm meeting for gay men over 60 and a twice-monthly meeting of "Golden Ladies" (yes, they use the English expression) for lesbians over 50, plus a Monday-night youth session for those 18 to 21. They also operate a Gay Switchboard (tel. 08/501-62-970), staffed with volunteers; call daily from 8am to 11pm for information. The biggest event of the year is Gay Pride Week, usually held the first week in August. Call or write the RFSL for information.

The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA; tel. 954/776-2626; www.iglta.org) is the trade association for the gay and lesbian travel industry, and offers an online directory of gay- and lesbian-friendly travel businesses; go to their website and click on "Members." In Canada, contact Travel Gay Canada (tel. 416/761-5151; www.travelgaycanada.com).

Many agencies offer tours and travel itineraries specifically for gay and lesbian travelers. Above and Beyond Tours (tel. 800/397-2681; www.abovebeyondtours.com) is the exclusive gay and lesbian tour operator for United Airlines. Now, Voyager (tel. 800/255-6951; www.nowvoyager.com) is a well-known San Francisco-based gay-owned and -operated travel service. Olivia Cruises & Resorts (tel. 800/631-6277; www.olivia.com) charters entire resorts and ships for exclusive lesbian vacations and offers smaller group experiences for gay and lesbian travelers. Gay.com Travel (tel. 415/834-6500; www.gay.com/travel or www.outandabout.com) is an excellent online successor to the popular Out & About print magazine. It provides regularly updated information about gay-owned, gay-oriented, and gay-friendly lodging, dining, sightseeing, nightlife, and shopping establishments in every important destination worldwide. It also offers trip-planning information for gay and lesbian travelers for more than 50 destinations along various themes, ranging from Sex & Travel to Vacations for Couples.

The following travel guides are available at many bookstores, or you can order them from any online bookseller: Spartacus International Gay Guide (www.spartacusworld.com/gayguide) and Odysseus: The International Gay Travel Planner, both good, annual, English-language guidebooks focused on gay men; and the Damron guides (www.damron.com), with separate, annual books for gay men and lesbians.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.