Past the pavilion: Arto Winter talks Mälarpaviljongen and its LGBT+ mission

Arto Winter, Mälarpaviljongen, Stockholm, Sweden

Its reputation precedes stylish Mälarpaviljongen; a Stockholm institution that’s made international headlines being named one of the ‘best neighbourhood restaurants in the world’ by Condé Nast Traveller in 2013. During the summer months, one gets the sense that half the capital arrives (mind you, by boat!) to enjoy their daily fika or a laidback glass of wine from one of Mälarpaviljongen’s 700 seats on the water.

But founder Arto Winter had more in mind when opening the venue. A bit of a pioneer on Sweden’s LGBT+ scene (Winter has previously opened the iconic Chokladkoppen, Stockholm’s first café to fly the rainbow flag), he found a way to welcome visitors to Mälarpaviljongen whilst also giving back to the community…


Mälarpaviljongen is a meeting point for Stockholm locals and visitors. What’s an average day like, from lunch at noon to a DJ gig in the evening?

With its unique location on the water and surrounded by nature, Mälarpaviljongen is the perfect place for all occasions. We are open every day from 11:00 am and besides our à la carte menu, we also serve a special lunch menu on weekdays. People come throughout the day for lunch, a typical Swedish fika or a glass of wine. In the evenings, people visit for dinner or drinks, enjoying the music and on the weekends, we have either live music or DJs that set the tone for a perfect Swedish summer night.


We love that the crowd at Mälarpaviljongen is so diverse. Although a gay-run venue, it’s welcoming to everyone. How important is it to you to have this mix?

The mix of people is extremely important and it creates the energy and atmosphere. At Mälarpaviljongen, everybody should feel welcome and unite under the colours of the rainbow. We have managed to create a very special place over the years and I’m very proud of that.


With the addition of floating docks on the water, the pavilion has grown into a stylish hot spot. The vibes are almost Ibiza-like, except your concept is greener and more down-to-earth…

Mälarpaviljongen celebrates 15 years this year and our vision has remained the same throughout the years. We wanted to create a green haven, an extension of the natural surroundings and the promenade of Norr Mälarstrand. A place that blends in with nature rather than sticking out. A floating garden and social melting pot.


Mälarpaviljongen has strong connections with Regnbågsfonden, a Foundation working tirelessly to improve the situation of LGBT+ people around the world. In what ways have you and your guests been able to help?

As a gay entrepreneur, it’s always been my priority to find ways to give back to the community. This was the main reason why we started Regnbågsfonden in 2014. Besides a percentage of every sold bottle of Mälarpaviljongen’s selection of house wines and beers that is donated to Regnbågsfonden, we host several charity events during the season to raise funds and awareness.


You also employ mostly queer people; many of whom have arrived in Sweden from countries where they were persecuted for who they are or who they love…

The foundation of Mälarpaviljongen has always been to be a business with a mission. Over the years, we have employed many LGBT+ people from all over the world and have been able to create a safe haven for several refugees seeking asylum in Sweden.


Are there any special events our readers should know about before Mälarpaviljongen closes for the winter at the end of September?

Swedish summers might be unpredictable but at Mälarpaviljongen, the summer is not yet over! During the weekends we have live acts, jazz bands and DJs all the way through September. For more info, I’d advise readers to check out our social media channels.


Mälarpaviljongen has grown from a small pavilion into a Stockholm institution, selling everything from plants and décor to vegan burgers at the attached Green Queen. What are your plans for the future?

We’re already planning summer 2020 and our goal is always to keep delivering a unique experience to our customers and to raise the bar from season to season…




Instagram: @malarpaviljongen