14 gay-friendly cities that LGBT travellers love
Looking for the most gay-friendly cities to visit on your next trip? We asked the top LGBT travel bloggers from around to world to recommend the cities and destinations they really love. From Pride festivals in Auckland to the clubs of Berlin, there’s a rainbow-coloured spectrum of inclusive destinations waiting to be discovered.
And with so many amazing Pride festivals taking place this summer, now is the perfect time to travel and connect with like-minded adventurers. So get ready to pack your bags as our blogger friends handpick the most LGBT-friendly cities and destinations in the world.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Amsterdam, recommended by Roxanne & Maartje from Once Upon A Journey.
Amsterdam has been our hometown for the past four years and is the (former) gay capital of Europe! In 2001, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalise gay marriage and the country is known for its tolerance. Our culture is about celebrating diversity and therefore our Pride Week is all about partying and less about protesting. In Amsterdam, the gay scene is mostly concentrated around the many gay bars in the Reguliersdwarsstraat, and we’ve had many fun parties at the Amstel Fifty Four on Wednesdays, the drinks night of student association A.S.V. Gay.
Amsterdam Pride takes place every July/August.
Hostels in Amsterdam | Cheap flights to Amsterdam
Berlin, recommended by Adam from Travels of Adam.
I love Berlin for the creative and open spirit that this city seems to nurture. It’s what made it a gay hotspot in the 1920s (Cabaret!) and continues to make it so special and unique for LGBTQ people today. There’s so much room in the city for so many different types of interests as well, which makes it really diverse for the many colors of the LGBT rainbow… with queer parties and meetups for just about every interest! There are great queer bars such as SilverFuture in Neukölln and Facciola in Kreuzberg, both with their flare and social atmospheres that make them great places for tourists, whilst mega techno clubs and parties (what guide to gay Berlin couldn’t include Berghain?!) still attract a mix of LGBT locals and tourists.
Berlin Pride, known as Christopher Street Day (CSD), takes place every July.
Hostels in Berlin | Cheap flights to Berlin
Brighton, United Kingdom
Brighton, recommended by Cora & Helen from The Mini Millionaire.
Brighton: is there anywhere more gay-friendly in the UK? I think not. It’s been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember to take the long drive south to see what all the fuss is about. So, for my birthday last year, my girlfriend Helen and I did just that. And FINALLY, I understood. Brighton is beautiful. Everything from the burnt-out old pier to The Lanes is just perfection. With hundreds of bars, restaurants, and accommodation options to choose from, you’re never going to struggle for something to do, a good bite to eat and a place to stay. You’re also never going to struggle to feel accepted as this is undoubtedly one of the best gay cities around. So, if you’re looking for the perfect gay-friendly city for your next staycation, then Brighton it is! I know I’ll be back there again very soon.
Brighton Pride takes place every August.
Hostels in Brighton | Cheap flights to Gatwick
Guadalajara, recommended by Sam and Zab from Indefinite Adventure.
Guadalajara may be Mexico’s most gay-friendly city. Compared to other places in Mexico, it was the city where I saw the most signs of affection in public between same-sex couples, and there are plenty of gay bars, clubs and parties for everyone. One of the best known is Voltio, which every Friday hosts the scandalous underwear party where men of all kinds strip down to their pants and get to know each other in this grungy, former warehouse. Despite only having started three years ago, it is home to one of the largest Pride events in Latin America, taking place every June with over 4000 participants. Finally, it’s not far from the famous Pacific beach towns in Banderas Bay, including the super gay Puerto Vallarta.
Guadalajara Pride takes place every June.
Hostels in Guadalajara | Cheap flights to Guadalajara
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires recommended by Stefan and Sebastien from Nomadic Boys.
Argentina is extremely progressive with LGBT rights. It was the first country in Latin America to legalise gay marriage in July 2010, which included full adoption rights. The right to change legal gender has been in place since 2012 and anti-discrimination laws are in full force in Rosario and the big capital city, Buenos Aires.
We love Buenos Aires because it has one of the best gay scenes across Latin America, which is heavily supported by the government, in particular in August when it has its BADiversa week every August. The gay scene of Buenos Aires is quite spread out, but the focal point is in the large, residential neighbourhood of Palermo, plus a few places dotted about in super cool San Telmo and well-to-do Recoleta. Some of the best places to visit include Glam Club in Recoleta, Sitges bar in Palermo, Contramano bear club in Recoleta and Pride Café in San Telmo.
Our favourite memory from our travels in Buenos Aires is dancing the tango together as a same-sex couple at one of the queer milongas (a tango dance hall). There’s nothing more romantic than dancing this famous Argentinian/Uruguayan dance together and it was the best place to meet like-minded people. The two main queer tango milongas in the city are La Marshall (in San Telmo) and Tango Queer (in Recoleta).
Buenos Aires Gay Festival takes place every November.
Hostels in Buenos Aires | Cheap flights to Buenos Aires
Auckland, New Zealand
Auckland, recommended by Robyn & Emily from Backpacking Babes.
New Zealand was the first international stop on our year-long journey abroad. We stayed with a friend in Auckland before moving onto Waitara, also on the North Island. Here we worked with renowned NZ photographer and LGBTQ+ activist Fiona Clarke (you should look her up) and then spent a month camping on the South Island. We knew Auckland would be something special but we had no idea just how unique our experience of the city, and with Fiona, would actually be!
Each year Auckland hosts a week of Pride events, one of which is called The Big Gay Out (as if New Zealand wasn’t already the most epic spot). TBGO, organised by New Zealand AIDS Foundation, is a free event that takes place in Coyle Park and is full of music, art vendors, food and dancing. We were excited to attend in 2016, especially when Emily (musician/songwriter Emily Kopp) was asked to play on the main stage! We had a beautiful time not only in Auckland but in all of New Zealand: the country is stunning and full of kind people. It’s a MUST SEE in our book.
Auckland Pride takes place every February.
Hostels in Auckland | Cheap flights to Auckland
Gran Canaria, Canary Islands
Gran Canaria, recommended by Stefan and Sebastien from Nomadic Boys.
Gran Canaria is an extremely famous destination throughout the year for European gays. This Spanish island is part of the Canary Islands, which lies off the coast of Africa, therefore guaranteed almost 365 days of great weather. Spain generally is a very gay-friendly destination, but Gran Canaria has always had a more tolerant attitude. During the harsh, repressive Franco years, the government turned a blind eye to homosexuality as the island was too far away from the mainland to bother with. From the 1960s, tourism really started to take off, attracting more and more foreigners and therefore even more tolerant attitudes.
We love Gran Canaria because there is a massive gay scene at Maspalomas and Playa del Ingles in the southern part of the island. The Yumbo Centre is the focal point for the area: a large shopping mall full of gay bars, clubs, restaurants and boutique shops, making it a gay man’s paradise. Slightly further south of this is the large gay beach at Kiosk #7. Gran Canaria also has several gay pride festivals happening throughout the year such as the Maspalomas Fetish Week in October, Maspalomas Winter Pride in November, Carnivals in February (both in Maspalomas and Las Palmas), Maspalomas Gay Pride in May and finally numerous bear parties in October and another in March.
One of our favourite experiences in Gran Canaria was taking a boat trip (run by Canarias Gay) with friends to the remote beach called Gui Gui. This is a clothing-optional beach on the Western coast of the island, hidden away at the bottom of a Grande ravine. This was the perfect day trip and a more relaxing way to see a different side of this remarkable island.
Maspalomas Pride takes place every May.
Hostels in Gran Canaria | Cheap flights to Gran Canaria
Milan, recommended by Luigi & Daniele from Gayly Planet.
We love Milan because it has the best GLBT scene in Italy. There are plenty of bars, parties, cultural events and film exhibitions that focus on the gay community. We also love Milan because everyone is welcome! Most of the bars we like to drink at before going out are around Porta Venezia and at the heart of this area is Via Lecco. Here you will find a number of bars where you can have an “Aperitivo Italiano”, stay out late and meet the locals. During Pride, this street becomes the city’s Pride Square. All the gay events in Milan start from here and it’s also the best place to end the night at the most trendy clubs.
Milan Pride takes place every June.
Hostels in Milan | Cheap flights to Milan
New York, USA
New York, recommended by Meg and Lindsay from Dopes On The Road.
New York City is the ultimate LGBT travel destination with a little bit of something for everyone on the spectrum. There’s Hell’s Kitchen, where lots of gay guys hang out, or Henrietta Hudson in the Village, which is one of three remaining lesbian bars in the five boroughs. If the queer and transgender scene is more your speed, check out Wednesday nights at The Woods in Brooklyn. Not a drinker? No problem – head to Chelsea and have dinner at an LGBT-owned restaurant such as Elmo or Cafeteria. Don’t forget to check out the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art or join an LGBT history walking tours with Oscar Wilde Tours. And of course, no trip to New York City would be complete with paying respects at The Stonewall Inn.
New York Pride takes place every June.
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Rome, recommended by Luigi & Daniele from Gayly Planet.
Rome is an incredible city with tonnes of amazing places to take photos and historical sites that will take your breath away. Inclusive and international, the gay life in Rome is fun and easy-going. Both during international events or smaller local festivals, you will meet plenty of good-hearted people that will offer to show you around. The heart of gay life in Rome is Gay Street, right behind the Colosseum. This is the place locals prefer for a drink to start the night. You’ll find yourself talking to everyone and, with the night coming, you’ll want to discover one of the most popular Italian clubs: Muccassassina in winter and Gay Village in Summer.
Rome Pride takes place every June.
Hostels in Rome | Cheap flights to Rome
Lisbon, recommended by Gian Luca from Viaggia e Scopri.
One of the most amazingly gay-friendly cities I can recommend for LGBT travellers in Lisbon. As the capital city of Portugal, Lisbon is full of culture and nice spots to see and visit. The nightlife in Bairro Alto is really fun, and there are several gay-friendly pubs, discos and a sauna. But Lisbon’s gay life is not only limited to the city centre. Extended along the southern coast is the Costa da Caparica, a stunning place to enjoy the sea, with beautiful, long beaches and areas equipped for tourists. This region is served by a slow train that starts from Lisbon and travels along the coast. Beach 19 is a well-known gay beach and a great place to meet new people and have fun. Last but not least, the Portuguese people are very open-minded and LGBT people are free to be themselves.
Lisbon Pride takes place every June.
Hostels in Lisbon | Cheap flights to Lisbon
Tokyo, recommended by Roxanne & Maartje from Once Upon A Journey.
During our current world trip, we fell in love with Japan and especially with Tokyo. Previously, we’d heard about Japan’s crazy culture with its cosplay, maid and cat cafes and much more. But that’s not the best part of Japanese culture: it’s the people. Japanese people are the kindest and most polite people we have ever met. Culturally, they consider saying ‘no’ as impolite, but it’s also in their culture to be a little distant because of personal space. Therefore, public displays of affection (PDAs) and topics like sex and sexuality are things Japanese do not talk about, though gender norms are more fluid in Japan than elsewhere in the world.
Most LGBT people in Japan are just ‘gay for the weekend’ and often even have a ‘normal’ family during the rest of the week. Nonetheless, it’s also in their culture to not openly judge people who do show PDAs or talk about their sexuality. Especially while drinking, Japanese people open up about these things and that might be the reason that Tokyo has more gay bars than London! These gay bars can be found in Tokyo’s gay area Shinjuku-nichōme, the perfect place to either find your special someone or to celebrate your love with your special someone. And in between all the gay bars we found the perfect place for us: bar Goldfinger, hosting women-only parties every Saturday night!
Tokyo Pride takes place every May.
Hostels in Tokyo | Cheap flights to Tokyo
Washington DC, USA
Washington DC, recommended by Auston & David from Two Bad Tourists.
Washington DC is an exciting place to visit and there’s an engaged local LGBT community. Beyond the history, you’ll find plenty of entertainment, shopping, dining and other recreational opportunities. Washington DC is also home to lots of great festivals and events like Chinese New Year, the National Cherry Blossom Festival and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. For LGBT-specific events, check out the Best of Gay DC Awards in the fall or Capital Pride’s Holiday Heatwave in December. Visit DC in the summer to attend the Capital Pride Celebration or DC Black Pride.
DC also has great neighborhoods like the trendy Shaw district or Logan Circle, with an upscale and elegant feel, including chic boutiques and wine bars. Or head to Columbia Heights to experience a strong Latino and hipster crowd with a mix of ethnic restaurants and cool taverns. To find the best gay hangouts, the top neighborhoods include the U Street Corridor, Dupont Circle or Logan Circle with LGBT favorite spots like Cobalt, 30 Degrees, Green Lantern or DIK Bar.
Washington DC’s Capital Pride takes place every June.
Hostels in Washington | Cheap flights to Washington
Bangkok, recommended by Craig Crowther from My Gay Globe.
Bangkok is an Asian megacity, bursting with energy and colour. Often overlooked by visitors eager to reach the glorious beaches of Southern Thailand, this capital city has life pulsating from its core. The traditional backpacker area is centred around Koh San Road but the real heart of authentic Bangkok beats from Silom. The city’s premier financial district by day, once the sun goes down the area is home to delectable street food, rooftop bars and Thailand’s prosperous and lively gay village. Bangkok is frantic yet spiritual; a place where you feel alive from the moment you arrive. Boredom isn’t an option in here: with its cavernous maze of sois (filled with more eateries than you could ever sample), the rich heritage of its royal past and thirst for modernisation, Bangkok is unique, crazy and utterly unforgettable.
Hostels in Bangkok | Cheap flights to Bangkok
Bangkok celebrates Pride in June.
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What’s your favourite gay-friendly city? Are there any we’ve missed? And if so, let us know what makes them so great in the comments below.
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