For Lesbian, Bi, Gay or Transgender Travelers, Here are the Best Places for Your Next Vacation
By Oscar Davis
Europe is fully open for business again, and it’s time to dig out those passports and get to those destinations we’ve only been dreaming about for the past couple of years.
For the LGBT community, it also means returning to or discovering those spots where they are specifically welcome and accommodated.
And while we’re at it, let’s make something quite clear for those straight people who think that the “world” and “lives” of LGBT people revolve only around sex. Here’s a news flash: they are real humans with careers and interests that all people have. They just happen to love on their own terms.
To get a better understanding of the well-roundedness of the LGBTQ+ community, just check out the gay dating app Taimi and explore the profiles and social discussions. And when LGBTs travel, they want to do far more than have sex in some gay-friendly hotel.
They want to sightsee; they want to shop; they want to get tanned on beaches; and they want to eat and drink. But they want to do all of this in a welcoming environment, just as any traveler would want.
That said, let’s have a “look-see” at five LGBT-friendly traveling destinations in Europe, so you can plan your holidays to suit your fondest dreams.
Gay Friendly Greece
Here is where the ancient and the modern beautifully merge. For history buffs, there is the chance to see those places you only know from pictures in your history books – the Parthenon, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Colosseum, Delphi, and the Acropolis, to name a few.
And the beauty of it all? Greece is one of the best LGBT travel destinations because it has a strong commitment to LGBT rights. There are even gay tours of the islands.
The hottest LGBT spots in Greece are the islands – especially Mykonos with its bars, friendly hotels, and nudist beaches. If you go in late August you can be a part of one of the biggest LGBT parties in all of Europe – Xisor Mykonos.
If you prefer city life, then Athens should be your pick. Not only are the hotels friendly, but there is a new section of the city, called Gazi, where lots of young people hang out. You’ll find no lack of great food and lots of gay bars and clubs. There is also a nude beach nearby for daytime, as well as lots of those ruins to see.
Denmark has been a trailblazer for LGBTQ rights in Europe and the world. It legalized same-sex activity in 1933 and continued to expand rights, culminating in 1998 when it was the first country to legalize same-sex unions.
The Lonely Planet lists Copenhagen as #1 in its list of LGBTQ-friendly cities in the world.
The entire city of Copenhagen is splattered with openly LGBTQ hotels, restaurants, bars, film festivals, etc. Don’t miss the oldest gay bar – The Centralhjournet – that hosts drag shows, jazz, other live music, and various activities all year round.
August brings a huge LGBTQ Pride festival in Copenhagen, and the entire city takes part.
As a country, Spain is one of the most LGBTQ-friendly in Europe. Same-sex relations were legalized in 1979 and same-sex marriage in 2005.
Today, members of this community will find great accommodations and venues in all of the major cities, especially Madrid and Barcelona.
The biggest LGBTQ celebration is Pride Orgullo, a week-long celebration beginning the first Saturday after June 28. Madrid is the largest celebration, but it occurs all over too.
Now, as for specific areas that will be the most fun:
- For history and culture buffs, there are plenty of gay tour agencies in the major cities
- Two neighborhoods, Chueca and Eixample in Madrid and Barcelona respectively, have an abundance of gay nightspots. They also host lots of cultural festivals during the year. The biggest one is in Barcelona the first week of October.
- Check out the village of Sitges on the sea. It’s a huge gay attraction during the summer.
- If you are a cold weather lover, go to the Snow Queer Festival in the Pyrenees Mountains, just north of Barcelona.
- Ibiza – A reputation for being the party island in the Mediterranean. LGBTQ discrimination was declared illegal in 1995.
It is unlikely that anyone has not heard of the “loose” atmosphere of Amsterdam – almost anything goes, and the police are noticeably absent from patrolling the more “progressive” sections of the city.
And for the LGBTQ+ community, this is the place to go. There are 100+ nightspots, hotels, restaurants, saunas, and even libraries that cater to it.
The biggest gay district in the city is the Reguliersdwarsstraat (that’s a mouthful, but any local knows it). No one should miss Havana, a two-floor bar that is legendary.
The annual Pride Festival in Amsterdam is the first week in August. It’s huge and consumes the streets and canals of the city.
Other cities that are particularly LGBTQ-friendly are Rotterdam, Utrecht, and Eindhoven specifically.
It’s also good to know that the Netherlands has a long history of progressive laws and policies beginning as far back as 1811, all the way up to the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2001.
There is also no lack of cultural and historical attractions – The Royal Palace and other architectural wonders, the home in which Anne Franck lived in hiding, and, of course, the art, especially the Van Gogh Museum.
The Five Gay-Friendly Islands of Malta in the Mediterranean
Malta? Yes, Malta. It’s a series of 5 islands in the Mediterranean to the south of Italy and a major tourist spot, with its history, its climate, and its beautiful beaches.
Of great interest to the LGBTQ+ community, Malta’s Prime Minister recently announced that there will be free gender-affirming surgery. Needless to say, this speaks to the LGBTQ-friendly environment of this beautiful island paradise.
Malta Pride takes place for the entire month of September and is celebrated not just in its capitol, Valletta, but at almost all other towns in the archipelago. LGBTQ travelers will find a friendly place and great accommodations.
Nightlife if active with lots of bars and clubs – the two most famous being Michelangelo Club Lounge and The Birdcage Lounge – complete with live music, shows, and karaoke. For sun worshippers, the beaches are almost unequaled.
There’s so much history in Malta, dating back to about 6000BC, and there are plenty of ruins to explore, along with architecture throughout the ages. LGBTQ tours are plentiful.
Just Five of the Most Welcoming in Europe
There are so many places in Europe for LGBT-friendly traveling. These are just five of the most welcoming. Your best bet? Do some research, make your bucket list, check your budget, and get out there.
Oscar Davis is a freelance writer from Leeds, UK.