When it comes to LGBTQI+ friendly destinations, sadly there are still countries in the world that are less safe to visit – these are best ignored in favour of the many more that take pride in welcoming the rainbow community with open arms. Our LGBT travel guide showcases the top ten European cities that celebrate the rainbow community with Pride festival celebrations and other fabulous gay events:
With some of the best gay clubs, bars and hotels in the world, and a long-held reputation as a world leader in public acceptance of gay culture, Amsterdam is a wonderful city for queer travellers. Within the city, several districts are particularly popular destinations: including Regulierswarstraat for its wealth of gay clubs and bars, and nearby Amstel for its canal-side bars. Amsterdam also hosts one of the world’s most popular pride festivals every August and features the fabulously flamboyant Canal Parade.
An estimated ten percent of Berlin’s inhabitants are either gay or bisexual, and Berliners pride themselves on their liberal attitude. As a result, LGBTQI+ visitors to Berlin will find they are greeted with open-hearted welcomes and a thriving gay scene. This beautiful, historic city is well suited to exploring on foot, and when night falls, districts like Schoneberg and the Gaslamp quarter come alive with an endless stream of clubs and bars where you can dance the night away. Christopher Street Day is a major pride parade and festival which has taken place every year since 1979 and now forms part of Berlin’s wider Pride Month event.
Iceland continues to lead the way in legislating for equal rights for the LGBTQI+ community, and in 2010 it became the first country to elect an openly gay head of government. As one of Europe’s smallest nations, the scene in Reykjavik is low-key but welcoming: the highlight of the year is its week-long Pride Festival in August, which attracts more than 100,000 people each year and features a variety of movies, parades, concerts and drag performances.
The Austrian capital is filled with reminders of its most prominent gay inhabitants, from the spectacular Schloss Belvedere which was originally constructed as a summer residence for Eugene, Prince of Savoy, to the Vienna State Opera which was designed by Eduard van der Null and August Sicard von Sicardsburg. Among Vienna’s most popular annual events to celebrate the rainbow community are the Regenbogenparade (Rainbow Parade) in July and Europe’s biggest charity event in support of people living with HIV and Aids: The Life Ball.
From the vibrant gay villages of Soho and Vauxhall to the UK’s biggest Pride event, London is one of the world’s most popular LGBTQI+ destinations. Take a guided tour of the city’s queer history, or browse the vast collection and enjoy the community atmosphere at Gay’s the Word bookshop. Other popular events include Drag Fest London and The Mighty Hoopla music festival: although not specifically a gay event, this party in a park with pop music and Pimms has great rainbow vibes. It’s also a short train ride from London to one of the UK’s other popular gay destinations: the seaside town of Brighton.
The city of love, the city of light – gay Paris is all about embracing your sense of joie de vivre. At its heart is Le Marais, possibly the most stylish gay district you’ll find anywhere in Europe thanks to its cobblestone streets and seventeenth architecture, as well as an extensive choice of fashionable boutiques and queer-friendly bars and restaurants. Marche des Fiertés LGBT, also known as Paris Pride, takes place in June: a brightly coloured, family-friendly parade and street party that attracts up to half a million people annually.
The LGBTQI+ scene in Brussels is reflective of Belgium’s overall tolerant and welcoming attitude towards the queer community. The city hosts numerous events and festivals throughout the year, including La Demence, a huge monthly dance party that is held every month and attracts partygoers from all over Europe. Its most important pride event happens in May: The Brussels Pride – The Belgian & European Pride incorporates numerous parties and concerts as well as political debates and conferences that champion gay rights.
The Spanish city has a number of queer-friendly barrios (quarters), the most well-known being Eixample, lovingly referred to as Gaixample. Bars, restaurants, clubs and even beaches all offer safe, hospitable spaces for LGBTQI+ visitors and locals alike, including Playa Mar Bella, which is an officially designated zona nudista (clothing-optional zone). Barcelona’s stunning location and convivial vibe make its pride festival, Barcelona Pride, one of the most vibrant, fun events in Europe: a weekend packed with parties and exhibitions, movie screenings and a big gay parade.
The gay capital of Greece since the 1970s, Mykonos is an island paradise where you can spend your days lazing on clothing-optional beaches such as Elia and Super Paradise, and your nights enjoying the island’s flamboyant night-time club scene. Every year in August, Mykonos hosts the Mykonos International Summer Gay Festival: a two-week extravaganza of open-air dance parties and outdoor concerts that attracts more than 30,000 party-goers each year. It’s not all 24/7 party atmosphere though – head to Agios Stefanos or Agrari if you’re looking for some quiet beach time to recharge your batteries.
Considered by many to be Italy’s centre of fashion and style as well as its gay capital, Milan is a wonderful choice as a LGBTQI+ travel destination. If you’re looking for fabulous, this city has it in abundance, from the spectacle of a performance at La Scala opera house to the sheer luxury of a shopping spree at the opulent Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. The Porta Venezia neighbourhood is where you’ll find many of the city’s most popular gay bars and clubs: during Milan’s Pride Week, it becomes a gay village known as ‘Pride Square’, a colourful street party that’s filled with food vendors and live music.
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