Photo: Colm Howard-Lloyd
1. Barcelona, Spain
With a warm climate, Spanish tapas, clothing-optional beaches, a plethora of cultural offerings, and a well-established, friendly LGBT community, Barcelona is a year-round LGBT destination. Big annual events include Bear Pride in March, Barcelona Gay Pride in June, Circuit Festival in August, and the International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival held each October.
You’ll find most of the city’s gay bars, restaurants, and shops located in the Eixample district, with other cool spots also spread throughout the city. Antinous, is a gay and lesbian bookstore in the Gothic quarter, selling comics, travel guides, DVDs, and more. ES Collection has some seriously sexy pieces of men’s underwear perfect for those fun nights out at the club where hook-ups may happen. And La Federica is a new LGBT-friendly bar in Barcelona with a retro-modern decor, mean cocktails, and an excellent tapas spread — not to mention the cute, bearded bar staff behind the counter. Plus, Barcelona is only a half hour way from Spain’s most celebrated gay city, Sitges.
For more places to go, here’s your Barcelona Hipster City Guide.
2. Berlin, Germany
Without question, Berlin is among the most LGBT-friendly cities in all of Europe. Historically, the gay center of Berlin was around Nollendorfplatz in Schöneberg, but hotspots are now also found throughout Kreuzberg and Neukölln. The city’s annual gay pride holiday, Christopher Street Day, brings half a million visitors and features a parade and parties throughout Berlin for almost two weeks. The lesser known and alternative Kreuzberg Pride which takes place on the same day, celebrates lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people.
Epic parties also take place regularly, like the monthly Homopatik party at //about: blank, Gegen at Kit Kat (held on the first Friday of every other month), and SchwuZ which hosts “Madonnamania” and “London Calling” nights. Bars to hit up include the smoky Möbel Olfe with a giant “Homo Bar” sign posted outside, The Club which hosts art exhibitions and drag shows, and Facciola, a lesbian-owned and operated wine bar in Kreuzberg, popular for its pop-up Cabaret Opera nights. Also worth checking out is the monument to the LGBT victims of the Holocaust and the world’s first queer museum, the Schwules Museum.
Find more travel tips for Berlin in the Berlin Hipster City Guide.
3. Manchester, England
Manchester, the UK’s second largest city, is well known for being a gay-friendly destination, especially after the popular TV series Queer as Folk was filmed there in the 90s. The Gay Village, situated in and around Canal Street, is filled with bars, clubs, and other gay-owned businesses. During the day, relax at the Richmond Tea Rooms for an Alice in Wonderland inspired high-tea experience. At night, head downstairs to The Eagle, a male-only, Victorian styled bar set in the basement of an industrial building. Afterward, dance the night away at G-A-Y, a nightclub with cheap drinks and a seriously fun (and often young) crowd.
Manchester also hosts several LGBT events throughout the year, including the Queer Contact arts festival, Manchester Pride (the biggest pride celebration in the country), and the Sparkle festival. But it’s not all fun and parties in Manchester, you can also learn about the city’s gay history by visiting Sackville Gardens, a park containing three different historical monuments: the Alan Turing Memorial, the Transgender Remembrance Memorial, and the Beacon of Hope, a sculpture paying tribute to those affected by AIDS. Another option is to take a gay heritage tour with Manchester Guided Tours.
For more things to do, here’s your Manchester Hipster City Guide.
4. Rome, Italy
Rome isn’t a well-known LGBT-friendly destination, but the city’s gay scene is one of the most underrated in Europe. Rome’s unofficial “gay street” is filled with plenty of bars and clubs, like the aptly named Coming Out. And for three months over summer, a section of a city park is transformed into the Gay Village, a massive party with two open-air dance floors, bars, live music, and even food trucks. Then there’s Glamda, a summertime gay (and straight-friendly) party held at an outdoor club each week with loud techno music, neon lights, and friendly locals. While the drinks are on the expensive side, the music is great, and the crowd enthusiastic. More fun can be found at the regular Friday night Muccassassina event at Qube Disco, a long-running gay dance party that’s become so popular that people willingly wait outside in a queue for hours. The club has three different dance areas, playing house, techno, and pop music. But, again, Rome’s gay-friendly atmosphere goes further than just the nightlife, with tons of opportunity for romance for LGBT couples. Try the Scooteroma tour on the back of a Vespa with a Rome local, or an Eating Italy food tour through Rome’s foodie neighborhoods.
Find more travel tips about Rome in the Rome Hipster City Guide.
5. Prague, Czech Republic
Like Rome, Prague is another European city that doesn’t often show up on the LGBT radar (unless you’re watching gay porn). Prague is relatively new to the scene, having just celebrated their 5th pride event in 2015, which was their biggest event ever with around 35,000 people in attendance. While the city still has a long way to go in terms of LGBT rights, there’s a lot of action to be had. Check out Club Termix, arguably Prague’s most popular gay bar and club, offering drinks on the cheap, a good crowd, and DJs spinning — all in an underground, cramped bar with the broken pieces of a car dangling from the ceiling. Expect groups of sweaty boys and their girlfriends, dancing on tables and spilling drinks.
Not far from Club Termix is Saints Bar, a small bar that regularly holds parties and other nightlife events. Another gay-friendly venue is Friends Club in Prague’s historic Old Town where anyone and everyone are welcome. To recover from those long nights out, hang out at Café Café for a hearty brunch and huge cup of coffee. Instead of staying in a hotel situated in one of Prague’s most touristy areas, consider renting an apartment in the city’s newest “gayborhood” of Žižkov.
6. Amsterdam, Netherlands
A city notorious for sex, drugs, and parties, Amsterdam is not surprisingly one of Europe’s best cities for LGBTQ travelers. Their annual gay canal pride is a floating celebration on water, with boats instead of typical parade floats coasting down the Amstel and along the city’s scenic canals, like the Prinsengracht.
This year, Amsterdam is also hosting the European-wide EuroPride festival, during the same period of Amsterdam Pride, with thousands of people expected to meet for human rights discussions and panels, in addition to the many parties.
Milkshake, a summertime queer music festival with no dress code, welcomes everyone to come and enjoy different types of music on one of their nine stages. Most of the city’s gay nightlife can be found on a single street in the center of Amsterdam, the Reguliersdwarsstraat. There’s more sex shops and gay bars dotted throughout the Red Light District — just look for rainbow flags. One of the best gay places to visit is Cafe t’Mandje, the oldest gay bar in Amsterdam and open since 1927 with a kitschy interior and often with crowds spilling out onto the street. Club Church holds themed sex parties, with a more tame crowd every Thursday night with featured drag shows. Not to be missed is the Homomonment, a “living monument” to homosexuals who’ve been oppressed or persecuted around the world. You can also find out more about Amsterdam’s LGBT history at the Pink Point information stand, located close to the Homomonument.
7. Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm has been a longtime favorite of LGBT travelers around the world. Aside from its great mixture of design, culture, shopping, and natural beauty, Stockholm is the perfect LGBT destination. Their annual pride celebration features not only the usual parade but a Pride House where conferences and seminars are held in the week leading up to the parade and a large, open-air Pride Park with concerts, dance parties, shows and other events.
The boutique Berns Hotel is the city’s unofficial “gay” hotel, filled with two restaurants (the Asiatiska and Berns Bistro and Bar), the basement club Audiio, and even a concert venue where Diana Ross and the Supremes once played. If you can drag yourself away from the hotel (it will be very tempting to not leave it), experience Stockholm’s gay nightlife in the downtown district. Friday nights at “Candy” at Le Bon Palais are always fun with their several dance floors blasting out electronic, pop, and even Eurovision-exclusives. Stockholm’s coolest gay club, however, is the underground King Kong club with DJs spinning in two jam-packed rooms. Expect both pop and schläger music in the back room and techno beats up front. For food and drink, head to Mälarpaviljongen in the summer, a restaurant and bar spread over three floating docks. The owners are supportive of charity work at home and abroad, especially for LGBT individuals.
Find more travel tips for Stockholm in the Stockholm Hipster City Guide.
8. London, England
With London being one of the most multi-cultural cities in Europe, it’s also one of the most LGBT-friendly ones, making the British capital one of the top LGBT destinations in the world. While Soho used to be the city’s main gay neighborhood, much of the nightlife has moved over to East London. Take, for example, Dalston Superstore, a gay bar and cafe that features art exhibitions and musical performances, as well as serves up comfort food like burgers and Sloppy Joes.
Also worth visiting is The Glory, a queer and gay “super-pub” which hosts film screenings, performance art, cabaret nights, and an affordable late-night disco. Each month in London, there’s a Naked Boys Reading event where, you guessed it, guys read everything from poetry to pieces from their favorite books, all while completely naked.
Even if many of London’s gay pubs and clubs are now no longer in Soho, you’ll still find plenty of reasons to stay central, too. Soho still has a large concentration of sex shops and LGBT bookstores — try the newsstand on Old Compton Street for a huge variety of LGBT magazines. Soho and central London has a number of other LGBT-friendly attractions. The Photographers’ Gallery is a six-story building which hosts regular photo exhibitions including some with LGBT themes while the Twilight Soho Food Tour takes you on a historical walking tour through Soho exploring (and tasting) the neighborhood’s changing demographics. Countless theaters in Soho and Covent Garden areas put on musicals and award-winning performances — everything from Miss Saigon to Kinky Boots.
9. Paris, France
Unsurprisingly, the City of Love is also a great destination for LGBT tourists — especially couples. While France has had some turbulent years fighting for LGBT rights, the scene in Paris is largely still intact. The city’s gay neighborhood, located near the Hotel de Ville metro in the Le Marais neighborhood, still houses some of Paris’ most famous gay nightlife, like the always crowded Spyce — open late on weekends. The trendy gay bar is often the starting point for a night out in Le Marais, with regular performances and happy hours. The streets of the Marais (in particular: Rue Sainte-Croix de Bretonnerie) are lined with art galleries and small shops during the day, transforming into a nightlife hub after dark, with gay Parisians spilling out onto the sidewalk cafés.
Besides romantic walks along the Seine River, or a stroll through the Left Bank (famously liberal and independent, with many international restaurants, cafés and bookshops), or, of course, a kiss on top of the Eiffel Tower, the one other stop for an LGBT tour in Paris has to be the Père Lachaise Cemetery. That’s where you’ll find Oscar Wilde’s grave (now protected by plexiglass) covered in kisses by his many admirers. For a deeper dive into Europe’s most romantic city, local tour operator The Gay Locals offer both historical and nightlife-themed LGBT tours through Paris.
10. Dublin, Ireland
Ireland made waves in 2015 with its historic same-sex marriage equality, voted in by popular vote (the first time in the world). But its capital city has been LGBT-friendly for much longer. Gay icon Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin and today there’s a colorful memorial statue inside Merrion Park, across from his former house. Continuing the Irish tradition for LGBT literature, Dublin hosts the International Gay Theatre Festival each May with edgy, heart-warming and independent performances.
For nightlife, The George is a mixed LGBT pub, crowded most nights of the week with drag performers taking the stage almost nightly amongst young groups of tourists and locals. The backyard smoking patio is a friendly place to meet others, or there’s always the dance floor. (Just watch out for broken glass! Drinks are cheap so things can get messy…) Go for Thirsty Thursdays or on bingo nights. Dublin Pride takes place each June and is often headlined by Ireland’s most famous drag queen, the toweringly tall Panti Bliss — who also owns her own gay bar just outside the Temple Bar district, aptly named PantiBar. Expect lots of bright colors and friendly, diverse crowds.
For more about these gay-friendly cities in Europe, check out Adam’s full collection of Hipster City Guides to LGBT-friendly destinations around the world — from Bangkok to Toronto, Berlin to Tel Aviv.