There’s a wide range of legal regulations, as well as social standards, across Europe when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights. Countries such as Sweden claim more Pride festivals per capita than anywhere else in the world. Many parts of Eastern Europe, on the other hand, sit very much on the wrong side of history.
Although looking at a nation’s human rights index is a pretty reliable way of gauging whether LGBTQ+ visitors will feel safe and welcome, there are cities where communities have come together to build pockets of security. These spots in Europe are a mix of under-the-radar queer destinations and popular ones like Berlin and London.
These are the best LGBTQ+ friendly cities in Europe, with suggestions on the best nightlife spots, where to grab a bite to eat, and what to do.
With a warm climate, Spanish tapas, clothing-optional beaches, a plethora of cultural offerings, and a well-established friendly community, Barcelona is a year-round LGBTQ+ destination.
You’ll find most of the city’s gay bars, restaurants, and shops 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 one of the best LGBTQ+-friendly bars 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 half an hour from Spain’s most celebrated gay city, Sitges.
Without question, Berlin is among the most LGBTQ+-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. Gegen at Kit Kat (held on the first Friday of every other month), and SchwuZ which hosts “Madonnamania” and “London Calling” nights are worth putting on the calendar.
Bars to hit up include the smoky Möbel Olfe with a giant “Homo Bar” sign posted outside, Betty F***, Monster Ronson’s, and Facciola, a lesbian-owned and operated wine bar in Kreuzberg, popular for its pop-up Cabaret Opera nights.
Also worth visiting is the monument to the LGBTQ+ victims of the Holocaust and the world’s first queer museum, the Schwules Museum.
Manchester, the UK’s second-largest city, is 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, in and around Canal Street, has back-to-back bars, clubs, and other gay-owned businesses.
We recommend relaxing in the afternoon at the Richmond Tea Rooms for an Alice in Wonderland-inspired high-tea experience. The male-only, Victorian styled bar, The Eagle, is also popular and is set in a cool basement of an industrial building. And if clubbing is your thing, you must dance the night away at G-A-Y, a nightclub with cheap drinks and a seriously fun (and often young) crowd.
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.
Rome isn’t a well-known LGBTQ+-friendly destination, but the city’s gay scene is one of the most underrated in Europe.
Rome’s unofficial “gay street” has 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 summer gay (and straight-friendly) party held at an outdoor club with loud techno music, neon lights, and friendly locals. While the drinks are on the expensive side, the music is great, and the crowd is 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 opportunities for romance for LGBTQ+ couples. Opt for a Scooteroma tour on the back of a Vespa with a Rome local, or an Eating Italy food tour through Rome’s foodie neighborhoods.
Prague, Czech Republic
Like Rome, Prague is another European city that rarely shows up on the LGBTQ+ radar. Prague is relatively new to the scene, celebrating their first Pride in 2011. While the Czech Republic still has a long way to go in terms of LGBTQ+ 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. Expect groups of sweaty boys and their girlfriends, dancing on tables and spilling drinks. Near to 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 friendly Café Café for a hearty brunch and a huge cup of coffee. And 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.
Amsterdam is hands down one of Europe’s best cities for LGBTQ+ travelers.
The annual 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. Milkshake, a summer queer music festival with no dress code, welcomes everyone to come and enjoy different music on one of their nine stages.
Most of the city’s gay nightlife is on a single street in the center of Amsterdam, the Reguliersdwarsstraat. There are 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. It opened its doors in 1927 and you’ll often find crowds spilling out onto the street from its kitschy interior. One of the best sex clubs is Club Church which holds themed parties. It hosts a tamer crowd every Thursday night with featured drag shows.
Also not to be missed is the Homomonment, a “living monument” to homosexuals who’ve been oppressed around the world. You can also find out more about Amsterdam’s LGBTQ+ history at the Pink Point information stand, located close to the Homomonument.
Stockholm has been a longtime favorite of queer travelers around the world. Aside from its great mixture of design, culture, shopping, and natural beauty, Stockholm is the perfect LGBTQ+ 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. Within the hotel, there are 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, you can experience Stockholm’s gay nightlife in the downtown district. Stockholm’s coolest gay club 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 LGBTQ+ individuals.
With London being one of the most multi-cultural cities in Europe, it’s also one of the most LGBTQ+-friendly, making the British capital an international top queer destination.
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 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.
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 has a large concentration of sex shops and LGBTQ+ bookstores. Try the newsstand on Old Compton Street for a vast variety of LGBTQ+ magazines. Soho and Central London have several other LGBTQ+-friendly attractions. The Photographers’ Gallery is a six-story building that hosts regular photo exhibitions including some with LGBTQ+ themes while the Twilight Soho Food Tour takes you on a historical walking tour through Soho exploring (and tasting) the neighborhood’s changing demographics. And countless theaters in Soho and Covent Garden areas put on musicals and award-winning performances — everything from Miss Saigon to Kinky Boots.
Unsurprisingly, the City of Love is also one of the best gay friendly cities in Europe — especially for couples.
While France has had some turbulent years fighting for LGBTQ+ rights, the scene in Paris is still intact. The city’s gay neighborhood, near the Hotel de Ville metro in the Le Marais district, still houses some of Paris’ most famous gay nightlife. The streets of Le 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, 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 LGBTQ+ 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 LGBTQ+ tours through Paris.
Ireland made waves in 2015 with its historic same-sex marriage equality, voted in by popular vote (the first in the world). But its capital city has been LGBTQ+-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 LGBTQ+ literature, Dublin hosts the International Gay Theatre Festival each May with edgy, heart-warming and independent performances.
For nightlife, The George is a mixed LGBTQ+ 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.
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.
Check out Matador’s LGBTQ+ travel guides to the world: