Welcome once again to Pride month, celebrated in increasing numbers of destinations around the world. Of course, depending on where you go, travelling while LGBT+ can be a challenge, particularly if you're with a same-sex partner and/or if you are visibly queer. Sadly, there are still many countries where being gay is still considered a crime, and even in some areas where it's legal there is always the risk of being harassed or even attacked simply for your sexual orientation or gender. Nobody wants to feel threatened, especially on a holiday where you are simply trying to have a good time, enjoy yourself, and be yourself.
That's why Europe - particularyl Western Europe - is an excellent choice of destination for LGBT+ travellers, being the most gay-friendly continent in the world with a long history of sexual liberation backed up by legal rights to marriage and other individual liberties. In many European countries, there is also an abundance of gay clubs, making it easy to go out for the night and have fun in a safe environment with like-minded people.
These days gays, lesbians, and other queer travellers will find welcomes in all sorts of European cities, including Brussels, Copenhagen, Dublin, Lisbon, London, Paris, Prague, Stockholm, and Vienna, to name just a few. But the following are perhaps the top three of the most LGBT+ friendly cities on the Continent, complete with numerous clubs, bars, restaurants, and other spots where being queer is not only accepted, but positively embraced.
The Netherlands was one of the first countries in Europe to legalise gay relationships, doing so as early as 1811, while gay marriage became legal in 2001, and the state has long held liberal values with regard to sexuality and personal freedoms.
If you’re a clubber, you can get your hit at the many gay clubs across the city, or by visiting Milkshake, Amsterdam’s enormous gay summer music festival, featuring a wide variety of live bands, drag acts, and DJs.
If you're not, there are many other ways to enjoy yourself in the city of Amsterdam that don’t have to include drink or drugs. Amsterdam is characterised by its abundance of picturesque canals and tulips, which are shipped around the world, making it a romantic destination for couples of any gender or sexuality. Amsterdam’s main public library is host to IHLIA LGBT Heritage, one of the largest archives of LGBT+ literature and history, and many of Amsterdam’s famous art galleries feature a wide range of queer exhibitions for LGBT art connoisseurs.
The Amstel river also hosts a gay pride boat parade every August, starting at the Scheepvart museum on the East side of the city, to the Westerdok. Amsterdam pride is always well-attended and immaculately run for a safe and highly enjoyable experience.
In the 1920s and 30s, Berlin was a major destination for gay tourism, as one of the first cities to become socially accepting of LGBT+ people. Several LGBT+ social movements and institutions were founded in Berlin, including the Institute Of Sexology and the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, which campaigned for the equal rights of gay people in Germany in the early 20th century.
Berlin was one of the first countries in Europe to open public gay bars, and the city’s popularity among artists and writers fostered a liberated approach to sexuality, producing some of the first LGBT+ media in popular culture.
Now, Berlin is home to over 170 gay bars and numerous monuments in the memory of LGBT+ activists around the city. The nightlife in Berlin is famously popular due to its thriving music scene, and many gay bars and drag nights alike can be found within easy walking distance.
Plus, in June, on Christopher Street Day, Berlin holds one of the largest gay pride parades in the world, featuring brightly coloured floats, music, and outrageous costumes.
This fun-loving city is a friendly and vibrant destination for LGBT+ travellers, and is known as one of the safest cities in the world. Why not check out Schöneberg, the gay centre of the city for a thriving community of gay clubs and bars, including Prinzknecht, known as one of the best gay bars in Berlin?
Spain is one of the world's most socially progressive countries - for example, it was the third to legalise same-sex marriage, way back in 2005 - and has legal safeguards in place for marriage equality, same-sex adoption rights, and anti-discrimination laws. And its capital, despite being ruled by the centre-right Partido Popular, is in turn is one of the its most progressive, and is home to a community of a vvigorous LGBT+ community estimatated at around a half million.
Plaza de Chueca is known as a centre for the gay community in Madrid, and hosts Madrid Pride in early July. The event is one of the biggest pride parades in Europe and becomes busy at around 11PM when the locals hit the town for a spot of partying.
The atmosphere in Madrid is fun, friendly, and relaxed, and it has become a popular destination among LGBT+ travellers due to the high level of acceptance in the local population. In fact, in a 2013 poll, 88% of Madrid locals agreed that homosexuality should be accepted by society (in contrast to just 60% of Americans), and the streets are filled with happy, loving same-sex couples who can hold hands and kiss without feeling intimidated.
Madrid was also home to several of Spain’s most famous LGBT+ artists and activists, including the poet Federico García Lorca, gay rights activist Pedro Zerolo, and film director Pedro Almodóvar, making it a fascinating cultural hub for anyone in the gay community.