Gay-Friendly Travel Destinations in Europe

Whether your idea of a great holiday involves running with the bulls in Pamplona, shopping for couture in Paris, or soaking up the sun on a gay-friendly beach, there’s never been a better time to travel.

Many of Europe’s cities are now some of the most LGBT-friendly destinations in the world.

1. Lisbon

Europe is a treasure trove of gay-friendly travel destinations. With countries like Spain, Italy, and Germany boasting progressive laws that allow for same-sex marriage and legal safeguards against discrimination, the region is now one of the world’s safest and most open-minded places to visit as a homosexual. Discover Madrid’s passionate greetings and tanned Don Juans, or delve into the city’s thriving queer culture in the Chueca district.

While many LGBTQ travelers tend to head straight to Amsterdam, the Dutch capital also has a burgeoning queer community and is renowned for being one of the most gay-friendly cities in Europe. Grab a beer with friends in one of the bars and restaurants on the Canal Ring, or hold hands and steal snog in public at any time without fear of reprimand.

Another European favorite is Ibiza. While the island may be known as a party paradise during the summer months, it’s also one of the most gay-friendly travel destinations thanks to its welcoming locals and the fact that sexual orientation is not classified as a crime.

2. Madrid

One of the most popular gay-friendly travel destinations in Europe, Madrid is a vibrant open-minded hub with a large and enthusiastic local gay scene. Visit L’Eixample and Gracia to discover a host of gay bars and clubs. It also hosts one of the biggest Pride festivals in the world!

The capital of Scandinavia has become a favored LGBTQIA+ destination, thanks to its progressive policies and tolerant residents. It’s the third most LGBT-friendly country in the world and has some of the best nightlife in the continent. It also hosts a fantastic Pride parade and is a great place to learn more about gay history and culture. It’s also home to the famous gay-friendly poet Federico Garcia Lorca, who has been immortalized in a number of monuments around the city.

3. Barcelona

With its large gay community, a vibrant Pride parade, and numerous gay bars and clubs Barcelona is one of the most LGBT-friendly travel destinations in Europe. It’s also home to two book shops focusing on LGTBIQ+ literature, Antinous, and Complices.

The city center is the heart of gay life, with dozens of bars and clubs in the area known as Gaixample. It’s a short walk from the main sights of the city, including the Sagrada Familia and Ramblas. Many of the gay-friendly venues have rainbow flags displayed proudly from balconies and in shop windows.

Watch drag at the cozy longstanding LL Bar in Chueca, or sip cocktails at the newish lounge-bar Lakama. The adults-only Axel Hotel in Gaixample is so popular with its LGBTQ clientele that it recently opened a sister property a few blocks down the road. Alternatively, stay in a local gay apartment rental with Misterb&b. These rentals are often cheaper than hotels and more private, with hosts who can offer insider tips on the best places to go out. They can also be a great way to meet fellow LGBTQ travelers.

4. Catania

A huge city under Europe’s biggest active volcano, Catania is an LGBT-friendly travel destination. Its impressive Baroque architecture and incredible street food make it a must-visit, while its vibrant nightlife is especially welcoming to LGBTQ+ travelers. Then there’s Mount Etna, which has a unique theatrical flair that sets it apart from other active volcanoes around the world.

Italy’s fashion capital is a top gay-friendly travel destination, with its fashionable bars and restaurants catering to stylish, upscale tastes. Milan also holds a special place in history, as it was where Michelangelo’s depictions of gay love inspired the movement for acceptance and tolerance of homosexuality.

Head south to Puglia for a beach escape that combines UNESCO sites, wartime history, and delectable regional cuisine in picture-perfect surroundings. Unlike many European beaches, where it can be difficult to determine between gay and straight locals, the region’s best beaches welcome visitors of all orientations. In addition to its gorgeous landscapes and rugged coast, Torre del Lago is a gay hotspot that offers plenty of gay bars and clubs to keep you entertained.

5. Palermo

The island of Gran Canaria is a popular gay-friendly travel destination thanks to its enviable climate and beaches. It’s also a party hotspot year-round with clubs and pool parties aplenty. During the first 10 days of May, Maspalomas becomes Europe’s gay pride mecca where you can soak up the sun on the beach and admire the big muscles in tight swimsuits or dance away your worries at one of the many DJs and pool parties.

Milan is Italy’s rainbow capital. As a fashion and financial center, the city attracts young Italians and visitors from all over the world, who live their lives openly and without discrimination. You can see this love in the streets when you look at the people kissing and holding hands.

Brussels is known for being home to the EU but it’s also one of the most open-minded and welcoming cities in Europe. Head to the Saint-Jacques district for its host of LGBT-friendly bars and restaurants and experience the festivities during Pride in May when the city is awash with color.