Make your way to one of Spain’s best cities — Barcelona. The northern Spanish city sits along the coast of the Balearic Sea. With warm weather, beaches, and all the tapas and paella you can eat, Barcelona is definitely the vacation of your dreams. Check out the famous Sagrada Familia, designed by Gaudi, or hang out by his famous Park Güell for colorful artwork and cool city views. Barcelona’s clubs and bars are perfect for nights out with your boo. And in such an open and accepting city, you won’t have trouble finding a nice gay bar or party in town.
Spain’s complex history with homosexuality dates all the way back to the country’s beginnings. With the conversion to Catholicism and later in the 15th century, the Spanish Inquisition, LGBT people in Spain were heavily persecuted. By 1822, however, Spain removed the “sodomy” from the penal code. in 1901, the first gay couple was married when one of the women disguised herself as a man for the ceremony. Once found out, the marriage was denounced but never annulled.
By the mid-20th century, Francisco Franco came to power after the Spanish Civil War, criminalizing homosexuality and sending mass amounts of LGBT folks to prison. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, while Franco’s regime was coming to an end, Barcelona, alongside other major cities in the country, reached a cultural transition. The Catalan Front for the Gay Liberation (FAGC) was formed to stop the harassment and imprisonment of the queer community. in 1977, FAGC hosted Spain’s first LGBT march in Barcelona.
By the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st, LGBT rights were at the forefront of Spanish society. Groups in Barcelona and across the country began forming to enact policies and protections for the LGBT community. By 2005, Spain legalized same-sex marriage, and in 2014, many regions, including Catalonia, moved to legally ban discrimination based on gender identity.
In such an open and accepting city, it’s hard to choose just one gay neighborhood. In general, Barcelona is extremely gay-friendly, with bars, clubs, and hotspots all around. Queer folks in the city can live openly throughout Barcelona. That said, the area of Eixample is nicknamed Gaixample for a reason. The neighborhood near the heart of the city has the highest concentration of LGBT bars and clubs, making it the favorite place to stay amongst LGBT tourists. The parts of Eixample most gay-friendly are around the center of the neighborhood, marked by gay flags lining the streets.
While in the neighborhood, don’t forget to check out some of Barcelona’s most popular sites. Head to Mercat dels Encants Vells for the best crafts and souvenirs. The market has been operating for over 750 years, making it a definite staple of Barcelona life. If you’re a bookworm, you can’t miss out on the Biblioteca Pública Arús. The public library opened in 1895 as a research library, requiring a special ID to enter. Museu del Modernisme Català has collections featuring Catalan modernism in furniture, architecture, and art, and the Fundació Tàpies features artworks by local artist Antoni Tàpies. The neighborhood is one of Barcelona’s most historic spots, so even just wandering down the streets admiring the architecture can prove a fun activity.
Salvation, in Eixample, is one of Barcelona’s most popular queer dance spaces. The club plays a mix of house and electronic music for dancing until 5 in the morning. Salvation is a gay-exclusive club populated by men. With a fun, sometimes crazy atmosphere, Salvation is perfect for the party animals. La Base is another men’s club in the city, located in the same area as Salvation. La Base features special nights of the week, including “jeans or underwear” Tuesdays, “Speedo” Fridays, and “Hot Night” Sundays, to name a few.
Atame Barcelona is a popular spot in the city for relaxed evenings or nights filled with dancing. The Eixample club is open every day of the week until 2:30, except on weekends when it closes at 3 am. The crowd is mostly young and generally relaxed, and partygoers tend to be more locals, but don’t think you can’t find fellow travelers as well. For cheap beers in one of Barcelona’s oldest bear spots, check out New Chaps. The famous Eixample spot has two floors, darkrooms, and seating areas. New Chaps tends to attract older men, but younger folk are welcome as well.
Bacon Bear Bar is a popular spot for Thursday happy hours, chill weeknights, and lively weekends. Despite the name, the gay bar is open to anyone looking for a good time. With two for one drink deals, friendly staff, and a happy, good atmosphere, you won’t have a bad time at Bacon Bear Bar. Punto BCN is a classic in Barcelona for its relaxed and friendly atmosphere. The locale is a cafe by day and a bar by night. During the day, head for coffee and a bite to eat with your partner. When the bar starts, Punto BCN remains relaxed — perfect for a quiet night, drinks, pool tables on the second floor, and good conversation all throughout.
Staying in a hotel worry free is an important part of your trip. Check out some of Barcelona’s top queer-friendly hotels for your days in Spain.
Wonder what staying in the number one gay boutique hotel in the world is like? Book a night at Axel Hotel Barcelona, recently voted number one. The sleek hotel is decked out with flashes of brightly colored decor and furniture from the minute you step into the lobby. Enjoy the hotel’s boutique to get the trendiest souvenirs, head for a drink at the rooftop bar, cool off in the pool, warm up in the jacuzzi, or relax in the sauna. Plus the location in Eixample can’t be beaten. Leave the bars and walk right into your cozy hotel room. Each room is sleek and comes with access to the free wifi, TV, room service, minibar, and more.
Check out Hotel Cram, in the middle of all the fun in Eixample. The building invites you in from off the streets with its historic 19th-century architecture. Once inside the building, the style changes to a more modern, elegant, and sleek design. The 67 rooms at Hotel Cram offer up king-sized beds for the best sleep of your life, views of the city, minibars, and access to all the hotel’s best features. Dine at Michelin starred restaurants, soak in the most stunning views of Barcelona from Hotel Cram’s hotel pool.
Gay-friendly TOC Hostel Barcelona offers dorm style bunk-rooms with shared bathrooms as well as private suites for couples to enjoy. If you’re looking for some fun without leaving the hostel, TOC Hostel offers up plenty of common space, a bar, and a pool for guests to enjoy. TOC Hostel sits right on the outskirts of Barcelona’s Eixample neighborhood giving you easy access to all the trendiest spots.
The modern AKO Suites Hotel just blocks from the University of Barcelona gives guests comfy apartment-style suites to get the best rest while in Barcelona. The hotel provides you with the ultimate privacy, with living space, a kitchenette, private bathroom, and bedroom in the apartment style rooms. Don’t speak Spanish? Don’t worry! AKO Suites Hotel staff are multilingual and provide 24-hour support.
Pride Barcelona is one of the city’s most popular annual events. This year’s pride weekend will take place June 29th and 30th with workshops, kids events, concerts, a high heels race, and of course, the annual march. The parade will take place on June 30th at 5 pm, going from Jardins de les Tres Xemeneies on Av. Paral Lel to PL. Espanya. Don’t miss out on the performances either! With guests like Conchita, Loreen, and Gala performing, it’s sure to be a great time at the main stages. The week leading up to pride weekend is filled with events you don’t want to miss. Check out Vermouth Trans, Lovers, and Friends DJ-ed event for the trans* community and friends, the Gayxample Street Market in Eixample, or any of the workshops on diversity in the LGBTQ* community, queer families, health and wellness, and more.
No vacation to Barcelona is complete without a visit to one of the city’s top beaches. And in such a gay-friendly city, you can bet that there are plenty of beaches that are gay-friendly for you and your bae to soak up some rays. Take a ride just outside the city to the sunny waterside town of Sitges, Spain. Sitges is known as one of Spain’s most LGBT friendly places, with open, relaxed attitudes, dozens of gay bars and clubs in a small space, and energetic events. Check out Sitges Gay Carnaval just a few days before Carnaval in early March. Platja de la Mar is another popular option toward the north of the city. The beach is clothing-optional and most popular on weekends. Grab a drink at the beach bar next door to cool down as you lay out in the sun.
For beachside fun day and night, check out Nova Icaria, full of great dining options, waterfront bars, and of course, pristine beaches. If you’re looking for more peace and quiet in the golden sand, head over to Bogatell, just right next door. The beach is best known for its boardwalk area separating it from the hustle and bustle of the city, great food, and for being a fave amongst locals.