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Summer is fast approaching and it’s high time to start planning the perfect getaway for you and your boo. Fun in the hot sun on a soft sand beach, quaint cafes and streets lined with mouthwatering local delicacies, swimming in a luxury resort pool, or taking in spectacular city views from a rooftop bar at sunset — from the US to Europe to Australia, cities all across the world are offering up the perfect activities combined with a thriving LGBT scene.
Finding the right LGBT-friendly city takes more thought than most vacations — not only do you need to find the perfect vacation spot, but you also want to see if the city and country are LGBT-friendly, if there’s a big gay scene, and if you and your partner will be accepted as a couple in public. Despite the increasingly welcoming climates in many major cities, there are still a great number of places in the world where LGBT issues are not prioritized, homosexuality is frowned upon or even illegal, and where agencies and travel companies don’t know how to accommodate for LGBT travelers, creating a greater need for companies specifically dedicated to LGBT travel.
It’s important to do your research as you prepare for your trip. Find an agent or a group who can point you in the right direction with specialized information for the LGBT community. Be sure to check out a guide to the city you plan to visit before you make your trip. Sometimes, an average guide may not be detailed enough, or may not include any info on LGBT travelers outside the general laws of the country. On the other hand, gay guides to cities can tell you the best places to go out, neighborhoods to stay in, or stories of day-to-day life for the LGBT community. It’s also important to make sure the hotel you book is known to be LGBT friendly — when you’re already tired and ready to throw your bags down, the last thing you want is a problem.
If you’re looking for a full pre-planned trip, check out some of the agencies and packages available. Some companies cater to specific groups, such as trips just for queer men or just for queer women, while others are broader, some focusing on “all-gay” trips in general. Others plan excursions for the LGBT community and friends, with everything from activities to housing arranged for you in places you can be confident are definitely gay-friendly.
Whatever type of trip you’re looking for, get started on the research phase and check out the top 10 most LGBT friendly vacation destinations from around the world.
1. Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico’s vibrant capital city is more than meets the eye. Busy, bustling Mexico City is also a gay-friendly dream vacation. The city has recently become an ever-growing tourist hot spot, especially within the LGBT community as many gay-owned and gay-friendly spaces continue to pop up. Same-sex marriage has been legal since 2009, and most residents are laid back, especially when it comes to tourism.
Spend your days strolling down the streets of Zona Rosa or Colonia Roma, both of which are the place to be when the sun goes down, or head to one of Mexico City’s famous saunas. Zona Rosa’s Calle Amberes is the best spot for top gay bars and clubs, including Lolli Pop and Kinky. If you’re looking for lodging, check out Condesa, the known area for some of the best queer-friendly hotels, such as Condesa Haus and The Red Tree House.
2. Copenhagen, Denmark
This northern city has always been on the forefront of LGBT rights, and its charming streets and waterfront areas will make the perfect getaway for you and your partner. Denmark was the first country to legalize same-sex partnerships in 1998, and its capital city, Copenhagen, was named in 2014 the number one most gay-friendly place in the world. Stroll along the waterfront, stopping in the colorful shops. Cold? Warm up in one of Copenhagen’s famous saunas, many of which are specified LGBT friendly. Copenhagen’s queer nightlife is truly not to be missed.
Visit G-A-Y Copenhagen, the most famous gay bar in the city, or head to Centralhjornet, one of the oldest gay bars in all of Europe. When it’s time to rest your head, there are plenty of spots all throughout the city that cater to the LGBT community, letting you rest in a great hotel. Top hotels in the Copenhagen area include Axel Hotel Guldsmeden and Hotel Windsor.
If you’re planning a trip, try to plan in August for Copenhagen Pride or check out a full calendar of events to find something fun during your visit.
3. London, England
Hop across the pond for the biggest British adventure. London, with a rich queer history and culture, is a must-visit destination. Head to Soho, the gay center of the city, to get all the info you need at the LGBT Tourist Office. While you’re there, stop into any of the hotels, cafes, bars, and clubs lining the streets. If you’re looking for more, check out Vauxhall, full of some of the city’s most historic queer spots, including The Royal Vauxhall Tavern.
Looking for activities? Check out some of London’s iconic sights, catch a performance of the London Gay Men’s Chorus or grab a coffee at Dalston Superstore. But make sure to stay up after the rest of the city goes to sleep, too, and head to some of the most popular clubs and parties, like Eagle London and G-A-Y London. London is full of great LGBT friendly hotels, like The Z Hotel Soho or the Haymarket Hotel, full of charming rooms and beds that feel like heaven. Be sure to book your trip in July so as not to miss out on London’s famous pride parade, either.
4. San Francisco, California
Head to the center of it all in the “gay capital” of the USA: San Francisco, California. With one of the most famous gayborhoods, the Castro, and some of the biggest LGBT events, a trip to San Francisco should definitely be on your bucket list. Be sure to wander down the rainbow-flag-lined streets of the Castro, the historic gay heart of the city, but don’t miss out on Mission District, either. If you’re looking for the party, head to SF Eagle, but if you want something a little quieter, check out The Stud, El Rio, or Last Call Bar for a more casual drink or two.
San Francisco is full of sights to be seen and activities to be experienced. Of course, you can’t miss the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, or Golden Gate Park. Try to catch a show by the Grammy-award winning San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, or take a walking tour of the Castro. The city’s event calendar is always full. June is home to the famed San Francisco Pride Parade and the San Francisco International GLBT Film Festival, and in October, you’ll find the Castro Street Fair. If you’re looking for a good place to stay, try the Parker Guest House, Beck’s Motor Lodge, or the Inn on Castro.
5. Palm Springs, California
Palm Springs, California might as well be a gay haven. The small town is bustling with new shops and cafes popping up every day and plenty to do and see, and it especially fills up during three big events each year — the Dinah Shore Weekend is the largest music festival for women every March, The White Party, held every April, is one of the largest LGBT music events in the world, and Palm Springs Pride, drawing in hundreds each year, happens in November.
In Palm Springs, you won’t be hard-pressed to find a gay-friendly or gay owned hotel or resort for your stay, as most spots in town are at least welcoming, if not specifically catering for LGBT travelers. Some resorts even offer up clothing-optional, LGBT friendly pools, for those interested. Top hotels in the area include Santiago Resort and Ace Hotel. At night, check out some of the local bars, including the oldest gay bar in the desert area, Streetbar, as well as popular spots such as Tool Shed, Hunters Nightclub, and Chill Bar.
6. Washington, DC
Looking for a fun, quick getaway? Head to Washington, DC — a city full of power, influence, class, and queer-friendly fun. In between the monuments, Smithsonian Museums, and all the great food, the capital city has plenty of fun bars, clubs, and fun for you and your partner to explore. Top bars in the city include Number Nine, JR’s Bar and Grille, and Cobalt, but if you want to dance, head to Town Danceboutique or Green Lantern.
If you’re in town in the winter, DC can get cold — warm up in one of the city’s LGBT friendly saunas, a popular spot among tourists and locals alike. After, stroll down the streets of Dupont Circle, making stops at the Dupont Circle Fountain and the Human Rights Campaign headquarters, nearby. When it comes time to get some rest, DC’s Dupont Circle and Logan Circle areas are full of queer-friendly hotels, like Hotel Palomar or the JW Marriott DC.
7. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Head down to the Southern Cone for your next vacation. The Argentine capital city, Buenos Aires, is known for Tango, lively nightlife, and charming streets, as well as being an up-and-coming spot for an ideal queer vacation. The country was the first in Latin America to legalize gay marriage, in 2010, and has been on the progressive side of LGBT rights. Head to Palermo for the largest concentration of gay cafes, bars, and clubs, including Peuteo, America, and more.
If you wander to San Telmo, a historic section of the city, you’ll find even more gay bars and cafes, including the popular Pride Cafe, as well as a massive Sunday antique market, and great, authentic food. Both San Telmo and Palermo are ideal spots for lodging, as both neighborhoods boast a ton of LGBT friendly places to stay. Check out Lugar Gay or 1555 Malabia House Hotel. If it’s warm weather and big festivals you want, plan your trip in November, during Argentina’s spring, for Buenos Aires Pride Parade.
8. Barcelona, Spain
Spain’s northern beachside city is calling your name. With so much to do and see, plus a massive pride weekend festival held every summer, how is Barcelona not on your bucket list already? Check out Eixample for the best gay bars and clubs, like Bacon Bear Bar, Night Barcelona, and Punto BCN, to name a few. But don’t think this means you can’t find a great spot for a fun party in other parts of the city.
Spend some days in Barcelona’s sunny beaches. Just a 30-minute train ride outside the city is Sitges, Spain’s famous LGBT beachside village. At the end of the late nights, it’s good to have a hotel where you know you and your significant other will feel welcome. Barcelona’s city center is full of hotels that cater to the queer community, including Axel Hotel Barcelona and Hotel Cram, both perfect for a good night’s sleep.
9. Brighton, England
Named the most LGBT friendly city in the UK, Brighton is a perfect spot for a baecation. The seaside city boasts charming cafes, great restaurants, and exciting nightlife. Take a walking tour from The Lanes to Kemptown to learn about 200 years of queer history in the city. When the sun sets, hit the streets and check out some of the top gay bars Brighton has to offer. Many bars are located in or around Kemptown, and popular bars include The A Bar, Charles Street, and The Bulldog, amongst others.
Don’t miss out on the city’s seaside fun, too. Check out the queer-friendly beaches or the clothing optional beaches along the coast. The coastline is also lined with the best hotels for a queer couple. Try Legends Hotel Brighton or the Brightonwave Bed and Breakfast. The city is teeming all year round with LGBT events you can’t miss. February is LGBT History Month, June is home to Brighton Bear Weekend, in July, you’ll find the Eyes Wide Open Queer Film Festival and Brighton Trans Pride, and in August, stay for Brighton Pride.
10. Sydney, Australia
Have you dreamt of going to Australia with your bae? Sydney is the perfect destination. Head to the “Rainbow Ribbon”, where you’ll find the highest concentration of LGBT hotels, cafes, bars, and clubs. The most popular neighborhoods inside the Rainbow Ribbon include Darlinghurst, especially Oxford Street, Crown Street in Surry Hills, and King Street in Newtown. Check out Sydney’s best gay bars while you’re there, such as The Colombia Hotel, Stonewall Hotel, and Palms on Oxford, to name a few. Many gay bars in Sydney also offer hotel space.
Sydney’s hot summer sun gives you the perfect excuse for some fun-in-the-sun on one of the city’s famous gay beaches. Lie in the sun on the golden sand in Lady Jane Beach, Clovelly Beach, Coogee Women’s Baths, or North Bondi Beach. Stay for Sydney’s famed pride parade — Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, held between the second Thursday of February and the first Saturday of March every year.