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Many cities welcome and embrace the LGBTQ community. These cities have, in fact, improved and grown economically by attracting one of the most important and influential social groups of the 21st century. Chains of hotels, restaurants, bars, pubs, clothing stores, and spas cater to a new segment, always looking for the best. And by adding those to other factors – such as the equality index score, legal protection, social acceptance, LGBTQ nightlife, and economic opportunities – we determine which is the best gay friendly city for travelers. As a result, we came up with this list of 13 most welcoming Gay Friendliest Cities In The World.
Brighton is not only one of the UK’s most gay-friendly cities, but it’s also got one of the most concentrated LGBTQ+ populations in the country. So it should come as no surprise that we start our list of gay friendliest cities in the world with it. This is not a coincidence. In fact, Brighton has a long history of being a respite for gay couples since the 19th century.
This traced back to the city’s status as a garrison for troops during the Napoleonic Wars. In the 1930s, gay bars and queer-owned businesses began to flourish. And to this date, more gay pubs are bars than we could count. Not to mention how the city hosts one of the biggest Prides in the UK every year.
The most popular area to hang out is the Gay Village, conveniently nestled in the Kemp Town district. But it’s definitely safe to say that it’s not the only place where you can mingle and have some fun. To name a few, Doctor Brighton’s bar, the Legends hotel, and Poison Ivy karaoke hall are not to be missed. If you’re around Brighton Pier, head to Bar Revenge or the Bulldog. The Marlborough is exceptionally popular for lesbians and queer women.
Where to stay: 11 Top Gay-Friendly Hotels in Brighton
Yes, there is a great gay friendly city in Mexico. Guadalajara comes as a pleasant surprise in the region’s subtle celebration of the LGBT+ community. Guadalajara is also known as the ‘San Fransisco of Mexico.’ And that fact alone can give you the idea of how open the city is towards the queer community.
Weekends in Guadalajara are pulsating with events to keep you busy till the early hours of the morning. The chic Chapultepec neighborhood is where you’ll find most of the upscale LGBT nightspots. However, the LGBT center of the city centers around Priscilliano Sanchez.
The Gay Parade in Guadalajara takes place in late June. Regarded as one of the biggest pride parades in the world, rivaling the other Latin American countries, expect a lot of fun. Known as Desfile del Orgullo, Guadalajara Pride Parade is a fairly recent event founded in 2014 by activist Karina Velasco Michel.
There is an endless amount of gay-owned and operated accommodation as well as restaurants, particularly in the Historic Center of the city. While you’re here, you can’t miss the Instituto Cultural Cabanas, where you can find a progressive cultural arts center and exposition. Head to Tlaquepaque to find hip restaurants, boutique shops, art galleries, and plenty more. To wrap your day, pamper yourself at Dulce Spa Medicio; a gorgeous gay spa accessible within Guadalajara’s hotspot.
Where to stay: Top 11 Gay Friendly Hotels in Guadalajara
For a mainly conservative region like Southeast Asia, Bangkok is an ideal destination for queer travelers living in nearby countries. As a matter of fact, most cities in Thailand are also generally accepting of the queerlings. This is largely because society views LGBTQ+ individuals as a natural way of life. A plethora of toothsome cuisine, ancient temples, and raging nightlife add to the appeal of Bangkok’s warmth. All of these are at a very affordable cost, something you don’t always find in Western destinations.
Bangkok, as a particularly queer travel destination, offers something for everyone. From crazy nightlife to luxurious hotels and high-end spas, there’s something for everyone. It’s a place where every visit will give birth to something new.
Thailand legalized homosexual activity way back in 1956. In fact, the Thai constitution specifically protects sexual orientation and gender identity. That said, Thai law doesn’t currently recognize same-sex domestic partnerships, civil unions, or marriages. However, there is a lot of public tolerance and acceptance of Thai same-sex couples. This is even more so in urban areas, especially in Bangkok.
Where to stay: Top 11 Gay-Friendly Hotels in Bangkok
Auckland, New Zealand
New Zealand was the first Oceania country to legalize same-sex marriage, which it did in 2013. So Auckland is no stranger to diversity. As soon as you step into the city, its multicultural atmosphere is palpable. As a result, you can easily mingle with LGBTQ locals in the parks, beaches, and cafes during the long summer days. But we all know the fun starts after the sunset; there are multiple places to hang around in town.
Start the evening at Caluzzi Bar and Cabaret, where you will meet talented queens and introduce yourself to Auckland’s queer nightlife. Also, you can head to one of their three main gay bars: Staircase, Family, and GAY. Join the Aotearoa’s (Māori name for New Zealand) largest Pride festival, the Auckland Pride, celebrated annually every February.
According to Passport Magazine, a gay travel publication, the clothing-optional Karekare Beach on Auckland’s west coast is among the world’s best beaches. This dramatic black-sand beach was also featured in the movie The Piano. Did you know that Chris Carter, who grew up in Auckland, was New Zealand’s first openly-gay Member of Parliament (MP)? He came out of the closet soon after being elected in 1993.
Where to stay: Top 11 Gay Friendly Hotels in Auckland
Toronto is the largest city in Canada and has an interesting LGBTQ scene. It has some of the best gay bars in Canada and a huge pride parade, making it one of the gay friendliest cities in the world. Toronto’s annual Pride Festival is one of the largest pride festivals in the world. Some of the highlights include a Trans March, a huge Dyke March, and tons of live performances by DJs and other performers.
The first-ever Pride Parade was a result of February 1981’s Operation Soap, when the Toronto Police raided four gay bathhouses. After the arrest of nearly 300 men, demonstrators marched down the street in a massive show of protest.
Toronto’s queer community offers a scene of arts, culture, and energetic nightlife, with a vibrant gay-friendly town/village at the core. The Village is located in Church-Wellesley. It’s the cultural hub, bursting with galleries, theatres, and LGBT-friendly businesses. Over the years, the geographical range has expanded with the city’s growth. To add, you’ll find queer-friendly establishments all over the city now.
Where to stay: Top 11 Gay-Friendly Hotels In Toronto
São Paulo, Brazil
Sao Paulo is not only Brazil’s economic hub and the largest city in South America but also the third-largest city on earth. Especially noteworthy for LGBTQ travelers is that São Paulo hosts the biggest gay pride celebration on the planet. São Paulo’s first Gay Pride was in 1997 and attracted only 2000 people. During Pride Week, the city’s LGBTQ venues are packed with people. Other special events include concerts, street fairs, and even political meetings.
Nowadays, the carnival-like Gay Pride Parade draws nearly four million people who crowd the main boulevard of Paulista Avenue and the surrounding streets. Subsequently, LGBTQ nightclubs feature a wide variety of shows. They range from drag, male strip-tease, singers, and performances to some of the best DJs. There are plenty of bathhouses and sex clubs, often with bars and show nights.
When you’re here, visit the Museu da Diversidade Sexual. This Museum of Sexual Diversity is dedicated to LGBT history. And it’s housed within one of Sao Paulo’s main subway stations and features both temporary and permanent exhibits.
Where to stay: Top 11 Gay Friendly Hotels In Sao Paulo
London is a sophisticated, multicultural, open-minded, and welcoming gay friendly city. It is home to Europe’s largest LGBTQ community. Pride London is a significant event. Also, there is an important Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. Moreover, its gay nightlife is one of the best. So it should come as no surprise that London is one of the gay friendliest cities in the world.
Old Compton Street and its surrounding area in SoHo is London’s queer epicenter, with gay bars and shops for every style and need. Soho, found to the west of the West End, is a popular spot where you’ll find many gay-owned clubs, restaurants, and stores. Another similar area to check out is Old Compton Street. To add, the increasingly popular area of Vauxhall Village is also a must-visit.
Where to stay: Top 11 Gay Friendly Hotels In London
Just so you know, of all the iconic LGBT hotels in London, poetry lovers will love the Zetter Townhouse Marylebone. Why, you ask? Its the presence of its penthouse suite Lear’s Loft, named after Edward Lear, the “literary nonsense” English poet who was also gay.
Madrid has the largest queer community in Spain and one of the largest in Europe, with an estimated 500,000 LGBTQ people living in the city. Chueca is the center of the LGBTQ community. Here, you’ll find the highest concentration of gay bars and nightclubs. Chueca starts at Gran Via and runs north for less than a mile. And it stretches east to west between Calle Hortaleza and Paseo de Recoletos.
In this town, gay marriage is allowed, and the gay community has largely influenced the town’s trendiest hotels, restaurants, and shops. Every July, Madrid hosts the largest gay pride in Europe. Madrid’s gay pride, called Orgullo, draws a crowd of nearly two million people.
Madrid has an “Annual Gay Day.” There, LGBT families, couples, and singles enjoy a day in the city’s theme park. The city also celebrates the Mad Bear, a fun-filled weekend for bears and their admirers. Mad Bear, a.k.a. the International Winter Meeting of the Madrid Bears happens in early December. It features a host of activities in Chueca. In fact, Madrid’s Bear and Admirer scene is one of Europe’s largest and most active.
Where to stay: Top 11 Gay Friendly Hotels In Madrid
Miami, USA, has long been a popular and open destination for LGBTQ tourists. They come here to unwind, work on their tans, meet people and dine at the chicest restaurants. The LGBTQ community has always felt welcome in Miami. As a result, there are beaches popular with the gay crowd all year, nightclubs and venues, parties, and more. However, it’s the yearly Miami Beach Gay Pride Festival that brings everyone together in a colorful celebration and parade.
Miami’s gay nightlife scene has been around since as early as the 1930s. The city is one of the few places where the LGBTQ community has its own chamber of commerce, the Miami-Dade Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (MDGLCC). After decades of economic and social decline, South Beach was revitalized by an influx of gays and lesbians in the late 1980s. Now, dilapidated hotels and clubs have been restored to become thriving businesses.
Where to stay: Top 11 Gay Friendly Hotels In Miami
For lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender visitors and residents, Amsterdam is one of the most attractive cities in Europe. And it’s probably the best gay city in the world. As a result, it’s no wonder that Amsterdam became so popular with gay travel enthusiasts. For centuries, “Amsterdammers” have had a relaxed and tolerant attitude towards different lifestyles. “Live and let live” is among the city’s motos.
Amsterdam is famous across the board for its annual Canal Parade. Eighty decorated boats sail along the Prinsengracht. The canals are lined by over half a million spectators, demonstrating and celebrating the diversity of Holland’s gay and lesbian community. Indeed, it’s the largest gay pride event in the Netherlands and one of the largest globally.
The city was previously the world’s leading gay destination. Then, The Netherlands was the first country to allow civil marriages between same-sex couples. In 2001, Job Cohen, former Amsterdam Mayor, legally officiated four same-sex couples’ vows.
Where to stay: Top 11 Gay Friendly Hotels In Amsterdam
Spain legalized same-sex marriage in 2005 despite strong opposition from the Catholic Church, becoming the fourth country in the world to do so. To this day, along with Madrid, Barcelona remains one of the most liberal and gay friendliest cities in the world. Many Spaniards relocating from some of the more conservative areas of the country to live their life here to the fullest. Moreover, Catalonia, the state of Spain where Barcelona is located, has passed an anti-homophobia law in 2014 that aims to defend LGBTQ rights. Thanks to this law, people physically or morally offending members of the LGBTQ community could be fined up to 140,000 euros.
There’s always something going on in the city. Gay cinema festivals or LGBTQ literature festivals, or the famous Circuit Festival, the biggest Gay Festival in Europe every August. Make sure to visit Gayxample, Barcelona’s LGBTQ neighborhood with many gay and lesbian bars, clubs, and restaurants.
Pride Barcelona takes place in late June and is a weeklong event that features concerts, open-air dance parties, film screenings, and art shows. The LGBTI film festival ‘Fire’ is also another noteworthy event.
Where to stay: Top 11 Gay Friendly Hotels In Barcelona
San Francisco, USA
San Francisco, California, USA, is probably the gay capital of America. The queer community in San Francisco is one of the largest and most prominent LGBTQ communities. It also plays an integral part in the history of LGBTQ rights and activism. The town has been a global focus for gay nightlife, culture, and politics for decades. Visitors today can explore the Castro, where it all began. Castro is one of the first gay neighborhoods in the United States. It remains among the most prominent symbols of LGBTQ activism and events globally, arguably making it the best gay city in the world.
Queer life here is not limited to the Castro neighborhood, though that’s a tourist draw for a good reason — it’s a queer Disneyland. San Francisco is home to more nightlife than you can shake a go-go boy at, as well as vibrant bear and transexual communities. If you’re gay, chances are you’ve either been to San Francisco or plan to sometime in your life. It is Gay Mecca, after all. Recent population demographics indicate a significant percentage of the population of San Francisco is gay, and there are even more drag queens per square foot than anywhere else.
Where to stay: Top 11 Gay Friendly Hotels In San Francisco
New York City, USA
New York is like no other city on earth. The diversity, the culture, and the style make it the best gay city in the world for some travelers. It’s definitely a city in a class all its own. Fashion, theatre, advertising, and the arts have made New York one of the most LGBT-friendly cities. Gay life is everywhere in New York City, USA. Nightlife is vivid and overwhelming. You can choose from endless variations of gay bars and clubs: muscle mary clubs to cabaret piano bars and local intimate bars to trendy gay lounges.
In Manhattan, the gay scene is concentrated in a couple of neighborhoods. In Greenwich Village lays the origin of gay pride, where the Stonewall riots in Christopher Street awakened LGBTQ emancipation. The new hot spot of this gay friendly city is Hell’s Kitchen, full of trendy gay bars, restaurants, and clubs. Chelsea neighborhood also offers a wide selection of gay venues concentrated around 8th Avenue.
NYC is one of the most liberal gay cities, not much of a surprise, though, as the queer community went through a lot to change the city’s perception. The Stonewall Riots of 1969 spearheaded the gay rights movement in New York. The first documented gay rights organization in the United States started in 1924. In 1966 a ‘sip-in’ three gay rights activists raised the profile. The three visited various bars in the city and declared themselves gay.
Where to stay: Top 11 Gay Friendly Hotels In New York City
In the 1920s (the Golden Twenties), Berlin was seen as the city with the most lively and advanced gay subculture in Europe. Today, Berlin sits as the capital of gay cities in Europe and, of course, one of the gay friendliest cities in the world. The breadth of its gay nightlife, the strength of its culture, and the ever-tested and changing community norms have easily eclipsed the city’s continental urban neighbors. It’s a non-stop party, from the saunas, darkrooms, bars, clubs, cafés, festivals, balls, carnivals, and celebrations, a hedonist’s paradise, a sensualist’s haven, an aesthete’s delight, and a raver’s Mecca, all in one package.
The party scene is so diverse and innovative and celebrates any fetish! That is where the Folsom Europe fair takes place in September, and the Lesbian and Gay City Festival every June, Europe’s largest street party of its kind, being held in the traditional gay area around Nollendorfplatz in Schöneberg since 1993.
Where to stay: Top 11 Gay Friendly Hotels In Berlin
Tel Aviv, Israel
Right at the heart of the Middle East lies a city called Tel Aviv. A bubble of sanity in an otherwise challenging and tense area. Tel Aviv, a city blessed with year-round sunshine and white sandy beaches, is one of the most liberal and gay friendliest cities in the world. It is the most gay friendly city, not only in the Middle East but globally. In fact, Tel Aviv is often jokingly referred to as a ‘straight-friendly’ city because of the high population of gay people that live here.
This vibrant city is an undisputed queer capital of the Middle East. It offers 24/7 non-stop activities, great weather, great food, gay beaches, and infinite gay bars and nightclubs. Every June, Tel Aviv celebrates the Gay Pride Week, a week of celebrations and happenings throughout the city with Pride Expo (Gay Culture Fair), LGBT Theater festival, LGBT Film Festival, and the famous Pride Parade, which is one of the most colorful LGBTQ parades.
Tel Aviv Gay Pride is held on the first weekend of June. The event attracts over 100,000 people from all over who descend on the city to enjoy the wild revelry associated with the pride parade in Tel Aviv. So you can expect a wild night out on the town with parties and Pride events happening everywhere. However, if this is your first pride parade, remember that it will be super hot in terms of temperature and people!
Where to stay: Top 11 Gay Friendly Hotels In Tel Aviv
Facts about Some of These Gay Friendly Cities:
- June is Pride Month, a time of celebration for the LGBTQ community across the board. And every year, cities organize month-long festivities to commemorate and support sexual and gender minorities’ liberation. Many people, including some of the greatest LGBTQ icons, join the parade in these gay friendliest cities in the world.
- The rainbow flag as a gay pride symbol debuted at the San Francisco Pride Parade in 1978. Harvey Milk asked his good friend Gilbert Baker to design a unifying symbol for the LGBTQ community, and the rainbow flag was the result.
- The first lesbian bar, Mona’s 440 Club, opened in San Francisco in 1936.
- Homosexual men in 1900s London made up an entire slang language (called Polari), so they could communicate in public without fear of being arrested.
- In 1972, Sweden became the first country to allow citizens to change their gender legally.
- The largest rainbow flag used in a Pride celebration was unfurled in Key West, Florida, for the flag’s 25th anniversary in 2003. The flag was one and a 2,011-meter long and 4.9-meter wide and stretched across the entire island of Key West, Florida.
- The Israeli Army is LGBT supportive and does not discriminate against the community. Gays can openly serve in all branches of the Israeli Defense Force. The military even recognizes same-sex couples in the cases of widowers or war widows.