Top LGBT travel spots in Europe
What happens in Amsterdam stays in Amsterdam...
With a reputation for debauchery, the capital of Holland is the Flemish floozy of Western Europe. It’s not just about the scantily-clad ladies of the Red Light District – Amsterdam is a patchwork of LGBT areas.
The most famous Dutch gaybourhood is Reguliersdwarsstraat (a bit of a mouthful), although Amstel and Kerkstraat are also popular. In each of these areas there is a good range of quiet bars and cafes, as well as more extravagant clubs. Vivelavie, in Amstel is one of the country’s best Lesbian haunts.
The best time to visit Amsterdam is in August, in time for the city’s mega Pride festivities. The showpiece of the weekend is the unique Canal Parade, which travels through the city by boat.
Madrid has stepped into the LGBT limelight in recent years. Although Barcelona and Ibiza have traditionally been seen as the twinning gay glories of Spain, Madrid has a lot to offer. This beautiful city has a vibrant nightlife and welcomes all visitors, regardless of sexual preference.
Chueca, Madrid’s premier gay district, is located at the heart of the city. Cheuca is not only home to the usual range of gay bars and clubs, but there are also a number of LGBT-oriented shops and cafes here.
Elsewhere in the city, the Malasaña district is artsy and attractive. The streets are lined with traditional art deco buildings, theatres and cinemas. The nearby El Rastro Market is an ancient open-air flea market – perfect for finding kitsch souvenirs.
There are a number of LGBT hotspots in Germany, but they don’t come much gayer than Berlin. Established in the 1920s as a sanctum for the forbidden, Berlin has led the way in the rise of gay tourism.
After years of Nazi occupation and Cold War destruction, Berlin has dusted itself off and strutted on into the 21st century. The city may bear the scars of history, but it wears them well. The unofficial, but defiant city slogan ‘Berlin is Poor, but Sexy’ captures the spirit of this hedonistic, devil may care metropolis.
Today Berlin is the undisputed gay capital of Europe. Whether you’re looking for leather-clad lovelies, or a bit of disco cheese, Berlin will cater for your every desire. The Schöneberg district is the city’s most established gaybourhood, and has been since the movement kicked off in the 1920s. Here you will find Hafen, the city’s original gay club, which still wears the sequins of cabaret glamour.
Lend a bit of glamour to your gaycation with a trip to the French Riviera.
This ancient port-town bristles with the air of romance – each corner of every winding street brings with it the promise of handsome sailors and mysterious strangers.
Marseille is the second biggest city in France, yet despite its size, there isn’t a clear ‘gay district’ within its walls. LGBT culture is well-integrated throughout the city, although the MP-Bar is an undisputed favourite.
In 2013, Marseille will host Europride – the largest annual gay pride parade in the world, but why wait until then to experience this Mediterranean haven?
Budapest might not spring to mind as an LGBT hotspot, and you’d be forgiven for thinking so. The capital of Hungary is one of Eastern Europe’s best kept secrets.
Budapest, the so-called ‘Paris of the East’, has over the past few years gradually blossomed into a cheap break favourite amongst penny-pinching students. Its status as a gay-friendly city has remained relatively low key – until now.
In 2012 Budapest is set to waltz into the LGBT spotlight. The city has been selected as the host of the 2012 Eurogames, the biggest athletic event for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Europe. Even if you’re not a sports fan, the Eurogames brings with it a number of associated cultural events and parties.
The Greek island of Mykonos is the quintessential gay destination. Each year, thousands of LGBT travellers make the obligatory pilgrimage to this iconic spot, to experience the buzzing nightlife and worldrenowned beaches.
Many travellers who visit Mykonos will stay in Mykonos Town. In each of the winding cobbled streets there is so much on offer besides bars and clubs. There are a number of gay-specific hotels and apartments available to rent, as well as cafes and restaurants.
Among the more famous bars, Montparnasse Piano Bar, in the quaint Little Venice area of the town, is a legendary stop-off point. Serving a hedonistic mix of cocktails and cabaret, it’s no surprise that people flock here from across the globe. The notoriously naughty Ramrod Club, Porta and Diva are also favourites.
Lapped by the waters of the Aegean Sea, Mykonos is also complete with idyllic beaches to soothe your inevitable hangover. Super Paradise, situated on the southern coast of the island, is commonly thought of as the most famous gay beach in Europe.
Zurich, the cosmopolitan capital of Switzerland, is on the cusp of becoming the next big thing in European travel. Although the country is still relatively conservative, Zurich itself is friendly, liberal and surprisingly trendy.
Built on the shores of the sparkling Lake Zurich, the city has a bit of a reputation for being a bit dull – a pristine banking capital with no pizzazz. In reality, Zurich has sneakily blossomed into a sophisticated and artsy urban retreat.
Amongst the city’s many art museums, galleries, cafes and historical attractions, LGBT travellers will find a lively LGBT population. In the Altstadt (The Old Town, to you and me), you will discover the beating heart of Swiss nightlife. The T&M Club, Club AAAH!, and the Cabaret Club are three noted LGBT hang-outs.
The best time to visit Zurich is in August, in time for the city’s Street Parade celebrations – Switzerland’s answer to Notting Hill.
For a cliché-free gaycation, visit Copenhagen. With an understated aura of ‘cool’, Copenhagen’s LGBT scene is laid back and quietly confident. This isn’t tacky, sex on the beach travel – Copenhagen is the gay destination for grown-ups.
Situated in the Western reaches of Denmark, LGBT culture is incredibly well-integrated. As well as a cohort of glitzy clubs and bars, including Centralhjørnet – the city’s first gay venue, Copenhagen is home to a diverse array of LGBTrelated events and entertainments.
Throughout the year, travellers can attend BosseHuset, the so-called ‘Gay House’, where locals put on theatrical performances, gigs, parties and exhibitions. In August, the city bursts into colour for five whole days of pride celebrations.
The pièce de résistance of Copenhagen’s LGBT scene is the annual Mix event – the longest running Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans Film Festival in the world. Held each October, the festival not only showcases films which explore sexual identities, but it also includes a number of other associated activities, for an all-encompassing LGBT celebration.