Trending gay-friendly destinations of 2016

Once you’ve been to London, Berlin, Sydney and San Francisco, where do you go next? Don’t overlook these 9 wonderful, tolerant and inviting trans* and gay-friendly destinations this year.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

A popular Che Guevara mural in the bustling

A popular Che Guevara mural in the bustling “gaybourhood”, San Telmo

Argentina’s capital has long been a hub of LGBTQ life in the country, and indeed even among the countries it shares borders with. San Telmo, the city’s oldest barrio, is undoubtedly the city’s ‘gaybourhood’, with plenty of gay-oriented cafés, bars, clubs and nightlife. Recommendable are Pride Café for a coffee and cake in the afternoon, and Flux Bar for early drinks in a trendy, straight-friendly setting. During the day, the San Telmo street art tour is an absolute must.

Regarding the law in relation to LGBTQ people, Argentina was the first country in Latin America to introduce marriage equality, and it may in fact be one of the most progressive countries in the world relating to trans* rights, as it allows for anyone over 18-years-old to change their gender based solely on their self-identity, without requiring surgery.

Stay at: The Mine Hotel Boutique

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Prague, Czech Republic

Friends hanging out during Prague's Pride celebrations in August

Friends hanging out during Prague’s Pride celebrations in August

Prague may well be the most welcoming Eastern European city to LGBTQ people. While the Czech Republic does not yet have marriage equality, the same legal protections exist for gays, lesbians and bisexuals as for straight people, and public opinion is generally in favour of these and further equalities. For trans* people, however, the situation may be somewhat more complex and, while changing, transphobia is still unfortunately a local problem.

There is no gay neighbourhood specifically, but rather there are lots of gay and gay-friendly venues spread out around town. That said, Vinohrady is the undisputed party district. Here, there is a greater concentration of LGBTQ-friendly places, most famously terMAX, a gay and lesbian club with a mixed crowd, that also happens to be the largest gay club in the country. Additionally, there are many gay-friendly cafés, saunas and sex shops spread across the city and every August, Prague hosts a pride event that is becoming more and more popular, despite only being a few years old. Visit in August for the celebrations, and then catch some rays on the banks of the Vltava river.

Stay at: Villa Mansland

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Taipei, Taiwan

Looking for love (or a good read), in the 24-hour Eslite bookstore, a regular hook-up haunt

Looking for love (or a good read), in the 24-hour Eslite bookstore, a regular hook-up haunt in Taipei

From a legal point of view, Taiwan may be one of the best places in Asia for LGBTQ people. While the country does not yet have marriage equality (though that may soon change), there are at least anti-discriminations laws in place to protect LGBTQ people, something that many other Asian countries do not yet have.

When it comes to nightlife and going out, there are numerous places worth your time. For men, there are a plethora of gay saunas, gyms, bars, clubs and even a few famous cruising spots, including, curiously enough, the 24-hour Eslite bookstore. For women, the renowned TABOO nightclub is the place to dance and socialize in a majority lesbian crowd. Taipei is also host to Asia’s largest gay pride event, which takes place annually on the last weekend of October.

Stay at: Airline Inn Taipei

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Lisbon, Portugal

Refreshments are served at Clube Ferroviario, a great LGBTQ friendly spot in Lisbon

Refreshments are served at Clube Ferroviario rooftop bar, a great LGBTQ-friendly spot in Lisbon

While you might sometimes hear Barrio Alto (the old town of Lisbon), described as the gay village of the city, Lisbon doesn’t really have one specific area where all the queers hang out. Rather, Barrio Alto has many cozy, intimate bars and rooftop lounges that are very gay-friendly, and indeed it can be difficult to distinguish those from the straight-friendly ones – a nice problem to have.

For a southern European country, Portugal is a relatively open and liberal place and in the capital, same sex couples holding hands or kissing is now pretty well normalized. The law allows same sex couples almost exactly the same rights as opposite sex couples (the main exception being automatic parenthood for both spouses after the birth of a child, though this is likely to change soon), and enforces anti-discrimination laws based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

For more great tips on the Portuguese capital, download our free Lisbon city guide to your iPhone.

Stay at: Palacete Chafariz D’El Rei

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Mexico City, Mexico

A couple wander down Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City

A couple wander down Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City

Perhaps the most gay-friendly city in Central America, Mexico City has a well-earned reputation for being a gay hedonist’s capital with clubs, bars and dance floors aimed at every subset of the community. While there is a well-defined gay neighbourhood around Amberes Street in Zona Rosa, there is actually gay life to be discovered all over the city. Several places have women only nights, such as Cabaretito and the aptly-named Kinky Bar, where women enter for free every Thursday.

Mexico City has had an annual pride event since June 1979. Nowadays, it is attended by several hundred thousand people making it the largest event of its kind in Central America. While the attitude of Mexico as a whole towards LGBTQ people is relatively conservative, it’s perfectly acceptable to hold hands or kiss as a same sex couple in most areas of the capital. Trans* people may have a harder time as acceptance is not that high, though the right to legally change gender has existed since 2008.

Stay at: Room Mate Valentina

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Gothenburg, Sweden

A crowd of people gather by the waterside in Gothenburg, one of the best gay friendly destinations

A social summer in Gothenburg

Although gay bars and clubs do exist in Sweden, most Swedish cities do not have many of them purely because LGBTQ people are so well accepted into mainstream society that the need for independent spaces among members of the community is less pronounced. Gothenburg, the country’s second largest city on the North Sea coast is no exception, and visiting as an LGBTQ person, you likely won’t feel out of place anywhere. If you do want a typical gay club experience in Gothenburg though, head to Gretas, the oldest establishment of its kind in the city.

Gothenburg has also been host to West Pride since 2007, a pride event that takes over several of the city’s foremost cultural institutions every June for a weeklong series of events, including shows, talks and queer film screenings. In fact, come in summer to the experience the very best of Sweden’s food, culture and understated classiness.

Stay at: Dorsia Hotel

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Lima, Peru

A solo man stands and ponders existence

A solo man stands and gazes at the famous kiss statue in Miraflores cliffside spot, El Parque del Amor

Though Peru does not have the best record for granting its LGBTQ citizens the same rights and legal protections as the rest of the population, the capital – and one of our favourite budget destinations of 2015 – is nonetheless becoming a hotspot for LGBTQ visitors, with spaces and events run by and aimed at the community. Highlights are OutfestPerú, an LGBTQ film festival and the pride march that both take place every June.

Miraflores, a somewhat affluent and modern area to the south of central Lima, may be viewed as the unofficial gay neighbourhood with multiple gay bars and clubs, of which Vale Todo is no doubt the best known. There are also a couple of saunas for men, but Oupen, with two Finnish saunas, a steam room, private cabins and gym, is the top pick. And don’t leave without visiting El Parque del Amor, a Gaudí inspired cliffside park dedicated to all things L-O-V-E.

Stay at: Miraflores Caesar Hotel Lima

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Munich, Germany

A crowd of people lounge and party in a Munich water fountain during Pride

Summer fun during the Christopher Street Day gay parade in Munich

While Berlin gets all the attention for the best LGBTQ destination in Germany, Munich is hot on its heels as a worthy contender. Munich is the capital of Bavaria, probably one of the most conservative states of Germany, but the city is an oasis of tolerance and progression with a thriving gay and lesbian scene, mostly concentrated along Müllerstrasse in the young, eccentric Glockenbachviertel neighbourhood.

The ever popular Christopher Street Day Parade, held every July since 1980, is of course the main LGBTQ event of the year, with every color of the rainbow represented from the bears, to the leather dykes, to the twinks, queens, trans* and BDSM crowd. However, another noteworthy LGBTQ event in Munich is Gay Sunday of the Oktoberfest, where thousands of gays in gingham and lederhosen pour into a huge tent to drink beer and be merry.

Stay at: Hotel Deutsche Eiche

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Marseille, France

A few fellas lounge on the Plage du Mont Rose gay beach in Marseille

A few fellas lounge on the Plage du Mont Rose gay beach in Marseille

With a very good legal stance towards the rights of LGBTQ people in general, France is undoubtedly a tolerant country, but Paris and Lyon get all the hype about being the very best gay friendly destinations. However, Marseille, grungy, Mediterranean and host city for the 2016 UEFA Euro, deserves some attention too, with a thriving gay scene, and plenty of bars, cafés and clubs for both men and women throughout the city. There are also a couple of men only saunas and even a gay nude beach at Mont Rose.

The New Cancan, the largest gay disco in the city, is a popular venue for partying. Free entry and fun, raucous drag and cabaret shows at weekends, certainly help its popularity. As the country’s second largest city, Marseille of course has a pride parade so chock-full of fun it rivals other European cities’ parades.

Stay at: BnB Les Amis de Marseille

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Sam Wood is an English travel writer residing in Berlin. For more LGBTQ friendly travel info, check out his blog Indefinite Adventure.
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