The 10 Best LGBTQ+ Friendly Cities in the World
With June marking Pride month, we take a look at the most inclusive cities where everyone is welcome.
As an LGBTQ+ traveller, the world is becoming ever more welcoming, with no shortage of great places to explore. If you’re looking to book a trip to celebrate Pride month this June, these top 10 LGBTQ+ friendly cities would be the perfect place to start.
All share a welcoming community, with strict laws to protect the LGBT community and of course, there's a vibrant gay scene and buzzing nightlife, for a holiday with no shortage of things to do. And if you're over the wild party scene, there's still plenty of culture, great food and friendly places to explore.
1. San Francisco, USA
We couldn’t write a list of the best LGBTQ+ friendly cities in the world without mentioning San Francisco. A city as well-known for its gay scene as it is for the Golden Gate Bridge, it has earned the nickname the ‘Gay Mecca,’ thanks to its groundbreaking LGBTQ+ legislation.
One of the US’ first gay neighbourhoods, Castro is the epicentre of the community. With a nightlife that caters to all tastes, you’ll also find the GLBT History Museum, the Pink Triangle Memorial and many commemorating murals. The city’s gayness extends far past Castro, too – some areas are so liberal that it’s even entirely legal to walk around naked!
There’s nothing more quintessentially gay than San Francisco’s Pride festival – the largest PRIDE gathering in the nation – which this year will be held on Sunday, June 25th. Looking for a place to rest your head? Cavallo Point easily tops any list of the best gay-friendly hotels in the city.
If culture is more your thing, check out the Beat Generation museum on Broadway and ride the trams down to the piers, for great food and places to watch the world go by.
"Magical San Francisco is where Amerca's gay community come to live, laugh and love."
2. Madrid, Spain
While Spain itself is one of the friendliest LGBTQ+ friendly countries in the world (same-sex sexual activity was made legal in 1979 and it was the third country to legalise gay marriage in 2005), Madrid is most certainly its' beating heart.
Not only is Pride here the second biggest in the world after San Francisco, attracting more than 1.5 million people each year, its ‘gaybourhood,’ Chueca, prides itself on its tolerance and open-mindedness, complete with plenty of gay bars, restaurants, shops, clubs and businesses. Nightlife here is centred around Plaza de Pedro Zerolo, which hosts local favourites such as Bar Viceversa and La Terraza de Óscar, which sits atop the equally gay-friendly hotel Room Mate Oscar.
Don't miss the fabulous Mercado San Miguel for local delicacies, and pause at the Plaza Mayor for a drink. It's a great place to people-watch.
3. Melbourne, Australia
Sydney was dethroned as Australia’s most LGBTQ+ city just last year and in its place you’ll find Melbourne – Victoria’s state capital which is the country’s cultural hub and home to a friendly, fun gay scene.
The Collingwood ‘bear and leather’ bar opened in 1980 and has remained one of Australia’s longest-running gay-owned and operated venues while, if you’re looking for something a little more low-key, The Prince Public Bar in St Kilda is one of Melbourne’s most popular gay-friendly pubs. While suburbs, St Kilda and Fitzroy have a great selection of gay pubs and bars in general, with the former also home to Australia’s first LGBTQI community hub, the Victorian Pride Centre.
Melbourne has a fantastic mix of big-city things to do, balanced with beachside charm. There's something for everyone.
4. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
As the first country to recognise same-sex marriages in 2001 (it decriminalised homosexuality way back in 1811), The Netherlands is a trailblazer when it comes to LBTQ+ rights. It’s this open attitude to sex and long-standing progressive outlook that makes Amsterdam one of the best gay-friendly cities in the world.
While you’ll feel welcome wherever you go, Amstel, Reguliersdwarsstraat and Kerkstraat are three of the best gay districts in the city. Simply follow the rainbow flags and you’ll be treated to a whole array of LBTQ+ friendly bookshops, coffeeshops, restaurants and bars including Spijker Bar. Considered the oldest and friendliest gay bar in the city, it combines good music with a pool table, pinball machine and cosy fireplace.
Amsterdam is also home to the Homomonument which, built in 1987, commemorates the lives of gay men and women who died in WWII, as well as those who have been and are still persecuted by government regimes. And when you're done exploring gay Amsterdam, there's no shortage of museums, galleries and waterways to enjoy.
5. London, United Kingdom
Liberal, forward-thinking and one of the most diverse cities in the world, it comes as little surprise that London promises big-time thrills for the LBTQ+ community. A place where public displays of affection, walking hand-in-hand and dressing however you want won’t get you so much as a second glance, everywhere from the best bars to wholesome daytime hangouts do their best to ensure everyone feels welcome.
At Hampstead Heath, the men’s and women’s bathing ponds are LBTQ+ destinations in their own right, and the perfect place to get the best view of the London skyline. Then there’s one of London’s best museums, the V&A in South Kensington, where you can take a volunteer-led LGBTQ tour around its collections on the last Saturday of each month (except December). Look out for Kylie Minogue’s ‘Showgirl’ outfits and vases by Grayson Perry.
For gay-friendly nightlife, hot foot it to Soho, the spiritual centre of the city’s gay community. Fun fact: you’ll find more gay bars per square mile than any other area, and there’s something going on every night of the week. The majority are focused around Old Compton Street, including G-A-Y Bar, G-A-Y Late and the world-famous Heaven nightclub, which has launched many a pop star's career.
6. Dublin, Ireland
The first country to legalise same-sex marriage by popular vote back in 2015, Ireland is full to the brim with LGBTQ-friendly establishments, but you’ll find the crème de la crème in Dublin. Highlights include friendly brunch spot Social Fabric Café in Stoneybatter, as well as iconic LGBTQ+ institution The George.
As to be expected, PRIDE is a big deal here, so plan your trip to coincide with Saturday, June 24th and you’ll be in for a whale of a time. If you're a theatre lover, instead opt to visit during the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, which celebrates the contribution of gay people to the theatre, past and present.
7. Toronto, Canada
Bustling with gay nightlife options, a positive public attitude (Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made headlines globally when he led the Toronto Pride march waving a rainbow flag in 2016) and plenty of gay-friendly districts, it’s no surprise Toronto regularly tops the list of the most LGBTQ+ cities in the world.
You’ll be in the heart of the action on Queens Street, which has been a dazzling destination for queer communities for decades. Check out Woody’s and Buddies in Bad Time Theatre, the world’s largest and longest-running queer theatre that was built back in 1912. Toronto is also home to a vivacious drag queen culture, which you’ll stumble across in The Village and the West End, which hosts some of the most revered queens in the city.
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8. Berlin, Germany
Looking for one of the world’s greatest cities? Look no further than Berlin. The world’s first gay and lesbian organisation was founded there in 1897, and it’s been a haven for queer people since the 1920s thanks to its abundance of gay bars, clubs, neighbourhoods, bookshops and more. Don't miss the Schwules Museum while you’re in town – an authentic look into the lived experience of the gay, lesbian and transgender scene, it’s one of the world’s greatest institutions for the research, preservation and communication of the history and culture of the LGBTQ+ communities.
Pride is also huge in Berlin, and this year’s activities will be taking place from June 18 – July 23. If you’re pushed for time, make sure you’re around for Christopher Street Day on June 18, which is Germany’s largest Pride celebration. Base yourself in Schöneberg which, boasting a rainbow social scene that rarely sleeps, is the heart of Berlin’s LGBTIQ community, boasting gay and lesbian bars since the 1920s. And of course, when in Berlin, it's rude to not opt to take in a cabaret and explore the city's underground arts, cinema and music scenes.
9. Copenhagen, Denmark
LBTQ+ life is part of the city’s DNA in Copenhagen, which is home to a loud and proud community. Otherwise known as the LGTBQ+ neighbourhood of Scandinavia, Copenhagen Pride is one of the best there is, marrying everything from rallies and educational events to films, concerts and parties.
Celebrations don’t stop there, however. You can find plenty of queer events at Bøssehuset, catch a show at the Copenhagen Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, or simply make yourself comfy at one of the many gay cafés and bars around the city. There’s even a Copenhagen Winter Pride Week and Pride Christmas too.
10. Tel Aviv, Israel
Home to the largest, and one of the only, Pride celebrations in the Middle East, Tel Aviv has become one of the most progressive cities in the world – which might seem odd seeing as gay marriage isn’t yet legal in Israel. Even so, it’s incredibly LGBTQ-friendly throughout, with the Boston Globe citing the city as having 25% of its population identify as gay.
Top up your tan at Hilton Beach which, known as the city’s gay strip of sand, is one of the nicest and cleanest in Tel Aviv. It’s also captured the niche water sports market, offering everything from windsurfing to kayaking if you fancy getting out on the water. Foodie heaven, thanks to its fresh produce (and the hometown of Yotam Ottolenghi), there's no shortage of spectacular places to eat for every budget. After-hours, head to Shpagat which, known as Tel Aviv’s most popular gay bar, never disappoints with tasty drinks, great vibes and excellent tunes.
If you are feeling inspired to plan a trip, there’s plenty of accommodation on offer at Hotels.com.