It’s 2003 And my boyfriend and I are nervous at a hotel reception in Woodbridge, Suffolk. We can feel the frosty contempt of the fifty-year-old man at the desk when we ask for a double, not a twin room. After check-in, we both become irritable: I’m annoyed at how we’ve been treated, while my partner believes we should “accept” it, that ” It’s exactly that.”
At the time, there was little you could do about such gross prejudice – at least on a day-to-day basis. There may be some relief for gay-owned hotels and B&Bs through listings in Gay Times. But, sadly, travel has long been an issue for LGBTQ+ people, whether in the UK or abroad, where customs, legality and local cultural norms still need to be considered.
In the last decade, of course, there have been positive changes. But we are still not there. A new survey by travel agency Booking.com revealed that 71% of British LGBTQ+ travelers have experienced a less than welcome or uncomfortable experience, and 61% said they consider their own safety and well-being when choosing a vacation destination.
And no matter how generous a country is, there’s always some concern: Even the simple act of holding hands is still something that only non-LGBTQ+ people can do without thinking or the immediate environment. can be aware of.
Thankfully, much of Europe is relatively safe. Leaving aside the obvious queer mecca like London, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam and Brighton, here are 10 places to consider visiting this summer.
The first country in the European Union to ban proselytizing practices, Malta is one of the most LGBTQ-progressive countries in the world. It is one of only five countries to make gay rights equal at the constitutional level and ranks first on ILGA-Europe’s Rainbow Europe Index, which ranks countries on LGBTQ+ equality.
On my last visit, a gay guide showed me around the winding medieval streets of Valletta and Rabat, pointing out essential bars and restaurants from Michelin-starred Noni to Monaliza Lounge Drag Bar as well as nightclub Michelangelo’s in lively Paceville went. Stay near Number 11 (doubles from £121), a stylish “adults-only” boutique hotel. Pride lasts a full week (September 2-11), and EuroPride comes to Valletta from September 7-17 next year, while LGBTQ+ parties follow a bar. s2sevents On Facebook.
In 2015, Ireland became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote. Two years later, Leo Varadkar was elected Taoiseach, becoming the world’s fourth openly gay head of state. That sentiment gets filtered into Dublin’s many LGBTQ-friendly establishments: two personal favorites are the friendly brunch spots Social Fabric Café in Stoneybatter, one of the city’s most interesting neighborhoods, and Street 66 Bar, from a night at the iconic LGBTQ+ institution. First a useful cocktail spot. George.
Also southbound is the gay-owned Gutter Bookshop (named after the famous Oscar Wilde quote), and the weekly “Big Gay Disco” at Farrier & Draper; Or cross the river for the outhouse LGBTQ+ Romantic Resource Cafe on Capel Street and Pentybar, owned by drag queen, activist and performer Penty Bliss. Dublin Pride runs from 22-28 June, with the main parade on 25 June – stop at the centrally located Temple Bar Inn (doubles from £159).
As with other Scandi cities such as Stockholm and Oslo, the high level of LGBTQ+ integration means that the Danish capital has a smaller commercial scene. Enjoy brunch at Oscar Bar & Café before a beer at Centralhornet, Europe’s oldest gay bar, which hosts drag and Sunday jazz sessions throughout the year.
Other venues include Bassehuset in Christiania, home to theatre, performances, exhibitions and parties – a well-located boutique hotel in the Latin Quarter at SP34 (doubles from £133). Copenhagen Pride runs from August 15-21, while the Mix Copenhagen LGBTQ Film Festival, which began in 1986, runs from October 21-30. No wonder locals say Copenhagen is “the LGBTQ+ neighborhood of Scandinavia.”
While Edinburgh has long been a safe option for LGBTQ+ visitors, I prefer Glasgow’s steep streets, diverse neighborhoods and innovative food scene (head to Lobo in queer-friendly Strathbango for delicious small plates). The city’s oldest gay bar, The Waterloo, dates back half a century, while another classic spot is the Underground Bar, which is equally fun for drag or karaoke. Nearby Delmonica (known locally as “Dell”), has been in the “gay triangle” of Merchant City since 1991.
For a closer stay, try the good-value Brunswick Hotel (doubles from £50), a street with spots marked by rainbow flags. Another must-see is the “extremely free” LGBTQ+ bookstore category of books: it’s super friendly and delightfully busy. Pride Glasgow is this Saturday, June 25.
Italy still has a way of recognizing LGBTQ+ residents in law: while same-sex relationships and civil union are legal, marriage currently is not. But, unlike many Italian cities, it is common to see same-sex couples holding hands or kissing in the fashion capital of Milan. Head to Porta Venezia around Via Lecco for its queer hub- and bar-restaurant Lecomilano, Bar Basso (try its signature Negroni subgliato), or relaxed cafe-bar Blanco.
The warehouse for a big night out is Club Magazini, oddly named Toilet or Club Plastic: Started in 1980, the club has been the haunt of Madonna, Freddie Mercury, and Elton John. Meanwhile, the Get Party is a monthly queued event with light shows, theatrical sets, dancers and performers. Pride is now leading up to the July 2 parade, which attracts about 100,000 people. Stay at the sweetly named Too Cute 2b Str8 (doubles from £67), a comfy adults-only B&B.
The rainbow flag seemed to be everywhere on my last trip to Birmingham, and the historic Gay Village, with its bars, shops, and cafes, is largely centered on Hearst Street. Start with bibimbap at well-meaning Korean restaurant Topokie, before a drink at Missing, Sidewalk, or lesbian bar The Fox and dancing at the legendary Nightingale Club, the city’s oldest gay club dating back to 1969.
This summer’s hottest LGBTQ+ event is Fierce’s Healing Gardens of Bab (June 27 – July 17): Part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival, it’s an artistic response to this summer’s Commonwealth Games, “What the British Empire Tried (and Failed) ) to stamp”. , There will be artworks, performances, drag and creative club nights with participants from South Africa, Ghana, Canada, India and Australia. Meanwhile, Birmingham Pride takes place on 24 and 25 September. Try Aparthotel Staying Cool (doubles from £99) for a central pad with breathtaking city views.
Most of the Mediterranean islands, as we’ve seen with Malta, are a safe haven for LGBTQ+ travelers from dreamy Ibiza to Gran Canaria. Greece is forward-thinking about its LGBTQ+ rights: male and female same-sex sexual activity has been legal in Greece for more than 70 years. Mykonos’s representative as a queer paradise dates back to the 1970s, when Jackie Onassis became a regular visitor (he first visited in 1961), before blossoming into a gay resort in the 1980s, with a largely male clientele. With accommodation for.
In 2022, you can hang out at established hotspots Jackie O’s, Bar Porta or Castro, and stay at Super Paradise (doubles from £249), easy access to the island’s main LGBTQ+ beach. The big gay dance festival of the season is XLSIOR, attended by nearly 30,000 people (August 17-24)
For many gay men of a certain age, Finland is inextricably linked with the iconic leather-clad hero Tom of Finland, whose books depict a rigid sexual masculinity during a time before 1971 when homosexuality was still illegal. . Now you can tour the place where author Touco Laksonen spent his entire adult life, walking past the Consallistori (People’s Square) in front of Parliament, once a secret meeting point for gay men.
LGBTQ+ karaoke fans should check out Manassas Street, a drinking establishment; Other fun places are Street Pride in the Kampi District, and Quaristo, a joint for queer women, transgender, and non-binary people. You can also join the Helsinki Homoinvasio (Helsinki Gay Invasion), which aims to “shake up the gay scene” by taking on random straight bars. Meanwhile, Helsinki Pride takes place on 27 June–3 July, regularly attracting 100,000. Stay at Hotel Klaus K (rooms from £80) with LGBTQ-friendly design.
Like Malta and Denmark, Belgium scores highly in the protection of its LGBTQ+ rights. Amazingly, same-sex sexual activity was legalized in 1795, while it was the second country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage in 2003. With Brussels its queer capital, the industrial city of Antwerp, is renowned as a fashion hub. , is equally inclusive.
Kartonen Dozen, in the Zurenborg district, is the only LGBTQ+ bookstore in Flanders, while the popular “safe haven” Heisenhuis Café, which opened back in 1993, is housed in a nearly 500-year-old building. Late night owls should head to the Cargo Club or Fetish Club The Boots, while Antwerp Pride runs from August 10-15. Stay at Boulevard Leopold (doubles from £108) in the Jewish Quarter, whose original LGBTQ+ owners spent nine months converting a three-story 1890 Flemish townhouse into an elegant Deco palace.
The facts are dazzling: The Spanish capital with a 500,000-strong queer population (according to City Hall) is Spain’s most queer-friendly city – despite Barcelona and Sitges enjoying a high profile among many LGBTQ+ holidaymakers. Meanwhile, Madrid Pride (July 1–10) is the second largest in the world (after San Francisco) and by far the largest in Europe, attracting more than 1.5 million people each year, including 300,000 foreign visitors. Are included.
Spain itself is one of the most LGBTQ-friendly countries in the world: same-sex sexual activity was legalized in 1979, and it was the third country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2005. The first stop should be Chueca, Madrid’s “Gebourhood”. “With bars and venues dotted around Plaza de Chueca (also don’t miss the recently refurbished Mercado San Anton for the delicious food stalls and rooftop terrace). Watch the drag, or lounge at the long-standing cozy LL Bar -Sip cocktails at Bar Lakama; stay at the “heterofriendly” adults-only Axel Hotel (doubles from £65) in the Barrio de las Letras.