15 Incredibly Cool LGBTQ+ Friendly Destinations Around the World
Book a trip to these certifiably out-and-proud vacation spots for your next queer adventure.
From politically questionable multinational corporations cranking out the rainbow merch to the cheap tokenization of queer characters in popular media, folks who fall within the LGBTQ+ spectrum are no stranger to wishy-washy marketing campaigns. And that goes double during Pride Month, when it feels like everyone and their second cousin comes out of the woodwork to let their heavily branded freak flag fly… for 30 whole days.
Don’t get it twisted—we’ll be the first to acknowledge that every ounce of representation and support matters in the ongoing fight against discrimination, injustice, bigotry, and repression. But this month, in all its technicolor glory, is the perfect time to peer beyond the glittery facade and truly question where we’re spending all our hard-earned queer cash.
Enter this list of bonafide LGBTQ+ friendly international travel destinations. Whether traveling with your gaggle or your partner, worrying about a country’s reception of your identity can cast a pall before you even get there. Is holding hands at the public market kosher? Could a house rental host kick you out if they discover you’re LGBTQ+? Does the government offer protections for queer people? Where does a gay person find a decent party in this town, anyway?
Not only are these 15 cities ready to welcome you and yours with open arms, they’re doing the same for their own populations, fostering inclusive environments and passing laws that protect and affirm LGBTQ+ residents. Whether you’re in town for a week or plan to stick around for good, here are 15 international locales tailor-made for living your best out-and-proud life.
There’s not one single gay bar on the island of Saba (that we know of) but LGBTQ+ visitors have taken note of the island’s overtly welcoming spirit. The government backs up that sentiment, scoring a whopping 98/100 on Equaldex’s Equality index thanks to laws ensuring the right to marry, prohibiting censorship, and barring discrimination across the board. Known as “The Unspoiled Queen,” an honorific found on the island’s license plates (a killer souvenir, by the way), Saba is perhaps the most progressive island in the Caribbean.
A quick 12-minute flight or 1.5-hour ferry ride from sister island St. Maarten, this jewel of the Netherlands Antilles is known for its peacefulness and out-of-this-world scuba diving. The island even has tour operators that market directly to the LGBTQ+ diving community, including Undersea Expeditions. Book your stay at Queens Gardens Resort & Spa, a luxurious hotel known for openly embracing queer travelers. There are just 12 suites, perched 1,200 feet above the sea and providing phenomenal views of the water as well as the rainforest below. —David Duran
One of South America’s premiere liberal metropolises, Buenos Aires was the first city to legalize same-sex marriage in Latin America back in 2010. Since then, the city has prided itself on being tremendously LGBTQ+ friendly—from comprehensive protections and rights for trans folks to high societal acceptance (76%) toward queerness, according to a 2019 Pew Center Study. Dubbed Latin America’s Gay Capital, the city celebrates Pride in a big way, attracting hundreds of thousands of international revelers year over year.
Neighborhoods worth exploring include queer enclave Barrio Norte, upscale Palermo, and historic San Telmo; it’s a veritable choose-your-own-adventure, whether you’re seeking out a party scene or something more low-key. Make sure to check out the Faena Hotel, arguably the city’s trendiest hotel, located in the Puerto Madero neighborhood. Inside you’ll find Rojo Tango, an intimate candlelit dinner experience accompanied by a sexually charged tango show that blurs traditional gender lines. You’ll also want to visit local flower shop Floreria Atlantico, which hides a gin-fueled speakeasy that’s routinely recognized as one of the World’s 50 Best Bars (try the Fried Frog Legs and thank me later). —David Duran
In a historic first, Taiwan’s parliament voted to legalize same-sex marriage on May 17, 2019, making it the first country in Asia to gain marriage equality. Prior to this historic legislation, Taipei was typically under the radar for many LGBTQ+ travelers even though the city sports a thriving queer scene and rapidly growing social and governmental acceptance, with bans on conversion therapy, LGBTQ+ workplace discrimination, and censorship on the books for the last decade.
Taipei is home to Asia’s largest annual Pride celebration, which takes place in October, alongside vibrant nightlife and relatively progressive politics that include protections for Taipei’s LGBTQ+ residents. The W Taipei is known as the city’s gay hub, mostly because of their Insiders Program, a sort of concierge service that helps guests keep a finger on the pulse of the city’s social calendar, LGBTQ+ events included.
Make sure to visit 228 Peace Memorial Park, located in front of the Presidential Palace. Once a well-known cruising spot, the Taiwanese version of the Stonewall Riots took place nearby in 1997. Since then, the park has become an iconic gay destination. —David Duran
In Catholic-majority Mexico, the capital city’s 2009 legalization of marriage equality came as a shock, but it inspired a growing acceptance of LGBTQ+ people throughout the country. And unlike other expensive urban getaways, Mexico City doesn’t come with a hefty price tag—it’s possible to find one dollar beers and meals for around $5. That being said, you should absolutely splurge on Pujol, one of Mexico’s best restaurants, which offers a six-course tasting menu.
In the Zona Rosa neighborhood, you’ll find a high concentration of queer-friendly bars, discos, and clubs, while LGBTQ+ friendly lodging pops up around town (check out Hotel Catedral, Hotel Maria Christina, or the sleek, modern Wild Oscar). Among the city’s 16 boroughs, don’t miss the bustling La Condesa neighborhood, which serves as a perfect home base for exploring the city, and Coyoacán, home to Frida Kahlo’s legendary Blue House. It’s become a trendy ‘hood with a hefty gay population. But the epicenter of queer life in the city is Zona Rosa, which was named after the hue of the pink pavers, although locals tend to joke that it’s named after the gay bars that dot the streets. —David Duran
As a US territory, Puerto Rico has the same LGBTQ+ rights and protections as the rest of the country. In 2018, PR’s trans population could securely change their birth certificates to reflect their gender identity. And in early 2019, the island territory went further than other states and banned conversion therapy by executive order, thereby further protecting its LGBTQ+ residents. Since the early 1990s, San Juan has hosted annual gay pride marches in the city’s Condado neighborhood, and as the community has grown (and the territory has become more progressive), there’s now also a second march each summer in Boquerón.
San Juan’s Condado and Santurce neighborhoods have long been the meeting point for LGBTQ+ Puerto Ricans and visitors, with a number of bars and clubs serving the community. Gay nightclubs like Toxic and SX The Club are always hopping, while queer-friendly hangouts like Oasis Tapas & Lounge, Tía María's Liquor Store, and La Sombrilla Rosa bring the chill vibes. And every Sunday (after brunch, of course), LGBTQ+ Puerto Ricans from around the island converge on Atlantic Beach in Condado for impromptu beach parties. —Adam Groffman
A widely recognized LGBTQ+ hotspot dating back to the 1920s Weimar-era cabaret scene, today’s German capital is one of Europe’s—and perhaps the world’s—most accepting cities. The historic gayborhood around Nollendorfplatz has long been home to many LGBTQ+ activists and creatives. Magnus Hirschfeld, an early sexologist, established his Institute of Sexual Research here, advocating for sexual minorities before the rise of Nazism. Monuments to the LGBTQ+ rights movement and other oppressed persons stand throughout the city, including the iconic Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism.
Berlin attracts hoards of LGBTQ+ tourists thanks to its incredible nightlife scene, which includes drag artists new and established (don’t miss the House of Presents), legendary queer techno clubs, and a racy lineup of sex clubs, parties, and events such as Folsom Europe and the annual Porn Film Festival. Shyness is hard to come by around these parts, in the best way possible. —Adam Groffman
It’s a place where queer tango dancing creates stimulating tension, where friend groups pass around and sip from the same metal mate straws, and where liberal rights have been around for decades—and no, we’re not talking about Argentina. Somehow, Uruguay always manages to sneak under the radar, but the country and its capital city have long been quietly open-minded and accepting of all. Here, relations between same sex couples have been officially legal since 1934, while anti-discrimination laws were passed in 2003 and marriage equality laws in 2013, predating those in the US.
Equaldex gives Uruguay a rare 100/100 for LGBTQ+ rights. Booking shared hotel rooms as a couple raises no eyebrows, and PDA on the streets is totally cool. Montevideo Pride has been getting bigger and bigger every October since the ‘90s, but you can also scope out the more speedo-clad Punta Pride celebrations each February in nearby Punta del Este, which is a little less political and a bit more party-focused.
In Montevideo, there’s not really a “gay neighborhood,” since the whole city is an LGBTQ+ haven. Start your night at Bar Rodó before heading to Il Tempo for drag shows that turn into all-out dance parties. So pass the mate, pass the legal cannabis, and pass pro-LGBTQ laws—just kidding, Uruguay’s passed them all already. —Danielle Hallock
The first country in the world to pass same-sex marriage by popular vote in 2015, Ireland’s cheerful capital city has been a magnet for queer creatives for centuries. Iconic playwright Oscar Wilde hailed from here, living on in whimsical statue form inside Merrion Park. A nod to the cheeky writer’s legacy, Dublin also hosts the annual International Gay Theatre Festival each spring. A host of out-and-proud athletes like Leinster rugby player Jack Dunne and footballers Katie McCabe and Ruesha Littlejohn play for the country’s fiercely beloved national teams, while organizations like Sporting Pride work to ensure increased acceptance for generations to come.
A handful of upbeat LGBTQ+ bars and clubs—PantiBar, Street 66, The George, and newcomer Pennylane are always a good time—keep the party going well into the night, but you’ll find that the average neighborhood pub is largely welcoming to all walks of life, bursting with warm banter and perfectly poured pints of Guinness. June’s Pride Fest is rife with show-stopping drag performances, street demonstrations, and dance parties, plus appearances from leading officials like the first openly gay Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar. —Meredith Heil
What is there to say about Mykonos? The unabashedly party-hearty Greek island is a queer club kid’s dream, pairing breathtaking architecture and pristine beaches with an infectious free spirit and an endlessly thumping nightlife scene. Ritzy vacationers peruse the designer shops during the day, stopping to sip wine in one of the many LGBTQ+ friendly cafes lining the cobblestone streets. It’s basically paradise, set to a driving Italo Disco beat.
Same-sex marriage hasn’t yet passed muster here, but Civil Unions have been the law of the land since 2015, and bans on censorship, discrimination, and conversion therapy foster a strikingly supportive social and legislative atmosphere in the face of the Orthodox Church’s pervasive power. See for yourself at the XLSIOR Mykonos International Summer Gay Festival, held every August. The annual event attracts thousands with a roster of non-stop parties, meetups, international DJs, and live performances.
Gay beaches are a year-round affair here, with popular shorelines like Super Paradise and nude-friendly Elia and Agrari Beaches topping the loungey list. Little Venice is the gayborhood of note, an outcropping of oh-so-charming 18th century fishermen’s houses that have been transformed into shops and restaurants. As for where to hang your hat after all that fun in the sun, look no further than Elysium Hotel, a sexy and super queer hotel complete with sweeping views. —Meredith Heil
There’s something about the Mediterranean temperatures and city-on-a-beach feel that makes us want to take our shirts off in Barcelona—us, and everyone else. A known party city, Barcelona not only has a massive amount of LGBTQ+ bars and clubs, it also has an enormous Pride celebration. At the heart of that celebration is Eixample, a neighborhood so queer-friendly the locals simply refer to it as “Gay-xample.” Here you can hop from Gingin to La Chapelle to Arena Madre to many more all in one night, starting around 2 am and ending around 8 or 9 am when you emerge into the blinding sun and truly understand how seriously the Spanish take their nightlife.
One of the best parts about Eixample is its location. This is no outer borough neighborhood where a marginalized community formed in secret until they made it the place to be—it’s smack dab in the middle of the city. It’s always been a loudly and proudly beautiful part of Barcelona, with gorgeous stone facades on ornate buildings, Gaudi modernist architecture everywhere, and avenues of shopping and hotels.
Spain ranks high among Europe’s more LGBTQ+ friendly countries, garnering an 84/100 Equality Index Score via Equaldex thanks to marriage equality, legalized gay adoption and gender confirmation, and bans on discrimination and censorship. It also ranked third among 27 countries surveyed when it comes to supportive views on same-sex marriage, with 84% of the population all for it. The prominent location of Gay-xample—right next to the old Gothic Quarter—says a lot about the mentality of the people here: LGBTQ+ culture is front and center. And when you realize the famous La Sagrada Familia church lies within the same hood, the cathedral’s quirky design will only reiterate how this city has always embraced tradition in a modern way. —Danielle Hallock
August in Reykjavik means up to 22 hours of sun. And what do you do with all that daylight? You party. Launched in 1999 as a one-day parade, Pride in the northernmost capital now lasts six to 10 days and attracts 100,000 visitors to the city (for context, Iceland’s total population is only 338,349). It’s a fitting tribute to their progressive politics: In Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir, they’ve already had a lesbian Prime Minister (and the world’s first openly queer leader of a modern-day nation), so being out and proud is basically a non-issue.
Since 2006, Iceland’s LGBTQ+ community has been legally able to adopt and gain access to IVF, same-sex marriage was legalized in 2010, and a 2019 bill gave trans people access to necessary medical care as well as the ability change their name and gender on the National Registry without a medical diagnosis. And if you’re looking for a photo-op, there’s plenty of rainbow crossings showing the country’s commitment to diversity.
Rainbow Reykjavik, an additional winter Pride festival typically held in March, includes a tour of the Northern Lights if the skies accommodate. With September comes the Reykjavik Bear extravaganza, with group trips to the Blue Lagoon and the otherworldly landscapes of the Golden Circle. Check out what’s happening in town by scoping out the impressively comprehensive GayIceland Guide, hit up the dance floor at Kiki Queer Bar and the surrounding gayborhood (you can’t miss the rainbow-strewn exterior), book a tour—or even a wedding—with Pink Iceland, then wind down at lesbian-owned bookstore and coffee shop IDA Zimsen, parked next to the Reykjavik Art Museum. Because gay, straight, or somewhere in between, we all deserve a little R and R. —Vanita Salisbury
Another no-brainer, Amsterdam is basically synonymous with what Boomers might call “alternative lifestyles.” Widespread public acceptance is the norm around here, with a pioneering legislature to match. The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage back in 2001, following up that move with anti-discrimination and censorship laws and accompodations for trans folks looking to change their gender on official documents.
LGBTQ+ Pride takes over the city’s winding network of canals for a full week in early August, transforming the picturesque waterways into a raucous floating celebration of all things queer. Gay nightlife hubs like Spijker Bar, Cafe Reality, Club NYX, YOLO, and the Church Club are at your service year-round, catering to just about every demographic and fetish you can imagine (and some you probably can’t), while laid-back joints like lesbian haunts Bar Buka and Saarein, the mixed-crowd Queen's Head, and cocktail-powered Prik round things out.
Feeling overwhelmed with all the joyously queer options? Pay a visit to the Pink Point, Amsterdam's official LGBTQ+ information kiosk stashed beside the Homomonument, a moving canal-side tribute commemorating all those who’ve been persecuted for their sexuality and gender expression. —Meredith Heil
For an island country roughly the size of Colorado, New Zealand packs a pretty hefty punch. Not only is it aesthetically unbelievable—as evidenced by the numerous otherworldly films shot throughout its lush forests, black sand beaches, and rolling sand dunes—it’s also a beacon of liberal politics, LGBTQ+ rights included. A bevy of anti-discrimination laws paved the way for 2012’s game-changing act recognizing non-binary as a legal gender and 2013’s subsequent marriage equality legislation. Capital city Auckland is a shining example of this progressive mindset, with its vibrant local culture and awesome, queer-friendly bar and restaurant scene.
Karangahape Road—aka K’ Road—is your one-stop-shop for LGBTQ+ life here. Kick off the night at Eagle Bar, which draws a laid-back, mixed crowd, before hopping your way down K’ Road’s main strip (can’t-miss stops include Family Bar, G.A.Y Auckland, and Caluzzi Cabaret). Auckland Pride’s official festivities go down on nearby Ponsonby Road each February (silly Southern Hemisphere), but you’ll find plenty of queer programming popping up in almost every corner of the city throughout the year, from talks and art openings to drag shows, live performances, and dance parties. —Meredith Heil
Maybe it’s the mountain air, the energetic—okay, chaotic—streets, or the proliferation of living heritage sites reminding you of your (tiny) place in the world’s timeline, but Kathmandu can’t help but to induce a real sense of chill. Nepal’s largest city, they’ve kept it together even in the face of extreme adversity, like the massive 2015 earthquake which turned treasured historical buildings to rubble. Or, in the case of the queer community, the long-lasting absolute monarchy.
After the Kingdom was abolished in 2007, homosexuality was finally legalized, and now Nepal is one of the most progressive countries in Asia when it comes to LGBTQI+ rights (the preferred acronym here, with I representing the legally recognized Intersex community). Its 2015 constitution grants citizenship in alignment with gender identity and introduced anti-discrimination protection laws. And while it may not seem like much—they undoubtedly still have a ways to go—these efforts speak volumes in this largely conservative part of the world.
Most visitors to Nepal are making a pit stop on their way to Himalayan mountain adventures, and for them, there’s LGBTQ+ friendly tour operators like Out Adventures, Brand G, and Encounters Nepal. But stick around a while to enjoy the nightlife in the touristy Thamel neighborhood. Opened in 2015 by a trans Nepalese model, PINK Tiffany goes from daytime restaurant to queer hangout come nightfall, while Fridays light up the popular Fire Club, especially if Britney’s your vibe.
Time your visit to coincide with one of the many festivals, like late summer’s Indra Jātrā and Kumāri Jātrā. Spanning eight days, the events include the procession of the Kumari, a Newari child (the original inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley) anointed until puberty as a Living Goddess. Catch a glimpse of her and it’s said you’ll bask in good fortune. —Vanita Salisbury
London might have flashy nightlife, bougie hotels, and renowned shopping, but the UK’s second-largest city has the queers on lock, boasting the country’s largest pride parade. Why else would they have filmed the original Queer As Folk television series here along its fabled post-industrial streets back in the late ‘90s?
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not all football, all the time in Manchester (though there’s plenty of that, of course). England as a whole scores a respectable 82/100 on the Equality Index, with the 2013 same-sex marriage act setting the tone for eventual marriage equality throughout the UK. Anti-discrimination laws have also been in effect for over a decade, and Manchester’s strong labor union ties has helped historically position it on the more progressive end of the political spectrum. As long as you’re cool with a little rain, you’ll find this northern escape as welcoming and stimulating as they come.
As mentioned, the annual Manchester Pride celebration is an unbeatable experience, and it's buttressed by other LGBTQ+ events like the Sparkle Festival, Queer Contact Arts Festival, and Drag Fest UK throughout the year. The Gay Village, centered around Canal Street, is an obvious home base for queer visitors, with its cluster of LGBTQ-owned and -operated bars, clubs, restaurants, and small businesses.
Richmond Tea Rooms provides a quintessential British experience complete with fine China, while G-A-Y serves up the youthful club vibes, Vanilla caters to the thriving lesbian population, and The Rembrandt, the Goose, and Churchills continue to hold court as the city’s OG queer gathering places. Speaking of OG, consider booking a gay heritage tour with Manchester Guided Tours. They’ll take you past all the queer sights, including the monument-heavy Sackville Gardens where tributes to Alan Turing, Trans Remembrance, and those affected by the AIDS pandemic stand tall. —Meredith Heil