Whether you’re a gay bachelor, a lesbian couple or raising your children to be gender-neutral, where you travel to matters. Picking the wrong destination could create problems ranging from hotel clerks denying you a room after a long flight to outright hostility and violence in the streets. Thankfully, many European destinations welcome the LGBT community with open arms. Here are five of the best destinations for LGBT travel.
Spain ties with only one other country as the best place in the world for gay people to live and visit. According to a Gallup Poll, 87% of Spanish citizens accept the LGBT community and believe others should too. This makes Spain one of the top countries for LGBT vacations in the world. The three cities most commonly recommended by travel experts and the gay community are Sitges, Ibiza and Barcelona.
Like most popular destinations in Spain, Sitges is well-known for its beautiful beaches, rich architecture and active nightlife. The regional food and wine are also highly recommended by foodie travelers, particularly Malvasia wine. If you’re a big movie buff, try visiting in October when the city hosts the Sitges Film Festival.
For bachelors and couples who much prefer the nightlife, Ibiza is the place to be. In the summer especially, world-renowned DJs flock to the island to put on some of the most highly anticipated dubstep, trap, trance and EDM performances. Even so, it also maintains a family-friendly vibe with yoga retreats, quiet villages, white sand beaches and delicious foods.
The most family-friendly of the three hotspots is Barcelona. This cosmopolitan area is most well-known for its architecture and art. If you enjoy beautiful buildings, rich history, unique artwork and plenty of relaxation, this is your best bet.
Because Spain is so LGBT-friendly, there are no special precautionary measures based on sexual orientation or gender. The general advice offered by travel experts when it comes to Spain is to stick to well-populated areas and to keep an eye on your wallet.
Also known as Holland, this is the country tied with Spain as the best place for the LGBT community to spend either a few days or the rest of their lives. The top city in Holland that most people recommend for gay travelers is Amsterdam, nicknamed the Queen of Gay Cities by some.
Amsterdam is a family-friendly location and is also ideal for couples or solo travelers seeking a quiet escape from their busy lives. There are plenty of outdoor opportunities if you visit in the warmer months, such as biking, canal cruises and street tours. In the colder months, you may choose to spend more time tasting wine and cheese, visiting museums and checking out the artwork. Some workshops even provide art classes so you could pick up some skills of your own before heading home.
If going clubbing still ranks high on your to-do list, note that Amsterdam does have an active nightlife. From big music festivals to small bars and lively clubs, there are plenty of options to choose from. Techno, dubstep, trance and EDM are most popular here, but so is funk and hip hop.
In 2000, the Netherlands became the first county to legalize gay marriage. Since then, it has developed a strong history of offering protections for the LGBT community. Not surprisingly, NBC News refers to it as the most gay-friendly country in the world. It is also one of the safest countries to live in overall, but watch out for petty thieves and beware of the Red Light District after dark.
When it comes to gay-friendly destinations, Ireland may not immediately come to mind. Still, the Irish might surprise you. In 2015, Ireland became the first country in the world to use popular vote to legalize same-sex marriage. Popular, however, does not mean all, so if the occasional odd look or snide remark may rub you the wrong way, stick to Dublin and Cork.
Dublin has a lively LGBT community and an active nightlife. One of the most famous bars attracting crowds from around the world since the 1300s is the Temple Bar. Church is also a must-visit, but not for religious reasons. It is a restored church building turned into a bar. For those who prefer daytime activities, visit the Guinness factory, tour the Jameson Distillery, participate in Game of Thrones tours or seek out the Spire of Dublin for great photo ops.
For a slower-paced vacation with a bit less alcohol involved, try Cork. Here, you can tour castles, visit museums, find peace at religious sites or take a boat tour. Blarney Castle is arguably the top reason people visit Cork. Other popular attractions include the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula.
Contrary to stereotypes made popular by the media, the Irish tend to be an easygoing set. Violence against the LGBT community is not impossible but is unlikely. However, it is important to note that the Irish generally frown upon public displays of affection for couples of any orientation, so keep this in mind when traveling as a couple.
France does not rank among the top gay friendly countries, but Paris is considered one of the world’s most gay-friendly cities anyway. Following close behind is Nice, which the Travel Channel says is the second-most popular French city for LGBT vacations.
Couples have been flocking to Paris for romantic getaways for centuries. While it does have an active night scene, most people visit Paris for fashion, food and the culture. Subsequently, Paris is most well-known for its wine, cheese, coffee, pastries and runways. Travelers soak up the culture and art through street tours, cruises along the canal and visiting the museums. The main attraction is the Eiffel Tower.
If your idea of a good time involves more time at the beach, then Nice is a better option for you. Coco Beach is Nice’s gay beach. There is also a gay-friendly beach known as Castel Plage. The water in Nice is beautiful and clear enough for diving and snorkeling trips. If you love waterfalls and panoramic views, then be sure to visit Parc de la Colline du Château. You should also consider a sightseeing cruise or food and wine tours. Finally, Nice is a great spot for clubbing and bar crawling.
Not everyone in Paris or Nice supports LGBT rights. For instance, there have been some attacks against LGBT people on public transportation in Paris. Generally speaking, however, people in Paris and Nice do not support violence against the LGBT community. Exercise the same level of caution you would at home, and as is the case with all big cities, watch out for petty thieves.
When most people think of Italy, Rome comes to mind. Even so, for LGBT travel, you should consider the Amalfi Coast. This is not to say that Rome, Milan or other cities are not worth visiting as well. Amalfi Coast just gains consistent recommendations from travel enthusiasts and experts alike as the ultimate Italian destination for the LGBT crowd.
Unlike many of the other LGBT-friendly destinations, Amalfi is not known for having a lively nightlife. There are a few bars, but this is a better spot for a quiet, relaxing or romantic getaway. Family life is a big part of the local culture and many reputable sources, including National Geographic, say LGBT families are just as revered as all others.
From terraced vineyards to colorful fishing villages and many small beaches, there is a lot to see and do. Take tours along the coast, enjoy the beaches and sample all the delicious foods. If you do feel the urge to try out the nightlife, travel to Capri Island, which was once a party mecca in Italy. Number One comes highly recommended by most nightclub connoisseurs visiting the island.
Amalfi is considered a safe travel destination by any standard. This is true even for women who travel alone and for families with small children. Amalfi does have the same potential problem with pickpockets as other destinations so far. You are most at risk for this during peak season, so exercise more caution at this time.
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There are many countries in the world where homophobia and strict religious teachings make it a dangerous place for LGBT couples and families to visit. While this does limit your options somewhat, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a wealth of gay-friendly destinations to choose from. Gift a friend skyhours today or ask for some for yourself. You can use these flight time to fly anywhere in the world on more than 300 different airlines.