9 most gay-friendly countries in Europe

Europe is a sought after destination by many travelers. It’s also a place where those of us in the LGBTQ + community have plenty of choices to safely explore.

When researching places to travel, many people in the LGBTQ + community look for sources to explore their options for safe, welcoming and interesting destinations. One source providing excellent information is the IGLTA website, the world’s leading network of LGBTQ + hospitality businesses. They worked with Pride of the destination develop a database this makes it easy to see how countries rank for LGBTQ + travelers based on thousands of data points that include marriage equality laws, LGBTQ + laws, census data, and social media sentiment in time real.

When searching the database, users may find it surprising that many European countries and cities rank higher than many states and cities in the United States.

“There is a misconception that LGBTQ + travel is one-size-fits-all, but in fact our travel community has the full range of interests, from culture, nature and food to history, great architecture and nightlife – the same as any other traveler, “said IGLTA CEO John Tanzella.” What unites us is the desire to find destinations that complement our interests and feel safe and welcoming, which is why Europe has so much to offer LGBTQ + travelers – it has all the culture, sights and natural beauty combined with some of the most established and extensive LGBTQ + rights in the world. “

Armed with this important data, those of us in the LGBTQ + community can safely choose places to explore in Europe and around the world.

With all of that in mind, here are some of the most gay-friendly countries in Europe where LGBTQ + travelers can enjoy a safe visit.

Sue Reddel and Diana Laskaris

1. Portugal

We have to put our adopted country at the top of the list. Portugal was one of the first European countries to approve same-sex marriage in 2010, and Portugal’s constitution prohibits discrimination against LGBTQ people. The 2019 Eurobarometer According to a public opinion poll, 74 percent of Portuguese support same-sex marriage.

The two largest cities, Lisbon and Porto, have a sizable LGBTQ + community. For gay-friendly neighborhoods, consult the Real principle and the neighborhoods of Barrio Alto in Lisbon. Lisbon also has a very popular and busy Gay pride Festival and parade and the international Queer Lisbon Gay and lesbian film festival every year as well.

Portugal, the oldest nation-state on the Iberian Peninsula, is a country rich in culture and history. Its people are friendly and welcoming, and it has 1,100 miles of coastline, magnificent views, fine wine, and abundant seafood.

Belgian waffles.
Sue Reddel and Diana Laskaris

2. Belgium

Belgium was the second European country to legalize same-sex marriage and the second to decriminalize same-sex relationships since 1795. They were also the first European country to transmit transgender people and anti-discrimination laws.

Events like Belgian pride Brussels and the Unicorn Festival at Antwerp are fun reasons to visit this land of tasty chocolate, mussels and beer. The bustling city of Brussels offers plenty of nightlife and restaurants to enjoy.

Alcala Gate in Madrid.
Javitouh / Shutterstock.com

3. Spain

Spain is at the top of many must-see tours lists, and we need to include it in this list as well. The Spaniards are friendly, open-minded and incredibly welcoming. Spain legalized homosexuality in 1979 and same-sex marriage in 2005, becoming the third nation in Europe to do so.

Night owls will want to check “Movida” which occurs between midnight and four in the morning in most major Spanish cities. This is when the party really starts, especially Thursday through Saturday.

In Madrid, the gay scene is bustling with the Chueca zone, and MADO, the celebration of the pride of Madrid, is one of the largest in Europe. Barcelona has the Gaixample, a hotspot for the LBGT + community. Ibiza, Valencia, Sitges and Benidorm have also gay-friendly areas too.

Spain offers superb beaches, art museums, magnificent spanish food, and much more.

Tourists in Nice, France.
LoAnn Holden, IGLTA

4. France

It is not surprising that France has long supported same-sex relationships. Homosexuality was legalized in 1791. In 2013, Gay marriage was legalized and LGBT people were allowed to openly serve in the French armed forces.

Check Swamp arrondissement for its popular gay scene. There are many wonderful and welcoming LGBTQ + restaurants, bars and cafes to meet tourists and locals.

Make sure to visit other welcoming cities outside of Paris like Toulouse, Marseilles, Lyonnais, Montpellier and Nice too. Big and lively pride celebrations take place every year in Paris, Lyon and Marseille.

5. Italy

Many people have traveled to Italy high on their wishlist. The art, culture, architecture, design, and delicious food also make it appealing to LGBTQ + travelers.

LGBTQ + rights in Italy have made some breakthroughs. A civil union law was passed in 2016 which grants many of the same rights as marriage.

The “Gay Street”In Rome may be small, but it is conveniently located near the fascinating Coliseum. Here you’ll find a party scene with vibrant restaurants, bars and nightlife. Milan, famous for its design and fashion brands, is also home to a large LGBTQ + community. Florence, Venice, Turin and of course the Amalfi Coast all have wonders to explore as well.

Pubs in Ireland.
Sue Reddel and Diana Laskaris

6. Ireland

Ireland may seem a rather conservative country, but it has become the first European nation legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote in 2015.

Follow in the footsteps of Oscar Wilde in Dublin and explore the Irish Gay Archives at the National Library of Ireland with its collection of LGBTQ + documents and literature. Dublin, Cork, and Galway plan annual pride events and have plenty of bars and clubs to visit. Like all the locals we have met in Ireland, the Irish LGBTQ + community is happy to share their stories.

We believe Ireland is an underrated destination that has a lot to offer LGBTQ + travelers and everyone else. Its beautiful countryside and friendly locals, historic architecture, delicious food and world-famous drinks will delight and surprise visitors looking for a special place.

7. Luxembourgish

It may be the smallest country in the European Union in terms of population, but the smallest country of Luxembourg is a lovely place to visit. It is also one of the few countries to have an elected leader who is openly LGBT +. Xavier Bettel was elected Prime Minister in 2013 and re-elected in 2018. He was the Chief Executive Officer of the European Union have a same-sex marriage. LGBTQ + people appreciate same rights as non-LGBT couples. A survey fact in 2019 said that 87% of Luxembourgers believe that gays, lesbians and transgender people should have the same rights as heterosexuals.

We visited Luxembourg on our honeymoon trip through Europe and loved it. Filled with delicious restaurants, bars and shops, this is the perfect size for roaming free and having fun. It’s also a good place to include while exploring other European countries like Germany, Belgium, and France.

8. Austria

Home to Vienna, one of our favorite cities, Austria is a beautiful gay-friendly destination. Gay marriage was legalized in 2019 and Austria also recognizes a non-binary gender.

The cosmopolitan city of Vienna welcomes the LGBTQ + community with the Viennese pride and the rainbow parade. Themes like “Stay safe, stay proud” and annual events like Queering the Belvedere and Queer History Tour highlight the importance of LGBTQ + people to this great and creative place.

The fabulous of Vienna cafes are an integral part of Viennese culture. Their delicious elegance and delicious pastries invite visitors to relax, refresh and enjoy the local scenery. Besides the stunning architecture and arts scene, Vienna’s musical heritage attracts many LGBTQ + travelers and others who appreciate its diverse cultural pleasures.

9. Malta

While this may not be so familiar to many, Malta is a small archipelago in the central Mediterranean Sea that is also an extremely popular LGBTQ + destination. He is known for a vibrant gay community who are happy to connect with travelers to make sure their stay is fun and hassle-free.

Malta has always received high marks for LGBTQ + rights and is considered by many to be the most progressive country in Europe.

The sun and the beach life are big draws. But there are also many historical and cultural interests. Malta has over 7,000 years of history to explore, including temples, museums, forts and several UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

They even have a website for the LGBTQ + community and special gay guide to Malta website to help visitors plan a trip to Malta. Quite exciting for a country of around 500,000 inhabitants. Maybe that’s why they get over two million overnight visitors one year.

Pro tip: Time of a visit to arrive during Pride celebrations or special events to take advantage of all the local events and have a much more memorable experience.

Unfortunately, there are still countries in the world where LGBTQ + people are persecuted. Many of these places have gay communities who also need support. For LGBTQ + travelers and their allies who choose to travel to any of these countries, please contact the local queer community for information, advice and guidance before traveling.

As we mentioned, these are just a few of the most gay-friendly countries in Europe. Be sure to check the IGLTA website for more ideas and recommendations for other destinations in Europe and the rest of the world.

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