Europe welcomes gay and lesbian visitors; many countries actively encourage alternative lifestyle travelers to enjoy the vitality of their cities and the replenishing calm of their countryside.
This overview will acquaint you with some special events and particularly attractive destinations for the GLBT (Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender) community.
In many cases, larger cities are more embracing than rural areas, although you can enjoy very active gay-friendly resorts on the Mediterranean coast. Very generally speaking, you may find less sensitivity to sexual orientation in the northern countries than elsewhere – but there are exceptions to every rule! As for anyone who is a guest in a foreign country, the best approach is to respect local customs.
Pride events are held throughout Europe and are major happenings. They are organized at the local and national level; a great place to find current listings is through the European Pride Organisers’ Association. Members include GLBT organizations from Austria, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
ILGA Europe is the European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association, and a good source on current GBLT issues in Europe, Pride events and the status of same-sex unions in European countries.
The International Student Travel Confederation publishes an online list of GLBT events held in Europe, including film festivals, pride events, art fairs, and more.
The EuroGames, hosted every year in July and August in Spain and sponsored by the European Gay and Lesbian Sport Federation, are a vehicle to fight discrimination based on sexual preference in sports, foster exchange of information, and promote GBLT mixed sport groups – and have great fun in the process!
Austria is richly endowed with arts and culture, especially in Vienna, full of museums, ringing with opera, and proud of its formal winter galas. Presenting a more conservative than flamboyant face, Vienna doesn’t have a specifically gay neighborhood. Be sure to visit the Kunsthaus Wien, which often hosts major gay-themed exhibits. And don’t forget to enjoy the gorgeous mountains for some rural respite.
Belgium has an active yet discreet GBLT community. Plenty of hotels and clubs are available. Same-sex marriages were recognized in 2003, and since 2006 same-sex couples have had the right to adopt children.
The Czech Republic is quite tolerant of alternative lifestyles, and you’ll find the Vinohrady and Žižkov districts of Prague especially inviting. Poland accepts the gay community in its larger cities, especially among the younger crowd. In Latvia you’ll find GBLT activities keep quite a low profile, with some gay-friendly clubs in Riga.
The GLBT community in Germany is very out, and not just in urban areas. Berlin and Cologne are popular for the gay neighborhoods found throughout the city, not concentrated in just a few spots.
The Netherlands is known for tolerance in general; homosexuality was decriminalized in Amsterdam in 1811! This is one of the most famously welcoming cites to the GLBT community and is referred to by some as “the gay capital of Europe”. Here you’ll find at least four distinct GLBT neighborhoods with a very active and diverse nightlife.
Go to My Switzerland to download podcasts of GBLT-oriented city tours for the traveler, to find a gay ski trip, events listings, and a newsletter.
Spain is a very attractive country for the GLBT community. Same-sex marriage was legalized in 2005, for Spaniards and any two people both having legal residence in Spain. Madrid, Barcelona and Seville welcome visitors of all lifestyles.
You might wonder how welcome the GLBT community is in Italy given the strong Catholic history; actually, homosexuality has been legal since the late 19th century GayFriendlyItaly is a rich source of information and travel links.
Copenhagen (Denmark) has many resources to help you find friendly activities: enjoy the hospitality of a Home Dinner and learn about the Danish GLBT community, or try the tradition of “island camps”, where for a week away during the summer you can practice simplicity and communal living. Oslo (Norway), Stockholm (Sweden), and Finland are all known for tolerance and acceptance of same-sex couples. One of Reykjavik’s (Iceland) Gay Pride is one of the city’s biggest events!
Ireland lists GLBT-friendly establishments and events for all its major cities as well.