While any travel destination should offer a wonderful experience for all, the fact of the matter is that this just isn’t the case. Fortunately, myriad destinations around the world are rolling out the red carpet for travelers of all kinds, including those who are LGBTQ+. Below, we’ve highlighted 30 of the world’s best gay-friendly travel destinations for 2020.
The Netherlands has long been known as one of the most progressive and tolerant countries on Earth, and that makes its capital city of Amsterdam an excellent choice of gay-friendly travel destination. Though Amsterdam is not as large of a city as some of its European neighbors, those hoping to experience all of the gay friendliness it has to offer won’t be disappointed booking a hotel in neighborhoods like Kerkstraat, Amstel, or Reguliersdwarsstraat. Here, travelers will find myriad gay clubs, hotels, bars, and even saunas. Amsterdam has a ton of things to see and do, including the heartbreaking Anne Frank House, various art museums, and boat tours of the city’s canals.
The Caribbean is not really known as a gay-friendly travel destination. Fortunately, there are exceptions, one of which is the beautiful country of Aruba. Book a room at the Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort, an adults-only resort that prides itself on providing a romantic atmosphere for all. When you’re not lounging on the white-sand beach or cooling off in the crystal clear turquoise waters for which Aruba is so famous, be sure to grab a drink or two at Jimmy’s Place, one of Oranjestad’s most famous gay bars.
Despite the brief Hell that was the Third Reich and World War II, Berlin has a long history of being gay friendly. Today, the city consistently ranks as one of the best destinations for LGBTQ visitors. In addition to the beautiful architecture, the world-class shopping, and the tantalizing food choices, Berlin offers a lively and practically never-ending nightlife scene. Try booking a hotel in the Schöneberg neighborhood, where hotels like the adults-only “heterofriendly” Axel Berlin offer such features as a rooftop hot tub and a solarium-by-day, bar-by-night. And don’t forget to visit SchwuZ Club, one of Berlin’s most famous gay clubs. Check the club’s calendar to ensure you make one of their famous party events, which in the past have included “MadonnaMania” and “Sclagernacktparty” — that is, a naked dance party.
Cape Town, South Africa
Not only is Cape Town one of the world’s most gorgeous cities, it is also one of the planet’s best travel destinations for LGBTQ travelers. While you’re in Cape Town, you’ll want to experience all that the city has to offer: Table Mountain, Robben Island, wine country, and the Victoria and Albert Waterfront with all of its shops and street performers. Head to the De Waterkant neighborhood for the city’s best gay bars, clubs, and hotels. As you’re deciding on which beach to enjoy, consider Clifton Third, said to be one of the best gay beaches on Earth.
If you’ve seen all there is to see in New York or San Francisco, then why not expand your U.S. travel experiences to Chicago? This gorgeous Midwest city is full of picturesque public art installations, historic hotels, and pedestrian-friendly areas like the Riverwalk. There’s also a rapidly growing foodie scene, with more and more celebrity chefs opening restaurants in Chicago every year. If you’re one for nightlife, there are plenty of options. Andersonville is a well-known lesbian community and neighborhood, while Boystown is, as its name suggests, a mecca for gay bars and clubs.
Denmark was the first country in the world to recognize registered same-sex partnerships — need we say more? LGBTQ+ travelers will love exploring all that Denmark’s capital of Copenhagen has to offer. This colorful city is home to Centralhjørnet, the continent’s oldest gay bar at more than 100 years old. Vesterbro is the perfect neighborhood in which to book a hotel. it’s famous for its on-trend fashion scene, gay bars and clubs, and its many organized parties and special events.
Of all the Caribbean islands, Curacao is most vocal about welcoming guests from the LGBTQ+ community. Indeed, the Curacao Tourist Board has published on its website: “With exceptional gay friendly hotels and attractions, [Curacao] encourages gay and lesbian travelers to visit the island and experience its ‘live and let live’ atmosphere for themselves.” The same website has loads of information about the island’s gay-friendly resorts, hotels, restaurants, and clubs, and can even arrange a same-sex wedding.
LGBTQ+ travelers shouldn’t let Ireland’s long-time reputation as a strict Catholic country deter them from visiting. Ireland voted to legalize same-sex marriage in 2015, and since then, its capital city of Dublin has established itself as one of the most queer-friendly travel destinations in the world. While Dublin’s famous Temple Bar has always been a favorite hang out amongst all, there are now entire other streets lined with gay bars, hotels, clubs, and saunas. If possible, time your Dublin trip to coincide with the Dublin Pride parade, held each June.
If you need some convincing about just how gay-friendly is the Rainbow State, consider this: Hawaiian kings once had in their employ a number of aikane, or young male concubines. Today, the Hawaiian islands remain a welcoming place for LGBTQ travelers, and gay-friendly hotels, bars, and beaches operate on every island.
Asia isn’t exactly known as a super gay-friendly travel destination, but Hong Kong is an exception. Surely a reflection of its long-time British occupation, Hong Kong is quite forward with regard to LGBTQ+ issues. For the best nightlife and most active scene, head to the Central Business District on Hong Kong Island. If you are willing to travel a bit further, then check out Gold Coast Beach and Middle Bay, both of which are gorgeous beaches with a strong gay presence.
Iceland has been called “one of the most inclusive places on Earth,” and we absolutely agree. Not only are the Icelandic people warm and welcoming to all, but the country is absolutely stunning and makes a great vacation destination. For the ultimate LGBTQ+ Icelandic experience, try to plan your trip to coincide with Reykjavik’s Pride parade, one of the oldest in all of Europe. And don’t forget to take advantage of the country’s many natural sights, including:
- geothermal lagoons
- waterfalls, geysers, and more.
Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles and its surrounding areas have long been considered one of the best vacation destinations for the LGBTQ+ community. The most famous gay scenes can be found in West Hollywood, the San Fernando Valley, and Silver Lake, or at beaches like Will Rogers State Beach near Santa Monica. Myriad restaurants, bars, and hotels throughout the area cater to the LGBTQ+ population, including Roosterfish, one of the most famous gay dive bars in the country.
Australia’s second largest city is its most gay-friendly city. To experience life down under, head to the St. Kilda neighborhood. The gay and lesbian communities are active here, and there are tons of nightclubs, restaurants, cafes, and shops to enjoy. The beaches are excellent, too. Try to plan your trip around the Midsumma Festival, a three-week arts and culture festival which takes place from mid-January to early February (or “mid summer” as it would be in the Southern Hemisphere).
Situated between Brazil and Argentina in South America, Uruguay has been rated the 9th friendliest country on Earth. That friendliness extends to its LGBTQ+ residents and visitors. Indeed, same-sex marriage is legal in Uruguay after only three months of residency. The country’s capital city of Montevideo is especially appealing to gay travelers, as it boasts a number of restaurants, bars, and clubs which cater to the LGBTQ+ community. Usually around September, the city hosts the Diversity March, their version of the Gay Pride Parade.
The next international destination on our list of the most gay-friendly travel spots is Mykonos. Besides being welcoming to the LGBTQ+ population, Mykonos is a place of stunning natural landscapes, unique architecture, and a seemingly never-ending party scene. Oh, and if you’re into nude beaches, Mykonos has those, too. Elia Beach is especially popular amongst Mykonos’s gay community, as is Jackie O’Beach, a busy beachside bar complete with a pool, hot tubs, daily drag show, and even a private church for weddings.
New York City, New York
New York City prides itself on its open-mindedness and inclusive culture. There’s also a ton to see and do. Besides making the expected stops, head to The Stonewall Inn, where the 1969 Stonewall Riots occurred. Other LGTBQ+ landmarks in NYC include:
- the Leslie Lohman Museum
- the Harvey Milk School
- the Lesbian Herstory Archives
For the best gay-friendly nightlife, check out Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, and the West Village.
New Zealand is another place that prides itself on its inclusivity. In fact, the country was the first in the world to create and use the “Gay/Lesbian Friendly” accommodations label. Travelers interested in seeing some breathtaking natural scenery will have their pick of itinerary options, and with nearly 100 gay-owned home stays throughout the North and South islands, their pick of places to stay, too. For the most exciting nightlife, there’s no question that Auckland is the place to be.
There’s a growing gay presence in Nice, the French Riviera’s biggest city. Known as a place of luxury, Nice boasts myriad bars, cafes, saunas, hotels, and more that cater to the LGBTQ+ community. This is especially true in the part of the city known as Old Town, and along the Mediterranean waterfront — just look for the rainbow flags! For a beach experience, we recommend Castel Plage and Coco Beach.
Palm Springs, California
Palm Springs has long been a favorite travel destination of LGBTQ+ travelers. The city — which is known worldwide for its kitschy and flamboyant local culture — is home to a number of gay-friendly restaurants, bars, clubs, hotels, and shops. Toucans Tiki Lounge and Cabaret has become famous for its delightful drag revue, while restaurants like Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge welcome all guests with yummy global-inspired small plates. Gay travelers will have their pick of hotels and resorts, some of which are clothing-optional.
The fact that Puerto Rico is a short flight from the United States makes it an appealing travel destination. But the fact that it’s ranked as one of the most gay-friendly places on Earth makes it a slam dunk. Indeed, as a U.S. territory, Puerto Rico offers travelers the protection of the same anti-discrimination laws that are in mainland U.S., and same-sex marriage is legal. Puerto Rico is home to what has been called “the Caribbean’s only real gay nightlife scene.” That is, of course, referring to San Juan, where travelers will find the Eros club and the Atlantic Beach Hotel and Bar, which is set on a gay beach and hosts a weekly drag show). Other gay-friendly resorts can be found throughout Puerto Rico.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio has a lot to offer the LGBTQ traveler, so it’s not surprising that this vibrant Brazilian city consistently ranks as one of the most popular gay-friendly travel destinations in the world. Dozens of hotels and clubs cater specifically to the city’s LGBTQ+ population, while a number of Gay Pride celebrations occur throughout the year citywide. In addition to must-see sites and events like Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountain, and Carnival, Rio is home to some of Earth’s most famous beaches, including:
San Francisco, California
San Francisco is practically synonymous with LGBTQ+ culture, and has a long important history of paving the way for gay rights. The City by the Bay is also remarkably beautiful. Gay-friendly restaurants, clubs, hotels, and bars are a dime a dozen in San Francisco. Even so, the area of the city where most of the fun happens is The Castro.
Located just southwest of Barcelona, Sitges is one of Europe’s most popular gay-friendly beach destinations. The first gay disco in Spain opened in Sitges, followed by a slew of other gay-friendly hotels, restaurants, clubs, and more. The beaches range from clothing-required to clothing-optional, though all are pristine sandy beaches located right on the Mediterranean. Before you go, check out the Sitges calendar of events, because the town is known for its many gay events that take place throughout the year.
St. Barts is often referred to as the most gay-friendly island in the Caribbean. Whether or not that’s, it is sure to be a safe, welcoming, and beautiful destination for any traveler in the LGBTQ+ community. The local culture is laid back, and most accommodations include an option for private villas. Sounds good to us!
Tel Aviv, Israel
Tel Aviv isn’t just gay friendly, it’s been called an “LGBT utopia.” The city is known for its swank cafes, gorgeous beaches, and slew of interesting cultural and historical sites. Must visits include the Hilton Gay Beach, which often hosts swimsuit-optional parties, and Evita, the oldest gay bar in Tel Aviv. Try to match up your visit with the city’s huge annual Pride festival, which attracts people from all over the world.
Buddhists are well known for their friendly, open-minded nature. And considering Thailand is made up of 95% Buddhists, then it’s safe to say that Thailand makes for a great gay-friendly travel destination. Most gay travelers head to Bangkok, where they find dozens of gay-friendly hotels, clubs, bars, and other establishments. Another popular destination is the southern part of the country, especially Phuket.
Toronto has the advantage of being both extremely gay friendly and located only a short distance from the United States. There are lots of gay-friendly establishments in The Village, the part of Toronto known for its theater scene, museums, and other cultural sites. A number of events take place in Toronto throughout the calendar year, including Pride Week, the Pride March, and the Dyke March.
Located on the Yucatan Peninsula, Tulum is well known for its laid-back beachy vibe. The locale has long been known as a welcoming destination for gay travelers. Indeed, Tulum’s native Mayans were very tolerant of sexual diversity. You won’t go wrong booking at any resort or eating at any restaurant in Tulum itself, though nearly Playa del Carmen does have quite a few exclusively gay bars.
U.S. Virgin Islands
Like Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands are subject to the same anti-discrimination laws as the mainland United States. Gay travelers can expect a tolerant attitude throughout the islands, though St. Croix is known to be especially welcoming to and popular amongst those in the LGBTQ+ community. For a great gay-friendly resort, check out the Sand Castle on the Beach Resort in Fredericksted.
Like Hong Kong, Vietnam is one of Asia’s more gay-friendly destinations. In 2016, the country’s new government ended its ban on same-sex unions (though same-sex marriage is still not fully recognized). There’s lots to see and do in Vietnam, and the country has a wonderfully inviting culture in which one will want to immerse oneself. For the best gay-friendly bars, hotels, clubs, and saunas, base yourself in Hanoi.