For anyone that identifies as queer or LGBTI, travel can sometimes be fraught with issues. For a sobering start, there are many countries where it is blatantly unsafe to be queer, where public displays of affection between same-sex couples can land you in a lot of serious trouble. Happily, it’s 2016, which means that a lot of places around the world are not only tolerant, but actually overtly champion their queer communities. Throughout the year, in nearly any city, you can find events that are specifically tailored for LGBTI people. And – as everyone knows – the best parties are queer parties. For the best time overseas, here are some of the cities that should be on every queer person’s list.[listicle]
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Amsterdam’s consistent championing of the LGBTI community, and its endlessly vibrant nightlife, make it one of the premier destinations around the globe for queer people. It’s also one of the safest – the police force has its own task force (aptly named the Pink Police) dedicated to stopping LGBTI discrimination. The first gay club opened in 1927, and still is operating – it’s Café Mandje, at Zeedijk 63. Elsewhere, stalwart club Church is packed to the rafters most nights of the week. If you can get to the city during August then definitely do – the annual Pride celebrations take place over a packed week in early August, culminating in the spectacular canal parade.
Berlin’s history of underground gay clubs and avant-garde sexual politics makes it not only a great destination for clubbing and nightlife, for also for the history of gay liberation. Berghain, voted time and time again as the best club in the world, is still firmly an LGBTI safe space – as long as you can get past the doorman anyway. For those that are more adventurous, there are clubs that will cater to every fetish one could possibly dream up. While all of Berlin is bustling, the areas of Schoneberg, Kreuzberg and Prenzlauerberg have a particularly high density of queer-friendly bars and clubs.
Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico City is fast on the rise as one of the globe’s top queer cities, due mostly to the visibility of its own large queer community. It famously broke new ground by legalising same-sex unions, and has seen a large increase in the number of gay bars throughout the city. Its Gay Pride celebrations in late June are among the biggest in the world. The city is often overwhelming for travellers given its sheer size, so focus on the gorgeous and friendly areas of Condesa and Zona Rosa (where there’s a sizeable gay strip). Tom’s Leather Bar is a stalwart of the local club scene, but head to El Viena if you want something a little more chilled.
San Francisco, USA
An oldie but still very much a goodie; if the world has a queer capital, it’s San Francisco. The Castro district has long been associated with the queer-community, with a heap of bars and clubs catering exclusively to every corner of the community, with everything from bears nights to go-go nights. It’s queer population is one of the largest and most prominent in the Americas, if not the world. Recent demographic studies put the LGBTQI population at a solid 15 percent of the city – and curiously, the city has more drag queens per square foot than any other city. Grab your hot pants and get amongst it.
New York City, USA
From West to East, New York is an endless trove of bars, clubs, restaurants, and events for LGBTI people. Since the explosion of clubs in the ’80s, New York has grown to rival San Francisco as the country’s premier gay destination. Manhattan districts Chelsea and Greenwich Village are dominated by gay bars and clubs, with everything from hole-in-the-wall jazz bars to all night thumping techno clubs to keep you occupied. For the history inclined, Stonewall Inn is still very much a landmark in the city, having been at the epicentre of the gay rights movement since the Stonewall Riots in 1969.
The Village, in the area of Church-Wellesley, is the hub of queer Toronto. For decades it has been the pumping heart of all things queer, and it’s showing no signs of abating. Go for Pride, of course, but the biggest event of the year goes to the Halloween Block Party. Canada is easily the most progressive and inclusive country in the Americas – particularly with the recent rise of Justin Trudeau – so public displays of affection between same-sex couples are definitely not an issue here.
The utterly picturesque Sitges – located 35 kilometres south of Barcelona – was home to Spain’s first ever gay disco, and its reputation as a party town and queer destination has only grown since then. It’s a part of the “Big Four” destinations in Europe for queer people (the others being Mykonos, Gran Canaria, and Ibiza). There are a few “clothing optional” beaches there to get your kit off, and the calendar is chock full of queer events – with the incredibly popular Bears Week taking place in May. By extension, Barcelona – also a thriving queer centre – is only a 20 minute train ride away.
Photo: David Jones/Flickr
When googling Copenhagen, the first result that comes up is “Copenhagen gay”, which gives a pretty good indication of just how strong the queer presence is in the Danish capital. Its reputation for being relaxed and tolerant (Denmark was the first country in the world to legalise same sex unions) coupled with the 24/7 nightlife, makes it a popular destination year-round for the community. But for the most action, head there during August for the annual Pride celebrations. For the best partying, head to Men’s Bar in the Latin Quarter, or Cosy Bar close by, or Vela Bar in the gay district of Vesterbro.
Cape Town, South Africa
Frequently referred to as the ‘Rainbow Capital’ of Africa, Cape Town is home to a bustling queer community centred around the areas of De Waterkant and Green Point. Same-sex marriage has been legal in South Africa since 2006 – so still way ahead of Australia – and it’s made great strides to eliminate LGBTQI discrimination. For the best nights out, head to Crew Bar in Green Point, or Beaulah Bar, the only all-lesbian bar in town. Also make sure to check out the Gat Party, an event that happens every month in the suburb of Milnerton. By far the most popular place though is Beefcakes – a burger joint by day, a party centre by night.
One of the few cities in the Middle East that is queer-friendly, Tel Aviv has emerged in recent years with a queer nightlife that rivals any across Europe. Get amongst all-night beach parties, clubs with the best techno names in the world, and one of the best restaurant scenes on the planet. Its pride parade in mid-June attracts over 100,000 people annually. In short, it’s a big deal. Get your swimming trunks on and dive in.
Photo: Tourist Israel[/listicle]
Jules LeFevre grew up in Byron Bay, and although she now resides in Sydney she goes home regularly to eat her parents food. She mostly writes about music, when her editors let her. She has a sincere passion for Taylor Swift, chillwave music, and Mexican food.