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10 of the best holiday destinations for LGBT travellers

As London Pride hits the capital, we take a look at the best queer-friendly places around the world

Joanna Whitehead
Friday 19 October 2018 16:12 BST

Although Pride month is officially over, the Pride season is now in full swing, with London Pride and Black Pride taking place on Saturday 7 July and Sunday 8 July respectively, and Manchester, Glasgow, Bristol, Newcastle, Brighton and Norwich all to come.

While it can be fun to feel the sense of freedom that comes from being surrounded by other LGBTQ+ folks, Pride weekend shouldn’t be the only time of year where queer people can feel secure in their downtime. Choosing a holiday destination can sometimes be a little more complex, however, with safety concerns a priority when selecting a break – homosexuality is still illegal in 72 countries around the world.

“Planning a holiday should be a really fun experience, but for many LGBTQ+ travellers – and ‘rainbow families’ in particular – it can still be daunting,” Gordon Smith, co-founder of specialist LGBTQ+ travel consultancy KOG, tells The Independent. ”This is especially true when travelling to less cosmopolitan spots where an awkward conversation at the hotel check-in desk or a disparaging comment at a local restaurant can ruin a trip.”

Co-founder Krystin Arneson adds: “What’s in the law books can be very different to what’s on the ground: in some places, legal equality hasn’t been realised in practice yet; in others, the opposite. It’s vitally important for travellers to do their research, as many destinations and travel companies still fail to adequately educate potential visitors.”

Here are 10 of the best destinations for LGBTQ+ travellers, where there is already an established queer community and visibility, and where concerns about sexual or gender identity are secondary.


Birthplace of Sappho, the pioneering Greek poet who wrote about same-sex passion, this humble Greek island close to Turkey is significant enough to provide the etymological basis for the word “lesbian”. Queer women have long migrated here, and it’s hosted the annual Eressos International Women’s Festival – a two week fiesta which celebrates women who love women – since 2000.

Tel Aviv is one of the most queer-friendly cities in the Middle East (Getty) (Getty Images)


As one of the most tolerant places in the Middle East for LGBTQ+ people, Israel is a notoriously gay-friendly destination, particularly Tel Aviv, the country’s second city. Tel Aviv is famous for its queer nightlife and hosts an internationally respected Pride celebration funded by the government. Same-sex couples can be seen holding hands openly and visitors can find queer gyms, beaches, bars, restaurants and parties. Although figures estimate that around 10 per cent of the global population are LGBTQ+, this figure is believed to be closer to 25 per cent in this hedonistic hotspot.


Even before 61 per cent of Australia’s population voted in favour of same-sex marriage in a landmark vote in November 2017, Sydney was on the bucket list of many queer people seeking sunshine, sea and sassy queens. Gay culture has long overlooked the desires and interests of queer women, which is why Newtown, the city’s primary area for queer women, is such a revelation. The McIver’s Ladies Baths are the only women-only baths remaining in Australia and a big hit with the Sapphic set. The main hub for LGBTQ+ activity is focused around Oxford Street in Darlinghurst, but shopping, bars and venues representing most queer interests can be found across this inclusive city.

San Francisco

Home to Harvey Milk, the LGBTQ+ activist and first openly gay elected official in California history, who was assassinated in 1978 just one year after his appointment, San Francisco has a rich LGBTQ+ history. Compton’s Cafeteria was a meeting place for trans people between the 1940s and 1970s which witnessed “the first known incident of collective militant queer resistance to police harassment in US history” in August 1966 when a riot broke out after a police officer tried to arrest a trans women who consequently threw a cup of coffee in his face. The Castro District was one of the very first “gaybourhoods” in the US from the late 1960s until the 1980s, when the AIDS crisis hit the community hard. The queer scene has endured, however, and is home to the GLBT Historical Society Archives and Museum, a space dedicated to honouring the city’s queer heritage.

Radical history: the San Franciscan trans community rioted against police brutality in 1969 (Getty) (Getty Images)


Similarly to San Francisco, Berlin has an extensive LGBTQ+ history. It was the home of the world’s first Institute of Sexual Research, which was opened in 1918 by Magnus Hirschfeld – an ally for minority groups such as the queer community – and was subsequently burnt down by the Nazis in 1933. The city also has a Memorial to the Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism which acknowledges the magnitude of gay persecution during this period. The city has come a long way since those dark days and prides itself on its explicitly queer culture which is renowned for being more diverse and inclusive than many mainstream lesbian and gay scenes.


As one of the UK’s most bohemian cities, it’s only right that this coastal city welcomes all who fall under the rainbow flag. In addition to some roaring nightlife, the city has plenty to offer for those seeking some retail therapy, with ample opportunity to flex the plastic in the Brighton Lanes. Their annual Pride festivities are the stuff of legend, too, with pop princess Britney Spears headlining this year’s party in August.

Palm Springs

Boasting America’s first all LGBT city council and around 360 days of sunshine per year, it’s no wonder queer folks from around the globe flock to this colourful California playground. Located within the Colorado Desert, the city used to be the Rat Pack’s stomping ground, but in subsequent years a significant LGBTQ+ contingency have made this sunny spot their home. With plentiful hiking opportunities in the surrounding area, the city also plays host to Dinah Shore, arguably one of the largest parties for queer women in the world and made famous by the cult TV show The L Word.


Host country to WorldPride in 2021, Copenhagen’s reputation as an LGBTQ+ destination continues to grow. Denmark was the first country in the world to recognise registered same-sex partnerships in 1989 and was the first country in the world to no longer perceive being transgender as a mental illness. Copenhagen is also home to one of Europe’s oldest gay bars, which dates back to 1917 before it became an openly gay bar in the 1950s. With LGBTQ+ recognition and protections enshrined in law, queer visitors to this progressive Scandinavian country should feel right at home.

A leader in LGBTQ+ rights, Copenhagen will host WorldPride in 2021 (Getty) (Getty Images/iStockphoto)


Located 22 miles southwest of Barcelona, Sitges is a legendary party destination primarily catering for men. This small town experiences an influx of gay and bisexual men looking for fun in the many bars, clubs and beaches that cater specifically for this community. Although the entire town is arguably gay-friendly, due to the sheer volume of queer visitors, most of the gay bars are located in the Old Town on Calle Montroig. Platja de la Bassa Rodona is the main gay beach, along with Platja d’Aiguadolc and Platja dels Balmains, which are clothing optional beaches.

New York

Home of the landmark Stonewall Inn riot in 1969, New York has been a haven for minorities for over a hundred years. The city that never sleeps offers a wealth of activities and opportunities for every letter of the queer alphabet and boasts one of the world’s biggest LGBT community centres, the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art and the National Archive for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History, plus all the clubs, bars and restaurants you could wish for.

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