Gay holidays in Europe
The best gay holidays in Europe
Whether it’s gastronomy, culture, beach time or nature, we’ve selected the best destinations for the ultimate gay holidays in Europe
As the first country in the world to legalise gay marriage back in 2001 and home to the world’s oldest LGBTQ+ organisation, COC Nederland, the Netherlands’ commitment to equal rights is well established. This laid-back country may be best known for its cafe culture, but there’s so much more to discover in this inclusive country. Amsterdam’s compact size makes it the ideal city-break destination, with plenty of opportunities to explore its multiple waterways. The city boasts more canals than Venice and ambling across bridges hand-in-hand with your beau is a wonderfully romantic way to see the city. Those seeking a culture fix should head to the Van Gogh Museum, while design-buffs should venture south to Rotterdam for some of Europe’s most innovative architecture and urban design. And if you fancy escaping the city, the Netherlands’ cycling infrastructure is arguably the best in the world, making it an ideal way to traverse this wonderful country.
Barcelona (and Sitges)
Recently voted the best city on earth by The Telegraph, Barcelona’s many charms are well documented. This effervescent metropolis offers almost everything you could want when looking for the best gay holidays in Europe, including incredible culture - see the extravagant works of Antoni Gaudi, plus museums devoted to Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró - a lively gastronomic scene, including 19 Michelin-starred restaurants, and a golden sand beach. Wander narrow streets in the Gothic quarter, before sipping a vermouth and watching the world go by. When the city gets too much, head 24 miles down the coast to Sitges. This small seaside town is arguably one of Europe’s best gay beach destinations. Simply soak up the rays on the beach or slip on your dancing shoes for a night of fun in the sun.
This diminutive island nation consistently comes top of the Europe Rainbow Index as Europe’s safest and most inclusive country for LGBTQ+ travellers. Enjoying 300 days of sunshine a year, Malta’s unique history means you can explore prehistoric temples, towers and sculptures, while the country’s capital, Valletta, is a UNESCO World Heritage City and a former European Capital of Culture (2018), resulting in a wonderful blend of ancient and contemporary architecture and design to appreciate. Malta is also one of the best diving destinations in Europe, so whether you’re swimming, snorkelling or diving, these crystal clear waters are manna from heaven for water babies. Head to Golden Bay on the northwest coast for sun-worshipping, while Mellieħa Bay is a great spot for watersports.
One of the few countries in the world to legally recognise the existence of more than two genders, Germany’s capital has long been a haven for outsiders and artists. Here, the alternative is mainstream, making it a feast for the senses when it comes to fashion, art and performance, and its turbulent history makes it a fascinating destination for history buffs. Visitors can witness the remains of the Berlin Wall, see Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie and some of the most important monuments in twentieth-century history. Aesthetes are sure to appreciate Hamburger Bahnhof, one of the largest public collections of contemporary art in the world, while Urban Nation showcases the city’s best street art, sculpture and photography. Berlin’s numerous city beaches are a great place for lounging during the warmer months, while the city’s nightlife scene is notoriously some of the world’s best.
Selecting a single Greek island is always a challenge - with over 200 inhabited islands to choose from, there really is something for everyone. Santorini is best known as a stellar honeymoon destination and with its picturesque white stone buildings, aquamarine waters and magnificent sunsets, it’s not hard to see why. Visitors to the island tend to stay in either Fira, the island’s capital, or Oia, which is quieter. Spend a lazy day around the pool followed by a romantic meal for two made using local produce with a sunset view. More active travellers can embark on one of the island’s numerous hiking trails (we like Fira to Oia), visit ancient ruins, or embark on a winery tour. Either way, the natural beauty of this special island is guaranteed to impress: Santorini is unforgettable.
Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim are just a handful of Norway’s most picturesque cities, but visitors to this majestic country are largely drawn here for its spectacular natural beauty. This is a country brimming with dramatic landscapes and nature in its most raw state: from the snow-covered far north where you can hunt for the elusive Aurora Borealis, to the unforgettable experience of cruising through the Norwegian fjords. Mountains, waterfalls, natural parks and glaciers provide infinite potential for thrill-seekers, but this is also a place for rejuvenation and relaxation. Wildlife lovers can also spot whales, reindeer, moose and birds in this verdant Eden. Ranked number five in the European Rainbow Index, Norway is internationally recognised for its progressive stance towards LGBTQ+ people, making this a wonderfully welcoming place for your next trip.
Coming in seventh place in the European Rainbow Index, Portugal has long taken an enlightened approach to LGBTQ+ rights, with same-sex marriage being legalised back in 2010. As well as receiving a warm welcome, visitors looking for the best gay holidays in Europe should turn their attention to Portugal for a destination with heaps to do. Whether you’re on a food tour of buzzing cities such as Lisbon and Porto, undertaking a coastal walk along the country’s dramatic southern coastline, or simply sipping cocktails on a sun lounger on a secluded sandy cove, there’s plenty to keep you entertained. Try wine and port tasting in the Douro Valley, or recreate Portuguese aristocratic life in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sintra, with its castles, palaces and gardens at the foot of the Serra Mountains. While the Atlantic coast is good for watersports, the Algarve is perfect for catching some rays before cooling off in the clear, calm ocean. And did we mention the Pastéis de Nata?
As the daughter of two women in a same-sex relationship, Sanna Marin, Finland’s Prime Minister, became the world’s youngest sitting country leader in the world after she was elected in 2019, and a symbol of hope for many LGBTQ+ people across the nation. Home to around 180,000 lakes, this northern European country prides itself on a close relationship with nature. During the summer, many residents migrate to summer houses close to a lake, while making the most of the unique midnight sun. Further north, Finnish Lapland is the official home of Father Christmas, the Sami people - Europe’s only indigenous group - and the enigmatic Aurora Borealis. Take a sauna, take a hike and - if you’re feeling brave - take an ice bath. The capital city of Helsinki offers excellent shopping, including a dedicated design district, so don’t forget your credit card.
If you’re yet to visit Paris, you’re in for a treat, and if you’ve visited before, there’s always somewhere new to discover in this phenomenal city. Known as the City of Love, this global capital is renowned for fashion, culture and food, making it an ideal destination for un voyage à deux. World-class museums, such as Le Louvre, Centre Pompidou and Musée D'Orsay, are guaranteed crowd-pleasers, but it’s worth checking out their smaller siblings; the Musée Marmottan is home to the world’s largest collection of Monet’s, while the Musée Rodin is parfait for romancing. Feast on food and wine until your heart’s content, but the simplest pleasure in this glorious city is simply enjoying a café au lait and watching the world go by. When it comes to LGBTQ+ rights,the National Assembly unanimously passed a new law criminalising the use of so-called “conversion therapy” to attempt to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ+ people in January 2022, an encouraging move towards greater liberation.
As one of the first countries in the world to legalise same-sex marriage, the Kingdom of Belgium has long been a frontrunner when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights. It’s also a wonderfully decadent place to indulge in some of life’s greatest pleasures: chocolate, beer and chips. Ale enthusiasts will adore the opportunity to sample a seemingly infinite supply of Belgian beers - be sure to bring your elasticated trousers. If you fancy something a little more high-end, Belgium also has the fourth most Michelin-starred restaurants per person in the world. Gastronomy aside, Bruges is packed with cobbled streets, medieval architecture and canals, making it ideal for a weekend break, while Antwerp boasts the MoMu fashion museum and Rubenshuis, but we like the pretty town of Bouillon, with its castle and lush hiking opportunities.
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