Despite the fact that there are still political regimes and even so-called social groups and religious organizations that fail to comprehend the true meaning of equality regardless of who people choose to love, how they choose to look in public, and who they choose to be, more and more individuals – and couples – are now coming out into the open publicly announcing to the whole world their true identities. And while the rest of the world is slow in coming to terms with the rights of the LGBT community, there are those that have openly embraced them and provided a safe haven for those who relish equal rights regardless of sexual preferences or orientation. Indeed, these countries and cities have provided refuge for those who have faced ridicule and condemnation in their own countries and cities.
While on the whole, the world is a much more amenable to gay visitors than it used to be, there are certain destinations where gays feel more comfortable and welcome than others. This article focuses on ten top destinations that aren’t just gay friendly; they actively encourage gay visitors and go all out to make sure they have the best time ever.
What is the Gay Capital of the world?
San Francisco is usually the the place most people would say is the gay capital if asked, but if depends how you define capital. We researched the highest gay communities per capita, but even the data found is outdated and not perfect. The research can be based on per capita, but people are not always open and honest when surveyed.
Research has also been carried out by how ‘gay friendly’ cities are which is much more measurable.
What is the Gay Capital of the USA?
The Human Rights Campain (HRC) runs a yearly Municipal Equaliy Index
Cities are ranked by:
municipal employment policies
inclusiveness of city services,
law enforcement (including hate crimes reporting)
municipal leadership on matters of equality
Though the main contenders like San Francisco, New York are highest ranked, there are many other cities that do very well under the above criteria. Well done Pheonix, Orlando and Atlanta!!
What is the Gayest Country in Europe?
According to research, Germany has the largest LGBT community in Europe, 7.4% of Germans said they identified with LGBT.
According to Rainbow Europe the best country in terms of gay friendly legislation Malta!
Best Gay Cities in the World (according to us)
For those who have been before, it will come as no surprise to see San Francisco at the top of the list. The Californian city proudly boasts numerous rainbow flags adorning bars and apartment buildings. Practically every single bar and business within the Castro district caters for gays and lesbians and their Gay Pride week is something to behold. 500,000 people hit the streets for this every year in the last Sunday in June, following on from the long established Queer Film Festival.
- LONELY PLANET PUBLICATIONS
- English (Publication Language)
- Lonely Planet (Publisher)
Next up is Sydney Australia, where gay is the new straight. The gay and lesbian culture here forms a vital, vocal and colourful part of the social fabric of the city and the 2002 Gay Games was held here. With beach life reigning supreme, it’s a great opportunity to buff up and see what fun can be had on the golden sands.
- BRUNO GMUENDER
- English (Publication Language)
- Bruno Gmuender (Publisher)
Brighton on the south east coast of England is a long established, gay friendly haven having openly welcomed the gay community for over 100 years. There are over 40,000 gay residents in Brighton, almost a quarter of the total population. Kemptown, or Camptown, is the heart of it all, with numerous gay owned hotels, bars, cafés, saunas and even bookshops, and there is also a ‘Gay’s the Word’ walking tour to enjoy. Brighton also has some of the biggest gay bars and clubs in the World.
For many years, Amsterdam has been hailed as the gay capital of Europe, with the proportion of gay residents estimated to be 20-30% of the population. There are over 100 gay hotels, bars, restaurants, nightclubs, sports clubs, support services and even choirs here. On the first Saturday in August, Amsterdam hosts the only gay pride parade in the world that is held on the water, and this is something everyone should try to experience.
The legendary liberalism that exists in Berlin has spawned one of the largest gay and lesbian scenes in the world. Klaus Wowereit, the openly gay mayor, outed himself with the immortal words “I’m gay and that’s a good thing”, and befitting the decentralised nature of the city, there is no specific gay ghetto, and there are established scenes throughout Berlin.
Mexico, Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta in Mexico has a vibrant gay scene that will knock the socks off first time visitors. There are hundreds of accommodations, cruises, tours and venues that all cater to the gay visitor. You can meet like minded amigos in any amount of the cobblestoned streets that house strip clubs, martini clubs and drag shows. The glorious white sand beaches also await, whether sloth or strut is more your style.
Chelsea and Greenwich Village (NYC)
The Chelsea and Greenwich Village areas of New York City are synonymous with gay life, and both boast a thriving and very ‘out there’ scene. Every scene going is hot in the big apple, and the gay scene is certainly no exception. There are some amazing bars, clubs and galleries, and people from around the world congregate in NYC in June for their own take on the Gay Pride parade.
Rio de Janeiro is the gay capital of South America, but the scene here isn’t as instantly visible as in Sydney or San Francisco. During the annual Carnaval in February or March, literally thousands of ex-pat Brazilian gays fly into to join in the fun, where transvestites steal the show at many of the balls. The gay scene here is quite integrated, with the gay entertainment sections in the press listed as GLS; gays, lesbians and sympathisers.
Prague, the beguiling and bohemian capital of the Czech Republic, is a city that inspired Kafka to offer a warning to all visitors; “be careful, this little mother has claws”. There is a general acceptance of same sex partnerships here but the gay scene is segregated, and public displays of affection are ill advised. Nevertheless, those twisting, medieval lanes host a bevy of bars catering to all inclinations.
Despite its association with all things gay, there is actually no gay movement in Bangkok, simply because there is no anti-gay movement to challenge. Thai culture as a whole is accepting of homosexuality of both sexes, but as in Prague, affectionate displays in public are frowned upon. The gay scene is fairly prolific nevertheless, with the heart of it being the bars, which more often than not have cabaret with a highly camp content.
Other Gay Capitals than nearly made the cut!
Copenhagen: The Birthplace of Gay Rights
Long before the equality question came to the consciousness of the global community in the early 90s, this city well-known for its colorful history, its LEGO heritage, and its Nordic cuisine, pioneered in championing the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders when it, as a nation, was the first to openly recognize same-sex relationships or partnerships in 1989. Fast forward more than a decade later in 2012 and openly gay couples were now able to get wed in the Church, although they were only the 8th in Europe and 11th in the world to do so at the time. Nevertheless, no one questions the historic significance of Denmark and Copenhagen in spearheading the growing acceptance of gay people in the world. In 2014, it went a step further by renaming a city square, Københavns Rådhus, located just a few steps from the premises of the City Hall Tower, Rainbow Square, in reverence to the growing importance of the LGBT community in world affairs.
This historic milestone in the city’s and the country’s social affairs is not really surprising since the country is well-known as the most tolerant, most open, and friendliest in the European continent and truly one of the best in the world. With a functional yet very edgy fashion scene, Copenhagen has been a perennial favorite of world-class gay couturiers, stylists, artists, and designers who find Denmark’s exceptionally warm and inviting hospitality as major reasons for setting up shop in the land. Of course, the Danish economy and financial infrastructure are one of the best in Europe and has been the blueprint for other economies in the world.
There are also an exceptional array of gay-friendly cocktail bars and boutique accommodation that are especially designed for same-sex partnerships. All year round, queer events pack the calendar, further attracting tens of thousands of foreign gay visitors in the country either to partake in the celebrations or to simply make a vow of loyalty and openness to their respective partners.
Copenhagen is home to the continent’s oldest and most respected openly gay bar. In the 1950s, Centralhjørnet opened its doors to the city’s gay community. More than half a century later, the city is now pockmarked with a lot of openly gay bars and entertainment establishments including clubs and restaurants that are fast becoming the favorite of the global cay community. One can always try Café Intime, Oscar Bar and Café, Vela, and Jessie at Jolene, just to name a few.
As the tourism department of Denmark aptly puts in its advertising campaigns, Copenhagen is where you make friends, fall in love, and make truly lasting memories regardless of whether you’re gay or not.
Toronto: The Beacon of LGBTQ Rights
If Copenhagen is known for liberating the LGBT community in Europe from the shackles of social isolation and condemnation, its equivalent in the North American continent is Toronto, in Canada. It is largely recognized as one of the world’s most cosmopolitan and multicultural cities primarily because of its history as a very important destination for a lot of people and families migrating to Canada. Because of its rich cultural diversity and a major immigration destination, it is but natural that members of the LGBT community also find liberal acceptance in this maple leaf city.
But what really sets the city apart is the inclusion of the Q in the LGBT community, referring to queers or questioning individuals. These are individuals who are neither cisgender nor heterosexual and who were largely viewed as odd, strange, peculiar, or even eccentric.
Toronto prides itself of holding the annual Pride Month, a month-long calendar of activities held every June to pay homage to the colorful past, the challenging present, and the bright future of the city’s LGBTQ culture. The month-long celebration is punctuated with a lot of educational, informational, and truly entertaining activities that foreign and local LGBTQs partake. It’s extravagant. It’s inclusive. And it’s distinctively Toronto.
While Copenhagen renamed a city square Rainbow Square in 2014, it was Toronto that hosted the World Pride celebrations further cementing the city’s stature as an important international destination and landmark for the members of the global LGBTQ community. The queer culture of the city greeted thousands of international visitors partaking in the celebrations to a unique display of entertainment flair that only the Toronto community can provide.
Visitors wanting to learn more about the LGBTQ culture in Toronto can learn best when they visit the Church and Wellesley Village, more fondly called “The Village”. It is technically the home-base of the members of the Toronto LGBTQ community. The Village is where everyone can feel a lot safer as it provides a safe haven for those who are discriminated against because of their queerness. For the best in openly gay establishments, head to Queer West as it has an exciting array of businesses, cafes, bars, restaurants, and galleries owned and managed by gays and lesbians.
It may not have been the first in recognizing same-sex partnerships, but Toronto can hold the distinction of extending the equality debate to include queer individuals.