It is 2023 and yet there is only a small number of countries that are considered absolutely safe for the queer community. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual and + (others) individuals make up the LGBTQIA + community and June is the month when the world comes together to celebrate pride. Many cities in countries like Iceland, Netherlands, Canada and Spain are known to be LGBTQ+ friendly, and they show their support not just with pride parades but are more accepting and have laws in place to protect the community.
Most of these countries are in Europe which makes the summer favourite vacation destination a must-visit for the LGBT+ community as well. The fact that out of 34 countries where same-sex marriage is legal, 18 are in Europe further proves this point.
According to a TechTalk report released by Currys, 77 major cities were ranked across the globe against 15 different categories that included LGBTQIA+ acceptance, gender equality, mental health and other key aspects. Every category has been scored from 1 to 10 and as per the report, “The higher the score – 10 being the highest possible score – the better the standard of wellbeing is in that city.”
What does it mean for a country to be LGBTQIA+ friendly?
- It needs to be socially accepting of the community.
- The country’s laws should also be progressive and supportive of the queer community along with factors such as safety play a key role in an individual’s wellbeing.
- Whether the country has legalised same-sex marriage or not.
- Quality of healthcare is available for the community.
- Recreational and social activities for the community.
9 most LGBTQIA+ friendly countries
Iceland legalised same-sex marriages in 2010 and became the first country to openly elect a queer Prime Minister (Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir) in 2009.
Reykjavik in Iceland scored a full ten on the list, making it one of the best destinations for queer travellers. The capital city is home to several rainbow crossings and the main one is called Rainbow Street. This year, Reykjavik is celebrating the pride festival from August 8 to 12. Find out details for Reykjavik Pride here.
Famous LGBTQIA+ neighbourhood and hotspots: The downtown region in Reykjavik is a hotspot when it comes to queer events and gatherings in the city. Head to the Kiki Gay Club area on weekends to watch drag shows.
In 2001, the Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage and remains one of the most LGBTQIA + friendly countries to date. Amsterdam and Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, took the second and the third spot on the list with a score of 9.8 each.
Amsterdam is famous for its one-of-a-kind pride celebrations. Here, the parade takes place on boats floating in the city’s famous canals. Celebrations in 2023 will begin on August 1 and go on till August 6.
The city has a Pink Point info kiosk, which is an information booth set up especially for the LGBTQIA+ community to get travel tips, recommendations and everything else that would interest them in the city.
Famous LGBTQIA+ neighbourhood and hotspots: Reguliersdwarsstraat neighbourhood, located in the heart of the city is the ultimate LGBTQIA+ hot spot. The city has over 100 queer-friendly bars, clubs, saunas and hotels.
Another city in the Netherlands which is known to be LGBTQ+ friendly is Rotterdam. This year, the Pride festival was celebrated from June 1 to 11 in 2023. Even after the festival is over, people from the community can partake in other pride events that happen throughout the year.
Famous LGBTQIA+ neighbourhood and hotspots: Socialise at Mankracht Rotterdam every third Thursday of the month with like-minded people from the community. Visit Café Keerweer, Bar de Regenboog, Strano, Bar Loge 90 and Café Bonaparte for a fun night drinking, enjoying Karaoke and watching drag shows.
Three cities — Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver — place fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, each with a score of 9.66 giving the Great White North, which legalised same-sex marriage in 2005, a concrete holding in the list of places that are the safest for the LGBTQIA+ community.
With a vibrant queer nightlife, stunning architecture and lots of poutine dishes to savour, Montreal is known to welcome people from different cultures and ethnicities. The city will be celebrating the Pride festival from August 3 to 13 in 2023 and has a series of activities such as queer theme events and exhibitions planned at the Village and Downtown area.
Famous LGBTQIA+ neighbourhood and hotspots: The main area to catch all the action from the LGBTQIA+ community is the commercial district of Gay Village running along Sainte-Catherine Street.
For a kid-friendly and relaxed Pride festival, Toronto hosts a street fair, parties and a parade. Join all this and more from June 23 to 25.
Famous LGBTQ+ neighbourhood and hotspots: Toronto’s Queen Street is the main hub for the community.
Visit Woody’s — the bar where the ‘Queer as Folk’ drama was filmed and Buddies in Bad Times theatre to watch queer performances which converts to a nightclub on days there are no performances.
Famous for being the first city in Canada to have a rainbow colour crosswalk, Vancouver is safe and queer-friendly. This year, Vancouver is celebrating the Pride festival during the long weekend of British Columbia Day on August 5 and 6. With live music, artisan markets and a beer garden for adults, the event will take place at Concord Community Park.
Famous LGBTQIA+ neighbourhood and hotspots: Davie Street which is also known as Davie Village in the West End of Vancouver is the main area to catch all the LGBTQ+ community action. This area has a relaxed vibe where you can spot rainbow flags, colourful banners and posters.
Ranking seventh in the safest city for the queer community is Oslo in Norway with a score of 9.63. Norway legalised same-sex marriage in 2009 and ever since has been welcoming people without discriminating on their sexual preferences. The city is scheduled to celebrate a nine-day Pride festival in 2023, from June 23 until July 1.
Famous LGBTQIA+ neighbourhood and hotspots: With a diverse queer scene, Oslo doesn’t have a dedicated spot for the community but on the whole is a fun city to explore. Visit queer bars such as London Pub & Club, Elsker, Bob’s Pub and Fire when in Oslo.
Dublin in Ireland, where same-sex marriage has been lawful since 2015, is considered to be the eighth safest city in the world for the queer community with a score of 9.10. The city is celebrating the Pride festival from June 20 to 25 this year with a message of “protest, remember and celebrate” the community. With a march, parade and plenty of activities planned during the week, the city is all about spreading the love this month.
Famous LGBTQIA+ neighbourhood and hotspots: Some of the best spots for LGBTQIA+ travellers are Temple Bar gay district and the entire area around the Old Town. One must visit the popular Street 66 bar, The George Bar, Panti Bar and Euphoria Club.
Brussels and Gent (or Ghent), both with a score of 9, made it to the list of the safest cities for the community. Belgium as a whole is one of the most LGBT-friendly countries where same-sex marriage was legalised in 2003.
The idealogy here is to imbibe acceptance and open-mindedness in the natives, as well as, the visitors. Though the parade for 2023 took place in May, the city keeps hosting queer events throughout the year.
Famous LGBTQ+ neighbourhood and hotspots: Brussels gay village, also known as Saint Jacques neighbourhood, is a must-visit for the members of the community. Station BXL Bar and Le Baroque are some of the most famous queer bars in the city.
Asking for equal rights and laws for the LGBTQ+ community, the Pride parade in Gent takes place on June 28. Titled ‘Pride is a Protest,’ the event sees quite a big footfall every year.
Famous LGBTQIA+ neighbourhood and hotspots: La Reserve and La Demence are two of the most famous queer bars in the vicinity.
Spain is the only country that has four of its cities mentioned on this list. Barcelona, Madrid, Seville and Valencia, all with a score of 8.81 make Spain one of the most LGBT+-friendly countries. It legalised same-sex marriage early in 2005 and also has laws in place protecting and ensuring equality for the community.
With the thought of creating an atmosphere of comfort and support for community members of all age groups, the Pride events in Barcelona will take place between July 3 to 16. The main event will be held on July 14 and 15.
Famous LGBTQIA+ neighbourhood and hotspots: One of the biggest communities of LGBTQIA+ in Europe can be seen in Barcelona’s L’Eixample neighbourhood. From beauty salons to bookshops, you will find saunas, cafes and bars owned and frequented by LGBTQI+ communities.
Visit Platja de la Mar Bella, Barcelona’s premier queer beach (clothing is optional). Other hotspots include a popular lesbian bar – Arena Classic and Candy Darling, a Warhol-inspired club.
Welcoming people from across the world, Madrid hosts one of the most colourful Pride parades. Though the celebrations commence on June 28 every year, it is on the first Saturday of every July that the Pride parade takes place.
Famous LGBTQIA+ neighbourhood and hotspots: Chueca district is one of the main queer areas in the city. Twist & Shout Bar and Paddy’s Irish Tavern are the queer bars that one should visit.
Celebrating Pride from June 22 to June 25 in 2023, Seville hosts one of the best Pride festivals in Spain. Being a progressive place, the queer community can socialise, explore the buzzing nightlife and simply take Spanish cooking classes here.
Famous LGBTQIA+ neighbourhood and hotspots: Alameda de Hércules is the place where the community heads for a fun night. One can opt for tapas bars, live music places, jazz bars or open mic nights for an amazing time in the city. The popular bars are El Bosque Animado, Men to Men and Dilema.
Valencia is sensitive to all kinds of communities and travellers and is also the first to be hosting Gay Games in the year 2026. This year, the city is kickstarting the celebrations on the same dates as Seville and will be showcasing LGBTQIA+ films, concerts, theatre performances, book presentations and exhibitions.
Famous LGBTQIA+ neighbourhood and hotspots: Gorge on the most authentic Paella, in its city of origin and start exploring the landmarks in Valencia as the entire city is safe for the community and doesn’t have one specific spot to hang out at. Don’t forget to visit the famous queer beach – Playa de Las Dunas de Pinedo where clothing is optional.
Legalising same-sex marriage in 2012, Denmark’s Copenhagen made it to the list with a score of 8.61. The city witnesses one of the biggest Pride events of its kind in Scandinavia. Join the Pride celebrations starting from August 12 to August 20, 2023. This year’s theme is ‘Come together’ which focuses on joining hands for equality, transgender rights and pride in general.
Famous LGBTQIA+ neighbourhood and hotspots: Most bars and clubs are located in the city centre, around the famous Strøget shopping street. Another spot to explore would be Studiestræde which is in the city’s historic Latin Quarter running parallel to Strøget. Must-visit queer bars and clubs in the city are Centralhjørnet, Kiss Kiss, Men’s Bar, Cosy Bar and GAY Copenhagen.
Though many Asian countries cannot call themselves safe when it comes to the queer community, countries like Taiwan are taking steps in the right direction. Taiwan became the first Asian state to legalise same-sex marriages, in the year 2019. Proving to be one of the friendliest places for the community, Taipei City is celebrating the Pride festival from October 26 to 29 this year. The celebrations begin with a Pride march and see participation from the queer tribe across the globe through various events such as live shows, performances and parties.
Famous LGBTQIA+ neighbourhood and hotspots: Home to some of the best world-class parties and a huge queer scene, Wanhua district has all the famous spots for the community. Head to Hero Bar, G Star Club and Hunt Tapei for a drinking and dancing end to the day.
Hero and feature image: Courtesy Pixabay
This story first appeared on Travel+Leisure India and Southeast Asia
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Answer: Same-sex couples can legally marry only in the 34 countries where same-sex marriages are legalised and these are: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Uruguay.
Answer: Yes, many countries recognise and protect gender identities of LGBTQIA+ communities.