You’ve clicked this article, which means you are planning a trip and looking for the best LGBTQ travel destinations in Europe. Europe surely is a splendid continent, with history, culture, and magnificent architecture.
Traveling as an LGBTQ can be an exciting but nerve-wracking experience. While you may be excited to visit new places and see new things, it can also be terrifying traveling to a country where heavy discrimination may meet you.
Some cities welcome LGBTQ travelers but many others have an unfortunate history of violence against gay and trans people. In some areas, violence is still happening today, so it’s essential to be careful. If you are going on a trip with a friend or partner, it’s wise to take precautions in advance.
Even if you are a confident and open LGBTQ, you may face a lot of challenges when you are traveling in Europe. It is because societies have a very different mindset than you are used to. You might not know what to expect as a first-timer, but don’t worry; this blog will be your guide.
LGBTQ Travel Destinations in Europe: How safe is Europe for gay travelers?
Gay travelers are increasingly seeking out destinations where they can feel comfortable and accepted. They may choose a country that is tolerant of their values or where the native language is spoken. Still, the most crucial factor for many LGBTQ travelers, and the reason why they choose a particular destination, is the political climate.
Europe, by far, is the safest continent in the world for LGBTQ travelers. The West and Northern European countries such as Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, Malta, and Portugal are safer than the Central and Eastern European nations.
Central and Eastern Europe do not support gay relationships, so it is best to travel to these continent’s countries at your own risk.
But again, here’s a catch! Nowhere is safe if you are not careful. Even the countries of Northern Europe can have some homophobes, or say, petty thieves who are looking to steal your wallet.
LGBTQ Travel Destinations in Europe: How to stay safe?
To make sure your next trip to Europe is safe and fun, here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Research your destination beforehand
Whether you’re a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) traveler, there are some things you should know before traveling internationally. Those things include the political situation of the destination you are traveling in, its reaction to LGBTQ travelers, crime rate, transportation services, accommodation, and so on.
Knowing some of these factors can help you prevent a host of issues while ensuring that your time is happier and more enjoyable.
There are also many countries with LGBTQ-specific support organizations you can contact before traveling abroad. It isn’t illegal to be an LGBTQ member in Europe. But knowing the laws would help.
Suppose you are looking for additional information. Many countries also have local LGBTQ support groups to join with a specific focus on that country.
Also, check out The Human Dignity Trust. It has all the information about the countries that criminalize homosexuality.
2. Look for an LGBTQI+ friendly travel agency
It is vital to consider LGBTQI+-friendly travel agencies when planning to visit a destination. Out of Office or Detours are popular choices for tourists interested in exploring the world with people who have diverse backgrounds and experiences.
3. Learn about the laws of your destination
Not all countries have the same laws for LGBTQ acceptance. Be aware of local laws, including where to find information on gender recognition and other types of ID.
Most European countries have protective anti-discrimination laws for LGBTQ, and more and more European countries are creating a safer and secure social environment for all LGBTQ couples.
Also, understand the laws in your own country, including gender recognition or passports, if you are considering marrying your partner while abroad. These legal identity documents may be necessary to travel on planes or through the EU member state borders in Europe.
It is also wise to keep the emergency contact information with you in case you get trapped in a critical situation.
4. Be precautions in less LGBTQ-friendly country
Take extra precautions when traveling to high-risk countries. You may be advised to avoid contact with people and certain buildings, drink only bottled water, wash your hands often, and avoid raw or undercooked food.
It is best if you contact the embassy in your home country and ask about the situation before leaving for your vacation.
It would be wise if you took precautions, especially while traveling in Eastern Europe. You should also abide by the rules and respect the culture while traveling in highly religious cities of Italy, Northern Ireland, and Turkey.
5. Leave a copy of your itinerary with friends/family
Take a photo of your itinerary and email it to friends and family so they can track your location during the trip. Also, consider using the Safety Check on Facebook or informing your friends about where you will be and when.
6. Be ready for an emergency
Carry emergency cash and a medical card in case of an emergency.
Travelers should inform themselves about the type of policy they may encounter in the country. They should know how to report any instances of discrimination, violence, or harassment and know which authorities to contact.
7. Understand homophobia and queerphobia
Often in rural regions of Europe, you will find increasing homophobic and queerphobic attitudes. It can be so due to the heavy Russian influence.
You should understand that just because the law has approved of Gay rights does not mean everyone would be supportive and progressive about it. You can expect hate and abuse from some of the people.
As I said before on how to travel as an LGBTQ in Asia :
“It’s important to remember that you are their superior, and they will exercise any power they can over you if given an opportunity. Especially if you’re traveling alone, be sure to stay alert and trust your instincts on if someone can be trusted or not.”
8. Never rely on anyone
Do not always rely on the police or any authority to solve your problem.
Some, especially in Eastern Europe, are more likely to use violence than help you, and they may try to arrest you regardless of whether or not you have committed a crime. If you report a crime, the authorities only prosecute crimes reported in the present time.
9. Ask for help from the right people
If you are a victim of discrimination, assault, or harassment, do not be afraid to ask for help. Analyze then seek out a nearby person and let them know what happened.
You can go to the police station in your area (sometimes they may not speak English, so it would be wise to know the local language or at least let them know that you don’t understand) or find a nearby medical facility.
It is best not to trust the first person you see as you may not know what intention they will have.
10. Look for LGBTQ-friendly accommodation
Even if you are an experienced gay traveler, it is still safer to stay in more LGBTQ-friendly areas such as cities and populated places. It will also be wise to look for places with bars or clubs as these are more likely to have a good number of gay people around.
It can be challenging to find a gay-friendly accommodation, however, do the research and look for hotels and hostels that have some LGBTQ-friendly policy that allows a same-sex partner to stay in one room.
The Best LGBTQ Travel Destinations in Europe
Europe is a popular destination for individuals looking forward to exploring the world, but not everyone will know where they should go. It can be challenging for gay and lesbian travelers to find cities that cater specifically to their needs.
The list of the safest and fun countries in Europe to travel to as an LGBTQ is listed below:
1. Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona is an ideal destination for same-sex couples, who can choose from several housing and lifestyle options. Barcelona offers a wide range of attractions that includes one of the biggest gay clubs in Spain, Night Barcelona.
The city also offers restaurants bars, and other types of entertainment for those looking to have a good time. Barcelona is well-connected by public transport, and there are plenty of hotels and hostels that include same-sex accommodation options.
If you and your partner have a love for football, why not visit Camp Nou and watch a match?
Besides, Madrid also is excellent for LGBTQ travelers who are looking forward to great nightlife.
2. Vienna, Austria
Of course, Vienna is also an excellent destination for a good vacation, but it’s especially welcoming to LGBTQ travelers. Vienna has had a rich gay history with gay emperors, generals, and musicians.
Vienna is a splendid city for touring and shopping.
If you are an avid reader, I recommend visiting the Löwenherz- a gay and lesbian book store. You can sit here for hours browsing through the classics.
Malta is a great place to travel as a gay individual because they legalized same-sex marriage in 2017. This country is one of the most attractive places to visit in Europe due to its large number of LGBTQ-friendly bars, accommodations, clubs, and restaurants.
Malta is a small island country near Italy, and its beaches are always sunny and warm.
It is also a great place to visit if you like seafood. Maltese cuisine is a favorite among many travelers, and it would be best to top it off with a drink at Malta’s LGBTQ+ bars.
Some of the bars to go to are the Monaliza Lounge and Birdcage Lounge. They have good food, and great drinks accompanied by live music and cabaret shows.
4. Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen is one of the most open-minded cities in Europe and is ranked as one of the most LGBTQ-friendly cities globally. It is quite possibly the best city for LGBTQ travelers looking for safety and fun.
In Denmark, they have granted gay couples all the rights and responsibilities as opposite-sex couples.
Traveling in Copenhagen is fun as you get to walk through the clean cobbled streets and look at the century-old buildings. The city has cool bars and restaurants that have exceptional choices of international cuisines and desserts.
5. The Netherlands (Amsterdam/Rotterdam)
Like Amsterdam and Rotterdam, cities in the Netherlands are great places for LGBTQ travelers because they have a great club scene and a gay-friendly atmosphere. Historically, the Netherlands was the first nation to legalize same-sex marriage laws.
Whether you are exploring the country on a bicycle or spending your nights in Amsterdam partying, there is something for everyone.
If you are visiting Amsterdam in the winter season, go skating at the Frozen Canals. Be a part of the Gay Pride Canal Parade or the King’s Day celebrations.
Cities like the Hague and Utrecht are also considered splendid for visiting as LGBTQ members. They are safe for traveling at night too.
Scotland is a nation that has been on the right side of history when it comes to LGBTQ rights. They have adopted legislation for marriage equality and do not have any religious objections to same-sex couples getting married.
Scotland offers a lot in terms of tourist attractions and public transportation. It would be best to take your time traveling through Scotland and experience the lively and friendly people.
Many tourists enjoy visiting places like Edinburgh Castle, National Museum of Scotland, Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, Edinburgh Zoo, or taking a tour of Scotland on the famous West Highland Railway Line.
Fun fact: The national animal of Scotland is the Unicorn! Can it get gayer?
Iceland is a welcoming country to the LGBTQ community, and to make it better; the country has a queer-oriented tour group called Pink Iceland. Pink Iceland helps LGBTQ travelers to have fun while maintaining safety. They also organize weddings and other events.
In Iceland, you can choose from several cultural tours and learn about the Gender Equality history of Iceland.
While you are in Iceland, be a part of the Reykjavik Winter Pride.
8. Longdon, England
England is a country that supports LGBTQ, and traveling here is safe. The LGBTQ community has plenty of opportunities to socialize in the city, from pubs and clubs to gay-friendly hotels and events.
London is a famous city to travel to with historical attractions and beautiful sights. You can find LGBTQ restaurants and pubs in Earl’s Court. And for some shopping, you can visit Oxford Street.
9. Brighton, UK
Brighton is said to be the United Kingdom’s gay capital; I mean, why wouldn’t it be? Brighton has a laid-back atmosphere where LGBTQ travelers can roam around freely.
There are lots of gay bars and clubs where you can enjoy a good night. The city has its set of attractions like museums, comedy, theatre, and festivals.
Speaking about festivals, Brighton also hosts one of the biggest Pride festivals in Europe.
Germany is one of the best LGBTQ travel destinations in Europe. Part of this is because it has a very open-minded culture, and part of it is because Germany has a higher number of LGBTQ people than any other country in the world.
Cities like Berlin, Düsseldorf, and Dresden are great places for LGBTQ travel in Germany. Not only are there some excellent gay-friendly accommodations and restaurants, but the people are very welcoming as well.
If you are an art lover, don’t miss out on Dresden. The city has music, art and architecture, and heritage. Plus, it has many areas dedicated to the LGBTQ community.
These make Germany a great place to visit for LGBTQ travelers.
11. Brussels. Belgium
The capital of Belgium and a beautiful city itself is often considered one of the top locations for LGBTQ tourists. It is one of the most gay-friendly capitals in the world due to its progressive laws on same-sex marriage and adoption.
Brussels is a great destination to visit museums and attractions and to indulge in Belgian culture.
But if you want to experience more, I suggest you go on Marc’s Belgian Beer Tour, where you can visit popular bars and cafes to sample various beers with snacks.
If you have a sweet tooth, you need to try the Brussels Chocolate Walking Tour and Workshop. I hope you have heard that there is nothing like Belgian chocolate and Belgian waffles, well it is the best chance to try it!
12. Porto, Portugal
Portugal is open to LGBTQ travelers with its progressive gay rights and a simplified legal process for gender identification. The country has banned discrimination on sexual orientation.
Porto is a gay-friendly destination because it has a thriving LGBT community, and many historical and modern landmarks linked to the LGBTQ community.
Porto is a city of entertainment and art. It has art galleries and open-air spaces, full of works created by experienced artists and young creators. There is theatre, and there is music.
By night, the city comes alive with delicious food and booming nightlife. Porto gay nightlife is undoubtedly extraordinary.
If you are not up for partying, then visit Douro Valley and wander the vineyards sipping wine. The picturesque scenery of the region will make you relaxed.
LGBTQ Travel Destinations in Europe: Conclusion
Now that you have learned all about the LGBTQ travel destinations in Europe and how to stay safe; let me tell you that it is all about having confidence and enjoying the moment. Go and have fun, attend the festivals and events, and make the most out of your trip.
Also, let us know which country or city have you chosen to put on your travel bucket list.
Speaking of the bucket list, also read our article on tips for your travel bucket list ideas