The world is still far from perfect, but it definitely is a better place for minority groups such as LGBTQ. Many destinations are moving forward toward the embrace of homosexuality, and even “straight” spaces are now accessible and welcoming to queer people. However, there exist special places where the gay community can achieve a perfect sense of belonging, where they can gather with like-minded people and feel safe and at home. They’re called gayborhoods or gay neighborhoods, LGBTQ hotspots that are bustling with nightlife and distinct culture.
If you’re looking to connect with the LGBTQ community during your travel, here are some of the best gayborhoods you should keep an eye on!
New York City, USA
New York City is a historic place for the gay community. The city is home to the Stonewall National Monument, found across the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street, in Greenwich Village. If there’s one place you shouldn’t miss, this will be it. The monument commemorates the 1969 Stonewall riots, a major pivot in LGBTQ history. Stonewall Inn is also a great place for LGBTQ nightlife today. Moreover, the village is a central route for the NYC Pride March held in June annually.
San Francisco, USA
Touted as a gay mecca in the United States, San Francisco has a long history of gay rights activism, which gave a hoist to the city’s gayborhoods. One of the most prominent is the historic Castro district, sprinkled with LGBTQ-friendly restaurants, bars, and shops. It is also the site of the Castro Street Fair where you can meet LGBTQ artists and entrepreneurs. If you like something kinkier, head to South of Market for the Folsom Street Fair where you can also learn more about the city’s leather subculture.
Another prominent gayborhood in the US is the Gayborhood in Philadelphia, officially recognized by the city. Located at Washington Square West, the neighborhood is easily identified by rainbow flags and rainbow-painted street signs and crosswalks. Besides these, the most Instagrammable spots to check out are the William Way LGBT Community Center with its “Pride and Progress” wall mural and the colorful gay-friendly shop buildings on South Street.
Berlin is another pioneering city, where the gay rights movement first flickered in 1867. Today, it is one of the most robust gayborhoods in the world, with a thriving music, art, and entertainment scene. Be sure to visit the Schwules Museum, the world’s earliest LGBTQ museum, and perhaps participate in the Folsom Europe street fair held every September. Also don’t miss a queer walking tour with a local expert!
Arguably the best gay destination in Europe is the LGBTQ-loving and liberal country of Amsterdam. The first gay bars opened here in the early 1900s, and the oldest Café ’t Mandje is now a city icon. There is also a dedicated gay and lesbian info and souvenir kiosk called Pink Point, located next to the pink, triangular Homomonument built to commemorate victims of gay persecution during World War II. For local gay culture and nightlife, Zeedijk, Warmoesstraat, and Kerkstraat are the best areas to explore—all accessible from Amstel, a river that sees colorful floats during the Amsterdam Gay Pride parade.
Madrid is another place in Europe with a rich LGBTQ scene. Queer vibes heavily permeate Chueca, the city’s central gayborhood where there’s never a shortage of options for food, shopping, and nightlife especially at Plaza de Chueca and along Calle de Hortaleza and Calle de Fuencarral. Chueca is also where the Madrid Pride parade is held every July.
London is the beating heart of queer culture in the United Kingdom, where the first European gay pride parade was held and the first gay bars sprouted. Soho is its epicenter, where the LGBT Tourist Office is situated and the best queer entertainment awaits. Head to Old Compton Street for fare and rave, and be sure to drop by the historic gay pub Admiral Duncan. Meanwhile, on the other side of River Thames just south of Soho, Vauxhall is also a must-visit with its hearty gay party scene.
Tel Aviv, Israel
The month of Pride is a great time to visit Tel Aviv, where it’s summer and queer people flock to beaches like Hilton and Gordon. Nightlife is also great; along the beach, you can find gay-friendly bars and cafes perfect for cooling off. The most exciting parties also happen during Pride Week at popular gay bars like Shpagat and Dungeon Club.
Join a pub crawl in Jerusalem, a perfect side-trip from Tel Aviv!
Amid the widely conservative cultures of Asia, Taipei shines brightly as an oasis for LGBTQ. It’s worth mentioning that Taiwan is the highest-ranking Asian country next to Israel on the Spartacus Gay Travel Index. Its capital is also home to Asia’s loudest Pride parade, held every October. For nightlife, gay bars are concentrated around Ximen Red House, which is right across Ximending Night Market, a great place to fill up with various dishes and street food.
Bangkok is another gay haven in Asia with a buzzing late-night party scene and gay-friendly spas like Babylon and Chakran. The gayborhood of Silom is the best place to be for some queer action, where the crowds are also culturally diverse. Visit iconic clubbing destinations like Balcony and Telephone, which are also a stone’s throw away from Silom Night Market.
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