From LA to London and Berlin to Bangkok, there are pockets of love all over the world where LGBT+ people have made a home for themselves since the historic Stonewall Riots in 1969 and well before. If you’re looking for a getaway where you can live and love in the company of like-minded LGBT+ friends, look no further than these rainbow-filled destinations.
Referred to as the ‘San Francisco of the UK’ and the ‘gay capital of England’, Brighton is pretty much as queer as it gets if you don’t want to leave the UK (though Manchester may disagree). With the UK’s biggest Pride Festival taking place every August and Kemptown, the city’s gay village, chock-full of gay bars, clubs and hotels, you’ll feel right at home.
Brighton’s bohemian vibes permeate everywhere, but nowhere more than The Lanes, where you’ll find vintage shops stuffed to bursting with a combination of hidden treasures and useless tat, record shops and vegan cafés. The city’s biggest and most disorderly nightclub is Revenge, right on the corner by the seafront, but for the real Brighton gay vibes, check out Lip Sync For Your Life at Bar Revenge on Tuesdays, where local wannabe-queens and kings go head to head for the crown, and various queer cabaret and comedy shows at Caroline of Brunswick.
The Big Apple might be famous worldwide for its yellow cabs, torch-bearing lady and Broadway theatre, but for the LGBT+ community, New York is the birthplace of not only gay rights but also drag culture and Pride, the yearly celebration we all know and love so very much. This year’s WorldPride, the largest Pride celebration in the world, will commemorate 50 Years since Stonewall, the police raid that sparked the fire of the gay rights movement. Be sure to visit the Stonewall Inn, ‘the place where Pride lives’, and pay respect to the brothers, sisters and all those in between who have lost their lives over the years for our right to be out and proud today.
New York was also the birthplace of another phenomenon now well known across the world thanks to the likes of RuPaul’s Drag Race; Ballroom Culture. Balls were the original showcase of drag, where queens would ‘walk’ in various categories ranging from ‘extravaganza’ to ‘femme queen realness’, as seen in the iconic 1990s documentary Paris Is Burning – the library is open, darling. Head to a drag bingo at the Stonewall Inn or drag dinner at Lucky Cheng’s. After partying it up, visit the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, the world’s first dedicated LGBTQ art museum.
Germany’s capital is the proud home to LGBT+ culture by the bucketful, somewhat surprising considering the city’s recent history of persecution and separation. But LGBT+ people have had a happy home in Berlin since the early 1920s when Schöneberg, the world’s first ‘gay village’, popped up and allowed its inhabitants to flourish alongside a permeating queer artistic expression that still makes its mark on the city today.
If you’re looking for nightlife, the best places, surprisingly, aren’t in the district of Schöneberg – the hotspots have been shifting east for several years now. To experience Berlin’s real gay culture, head to the bars in Neukölln and Kreuzberg; there’s SchwuZ, with its themed evenings like Madonnamania or the wild and risqué atmosphere of KitKatClub. The biggest party, however, is undoubtedly the two-week Pride celebration, which has the city rainbowed- and dragged-up to the nines for event after event, especially on Christopher Street Day. In between all the partying, be sure to schedule a visit to the Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism, to pay respect to all those who lost their lives during the Holocaust.
Often nicknamed the ‘gay capital of the world’, LGBT+ people have lived and thrived in San Francisco since before the start of the 20th century, with the first notorious gay bar opening back in 1908. The Castro, the city’s ‘gay neighbourhood’ (though at this point, gay culture in San Fran stretches far wider than that), emerged in the 1960s and 1970s post-Stonewall, and the city has been in the record books for gay ‘firsts’ ever since: first gay softball league, first gay university, first gay film festival and the first openly gay politician, Harvey Milk, in 1977, to name a few.
If you’re in the market for some learning, look no further than the LGBT History Museum in The Castro and the Walk of Fame featuring names of notable LGBT+ people. The Mission, on the other hand, is the historic home of San Fran’s queer Latinx population and is also popular with lesbians. Wherever you choose to spread your gay roots in San Francisco, you’ll be sure to see pride flags abound and same-sex culture everywhere you look.
LGBT+ culture works in mysterious ways, and sometimes hotspots of liberality pop up in the most unexpected of places. Tel Aviv, Israel’s capital which sits on the cusp of the often ultra-restrictive Middle East, has a flourishing LGBT+ community which is not only a fantastic tourist destination but also a refuge for LGBT+ individuals fleeing surrounding countries. The city’s Mayor made a public declaration of support for the community last year, and it seems like the gay community in Tel Aviv is just going to keep expanding.
Although the famous Evita gay bar made its mark here before closing its doors in 2016, Tel Aviv nightlife is more about parties than clubbing. Everyone (and we mean everyone) will head to the same party, held in a different location each night, for a wild soirée that continues into the early hours. For daytime chilling or sleeping off the hangover, drag yourself to Hilton Beach, where you’re guaranteed to be surrounded by fellow gays.
For years now, West Hollywood has been an epicentre for gay culture, with up to 40% of its population currently identifying as LGBT+. This city at the base of the Hollywood Hills was the first majority-gay municipality in the USA, and, as you might imagine, has quite the extensive lists of gay bars, clubs, cafés, restaurants and events. A trip here can combine all the glitz and glam of Los Angeles – Beverly Hills, Hollywood Boulevard, Santa Monica and Venice Beach – with a sizzling dose of gaiety and merriment the LA way.
The Abbey, possibly the world’s most famous gay nightclub, should absolutely be on your list, but make sure to check out the smaller, more local-frequented places and events too. Head to the raucous drag queen bingo night at Hamburger Mary’s, or for something a bit more toned-down, time your visit to coincide with One City One Pride, the 40-day-long LGBT+ arts festival that showcases themed interactive, performing and visual arts – 2019’s theme is ‘I Remember’, honouring LGBT+ history in all its forms.