Our new guidebook, the Rough Guide to the Top LGBTQ+ Friendly Places in Europe is out in the world and selling fast. At a time when it’s arguably more important than ever to be loudly and proudly queer, there and everywhere, the book’s editor, Annie Warren, spills the beans on her five favourite European destinations for getaways with an inclusive vibe.
For the uninitiated, a masseria is a type of eighteenth-century rural Italian farmhouse, mostly used these days as holiday homes. One in the Italian region of Puglia plays host to a compendium of queer culture and world-class electronic music called Masseria Wave.
The festival itself is difficult to define, but suffice to say that it hosts a multidisciplinary array of inclusive projects from June through September; these include drag performances, DJ sets, live music and many other artistic endeavours that refuse categorisation. The masseria itself is also open as a queer-run hotel called La Restuccia throughout the year.
In fact, Puglia as a whole promises a stunningly laidback and rugged getaway. If you’re up for an idyllic cycle through Valle d’Itria, full of olive groves and first-class eateries (naturally), Puglia has you covered.
Or if you’d prefer to get your vitamin D fix by snoozing in the Italian sunshine, Puglia delivers in spectacular fashion. With mainland Italy’s longest coastline, there are more white-sand beaches than you can shake a stick at. Che meraviglia!
Most activities take place in the renowned queer neighbourhood of Chueca, though Pride events are held across the entire city. The most exciting day is that of the Pride Parade itself. A joyful atmosphere is guaranteed as protestors and parade-goers take to the streets to celebrate and embrace the values of diversity and acceptance.
Every year on the first Saturday of July, thousands march from Paseo del Prado to Colón to demand equal rights for the LGBTIQIA+ community. Throughout the day there are various performances and live events, including the ever-camp Mr Gay Pride España contest.
Don’t miss the wildly popular High Heels Race, a true spectacle in which only the most glamourous and hardy competitors don epic high heels to race along Madrid’s cobbled streets. Heels must be at least 15cm high to enter.
Non-competitors may wish to opt for more comfortable (if slightly less fabulous) footwear. You’ll be wearing them for a while, as the parade tends to start in the late afternoon and goes on until well past midnight.
Aside from Pride, be sure to check out Madrid’s burgeoning vegan eateries and craft beer breweries, as well as its vast array of queer bars and clubs. Try Gris, LL Bar and Escape for starters.
The Waterloo is alleged to be the oldest gay bar in Scotland and focuses on retro nights and karaoke. Delmonica’s red-lit interior is packed with silliness and fun, and AXM is Scotland’s largest LGBTQ+ nightclub with two floors, playing host to some of the UK’s biggest Drag Race icons (think local superstar Lawrence Chaney).
In 2022, Glasgow Pride hosted the largest Pride March in Scottish history, with 50,000 people taking to the streets to protest and to party – and this year, they’re not holding back! After the parade, don’t pass up the chance to spend a quiet hour recovering from your hangover in the cosy queer bookshop Category is Books. You’ll recognise it by the handwritten slogans on the windows.
Then hop across the Clyde afterwards for a wander around the pretty queer neighbourhood of Merchant City, which is positively packed with gay bars and LGBTQ+ hangouts. Hair of the dog, anyone?
Following a full week of food trucks and festival-style performances from iconic Swedish performers and drag artists at Pride Park as well as talks, workshops, debates and exhibitions at Pride House (for “the quiet gays”, as Hannah Gadsby would say), the week culminates in the Pride Parade itself. With over half a million spectators, it’s the largest in Scandinavia.
During this time, all of Stockholm hangs out their rainbow flags, and the options for celebration are limitless. As well as the official Pride programme, many outlets run themed brunches and boat trips as well as all-day happy hours. And if your calendar is already full during the first week of August, never fear.
As anyone with even a sporadic knowledge of LGBTQ+ rights in Europe will tell you, Sweden was one of the first countries to decriminalise homosexuality in 1944 and to legalise equal marriage in 2010. This puts Sweden high on the list when it comes to inclusivity all year long.
Of course, Berlin’s nightlife scene is second to none, and clubbing in the city is unlike clubbing anywhere else. This is especially true for queer clubbing, which can be as no-holds-barred as you might imagine. Whether you’d like to chill out and zone out to mellow beats in a club with a festival atmosphere by the river (try Sispyhos) or an all-night techno party where people rave for hours straight (try Kater Blau), you’ll easily find your crowd.
The majority of clubs are LGBTQ-friendly – even in the biggest, mixed clubs you can expect cruising at every turn. The scene is famously respectful and inclusive: anything goes, but everyone goes too. Yet Berlin also caters well to anyone looking for a calmer but nonetheless entertaining stay. There are cafés, bookshops, lecture halls and galleries a-plenty for those who don’t feel like dancing.
With thanks to Max Siegel, Stephen Emms, Richard Matoušek, Eleanor Ross and Emma Harrison.
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