The world's most LGBT-friendly cities

In May 2019, Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalise gay marriage, and to celebrate, we've rounded up the world's most LGBT-friendly cities, from Toronto, with its rainbow-coloured pedestrian crossings and statues of gay icons, to Sydney, home of the Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras - the world's largest LGBT event.

The world's most LGBT-friendly cities © Fergus Coyle - Fotolia.com
The world's most LGBT-friendly cities © Fergus Coyle - Fotolia.com

Palm Springs, California, USA

Palm Springs' tourist board was one of the first to introduce a dedicated website for LGBT travellers, VisitGayPalmSprings.com. There's a packed calendar of events, including Greater Palm Springs Pride (November), the Cinema Diverse LGBTQ film festival (September) and, in April, the Dinah Shore Weekend - a festival for the lesbian community.

Palm Springs also has over a dozen dedicated LGBT-specific resorts. INNdulge Palm Springs is a hit with solo travellers, thanks to the nightly social hours. When it comes to nightlife, popular bars include Street Bar (Palm Springs' first gay bar) and the wonderfully kitsch Toucans Tiki Lounge.

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Toronto, Canada

Church and Wellesley is the hub of Toronto's LGBT scene - a colourful neighbourhood with rainbow-coloured pedestrian crossings and a statue of LGBT campaigner Alexander Wood. At its heart is Out on the Street, a three-storey department store known for its wide range of Pride merchandise and what we'll refer to as adults-only clothing and accessories.

Celebrating gay rights in Toronto, Canada ©
Celebrating gay rights in Toronto, Canada

Another retail-related highlight is the Glad Day Bookshop, Canada's first gay bookstore. Church and Wellesley also has some of the city's best restaurants, including Fabarnak, owned and operated by the 519 Community Centre.

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Taipei, Taiwan

Taiwan became the first Asian country to legalise same-sex marriage in 2019. It has always been regarded as one of Asia's most progressive countries, and its Taipei Pride event (Asia's largest) is attended by hundreds of thousands of people from across the region.

One of Taipei's most popular LGBT spots is the GinGin store, known for its huge selection of gay literature (Asia's first gay novel was published in Taipei, after all) and LGBT-themed art exhibitions. The city's most LGBT-friendly neighbourhood is Ximending, and at its centre is the Red House, a building filled with LGBT-friendly bars, stores, hair salons and restaurants.

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Key West, Florida, USA

In 2000, Key West made its official logo "One Human Family", part of an effort to cement its reputation as America's most LGBT-friendly destination. Over 300,000 LGBT travellers head here every year, lured by events such as June's Key West Pride and September's Womenfest.

Another draw is the opportunity to learn more about celebrated LGBT figures, such as Tennessee Williams - his former home is now the Tennessee Williams Museum - and writer Elizabeth Bishop, whose former home is a designated Literary Landmark.

There are also several dedicated LGBT tour operators, including Blu Q Key West, which offers yacht charters, snorkel trips and sunset cruises. One of the city's most popular events is the famous Gay & Lesbian trolley tour.

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Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The Netherlands became the first country to legalise gay rights in 2001, and Amsterdam is considered the birthplace of LGBT rights - one of the first gay rights organisations was founded here in 1946, and the world's first gay bars opened here. This includes Café't Mandje, which opened in 1927 and remains Amsterdam's most popular gay bar.

Reguliersdwarsstraat is the heart of the gay LGBT community in Amsterdam © Wiskerke - Alamy Stck Photo
Reguliersdwarsstraat is the heart of the gay LGBT community in Amsterdam © Wiskerke - Alamy Stock Photo

Museums such as the Rijksmuseum regularly offer so-called Pink Tours focusing on exhibits with a connection to Holland's LGBT history, and the city's Pride event is one of the world's largest.

The city's most LGBT-friendly areas include Amstel, home to De Lellebel, Holland's only drag queen café, and Kerkstraat, known for its LGBT-friendly hotels and hostels.

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Bisbee, Arizona, USA

The closure of Bisbee's mine turned it into a ghost town, but decades later, a handful of free-thinking, art-loving Americans arrived and transformed it into Arizona's most progressive city.

Head to its centre and you'll find a fantastic selection of LGBT bars and clubs and a vibrant arts scene. One of the city's most popular events is its gay rodeo, and there's a spectacular rainbow-coloured pedestrian crossing.

The city became the first municipality in Arizona to pass a Civil Union Ordinance, and in 2008 the 54-tonne AIDS Memorial Quilt, created in San Francisco in 1985, was brought here. There are dozens of LGBT-friendly hotels but the most famous one is the Silver King Hotel, where you'll find the Room 4 Bar - Arizona's smallest bar.

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Sydney, Australia

Sydney's Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, in February, is one of the world's largest LGBT events, and the city has one of the world's largest LGBT communities. Then again, this is the place which brought us Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Speedos and gay rights activist and Olympic swimmer, Ian Thorpe.

Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is massive - photo courtesy of Destination NSW, Australia
Sydney's Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras is massive - photo courtesy of Destination NSW, Australia

Darlinghurst is the most LGBT-friendly neighbourhood, home to properties like the LGBT-friendly Medusa boutique hotel, along with fantastic shops, including the Bookshop Darlinghurst, Australia's oldest LGBT bookstore.

However, you'll find LGBT-friendly bars, restaurants and clubs throughout the city. Make sure you visit the art-deco Imperial Erskineville, which had a starring role in Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Head to the basement for its legendary drag shows.

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Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta might technically be a town, but it's certainly worthy of inclusion. To start with, it's the reason Mexico's Pacific coast is the country's most LGBT-friendly destination.

Accommodation options here include the LGBT-friendly, adults-only Villa Mercedes and the Casa Cupula Gay Hotel Boutique Guesthouse and, if you can forgive the cringe-worthy name, you can sign up for the Wet & Wild Gay Cruise (AKA "Puerto Vallarta's sexiest cruise").

Alternatively, head to Los Muertos Beach, more specifically, the section in front of Blue Chairs - the town's most popular LGBT-friendly hotel. You'll find it in the Zona Romantica, an area which can be explored on the Gay Vallarta Bar Hopping Tour.

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Planning an LGBT-friendly getaway? Check out the latest deals on flights, holidays and hotels, and get booking today.

Tamara Hinson

Tamara Hinson
Posted on Monday 12th August 2019 in: Asia Caribbean City Culture Europe Festival North America Oceania

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