By Advocate.com Editors
Originally published on Advocate.com January 14 2011 11:00 AM ET
The Advocate goes international to find the best gay vacation spots. From Stockholm to Curaçao, find out where to spend your next trip abroad.
Click here to read The Advocate's Gayest Cities in America list.
Swedish gay priest Eva Brunne (left) poses with pastor Tuulikki Koivunen Bylundis after being ordained.
Stockholm — Europe’s undiscovered gem is truly one of the world’s most distinctive cities, perched on 14 islands on the southeast coast of Sweden. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo craze may have put Stockholm on the map, but gay tourists would be wise to move Stockholm to the top of their list of must-visit destinations in Europe. The first country in the world to deem that homosexuality is not an illness (way back in 1944), Sweden has become a pioneering force for gay rights throughout Europe. In fact, being gay is such a nonissue in Sweden, Stockholm doesn’t really have a gay area – the gay clubs are everywhere, and gay restaurants and coffee shops dispersed throughout downtown, old town and even the burbs. For a truly unique experience, party on the Lady Patricia, a gay dance club built on a boat. And for some uniquely gay culture, check out Millesgarden, a sculpture garden named for Carl Milles that boasts a number of homoerotic (and some downright gay) pieces.
The Toronto Pride Parade
Toronto — First-time visitors to this eclectic, gay-friendly metropolitan melting pot often remark on its cleanliness, comparing it to a tidier New York or London. Besides its famed film festival each fall, first-rate theatrical productions, and world-class museums, Toronto is noted for its all-embracing Gay Village, located at Church and Wellesley streets, full of bustling bars and bistros plus LGBT-owned restaurants and shops.
Kylie Minogue performs at the Gay Parade concert at Plaza de Espana on July 3, 2010, in Madrid.
Madrid — Spain's cutting-edge style city also happens to be its capital, where gay marriage and a tradition of Catholicism simultaneously coexist and collide. Madrid has an amazing amount of life to it, with its countless galleries, live music performances, nightclubs, and rich history. Chueca is the chic gay barrio in the middle of the city; it was revitalized by LGBT-owned shops, bars, and restaurants in the last decade, turning it into one of the most racially and sexually diverse neighborhoods in the city. While you're there, hit La Mulata, a beloved bar owned by Javier Bardem's brother; check out the street art; or go pull off a new avant-garde look with the help of the neighborhood’s high-fashion salons and shops. If you come to Madrid and decide to never leave, you won't be alone — most Madrileños are transplants who know well the saying "If you're in Madrid, you're from Madrid."
Antwerp — The city, picturesque with a long Flemish tradition of fine art and high fashion, is perhaps more akin to Amsterdam than it is to neighboring Belgian capital Brussels, a mere 50 kilometers (30 miles) away. But it's easily accessible from Amsterdam, Cologne, Paris, London, and Manchester. The site of the Outgames in 2013 has a thriving fetish scene (Antwerp's Leatherpride launched early last year), but the gay-friendly city of half a million residents also has plenty of pleasures for those who prefer couture over kink. Skip the rental car — parking is expensive and traffic rules are kooky — and go by foot, or by bus or tram with a Lijnkaart visitor pass (8 Euros for 10 journeys).
Amsterdam — Long known for its tolerant atmosphere, Amsterdam has a large and happening gay scene with plenty of hot spots like Bar Prik and Bar April. Featuring everything from live sex shows to drag queen bingo, the city is host to weekly and monthly gay parties. Amsterdam’s main gay street, Reguliersdwarsstraat, is also known as Rue des Vaseline.
The lesbian mayor of Zurich, Corine Mauch, at Europride.
Zurich – Switzerland’s largest city is also one of Europe’s most breathtaking. The financial center of Europe, Zurich was ranked the world’s most livable city until 2008, when it was surpassed by Vienna. Zurich is one of those rare cities with a little something for everyone — surrounded by mountains and lakes, it’s a dream destination for outdoorsy types. Its opera, museums, art galleries. and theaters are world-renowned. And as gay pride events go, they don’t get much more lovely than Zurich’s, which skirts the shore of the lake.
Participants enjoy the yearly Regenbogenparade (Rainbow Parade.)
Vienna — Voted Europe’s most livable city in 2009 and 2010, Vienna has much more to offer the gay tourist than sausage. Frequently skipped over by gay tourists for the more obvious Berlin or the more party-centric Madrid, Vienna boasts stunning architecture both old and new, some of the most beautiful castles and palaces in Europe, and, for those looking to get intimately acquainted with the gay scene, clubs, cafés, and the annual Life Ball (in true Viennese ball tradition) for HIV charities.
Valencia — Spain's cities are known for dazzling architecture, delectable food, rich wine, and nocturnal citizens who dance and flirt all night, and Valencia, the country's third-largest metropolis, certainly lives up to the description. Hugging the Mediterranean, the city was once an industrial center but has become a gay-friendly cultural powerhouse, with numerous buildings designed by hometown hero Santiago Calatrava. The city's gay nightlife is centered around the old city, in a freewheeling neighborhood called Barrio del Carmen.
Advocateand OutTraveler.com contributor Dennis Hensley in Curaçao
Curaçao — This Netherlands Antilles island, whose motto is “Biba i laga biba” (“Live and let live”), boasts 35 beaches, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (the scenic town of Willemstad), and a host of gay-friendly accommodations and clubs such as Lyric's Café and Omundo. It offers Dutch charm and open-mindedness in a Caribbean climate — plus it’s outside the hurricane belt! It's pretty much guaranteed you won't be blue in Curaçao.