Solo Travel

Solo Travel Gay European City Guides

This month we are going to feature some of the more popular city break options, but not only from a solos point of view, but that of a gay or lesbian traveler.

We are focusing on popular European destinations; London, Barcelona and Berlin.

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Whether or not it’s ok to be gay abroad varies wherever you are in the world. In some countries it’s so acceptable there’s barely a need for a scene, whereas in others you can still be stoned to death for what’s perceived as a heinous crime against God (or whichever version of God is applicable). Even in countries like the USA, it can vary between state, you wouldn’t want to get caught with your pants down in Texas, for instance.

It obviously therefore pays to do a little research before you go, so here is a selection of city guides from across the globe which will help you on your way.

LONDON

As a gay and lesbian destination, London needs very little introduction to the discerning visitor. Soho is a name known across the globe and the city’s scene boasts a sheer quantity of exciting bars and clubs that few other cities in Europe can compete with.

Where it’s at.

If Soho, London’s gay village in the West End, is the symbolic heart of the city’s gay community, then its backbone is Old Compton Street. A long strip of gay bars, restaurants, clothing and book shops, it’s a haven of tolerance and laid-back al-fresco drinking and dining.

Whilst much of the action has been traditionally focused on Soho, there are also burgeoning gay scenes in Earl’s Court and in the painfully trendy areas of Shoreditch, Hoxton to the east, and Vauxhall.

If it’s a new frock you need, bargains can be found with many markets across the city, the hotbed of mainstream retail that is Oxford St and more high-class stuff in the flashy boutiques and fashion houses of Bond Street, Chelsea and Knightsbridge.

When to come.

England’s weather doesn’t have the best reputation on earth but it’s hot in the summer so come then if you want to drink, dine and people watch al fresco, otherwise you can reenact scenes from Bridget Jones’s Diary midwinter with a big coat or some skimpy knickers, whichever you prefer.

Acting as the highlight of London’s gay calendar, the annual London Pride LGBT cultural festival, which traditionally takes place from mid-June to early-July, is among the largest and most exhilarating of its kind.

Outside of London, the United Kingdom has one of the largest gay and lesbian communities anywhere in the world, and there are two other gay scenes of notable size in the seaside town of Brighton and on Manchester’s Canal Street.

BARCELONA

Barcelona is a chic, relaxed city and almost certainly the most liberal part of what is a very live-and-let-live, progressive sort of country.

Its broad, elegant streets are packed full of some of the best shopping in Europe should you need a new outfit for a night on the town, or if sightseeing’s more your thing, the narrow, winding alleyways of the Barri Gotic, the city’s Gothic quarter, are rich in historic architecture.

But it is as the sun sets that the city really comes to life, bars and clubs everywhere, with a great deal to offer the gay or lesbian traveler.

Where it’s at.

The epicenter of Barcelona’s gay party scene is undoubtedly the glorious Eixample. But all across the city, from funky eateries by the marina, to less formal bars where you can knock back a few and stuff yourself with an assortment of choice bites. There’re more choice here than you could shake a stick at.

A little to the south of the city the town of Sitges, long a haunt of artists – Miró was born there, and Dalí used to take his holidays in the town – is a hugely popular gay beach resort.

The Calle de San Bonaventura, one of the town’s main thoroughfares, is lined with most of the town’s gay bars and clubs, and in the day, proves an ideal place to sit, have a coffee and watch the world go by. As well as being home to many of the best bars and clubs, the area also houses several of the city’s gay-interest shops and bookshops.
When to come

Summer obviously is when everything is at it’s most divine, cafe bars to sit outside and watch the people go by. But come at any time of year to be rewarded with one of the best scenes that Europe has to offer, it’s got a huge welcome all year round.

If it’s the big party you’re after though, arrive for the Carnival in February where, once a year, mayhem descends on the town, an explosion of flamboyance, color and gay pride.

BERLIN

Berlin is possibly the gayest city in Europe. It has a Gay Museum, Archive and Library, in the Schwules Museum, which has excellent resources relating to gay cultural history, and during the summer a section of Berlin’s huge central park is swathed with nude sunbathers, so many of whom are gay that the park is known in local circles as “Queens’ Meadow”.

In 2001 it voted in a gay mayor, Klaus Wowereit, who, when he came out in the run-up to the mayoral elections, delivered the phrase that has now entered common gay parlance in Germany: “Ich bin schwul, und das ist auch gut so.” – “I’m gay, and it’s ok that way”.

Make sure you always have travel insurance for Europe if partying there.

Where it’s at.

Berlin’s gay scene spills out from legions of gay and lesbian bars. Anyone who’s witnessed the full outrageous spectacle of the city’s CSD Pride parade will know it’s a city where pretty much anything goes. But because Berlin is such a tolerant town, the scene is not limited to exclusively gay bars or venues. In reality, gay life is just another feature of the richness, color and vibrancy of this amazing city.

The action extends to a few areas. Nollendorfplatz, to the west of the city, is perhaps the city’s most overtly male ‘gay area’. It has a series of important gay landmarks, including Bruno – perhaps the biggest gay-interest store in Europe.

Schöneberg, in the south-west of the city, is another prominent gay area which contains the ‘Bermuda Triangle’ of streets Motzstr., Fuggerstr., and Eisenacherstr., the CSD Pride offices and Mann O Meter, Berlin’s LGBT information centre, whilst the Kreuzberg (to the south-east) scene is perhaps described as more alternative and gay-friendly.
When to go.
If you want to keep abreast of the latest developments, listings and all other information, Berlin has two main magazines, Siegessaule and ‘Sergeij’, which are published monthly and can be found in newsagents across the city.

 

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