A wildly liberal continent, Europe’s cosmopolitan cities have a lot to offer LGBT visitors. Whether you’re looking for forward-thinking cabaret shows or a hardcore fetish bar, the best gay nightlife activities are here.
In the UK, head to Brighton for its annual Pride parade and dance the night away in its gay clubs. Or take a bite at La Federica, a trendy and gay-friendly tapas joint in Barcelona’s Eixample.
The French capital is an enticing destination for gay travelers, especially during LGBTQ Pride. The city’s iconic districts ooze with a bohemian spirit, but it also has plenty of cosmopolitan bars and clubs for those looking to indulge in cocktails and pop beats. Check out the third and fourth arrondissements for classic gay bar hopping, or visit Gibus Club, which hosts a range of raucous parties with a focus on cruising.
Gays flock to the ritzy neighborhood of Le Marais for trendy shops and high-end eateries. The area’s many LGBTQ-friendly bars host a mix of drag shows, cabaret acts, and karaoke nights. Banana Café is a popular venue for these events, as well as a place to grab a cocktail during its happy hour, from 6:00 pm to 11:00 pm.
For a more intimate atmosphere, head to the small gay bar in the north of the district, Ze Baar. This two-level space is a favorite among the leather/denim crowd with its dark rooms, private cabins, and video room. It’s open all year but gets crowded after the regular bars close.
For a more kinky night out, visit Pigalle, Paris’ original red-light district. You’ll find sex stores and peep shows in almost every storefront, but some stand out more than others. Stop by the multi-level “love store” Sexodrome, which claims to be the largest in the world, and sip tropical rum drinks at Dirty Dick’s campy Polynesian tiki bar.
Brussels is one of Europe’s most gay-friendly cities, a bilingual capital that excels at the time-honored European gay travel pastimes: shopping (particularly along trendy Dansaert and upscale Avenue Louise), dining (especially in the realm of yummy national staples like mussels, fries, and chocolate) and drinking. Its burgeoning gay scene is bolstered by multiple cruising areas and an ever-expanding selection of bars.
A visit to Brussels is not complete without hitting the raucous Revelation club, which features hot male strippers and drag queens performing exotic shows nightly. The crowd here is truly international, with guys coming from across Europe and the world to party in a venue that’s been described as “a little bit of everything for everyone.”
Many of the city’s gay clubs, bars, and saunas can be found in and around the animated street Rue du Marche au Charbon, AKA Kolenmarkt. The infamous circuit parties held here are known across Europe and attract gay guys from Belgium and its neighbors France, Germany, Netherlands, and beyond.
If you’re looking for something more chill, check out La Reserve, a cafe with an old-style feel that serves delicious coffee and a fine selection of Belgian beers. By night, this loungey bar and dance space draws in a mature crowd and plays music that suits the moment: from relaxing and chilling in the afternoon to more rock and pop come evening.
Denmark is a liberal, progressive European destination that was one of the first to legalize same-sex marriage. Its capital, Copenhagen, has a small but notable collection of gay bars clustered around Rodhuspladsen Square. The oldest gay bar in town is Centralhjornet, open since 1917. Its old-fashioned pub ambiance and friendly older clientele attract a mix of straight and gay men.
For a night of musical and show tunes, head to My Fair Ladies in Frederiksberg. This retro piano bar is open every day, and hosts jazz nights on Sundays, karaoke on Wednesdays, and other events. It’s a fun, open-minded establishment where it doesn’t matter whether you’re a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender person.
A more contemporary music venue in the Meat Packing district is G*A*Y Copenhagen. This arts and culture space features ground-breaking film, performance art, burlesque and dance, and literature with a focus on queer and gender-political themes.
Vienna isn’t usually a party-centric city, but it has a unique history with openly gay generals and composers. It is also known for its annual EuroPride celebration, a 2-week long party that includes human rights discussions and parties. There are also plenty of gay clubs in the city including MS Patricia, a club on a private yacht, and the cozy Cafe Intime. Its quaint, kitschy atmosphere is perfect for relaxing over a beer and chatting with locals.
Madrid’s gay scene is world-renowned. The center is located in the Chueca district, with many bars and clubs within walking distance of each other. Chueca has a cool, alternative style and the people here are open-minded. You can be 110% yourself and no one will bat an eye. There are plenty of gay clubs that cater to different audiences, but the most popular are Black and White and Tanga. Tanga is hosted at Teatro Barcelo, which has several “salas” on different floors that are open and closed as the night progresses. The main floor plays pop music and as the night goes on, you can move up to the higher levels that play techno and house music.
If you’re looking for a place that has a drag show and a dancefloor, then you should check out Boyberry Madrid. This is a bar that has a cruising area downstairs in the back and has an amazing drag show at the weekends. They also have a DJ at night and play some of the best music from around the world.
Another great place for a party is Kluster, a club that hosts hugely popular circuit parties on Saturday nights. Entry is usually about 10 Euros, which includes a drink. They play house and circuit music with on-stage dancers. They also have a dancefloor in the basement.