Travelling around the world with pride
Expedia.co.nz names the world’s most gay-friendly cities
Each year cities from around the world take to the streets to celebrate their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) cultures in what has become known as ‘Pride Parades’ (or numerous variations). The annual events, which get bigger, better and more colourful each year, attract hundreds of thousands of participants, and spectators. Many of the cities maintain the fun atmosphere and celebration of tolerance and diversity long after the parade has finished.
With only days until Sydney’s famous Mardi Gras festival begins, Expedia.co.nz has scoured the globe to recommend some of the world’s best gay-friendly cities.
The Expedia Top Ten Gay-Friendly Cities:
Sydneyis identified throughout the world by its Harbour Bridge and Opera House, but it is the relaxed, outdoor lifestyle that appeals to young and old from all corners of the globe. The predominant areas where LGBT Sydneysiders reside are Darlinghurst and Newtown. Here, party-hard gay bars and nightclubs are plentiful and are often as sparkling as the Harbour itself. And once you’ve exhausted yourself clubbing and shopping, head to the tranquil Andrew (Boy) Charlton pool, complete with a stunning view over the harbour, for a relaxing swim and sunbathing.
Main festival: A fixture on the Sydney calendar since 1978, Sydney’s Mardi Gras Parade will be held on February 27 this year. Known for its energy and colour, the theme this year is ‘Mardi Gras History of the World’, which will highlight some of the momentous events in gay history. Kelly Rowland is rumoured to be performing and this night will no doubt go down in Mardi Gras history.
Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Townis a spectacular city with a very lively LGBT community. With its incredible natural beauty and friendly locals, it is no wonder it has become a favourite destination for gay travellers around the world. Green Point is the preferred locale for Cape Town’s gay community and is the home of the Cape Town Stadium, constructed for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. A jaunt in Cape Town is not complete without a trip up stunning Table Mountain for unbeatable views of the city and the Atlantic Ocean. At night, paint the town red at favourite watering holes and dance clubs in the historic De Waterkant precinct.
Main festival: A regular fixture on Cape Town’s calendar since 2001, Cape Town really goes to town for its annual Pride Parade. To be held on March 6 this year, the theme is ‘Uniting cultures of Cape Town’ and with the international spotlight firmly on South Africa this year, it is sure to be a Parade to remember.
Often referred to as the ‘gay way to Europe’, Amsterdam oozes charm and style. This famously liberal city is a maze of canals known as the Grachtengordel andis easy to explore by foot or by bike (if you want to look like a local, opt for a bike!). There are four ‘gay’ areas in Amsterdam with an abundance of LGBT bars and clubs to visit at night, the most famous being 't Mandje, considered to be one of the first gay bars in the world. During the day, explore the numerous museums dotted around the city, including the Van Gogh Museum, an Amsterdam must-see.
Main festival: Amsterdam celebrates Queen’s Day on April 30, attracting thousands of gay revelers from around the world. Party people unite to enjoy one of the open-air day parties wearing orange, the colour of the Royal Family.
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Sao Paulois the largest and richest city in Brazil, and is known for its unique fashion, shopping, restaurants and nightlife. Head straight to Jardim if you are looking for a predominantly LGBT crowd. Or, for a unique dining spot, try Restaurante Figueira Rubaiyat, built around an enormous fig tree. Although a little out of town, Sao Paulo’s beaches are a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and experience Brazil’s vibrant beach culture. Try Maresias for its clean beach and youthful vibe.
Main festival: Recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the biggest Pride Parade in the world, organisers expect more than four million people at this year’s parade, to be held on June 6, 2010. Expect one serious party along the 4.2km parade route.
Tel Aviv, Israel
Situated on Israel’s Mediterranean coastline, Tel Aviv is known as the gay capital of the Middle East. It is the ‘Ibiza of the Middle East’, according to locals and tourists, who rave about the city. Friendly, relaxed and incredibly cool, the city seems to be on a never ending holiday. Head to Hilton Beach, a gay friendly spot, to experience the party atmosphere the Tel Aviv beach scene has become famous for.
Main festival: Tel Aviv takes to the streets for its Gay Pride parade on the June 11 with tens of thousands of people taking part and enjoying the celebrations. In 2009, the highlight was a beach wedding featuring five gay couples.
Laden with a rich and complex history, edgy and energetic Berlin was one of the leading cities for gay life in the 1920s, and is now home again to one of the most dynamic LGBT scenes in Europe. Berlin is one of the most open-minded Europe and in 2001 elected openly gay mayor, Klaus Wowereit. The city has hundreds of gay bars which have no closing times so the party never has to end! The Badeschiff ('bathing ship') is an old river barge, converted into a swimming pool and beached on the bank of the River Spree, which makes it the perfect spot for an impromptu pool party. When the sun sets, it transforms into an outdoor nightclub.
Main festival:Berlin hosts its Christopher Street Day parade on June 19. In its 32nd year, the event attracts half a million people to the city, and it as much about political campaigning as the brightly coloured floats.
San Francisco, USA
The Castro area of the city has been recognised as the heart and soul of San Francisco’s gay and lesbian scene since the gay rights movement in the 1970’s, but today gay and lesbian travellers are warmly welcomed throughout the ‘city on the bay’. From the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, its steep streets, to the edgy Mission District which is bursting with bars, there is plenty to keep you busy whilst visiting San Francisco. For a relaxed afternoon, pop into the Castro Theatre, a landmark of San Francisco’s gay and lesbian community, to enjoy one of its screenings of classics such as Gone with the Wind.
Main festival: This year marks the 40th anniversary of the San Francisco Pride Parade. To be held on June 27 2010 and themed ’40 and fabulous’, it will undoubtedly be an outstanding parade. The event is the largest Pride Parade in the USA and more than half a million people come to support the participants each year.
Diverse and open-minded, Toronto has been described as one of the world’s most liveable cities. And since Canada legalised same-sex marriages in 2005, many come to tie the knot and never want to leave. Church and Wellesley is the gay-oriented area of Toronto and is home to the annual Pride celebrations but LGBT bars, restaurants and cafes can be found throughout the city. To get a great feel for the city visit CN Tower, the tallest freestanding tower in the world, or watch a Toronto Maple Leafs ice hockey game. Tickets are hard to come by, but the atmosphere at a game is worth the effort.
Main festival: Toronto hits the streets on July 4 to share and inspire others with lots of colour, music and of course enthusiasm! The event attracts over a million people each year, which they expect to double in 2014 when the city hosts the international World Pride event.
London, United Kingdom
London is hip and happening as an LGBT hub, being home to the biggest gay and lesbian community in Europe. Explore Soho, the heart of London’s LGBT scene, and Old Crompton Street to experience London’s gay scene and have a great night out. If clubbing’s your scene, the head for ‘Heaven’, perhaps London’s most famous gay club, near Trafalgar Square. For something more sedate, head to the dignified surrounds of The Ritz for high tea, a quintessential English experience.
Main festival:Pride Parade participants will weave their way through London’s streets on July 3 as part of the Pride London Festival Fortnight, which runs from 19 June to 4 July, 2010. Last year over one million people participated in or were spectators at the parade to raise awareness and support of the LGBT community.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Known as the ‘Paris of South America’ for its architecture and style, in recent years Buenos Aires has also earned the reputation as the most ‘gay-friendly’ city in South America following huge progress with several anti-discrimination and gay rights laws being passed. If you fancy feasting on steak and wine, then tangoing the night away, thenBuenos Airesis the place for you. Barrio Norte, the traditional LGBT neighbourhood of Buenos Aires, is where the action is, but don’t expect things to kick off until about 2am. To recover from a big night out, laze about the two hundred acres of lawns and lakes at the Parque Tres de Febrero.
Main festival: What Buenos Aires’s Pride Parade lacks in size when compared to the likes of Sao Paolo’s Pride Parade, it makes up for in enthusiasm. On the first Saturday of November the colourful celebration makes its way from the main square, Plaza de Mayo, to the bubbly Plaza Congresso.
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