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Madrid is an open, welcoming and tolerant city, which makes it an ideal destination for LGBT travellers. From its strong history of gay rights to its legendary party scene, the Spanish capital needs to be on your travel bucket list. So head to a rooftop bar, grab a cocktail and read on to discover what makes Madrid the world’s best LGBT destination.
Spain was the third country in the world to legalise gay marriage in 2005 and, while in other countries like Germany, gay couples still struggle to adopt, it has been legal in Spain for over a decade. If a baby is conceived via IVF the mother’s same-sex partner can legally be named alongside the birth mother on the birth certificate.
Spain was ranked as the most gay-friendly country in the world in a 2013 Pew Research Centre poll, with 88 percent of those surveyed responding ‘yes’ to the question ‘Should society accept homosexuality?’ (In comparison to only 60 percent of Americans). Madrid is one of Spain’s most tolerant, open and accepting cities – locals don’t bat an eyelid at two men or two women holding hands or kissing in public.
Once a run down barrio, Chueca is now one of Madrid’s coolest districts. This is mainly thanks to the LGBT community, who have adopted it as their own, opening bars, restaurants, clubs and shops and completely reinvigorating the neighbourhood. It’s a great place to shop, bar-hop and visit the refurbished San Antón market, home to food stalls and a hip rooftop bar. The best thing about Chueca is the sheer mixture of people who call the barrio home. From little old ladies to burly gay men walking their bulldogs, everyone is welcome and the party is always getting started.
Madrid has been home to several LGBT icons. Visit the statue of gay poet Federico García Lorca, who was murdered during the Spanish Civil War, on Plaza Santa Ana. In July 2015, a square in the heart of Chueca was renamed Plaza de Pedro Zerolo after one of Madrid’s most prominent LGBT activists Pedro Zerolo died of cancer at the age of 55. Zerolo spearheaded the campaign for gay marriage and adoption. Another of Madrid’s famous LGBT icons is film director Pedro Almodóvar, one of the first film makers to depict LGBT characters in their work as early as the 1980s.
Madrid is renowned for its nightlife and, gay or straight, it’s a brilliant place for beers, cocktails, bars and clubs. Explore the hip neighbourhood of Malasaña, where many of the city’s younger LGBT people hang out, or hit Chueca, the undisputed king of gay nightlife in Madrid. La Latina is a great introduction to Madrid’s tapas culture, while Lavapiés is a diverse neighbourhood with cuisine from around the world and a host of new and exciting bars.
Madrid’s gay bars and clubs are concentrated around the neighbourhood of Chueca, but there are great gay-friendly destinations throughout the city. Check out the bars around Plaza de Chueca for a great start to the night. LGBT people are spoilt for choice in Madrid; the city’s size and large gay population mean there are lots of diverse choices, whatever your taste. One thing is for sure: you won’t be having an early night. Prepare to stumble home at 6am or 7am in the morning after a night of dancing.
Every year, Madrid hosts the biggest Pride event in Europe and the second biggest in the world. In 2017, things went global as the city hosted World Pride from June 23 – July 2. The extravaganza, which included concerts, parties, races and, of course the Pride parade, was expected to attract over three million people across the 10 day event. Madrid Pride has a special feeling with everyone in the entire city coming out to celebrate love in all its forms. It has a very inclusive, friendly atmosphere and is a great thing to experience, whoever you happen to love.
Madrid city hall estimates that the city is home to around 500,000 LGBT people, the equivalent of 10 percent of the entire city. If you come from a small town with a barely-there LGBT population, walking around Madrid will definitely be an eye-opener. Gay couples are extremely open in the city and it’s a completely normal sight to see same-sex couples holding hands in public. It makes the city feel extremely inclusive, welcoming and accepting of the LGBT community.
As well as one of the world’s biggest pride parties, Madrid holds LGBT-themed events throughout the year. There is an annual LGBT film festival, LesGaiCineMadrid, one of the most important such festivals in the Spanish-speaking world, whose aim is to give visibility to gay filmmakers and gay-themed films. The annual Gay Day Madrid sees LGBT singles, couples and families enjoy a big, gay day out in the city’s main theme park.
Whoever you are, a destination’s culinary credentials are likely near the top of your list when planning a city break, and Madrid is world-famous when it comes to its gastronomic delights. Its tapas scene, centred around one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods, La Latina, is a joy to explore, also home to hip restaurants, food markets and some incredible bakeries. Madrid also boasts some world-class art, centred around its Golden Triangle of art galleries – the Prado, Reina Sofía and Thyssen-Bornemisza.