Europe, at least Western Europe, is without a doubt the most accepting continent in the world. As you can imagine, this means that it plays host to a ton of Pride Parades throughout the year. But, what’s the biggest Pride Parade in Europe? Let’s take a look!
Where Is The Biggest Pride Parade in Europe?
The biggest Pride Parade in Europe is Madrid Pride. It is the second-largest Pride Parade in the world, with only San Francisco beating it. Although, there are years that Madrid Pride has managed to gain a few more attendees than even San Francisco could muster. This is because while Madrid gets around 1.5 million attendees per year, in 2017, they were able to gain up to 3 million attendees. This is when Madrid played host to WorldPride, which draws in a ton of international tourists.
The Pride Parade itself occurs on the first Saturday of every July, but this is the culmination of a week’s worth of celebrations, which get kick started earlier in the week on Wednesday. So, if you are around Madrid at the end of June, you’re going to be in for the time of your life. We’ll talk a little bit more about the events shortly.
The History of Madrid Pride
So, you now know that Madrid Pride is the largest Pride Parade in Europe, so how did Spain become the largest host? Well, let’s take a look!
Back in the 1970s, Spain was still living under a fascist regime. While many countries around the world (including the US) were starting to become pro-gay, Spain wasn’t. In fact, the regime in Spain was blocking any information about the gay revolution (which started at roughly the same time as the Stonewall Inn riots) from reaching the people.
Shortly after Franco’s death (the leader of the fascist regime), gay people started to head to the streets in their droves, attempting to celebrate their sexuality in Madrid. However, the police very quickly put a stop to this. This was, partly, down to the fact that the previous regime was not a fan of gatherings like that. Although, by 1978, everything was cool on that front. Madrid became the host of the very first officially sanctioned Pride event in Spain, and it has been running ever since.
Over time, Madrid Pride has gone from strength to strength. It went through an even further boon in 2005 when Spain legalized gay marriage. Nowadays, the event gets between 1.5 million and 2 million visitors each year, with about a third of these being foreigners. We suppose it helps that Madrid is very easy to reach from the vast majority of Europe. It also has incredibly nice weather in July!
Madrid Pride was certainly helped by being named the Pride Capital of Europe (beating out both Paris and Madrid, which also hold massive Pride celebrations each year), and is regularly host of the InterPride event run by Europe each year, where a different city is designated as the go-to Pride city. Although, even when Madrid is not the designated city, it is managing to attract more visitors than any other Pride event in Europe.
Things to Do in Madrid During the Pride Parade and Beyond
So, you’re heading to Madrid for Pride? Let’s take a look at what you can expect to happen during the celebration. Although to be honest, if you have ever been to a Pride event before, you pretty much know what is going to happen in Madrid. They don’t really change things up too much, just everything is a whole lot bigger!
The Pride Parade
Obviously, the main highlight of Madrid Pride is the Pride Parade. It is the reason why most people head to Madrid, and most people will probably stick around for the few hours that it is running. This certainly is a place that you want to be if you are not a fan of massive crowds! Still, it is a fantastic time.
The Pride Parade always happens on the first Saturday in July. It starts from Atocha Station and heads all the way along to Plaza de Colón. You can stand anywhere you want along the route. The experience will be the same.
Exactly what happens along the route will vary from year to year. However, you can expect countless floats. Most of them have been funded by businesses, politicians, and pro-gay organizations throughout Europe. Each year, the people designing the floats try to outdo the previous year, which means that you always end up with a stunning spectacle.
Of course, along the way, many people will join in the parade, although they tend to trail from behind, and it is a great way to check out some of the outfits that people have brought along for the festivities.
The Pride Concert
At the end of the parade, a manifesto will be read out. This just highlights the rights that LGBTQ people are fighting for. Shortly after, the evening’s festivities will begin. This means a massive concert where some top acts play.
The only problem with the concert is that it tends to get incredibly packed. Even though most people go home right after the Pride Parade, you’ll still have thousands and thousands of people just milling around for the music. It is quite an experience, but don’t expect to hear or see much unless you turn up early.
Still, if you are in Madrid for the Pride Parade and you only have a single opportunity to ever be here, it is nice to check out the Pride Concert because you can say ‘I was there’.
Enjoy the Parties
While the Pride Parade Concert is fantastic, it is not the only experience to have once the Pride Parade has finished. A lot of people will head out onto the streets where you’ll find countless parties.
One of the great things about Madrid during the Pride Festival is the sheer number of places that you can attend. As you can probably guess, pink money during Pride Festival is really ‘hot’, so even the non-LGBTQ bars run parties purely for the people partying in the streets. There is a little something for everybody here, and you’ll be mingling with some of the most accepting people in the world.
Honestly, just about everywhere in the city is going to be brimming with life until the early hours of the morning. One of our favorite things to do is just wander around the streets and see where the night takes us. As we said, people are incredibly accepting here, so you may even meet up with a couple of groups where you can socialize and make some brand new friends (lots of friendships are made during Pride).
If you want the most excitement, then we suggest that you hang around Chueca. While it is going to be a bit on the busier side, Chueca is the gay district of Madrid, and it is where you are going to find the most exciting parties. But, once again, you can head anywhere that you want in the city and you should be fine!
Check Out the Events Calendar
As we have said several times – the Pride Parade is a culmination of around a week’s worth of events in Madrid. Everything will kickstart on the Wednesday prior to the Parade, so there is a lot to explore here.
Before you head to Madrid, we suggest that you check out the events calendar for the event. A lot is happening. Most of it is going to be parties and the like, but there are competitions (Mr. Gay Spain, for instance), fun events such as drag races (a literal race where you race in your high heels), and plenty of events happening at the museums and other cultural locations.
If you check out what is happening during Pride week before you head here, you’ll probably end up with a packed diary with how much there is to see and do within Madrid!
Remember – if you want to enjoy everything that Madrid has to offer during the Pride Parade and beyond, it is vital that you book your accommodation well in advance. As you can probably guess, with over 1 million people descending on the city during Pride week, accommodation fills up pretty quickly. So, book as soon as you know you will be traveling to Pride. It is the same week every year anyway – the parade is always the first week of July.
Madrid Pride Parade is the largest Pride Parade in Europe. It gets anywhere from 1.5 million to 2 million visitors per year, with some years the numbers reaching 3 million. If you want to head to Europe during Pride Week, then Madrid is the place to go. The city is alive from Wednesday through to Sunday, and you’ll enjoy everything from a massive parade through to all-night parties, cultural activities, and more. All the while, you’ll be experiencing life in one of the most accepting cities in the world.