Where Are The Best Gayborhoods For Travel?

A gayborhood, or a gay village, is a special area that is mainly inhabited or constantly frequented by LGBTQ+ individuals. Such places have been around since the 1920s when queer people faced terrible discrimination, and the gayborhoods have been the only areas where they could feel safe.

Though things have been slowly changing for the better throughout the years, there are still plenty of amazing gay villages all around the world. Some of the best gayborhoods for travel include West Village in NYC, The Castro in San Francisco, Schöneberg in Berlin, Chueca in Madrid, and Soho in London.

Gayborhoods are not just about bars and clubs. Here, you will also most likely be able to find clinics, bookstores, and other places where queer people are allowed to be their most authentic selves. Below, you will discover more information about some of the most fabulous places on earth, including helpful lists of things to do.

Where Are the Best Gayborhoods for Travel?

West Village, New York City, USA

History of West Village

West Village is the birthplace of the gay liberation movement. That’s exactly where you’ll find Stonewall Inn – the place where the Stonewall Riots started.

The tavern/bar is located on Christopher Street (just outside the subway station). In 2015, the Inn received official landmark status due to its unique connection to queer history.

Close to the bar, you will find Christopher Park which features gorgeous real-life sculptures of LGBTQ+ couples commemorating the Riots.

Things to Do in West Village

  • Enjoy the architecture

Here, you can find the ‘Friends’ apartment building and the narrowest house in New York City (75½ Bedford Street).

  • Visit the LGBT Center

The community center offers health and wellness programs and hosts various cultural events. Even if you’re not planning on visiting any type of performance, you can always grab a cup of coffee in the resident coffee shop (Think Coffee) and then have a look at the wonderful Keith Haring mural.

  • Go on a shopping spree

The neighborhood is full of various shops, but NYC’s only Monocle Shop and Greenwich Letterpress are definitely our favorites. The latter is a stationary aficionado’s heaven.

  • Spend the night at a gay bar

Some of the longest-running gay bars in the neighborhood include Pieces, Julius’, the Monster, and, of course, Stonewall Inn. Henrietta Hudson, the longest-running lesbian bar in the country, is located in West Village as well. 

The Castro, San Francisco, USA

History of The Castro

In the 1970s, the Castro became one of the headquarters of the gay liberation movement, following the Stonewall Riots and the first Pride march.

Harvey Milk had a camera shop on Castro Street. And as you stroll into the gay village today, you’ll see the gigantic rainbow flag fly high in Harvey Milk Plaza. 

Things to Do in The Castro

  • Walk down the Rainbow Honor Walk

Just like Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, Castro’s Walk acts as a tribute to its heroes. Here, you’ll find bronze sidewalk plaques that honor several LGBTQ+ icons, from Oscar Wilde to Alan Turing.

  • Visit the GLBT History Museum

The place is the first full-scale, stand-alone museum of queer history in the United States (and the second in the world). 

  • Have a meal at the Twin Peaks Tavern

The tavern is a historic gay bar that first opened in 1935. It features oversized windows that were unveiled in 1972 – something that has rarely been seen in gay bars at that time. 

Gay Village, Montreal, Canada

History of Gay Village, Montreal

Originally, there were only a few establishments located in what is now known as The Village, even though the first-recorded gay business in North America that opened in 1869 (Moise Tellier’s apple and cake shop) was located very close – on Saint Antoine Street.

At first, the area was named ‘the East Village’ by a man who was one of the owners of a popular bar at that time. He wanted to create a similar community to what he had seen in Manhattan’s West Village, and that’s where the name came from.

Things to Do

  • Enjoy the views

Stepping onto Sainte-Catherine Street is like leaving the regular world and arriving in the gay world – the street has more than 180,000 colorful balls strung above everyone’s heads.

  • Visit Cabaret Mado

A true staple of Montreal’s Gay Village. Here, you’ll get to see a jaw-dropping drag performance, and simply have the time of your life.

  • Attend Divers/Cité  

Though there are quite a few festivals that take place in the neighborhood throughout the year, Divers/Cité is the largest one and definitely a ‘must-visit’. The week-long arts and music festival has been taking place for over two decades already and the best part is that most of the entertainment options, like the large open-air cinema and the largest drag queen event in the world, are completely free.

Zona Rosa, Mexico City, Mexico

History

Zona Rosa, or the “Pink Zone”, started developing in the middle of the 19th century. It was originally inhabited by wealthy foreigners, but then earned a bohemian reputation when artists and intellectuals repopulated the area in the 1950s. 

The neighborhood became home to the gay community in the 1990s, and until this day it is a place that gays all over Mexico dream of coming to.

Things to Do

Do bear in mind that even though Zona Rosa is located in a relatively safe section of Mexico City, it is still full of pickpocketers, so you have to be careful.

  • Visit the most fashion-forward street in the city

If you want to know exactly what Mexico’s top designers are up to, come to Calle Havre.

  • Make a quick stop at Somos Voces

The place is the only bookstore in the city that focuses on gay literature. The majority of the books are in Spanish, but the bookstore is still worth a visit.

  • Enjoy an exposition at Xavier Villaurrutia’s cultural center

Villaurrutia was one of the people who started Zona Rosa as a bohemian intellectual hotspot. The center that bears his name offers free art and dance classes all year long but comes alive every June when plenty of gay-themed expositions get showcased.

  • Stop for a workout at the outdoor gym facility

Barras De Insurgentes is a truly unique project for Mexico. Every night at sunset, dozens of men arrive at the outdoor gym located close to Glorieta to practice calisthenics in a friendly atmosphere. All gays are welcome to join the workout and have a great time. 

Chueca, Madrid, Spain

History

The Chueca neighborhood which is named after the Spanish composer, Federico Chueca, was linked to prostitutes and drugs back in the 1970s. Thankfully, only after a few years, things started changing in the area, and now it is not only the epicenter of the gay community but also a symbol of avant-garde and open-mindedness. 

Things to Do

  • Visit Iglesia de San Anton

This baroque church celebrates the popular festivity of San Anton in which pets are blessed. Inside, you’ll find an exact copy of Goya’s “The Last Communion of St Joseph Calasanz” (this is where the work was kept before it got transferred) and the relics of St. Valentine. On the outside of the building, you’ll discover the oldest clock in the city. 

  • Go out to play in one of the clubs

There are plenty of bars and nightclubs in Chueca for you to choose from. Some of the most well-known ones include Delirio, Why Not?, and Truco. 

  • Discover the gay fetish and lifestyle stores

Boxer is a spacious boutique that offers sex toys, fetish clothing, and sportswear and XXX 2 mainly focuses on underwear and swimwear. In any case, the chances are high that you’ll be able to find something to your liking.

Schöneberg, Berlin, Germany

Berlin is home to a plethora of gay villages, but Schöneberg is the oldest and most well-known of them all. 

History

The area has been the heart of gay life since the 1920s. Even though one of the most famous nightclubs, Eldorado, got closed down by the Nazis in 1932, the neighborhood still flourished. 

For example, Elsa Conrad, a holocaust survivor, co-ran the iconic lesbian bar ‘Mali und Igel’ where balls for 600 people were hosted (Marlene Dietrich liked to visit the bar from time to time, by the way). 

Things to Do

  • Explore the Eisenherz

The Eisenherz is one of the oldest gay bookstores in the world. It has a large selection of queer literature and a gallery space where exhibitions change on a monthly basis. 

  • Visit a sex cinema

JAXX is a gay cinema and cruise club that opened in 1995. Back then, it introduced one of the first sex cinemas in Berlin. Later on, private cabins, a dark room, and cruising areas were added to the facilities. 

  • Stop at a gay supermarket

Brunos is usually described as a ‘gay shopping paradise’, and there certainly is a reason for that. The shop offers a diverse selection of fashion, books, magazines, and toys at great prices. By the way, the team members are very friendly and are always ready to help you make the right choice. 

Soho, London, United Kingdom

History

It might seem hard to believe, but Soho was a place where men would solicit other men for sex since the 1600s!

By the 19th century, the district became quite overcrowded, and soon after that came a rise in sex work. It has been proven that Oscar Wilde liked to frequent the area and kiss waiters at the Soho restaurant Kettner’s and host orgies at the Savoy Hotel.

Things to Do

  • Shop at the UK’s largest gay lifestyle superstore

Prowler Soho is full of male sex toys, as well as magazines and comics produced by local LGBTQ+ artists. The store quite frequently hosts meet-and-greet events that involve everyone from respected authors to hot stars launching calendars.

  • Have a meal at the gayest restaurant

BALANS serves delicious breakfast, lunch, and dinner and is open until early morning even on weekdays. The restaurant is famed for its outrageous atmosphere and creative spirit, so if you’re looking for a place to grab a bite after enjoying your evening at a theater, this might be it. 

  • Dance the night away at G-A-Y Bar

The world-famous bar is everything that you would expect from such an establishment – cheap drinks, a young crowd, and a lot of Briteny. The club is spread over 3 floors and has a dedicated girls’ room downstairs.

To Sum Up

Recently, gayborhoods began disappearing in most cities as gay culture has now become quite mainstream. There is no longer a need for a designated hub. 

Of course, it is amazing that humanity has evolved to a point where LGBTQ+ individuals started feeling welcomed in the broader community. But you should definitely pay a visit to at least a few of these iconic gay villages, while they’re still there. 

Gay Worlley

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