Within the past decade, same-sex marriage has gained momentum around the world and the decision to promote marriage equality in a country is one step towards global LGBT acceptance. There are now 17 countries with full marriage equality and this alone might just be reason enough to visit. Surely each place has its own characteristics and unique sites of interest but the seven countries listed here are some of the best destinations for travelers and well worth a visit.
In April of 2001, The Netherlands became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage and many of its cities are great travel destinations – and for more than just space cakes and red light districts! Legalization has helped to create as sense of openness and the country’s pro-active legislation has been a worldwide model for progress. The mayor of Amsterdam even personally married four couples, two women and six men, the moment the law went into effect.
Sweden has a very accepting and liberal culture and both gay and lesbian communities have found comfort within the country's borders within the past couple decades. Stockholm in particular offers its annual gay pride festival with more than 500,000 participants attending. It’s an international destination where most everyone speaks a high level of English, and it’s one of the world's most culturally tolerant and modern places to visit in Europe.
On June 30, 2005, same-sex marriage was legalized in Spain – 3rd in line after The Netherlands and Belgium. If you're planning a visit, destinations like Barcelona and Madrid have fantastic nightlife scenes. For a more beachy atmosphere, The Canary Islands provides an array of activities, travel resorts, unique events and an incredibly accepting culture. Events like Maspalomas Gay Pride in May or the Rainbow Fuerteventura Festival in December has attracted many gay and lesbian tourists, and the islands' LGBT support has created a lucrative, accommodating culture for both single and couple travelers. Year-round, subtropical climates are a Canary Island cornerstone, and the charming towns exemplify the area's comfortable and relaxing atmosphere.
It may be cold, but Iceland has some of the world's most liberal and inclusive laws regarding same-sex marriage and LGBT rights. During the winter, the Rainbow Reykjavik festival hosted by Pink Iceland, promotes LGBT tourism to this tiny island nation. It's a must-attend event complete with parties, viewing of the northern lights and a visit to the famous Blue Lagoon. Similar events happen throughout the year in Iceland like the country's summer Gay Pride Festival in Reykjavik, which attracts over 100,000 individuals—both locals and travelers alike.
Renowned for its beauty and architecture, Belgium has been an LGBT hotspot since its gay marriage legalization in June of 2003. Belgium has an accepting culture making it a popular destination for LGBT travelers seeking security and respect during their visit. Specifically, the Belgian Lesbian and Gay Pride Festival has prospered since 1996, offering a ‘straight-friendly’ event while accommodating the country's Rainbow Week. Similar events are common in Belgium, making it a great LGBT travel destination.
In 2013, France legalized gay marriage, further boosting European support of LGBT rights. Though the legalization faced strong opposition, equality prevailed and it became the 15th country recognizing same-sex marriage. LGBT oriented events like European Gay Ski Week or European Snow Pride are longtime favorites hosted in the French Alps. Events like these are an excellent winter option for sporty singles and couples seeking a fun and unique week of activities. Of course, France is a quintessential travel destination regardless, but this is just one more reason to consider a visit.
If you're having trouble finding sunshine during the winter, New Zealand may be a great travel choice. Auckland’s annual LGBT pride festival and popular event LYC Big Gay Out Auckland—has inspired travelers for years with thousands of people attending. February is summer in New Zealand, making it an excellent venue for outdoor events. The country's long standing cultural support of gays is expressed throughout the LGBT events and ever evolving atmosphere.
Have you visited any of these countries during your travels? Let us know your experience in the comments below!