Lisbon and surroundings has been an alluring gay destination since at least the 18th century, when writer William Beckford escaped a homosexual scandal in England and moved to Sintra. Today, after decades under a homophobic dictatorship, and despite the power of the Church in ultra-Catholic Portugal, Lisbon has slowly come out of the closet.
The upbeat nightlife, balmy climate, charming and lively outdoors atmosphere, sandy beaches nearby (including a predominantly gay beach that's considered one of Europe's best gay beaches), great cultural attractions, and intimate setting of pastel colors and narrow streets, create a gay-friendly ambience that has turned the city into an increasingly popular gay destination.
On the whole, it's a fairly modern and accepting city (gay marriage became legal in Portugal in 2010), although the country remains one of the most closeted in Western Europe. As anywhere else in the world, you'll find the occasional person that frowns upon homosexual couples and families, but Lisbon is a very welcoming city to gay travelers and gay/lesbian sex is legal from the age of sixteen.
A few of the city's most popular bars and clubs (such as
"Lux" - the best club in the city whether you're gay or straight) attract a
significant gay crowd, and you don't need to go to strictly gay hangouts to meet
gay locals -- a number of cafés in the Chiado
district are popular meeting points for everyone, as well as the Armazéns do
Chiado shopping mall.
Chiado is one of the city's "gayborhoods," along with Bairro Alto and Principe Real. These are very inviting areas, with a myriad of restaurants, bars, bookstores, antique shops and clubs. The atmosphere is relaxed and laid-back, and everyone is free to be and act themselves.
The beaches south of the city are also popular gay hangouts in the summer months, especially Beach 19, so named for being the nineteenth stop of a train that runs by most beaches of the shore known as "Costa da Caparica". Another popular beach is Meco, further south, known for being a naturist beach. Note that these are not party beaches, but quiet, relaxing, and rather wild beaches. In other words, don't expect Mykonos.
Like most major world cities, Lisbon hosts the annual Gay Pride Festival every June (called "Arraial Pride"), with a march down Avenida da Liberdade and celebrations around the city. Another annual event is the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival that takes place in September, screening around 100 films from all over the world.
If you want to stay at a gay hotel, check availability at The Late Birds Hotel.
As for gay-friendly hotels, there's the romantic Palacete Chafariz Del Rei in Alfama, Solar dos Mouros offering city views by the castle, and the hip Bairro Alto Hotel, a boutique hotel by Bairro Alto.
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