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Check out our comprehensive guide on the 12 most LGBTQ-friendly countries in Europe with equality laws and security!

Last Updated on April 16, 2024 by

Living in Europe comes with benefits aplenty, but one of the most important ones remains safety – especially for the LGBTQ community. You deserve to live where you have equal rights and freedoms, regardless of your sexuality, gender, or expression. And as an LGBTQ+ future-expat, you might be searching for the top 12 LGBTQ-friendly countries in Europe to move to.

You’d be happy to hear that, according to Gallup, some of the major European countries top the lists of LGBTQ-friendly countries in the world. In fact, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, and Denmark, among others, rank the highest on multiple lists!

So, what’s life like for LGBTQ+ folks living in Europe? What steps have different governments taken to ensure equality and access to equal opportunity for the LGBTQ+ community? And how does the LGBTQ+ community thrive there? We’re here to break it down for you in this article!

The-12-Most-LQBTQ-Friendly-Countries-In-Europe

What makes a country LGBTQ-friendly?

The 12 LGBTQ-friendly countries in Europe rank on the Spartacus Gay Travel Index, which ranks all the hospitable and friendly countries toward the LGBTQ+ community. It’s a comprehensive, annual study that has been collecting data since 2012, ranking metrics like laws, friendliness of the locals, and more. 

Progressive European countries with thriving LGBTQ+ communities are ones that have legalized gay marriage, gender change, and adoption for same-sex couples. Other policies include officially-organized pride parades and LGBTQ+ villages. Which helps create safe spaces for the community and allows them to celebrate themselves and support LGBTQ-owned businesses truly.

What is it like to be LGBTQ+ in Europe?

According to Gallup, European countries largely dominate the list of countries that are friendly and hospitable to the LGBTQ community. In fact, the Netherlands legalized homosexuality as early as the 1800s! 

European countries that are known for their progressive values are headed in the right direction. Over the last couple of decades, many European countries have made strides to ensure the rights, equality, and safety of the LGBTQ community. And now ranks among the top 12 most LGBTQ-friendly countries in Europe!

Pride events are common, and as of 2023, the LGBTQ+ community and all its allies celebrate Pride Month in full spirit and all its glory, with several pride parades organized in various cities across Europe

What is it like to be an expat in Europe?

Europe offers a multitude of employment opportunities whether you’re looking for a job or are an entrepreneur. The working conditions here are excellent, and the quality of life and healthcare services are exceptional. 

Europe’s rich history and culture are among the top motivators for tourists and expats alike. Traveling within Europe from country to country and within countries is super-easy because of the Schengen Agreement. Coupled with the excellent public transportation infrastructure, it’s no wonder that Europe attracts up to 3 million foreigners every year looking to explore everything it has to offer!

Tempting, isn’t it? We certainly think so! So, now that you know there are several options to safely live and thrive as an LGBTQ+ person in Europe, what are the top 12 LGBTQ-friendly countries in Europe? 

We’ve compiled a complete list! But before we begin, it’s important to add that the following countries are in no specific order or ranking. Happy reading!

Netherlands

The Netherlands is one of the most progressive countries in the world and ranks among the top countries for expats. Its capital, Amsterdam, is a renowned LGBTQ tourist spot. The country offers breathtaking views and has a host of top-ranking universities that are LGBTQ-friendly. 

LGBTQ rights in the Netherlands

Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalize gay marriage in 2001. Since then, it has long been a country promoting tolerance and acceptance towards the LGBTQ community. 

LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination by law, and adoption for same-sex couples is also legal there. Trans individuals have the legal right to change their gender on official documents regardless of sex reassignment procedures. 

LGBTQ community highlights

In addition to Amsterdam, the capital city, cities like Amstel, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Kerkstraat, The Hague, and Scheveningen have a host of LGBTQ-friendly clubs, shops, bars, hotels, and restaurants. You can attend the Gay Pride Amsterdam that’s hosted annually, enjoy a rich nightlife at the many gay saunas and cruise clubs, and attend several LGBTQ+ events while you’re there.

Denmark

Denmark always ranks among the top three happiest countries in the world, and according to the World Happiness Index, it’s because of social equality and its community spirit. The country, one of the members of the European Union, also offers high-quality education and free public healthcare. It also ranks among the safest countries in the world; it’s common for children as young as 9 years to travel alone via public transport!

LGBTQ rights in Denmark

Denmark was one of the first countries in the world to recognize same-sex partnerships in 1989. Having legalized same-sex marriage in 2012, the country also legalized joint adoption for same-sex couples. The LGBTQ community can openly serve in the Danish armed forces. Denmark also has hate crime laws in place that protect the LGBTQ community from hate and discrimination.

LGBTQ community highlights

The capital of Denmark, Copenhagen, has an active and thriving LGBTQ+ scene, with many pride festivals and the Copenhagen Pride Parade happening every year. G-Bar and Oscar are some of the most well-known gay bars to check out while you’re there. The country is also home to top-ranking and LGBTQ-friendly universities.

pride-flags-in-portugal

Germany

Germany has long been known to be one of the most LGBTQ-friendly countries in the world, with a thriving and diverse gay scene in Berlin and various politicians who came out openly. And a cultural center with excellent views, food, quality of life, education, public transport, and more! Germany rightfully holds a spot among the top 12 LGBTQ-friendly countries in Europe.

LGBTQ rights in Germany

The country passed various anti-discrimination laws in 1991, including the legal right to change gender and hate crime laws protecting LGBTQ folk from discrimination based on their gender or orientation. 

Germany legalized gay marriage in 2017 and, in 2020, formally recognized a third-gender option. And they also implemented laws to ban conversion therapy in minors and, in 2023, lifted its restrictions on gay blood donors. 

LGBTQ community highlights

Germany holds around 30 Pride events every year, with notable ones like Berlin Pride, Cologne Carnival, and Munich Oktoberfest. Berlin has a rich and vibrant LGBTQ+ nightlife, and the country has several LGBTQ+ villages like Schoenberg, Kreuzberg, Lange Reihe, and more that provide a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community, where they can support LGBTQ-owned businesses.

Spain

Spain is famous for being a food haven and for its bustling art and culture. The work opportunities are plenty, and English is widely spoken. Its low cost of living, warm climate, and well-developed public transportation are also a few of the reasons why the country is host to a large expat community.

LGBTQ rights in Spain

Spain legalized homosexuality back in 1979 and was the third country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2005, following the Netherlands and Belgium. In 1995, the Spanish government rolled out a full set of anti-discrimination laws. In 2023, also introduced the Trans Law, including simplified administrative provisions for gender recognition.

LGBTQ community highlights

Welcoming over 1.5 million people every year in one of the world’s largest Pride celebrations, Spain is known for its vibrant LGBTQ+ scene and official LGBTQ+ villages in Madrid, Barcelona, and Gran Canaria. Ibiza, Sitges, Barcelona, and Gran Canaria are some of the most popular gay destinations in Europe.

Iceland

Iceland is one of the most popular destinations in the world among expats because of its high life expectancy, low crime rate, gender equality, and education system. The country also offers breathtaking views, art galleries, food walks, a rich history, and a bustling nightlife.

LGBTQ rights in Iceland

Iceland officially legalized homosexuality in 1940 and unanimously voted in favor of legalizing gay marriage in 2010. Between 1996 and 2018, multiple anti-discrimination laws were passed. The country also recognizes a third gender option, and name change, as well as healthcare, is now easily accessible for those seeking it.

LGBTQ community highlights

As a small country with a population of less than 1 million people, Iceland still has two Pride celebrations every year, with Reykjavik Pride as the main LGBTQ+ event. The gay scene in Reykjavik is small since gay people don’t feel the need for segregated gay bars, and LGBTQ+ and straight people mix freely in clubs and bars across the city.

Portugal

Living in Portugal comes with many advantages: a warm climate, friendly people, a low cost of living, well-developed education, public transport, free healthcare, and tax exemptions. 

There are plenty of entertainment and recreational activities to unwind, and English is widely spoken here. Portugal also ranks as one of the top countries in terms of safety and its progressive policies in favor of the LGBTQ community.

LGBTQ rights in Portugal

Portugal legalized gay marriage back in 2010, and same-sex couples whose spouse has a permanent residential address can apply for a residence permit of two years. Being married to a Portuguese citizen makes you eligible to apply for Portuguese citizenship after three years of marriage. 

Same-sex adoptions became legalized in 2016, and same-sex couples have the same access to IVF treatments as heterosexual couples. Additionally, same-sex couples do not have to pay an inheritance tax, and neither do their children or close relatives. 

In 2011, Portugal passed the Law of Gender Identity, which is one of the most progressive and advanced trans laws in the world. No wonder it’s one of the 12 most LGBTQ-friendly countries in Europe!

LGBTQ community highlights

Lisbon has one of the most vibrant LGBTQ+ scenes and has an abundance of gay-friendly neighborhoods, bars, clubs, hotels, and cultural centers. Portugal holds two main Pride events, with the Lisbon Pride, Lisbon Bear Pride, and Lisbon Gay Film Festival being the best ones. 

The main LGBTQ+ villages are Príncipe Real and Bairro Alto in Lisbon. Porto is another popular gay tourist destination towards the north, and Albufeira, Portimão, and Tavira in the south. 

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United Kingdom

It’s no secret that the United Kindom is one of the greatest countries in the world with an advanced healthcare and education system. Although the weather is a drawback for those living here, it’s a melting pot of cultures and expats worldwide who take advantage of the lifestyle there. 

LGBTQ rights in the United Kingdom

The British government legalized same-sex marriage in 2014 after having passed comprehensive anti-discrimination laws between 2004 and 2008. In 2020, laws were implemented to encourage gender acceptance in schools. Gay men were able to make blood donations after 2021, and the country has some of the most progressive transgender laws. 

LGBTQ community highlights

The UK has over 150 Pride events and has several LGBTQ+ villages across the country in cities like London, Manchester, Brighton, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Birmingham, and Liverpool. Manchester and Brighton are considered to be two of the best LGBTQ-friendly cities.

Sweden

For good reasons, Sweden ranks in the top 10 happiest countries in the world. The country offers an incredible living standard, great public transport, excellent working conditions, and a top-class healthcare system. With its scenic landscapes and low pollution levels, Sweden is a great place to live.

LGBTQ rights in Sweden

Sweden ranks high in the list of the top 12 most LGBTQ-friendly countries in Europe, especially because it first legalized gender change way back in 1972! Anti-discriminatory laws came into effect in 1987, and gay marriage was legalized in 2009. Same-sex couples in Sweden also have the right to adopt, and LGBTQ+ communities are heavily supported in academic and educational institutes.

LGBTQ community highlights

Although Sweden does not have any LGBTQ+ villages, it does hold around 50 Pride events annually and is known for its official slogan, “Gay Since 1944!”. Some of the best gay events include Gothenburg and Stockholm Pride, and although there are several gay bars in the bigger cities, the country is so LGBTQ-friendly that people don’t feel the need for segregated spaces.

happy-gay-couple-in-lgbtq-friendly-country

Ireland

Ireland is rich with culture and folklore traditions, and it’s a great place for expats that offers a great outdoor life and high-quality education. The country also has something for everyone, and even though it’s small, it has rich and diverse artistic talent and lively people.

LGBTQ rights in Ireland

They legalized same-sex marriages in 2015 and became one of the first countries to do it by popular vote. Since then, the country has implemented anti-discrimination laws and has been ranked by Gallup as one of the 12 most LGBTQ-friendly countries in Europe and the world. Ireland also legalized adoption for same-sex couples, and members of the LGBTQ community can openly serve in the armed forces. 

LGBTQ community highlights

The LGBTQ+ culture in Ireland is bustling, especially in Dublin. You’ll find a very large LGBTQ+ community and various bars, clubs, saunas, and drag cabarets to enjoy. The Dublin Pride attracts a crowd of over 60,000 annually. Other cities with an active LGBTQ+ culture include Galway, Waterford, Limerick, and Cork. 

Belgium

Belgium is a popular tourist destination in Europe and is equally loved by expats. Known for its high standard of living, low crime rates, robust infrastructure, delicious cuisine, and rich history and architecture, Belgium is also the second country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.

LGBTQ rights in Belgium

Having already decriminalized same-sex relationships in 1795, Belgium was also one of the first countries to have passed transgender and anti-discrimination laws. Belgian hospitals are famous for their gender reassignment surgery, and Belgians gained the legal right to change their gender in 2007.

LGBTQ community highlights

Belgium holds around four Pride events, and although it doesn’t have any official LGBTQ+ villages, some of the bigger cities do have a handful of LGBTQ+ clubs and bars. The country is brimming with a bustling gay scene with LGBTQ+ events throughout the year.

France

France offers a fantastic quality of life, convenient public transport, affordable education, a fascinating culture, and a strong community of expats. The country also offers great healthcare, a low cost of living, and great working conditions.

LGBTQ rights in France

The French are highly accepting of same-sex relationships and legalized homosexuality in 1791. Between 1982 and 2012, the country passed legislation for anti-discrimination laws, and gay marriage was officially legalized in 2013. 

The right to change gender without having to undergo reassignment procedures was granted in 2017, and in 2021, the country made IVF procedures accessible to lesbian couples. 

LGBTQ community highlights

Paris Pride and Magical Pride in Disneyland Paris are the main LGBTQ+ events in the country, with a smaller gay scene in Lyon, Toulouse, Arras, and Biarritz. The most famous gay scene in France is in Le Marais, dotted with various gay bars, cafes, parties, and businesses. 

Norway

The last on our list is Norway, a country with a strong economy, low crime rate, universal healthcare, and an education system. It’s also not heavily populated, and English is a widely-spoken language in the country. And in addition to that, it’s also one of the most LGBTQ-friendly countries in the world.

LGBTQ rights in Norway

Norway offers a high social acceptance and has many anti-discriminatory and equality laws in place. Gay marriage was legalized in 2009, and full adoption rights were also granted the same year. Openly LGBTQ+ individuals can serve at all levels in the military, as well as trans individuals. Norway also allows legal gender change.

LGBTQ community highlights

Norway has more than 30 Pride events throughout the year, including Oslo Pride Festival, Raballder Sports Cup, Tromso Arctic Pride, and Bergen Pride. Although the country doesn’t have many LGBTQ+ villages, you can find popular LGBTQ+ spots in the main cities, particularly in Oslo.

When are you moving to Portugal?

As one of the safest and most LGBTQ-friendly countries in Europe, Portugal sparks the interest of many individuals. Safety, security, and protection by the state are some of the most basic facilities that everyone deserves. 

To learn more about the LGBTQ community in Portugal, join our Facebook Group – All About Portugal For Expats. Ask questions, search for stories, and make new friends that will help you clear your doubts!

When all else is done, book a consultation with Viv Europe to start your relocation process. Our team of experts is here to guide you every step of the way until you can call Portugal your new home. Happy moving! 

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