Category Archives: City Spotlight

City Spotlight: Rio de Janeiro

Brazil is known as one of South America’s most gay-friendly countries with advanced legal rights for LGBT people including equal age of consent, health benefits, immigration equality, the right to change legal gender, anti-homophobia laws, and most recently in May 2013, same-sex marriages were made legal nationwide. Brazil is a very diverse country and a popular holiday hotspot for many people, including LGBT travellers, particularly because of its large cities’ LGBT festivals and parades, which are some of the world’s largest – São Paulo takes pole position with well over 2 million visitors every year, while the ones in the capital Brasilia and Salvador attract nearly 1 million. Rio de Janeiro’s – arguably the country’s most popular destination, and the soon-to-host of the 2016 Summer Olympics – is the second largest (1.5-2 million).

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Rio was recently voted as the world’s best gay destination and it was estimatedthat 1 in every 4 visitors to the city is LGBT and with not only a huge Pride event, but a bustling LGBT community, an open attitude towards sex and sexuality and of course and great attractions for every holidaymaker, it’s easy to see why that is the case. The Ipanema district in Rio is where LGBT life in the city is predominantly located where there are plenty of gay-owned and gay-friendly businesses such as bars, clubs, restaurants and shops. The neighbouring Leblon district is also popular with the gay community and has art galleries, museums, theatres and boutique shops that serve as interesting local attractions.

The Copacabana beach is one of Rio’s many beaches, and probably its most famous, located next to the Ipanema and Farme Gay beaches, where if you want to eye up some of the hot local Latin guys and girls or other tourists making the most of the sun and heat, that’s the place to be. The beaches host a lot of parties too, especially during Pride and Carnival and will go on late into the night. Gay nightlife in the city also goes on late into the night and even into the early hours of the morning and usually starts pretty late as well, with most people preferring to eat late dinner and drink in restaurants and smaller pubs and bars before moving on to the major clubs. For a full listing of places, click here.

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As previously mentioned, the two main yearly events that take place in Rio are Carnival and gay Pride. The former usually happens at the end of February through to the beginning of March and is always big, extravagant, vibrant and colourful, with pretty much everyone getting involved as the huge collective party atmosphere and attitude takes over everyone and the whole city. Pride on the other hand has varied dates each year – in 2012 it was November, but this year it is slated to commence on 13th October and expected to once again to be a massive success and continue to be on the world’s biggest and best Prides. New Year’s Eve is also a very popular event which sees over 2.5 million come together to ring in the new year on Copacabana Beach, usually all dressed in white. Another gay festival, the Rio Festival Gay de Cinema – the city’s international LGBT film festival – usually takes place in July.

Rio offers a lot of other attractions, things to do and see and places to go, and being a predominantly Roman Catholic area, is of course home to many religious building and structures – the most famous being the must-see statue of Jesus Christ on Corcovado mountain (the fourth tallest in the world). Other places include nearby islands, rainforests and mountains, if you wish to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and explore Brazil’s wild nature.

One’s safety must always be kept in mind when travelling to Brazil and staying in Rio. Even though the gay areas are known to be the wealthiest part of the city, beggars and criminals still try their luck at pickpocketing or taking advantage of people, especially foreigners, so it is not advised that you be left or travel alone or walk around by yourself at night. Please take a look at our top tips for gay travellers for more information.

We currently have half a dozen accommodations available in Rio or alternatively, we also have accommodations in Belo Horizonte, Marceló, Natal, Salvador and São Paulo, but if you have a spare room or property that you want to rent out on a short-term basis to guests in Rio or any other Brazilian city, you can it here.

City Spotlight: Amsterdam

Amsterdam is widely known as one of Europe’s – and the world’s – most tolerant countries, particularly when it comes to sexuality, sex and of course most controversially, drugs. However, while that may create the idea that it is a dirty, seedy place in some people’s minds, in reality it isn’t – it’s vibrant, diverse and actually a clean and friendly city. So why travel to Amsterdam? What attracts hundreds of thousands of LGBT travellers to the city every year? Here we’ll tell you why.

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In 2009, Amsterdam became one of the first ever cities to open a separate tourist office for LGBT travellers called “Pink Point” cementing itself as an open and gay-friendly travel destination. It is situated next to the Homomonuent (a rather fitting name and place) – a memorial that opened in 1987 to commemorate the gay men and lesbians as well as bisexuals who have been persecuted because of their sexuality – and is staffed by friendly and knowledgable volunteers with a wide range of information and flyers from local organisations, and has one of the best selections of queer souvenirs and gifts in the country.

The Netherlands as a whole has a big reputation as one of the world’s most progressive countries in regards to LGBT rights. Same-sex sexual activity has been legal since 1811 and it was of course the first country to legalise same-sex marriage in 2001. Amsterdam, like most capital cities however, is where the highest number of LGBT people are living and why wouldn’t they with around 100 bars, clubs, shops, saunas, hotels and restaurants that are gay-owned or gay-friendly? There isn’t really one specific gay area in Amsterdam, but rather everywhere is very integrated and it is all dotted around the city, including Rembrandtplein square, Requliersdwarsstraat, along Amstel, Warmoesstraat and near the infamous red-light district.

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As well as the Homomonuent, other notable places to visit for sightseeing in Amsterdam include the world famous Anne Frank House, the Van Gogh Museum, the 17th Century network and canals that meander through the city, the Defence Line of Amsterdam (both of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites) and dare we say, for those who aren’t into traditional culture and history – the city’s many cannabis “coffee shops”, which attract nearly 4 million international visitors alone every year. There are also six other museums in the country’s top 15 that are located in Amsterdam.

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Some of the city’s most notable LGBT events in the year include a gay and lesbian film festival Roze Filmdagen takes place every March, a TranScreen festival in May and the Gay & Lesbian Summer Festival, which also shows films, is in July.  Amsterdam Gay Pride starts on the last week of July (26th) and carries on till the first weekend of August (3rd), which is undeniably the city’s biggest gay event on the calendar, though for those who are into something a little different there is also the Fetish Pride from 29th May to 1st June and Leather Pride takes place from 23rd-26th October. There is also the Milkshake Festival – a very popular event that isn’t about milkshakes, but rather dance and club music, turning the city into one huge dancehall. It is attended by everyone and anyone and not restricted to or aimed at one particular group of people, so the LGBT and straight communities can come together and celebrate their love of music.

We currently have over 70 properties in Amsterdam ranging from spare guest rooms in people’s apartments or houses, whole properties and rooms in guesthouses and B&Bs – and the vast majority of our hosts are gay or lesbian or LGBT-friendly and situated within or around the city centre. Or if you have a spare room or a property you want to let out to visitors in Amsterdam, you can sign up and become a host here.

City Spotlight: Rome

Rome is the epitome of a European capital city that has a rich history and culture, and is proud to keep it that way at its forefront. Its gay scene is not as prominent as other cities such as Paris, Berlin and Madrid – and you can probably “thank” the fact that the Pope resides there for that – but in the past decade or so has begun to catch up and cater towards its LGBT community and tourists that travel there. The city does, however, have a lot to offer travellers who want to sightsee and learn more about Rome and Italy’s long and interesting history and many consider it one the world’s best places to escape to for a romantic holiday.

Arcigay has been the largest national LGBT organisation since 1985 and have been fighting for more LGBT rights for many years, including civil unions, gay marriage, gays and lesbians being able to adopt and more recognition for transgender people. Many gay venues throughout Italy require people, both natives and foreigners, to purchase Arcigay membership (usually about €10), in addition to the admission cost, even those who are just visiting the country for a short time.

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Unlike more modern and cosmopolitan cities such as Manchester and Barcelona, Rome’s gay venues are not confined in one specific area and are found all cross the city, but neither are they as obvious, with many of them being hidden behind busy areas down small streets or above other buildings and businesses. This is perhaps because of the city’s strong religious influence that gay places feel less accepted or are made to cover up. This should not stop tourists though, as there are an increasing number of gay-owned bars and clubs, shops, restaurants, cafes and other venues that should be checked out and are becoming more and more popular with the LGBT community, particularly around Viale San Giovanni, which attracts most of them (although again, is not the city’s main gay area). There’s even a gay beach located about 40km away from the city. For a full, detailed list of places, click here.

Besides trying out Rome’s gay scene, the city’s obvious attractions are of course its beautiful and intriguing architecture – which ranges from ancient to medieval, from renaissance to baroque, from neoclassicism to to fascist; historical and religious sites; and famous statues. The Colosseum, the Vatican, the Trevi Fountain, the Piazza del Popolo, the Pantheon, the Column of Marcus Aurelius and the gardens of Villa Borghese are just some of the most popular places worth visiting. Art galleries, history museums and, more recently, fashion exhibitions are also abundant. However, if you really are more of a modern fashionista, then style capital Milan – approximately 600km to the north of Rome – is the place to go if you have time, and although it seems far, a stop off at Florence along the way is recommended. For a shorter but just as worthwhile a journey, Naples is situated around 220km south of Rome.

At Gay Homestays we have an extensive range of more than 100 accommodations available in Rome, whether they be spare rooms in people’s apartments or houses, guesthouses or B&Bs or whole properties, with a good mix of both LGBT and LGBT-friendly hosts who welcome anybody to stay with them to enjoy and explore this great and interesting city. So why not check them out and book one for when you next travel to Rome?

The best times to visit Rome are during the cooler but warm months of Spring and Autumn but if you want to go for Pride and see the LGBT community take over the usually conservative city, then it takes place on 15th June. From then on and until September there is also “Gay Village“, a summer-long festival chock-a-block with events and parties all over Rome and in its gay venues.