Many of us are eager to travel internationally again and 2021 is just around the corner. Once travel is safe and borders reopen, the question of where to visit next is top of mind. Major destinations like Paris, New York and London all have unrivalled gay scenes and are excellent cities to visit. However, there are endless fantastic places that are often overlooked in favour of their larger counterparts.
Here are five of the best alternative cities to visit on your next adventure.
Most visitors to Germany head straight for the capital Berlin but lying some 600km to the west on the banks of the Rhine River is one of the best alternative cities – Cologne. The eclectic range of Veedel or ‘city quarters’ are famed for their independent bookshops, fashionable restaurants and excellent bars – the most popular Veedel is the perennially cool Agnesviertel. You can even find a small collection of LGBT+ shops in Cologne including Best of, with gear like leather, rubber, gay underwear brands and accessories.
Once the largest city in the Holy Roman Empire, today the city is one of Europe’s most underrated destinations for gay travelers. The Kölner Dom dominates the skyline and is the city’s primary attractions. It’s free to enter but don’t waste your money paying for admission to the tower. If you’re into art, then the Ludwig Museum hosts an impressive collection of modern exhibits and hosts an array of rotating guest shows.
Billed as the second city in the UK, Manchester is famed for Oasis, Emmeline Pankhurst and the world’s longest-running television drama – Coronation Street. The city is packed with excellent museums, fantastic restaurants and a world-famous gay scene – Canal Street. Manchester’s industrial past is evident in its red brick architecture which still adorns much of the city today, much of which is the canvas for some inspiring street art.
To explore more of the city’s heritage then visit The People’s History Museum and the Museum of Science and History. The Whitworth Art Gallery and the Imperial War Museum North are another two informative, and free, places you should check out. The Northern Quarter is the city’s bohemian, queer district, filled with eclectic pubs, speakeasy cocktails bars and artisan coffee hangouts making Manchester one of the best alternative cities to visit in the UK.
The state capital of Texas is one of America’s underrated gems. The ‘Keep Austin Weird’ slogan can be seen emblazoned on shirts and stickers across the city – a show of determination of Austin’s residents to keep their city a beacon of bohemianism.
While the city is short on traditional landmarks, there is an abundance of cultural activity taking place in the boutique bars, restaurants and cafes centered in the Downtown region. The University campus is well-worth visiting for its grand architecture – quite unique in Texas and if you enjoy the great outdoors then Barton Creek Greenbelt is just moments from the city center and will satisfy your trekking desires.
Edinburgh has enchanted visitors for decades and its rugged scenery, cosy pubs and ancient architecture. While it retains its historic charms, it has also adopted a metropolitan vibe and today is an excellent choice for LGBT+ travellers. Though the city doesn’t have a particularly large gay scene, there are a few gay bars in town worth visiting where you can connect with locals.
One of the most popular events in the city is Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Attending for the event is the perfect reason to go on a holiday to Edinburgh to enjoy all the beautiful historical sights, landscapes and culinary delights while also getting knee deep in modern culture. This is Edinburgh’s Christmas, and the Fringe really is the gift that keeps on giving.
You can also head beyond the capital by car or train and discover the magnificent Scottish Highlands. Inverness is the main city here and can be used as a base to explore the wild outdoors or you can rent a cosy mountain cabin or traditional cottage where you enjoy the beautify landscapes of Scotland.
Despite the fact that Greece is one of the European countries still fighting for full marriage equality it still remains one of the most vibrant gay destinations spots in the world. Mykonos is perhaps the more well-known destination and traditional gay mecca but other Greek cities and islands are not to be missed. Of course, the capital city of Athens is home to the world-famous Acropolis along with a number of other excellent attractions. This ancient city is a collection of structures and fortifications – the most famous of which is The Parthenon. Make sure you also visit the Acropolis Museum, hosting a fantastic collection of Greek art.
The Panathenaic Stadium & Olympic Stadium is the oldest ancient building in Athens and is a wonder to behold. Constructed in 335 BC it was the home of the Panathenaic Games and rebuilt in 1896 for the modern Olympics. It seats a staggering 60,000 spectators in its 47 tiers and it is the only stadium in the world which is built entirely of marble. Greek food is also fantastic and is actually much cheaper in the city than on the islands, so Athens is great for foodies on a budget.
Auston runs the blog Two Bad Tourists and is also a freelance writer. His work has been featured in many publications including The Gay UK, Attitude Magazine, Edge Media Network, The Houston Chronicle and ManAboutWorld Magazine.