Gay Travel - Lisbon Gay Guide
When you think of top European Gay travel destinations, you wouldn’t normally consider Portugal, instead locations such as Spain and Germany immediately spring to mind. But before deciding to move to Portugal more permanently, myself and my partner first came on holiday and it was then that I discovered just how welcoming and gay-friendly of a destination Lisbon, Portugal is!
In fact, in many respects, Portugal is at the forefront of advancing social and legal rights for the LGBTQ community. Decriminalising homosexuality back in the 80’s, today Portugal is one of only 28 countries in the world where same-sex marriage is. Not even to mention the legal recognition of De Facto unions, the legal right to adopt as gay parents and the Law of Gender Identity which was ratified in 2011, making the process for transgender individuals to change sex and names that much easier.
It’s easy to see why Portugal is considered to have one of the most advance agendas in terms of protecting and respecting the LGBTQ community in the world. Bet you didn’t know that!
In this guide of Gay Lisbon, I will give you an overview of all that sunny Lisboa has to offer the LGBTQ traveller. Covering all aspects of where to stay, entertainment, community and much more.
I think it goes without saying that the first question that may pop to mind is, how safe & tolerant is Portugal for gay travellers wanting to visit. Well, as already mentioned, Portugal is a very welcoming and open society. In my years of living in the country I have never once felt unwelcome or threatened due to my sexuality.
Of course, in the bigger cities and hubs such as Lisbon and Porto, you should not have any issue and it’s not uncommon to see gay couples walking hand in hand down the street. You’ll also likely experience more acceptance in the larger towns and cities than say a small village in the countryside. But even there – you may only get the occasional stare, but nothing more than that.
Portugal is regarded as one of the safest countries in the world. In the cities, sure – there may be the odd areas you need to be aware of, but for 99.9% of the time, you will be perfectly fine and acts of aggression are really very few and far between. The Portuguese police do take incidents of crime or assault extremely seriously too.
Overall, I have found the Portuguese to not really care much whether you’re gay, straight or whatever your preference is. And given that Lisbon is such a melting pot of different cultures, it’s no wonder that it’s as welcoming and open minded as it is.
Gay District, Lisbon & Accommodation:
Gay Area, LisbonThe ever-trendy area of Principe Real is what I would probably class as the ‘official’ gay neighbourhood of Lisbon, with many gay clubs and bars found here. It is also the starting point of Lisbon’s annual LGBTQ Pride march too. But equally popular with gay travellers is its neighbour, the upmarket Chiado district. These are both pretty good areas if you are looking for where to stay. They are quite central and have good transport links. I would say that Chiado is perhaps a tad bit more ‘touristy’ than Principe Real. But both have a unique and very different feel to them. And I would happily recommend either as a choice of where to stay for any gay traveller visiting the city.
Gay Hotel Accommodation, LisbonThe most well-known gay hotel in Lisbon is The Late Birds, a gay owned and managed property. It’s without a doubt a top choice. Click here to view rates and availability. If you’re after an apartment style type property, then why not check out the available listings on Misterbandb.com to view all the gay-friendly, private and shared apartments available to book for your stay. If you haven’t already signed up, then click here to get started and get a €10 credit. As I already mentioned earlier, Lisbon is a very gay friendly destination and it’s not to say that you have to stay at a gay only property. You would have no problem at all booking into pretty much any hotel or guesthouse in the city. If you still need to book for your upcoming trip, then go ahead and search for availability in and around Lisbon – check hotel rates and availability here.
Gay Tours, Lisbon:
If you are visiting gorgeous Lisboa and looking to take part in tours and activities aimed at gay travellers, then I can highly recommend the tour services of Cosmopolitan Tours. They offer a few tours in and around the city including a day visit to Beach 19, a nightlife tour and a city tour. I have personally met with the owner and was quite impressed with their focus on providing a high quality and bespoke tour service for the gay market.
Go check out the Cosmopolitan Tours site for more info!
You may also want to click on the below to view other tours and activity options available in Lisbon too.
There are a few other operators that also offer gay-orientated tours, but which I have not personally met with yet. These include Lisbon Beach Tours as well as Lisbon Gay Tours. Both of these advertise a range of different day trips and tours aimed at LGBTQ travellers.
Lisbon Gay Beaches:
The closest beaches to Lisbon are found either along the coast heading towards Cascais, or by crossing the river and travelling south to the area known as Costa da Caparica. It’s only about 30 minutes by bus or car from Lisbon, and it is here in this region that you will find the two most well-known gay beaches of Lisbon.
The Caparica coastline stretches along for about 30 kilometres and is made up of several large and expansive beaches. Beach 19, so named due to the fact that it’s the 19th stop on the tourist train connecting all the beaches, is known to be the gay beach and also recognised as a nude beach too.
During the summer months you are able to catch the TST bus (Transportes Sul do Tejo) service from Lisbon’s Praça Espanha, ending in the town centre of Costa Caparica. From there you can catch the small tourist train that stops all along the way at several beaches and ending at stop 19, being Beach 19.
Alternatively, and a much easier route is to travel by car from Lisbon. There are parking spots available at beach 17 (known more as Praia da Bela Vista). And from here you can walk along the beach to Beach 19.
Keep in mind that Beach 19 doesn’t have many facilities. So, make sure to pack what you may need for the day. In saying this, nearby Praia da Bela Vista does offer more facilities including a beach bar / restaurant.
Praia do Mecco
Heading much further south, you’ll find another nudist beach, popular with gay travellers. Located about 40km south of Lisbon and bit harder to get to than Beach 19 is that of Praia do Meco. It rose to prominence back in the 70’s when it because one of the first nudist beaches.
Travelling by car to reach this beach is your best bet and it should take you around an hour to get to if taking the main A2 highway from Lisbon.
Do note that during the summer months you can expect additional traffic to and from Lisbon to these beaches and areas mentioned above. So be sure to plan for this, especially during peak July – August travel periods.
Gay Clubs Lisbon - including Bars & Drag Scene:
Lisbon offers a wide selection of bars, clubs and nightlife options for gay travellers to enjoy whilst visiting the city. Most are located in and around Principe Real and Bairro Alto.
Trumps– Trumps is one of Lisbon’s biggest gay clubs situated in Principe Real. It has two different dancefloors, once for pop and another for house and attracts a fairly mixed crowd.
Finalmente – this is one of the longest running clubs in Lisbon, having been established in the 70’s and since then it has become famous for its daily drag shows. And boy do they put on a show. It’s great fun and uniquely Portuguese, but for me, that’s what makes this so great! Do note that Finalmente is a much smaller club and only starts getting busy around 01:00am due to the fact that the drag shows only kick off at 03:00am.
Purex – another favourite is Purex, which technically is regarded as a lesbian club & bar but in reality, attracts a fairly mixed crowd. The space inside isn’t big at all, with a bar and small dancefloor. But catch Purex on the right night and you’ll be in for a great party!
Bar Cru – Bar Cru is a cruising and fetish bar that hosts a series of different themed and fetish parties daily.
TR3S– Also located in Principe Real is the bear club TR3S. They also annually host a Bear Pride event in Lisbon.
49 da ZDB – A smaller grungier bar that we also love is 49 da ZDB. They used to host Friday night screenings of Ru Pauls Drag Race and also host drag shows. It’s a smaller venue that also has a dance floor at the back of the venue, where we’ve had some fab nights out.
Lisbon Gay Festivals, Parties & Events:
Aside from the clubs and bars already listed, that also host almost daily parties and events, you may also want to diarise several other annual LGBTQ events that take place in Lisbon throughout the year.
Lisbon Pride March – Taking place towards the end of June is Lisbon’s annual Pride march. Starting off in Principe Real around the Jardim do Príncipe Real (Príncipe Real gardens) the route winds its way downwards past the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, through the neighbourhood of Chiado all the way down the the riverfront passing Cais do Sodré, before ending close to Terreiro do Paço on the river’s edge.
A word of warning – don’t expect things to kick off right on time. This is Portugal, so we never start on time! Expect some delays before the marching officially kicks off.
Arraial Lisboa – Usually taking place towards the end of June and normally a week or so after the actual Pride march takes place, is the Arraial party set in the Praça do Comércio square in downtown Lisbon. It’s a large event that draws in quite a mixed crowd, from party goers, to families out and about and enjoying the festivities. Throughout the afternoon and into the evening they host a series of different concerts and events and late night the party kicks into high gear.
Lisbon Bear Pride – Managed by TR3S club, the annual Lisbon Bear Pride usually takes place towards the end of May / beginning of June. It is a well organised event with a program spanning a couple of days and hosted at different locations. It’s normally well attended and a very popular festival.
Miss Drag Lisboa – Taking place at the Time Out Studio in Lisbon, located across the road from the Cais do Sodre train & metro station, is the annual Miss Drag Lisboa competition. It normally takes place around mid-September and sees drag queens from across Lisbon compete for the Miss Drag Lisboa title and crown.
Queer Lisbon International Film Festival in Portugal – Towards the end of September you’ll find the screening of the Queer Lisboa film festival, running for about a week long. It’s the first and only national film festival in Portugal that focuses specifically on new LGBTQ films. This festival has become increasing popular and in 2015 also launched the Queer Porto edition too.
Gay Saunas & Bath Houses:
If you’re into gay saunas and bath houses then there are four to consider in and around the Lisbon area.
Further out towards Costa da Caparica is 3 Sauna (which forms part of the TR3S group).
Gay Shopping in Lisbon:
UP! town Lisboa – Predominantly, a men’s clothing and accessories store found in Chiado. UP!town Lisboa is open Mon-Sat 10:30 am – 20:00 pm and Sundays and public holidays 13:00 pm to 19:00 pm.
Address – Rua da Misericórdia, 68, Chiado, Lisbon
CRU Store – Forming part of CRU Club, the CRU Store is an adult store selling an array of sexy underwear, toys and a range of other adult gear.
Open daily between 17:00 – 22:00, they also have an online store.
Address – Rua de São Marçal 170, Lisbon
Lisbon Gay Community & Socials:
If you’re visiting Lisbon and looking to make some new LGTBQ friends along the way, then why not also take part in one of the regular Meetups that take place via the Meetup app / site. There are a couple of dedicated groups that host regular gay social get togethers and events.
Lisbon Gay Sports Club
Founded in 2010 the Boys Just Wanna Have Fun Sports Club is a Lisbon based gay sports club aimed at promoting inclusivity and diversity through sport. They have several different sporting disciplines to take part in, including Rugby, Swimming, Football, Tango and Volleyball to name a few. To find out more, visit the BJWHF Sports Club site.
CheckpointLX is a funded and free service that offers sexual health screenings, tests and counselling services to gay men. Located in the Principe Real neighbourhood, they are also able to assist with referrals for further health care as and when required. They offer a vital service to the community and all tests and screenings are handled anonymously and with extreme professionalism.
Address – Traverse Monte do Carmo, 2, 1200-277 Lisbon
Operating hours – business days from 12:00 – 20:00
The LGBT Information Centre (Centro LGBT) is located in downtown Baixa, Lisbon. They also host regular activities and events including a karaoke night which is great fun!
You will also find the headquarters of ILGA here. They are an NGO advancing the cause for equality and inclusion for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people living in Portugal.
Address – Rua dos Fanqueiros, 40 – 1100-231 Lisbon
If you are a gay traveller looking to visit Lisbon, then you definitely cannot go wrong. The city has so much to offer any LGBTQ traveller and as already mentioned, is generally very open minded and welcoming towards gay-friendly travellers. As such, you can happily book your travels and rest assured that you will have an absolutely fabulous time in sunny Lisboa!
Have you visited this Lisbon before? I’d love to hear your feedback and thoughts. What was your highlight? Any tips or suggestions you would like to add on?
Please feel free to comment and share your personal experiences!