Valentine’s Day: 10 alternative romantic destinations for LGBTQ+ travellers

Beyond the headline capitals and islands, there’s a variety of LGBTQ+ friendly destinations where love is in the air. From dreamy medieval towns to magical rainforests, here’s where to go…

Brandon Schultz
19 February 2024

Whether you’ve already been to the world’s top draws or just want to avoid mass crowds, there are plenty of romantic destinations for LGBTQ+ travellers outside the headline capitals and postcard beaches. From dreamy medieval villages to invigorating rainforest adventures, here’s where to find real romance in alternative destinations around the world.

1

Guadalajara, Mexico

Guadalajara Cathedral in the historic centre is a romantic place to wander (Shutterstock)

Coastal Puerto Vallarta is an LGBTQ+ hotspot along the Pacific Ocean, but its heavy lean into the party scene often pushes romance to the side. Within the same state though of Jalisco, Guadalajara is Mexico’s second largest city and packs the most progressive laws in the county for the queer community. It’s home to the country’s only Sexual Diversity Minister and boasts a handful of neighbourhoods that could classify as gaybourhoods. Among the most popular, Colonia Americana is anchored by the fountain-lined Avenida Chapultapec, where festivals, markets, and parades (including Pride) are a year-round occurrence. An important LGBTQ+ history and culture museum, Museo Memoria, is within walking distance in the city’s historical center, where you’ll also find the 17th-century Guadalajara Cathedral and Revolution Square. Revolutions may not sound romantic, but this popular plaza has been a gathering point for LGBTQ+ rights advocates since the 1970s and a permanent installation will soon mark Diversity Corner here.

2

Philadelphia, USA

Take a stroll in Philadelphia’s Love Park (Shutterstock)

If New York City overwhelms with commotion and scale, consider nearby Philadelphia for a more manageable holiday without sacrificing culture or romance. This Pennsylvania city was the once the capital of the country and was the seat of the Colonial revolution, with many of its historic buildings preserved as museums and monuments today. There’s also a thriving arts scene supported by the renowned Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Barnes Foundation collection of masterpieces uniquely arranged in intimate vignettes, and the city’s vast collection of murals commissioned by the largest public arts program in the country. Cobblestoned Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest residential street in the country, is an adorable backdrop for photos, but you’ll also want to steal a kiss in LOVE Park, home to one of the first copies of Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE sculpture. There’s now an AMOR sculpture just down the street in Sister Cities Park, too.

Read next: How to explore Philadelphia’s thriving arts scene

3

Malta

Malta is one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly destinations, and also a romantic getaway (Shutterstock)

The Mediterranean island nation of Malta claims the same climate and epic views as many Greek islands and, because of its strategic location between Europe and Africa, is home to a plethora of important historical remnants dating back as far as 4000 BCE. Malta is a world leader in LGBTQ+ rights and is one of the only countries on the planet to specifically guarantee LGBTQ+ equality in its national constitution. In the capital, Valetta, explore eye-poppers like the 18th-century Teatru Manoel and 17th-century palaces, but don’t miss the gorgeous harbour views through the arches of Upper Barrakka gardens for a moment of quiet romance. Strolling the twinkling city by night is equally enchanting, but the ultimate romantic experience here may be a private charter to catch the coastal sights of all three Maltese islands from the privacy of your boat deck.

4

Costa Rica

A sunset horseride is one of the many romantic activities you can do in Costa Rica (Shutterstock)

The Caribbean overflows with beautiful beaches surrounding countless island escapes, but there’s more culture and adventure to be found in neighbouring Central America, particularly in Costa Rica. Take advantage of the lush rainforest by exploring the canopy on ziplines and hanging bridges, riding horses through trails on the forest floor, or spending a day of quiet reflection together with a certified forest bathing guide. Swim in waterfalls, spot monkeys, and visit a volcano, too. If you do need a day (or more) to just relax quietly together, you’ll still find swoon-worthy beaches along the country’s coasts, especially in the province of Guanacaste. Inland, San Jose is the capital city and home to a strong LGBTQ+ economy. Though there’s no designated gaybourhood, you’ll find community-centric events and venues throughout. The trendy Escalante neighbourhood has a higher concentration of these, along with buzzy bistros, cosy corners, and romantic architecture.

5

Ghent, Belgium

A Pride party along the Ghent’s canals (Shutterstock)

Ghent is too often upstaged by the gilded glamour of Brussels or the medieval village of Bruges, but this is where you’ll find the best of both. Here you’ll combine the perks of modernity through innovative gastronomy and contemporary accommodations with the fairytale architecture of a castle fortress and old stone bridges crossing the city’s abundant waterways. Touring the thousand-year-old Gravensteen Castle will transport you to the romance of yesteryear and provide the proper setting for living out your royal fantasies. Boat tours along the canals and rivers of the city are abundant, and range from intimate private excursions that can be customized to deliver you to city gems like its famous breweries, or less expensive group tours of highlights like the medieval centre.

6

Marbella, Spain

Wander the romantic white-washed Andalusian streets of Marbella (Shutterstock)

Ibiza and Grand Canaria may be the big names of LGBTQ+ party spots in Spain, but romance is better found in charming Marbella. While there’s still plenty of party to be found, there’s a higher dose of daytime culture and true romance here on the mainland. Stroll the flower-strewn alleys of Marbella’s historic old town with gelato in hand, or stop for Spanish tortilla and a cocktail in darling Orange Square. Escape the sun with a stroll down the marble walkways of verdant Alameda Park, then admire the sculptures of Avenida del Mar, leading to the sea. For one of the best romantic views in all of Southern Spain, take a daytrip to nearby Ronda, a historic coastal city spanning a deep ravine of evocative rock formations. The soaring arches of Ronda’s towering New Bridge (completed in 1793) are as unforgettable as they are breathtaking.

7

Taipei, Taiwan

A rainbow crosswalk in Taipei celebrates LGBTQ+ communities (Shutterstock)

While bustling capitals like Tokyo and Bangkok nab the lion’s share of LGBTQ+ attention in Asia, Taipei, Taiwan, should not be overlooked. Home to the continent’s largest Pride celebration and the first Asian government to legalise same-sex marriage, Taipei is populated with heavily pro-LGBTQ+ residents who create an atmosphere of genuine comfort for visitors. There are many popular night markets for shopping and snacking under the stars, but the smaller Ningxia might be the most manageable for visitors looking for a stress-free experience that’s still energetic and exciting. Shopping in general is a popular activity here, but jazz is equally beloved, offering endless opportunities for romantic evenings in dimly-lit venues. While dipping into history in Wanhua, Taipei’s oldest district, consider having your romance read by fortune tellers in the Longshan Temple Street Underground bazaar—locals prize these results and you won’t have trouble finding tellers who speak English.

8

Perth, Australia

The Rainbow in Perth is a nine-metre tall instalment (Shutterstock)

Admittedly, this one’s a bit further from additional action, but Perth is well worth the switch-up from Sydney. Sure, Sydney is home to the world-famous Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras celebration and is geographically closer to most of Australia’s population, but Western Australia’s capital city teems with urban activity in close proximity to epic surfing, enviable wine regions, and must-see wildlife. If you’re looking for large kangaroos as plentiful as sheep on a hillside, they’re here, not in the east. And if you’re looking for the world’s most selfie-friendly critters, those would be the quokkas of Rottnest Island, just a short ferry trip away. Perth also benefits from being Australia’s sunniest city, giving you a more joyous time exploring the sights together.

9

Manchester, UK

Manchester’s Gay Village is a popular spot along Rochdale Canal (Shutterstock)

Home to the national LGBT Foundation, Manchester is one of the UK’s most welcoming cities for LGBTQ+ visitors. The obvious hub of community-focused activity is the Gay Village, marked by Canal Street along the Rochdale Canal, but you hardly need to remain here. Take an LGBTQ+ walking tour to familiarize yourself with more of Manchester, then branch out to its many chic restaurants and cafés citywide. The ornate architecture and impressive interior of Manchester Cathedral makes it a top drawer for inspiring visits (you may even be able to catch a concert here), and the lakeside gardens of Heaton Park are ideal for a quiet stroll or picnic. On a clear day, take in the sunset with a whimsical cocktail at one of Manchester’s most romantic date spots, Cloud 23, overlooking the city.

8

Fairbanks, Alaska

What could be more romantic than gazing up at the northern lights in Alaska? (Shutterstock)

There are few cosmic phenomena as dazzling and utterly romantic as the northern lights. To catch your own glimpse of these stunners while cuddling against the cold, consider skipping closer-to-home viewpoints like those in Norway or Iceland and head instead to remote Fairbanks, Alaska, for something completely different. While the state may better known for its conservative population, Fairbanks is a university town that’s considerably more welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community than its surroundings, and it offers more than eight months of viewing opportunities for the dancing northern lights. While here, make more magical memories together with a moonlight dog sledding adventure, or amp things up and head a couple hours south toward Castner Glacier for its famous ice caves. This one will require a 4km hike on arrival, but it’s mostly flat and well-packed. You can hire a guide if you’re unsure of your outdoor skills.

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