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European capitals and major cities are always so rewarding, and it can be easy to keep revisiting the same places knowing that you're in for a great time. But one of our new year resolutions at misterb&b is to shake things up a bit, and you can too when it comes to your next mini-break: here are five European cities for more adventurous travel. So, make way London, Barcelona, Lisbon, Rome and Paris, here's our pick of the new gay destinations for 2020...
Chances are you’ve already blitzed Barcelona and made out in Madrid, but if you haven’t visited Spain’s third city, Valencia, now's the time. Compact and walkable, València is perfect for a long, sunny weekend. The city’s split by the winding, dry Turía river bed, which doubles up as a park and is great for a stroll, cycle, run or workout. It’s also home to the city’s main attraction, the strikingly bold and futuristic City of Arts and Sciences, which houses a science museum, IMAX cinema, planetarium and opera house.
After working up an appetite, salivate at the fabulous fruit, vegetables and fish at the stain-glassed, art nouveau Central Market. Built in the 1920s, it boasts over 1,000 stalls and is a real feast for the eyes. Directly opposite lies La Lonja, a 15th-century silk exchange, which has World Heritage status and is a Gothic delight. Grab an ice cold horchata (local milk-like drink made from tiger nuts) and stroll to nearby El Carmen, the old part of the city, packed with cozy cafés, bars and vintage shops within its graffitied winding alleys. If you’re feeling arty, the nearby Valencian Institute of Modern Art (IVAM) showcases contemporary offerings.
Meanwhile, València’s gayborhood is Ruzafa, a centrally-located barrio with a few LGBTQ bars such as The Rampel Club and La Boba y el Gato Rancio. For dancing, Deseo 54 is the stalwart shirts-off muscle club, but watch out for the new monthly Churro con Chocolate party from Barcelona. There’s also a few cruise bars in town.
Wanna catch some tan? Gay Valencia’s central beach, Malva-Rosa, is a tram ride away, while the main gay nudist beach, Playa Negra, is a 20-minute bus ride south in the direction of Albufera, a giant freshwater lake and a perfect spot for paella. Apart from the uncomfortably hot summer months, València is great for an all-year round visit with mild winters and beautifully warm spring and autumn seasons.
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Lisbon has been on the LGBTQ radar for years, but Portugal’s second city, Porto, is quickly catching up, so it’s time you did, too! This elegant city on the Douro river is a top gay destination for 2019 and boasts stunning architecture, culture, and great places to eat – locally-caught sardines are a must – and drink.
Porto is compact enough to navigate by foot but only if you can deal with its hilly terrain: you’ll have buns of steel by the end of your stay. Bonus. Wander down to explore the historic central area – Ribiera – a UNESCO World Heritage Centre, before crossing the iconic Luíz I bridge to to the south side for a breathtaking view of the city.
The city’s name kinda gives it away, but port (and wine) are celebrated here on this side of the river, with plenty of lodges where you can sink a few while taking in the surrounding beauty. If you need to clear your head afterwards, take the tram 20 minutes west to Foz, a swish seaside 'burb with beaches, long sidewalks and plenty of fresh air.
Just like it’s big sister, Porto is very LGBTQ-friendly, and while the scene isn’t as big, there are enough choices for a long weekend away. Pride Coffee is a gay café by day and relaxed by night, featuring guest DJs. If life’s a drag, head to Invictus, a gay Porto institution, with regular cabaret shows. Meanwhile, Bar Conceiçâo 35 is a hipster favorite. For dancing, Zoom club is the main gay venue in town, attracting international DJs.
Other highlights include the Clérigos Tower with 360° views of the city (only 225 stairs to the top!) and, of course, Livraria Lello bookshop, one of the most beautiful in the world, which influenced JK Rowling’s Hogwarts School in Harry Potter. Regeneration is taking place fast in Porto, though, so make sure you catch the city fast while it retains its authenticity.
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Rome, Florence, Venice and, of course, fashion capital Milan… there are so many popular cities in Italy you could visit (and probably already have), but in 2020 it’s Naples that’s the on-trend Italo destination city to misterb&b at.
This Southern city has a rep for being rough and ready, and while that’s still true (especailly in the Quatieri Spagnoli), Naples has cleaned up its act somewhat, remaining a beautiful, vibrant and colorful chaos. If you want a piece of the real Italy, this is the place to explore.
Have a passion for art, architecture and history? Naples ticks all the boxes, with a fantastic archeological museum and churches galore, such as the Duomo, and the Cappella Sansevero, which boasts an almost life-like marble statue of Christ.
If you want to escape the madness on Naples streets, much of the city’s highlights actually lie underground: there are various ancient catacombs to explore, the amazing Fontanelle Cemetery full of 40,000 bones, and the Napoli Sotterranea guided tour where you can explore the city – but from a different perspective – 40ft below.
If that all sounds too spooky, a walk along the waterfront will clear your airways and a stop off Spritz in the fancy district of Chiaia will get you back on track. While walking take in the view of Mount Vesuvius in the distance – if you have time, you can even visit it, as well as Pompeii and the islands of Capri and Procida.
Come evening time you’ll want to indulge in officially the best pizza in the world, before taking in a slice of gay Naples. Nightlife revolves mainly around the very central Piazza Bellini, where a mixed crowd spills outside from the many bars (try Bar Fiorillo or Caffè Letterario). For dancing try Macho Lato, while the kink-friendly Basement offers the chance to be naughty in Naples. Bello!
© flickr/Julen Ruiz Luzuriaga
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If you’ve licked London already, head to the north of the UK to take in Liverpool, one of the country’s biggest cities. Set on the river Mersey, 2018 marked the 10th anniversary of the city being a European Capital of Culture, and there sure is plenty you can pack in here in the birthplace of Beatles.
Start a weekend with a bangin’ brunch on Bold Street, an area full of independent outlets and vintage shopping opportunities. Stroll on over to St. Luke’s Church, AKA the Bombed Out Church. It was badly damaged in the blitz in 1941 yet remains standing, an iconic landmark in the city.
© flickr/*Psyche Delia*
For a lunchtime snack, head to the Baltic Market, Liverpool’s first street food market in the Cains Brewery – it’s always buzzing with energy. If it’s sunny out, this 200-acre Grade One listed park, Sefton, shows off some of the best nature this friendly city has to offer. It would be rude to not visit the Albert Docks. Music lovers have the chance to see the Fab Four at the Beatles Story, while art fans can ponder over something contemporary at the Tate Modern’s northern outpost.
Gay Liverpool life revolves around Stanley Street, the LGBTQ quarter, also known as Liverool’s gay village. Fun and welcoming, you’ll know you’re there by the rainbow signs which adorn the street signs. A good starting point for a drink is The Lisbon, a gay bar which has an amazing ceiling. The Navy has regular well-known DJs while Superstar Boudoir features regular drag acts. Club-wise, Garlands is the city’s most famous venue, while Heaven is popular too.
And, if you want to party harder, you could always extend your trip by visiting nearby Manchester, which has an even wilder gay scene to explore!
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Can-canned all over the French capital more than once or twice? Make 2020 the year you head to the so-called ‘Paris of the southwest of France’ instead. Once known as the country’s sleepy, wine industry capital, Bordeaux has undergone a huge architectural and cultural regeneration, and is now pulling in the punters left, right and center.
The city centre boasts some of the most graceful streets in France so you won’t be surprised to learn that half of Bordeaux is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Explore like the locals, at a leisurely pace, and soak up the neoclassical architecture while you indulge in the great food the city offers, and, of course, wine!
© flickr/ariel martini
Head to the Golden Triangle (Triangle d’Or), Bordeaux’s monumental heart, before sauntering down to the Quai de Bacalan. Once a wasteland and no-go zone, warehouses have been converted into shops, bars and cafés, with the Pont de Pierre providing a beautiful lookout over the city. The nearby Place de la Bourse is the most beautiful square in the city, and the Miroir d’Eau water mirror is perfect for cooling off in during summer (and for capturing your perfect Insta shot).
When it comes to gay Bordeaux, the city comes alive at night, with a few gay and gay-friendly bars to choose from. Fancy some fun? Coco Loko is a fun venue with theme nights and Le Trou Duck is another friendly fave. Need something a little more kinky? Buster is Bordeaux’s only gay fetish cruise bar, and there are even a few saunas to work up a sweat in.
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Finally, this port city on the Garonne River has won fans in very high places – no less than HRH The Queen, who concluded that Bordeaux is “the very essence of elegance.” So, from one Queen to another, put Bordeaux on your European city hit list for 2020! ●
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