Best Cities for Lesbian Expats

This syndicated article was originally published on Expatsi.

With anti-queer rhetoric ramping up across the U.S., LGBTQ+ folks of all stripes are looking to leave for new homes where they can live loud and proud (or cozy and quiet, if that’s what they prefer). Here are the best cities for lesbian expats looking to move abroad.

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Woman in Amsterdam at pride march.
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One of the most queer-friendly cities in the world, Amsterdam hosts a number of queer-centered events all year long, from Roze Filmdagen to Milkshake Festival and Pride. You’ll find the gay epicenter at Reguliersdwarsstraat (gay street), while other lesbian-centric spaces like Bar Buka and Flirtation will make you feel right at home.

Learn more about moving to the Netherlands

Antwerp, Belgium

Two older queer women in Belgium.
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While it may not be top of mind when it comes to queer-friendly cities, Antwerp offers plenty of socializing options for gay women. Atthis, a blue-collar bar for older lesbians, creates community spaces off the tourist path, while spots like Red & Blue or Café den Draak cater to a more dance-driven crowd. Chloé Lenaerts, program coordinator at Het Roze Huis, invites you to come for Pride, stay for the chocolate.

Learn more about moving to Belgium

Bangkok, Thailand

Queer women in Bangkok.
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Thailand in general adopts an inclusive approach to queer life, thanks to certain cultural factors promoting tolerance of all. Bangkok, in particular, welcomes gay women to live out and proud; events like Go Grrrls, Vibe, and Lesla offer great opportunities to meet other expats and Thai locals.

Learn more about moving to Thailand

Barcelona, Spain

Queer woman in Spain.
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Spain’s been lauded as an ideal home for LGBTQ people, tying with the Netherlands for best country in this regard. Aside from its vibrant art scene, many queer locals make their home in the “Gaixample” neighborhood.

Learn more about moving to Spain

Berlin, Germany

Two queer women in Germany. Berlin.
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Germany recently appointed its first commissioner for LGBTQ affairs, developing a national plan promoting acceptance and diversity. Christopher Street Day, one of Europe’s biggest gay events, memorializes the 1969 Stonewall Riots every July.

Learn more about moving to Berlin

Brussels, Belgium

Belgium pride march.
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The second country to legalize same-sex marriage, Belgium supports its queer citizens. Aside from Brussels’ vibrant gayborhood and diverse LGBTQ scene, lesbian couples can adopt and access in-vitro fertilization, making this a great home to raise a family.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

queer women in Argentina. Buenos Aires.
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Buenos Aires has led the way for queer representation since guaranteeing gay rights in 2002—the first city in South America to do so. It draws many queer expats with its open embrace of gay culture. Experience life on the Atlantic with hotspots like Casa Brandon and Babieca. For women living out their golden years, there’s even a gay retirement center, founded by Argentina’s first married lesbian couple.

Learn more about moving to Argentina

Cape Town, South Africa

Lesbians holding hands.
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Considered the gay capital of Africa, Cape Town has a number of queer events to help you feel right at home. Check out Cape Town Pride around March, Out in Africa Film Festival in October, and the Mother City Queer Project each December.

Learn more about moving to South Africa

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Happy women holding hands in Chiang Mai Thailand.
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Chiang Mai continues Bangkok’s tradition of welcoming queer women to Thailand. The gay scene is more tame here than its sister city, making Chiang Mai a great destination if you’re looking to blend in more than stand out.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Women kissing.
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Copenhagen’s been taking the lead for gay rights since recognizing unions of same-sex couples in 1989 and granting joint adoption since 2010. MIX Copenhagen, the LGBTQ film festival, and Copenhagen Pride draw enormous crowds each year to this historical city.

Learn more about moving to Denmark

Lisbon, Portugal

Two women hugging in airport.
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Lisbon marks a welcoming place for lesbians of all ages to settle down. Principe Real is the most prominent queer neighborhood and hosts the annual Pride March. Be sure to attend Queer Lisboa, the international gay and lesbian film festival, every September.

Learn more about moving to Portugal

Madrid, Spain

 Two women holding pride flag aloft in streets of Madrid. Spain.
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Just like Barcelona, Madrid welcomes the LGBTQ+ community with arms wide open. Heck, we could’ve made a whole list of gay-friendly cities just in Spain! Roughly 10 percent of Madrid’s metro population—about 500,000 people—are part of the queer community.

Melbourne, Australia

Two people at pride march in Melbourne Australia.
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Forget about Sydney: this Reddit thread insists that Melbourne “by far is more fun for lesbians.” Hit the dance floor at Danceteria Party, Lick, and Pinkalicious. If you’re looking to slow down, try knitting group Queer Melbourne Stitch’n’Bitch or the Hares and Hyenas LGBTQ bookstore.

Learn more about moving to Australia

Montevideo, Uruguay

Two women sitting near the water in Montevideo Uruguay.
Two women sitting near the water in Montevideo Uruguay.

Like Amsterdam and Madrid, Montevideo consistently ranks among the best cities for wlw expats. This South American nation has been striving for gay rights since legalizing homosexuality in 1934. Visit old town Ciudad Vieja by day and meet new people at Cain Club or Chains Pub by night.

Learn more about moving to Uruguay

Montreal, Canada

2SLGBTQIA+ parade in Montreal Canada.
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When it comes to Canadian destinations for gay women, you just can’t beat Montreal for options. The Village on Rue Saint-Catherine anchors the city’s main gayborhood with numerous businesses, but don’t sleep on Montreal Pride, its queer film festival, or the LGBTQ+ Community Centre. Rent’s also lower than hotspots like Toronto, though you’ll want to brush up on your French to really blend in.

Learn more about moving to Canada

Oslo, Norway

Pride event in Oslo Norway.
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This cool-climate country legalized gay marriage in 2009 and has protected gay rights since 1981. Oslo hosts one of the best gay choirs in the world and biggest Pride event in the country, highlighting Norway’s vibrant LGBTQ culture.

Learn more about moving to Norway

Perth, Australia

Two women on Australian beach.
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Much like Melbourne, Perth is a sleeper hit for wlw hoping to live in Australia. One Redditor says, “One of my best friends is a lesbian and she’s constantly going to gay bars and drag shows!”

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Woman watching sunset in Puerto Vallarta Mexico.
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Puerto Vallarta has long been a destination for gay expats from the U.S., loved for its Pacific beaches and welcoming atmosphere. By day, you’ll meet other LGBTQ people around the Blue Chairs club on Los Muertos beach or visit the Botanical Gardens Vallarta. You’re also sure to find new queer-friendly experiences around Zona Romántica, a vibrant district paved with cobblestone streets and lined with vendors, trendy galleries, and queer-friendly bars.

Learn more about moving to Mexico

Reykjavík, Iceland

Two young people in Reykjavik Iceland.
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Home to “the biggest little Pride in the world,” Iceland’s capital supports its queer community like few cities could even imagine. While the prices may be higher and lifestyle a little sleepier, Reykjavík welcomes you with open arms. Representation extends to its politics, too—the firstly openly gay political leader was Icelandic, former Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir.

Learn more about moving to Iceland

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Black queer woman in Brazil.
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Home to 5M+ people, Rio de Janeiro shows off its beating heart in its annual Carnival celebration and vibrant LGBTQ+ community all year long. Brazil ranks among the best countries for lesbians, supporting gay marriage and gender identity in its human rights laws. With its gay district located near Farme Gay Beach, Rio offers a hot and sunny life for gay expats. Check out Copacabana and The Week for popular nightlife spots.

Learn more about moving to Brazil

Salzburg, Austria

Woman in Salzburg Austria.
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Salzburg has a small but active LGBTQ+ community, and there are a number of gay-friendly bars, clubs, and events. There’s a monthly event for women along with the annual Pride festivities. The city is also beautiful and safe, and there are plenty of things to see and do. Here’s a guide to queer Salzburg.

Learn more about moving to Austria

São Paulo, Brazil

Pride parade in Sao Paulo Brazil.
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São Paulo is our final lesbian hotspot. Its Pride event is the biggest in the world, once reaching 5 million attendees in a single day. Lesbian bars can be found throughout the city; you can even pick the type of women you want to meet, based on the bar. A couple of caveats: although the homophobic Jair Bolsonaro is no longer president, you’ll want to steer clear of his hotheaded supporters. It’s reported to be particularly dangerous for trans people, as well.


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