This growingly popular expat and tourist destination has a vibrant, breezy, and seriously fun queer scene.
Portugal is one of the most gay-friendly destinations in the world—and Lisbon is not just the capital of the country but the center of LGBTQ+ life in the nation. In fact, Spartacus ranks Portugal third in their 2021 Gay Travel Index, which rates the best countries for LGBTQ+ people based on a variety of safety and quality of life factors.
In 2001, the Portuguese parliament passed a law recognizing common-law marriages regardless of sexual orientation. Then, in 2010, Portugal became the eighth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. The following year saw the implementation of a process to legally change the assigned sex and name at birth for transgender people.
If you’re queer, then Lisbon is your oyster, with facilities ranging from LGBTQ+-friendly saunas sex clubs, hotels, and more. From incredible seafood and pastries, to beautiful viewpoints, to the city’s ubiquitous colorful tiles, and beautiful architecture—Portugal has it all.
INSIDER TIPIf you’re staying in Portugal for a while, be sure to venture out to Porto and Sinatra. These two popular destinations are close enough to Lisbon for a day trip, with tours on offer from Lisbon Gay Tours.
Where to Eat
If there were an award for a restaurant with the most plants, Boubou’s would win, hands down. The terrace is like a private secret garden, complete with dozens of plants and banana trees that tower overhead. And the food is nothing to sneeze at, with a weekly changing menu that features local ingredients used to create internationally-inspired dishes. The chef, Louise Bourrat, is France’s 2022 Top Chef winner, and every bite from her kitchen is simply divine. For the full experience, get the tasting menu!
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INSIDER TIPBoubou’s nails vegetarian dishes, so don’t be afraid to try things that might not usually entice you, like the memorable creamy sweet potato ceviche with coconut tiger milk and kaffir lime.
Under the helm of Executive Chef Hugo Candeias, Oficio offers vibrant Portuguese cuisine with a Mexican influence. Oficio is light and airy, with a massive window and light blue armchairs. The menu itself looks like a chef’s notebook, complete with handwritten notes, arrows, and scribbles, which might seem off-putting to some, but it fits perfectly at this laid-back restaurant. This is definitely a restaurant you want to go to hungry. The veal and marrow tartare were decadent, there’s lots of seafood on the menu, including a raw diced fish “taco” where the lettuce wrapper isn’t a healthy concession at all, oysters that will please even the most discerning seafood lover, and a stuffed spider crab you won’t forget anytime soon.
INSIDER TIPIf you enjoy challenging your palette, you must order the mushrooms with chicken caramel. It’s different in the best way!
While you’re probably going to Portugal to eat Portuguese food, if you’re longing for a perfectly seared steak, you’ll find it at Sala de Corte, a dimly lit Lisbon steakhouse. Sala de Corte specializes in aged meat cooked in a Josper charcoal oven, allowing you to get the charcoal flavor and crust in a restaurant setting. Meat is definitely an experience here. From the moment you walk in, you’re greeted by an aging lit fridge proudly showcasing the meat that’s served. Once you order your steak, the waiter will present the table with the raw steak before turning it into an incredible meal. Leave room for dessert, which complements the meal in both quality and flavor.
What to Do
Queer Bars and Clubs
When queer people are looking for community, we often turn to gay bars, which serve as centers for queer life — not just for knocking back drinks. Lisbon has many, so every queer will find one that speaks to them. Since 1976, Finalmente Club has hosted nightly drag shows that start at 3 a.m. TR3S caters specifically to bears and even puts on Lisbon’s Bear Pride. Bar Cru is a gay men’s cruising spot with a nude, fetish wear, or underwear dress code. You’ll also find a fetish and sex shop in the bar. For tapas and cocktails, Friends Bairro Alto is the place to be.
Traveling is incredible, but sometimes getting to your destination is exhausting, leaving you a bit more stressed out than you want to be when starting your vacation. To get you into the right headspace, pamper your body, and indulge, book a massage at the Anantara Spa inside the Tivoli Avenida Liberdade Hotel. The luxury spa offers various services, including facials, body scrubs, and different massage styles. For a romantic indulgence, the treatments are available in a couple of suites for the ultimate experience. From the moment you walk in, everything is designed to help you relax. Your feet are washed before the start of a treatment, temperatures adjusted, and when the service is over, continue to relax (and hydrate) in their lounge.
Whether you’re in Lisbon for a spell or staying for a while, a private tour with a licensed guide is one of the best ways to get to know the city quickly. Viator’s half-day tour does just that, with a fully customizable itinerary allowing you to get the most out of your day. You’ll be picked up in a comfortable luxury car, and after a quick check-in, head on your way to explore Lisbon. The tour guide may snap a few photos of you during the tour so you can hold onto your memories and update your Instagram feed.
If a bit of sun is on the schedule, you should hit Beach 19, a nude beach that’s popular with the community. Come early in the day for sunbathing or later in the day if you’re more interested in the cruising activities for which the beach is known.
Where to Stay
The 1908 hotel feels like more than just a beautiful boutique hotel, although it’s certainly that, too. The outdoor patio gives you a wonderful place to relax right in the square, Infame restaurant offers food choices that get better and better with each bite, and the staff are simply excellent. The building is full of history, built in 1908, as the hotel name suggests, with a fully renovated interior, but the exterior retains the historic architectural design. It’s like a home away from home with comfortable beds, air conditioning, and as many Lisbon recommendations as you’ll possibly need.
INSIDER TIPOrder the salmon ceviche from the lobby bar or Infame restaurant. You’ll be in for a real treat.