Although the Catholic Church continues to have a dominant place within Spanish society, this has done little to prevent most Spaniards taking a liberal attitude towards gay relationships, at least since homosexuality was decriminalised in 1979. Indeed, in 2005 Spain became the third country in the world to legalise gay marriage, after the Netherlands and Belgium, whilst same-sex couples were also given the right to adopt children. It is therefore not exactly surprising to learn that Spain has a thriving gay scene, with plenty of pubs, clubs, societies and events that are specifically targeted at the gay community. Barcelona, Madrid, and Gran Canaria are just a few of the places that have embraced gay culture within Spain.

There are a number of different festivals and events held in Barcelona each year. One of the biggest is Pride Barcelona, which is held each year at the end of June, and offers you ten days of culture and parties, sport and debate. The event is free and not-for-profit, showcasing the tolerant and inclusive nature of Barcelona. There is also the Circuit Festival, which is held in August, and gives you an opportunity to enjoy a host of different parties and listen to sets from a range of different DJs. In July, it is the Barcelona Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, where you can enjoy watching films that are aimed at a gay audience. As well as these events, it is also worth exploring the Eixample district of Barcelona, known by the nickname of Gaixample, for the gay shops, bars, clubs and restaurants that are available.

Madrid also has a wide range of events that cater for gay men. These include Mr Gay Pride España, where you can watch good-looking gay men strutting down the catwalk and showing off plenty of flesh in the hopes of being crowned the winner. Sleazy Madrid is an event that takes place in May and is designed to appeal to gay men with an interest in fetishism. There are three main parties, with well-known international DJs performing their sets; plus there are plenty of bars, clubs, shops, saunas and hostels where it is possible to enjoy fetish-themed activities. If you’re particularly interested in the bear subculture, it might be worth checking out the Annual Bears Weekend where you have a chance to socialise with gay men in a friendly, party atmosphere. Madrid also has its own selection of gay-friendly establishments and one of the most popular areas with the gay community is Chueca.

Other popular gay friendly resorts include Benidorm on the Costa Blanca and Sitges near Barcelona.

Playa del Inglés in the Maspalomas area of Gran Canaria is extremely popular with gay tourists, as there are a wide range of facilities on offer, from gay-friendly bars and clubs to accommodation. There is something for all sections of the gay community and one of the largest gay pride festivals in Europe takes place there – Maspalomas Gay Pride. The festivities include a boat party, a foam party, street entertainment, a pool party, cinema night, drag acts, a parade, and lots of dancing. So, it may well be worth your while heading over to Gran Canaria in May if you’re feeling in the party mood!

Spain has much to offer the gay traveller. There are a significant number of gay villages within the larger cities that contain plenty of attractions that cater for everyone – for people who are gay, straight or somewhere in between. Throughout the year there are also festivals and events held in different regions of the country to highlight how tolerant and open Spain is to people of all sexual orientations. Spain therefore makes a wonderful country to visit if you’re gay and want to have a good time in a country without having to hide your sexuality.

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