Long overshadowed by Barcelona as a gay travel destination, Madrid is coming into its own after being voted the Best Annual Gay Destination for the second year running last year by MTV’s gay channel, Logo, and is becoming known as an inside tip for party people across Europe.

Madrid is an open-minded city known for welcoming those who live life their own way. Its gay scene centres around the city’s Chueca district, which is walking distance or a short metro ride to most of the city’s major attractions for those thinking about where to stay.

Most of the gay bars, cafés, shops and clubs in the city are located in close proximity to the Plaza de Chueca. However, in more recent years the nearby multicultural neighbourhoods of Lavapiés and Latina have also begun to take on more of a pink hue, with many gay-friendly bars opening up there — particularly those catering to women.

Annual gay highlights in the Madrid calendar are the international fetish weekend Sleazy Madrid (running from April 28 – May 2), Madrid Gay Pride (known as Madrid Orgullo in Spanish) from June 26 to July 4, the GLBT film festival LesGaiCineMad (October 27 – November 6) and international bears week Mad Bear in December.

Among Madrid’s more mainstream attractions are its museums, public buildings, parks and monuments.

Of special note is the Paseo del Arte art walk, taking in the Prado, Reina Sofía and Thyssen-Bornemisza museums and the CaixaForum modern art gallery, where if the art doesn’t blow you away the architecture will!

For a picnic why not check out the authentic Egyptian temple complex (gifted to Spain by Egypt in 1968) in the Parque de la Montaña, or the Parque de Retiro whose spectacularly adorned boating lake was once restricted to use by the Spanish royal family.

The baroque Royal Palace will impress history buffs with the swords and suits of armour in the Royal Armoury, while it contains the largest collection of Stradivarius string instruments in the world.

And for a bit of modern history, why not visit the Spanish Parliament where the first same-sex marriage laws in a majority Catholic country and in the Spanish-speaking world were passed?

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