It’s rare to see the Algarve listed as a top gay-friendly travel destination. The list is usually dominated by the likes of Berlin, Barcelona, Copenhagen, and New York. But just because the Algarve isn’t mentioned, that doesn’t mean the Algarve isn’t a gay-friendly place.
Don’t take it personally! Staring is a national pastime in many parts of Europe, particularly Southern European countries like Spain and Portugal. It doesn’t matter whether you’re gay or straight, if you’re not a local then you’re probably a bit of a curiosity.
This is the Algarve, though, and there’s always something new and interesting to stare at – usually a sunburnt tourist – and you’ll soon be forgotten while people go to stare at someone or something else.
It’s also worth pointing out that staring is generally the remit of older Portuguese people and, generally speaking, is more uncommon with the younger generations.
Staring aside, Portugal is otherwise a very friendly place and a very safe place as well. As of 2017, the Global Peace Index ranks Portugal as the 3rd safest country to visit worldwide after Iceland and New Zealand. This ranking obviously doesn’t apply specifically to gay travel, but it does give some indication of safety that LGBT travellers can expect in Portugal.
Gay Portugal: A historical perspective
Historically, Portugal has all of the ingredients of a country that is unlikely to be tolerant towards homosexuality: it’s quite conservative, it’s religious, and it lived under dictatorship rule for many years. All of these things are likely to have affected peoples’ views of homosexuality, particularly in the more rural parts of Portugal.
However, like many Western European countries, Portugal is looking forward rather than backward. Portugal decriminalised homosexuality in 1983 and, in 2010, Portugal became the 6th country in Europe (and the 8th worldwide) to allow same-sex marriage.
That’s actually pretty impressive for a small country like Portugal, and gives you some ideas of their priorities. Normally Portugal lags behind the rest of the world, and it’s never normally one of the first countries to implement something new.
Gays and bisexuals can join the army (since 1999), homophobic acts are a criminal offense (2007), and same-sex adoption is legal (2015).
If you’re looking for somewhere to move to, or retire to, the Algarve should definitely be a consideration. As with most countries, there’s still a lot that needs to be done to help the LGBT cause, but Portugal is a long way ahead of many other countries. Of course, it’s also great for a short trip as well.
Gay-friendly accommodation in the Algarve
As mentioned, most people on the Algarve are extremely welcome and this includes hotels and guesthouse owners. However, if you’d like to stay at a gay-owned hotel or guesthouse, or somewhere that has specifically listed themselves as gay-friendly, this list should help you out.
- Romantik Villa, Salema – A beautiful bed and breakfast that has been reviewed as being gay-friendly by several people on TripAdvisor. It is situated on the Western Algarve, close to Sagres and Lagos. This is quite a remote part of the Algarve, with only a few small towns and beaches nearby, and it’s perfect if you want to get away from it all.
- Casa Risa, Mexilhoeira Grande – Accommodation that’s both gay-owned and gay-friendly. This is a clothing-optional Algarve guesthouse.
- Vila Graciosa, Lagos – Gay-friendly guesthouse with an outdoor swimming pool and within walking distance of Lagos City Centre. You can read the TripAdvisor reviews here.
- Dunas Do Alvor, Alvor – Gay-friendly holiday apartments on a resort near Alvor village. Onsite facilities include tennis courts, a swimming pool, and gardens.
- Cas al Cubo, Tavira – Gay-friendly accommodation run by Dutch expats, Kathleen and Nicole.
- Guest House São Filipe, Faro – Gay-friendly 2-star guesthouse situated in the centre of Faro in the Eastern Algarve. Read TripAdvisor reviews here.
- Casa Marhaba, Alfanzina – Gay-friendly guesthouse that’s 5 km from the popular Algarve resort of Carvoreiro. Facilities include a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, and gazebo area.
Another option is to stay in an Airbnb (or Wimdu or Housetrip) as these sites encourage you to introduce yourself to the host before making a booking. That way, you can actually get a feel for what the owner is going to be like.
Gay Beaches on the Algarve
The following is a list of unofficial gay beaches of the Algarve. If we’ve missed any out, please let us know in the comments below.
- Praia da Manta Rota
- Praia de Faro
- Praia do Barril
- Praia do Cavalo Preto
- Praia Verde
- Praia de Santa Eulália
- Praia dos Alemães Oeste
- Praia do Submarino
- Praia Trafal
- Praia Cacela Velha
- Praia das Furnas/Figueira
- Praia da Fabrica
- Praia do Submarino
- Meia Praia
- Praia Grande de Pêra
- Praia João D’Arens
Gay bars & clubs on the Algarve
The Algarve doesn’t have anywhere near as many gay bars or nightclubs as Lisbon or Porto, but it does have a few. The majority are centred around Albufeira, Lagos, and Portimão, all of which are within a short drive or taxi ride of each other.
- Connection, Albufeira (club) – Albufeira’s main gay bar and club, Connection, is situated on The Strip in the heart of the neon-lit action.
- Loft, Portimão (club) – Situated in the heart of Portimão, Loft is one of the Algarve’s most popular gay nightclubs.
- Espelho bar, Albufeira – Although not technically a gay bar, Espelho bar on The Strip in Albufeira is extremely gay-friendly and one of Albufeira’s most popular hangouts.
- Luisol Bar, Lagos (bar) – Owners Luis and Hans run a popular gay bar in Lagos that always attracts a diverse and interesting crowd.
What do you think about the Algarve as a gay travel destination? Should it be ranked up there with the likes of Berlin and New York? Let us, and other Portugalist readers, know your thoughts in the comments below.