10 of the most LGBTQ+ friendly cities across the world | Top Universities

10 of the most LGBTQ+ friendly cities across the world

By Laura Lightfinch

Updated June 27, 2022 Updated June 27, 2022

Making the decision to study abroad is exciting, if a little nerve-wracking. The world suddenly opens up with thousands of study destinations and researching potential courses, institutions and cities becomes a much bigger feat. 

What you want from your international student experience will differ from person to person, but if you identify as an LGBTQ+ student, there may be additional things to consider so that you can complete your studies feeling welcomed and accepted as your full self. 

The LGBTQ+ Travel Safety Index is a definitive list of the 203 countries and locations in the world, assessed by 10 criteria to determine which locations are the safest and most welcoming for LGBTQ+ travellers.  

From over 350 hours of research, each location is assessed by factors including legalised same sex marriage, worker protection, transgender legal identity laws, protection against discrimination, and whether it’s a good place to live, among others.  

Based on the top ranked safest countries in the LGBTQ+ Travel Safety Index, we’ve created a list of some of the most welcoming cities in the world for LGBTQ+ students.  

Montreal, Canada 

Montreal, Canada


Montreal is the biggest city in the Quebec region of Canada and is a vibrant, multilingual city where English and French co-exist.  

Home to McGill University (ranked 31st in the QS World University Rankings 2023), the Université de Montreal (ranked =112th) and Concordia University (ranked 551-550), Montreal is one of Canada’s most LGBTQ+ friendly cities with the largest queer village in North America.  

In the LGBTQ+ Travel Safety Index, Canada ranks first as the safest country in the world to be LGBTQ+. With legal same sex marriage and activity, anti-discrimination laws including gender identity and expression, and the right to change legal gender, Canada leads the way for equality and inclusion for the community. Since 2018, transgender people are allowed to participate in the sport of their gender identity. 

Discover more about studying in Canada 

Gothenburg, Sweden 

Gothenburg, Sweden


Sweden’s second largest city, Gothenburg, is a popular location for those looking for an LGBTQ+ friendly location. With stretching canals, trendy restaurants and a relaxed atmosphere, Gothenburg is home to Chalmers University of Technology (ranked =125th in the QS World University Rankings 2023) and the University of Gothenburg (ranked =185th). The city even hosted the 2018 EuroPride festival.  

There are LGBTQ+ pop up parties, a gay club in the city centre and even a ‘straight-friendly’ restaurant, although being an inclusive and open city it’s not necessary to hang out in solely queer spaces. 

On the whole, Sweden’s LGBTQ+ friendly reputation makes the country an ideal destination for studying. Same sex marriage was made legal in Sweden in 2009 and it’s legal to change gender without needing to undergo surgery, although non-binary people are not legally recognised. There is no censorship of LGBTQ+ issues in Sweden.  

Discover Sweden as your study destination 

Amsterdam, Netherlands 

Amsterdam, Netherlands


Amsterdam is known for its liberal attitude to life and is popularly known as the ‘Venice of the North’ because of its beautiful canals and narrow bridges. The University of Amsterdam ranks 58th in the QS World University Rankings 2023 with Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam coming in at 214th place.  

With one of the largest LGBTQ+ scenes in Europe, Amsterdam has well over 100 queer bars, clubs, shops and hotels. Reguliersdwarsstraat is one of the biggest LGBTQ+ streets in the city for restaurants, bars and clubs.  

LGBTQ+ discrimination is illegal in the Netherlands and has been since 1993. Same sex marriage is legal, and the Netherlands is home to the world’s oldest LGBTQ+ organisation, COC Nederland, that’s been fighting for LGBTQ+ rights since 1946.  

Find out what it’s like to study in the Netherlands 

Valletta, Malta 

Valletta, Malta


The smallest country on the list, Malta’s rights for the LGBTQ+ community are of the highest standard. Malta was the first European state to add gender identity to its constitution as a protected category, in 2014. Conversion therapy is banned in the country and non-binary is recognised legally as a gender. There is no censorship of LGBTQ+ issues and same sex marriage was legalised in 2017.  

With Malta’s rapid acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community in recent years, queer-focused spaces including bars and clubs have diminished as people have felt comfortable and welcomed in all spaces. Though some travellers have expressed that crossdressing or dressing in drag won’t go unnoticed and locals may still ogle.  

Malta is a popular holiday destination due to its picturesque coastal spots, Mediterranean weather and fresh cuisine. The University of Malta is ranked 801-1000 in the QS World University Rankings 2023.  

Discover studying in Malta  

Lisbon, Portugal 

Lisbon, Portugal


Lisbon is the capital of Portugal and the largest city in the country. It’s home to three universities ranked in the QS World University Rankings 2023; the University of Lisbon (ranked =335th), Universidade Nova de Lisboa (ranked =369th) and Universidade Católica Portuguesa (ranked 801-1000).  

Portugal legalised same sex marriage in 2010 and was the eighth country worldwide to do so. The country introduced a Gender Identity Law in 2012 said to be one of the most advanced in the world for transsexual and transgender people. However, transgender people are not allowed to serve openly in the military. 

The LGBTQ+ scene in Lisbon is centred around Bairro Alto, where there are all-LGBTQ, mostly-LGBTQ+ or LGBTQ+ friendly places to enjoy in a Mediterranean climate.  

Discover studying in Portugal 

Brighton, United Kingdom 

Brighton, UK


An hour from England’s capital of London, Brighton is unofficially referred to as the LGBTQ+ capital of Britain. Brighton is home to one of the biggest Pride festivals in the UK, attracting over 160,000 people each year.  

One of the UK’s most seaside towns, Brighton is a party city on the south coast. The city was even voted in the top happiest places to work in 2021. Homosexuality is legal in the UK, along with same sex marriage. Anti-discrimination law is in place and gender change is legal without the need for surgery. Though non-binary is not recognised as a gender and conversion therapy is not banned.  

Located in Brighton, the University of Sussex is ranked =240th in the QS World University Rankings 2023, with the University of Brighton ranking at 801-1000. 

Explore the UK as a study destination 

Brussels, Belgium 

Brussels, Belgium


Belgium is ranked as the 7th safest country in the world in the LGBTQ+ Travel Safety Index and its capital, Brussels, is the administrative centre of the European Union often being dubbed as the EU’s capital city.  

Belgium was the second country (after the Netherlands) to legalise same-sex marriage and Brussels carries Belgiums progressive views into its centre. While the LGBTQ+ district in Brussels is small, there is always somewhere to enjoy an inclusive night out. The city also hosts several LGBTQ+ film festivals through the year.  

Both the Universite libre de Bruxelles (ranked =210th in the QS World University Rankings 2023) and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (ranked 251st) are located in the capital.  

Find out what it’s like to study in Belgium 

Oslo, Norway 

Oslo, Norway


In the north of Europe, Norway was one of the first countries to introduce anti-discrimination laws. The TV series, Skam and its international success was what put Oslo on the map for queer people, according to the country’s tourism site, Visit Oslo.  

Norway’s capital, Oslo is a famously LGBTQ+ friendly city. Oslo is a sleek and trendy city with sharp Scandinavian design, fashionable neighbourhoods and a vibrant nightlife. Plus, it’s surrounded by nature so you can explore beyond the city’s skyline.  

In Norway, same sex activity has been legal since 1972, and more recently anti-discrimination laws concerning gender identity were put in place in 2013. Although, non-binary is not considered a legal gender.  

The University of Oslo is ranked 101st in the QS World University Rankings 2023. 

Discover studying in Norway 

Barcelona, Spain 

Barcelona, Spain


Barcelona in Spain has the best of both worlds: a buzzing metropolitan city and a beautiful coastline. The city is filled with colourful art. Even its buildings are artistic masterpieces. 

Barcelona is home to three universities ranked in the QS World University Rankings 2023; the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ranked 178th), the Universitat de Barcelona (ranked 184th) and Universitat Pompeu Fabra (ranked =233rd). 

Barcelona has a liberal approach to LGBTQ+ life and has a vibrant queer scene. Many people live openly and proudly in Barcelona and there are many bars, clubs and events dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community. As a country, Spain has some of the most progressive LGBTQ+ rights, a rapid improvement in recent decades, but some anti-discrimination laws do vary by region.  

Find out more about studying in Spain. 

San Francisco, United States 

San Francisco, US


While the United States features further down the LGBTQ+ Travel Safety Index (ranked 24th), we had to include San Francisco.  

Ranked as the fourth most LGBTQ+ accepting city in the Money.co.uk rankings 2022, San Francisco in California is considered the gay mecca of the world. San Franscisco native, Gilbert Baker, was even responsible for making the rainbow flag synonymous with the LGBTQ+ community. You’ll find queer and queer-friendly spaces all over San Francisco. 

While some states in the US are introducing bills that will inevitably harm the LGBTQ+ community, California is one of the most liberal states when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights. Same-sex marriage is legal and anti-discrimination laws are in place for gender identity and sexual orientation. Compared to the most welcoming European cities, however, there is progress to be made.  


This article was originally published in June 2022 .

Want more content like this Register for free site membership to get regular updates and your own personal content feed.

Explore Events

Get assisted by higher education experts

Our expert teams can help start your academic journey by guiding you through the application process.

Related Articles Last year

Most Shared Last year

Most Read Last year