Travel gives you a chance to understand the local culture and history of your destinations. There are plenty of ways to experience culture like food, museums and architecture. You can also discover LGBT history and culture during your travels and it doesn’t have to come from a local drag show or queer coffee shop (although we love to visit those places when we travel). We decided to compile a list of LGBT memorials and gay monuments in Europe. They can be easily added to a travel itinerary to experience local gay history, LGBT heritage and cultural influence.
Most people know of New York City’s Stonewall Inn as a significant destination for gay history, but Europe has its fair share as well. Many are in Europe’s most visited cities, so take notes and add them to your European travel plans in the future!
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1. Gay Memorial Stone - Paris, France
Late at night on 4 January 1750, a Paris city watchman caught two men engaged in sexual activity. They were Bruno Lenoir, who worked in a nearby butcher shop and Jean Diot, a shoemaker. They were arrested and imprisoned for behaving “in an indecent and reprehensible manner”.
Their trial began on 11 April and they were sentenced to death on 26 May 1750. Their ‘crime’ was not announced to the crowd who gathered to witness their execution. They were strangled and burned alive. The men were the last two to face capital punishment for homosexuality in France. In 1791, France ended the criminalization of all sex between consenting adults.
In 2011, the Council of Paris decided to pay respects to Lenoir and Diot. A memorial stone was placed in the spot of their arrest and unveiled for commemoration on 18 October 2014.
2. The Admiral Duncan - London, United Kingdom
The Admiral Duncan is fantastic public house in London’s Soho District, the gay neighborhood of London. It has a lively crowd, good music, cold beer (even for us Americans) and you may even catch some queens… not Elizabeth, queens from Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK.
While it’s a fun and vibrant gay pub to down a pint, there is a somber story of The Admiral Duncan. One event in the late 90s has made the pub an important site in London’s gay history and one of Europe’s great gay heritage monuments.
On the night of 30 April 1999 the pub was full of a mostly-gay crowd enjoying a Friday night drink. Suddenly, a nail bomb exploded wounding 70 patrons and killing three. Many of the wounded lost limbs or eyes.
The bomb was planted by a Neo Nazi, his third that month, in the attempt to stir up ethnic tensions and homophobia. The results were quite the opposite and Londoners rallied around the LGBT community.
By the Sunday after the attack, a large open-air meeting was held and the Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner gave a heartfelt speech. He then placed a crime scene van in Soho to gather evidence. It was staffed entirely with out gay and lesbian officers. This turned a page in a previously tenuous relationship between the LGBT community and the police in London. It also played a role in shifting public opinion towards tolerance for a marginalized community that was still coping with stigma and the AIDS crisis.
Visit the Admiral Duncan and take note of the plaque outside the door and the memorial chandelier that hangs in the pub.
3. The Homomonument - Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Homomonument in Amsterdam was opened in 1987, making it one of the first gay monuments in Europe. It is dedicated to all people who were persecuted because of their homosexuality. It was actually the first monument in the world dedicated to LGBT people killed by the Nazis.
It is located next to one of the most beautiful historic Amsterdam canals, the Keizersgracht. And right in the city centre, in a lovely neighbourhood of Jordaan.
Homomonument consists of three pink triangles. The largest one has steps leading to the water. On Remembrance Day observed each year on May 4th, flowers are put there to remember all the LGBT victims of the Second World War. But, in the Amsterdam style, a day after it’s the location of a big party.
The direction in which the triangles are pointing to is quite symbolical. The largest one is pointing in the direction of the National War Memorial located on the main, Dam Square. Other two are pointing towards the near-by Anne Frank’s House and the headquarters of COC Nederland, the Dutch gay rights group.
Probably the best way to see the Homomonument is from one of the canal cruises in Amsterdam. But, you can also explore the area around it more and visit the Westerkerk, where famous Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn was buried. Or go to Anne Frank’s House and learn more about Amsterdam during the Second World War.
Provided by Tea of Culture Tourist
4. LGBT Memorial & Sonia Zafra Bandstand - Barcelona, Spain
Ciutadella Park in Barcelona is full of beautiful landscaping and water attractions as well as a touching LGBT memorial. In 2011, Barcelona dedicated the first monument to repressed gay, lesbian and transgendered people in Spain.
The monument is a pink triangle made of pink marble with an inscription that translates to: “In memory of all the gay, lesbian and transsexual people that have suffered persecution and repression throughout history.”
You can find the memorial at the Marquès de l’Argentera Avenue entrance to Ciutadella Park, but it’s not the only place dedicated to the LGBT community. The bandstand inside the park has been named to commemorate a trans woman, Sonia Zafra, who was murdered by a group of Neo Nazis in 1991.
These two spots in the park are a great place to reflect on the LGBT history of Barcelona, Spain and Europe.
5. LGBT Street Art - Brussels, Belgium
Belgium was the 2nd country, after Netherlands, to legalize same-sex marriage in 2003. Belgium then legalized LGBT adoption in 2006 and it is one of the most LGBT-friendly countries in the world.
Brussels, the capital city of Belgium, celebrates LGBT rights to the utmost level! The Pride parade here is a huge event and one of the most crowded. People all over Belgium as well as neighboring countries pour in here for the day! Floats from various Belgian provinces rally up and some even have a mobile DJ & sound system, making the whole parade, a mobile disco!!!!
Brussels is, of course, known for its rich comic culture. So naturally, there are rich LGBT murals & comics to visit. One of the major areas for LGBT street-art in Brussels, is in Kolenmarkt. This area is also one of the super happening spots in Brussels with many bars & cafes!
One street, Rue de la Chaufferette, artist Fotini Tikkou has painted 11 murals depicting the harsh daily reality faced by LGBT people. As a finishing touch, at the end of this street is another mural by artist Ralf König, which depicts a very cheerful scene.
There is also an LGBT monument in front of Picard-Megafun. Its an art installation called ‘Ma Mythologie Gay’ designed by Jean-François Octave in 2007. The design is a collection of names of LGBT people both celebrities as well as general public. In a powerful statement, some names have been blacked-out deliberately to depict people who are still in the closet.
Provided by Bhushavali of My Travelogue
6. Bletchley Park - Bletchley, United Kingdom
Located in the town of Bletchley, Milton Keynes Bletchley Park was an English estate and country house that became the main centre of the Allies code-breaking during World War II. It is easily reached by public transport from Milton Keynes and there is a train station at Bletchley, that is a 3-minute walk from the Park.
Alan Turing is one of the most well-known codebreakers to have worked at Bletchley Park to decrypt the German Naval Enigma and design the famous Bombe machine that sped up the process of decrypting the Enigma codes. He is credited with being part of the team that saved more than His work paved the way for the building of the first computer at Bletchley Park. Turing was openly gay and, in 1952, when homosexuality was illegal in Britain, was convicted for homosexual acts. He underwent chemical castration and his conviction meant that he lost his security clearance and could no longer work at GCHQ – the post-war successor to Bletchley Park. He committed suicide in 1954. Turing is perhaps the most well-known of victims of homophobia and received not only a posthumous apology from the then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, in 2009 but also a Royal Pardon in 2013.
You’ll need a full day to visit Bletchley Park, where some of the original code breakers huts are open as well as the mansion house. Check special events at the Park as there are often Special World War II related events and activities.
Provided by Sarah of Lets Grow Cook
7. Manchester's Gay Village - Manchester, United Kingdom
Manchester is one of the most LGBTQ-Friendly cities in the world. If you get a chance to visit this beautiful city, you should head to the Gay Village and more specifically Sackville Gardens.
Once you get there you will not only find one but 2 LGBT landmarks! The statue of Alan Turing is one of the most loved landmarks in Northern England. Alan Turing is famous for having cracked Enigma, the coding machine Germans used during WWII. Although his accomplishment stayed unknown to the public for decades, it is now acknowledged that it shortened the war by 2 years!
Alan was also a teacher at Manchester University and never got a chance to enjoy his life the way he should have. He was prosecuted for being gay and was given the choice between jail and chemical castration. His science work was so important to him that he chose castration, no time could be wasted in jail. Unfortunately, the side effects that come with this kind of procedure were tragic as it pushed him to kill himself eventually.
Alan has changed the world for the best. He was a brilliant scientist and his story helped in the fight for the legalisation of homosexuality in the UK.
Mancunians are proud of their relationship with Alan Turing. As a tribute, a statue of him was added to the gay village. He is sitting on a bench, under the trees, holding the Newton apple. Very symbolic!
In 2019, an art contest was carried out in the city. Over 40 bees (symbol of Manchester) were placed in the centre. The LGBTQ bee now stands in front of Alan. Most of those bees were removed and sold at auction. Only a handful of them stayed in the city, the LGBT bee is one of them!
Manchester Gay Village is a very important part of the history of Manchester. It has been there for almost a century. The New Union pub was one of the first in the world organizing drag shows. They would even do it during WWII (way before Alan Turing was prosecuted!).
This shows how important and cherished the LGBT community is in Manchester.
Provided by Pauline of Bee Loved City
8. Copenhagen City Hall and The World's Oldest Gay Bar
Copenhagen is one of the most progressive and LGBT-friendly cities in the world. It’s a fantastic gay destination and comes with a long history of true support for the LGBT community. In one Copenhagen block you have two significant gay heritage spots to visit.
The first is Copenhagen City Hall itself. It’s holds a place in LGBT history because it was the site of the world’s first same-sex union. On 1 October 1989, Denmark made history by performing the world’s first same-sex civil union. Axel and Eigil Axgil (they combined their first names to create a new surname) were the first gay couple to enter a civil union. In 1948, the couple founded Denmark’s first LGBT rights organization, Danish National Organization for Gays and Lesbians.
10 other gay male couples married that day, among them a school psychologist, Lutheran minister and a high school teacher. On that day, Eigil told an American journalist that he never expected to see a legal same-sex union in his lifetime. He remarked, “We just never could have dreamed that we would get this far.” Denmark is so proud of their place in LGBT history that they have erected a flagpole beside city hall with a rainbow flag that flies 365 days a year.
Another great place to experience LGBT history in Copenhagen is the popular gay bar, Centralhjørnet. Established in 1917, it’s the world’s oldest gay bar and a must-do part of any gay travel to Copenhagen. It’s also decorated to Hollywood-level greatness for every season and perfectly Danish.
It’s a short walk from Copenhagen’s City Hall and always has a fun crowd. You can enjoy stories of how the Danish navy used to forbid sailors from visiting the bar and of course have a Carlsberg with the tales.
Centralhjørnet is a prime example of Denmark’s bold LGBT community which operated a gay bar before homosexuality was legal. It’s down the street from the site of the world’s first gay civil union which paved the way for marriage equality.
9. The Oscar Wilde Statue - Dublin, Ireland
In 2015 Ireland became the first country in the entire world to legalise same-sex marriage through referendum. This is even more notable, as Ireland had so far been known as a country holding mostly conservative, largely Catholic, attitudes towards LGBT matters. Oscar Wilde only knew a Victorian Ireland where LGBT issues were violently suppressed.
Wilde spent the first 20 years of his life in Ireland’s capital, Dublin, growing up close to one of the nicest parks in Dublin, Merrion Square Park. Nowadays, you find a sculpture here that is as extravagant as Wilde himself was. The multi-colored material of this unusual sculpture comes from Canada, Norway and India and might be understood as a homage to Wilde’s cosmopolitan, open-minded taste.
The Dublin inhabitants sometimes call the Wilde statue “The Quare in the Square” alluding to Wilde’s homosexual bias for which he was convicted of ‘gross indecency’ in 1895. After being sentenced to two years of hard labour, he was a broken man. Even though Wilde received a posthumous pardon in 2017 under the Alan Turing Law, an apology would have even been more considerate! The statue is a reminder of the suppression and wrong convictions of homosexuals all over the world in the past and present.
Merrion Square Park, conveniently located in the city centre of Dublin, is great for a stroll at any time of the year. Make sure to also visit the near-by Trinity College Dublin close-by where Wilde studied. Nowadays you can admire its beautiful library and the Book of Kells.
Provided by Emer and Nils of Let’s Go Ireland
10. Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism - Berlin, Germany
In Germany there are three main monuments to the LGBT community, specifically to those lost in the holocaust and the era that followed. In Berlin, you can find the Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism in the boundary of Tiergarten a short walk from Brandenburg Gate.
The memorial is a concrete cubical with a small window. Through the window displays a screen with a short video of two men kissing. After the memorial was built, there was some controversy due to women’s groups who wanted lesbians kissing featured in the video. While there was no documentation of lesbians being victimized by Nazism, lesbian bars in Berlin were destroyed and the decision was made to feature lesbians in the film every two years.
The location for the memorial was chosen for historical reasons because that area of the park was a popular spot for gay men to meet discretely.
In addition to the cuboid monument, there is a nearby sign describing the suffering of homosexuals during Nazism and the period of gay activity being criminalized after the war. It wasn’t until 1973 that homosexual activity between men was decriminalized in Germany. In 1985 the movement began to remember the forgotten victims of Nazism and the three memorials were constructed.
11. Lisbon of April -- City of the World, Monument - Lisbon, Portugal
Inside the Príncipe Real Garden, a popular park in Lisbon, stands a monument to the victims of homophobia, lesbophobia and transphobia. The monument is titled “Lisbon of April — City of the World, and it was inaugurated on 17 June 2020, the day of Lisbon’s annual LGBT pride march, which starts in the garden. Sculpted in iron and concrete by Rui Pereira, the monument is in the shape of two doors.
Inside one door stands the silhouette of a person, said to resemble a man when viewed from one side and a woman when viewed from the other. In fact, the artist purposely sculpted the figure in a generic way to emphasize that it could be any of us. The other door is open, inviting anyone who wants to enter. It symbolizes respect for all in a city that belongs to the whole world. Lisbon, a progressive city that’s run by a left-wing government and is full of vegan restaurants, scooter sharing and other eco-friendly initiatives, has long been known as the “City of Tolerance”. A monument to the Jews who were killed in a 1506 massacre was erected in the city in 2006. It’s about time that the victims of homophobia and transphobia were recognized as well.
Provided by Wendy of The Nomadic Vegan
10. Frankfurter Engel - Frankfurt, Germany
German for Frankfurt Angel, the Frankfurter Angel statue is the first monument erected in Germany to commemorate the deaths of gays and lesbians during the holocaust. It was dedicated in December of 1994 with the following inscription translated from German:
Homosexual men and women were persecuted and murdered in Nazi Germany. The crimes were denied, the dead concealed, the survivors scorned and prosecuted. We remember this, in the awareness that men who love men and women who love women still face persecution. Frankfurt am Main.
The statue is a reminder of the gay and lesbian lives lost and affected during the Nazi era and Paragraph 175 of the German Criminal Code. Homosexual activity between men was criminalized in Germany during the 1950’s and 1960’s. Imagine surviving persecution of the Nazis and having your remaining life deemed criminal.
The law was reformed in 1969 and fully repealed in 1973, but the lives of Germany’s LGBT community were impacted for decades. The statue is an important place for reflection and remaining conscious of how easily rights can be removed and lives lost or limited.
13. Berkeley Castle - United Kingdom
Originally constructed in the 11th century, Berkeley castle is probably one of the most famous medieval castles of England.
It has witnessed a lot of developments in British history, but the one that stands out is for being the place where Edward II, a King of England was murdered. Known to be the gay King of England, he had a fallout with his wife Queen Isabella and was held in the castle with the help of her ally Roger Mortimer in 1327.
Legend has it that the king was imprisoned in a cell without windows, near a dungeon where dead animals were thrown with the hope that the toxic atmosphere would sicken him. His captors reportedly sodomized him with a red-hot poker, burning out his bowels so as not to leave any external marks.
Today, the castle is surrounded by beautiful gardens with a lily pond and a butterfly house. You can check out the interior of the entire castle, and its relics because most of the castle is intact.
If you are coming from London, you can take a train from Paddington Station to Bristol. From Bristol, there is a taxi service to the castle. The whole journey will take two hours.
Provided by Deb of The Visa Project
14. Memorial For Gay and Lesbian Victims of Nazism - Cologne, Germany
The Memorial for Gay and Lesbian Victims of Nazism, or the FEZ Memorial, is located in Cologne, Germany. It’s made of granite including a large pink triangle, the symbol assigned to homosexuals during the holocaust. The top of the monument bears a simple enscription that translates to: “Killed — Silenced: The gay and lesbian victims of National Socialism”.
The monument was dedicated in June of 1995 after being initiated two years earlier. The location next to the Hohenzollern Bridge on the banks of the Rhine was chosen for historical purposes. It’s a location where homosexual men would meet discretely and anonymously.
The project was funded entirely by donations and was dedicated on 24 June 1995. That was the opening day of Cologne Pride and the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Germany from Nazi tyranny. It was a fitting way to remember the homosexual victims of Nazism.