Hold on to your rainbow wigs, kids: Pride season is back. And though it’s easy to forget with all the WorldPride hoopla, across the pond there’s lots of summertime gay jolliness happening, too.
Europe is home to some of the planet’s biggest and boldest Prides, and they tend to be infused with more localized flair than their North American counterparts — making them a great way to have a blast and soak up some genuine culture at the same time.
So if you’re Euro-bound this season, be sure to check out at least one of these, our picks for the continent’s can’t-miss Pride events for 2014.
Gay-embracing Vienna has something extra special to celebrate this year: local darling Conchita Wurst just won the Eurovision Song Contest, which means that this year’s Pride is bound to include lots of Conchita references, if not a surprise appearance or two by the bearded diva herself. Pride Village at City Hall Square runs morning to night from Wednesday to Sunday and will be filled with many booths and much entertainment. Saturday afternoon’s parade circles the city’s famous Ringstrasse.
Some half a million people come out to celebrate Berlin Pride — or CSD, for Christopher Street Day, as it’s known in Germany. The parade winds through the city and ends at the iconic Brandenburg Gate, then dumps out into the Tiergarten for a huge celebration with scads of booths and performances. On the weekend before CSD, the city’s main gaybourhood of Schöneberg also hosts the huge Lesbian & Gay City Fest in the blocks around Nollendorfplatz and Motzstrasse. (Until recently, Berlin’s large non-mainstream queer scene also presented the alternative and anti-commercial Transgenialer CSD on the same day as the main CSD parade, but organizational in-fighting has left TCSD’s future in doubt.)
3. Oslo EuroPride
We don’t envy Oslo, which for the first time in the history of global Pride-ing will be hosting EuroPride at the exact same time that a separate WorldPride happens somewhere else on the planet. Still, the plucky Norwegians are giving it their best, with a 10-day slate of events and performances (including a closing concert by local electropop fave Margaret Berger), a free Pride Park at City Hall Square from Wednesday to Saturday, and a two-mile Saturday afternoon parade — attended by some 20,000 the last time Oslo hosted EuroPride, in 2005.
It took some heat for a rather botched WorldPride a couple of years ago, but London’s annual Pride event has made a strong comeback under new management. Fiona Woolf, only the city’s second female Lord Mayor since the 12th century, will host Friday’s Pride in London Gala Dinner, with Sir Ian McKellen as the guest of honour. Pride’s afternoon parade on Saturday, June 28 is the only event to close down half of the British capital’s West End, with more than 100 community groups and more than 250,000 people taking part last year. Sunday’s family-friendly Picnic in the Park happens in the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens.
The French capital’s enormous Pride — or Marche des Fiertés LGBT — takes place on a late June Saturday afternoon (this year on the 28th) and usually draws approximately 650,000 people. The parade kicks off at a new location this year, the Luxembourg Métro station, before winding its scenic way through the Left Bank, across the Seine and past the Bastille. The finish line is at Place de la République, where a big festival with performances and revelry happens well into the evening. Numerous Pride-themed parties and balls take place across the city and throughout the weekend.
June 21–July 6
Germany’s biggest CSD happens in the western Rhine-straddling city of Cologne, with upwards of a million people taking part. A huge performance-packed street festival takes place from Friday to Sunday (July 4 to 6 this year) in the blocks around Alter Markt, Heumarkt and Rathausplatz. Friday’s Kölner Aidsgala is another annual weekend highlight, but the main event is Sunday’s parade, which includes some 120 floats. The two-week lesbian-geared WomenPride is also an integral part of the festivities.
European Prides don’t come any bigger than Madrid’s, which famously packs upwards of two million celebrants into the Spanish capital’s streets — for what they call Orgullo — every year. Some visitors complain that Madrid Pride isn’t gay enough, since literally the entire city comes out to party during the Saturday evening parade — but everyone’s heart is in the right place, so we say screw the haters. The way-gay Chueca neighbourhood overflows with activity and performances from Wednesday to Sunday, including the always-hot finals of the Mr Gay Spain contest. Watch for Madrid Pride to gather even more steam over the next few years as it gears up to host EuroPride in 2017.
July 26–Aug 3
Another upcoming EuroPride host (this time in 2016) is Amsterdam, whose Pride parade is unlike any other in the world: scores of barges make their way through the city’s gorgeous canals, meaning that in this parade, the floats actually float. All of Amsterdam — donned overwhelmingly in pink — comes out to line the canals and cheer on the parade, making this one of the most festive Pride parades going. Numerous other unique events happen across the city throughout the week and weekend, including Friday’s nutty Drag Queen Olympics.
July 28–Aug 2
If ever there were any two European Prides that we wish would better schedule themselves for international gay gallivanters, it’s Amsterdam and Stockholm — both are fantastic, but they always happen on the same weekend. Stockholm’s version includes several days of excellent Pride-themed talks, performances and parties across the gay-welcoming Swedish capital, many taking place at the officially designated Pride House and Pride Park. More than 600,000 people take part in Saturday’s massive parade.
It’s only turning four this year, but Prague’s young Pride has rapidly become the most politically important event of its kind on the European continent. Thanks to its magic combination of a deft organizational team, a thoroughly modern event roster and a supportive Czech public, Prague Pride has managed to exponentially increase in size every year and has become a beacon of tolerance and celebration to its many less gay-friendly neighbours to the east. With its festive vibe, gorgeous setting and excellent entertainment, it also draws more and more global gay holidayers every year.