It may be high hibernation season now, but spring will be here before you know it, ushering in a new year of furry festivals around the European continent. From Reykjavik to Istanbul, local Euro bears open their dens to their international brothers at these woofy annual gatherings, making them great opportunities not only to see new places but to meet new friends (and, of course, taste plenty of foreign bear sweat) at the same time. So without further ado, here are our picks for Europe’s best bear fests for 2015.
Amsterdam Bear Pride
Thurs, March 19–Mon, March 23
This new event on the Euro bear calendar debuted last year and was so successful that it’s returning for 2015. Five big days of events are planned in the exceedingly gay-friendly Dutch capital, including bingo, bowling, a canal cruise, a pub crawl, numerous dance parties and the Mr Bear Netherlands contest. Here’s a look at last year’s Bear-Necessity party.
Late March (exact 2015 dates TBA)
If you’re hankering for a taste of a less Western Euro-flavoured bear scene, you’re in luck: the huge and lively Turkish capital hosts a number of big bear events throughout the year, all run by the Istanbul Bears organization and all including several days of events and parties. In addition to Istanbear Spring, there’s Istanbear Autumn in September, and in between in June comes Istanbul Bear Pride. Check out this rather naughty promo video made for last year’s Istanbear Spring by participating Italian bear group Subwoofer.
Fri, March 27–Sun, March 29
Ireland’s biggest bear event is this annual springtime féile (the Gaelic word for festival), three days of hairy fun organized by the Dublin Bears group, to include pub events, performances, bingo and a bus tour. Dublin Bears also get extra points for their fabulous Celtic bear-paw logo, which you can see in the promo for the 2015 Béar Féile.
Wed, April 1–Mon, April 6
The captivating Catalonian capital hosts this major annual event, each year drawing bears from around the world for several days of saunas, bashes and events throughout the city, including a very popular pool party. Bearcelona’s organizers also conduct a weeklong Mediterranean bear cruise that departs from Barcelona every June. Check out this video from the 2013 Bearcelona pool party.
International Bear Festival Milano
Late April/early May (exact 2015 dates TBA)
Hosted by longtime Milan bear bar Company Club, this weeklong program of events and club nights will see its eighth edition in 2015. Watch the promo for last year’s festival here.
Fierté Ours Paris
Wed, May 13–Sun, May 17
Also known as Paris Bear Pride, this several-day event includes uniquely Parisian activities, including a bear cruise on the Seine, as well as a bear picnic, numerous other events and parties, and the election of “M Ours” (Mr Bear France). One attendee’s photo highlights from last year’s festival are here.
Lisbon Bear Pride
Wed, May 27–Mon, June 1
Portugal’s capital welcomes bears from across Europe to its six-day Bear Pride in late May, with plenty of events, themed parties (including Saturday’s boat party, always a highlight), and optional gastronomic and cultural experiences. Here’s a peek at last year’s boat party.
June (exact 2015 dates TBA)
Since 2010, Athens bears have been welcoming their international friends to the Greek capital for several days of late spring Hairculean fun. Special events and shows happen at saunas, bars and clubs across town, and the annual Pool ’n’ Bear party is a consistent favourite. Check out the promo for Haircules 2014 here.
Brighton Bear Weekender
Fri, June 19–Sun, June 21
England’s seaside gay hotspot Brighton kicks off summer with a three-day weekend of Brit bear action, back for its fifth edition in 2015. The fun commences on Friday evening and goes fairly nonstop until late Sunday night at various pubs, bars and saunas around town. For a taste of what to expect, take a look at the promo for last year’s festivities.
Wed, Aug 12–Mon, Aug 17
Though not incredibly well known outside of Europe, Spain’s Torremolinos is quite popular with the Euro gays, who treasure the sunshine and beaches of the Costa del Sol. In August, the little town fills to the gills with the hairy and their admirers for MadBear Beach, an offshoot of Madrid’s wintertime MadBear. See a recap of 2013’s event here.
Bears on Ice
Early September (exact 2015 dates TBA)
Another of the more outdoorsy European bear events is Reykjavik’s Bears on Ice in September. Plenty of the requisite indoor bear fun goes down here, to be sure, but with Iceland’s natural beauty calling all around, there are also unique outdoor activities like a rendezvous in the famous Blue Lagoon geothermal spa. Check out this video for a recap of the 2013 event.
International Bears Week
Fri, Sept 4–Sun, Sept 13
One of the biggest European bear events on the annual calendar, September’s International Bears Week takes place in the very gay-friendly resort town of Sitges, Spain, on the Mediterranean coast just south of Barcelona. A multitude of parties and events take place in the town’s many gay bars over the course of the 10-day festival, including the crowning of Mr Bear Sitges. Here’s how it all looked in 2013.
Bear Pride Cologne
Late November (exact 2015 dates TBA)
Another of Europe’s bigger annual bear convergences is Cologne’s Bear Pride, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2014. Taking place over five days in late November, the festival includes events at local bars and saunas, a bear bowling session, a bear city tour and the selection of Mr Bear Germany. With numerous Christmas markets also happening across the city at this time of year, it’s a lovely season to visit what’s often called Germany’s gay capital. Have a look at the teaser from Bear Pride Cologne 2009.
Early December (exact 2015 dates TBA)
What better way to close out the year than in the sexy Spanish capital for a week of bearishly good fun. Madrid’s many bear-friendly bars, clubs and saunas get in on the action with parties and events, and everyone’s in a party mood since the week always encompasses two national holidays in Spain. Here’s one attendee’s personal recap from 2013’s MadBear.