Gay Pride events are as important now as they have ever been. Whilst we are fortunate to come from a part of Europe (UK/France) where being gay means we have almost the same rights as our straight counterparts, sadly there still exist many places where simply being gay can get you the capital punishment.
There are over 70 countries in the world where being gay is an illegal crime. What's worse is that in 7 of these, the governments actively impose the capital punishment for consensual gay acts, specifically: Brunei, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan.
Today Pride events are not only an important way to celebrate who we are, but they act as a crucial symbol to LGBTQ communities around the world to show we are not alone and we are fighting together for full equality and recognition everywhere.
In this article, we celebrate the 10 best gay Pride events from around the world, which we think are the most unique and important.
1. New York (USA): where Pride was born
New York is where the Pride movement was born. Following the police raid of the gay Stonewall Inn on 28 June 1969, the LGBTQ community said “ENOUGH!” and started a serious of demonstrations led by drag queen Marsha Johnson. This became the catalyst for LGBTQ movements across the US in 1970, and then around the world.
Today the New York Pride on the last weekend of June is one of the largest in the world, attracting crowds of around 2 million. The 2019 New York World Pride, which also commemorates 50 years since the Stonewall riots, is set to be the largest Pride event ever with around 4 million people estimated to attend!
Other notable Pride events in the US
There are Pride events taking place in almost every city across the US, with a handful also attracting millions of people.
San Francisco Pride is the other notable giant taking place alongside New York's Pride on the last weekend of June. Others include the Prides of Chicago (end of June), Columbus (mid-June), Houston (mid-June), Los Angeles (early June), Minneapolis (mid-June), Denver (mid-June), the Capital Pride in Washington DC (end of May/early June), San Diego (mid-June), St Petersburg (mid-June) and Miami Beach Pride (early April).
2. Madrid (Spain): best Pride in Europe
Every European gay guy knows that Madrid Pride is the best place to celebrate Pride each year (at least it is according to these 2 European gay guys!)
The “Fiestas del Orgullo Gay” of Madrid takes place on the last Saturday of June each year and it is the biggest in Europe, attracting around 2 million people each year. The largest was WorldPride Madrid 2017, which had an estimated 3.5 million people attend.
The first Madrid Pride took place in 1979 following the passing away of Fascist dictator Francisco Franco, which led to a huge renaissance of democracy and liberal values in Spain. As a result, Spain has today transformed into one of the most gay friendly countries in the world, with very progressive LGBTQ laws, including gay marriage.
We particularly love Madrid Pride because whilst it's so big, it doesn't feel like it. The entire city gets involved and it feels like one enormous street party. Every road has parties going on, with people celebrating and just having a fun time. It's truly unique and why it is often considered to be one of the best Pride events in Europe, and not only by us!
Other notable Pride events in Spain
As one of the most gay friendly countries in the world, it's no surprise that almost every city (and island) in Spain has its own Pride. Barcelona Pride is the largest one after Madrid, attracting crowds of around 300,000. Other cities and islands famous for their Prides include Maspolomas (May), Ibiza (mid-June), Sitges (early June), Torremolinos (late May) and Benidorm (September).
3. Sao Paulo (Brazil): largest Pride in the world
The “Parada Gay Sao Paulo” is notorious for being the largest Pride in the world, attracting a staggering 3-5 million people each year.
Sao Paulo's Pride began in 1997 and takes place on the first weekend of June along the city's main street called “Paulista Avenue”. It was famously featured in the Netflix show “Sense8” where the handsome Mexican star Lito used his platform at Sao Paulo Pride to publicly come out.
Today more than ever, the LGBTQ network of Brazil is in need of support since the country voted the far right and completely anti-gay Jair Bolsonaro in as President from 1st January 2019. Bolsonaro has been a vocal opponent to our LGBTQ community, stating things like: “Brazil can’t be a country of the gay world, of gay tourism. We have families”! This has led to an increase in violent crimes against LGBTQ people in Brazil.
Although this hasn't stopped the Brazilian LGBTQ community from flourishing, it does show the importance and need for Pride events, now more than ever, to stand strong in defiance of such people.
Other notable Pride events in Brazil
Rio's pride is also huge, attracting around 2 million people and is in our opinion one of the best Prides of Latin America. It features a festival that takes place along the beach with many unofficial Prides also taking place across Rio's neighbourhoods. The date changes every year due to administrative issues, so check the Rio Facebook page for the latest official information about the next one.
Other cities in Brazil hosting notable Pride events are Florianópolis and Salvador, who coincide their Pride with the February/March Carnival season.
4. Sydney (Australia): most colourful Pride in the world
The Sydney Pride takes place during the Australian summer in late February / early March. It coincides with the Carnival season, which is why it is called “Sydney Mardi Gras“.
Sydney Mardi Gras is one of the most famous gay festivals in the world as well as one of the oldest. It started in 1978 on Oxford Street as a morning protest with just 500 people, calling for an end to police harassment against homosexuals and the repeal of the anti-gay laws. The second Mardi Gras in 1979 was more successful with over 3,000 people attending and no arrests.
Today the Sydney Mardi Gras takes over the entire city with around 500k people attending. If that's not enough, it has become so popular that stars like Cher, Kylie Minogue, Cyndi Lauper and George Michael have performed there.
Other notable Pride events in Australia
Melbourne has a Pride that is part of the annual “Midsumma” queer festival in Jan/Feb with around 25,000 people attending.
Other cities in Australia that have notable Pride events include: Adelaide (November), Brisbane (September) and the Perth Western Australia Pridefest (November).
5. Taipei (Taiwan): largest Pride in Asia
Whilst Taipei Pride in late October may not be the biggest in the world, it's such an important event because it is the largest one in Asia – a continent that doesn't have the best track record with regards to LGBTQ rights.
Whilst most countries in Asia are grappling to overturn anti-gay laws or introduce legislation that deals with anti-discrimination against our LGBTQ community, Taiwan on the other hand is powering ahead, becoming the only place on the entire continent to introduce marriage for all!
The 2018 Taipei Pride drew record crowds of 150,000, which makes it by far the most popular and largest gay festival in Asia. It all began in 2003 as a small parade with 1,000 people attending, which has since grown into something so important for not just the gay community of Taiwan, but for the entire LGBTQ community across Asia.
Other notable Pride events in Taiwan
The other prominent Pride event in Taiwan is in Kaohsiung City, which is held in November.
6. Amsterdam (Netherlands): most unique Pride in the world
The Amsterdam Pride Canal Parade is not only huge, attracting crowds of around 500,000+, it is the most unique Pride event in the world. This is the only Pride event in the world that takes place entirely on water!
On the first Saturday of August each year, a large colourful parade of around 80 boats takes over the entire city as they make their way through the famous UNESCO listed canals. Alongside the parade, lots of street parties take place, along with some of the best circuit parties like “Rapido“.
Other notable Pride events in the Netherlands
The Utrecht Canal Pride in early June is the second largest Pride event in the Netherlands. Rotterdam has a Pride event in the last weekend of September.
7. Tel Aviv (Israel): best Pride beach party
Tel Aviv is one of the most popular Pride beach parties. It takes place in mid-June, attracting crowds of around 200,000.
As it's beach orientated, Tel Aviv pride has become synonymous with body-beautiful, Adonis-like guys…everywhere you look! The climax of the event is the large beach party on Charles Clore beach, which goes on into the early hours of the next day.
The other important point to note about Tel Aviv Pride is that it is the only successful annual Pride to take place in the Middle East – a region (with the exception of Israel of course) with a terrible record for LGBTQ rights. Read more about this in our article about the most gay friendly Arab countries.
Other notable Pride events in Israel
Jerusalem has a more sober Pride event in early August, which attracts around 20,000 people but has very heavy security following a stabbing incident at the 2015 event.
8. Johannesburg (South Africa): largest Pride in Africa
Joburg Pride is nicknamed the “Pride of Africa“, which is an apt nickname given it is the largest (and one of the fewest) Pride events to take place in Africa. Whilst it may not be one of the largest, it is significant because of its location on what is often referred to as the worst continent in the world to be gay.
Johannesburg held the first Pride of Africa in October 1993, which was towards the end of the apartheid era. Subsequently in 1996, under Nelson Mandela's Presidency, the country passed one of the most progressive constitutions in which unfair discrimination on the grounds of who you love is prohibited. In 2006, the country became the first (and to date, only!) nation in Africa to legalise gay marriage.
Joburg's Pride continues to take place every year on the last Saturday of October.
Other notable Pride events in South Africa
Other Pride events that take place in South Africa include Cape Town Pride (Feb/March), Durban Pride (June) and the Nelson Mandela Bay Pride in Port Elizabeth (November).
9. Cologne (Germany): biggest Pride in Europe
Cologne often rivals Madrid for the title of “biggest” and “best” Pride in Europe. It takes place on the first Saturday of July, attracting crowds of around 1-2 million. That's pretty impressive given that the city's population is only around 1 million people!
Pride marches in Germany are referred to as “Christopher Street Day” (or CSD), in memory of the 1970 Christopher Street Liberation Day in New York.
Other notable Pride events in Germany
Berlin Pride (late July) is another popular Pride event not just in Germany, but across Europe. It is one of the oldest, dating back to 1979.
Hamburg Pride is the other main Pride event of Germany to look out for, which takes place in early August.
10. Toronto (Canada): because Canada!
No “best of gay…” list is ever complete without mention of what we think is the most gay friendly country in the world.
Toronto Pride is not only one of the largest Prides in the world, but outside the US, it is one of the oldest, dating back to 1972.
Today Toronto Pride (in mid-June) attracts crowds of around 1-2 million. What we love most about Toronto Pride and Pride events generally in Canada is that the government not only enthusiastically backs them financially, but their leader often gets involved and is seen leading the entire procession!
Bonus mention: London Pride
Growing up in London, it was always a joy to experience marching through the iconic streets of London (in early July) with 1 million+ people watching! Although Pride in London has been criticised for becoming too commercial, it still remains one of the largest Pride events in the world. It is also one of the oldest – like Toronto Pride, it was the first one to take place outside the US in 1972.
The UK also has a range of other smaller but just as popular Pride events, in particular Brighton (early August), Manchester (late August) and Edinburgh (mid-June).