Spain has become perhaps the most gay-friendly country in southern Europe. Homosexuality is legal and the age of consent is 13, as it is for heterosexuals. Same-sex marriages were legalised in 2005 – the move was extremely popular but met with opposition from the country's powerful Catholic Church.
In rural areas, lesbians and gay men generally keep a fairly low profile, but are quite open in the cities. Madrid, Barcelona, Sitges, Torremolinos and Ibiza have particularly lively scenes. Sitges is a major destination on the international gay-party circuit; gays take a leading role in the wild Carnaval there. There are also gay parades, marches and events in several cities on and around the last Saturday in June, when Madrid’s gay and lesbian pride march takes place.
Madrid also hosts the annual Les Gai Cine Mad festival, a celebration of lesbian, gay and transsexual films.
In addition to the following resources, Barcelona’s tourist board publishes Barcelona: The Official Gay and Lesbian Tourist Guide biannually, while Madrid’s tourist office has useful information on its website (www.esmadrid.com/lgtb-madrid).
Chueca (www.chueca.com) Useful gay portal with extensive links.
GayBarcelona (www.gaybarcelona.com) News and views and an extensive listings section covering bars, saunas, shops and more in Barcelona and Sitges.
Gay Iberia (www.gayiberia.com) Gay guides to Barcelona, Madrid, Sitges and 26 other Spanish cities.
Gay Madrid 4 U (www.gaymadrid4u.com) A good overview of Madrid’s gay bars and nightclubs.
Gay Seville (www.patroc.com/seville) Gay guide to Andalucía's capital.
NightTours.com (www.nighttours.com) A reasonably good guide to gay nightlife and other attractions in Madrid, Barcelona and 18 other Spanish locations.
Shangay (www.shangay.com) For news, upcoming events, reviews and contacts. It also publishes Shanguide, a Madrid-centric biweekly magazine jammed with listings (including saunas and hard-core clubs) and contact ads. Its companion publication Shangay Express is better for articles with a handful of listings and ads. They’re available in gay bookshops, and gay and gay-friendly bars.
Universo Gay (www.guia.universogay.com) A little bit of everything.
Casal Lambda A gay and lesbian social, cultural and information centre in Barcelona’s La Ribera.
Colectivo de Gais y Lesbianas de Madrid Offers activities and has an information office and social centre.
Federación Estatal de Lesbianas, Gays, Transexuales & Bisexuales A national advocacy group, based in Madrid, that played a leading role in lobbying for the legalisation of gay marriage.
Fundación Triángulo One of several sources of information on gay issues in Madrid.