Step out in style on these iconic LGBTQ walking tours across the globe

LGBTQ walking tour

Today, it’s surprisingly easy to sissy that walk. Especially if it’s along the path of one of these fabulous LGBTQ walking tours.

San Francisco

The Castro District, San Francisco.

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One of the world’s oldest continually operating queer walking tours, San Francisco’s Cruisin’ the Castro, was founded in 1989 during the early years of the AIDS epidemic. Regularly updated to reflect the evolving community’s tragedies and triumphs, the tour has also helped shape San Francisco’s queer legacy. Kathy Amendola, who has owned the company since 2005, participated in founding some of the San Francisco’s landmarks, including the Pink Triangle Park and Rainbow Honor Walk, both stops on the tour.

From the site of Harvey Milk’s camera shop to the rainbow flag that has become a symbol of community worldwide, the tour spotlights over a dozen sites over two hours, sharing stories from the Gold Rush and Summer of Love to today’s youth activism.


Legacy Walk, Northalsted, Chicago.

No advanced planning is needed to experience the self-guided Legacy Walk in Chicago’s Northalsted neighborhood. A series of 25-foot-tall rainbow-accented steel cylinders tower above the streetscape, marking queer pride of place with two bronze memorial plaques affixed to each pylon.

The plaques feature portraits and biographical texts honoring major influences in world history, from Frida Kahlo to James Baldwin. Each National Coming Out Day, new honorees are introduced, with the collection rotated on and off the pillars over the years. In addition, plans are underway to open a visitors’ center where those plaques not on the street at any given time will be displayed. While independent visits are free, guided tours are available on request for a minimum of 6 guests at $40 per person.


The Royale Arcade, London.
The Royale Arcade, London.

Looking for an educational deep dive of a tour rather than a broad overview? London Walks leads dozens of highly-researched tours every week, including The London of Oscar Wilde, which takes visitors to some of the legendary gay wit’s frequent haunts and career landmarks. Stops include the St. James Theater, site of the world premiere of The Importance of Being Earnest; the Royal Arcade, where Wilde and his friends first purchased the green carnations that they turned into a secret symbol of queer solidarity; and the Old Bailey, where Wilde’s infamous trial took place.

New York

New York City AIDS Memorial.

It’s been said that Michael Venturiello is a walking encyclopedia of queer history. However, it might be more accurate to refer to him as a walking Google search since the founder of New York’s Christopher Street Tours has a day job with the information behemoth. To Venturiello, who has degrees in literature and higher education, his tour company, founded in 2018, is a natural extension of his academic studies, which culminated in a thesis on the impact of the Stonewall Riots on college students.

The rare queer tour company operated by a millennial, Christopher Street promises fresh perspectives, inclusive of issues facing the community today. Sites on the regularly offered public weekend tour in Greenwich Village include the Stonewall Inn, the New York City AIDS Memorial, and The Center.


Glenn Tkach, The Really Gay History Tour. Photo provided by Forbidden Vancouver Walking Tours.

Glenn Tkach was already a seasoned storyteller (aka tour guide) for Forbidden Vancouver Walking Tours, helping curious visitors discover the secret histories of western Canada’s gleaming green city when, in 2017, he proposed that the company let him develop a tour of local LGBTQ+ landmarks. Thus began planning for The Really Gay History Tour, a two-hour amble that takes guests beyond the city’s famous nightlife scene on Davie Street, delving into the development of queer rights in the city and country.

Tkach introduces heroes such as North America’s first openly gay church minister and a transgender political whistleblower, explains and debunks the story of Patient Zero, and leavens the stroll with plenty of lighthearted humor and banter about some of the city’s most colorful characters.


Madrid nightlife. Photo by Mikel Taboada/Getty Images.

While most queer walking tours focus on history, Madrid’s City Secreto offers a social outing that’s steeped in the here-and-now: Here being the city’s gayborhood, Chueca; now being between 9 p.m. and midnight, Thursdays through Saturdays, when Madrillenos are gearing up for their legendary wee-hours nightlife.

The company’s in-the-know guides are ready to usher you into the festivities with intimate groups of no more than 10 participants. Sure, you’ll get a dose of education, but you’ll do it while slipping into a pair of speakeasy-style bars unfamiliar to most tourists and pausing at a tapas bar where you can sip vermouth and quiz your guide on how to get the most out of a long night on the town. You’ll even get passes to a dance party at the end of the tour.

New Orleans

Southern Decadence in New Oreleans.

“I do not offer a ‘family friendly’ version of the tour,” notes Quinn Laroux, the glamorous proprietor, and guide of Nola Drag Tours, a dishy meander around New Orleans’ French Quarter that offers a healthy mix of laughter and learning. In addition to the ups and downs of the city’s queer history — from its rich drag and sex work traditions to the tragic UpStairs Lounge arson killing — Laroux dips a painted toe into voodoo, jazz, and race relations, always with a queer perspective. Laroux, a longtime activist with a degree in sociology, has said she views the drag aspect of her tours as a “Trojan Horse” to help educate the public on queer history.


Rome, Italy.

For queer travelers visiting a new city for the first time, learning about local queer history may not be a top priority. But it’s always great to take tours where you can feel free to ask questions about any topic that crosses your mind without reproach from fellow travelers or guides. That’s especially true in a religiously conservative destination like Italy’s capital, where The Roman Gay is ready to help you see the city from a pink perspective. A staff of queer guides leads a full range of walking tours of sites, including the Colosseum and the Vatican, along with topics including Italian fashion and cinema.

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International operators like Gaily Tour and Get Your Guide can help you book private guides for LGBTQ-focused walking tours, and local companies worldwide now offer regularly scheduled, modestly priced ($25-$75) queer-themed walking tours. Whether you’re weaving your way around West Hollywood, perambulating through Paris, or traipsing through Tokyo, learning a bit about local history and culture as you wander is always fun. Walking tours also provide opportunities to get local intel on your destination and meet fellow travelers.

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