Reykjavík, Iceland: Hot Chicks, Cold Climate
Like its closest northern European neighbors, Iceland is a socially-tolerant and progressive country. Same-sex partners have been free to marry since June 2010, when the parliament voted 49 to zero to amend the wording of marriage legislation to include matrimony between “man and man, woman and woman,” and unions between men and women. In 2009, Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir became the world’s first (and only) lesbian head of state.
“The gay community is integrated in Iceland now, because everyone has the same rights,” says Rosa Gudmundsdottir, an Icelandic musician and singer now based in New York. “No one really gives a second glance to who is coupled with who. People aren’t putting each other into specific groups anymore. There is just a handful of specifically ‘gay-friendly’ hotspots, because everywhere is very gay-friendly.”
Iceland is known as a blissful haven for travelers seeking unique outdoor adventure combined with lively urban nightlife and fine dining. Lesbian tourists will enjoy gay history walks, whale watching and helicopter tours of the geothermally-active landscape. Spend a day at the Blue Lagoon (240 Grindavik, 354-420-8800, bluelagoon.com), a spa complex 40 minutes from downtown Reykjavik featuring a naturally-occurring geothermal saltwater pool filtered by lava rock. See more of Iceland’s volcanic landscape by driving or touring the Golden Circle—a 190-mile loop that passes by waterfalls, geysers, craters and Thingvellir, the site of Iceland’s medieval parliament.
More than 80,000 people celebrate at Reykjavik’s annual gay Pride event (in a country with a total population of just 300,000), making it one of Iceland’s biggest festivals. The opening ceremonies, a queer cruise, several dances, a family festival, a literary walk and more attract an incredibly diverse group of grandparents, politicians, priests, partiers, moms, dads and card-carrying queers.
Inside Reykjavik proper, getting around on foot is easy and all the best cafés, bars, attractions and shops can be found in the central area. You can also rent a bicycle, roller blades, scooter or car to get around more quickly and to reach outlying areas.
Eva María and Birna Hrönn, proprietors of Pink Iceland, the only lesbian travel agency in the country (pinkiceland.is), can help you plan your trip. The couple welcomes LGBT travelers and straight visitors alike. And, with their thorough knowledge of Iceland and individualized travel packages tailored for unforgettable experiences, these two super-multi-tasking lesbians (who are also cafe owners and deejays!) will become your new BFFs.
Gay friendly accommodations in Reykjavik run the gamut; choosing one depends more on your personality than any other factor. Some of the intimate lodgings include Grettisborg Apartments (Grettisgata 53b, 354-694-7020, grettisborg.is), with full suites within walking distance of downtown; and Miss Moon Homestay (contact for exact address, magic
moonhealer.com), for shared accommodation in a local home 10 miles from city center. Miss Moon’s includes breakfast, double bed, kitchen and living room privileges, access to a washer/dryer and Wi-Fi—plus a quirky, spiritual host.
For luxurious digs, try the Radisson Blu 1919 Hotel (Posthusstraeti 2, 354-599-1000, radisson blu.com/1919hotel-reykjavik). Recently renovated, the historic property blends new design and vintage architecture. Extreme creature comforts and amenities guarantee a memorable stay. Another posh option is the 101 Hotel (Hverfisgata 10, 354-580-0101, 101hotel.is), a boutique hotel situated in the heart of Reykjavik. 101’s personality is stylish and comfortable at the same time: it gives visitors an opportunity to unwind and relax in its spacious rooms. All sorts of high-end amenities, a big walk-in shower and under-floor heating are the icing on the cake.
And, if you are into something really different, spend a night at sea! Pink Iceland can hook you up.
Dining and More
For a small city, Reykjavík offers an extensive array of restaurants—most of them located in the heart of the capitol. Vox (Sudurlandsbraut 2, 354-444-5050, vox.is), a fancy bistro serving world-class cuisine, is where the friendly dyke Alba, a world-renowned sommelier, presides over an elegant bar.
Fish Market (Adalstraeti 12, 354-578-8877, fish
market.is) is an excellent place for sushi and seafood; Jómfrúin (Laekjargata 4, 354-551-0100, jomfruin.is) is a gay-owned restaurant offering traditional Danish open sandwiches. Other recommendations include Vegamót Bistro (Vegamotastig 4, 354-511-3040, vegamot.is), Tapas bar (Vesturgotu 3b, 354-551-2344, tapas.is) and Sjávarkjallarinn (adalststraeti 2, 354-511-1212, sjavarkjallarinn.is). A must is Bæjarins bestu, the infamous hot dog stand located downtown. Try a wiener (ahem) with everything on it—Bill Clinton did when he visited Iceland.
If you want to sample a traditional Icelandic meal, hit up Skolabru (Pósthússtræti 17, 354-562-4455). It’s not the cheapest, but the setting is similar to an old Icelandic home and evokes a uniquely Nordic dining experience. You can also try top-notch specialty cuisines: Á Næstu Grösum (Laugavegur 20b, 354-552-8410, anaestugrosum.is), an artsy vegan restaurant; Italia (Laugavegi 11, 354-552-4630, italia.is), an amazing Italian restaurant; and Austur-India Fjelagid (Hverfisgötu 56, 354-552-1630, austurindia.is), which serves delectable Indian food.
There are plenty of renowned gay-friendly cafes and bars in Reykjavik. Café Paris (Austurstraeti 14, 354-551-1020), Kaffitar Café (Kringlan 8-12, 354-588-0440), and Kaffi Solon (Bankastrati 7a, 354-562-3232, solon.is) are all popular hotspots for tourists and natives alike.
Pink Iceland’s Eva María and Birna also own Trúnó (Laugavegur 22, firstname.lastname@example.org, truno.is), the only “official” gay café in Reykjavík. These unstoppable celesbians deejay gay parties at Trúnó as the duo DJ Glimmer (glimmer.is) too. A lively café by day, it’s even livelier at night. Trúnó offers a cocktail menu and nibbles including candy, cocoa puffs, cakes and shakes to satisfy your sweet tooth; salads, paninis and pizzas are your best lunch bets. The house bar special is called Trúnó Tjútt, meaning (loosely translated) Trúnó’s Fever. It’s an ice cold slushy with just the right amount of Tequila and Cointreau—watch out!
Conveniently located one floor above Trúnó, Barbara is the only gay dance club in Iceland. The crowd is mostly gay and lesbian, but like gay clubs elsewhere in Europe, it is becoming more integrated between gay and straight crowds. The music is always good and thumping until five in the morning on Fridays and Saturdays. There are no restrictions against dancing on the tables, singing at the top of your lungs or stripping off your shirt. Barbara is closed Sunday through Wednesday, and on Thursdays there are pub games, cabarets and karaoke.
Other good venues for drinks and partying are Boston Bar (Laugavegur 28b, 354-517-7816) and Club Nasa (4 Thorvaldsenstraeti, 354-511-1313, nasa.is), a hip club where you could run into Icelandic pop star Paul Oscar; he even deejays there once in a while.
Reykjavik is just a six-hour flight from New York, making it an accessible and exotic honeymoon destination.
Buenos Aires, Argentina: Anchor Yourself
A truly global city, Buenos Aires has been strongly influenced by European culture and is sometimes referred to as the “Paris of South America.” It’s filled with French- and Italian-influenced urban planning, from its government buildings in the Plaza del Congreso to the stately boulevardes. Its European style may partially explain why Argentina, though overwhelmingly Catholic in religious propensity, legalized same-sex marriage in mid-2010. The porteños (people of the port) are tastemakers and trendsetters; they’re leaders in global business, tourism and cultural exchange. Argentina’s real-time currency in the global marketplace is worth far more than the current single peso for 25 U.S. cents.
This LGBT-friendly capitol welcomes cosmopolitan visitors. Pink Point Buenos Aires (Lavalle 669, 5411-5353-2046, pinkpointbuenos aires.com) is the city’s gay and lesbian travel and tourism center. The organization’s website lists several activities exclusively for women, from touring the city on bikes and sailing adventures to personally-tailored spa treatments and an excursion to a private island with other like-minded ladies.
The cultural and historical focal point of Buenos Aires is Recoleta, with Recoleta Park and Cemetery at its center. Restaurants, shopping, cinemas and nightlife surround this barrio (neighborhood). The Centro Cultural Recoleta (Junin 1930, 5411-4803-1040, centro
culturalrecoleta.org), an important neighborhood resource in an old convent, includes several modern exhibition halls with rotating shows and a movie theater. Its large auditorium hosts myriad cultural programs including the Tango Festival (mundialdetango.gob.ar).
Speaking of which, this celebration of the varieties of the genre is the culmination of a series of tango-related activities held throughout the year. Tango has been deemed part of Argentina’s “intangible cultural heritage” and its practitioners are extremely serious about keeping this particular cultural marker alive.
Plaza Dorrego, in the heart of San Telmo and Puerto Madero, is Buenos Aires’ most modern neighborhood. The plaza is full of coffee shops and pubs with tables for patrons to linger, drink and socialize. Stalls sell fresh fruits and vegetables; dairy farmers and butchers restock their goods daily. Several antique stalls and shops dot the area, and the San Telmo Fair comes around every Sunday.
Palermo, arguably the ritziest section of Buenos Aires, has incredible views of Rio de la Plata and access to many parks. The chic section is Palermo Chico, referring to the exclusivity of the northeastern part of the neighborhood. Among the historical landmarks in Palermo Chico are the National Museum of Decorative Arts (Av. del Libertador 1902, 5411-4801-8248, mnad.org.ar) and the Museum of Latin American Art (Av. Figueroa Alcorta 3415, 5411-4808-6500, malba.org.ar), located in the Paseo Alcorta shopping district.
Once a run-down neighborhood full of abandoned factories, old warehouses and small crumbling homes, Palermo Viejo has been transformed into the city’s most desirable destination. With charming cobblestone streets, enormous oak-tree canopies and unobstructed views of the Buenos Aires skyline, it’s clear why this valley was revitalized.
To get a handle on the various barrios, take a walking tour with a local ex-pat guide (buenostours.com) who will help you get to know the city on foot and by bus.
Hotel Madero (Rosario Vera Penaloza 360, 5411-5776-7777, hotelmadero.com) is an ultra modern gay-friendly hotel centrally located near Puerto Madero, the main port of the city built along the banks of the world’s widest river. Most rooms offer private balconies and comfortable, contemporary furnishings; higher-class rooms also offer a butler and room service. While luxurious, the Hotel Madero is quite affordable thanks to the appealing exchange rate.
Buenos Aires Gay Bed & Breakfast (call for exact location, 5411-4775-0509, buenosairesgay bedandbreakfast.com)—the name really says it all—was founded by a gay British journalist well versed in South American culture and LGBT travel. He shares his home with queer travelers who want to live like locals in gay-friendly Palermo.
Dining and More
Cafe Tortoni (Avenida de Mayo 825, 5411-4342-4328, cafetortoni.com.ar), founded in 1858 and modeled on the elegant Left Bank coffeehouses popular with 19th century Parisian intellectuals, is the city’s oldest cafe and definitely worth a visit. In the bohemian part of the San Telmo area, La Farmacia (Bolivar 898, 5411-4300-6151) has a well-stocked bar and serves “nuevo-chic” fare for low-light romantic dining. Café de la Seda (Armenia 1820, 5411-4831-4040), a casual gay-friendly place in Palermo, serves food at the bar and displays local art. For fine vegetarian fare, try Meraviglia (Gorriti 5796, 5411-4775-7949, meraviglia.com.ar), an organic bakery and café also in Palermo and known for amazing fruit juices and a menu of greens and grains.
Nightlife is a big part of the gay scene in Buenos Aires, but it tends to be dominated by gay boys. Try Bach Bar (Cabrera 4390, 011-5877-0919, bach-bar.com.ar), a local gay hangout with a large lesbian crowd and DJs who spin everything from pop and disco to electronica and reggaeton.
Buenos Aires is a rather long flight from New York—at least 11 hours nonstop— so plan to spend a week on your honeymoon. You’ll need at least that much time to soak in all the sights and sounds of this cosmopolitan capitol.