Top Up-and-coming Destinations | Outtraveler

Top Up-and-coming Destinations

We chose some of these cities for their burgeoning gay goings-on or progressive LGBT rights policies; some for their spectacular artistic and architectural wonders; some for their thrilling joie de vivre that's getting people in travel circles talking; some for just being damn sexy.

Grab your carry-on and get ready to go!

1. Santiago, Chile

Sashay south to Santiago: poised to become the next hot destination in South America. A small-but-burgeoning gay scene in Barrio Bellavista is where the city's gay happenings are concentrated. Men should check out the sizzling scene at packed, multistory dance club Bokhara (Pio Nono 430; +56-2-732-1050; www.gaychile.com/bokhara) or the dozen gay bars that fill to overflowing on weekends. Girls can join Santiago's slew of hot femmes at friendly Amor Del Bueno (Ernesto Pinto Lagarrigue 106), local joint Sui Generis (Bombero Nunez 336) and hopping dance club and bar Mascara (Purisima 129; +56-2-737-4123; [email protected]).

2. Valencia, Spain

Spain's third-largest city, Valencia basks contentedly on the sun-saturated coast south of Barcelona. Surrounded by dramatic mountains and glorious orange groves, the city boasts its own fantastic scenery -- impressive architecture, a character-steeped old town and lively lesbian and gay bars.

3. Austin, Texas

Long known as one of the most livable, liberal and free-thinking spots in the country, the home of the University of Texas and the hip South by Southwest Music and Film Festival offers a rockin' music and club scene on Sixth Street, and an integrated -- and growing -- gay and lesbian community.

4. Marseille, France

Provence's most exciting city, this sexy Southern gem basks on the Mediterranean coast. Dance clubs and gay and lesbian bars throb with life (www.gay-provence.org), markets bustle and a joyous, yet somehow gritty spirit pervades throughout France's second-largest city.

5. Denver, Colorado

The "Queen City of the Plains," as it was glamorously named in 1859, Denver is a clean, elegant city with 200 parks and 10 times as many restaurants. Undergoing an urban revival, the city's vibrant cultural scene and all sorts of secret hideaways beckon. The population of educated, fit and active denizens certainly adds to its appeal.

6. Dublin, Ireland

Amply endowed with gay bars and clubs, and home to a smorgasbord of tempting gay-flavored restaurants, the Irish capital offers an irresistible mix of irreverent charm, exuberance and tradition. Ireland is set to be the scene of same-sex civil unions in 2008, yet another somewhat surprising Catholic country to introduce such progressive legislation.

7. Cape Town, South Africa

Like Seattle, San Francisco and Sydney, Cape Town shares the magical combination of water, culture and geographical beauty that make for an extraordinary visit. The gay village teems with life; gay beaches, such as Sandy Bay, are perfect places to soak up the charms of South Africa's most enticing city.

8. Shanghai, China

If Beijing is like Washington, D.C. -- a government-dominated and monumental city -- Shanghai is an up-and-coming New York, with a brash commercial side, new skyscrapers surging up by the second, impatient drivers honking continuously and crowds clipping briskly along. Hot bar, restaurant and gay scenes are on the rise.

9. Istanbul, Turkey

There is something for everyone in Istanbul -- the modern, the traditional, nightlife, good food, history, art and monumental architecture, and friendly people. Slightly mysterious and exotic, and yet often comfortably familiar, Istanbul is one of Europe's largest cities -- although it feels like a collection of contradictory cities all intermingled and overlapped.

10. Cardiff, Wales

A well-kept secret, the capital of Wales is an unexpected delight. Restaurants, bars and boutiques line Mermaid Quay in the docklands that line Cardiff Bay, and the city boasts eight LGBT bars and clubs. The annual gay Mardi Gras celebration, held underneath Cardiff Castle every September, attracts up to 40,000 to the biggest gay party in Wales.

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