Portugal, a complete makeover.

Portugal has flown under-the-radar for a long time, but in the last few years a lot has changed (and yes, hosting the 2018 Eurovision contest shows how queer and inclusive the country can be!).

Since the end of Portugal’s dictatorship in 1974, particularly in the last two decades, the country made accelerating progress on LGBTQ rights, particularly for a long-closed country and conservative culture.

LGBTQ acceptance in Portugal is considered to be surprisingly high – even according to Western European standards – the country has one of the most progressive gay rights legislation in the world allowing gay marriage since 2010, same-sex adoption or simple legal processes on gender identification. Also, Portugal is one of the few countries in the world to contain a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation in its Constitution. 

LGBTQ Rights
In 2019, Portugal ranked #7 on ILGA Europe’s Rainbow Map. 

There are still some changes to occur and a lot of goals to accomplish in the country but, fortunately, a lot has been made to protect and support the LGBTQ community.

In retrospective, since the ’80s Portugal is determined to show its friendly and open-minded spirit to the gay community and to refresh our memories, we talked with Alex Peters, a dutch psychologist/coach and management trainer who fell in love with Portugal before the country was trendy and globally known as a tourism heaven.

Alex used his illustrations skills and portrayed Gay Lisbon with its typical tram and the hills. Check out these illustrations and more on his Instagram profile!

Have you ever been in Portugal? Why did you choose Portugal to travel in the first place?

In 1985 I visited Portugal for the first time, together with my Dutch student-club. We chose this destination to celebrate our five-year anniversary as a group. With twenty guys we flew to Lisbon. 

I remember well a small and crowded local bar in Barrio Alto, where the lady-owner was sitting on top of the fridge with beer bottles to protect them from being taken by drunken costumers. I loved that place! The people were very open-minded and friendly. 

During the day we visited main sites like the São Jorge Castle, the Hortus Botanicus and the museum of modern art. At night we had amazing dinners and visited bars and discos.

A few days later we took the train to Sagres in the very south-west corner of the country. On arrival, we rented 20 mopeds and drove to Salema, a picturesque small fishermen village on the south coast.

It was as if the student-version of the Hell Angels arrived in town. In those days I fell in love with the wild beaches in that area, especially those on the south-west coast. So much so, that I came back to Portugal for the next 15 years in a row!

For how long was your stay in Portugal, where did you stay and what were the things you loved the most about our country?

In all my following visits, which lasted at least two weeks, I always included a stay in Lisbon to visit the little old bar in Barrio Alto and a stay in Carapateira, my favourite little village in the dunes, unspoiled by tourism in those days.

There were no hotels. You just asked in the local bar which villager had a room free for renting. In one way this place was totally uneventful, and therefore the most ordinary things became magical: nature, breathtaking beaches, the villagers, the dogs, “frango with piri piri”, the post-office which was also a town bar. Each year it felt like coming home.

While in Portugal, did you enjoy the gay-scene? Did you opt for LGBTQ-friendly spots?

In the eighties and 90’s, we had no mobile phones or dating apps. I just went into town and whatever happened happened. I was young and naive and didn’t know of any particular gay bars or discos. But I happen to meet several gay people in ordinary local bars.

“It gave me the impression of Portugal being very progressive, tolerant and open-minded. Especially the mentality of the younger generation reminded me a lot of my home town Amsterdam.”

What attractions do you think Portugal has to be considered one of the most friendly LGBTQ destinations?

I would say that the open, friendly atmosphere that is palpable all over Portugal plays a key role in feeling welcome as a gay man.

Portugal is also one of the very few countries that include a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation. How was your experience when travelling to Portugal?

Already in the eighties and nineties, I felt safe and welcome as a gay man in Portugal. With the current anti-discrimination laws I can imagine that gay-friendliness is even more deeply rooted in the culture.

Would you recommend a travel to Portugal to your friends?


About Alex Peters

“My name is Alex. I’m a Dutchman living in Rome, together with my lovely Italian man. As a people-person, I love my work as a psychologist/coach and management trainer. As an art-lover, I enjoy my activities as an illustrator. My artwork is always about our human situation, and drawing became an important tool in my management training. 

You can find me on Instagram @alex.makes.drawings and on Facebook @AlexPetersIllustrations”

Wish to share your memories with us? Write your own story in Portugal by clicking here.


LGBTQ Rights Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels
Sagres Landscape Photo by Reiseuhu on Unsplash