What makes a city liberal? By definition, liberality is described as the openness to new ideas and support of individual rights.
Categorizing a liberal city is based on the people’s response to several socio-economic issues including gender equality, openness to the LGBTQ+ community, and environmental impacts.
Having positive responses and the same views on these issues corresponds to a liberal city where one can feel at home and live harmoniously with the community.
With these factors in mind, we’ve curated a list based on equality and environmental contributions, while all basic human needs are met.
From Amsterdam, the city of canals, to Rome, the Eternal City, here are the top 30 most liberal cities in the world in no particular order.
Table of Contents
- 1. Amsterdam, Netherlands
- 2. Baltimore, USA
- 3. Berlin, Germany
- 4. Boston, USA
- 5. Chicago, USA
- 6. Copenhagen, Denmark
- 7. Dublin, Ireland
- 8. Gothenburg, Sweden
- 9. Hamburg, Germany
- 10. Helsinki, Finland
- 11. Lisbon, Portugal
- 12. Ljubljana, Slovenia
- 13. Madrid, Spain
- 14. Milan, Italy
- 15. New York, USA
- 16. Oslo, Norway
- 17. Oxford, United Kingdom
- 18. Paris, France
- 19. Reykjavík, Iceland
- 20. Rome, Italy
- 21. São Paulo, Brazil
- 22. Stockholm, Sweden
- 23. Sydney, Australia
- 24. Toronto, Canada
- 25. Valletta, Malta
- 26. Vancouver, Canada
- 27. Vienna, Austria
- 28. Warsaw, Poland
- 29. Wellington, New Zealand
- 30. Zürich, Switzerland
Its extensive tolerance makes Amsterdam the most liberal city in the world. Using recreational drugs like marijuana is one of the most well-known aspects of the country.
Further, it was one of the first nations to legalize same-sex marriages. Aside from that, prostitution and euthanasia are also permitted.
When it comes to things like marijuana and prostitution, rather than banning, the country focuses on “tolerance.”
Educating the people is preferred over prohibition.
According to the 2020 Environmental Performance Index, the Netherlands ranked 11th out of 180 countries with an EPI score of 75.3.
Among the best places to live for LGBTQ+ families in Maryland is Baltimore. This city is highly supportive of the LGBTQ+ lifestyle and provides funding and resources for LGBTQ+ youth.
Moreover, it has several support groups and resources for the LGBTQ+ community including Baltimore Pride and the Pride Center of Maryland.
In 2020, it elected its youngest mayor, Brandon Scott, who aims to create racial equity and fight gun violence.
Berlin is Germany’s most open city in terms of tolerance and equality. The city is considered LGBTQ+-friendly and takes strong actions on environmental issues.
In fact, Germany, in general, ranks 10th in the overall Environmental Performance Index with an EPI score of 77.2.
Moreover, Berlin is a highly diverse city that is loved by expats.
Most people enjoy the great freedom there is in Berlin which gave it its nickname “the Capital of Cool.”
Among the top liberal cities in the USA is Boston, the City of Champions. It is a city of many firsts for the country, including the first public school, the first subway, and the first public park and garden.
Moreover, Boston is home to the country’s first college, which is now known as Harvard University.
When it comes to equal opportunities, Boston doesn’t shy away, as they were the first to establish the first black school and the first school of the blind in the world.
Chicago is another liberal city in the USA but is less liberal than Boston though. The city is known for starting the first LGBTQ+ rights group in the nation.
Moreover, it boasts of having produced the first black president, Barack Obama, who first started his political career as a senator in Illinois.
Other famous firsts of Chicago are all about innovation, including the first car radio, the first world’s first skyscraper, and the first zipper.
Copenhagen is one of the most open-minded cities in the world. In fact, it was even named one of the most gay-friendly places on the planet.
Moreover, the city advocates gender equality language, as well as boosts women’s participation.
Overall, Denmark ranks 13th in the LGBTQ+ Travel Safety Index and 1st in the Environmental Performance Index.
Ireland is a liberal paradise, especially in terms of gender equality. The country has several legislative acts that are in favor of equality and anti-discrimination.
Moreover, it is a welcoming city for the LGBTQ+ community and even holds the Dublin LGBTQ+ Pride, one of the city’s biggest celebrations.
It is also the first country to allow same-sex marriage.
According to Hostelworld’s rankings, Gothenburg places first on the list, making it the world’s most sociable city in the world.
The ranking studied 39 major cities in 28 countries based on the social responses of 12,188 people.
Gothenburg is a forward-thinking city that is all about sustainability – from promoting locally-sourced food to the use of public transportation.
It has become a green city despite its metropolitan spaces since it prioritizes fighting climate change and the strong influence of Gretta Thunberg, a Swedish teenage activist.
Following Berlin is Hamburg, one of Germany’s most open-minded and tolerant cities. It is a city with a vibrant LGBTQ+ community.
Plus, Hamburg is a firm believer in equality regardless of gender, with laws committing to its promise like the Hamburg Equality Act.
Addressing environmental issues is also a priority, and several environmental projects are underway to improve the sustainability of the city.
Helsinki is Finland’s most progressive city, where historic culture coexists with the modern.
One of Helsinki’s solutions to prevent social inequality is providing programming education to early childhood learners.
Moreover, the city encourages more social interaction by engaging in public events, including Restaurant Day and Sauna Day.
The city provides diverse opportunities, especially to its LGBTQ+ community by providing several groups and organizations such as Helsinki Pride and Helsinki Gay Theatre.
Finland, overall, ranks seventh in the Environmental Performance Index and 18th in the LGBTQ+ travel safety ranking.
Most people know Portugal for its Fado music and Cristiano Ronaldo, but some people forget about Portugal’s capital city, Lisbon, which has made significant contributions to its culture and environmental impact.
Lisbon was awarded the European Green Capital of 2020 by the European Commissioner for the city’s efforts in attaining urban sustainability and environmental protection.
The city was able to reduce CO2 emissions, energy consumption, and water consumption. Moreover, the city improved its public spaces by adding more bike lanes, walkways, and green parks.
Gender quality is also a primary focus for the entire country where policies are formed to achieve equality for all genders and sexual orientations.
LGBTQ+ travelers will find it safe to visit Portugal because same-sex marriage is legal and discrimination and hate crimes are not tolerated.
Ljubljana is probably one of the most underrated cities in the world and is well worth visiting.
It is loved for its peace and quiet, medieval towns, and deep, cultural history.
The city was ranked the ninth most liberal city in the world by Movehub. Some of the factors believed to influence this ranking are the city’s Pride Parade, the country placing 11th at the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), and the city becoming the 2016 Green Capital of Europe.
Slovenia places 32nd in the LGBTQ+ Travel Safety Index for allowing civil union, second-parent adoption, and worker protections.
Moreover, the country is 18th out of 180 countries on the Environmental Performance Index.
A city filled with historical streets and bustling nightlife, Madrid is one of the best places to witness gender equity, equality, and diversity.
In fact, the country placed 10th in the Global Gender Gap Report in 2020.
Madrid is committed to gender equality by imposing laws and creating departments and organizations like the Department for Policies of Gender and Diversity and Espacios de igualdad, meaning Spaces of equality.
When it comes to fighting climate change, Madrid has also made major contributions by creating an urban forest and imposing car restrictions.
The LGBTQ+ community is most welcome in the streets of Madrid with the city’s queer bars, events, and saunas.
The city boasts its 40 years of Gay Pride with Madrid Pride festivities, LGBTIQA+ Art Walk, and a huge LGBTQ+ community of over 500,000.
A fashion capital and the heart of Italy’s economy, Milan is one of the best places to celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride.
The city hosts one of the biggest Pride celebrations in the world with its famous Milan Pride.
Moreover, the LGBTQ+ community can seek tourist assistance from the Italian Association of Gay and Lesbian Tourism.
However, achieving full protection for the LGBTQ+ community is still ongoing as Italy only allows civil union, only limited protection against discrimination, and no LGBTQ+ protections.
With these limited protections, Italy overall ranks 46th in the LGBTQ+ Travel Safety Index.
Regarding environmental contributions, Milan aims to lessen pollution by improving its bike lanes and going green by planting millions of trees.
The city that never sleeps and where dreams are made, New York is one of the most forward-thinking cities in the world that advocates gender equality.
The city strives to achieve gender equality with laws such as the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA) and the Gender Expression Non-discrimination Act (GENDA).
New York is also home to more than 750,000 LGBTQ+ residents and about 50,000 transgenders who can enjoy Pride March festivities, Gay villages, and drag culture.
The community benefits from various organizations and centers including The Center and NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project.
However, the city fails to be in the top green cities of the country as it was recently called the country’s dirtiest city.
Despite the city’s environmental challenges, it strives to change that reputation by producing plans and programs including the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, Charge NY, and Build Smart NY, to name a few.
Oslo is called the Tiger City of Norway and is famous for its incredible nature and architecture.
The city enforces plans for equality and freedom for all genders and sexual identities.
It has already implemented several of its plans, including equal municipal services, Queer World, and human rights conferences.
Generally, Norway is all about gender equality and diversity.
As a matter of fact, as much as 14% of Norwegian CEOs are women and 40% are in municipal councils.
To improve Oslo’s city life, about 1.3 sq km are made car-free and more than 200 bike-sharing stations are implemented.
Home to Nobel Prize winners and the prestigious University of Oxford, Oxford is a quiet metropolitan with superb views.
It is where the first Zero Emissions Zone started in the UK.
Moreover, the city is in the works of adapting a sustainable transport system. Residents are also encouraged to travel by bike using the new bike lanes at Seacourt Park & Ride.
Support for its LGBT residents is shown through several groups and projects including the LGBTQ+ Oxfordshire, First Sunday, Oxford Pride, and TransOxford – Oxfordshire Transgender Support Group.
Oxford is always a good choice for the LGBTQ+ community with its many gay bars and entertainment venues.
The City of Love and Light is a cultural melting pot of people from all over the globe. It comes as no surprise that it comes with a vibrant LGBTQ+ community and how France placed third in the Gender Equality Index of the EU.
Gender equality is a priority in the country, which focuses on enhancing the role of women and fighting inequalities.
Moreover, it has policies on gender-based violence and reproductive health rights.
To battle climate change, Paris is one of the cities implementing low emission zones. The city is also part of the BreatheLife Campaign, which promotes global clean air.
Gender equality in Iceland started way back in the 1850s. From allowing girls to study secondary school to approving the Equal Pay Act, Iceland remains at the top of the surveys for World Economic Forum on gender equality.
The capital city of Iceland, Reykjavik, has an Equality Action Plan and Human Rights policy.
It aims to eliminate gender bias and promote equal wages, prevent gender-based harassment and violence, and support sports and recreation for all genders.
Reykjavik is incredibly open to the LGBTQ+ community – from electing a gay head of the state to giving equal rights regardless of sexual identity and orientation.
With Pride festivities, legal same-sex marriage, and broad protections against discrimination, the city is among the most gay-friendly cities in the world.
Rome recognizes climate change as one of the most pressing environmental issues in the world.
Thus, the Club of Rome set out the Climate Emergency Plan focusing on 10 actions.
The action plan includes, but is not limited to, stopping fossil fuel expansion, using renewable energy, and encouraging transformational technologies.
For the LGBTQ+ community, there are several places to relax and events to have fun such as bars and clubs, Europa Multiclub sauna, Imaginaria Film Festival, and Roma Pride.
No matter the sexual identity and orientation, the rights of the LGBTQ+ are the same as every resident of São Paulo.
Homosexuality and gay marriage are both legal and gay individuals are allowed to adopt, donate blood, join the military, and have equal housing opportunities.
One of the largest gay pride parades is held in this city, with more than 2.5 million participants joining.
Not only the LGBTQ+ are given equal rights, but also the women.
Many women are still battling against discrimination and inequality. Some of the most important policies created for women are Secretariat for Policies for Women (SPM), public policies on women’s health, and protection against gender-based violence.
Gender equality and sustainability are some of the cornerstones of Stockholm, and Sweden as a whole.
Stockholm has several programs and events to support equality including the Stockholm Forum on Gender Equality and the Swedish Gender Equality Agency.
It’s no surprise that 47% are women in national parliaments. Interestingly, male nannies are also common in the country and fathers can also have a parental leave of up to three months of paid leave.
Gender equality extends up to the LGBTQ+ community – from legalizing same-sex marriage to introducing gender-neutral pronouns.
Since 1998, Stockholm has been holding the biggest LGBTQ+ Pride festivities.
For many reasons, Sydney is a leader in gender equity. For instance, the pay gap is 7.8% more for women.
To achieve equality, the Australian Gender Equality Council was founded. Plus, it’s no coincidence that Sydney has one of the biggest LGBTQ+ communities in the country and one of the most popular events in the world, the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras.
Sydney also recognizes the importance of nature and culture by creating the Sustainable Sydney 2030.
Moreover, the city developed an environmental strategy and sustainability policy which includes sustainable infrastructures, greener parks, and a quality public transport system.
The city of Toronto is one of the largest cities determined to reach gender equity with its Gender Equity Strategy.
It involves an education program, partnerships, and policy development, to name a few.
In numbers, 52% of Toronto’s population are females, transgenders, and non-binaries, and about 350,000 residents consider themselves part of the LGBTQ+ community.
The city’s Pride Month is held every June, which holds several events such as Pride Parade, festivals, and more.
The city aims to become an environmentally sustainable city with several strategies such as Greening City Operations, Environmental Plans and Reports, and Community Energy Planning.
It also seeks help from other environmental groups including Greening Greater Toronto and the Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA).
Valletta is a small city located in the heart of Malta with just about 6,000 residents. It’s a tiny city creating a huge positive environmental impact by promoting sustainability for a healthier metropolis.
The city encourages recycling and lowering plastic use. Moreover, its initiatives focus on educating the young and encouraging bike-sharing through companies like Nextbike Malta.
Getting married in Malta is also possible regardless of sexual orientation and identity. Plus, LGBTQ+ residents can expect protection against discrimination and violence with laws equal to the constitutional level.
In Western Canada, Vancouver is considered a safe place for the 2SLGBTQ+ community or Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, gender diverse, and queer.
The city aims to be a city for all women, with strategies like the Women’s Equity Strategy that tackles quality childcare, housing, and safety.
Moreover, it celebrates Pride Week at the end of July and the beginning of August. The LGBTQ+ culture can be experienced in several events such as Queer Arts Festival and Vancouver Queer Film Festival.
Vancouver is a leader in green initiatives, which is why the city ranked second in the Green City Index.
In 2019, the city declared a climate emergency and took innovative action plans including Climate Emergency Action Plan, Green Operations Plan, and Zero Waste 2040.
With about 50% of Vienna’s land area, the city was named the greenest city in the world.
Vienna is a leader in green planning, which is evidently shown in its four innovative programs: EcoProcurement Vienna, EcoBusinessPlan Vienna, the Vienna Climate Protection Programme, and Repair and Service Centres.
The city is also a pioneer in becoming a gender-neutral city. The Department for Gender Mainstreaming was developed to focus on gender-neutral urban planning, gender budgeting, education, awareness campaigns, and public safety.
The LGBTQ+ rights in Austria have significantly changed throughout the years, from allowing same-sex marriage to criminalizing hate crimes.
It is one of the most diverse and vibrant cities that celebrates Vienna Pride, the Rainbow Ball, and the Diversity Ball for the LGBTQ+ community.
For many reasons, Warsaw strives to be a city of equality by becoming the sixth Polish city to support the Charter for Equality of Women and Men in Local Life and having the University of Warsaw as the first educational institution to adopt a Gender Equality Plan.
However, the rights of the LGBT community in Poland remain limited, ranking the country 85th in the LGBTQ+ Travel Safety Index.
Despite having no protection, the LGBTQ+ residents continue to advocate their rights with the Warsaw Gay Movement and the Warsaw Pride Parade, one of the largest in Europe.
When it comes to climate protection, Warsaw has come up with its Climate protection and waste segregation plans.
It includes a sustainable tram network, Park & Ride parking system, and a bicycle system. Moreover, the country also invested in its first commercial nuclear power plant to reduce pollution.
The fight against gender inequality continues with several organizations joining for the same purpose, such as Purple Power Week, Gender Equal NZ, and the National Council of Women of New Zealand (NCWNZ).
Plus, the LGBTQ+ community in the country is widely accepted.
In fact, the country ranks 16th in the LGBTQ+ Travel Safety Index for legalizing same-sex marriage, worker protections, broad protections against discrimination, and criminalizing hate crimes.
Wellington has the highest percentage of the LGBTQ+ population, having about 6.2%.
When it comes to fighting climate change, the city encourages its residents to follow the Five Ways to Take Climate Action: Connect with what matters, advocate for change, get around with zero carbon, eat more plant-based foods, and buy better.
The residents can also volunteer in various programs and groups such as Generation Zero and Conservation Volunteers New Zealand.
Not only the city of Zürich’s Office for Gender Equality has programs for gender equality, but also educational institutions such as the University of Zürich’s Gender Equality and Diversity and ETH Zürich’s Office of Equal Opportunities and Diversity.
As early as the 20th century, Zürich has also been fighting for its LGBTQ+’s human rights.
Today, the city has a lively LGBTQ+ scene with the Zürich Pride Festival, bars, and cafes. Switzerland is 25th in the LGBTQ+ Travel Safety Index, where only civil union is legalized but has worker protections and constitutional protections against discrimination.
When it comes to environmental impact, the country is third on the Environmental Performance Index, whereas Zürich lands among the top EU cities fighting pollution.
To attain a greener future, the city strengthens its action plans to reduce cars and promote public transportation.