Still traditionally conservative and catholic, Portugal nevertheless has some growing gay scenes. In Lisbon, Porto and on the Algarve particularly there's an increasing openness and acceptance. Outside of these three areas though homosexuality is still perceived as outside of the norm.
Portugal has a way to go then! Lisbon has the best of the gay scene around the lively Bairro Alto district, which also has the best nightlife and shops in Lisbon. Also on the up and up is both Porto and Leiria, and checkout bohemian hotspot Lagos on the West Algarve coast - superb beaches, nightlife and surfing and backpacker scene here.
Next to Lisbon Porto has the most vibrant gay and lesbian scene in Portugal. An annual Pride Festival, "Porto Pride", is held in July with various events associated with the march through the city throughout the day and night. There are several specifically gay friendly bars and restaurants all over the city as well as saunas, clothing shops and hairdressers. More information is available from the "Porto Gay & Lesbian Guide" leaflet from Tourist Information Centres or from the PortugalGay.pt website (there's more information on the Portuguese version but there is an English version too).
The daytime gay scene tends to centre around arty Praca Carlos Alberto. At night Boys R Us, Moinho de Vento, Bar Him and Swing are core bars and clubs on the burgeoning Porto gay scene.
The hub of the Lisbon gay scene is here in the Bairro Alto between striking Rossio station and the Poly in the Bairro Rato to the South. Keep checking the Lisbon & Portugal Gay Pride weblink right for details on Lisbon's GayPride event in late June annually. Lisbon hosts one of three Gay Pride events across Portugal - the other two are in Leiria and Porto.
One of the best Elevators in Lisbon is here in the Bairro Alto district - Elevador da Gloria, open from Mondays to Saturdays from 7am to midnight, and Sundays 8am to midnight. This marvellous piece of funicular engineering dates from 1885 and whisks you up high to the Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara and gardens. A Lisbon elevator trip not to be missed!
Only in the Bairro Alto will you find top quirky designer clothes shops like Agencia Fake on Rua do Norte. This one sells clothes and shoes by day, then come night it turns into a bar. Lisbon's top designer, Fatima Lopes has a shop on Rua da Atalaia in this chic Lisbon District.
Top Gay Bars in Lisbon include Bar Agua No Bico and Bar 106 both on Rua de Sao Marcal and Bric-a-Bar on Rua Cecilio de Sousa. For popular gay clubs in Lisbon head to Finalmente on Rua da Palmeira 38, Trumps on Rua da Imprensa Nacional 1048 and Memorial on Rua Gustavo de Matos Sequeira.
Being cosmopolitan and studenty there is a strong human rights scene in Coimbra that encompasses awareness raising and support for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues in Coimbra - almost unheard of outside of Porto and Lisbon.
The Nao Te Prives organisation hosts a variety of events throughout the year and around the annual Pride festival in Coimbra itself and in the Coimbra region although a full blown parade has not yet taken place.
Galeria-Bar Santa Clara, Coimbra seems to be the usual venue for such events but there is as yet little information on gay friendly hotels, bars, etc in Coimbra itself.