Though often overshadowed by Barcelona, the Spanish capital is one of Europe’s most exciting gay destinations in the world. By day, Madrid is a city of extravagant palaces, majestic plazas and stately parks; by night, Los Gatos (the cats), as the city’s inhabitants are nicknamed, prowl the historic avenues until the early hours indulging their passion for decadent nightlife. There is more than a grain of truth in tales of Madrileños heading straight from a late-night club to the office, so don’t be surprised if that guard watching over the treasures of Velázquez, Goya and El Greco in the Prado Museum looks a bit bleary-eyed. In 2004, gay madrileños led the charge for a victorious campaign to lift a ban on same-sex marriage, making Spain the third European nation to do so. Today, from bear bars to drag shows, multi-level discos and girl clubs, Chueca is a veritable queer smorgasbord. The vibe here is loud and boisterous at night when the droves of bar hopping Spaniards pour onto the cobblestone streets.