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“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life,” goes the saying. If you live in London, you’re probably tired of hearing that, but the city really is a thriving metropolis on the world stage. And with London’s thriving queer scene — one of the most lively in Europe — it’s a must-visit destination for any LGBT world traveler.
We should note that the city’s ‘night tube’ means it’s now even easier to get around after dark without forking over lots of money on cabs. That also means it’s not uncommon to hit up multiple parties around the city in one night out.
Below we take a look at four neighborhoods ripe for a night out in gay London:
Long gone are the days of clubs like Ghetto, G-A-Y at Astoria, Shadow Lounge and Lo-Profile. The former crown of the gay scene isn’t what it used to be, but there’s a vibrant pub and bar scene centered around Old Compton Street, still an awesome spot for watching the world go by. Grab a cheap coffee at Cafe Nero then sit outside, or get brunch at the fabulously gay Balans, which also comes alive (and stays alive) till the small hours.
You’ll find bears, blokes, beers and beats at the pubs Comptons and Duke of Wellington, affectionately known as ‘The Welly.’ For handsome chaps in suits and some good 2-for-1 cocktails, head around the corner to Rupert Street and The Yard, the latter of which has a funky balcony and nice outdoor seating area (if it’s dry).
Pro Tip: If it’s a nice day, head to Soho Square for a picnic. There’s a small Tesco supermarket around the corner for nibbles and bubbles.
A few years ago, it wouldn’t be unheard of to go out in Vauxhall on a Friday evening after work and still be there Monday morning.
While that’s not really the case anymore, there’s still plenty going on to tickle your fancy. The Royal Vauxhall Tavern (The RVT) has been a part of London’s gay community since at least the 1880s. A unique mixture of pub, club and cabaret venue, RVT has an incredibly varied program. Check out queer cabaret on Tuesdays (Bar Woteva) or hedonistic mayhem on Saturdays (Duckie).
Sundays can be awesome, too, especially in the summer when every man and his dog sit on the ‘grassy knolls’ of Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, just behind the RVT.
Sunday nights are perhaps your best bet for a trip to Vauxhall, with legendary Horse Meat Disco at The Eagle bringing disco and house realness to a very meaty table of bears, club kids and all their friends.
Orange at super-club Fire is where to go after. It’s hosted by the fabulous Glendora, who mysteriously seems to gets younger every year. You’ll probably end up pulling a sickie while gurning in the smoking area at 6 a.m.
And don’t forget the new Bloc South, an awesome clubbing space that has indie, sportswear fetish and men-only nights, to name but a few.
At the time of publication, East London’s Dalston was the best strip of London for gay partying. Stretching from Shoreditch in the south, it’s pretty much a long straight road of fun northwards all the way up to Stoke Newington. It’s a rather mixed scene, with everyone under the LGBTQ umbrella shaking their thing.
Highlights have got to be Jonny Woo and John Sizzle’s fabulous queer hub The Glory. From epic lip sync competitions to live music, drag and a lot more drag, you’re unlikely to have a dud night here whatever day of the week you turn up.
Dalston Superstore is another gay party haven, with a fun, hedonistic bar upstairs and a darker dance floor downstairs. The meat parties here are legendary, and the smoking area is rammed to the brink with happy homos — a great place to make new mates, mate.
Blink and you’ll miss VFD (still known as Vogue Fabrics to local lads) on 66 Stoke Newington Road (so don’t blink). This sweaty basement — we say that in the nicest possible way — has still got its underground party vibe, cheapish drinks and some of the best fun in town. Watch out for drag-sational Sunday Fundays.
A stone’s throw from Vauxhall is the quintessentially queer Clapham, with its uber-gay gym Soho Gyms. (It’s a bit like Fire in Vauxhall, but with the lights on.)
Sadly Kazbar shut its doors recently, so now all the main action takes place in 2 Brewers, a vast pub/club combo that’s rammed to the rafters most Fridays and Saturdays, with old-school drag and cabaret on Sundays.
Another Pro-Tip: The huge green space of Clapham Common is awesome in the summer.
Featured image by Nicola Ferrari via iStock