We love London. Since 2017, when we moved to Denmark, we have made regular trips to the city – at least 3 times a year. We can’t get enough of the beautiful and massive city, which is why we had to write a proper gay London guide.
London is a city of contradictions – a 21st century world-class city with a history that goes back to Roman times. It’s posh and grimy on the same street and the city is massive, yet feels like it has distinct neighborhoods.
These two Yankees seem to fall in love with London every time we go back. And we do it all – the history, museums, tours, bars, clubs and pubs. We just love every side of the city, so enjoy our gay London guide and use it to plan your next trip.
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How Gay Friendly Is London?
London is frequently mentioned as one of the world’s most gay-friendly cities in the world. It’s one of the largest and most international cities on the planet, so you don’t really need a guide to reach that conclusion. Still, the data proves that London is home to one of the largest LGBT communities and public acceptance of LGBT equality is higher than average in Europe
London’s LGBT community is visible and diverse. Not only is every letter of the community visible and thriving in London, but there are many spaces carved out for diversity among the those identifiers. London is a great place to be LGBT and a perfect destination for LGBT travelers looking for a safe destination to travel openly and with pride.
London Gay Area Guide
London’s gay scene is hardly confined to one geographic area of the city. Still, the historic gay area of London is known as Soho and it’s located in Central London’s busy West End. The SoHo neighborhood in New York City stands for South of Houston Street, but in London the origin is different. The area was a royal hunting ground during the Tudor period and Soho was a popular hunting cry. It became a nickname for the area and stuck, although the hunting has changed a bit.
Over the years, Soho was the red-light district of London. Like many cities around the world, it was an area where city officials and residents turned a blind eye. Gay places cropped up to form an underground community in the shadows of the red-light district.
Today, the tube is the only thing underground in Soho and the gay community is visible and thriving. Theaters, boutiques and posh restaurants occupy Soho between the gay pubs, clubs and bars. There are so many things to do in Soho, you’ll love hanging out in this part of London.
The red-lights have been replaced with rainbow flags and Soho is the place to be in gay London.
Soho is an eclectic and multicultural neighborhood full of writers, artists, intellectuals and at night – party-goers. There’s a palpable energy any time of day in Soho. Old Compton, Frith, Bean and Dean streets are the epicenter of this vibrant slice Central London.
You don’t have to worry any more than normal about crime in Soho. Any area of Central London will be safe at all times of the day, and the same is true of Soho. Despite it’s previous reputation for being a seedy part of town, the area is well traveled and crime is low in Soho.
As an entertainment district of London, you will find that Soho is an expensive area for travelers and locals. Expect to pay a premium in any place to eat, drink, stay or see a show. That’s Central London baby, consider it the fun tax.
The Alternative Gay Scene in East London
East London has an outcrop of gay London nightlife that’s a little more edgy but always cool, hip and alternative. East London has always had a reputation for being the epicenter of alternative culture. It’s no surprise that the gay scene there reflects the legacy of East London.
The trendy and the underground collide and coexist in the bars and pubs in gay East London. You’ll find all types of entertainment from drag to discos. It’s a nice change of pace from Soho, which caters to cis gay men.
The only downside of East London’s gay scene is that it isn’t neatly gathered in a three block section. In East London, the gay venues are spread out quite a bit, so bar hopping is tough and when the tube stops getting home can be a challenge.
The Guide To Find a Gay Hotel in London
Derek’s first job in Denmark involved building relationships with restaurants and hotels in Copenhagen and Central London. He spent months working with concierges in Soho and visiting hotels all over central London. Here are his recommendations on where to stay for a gay weekend in London.
Tips on Where to Stay For a Gay Trip to London
- If you want to experience the gay nightlife as well as London attractions and sightseeing, you have to stay in Central London.
- Look for accommodations near the tube – London has an excellent public transportation system and you can easily get around the city using it.
- Book your hotel or short-term rental EARLY. You’ll have the most selection and best prices – London hotels fill up fast all year long. You’ll pay a hefty price if you don’t book early.
- You will pay less for your lodging if you book a place outside of Soho or the entertainment district, but you’ll spend extra money and time on transportation.
- Consider booking with Misterbnb, you usally find better rates than Airbnb and it’s a great way to meet a local who can guide you through gay London.
Catch All The Action: Stay in Soho
Our philosophy for finding a hotel in London or any city is book a hotel in the area where you’ll be ending your night. In the case of London, that’s Soho.
We do this because when you wake up and have the most energy to find brunch and go touring – you don’t mind a cab or public transportation. At the end of the night when you’ve been at it all day and having a few drinks – you want to stumble home.
Here are some hotels in Soho that will give you short end of night stumble.
Recommended Hotels in Soho
Be Soho Adjacent: Stay in Covent Garden
If you want to stay in the thick of the sightseeing excitement of London, Covent Garden is perfect. It’s still a posh neighborhood that’s steps away from Leicester Square and Soho. In Covent Garden you’ll find excellent restaurants, cute boutiques and often street performers.
It’s a great location to launch yourself to London attractions while staying close to cafes, restaurants and the nightlife of Soho. We love this neighborhood and it was perfect for a group trip we recently took.
Recommended Hotels in Soho
Where to Eat in Gay London: Guide to Restaurants and Cafes
The food scene in London is great, there are options for every sort of cuisine and taste. In this case though, we’ll focus on the gay-owned, gay-friendly and gay-favorites in and around Soho. After all, it’s a gay guide to London.
Balans Soho Society, Soho
60-62 Old Compton Street, London
This modern British restaurant is where you to see and be seen in Soho. It’s a fixture in gay London and they serve up great food all day and night. That said, if you’re going on a weekend during the dinner hours we highly recommend making a reservation. Since they’re open until 6am, you can also check them out after a night out.
Balans is known for a welcoming vibe, good food, great cocktails and cute staff. There are several other Balans location around London, but the Soho location is the most gay.
117 Kingsland High Street, London
This one is in East London, a bit out of Soho, but it had to go on the list. It’s a 35 minute ride on the tube, but worth the trip our of the West End – we promise!
Head to Dalston on Saturday or Sunday for drag brunch until 4pm or visit the bar in the evenings for dinner. You may even decide to stay all night or come back and enjoy the dance floor. The crowd is mixed
43 Frith Street, London
Caffe Nero is open almost 24 hours a day, because you never know when you’re going to need a cup of Joe or a boy named Joey. It’s got a great vibe, a dedication to sustainability and even decent coffee. Caffe Nero is a great place for people watching, a sober alternative as a gay Soho hangout and it’s just cute. It’s been a Soho staple for over 20 years without feeling dated.
Guide to Gay Bars in London
Gay Bars in Soho
If you are young, or want to feel young, this is the spot for you. G-A-Y is cheap, fun, and one of the most popular gay bars in London. Derek’s sister spends all of her time here when she’s in London. Dancing starts early here, so this is a good place to start as you hop through Soho. Most Londoners over twink age loath G-A-Y, but it is a fun spot to check out.
Our favorite bar in Soho, mostly because it is four bars in one. On the ground floor you can find one room with go-go boys dancing, and another with a classic bar. Upstairs is a quiet seating area perfect for a chat. And downstairs is more of a club atmosphere. One of the oldest spots in Soho, but always a good time.
A great bar in the middle of Soho. They serve food during the day, and have fun parties at night. Typically popular enough that people spill into the street.
One of our favorite stops, Derek even took his boss there for a drink after they closed their first London account. The Yard offers good cocktails, a heated courtyard, and some places to sit. Upstairs is a bumping club, but we enjoy coming here on a nice night to relax under the lovely plants in the open yard. It can be smokey in the outdoor area, but it’s not overwhelming.
The Admiral Duncan
Always one of our first stops in Soho. The crowd here is always friendly and mixed, and they have weekly drag and karaoke events. Admiral Duncan was also the site of a fatal nail bomb attack in 1999, so pay a visit here to help show that we are loud and proud!
Duke of Wellington
The one Soho gay bar that feels like a proper pub, The Duke of Wellington is another of our favorites. Downstairs has plenty of tv’s to track sports on the weekend, and upstairs has a posh seating area perfect for a couple or a group looking for a nice chat.
Not to be confused with KU Club (directly attached) or Little KU (just a three-minute walk onto Old Compton Street). KU Bar is a lovely bar with good cocktails. Great stop for some after-dinner drinks or a classy drink on a quieter night out.
With a relaxed vibe in between the sophisticated cocktails of KU Bar and the thumping bass of KU Club, Little KU is a great stop for a drink along Old Compton Street.
This one is for the ladies, so we can’t vouch for She Soho. But it has a reputation as an intimate venue with good drink specials and fun entertainment. We like to walk by, look at each other will an eye roll and say ”ohhhh, she Soho…”
Cosy underground bar that tends to cater to locals. Friendly Society tries to go for a classic vibe, with disco and gay standards on the stereo and gay icons like Judy Garland on the projector.
Gay Bars in East London
This is the place for alternative drag shows, up-and-coming DJ’s, and disco brunches. Dalston Superstore tends to be the club you start at, as you can catch a fun drag show upstairs, hit the club downstairs, and then head onto your next stop. It can get packed, so best to come early and then move on once it becomes impossible to get to the bar.
The Karoke Hole
K Hole – get it? It’s a drug reference. This gem of a basement karaoke bar is a branch of the Dalston Superstore with the same delightfully tacky ambiance. You can expect the finest London drag performers to keep the party going by singing all the best karaoke hits. They open at 7pm Thursday through Saturday and you can reserve a table or circle like vultures until someone leaves.
The White Swan
The White Swan is a long-standing East London bar and club with a neon-lit basement and entertainment. You can expect guest DJs and even drag performers on the weekends and everything from game nights and dueling pianos other nights. One thing you can guarantee is a unique night out and a good time.
It’s not just a hole in the wall. Glory is a super cool pub-club in East London and a great late-night disco in the basement. Expect a fun and diverse crowd with a lively staff. As an event space, you can anticipate entertainers on the weekend and a good time in the alternative gay scene of East London.
The Old Ship
The Old Ship is a gay cabaret bar in the East End, and although the neighborhood is a little quiet – this pub is not. It’s got a pool room, garden, cold beer on tap and drag entertainment. It’s a bit of a hidden gem and someone told us that Ian McKellen drinks there, but don’t be mad at us he’s not there when you go.
The Queen Adelaide
Queen Adelaide is a perfect dive that’s a refurbished lap dance bar serving cold draft beer with warm welcoming vibes. This funky, East London bar also has great cocktails and kitschy decor that make it a unique stop in London’s gay East End.
Usually a bar named the Eagle makes you think of older guys sitting at a bar with a Tom of Finland decor. But the Eagle London is recently renovated and trying to make it as a younger, more-modern locale. It still retains its vintage vibe, with pool tables and an outdoor smoking area.
Royal Vauxhall Tavern
Princess Diana was once smuggled into the Royal Vauxhall Tavern by Freddie Mercury. That is some history! It is a decent pub by day, but is best known for live shows at night. Definitely worth a visit to feel the history or stay for a fun show and the royal connection. Vauxhall Tavern just couldn’t be kept off of our Gay London Guide.
Gay London Guide to Cruising Bars
London only has a few regular cruise clubs, but there are a number of cruising or theme parties at some of the standard clubs in town. Be sure to check the calendar for parties during your stay. Otherwise there are a few cruising clubs, but you will be required to pay for a membership at the door. Don’t say our Gay London guide didn’t warn you.
Cruise bar with different themes through the week. Can be quite popular even on weeknights – check the website for the theme of the day. No shower facilities on site.
A pure leather/fetish club that strictly enforces its dress code. Leather and rubber are a requirement, and they often host special events on weekends.
Guide to Gay Clubs in London
Once a roller disco, today Heaven is one of the largest clubs in central London. The main room can hold 2,000 people and plays a great mix of modern and throwback tracks. It is open late (4am) so this is the place to focus your night if you want to go clubbing.
Located in Dalston, this is your place for fashion and style that will blow your mind. VFD hosts drag shows on many nights, but this is more than just a guy in a dress. They are known for high fashion and artsy drag, and the crowd tends to follow the creative vibe. Definitely a fun stop, but be sure to bring your a-game!
Just outside of Soho near Leicester Square, KU Club it one of the top gay clubs in London. The bar staff is sexy, the crowd is here for a good time, and the venue is well kept. On the weekends expect a line out the door to get in, so try to arrive early or be prepared to wait.
Guide to Gay Saunas in London
Chariots in Vauxhall
Huge sauna with two steam rooms, two sauna, tons of private cabins, and possibly too much space. Especially busy after 3/4am after the nearby Vauxhall clubs close.
Locker Room in Kennington
Clean, modern and relatively small, this tends to be home for a little rougher play. Has a large sauna and a large steam room, plus several dark rooms.
Pleasuredome in Waterloo
Located conveniently near Waterloo station, so busy both on weekends and weeknights. Pleasuredrome offers a huge spa for more than 20 guys, plus several steam rooms, saunas, and cabins. The 24-hour bar means that Pleasuredrome tends to be social as well as sexual.
Sailor's Sauna in East London
Located near BJ’s White Swan, so tends to get spillover crowd once the club closes. Smaller than some of the other venues, but has a large steam room, sauna, and rooftop terrace.
Aptly named, sweatbox is also a smaller venue. It is, however, conveniently located near Soho. It also has a full gym and massage services.
Guide to Gay Events in London
Typically held in late June or early July, London Pride is the biggest gay event in the UK. Festivities are centered around the West End. The parade typically ends at Trafalger Square, but stages and parties are setup through Leicester Square and Soho. Over a million people join in Pride every year, so you can find a great party all around. London Pride is always one of the bigger pride parties in Europe, with over a million people joining in each year.
Our Favorite Things to Do in London
London isn’t ALL getting drunk and stumbling around Soho – but it should be.
For those of you, like us, are giant homosexual history nerd and want to geek out on some tourist sites – here are our favorite things to do in Lodon.
Tower of London
The Tower of London is filled with history, with its deep origins in Roman times and the current fortress dating back to the Norman conquest in the 11th century. Here you will find the famous Beefeaters (in the flesh, not just on a gin bottle) guarding the castle, though they serve as tour guides more than soldiers. But the key attraction for any proper queen is to see the crown jewels. The treasury displays an exquisite collection of royal regalia, with the centerpiece being the crowns worn by the monarch.
Churchill's War Rooms
A must-see for any history buff, Churchill’s War Rooms will take you back to 1945 and the waning days of World War II. This is the secret bunker where the Churchill and the British Government commanded the war effort. It has been restored and maintained in the same state it would have been in the late days of the war. The museum also gives a good history to Churchill himself. Be sure to book well in advance, as space is limited and walk-up tickets are nearly impossible.
See a Show in The West End
There’s nothing more gay London than going to see a musical in London’s famous West End. And hey, there’s more than one way to be around a bunch of attractive gay guys – especially if you’re paying money for it.
The experience is fantastic! First, the theater scene in London is the best in the world. You will be entertained from the moment the curtain rises until you leave the theater. Beyond that, the theaters themselves are gorgeous and ornate. They’re often historic and the ambiance inside of them adds to the production of the show.
While you’re planning your night at the theater, consider dining out beforehand. Most restaurants around Soho and the West end offer price fixed theater menus. They usually give you a great meal at a bargain and get you sat, fed and out the door in time for the show!
London Hop On Hop Off Tour
We have done hop-on/hop-off tours in several cities, and truthfully the London tours are the best we have had. This is one of the few cities that offer live tour guides instead of a pre-recorded tour. And given the expanse of the city, it is a good way to see a number of attractions without having to navigate the tube or taxis. We highly recommend taking a tour that includes a boat trip on the Thames, which gives a great perspective of the city from the water.
Browse availability and rates of these great activities and others on GetYourGuide.
Instant ticketing confirmation, cancel up to 24 hours before your activity and get your tickets sent right to your mobile device!
Tips to Plan Your Trip to London
London is fantastic, but it can be an intimidating destination your first time visiting. Here are tips to help you along as you plan your trip. Also check out our page on United Kingdom travel for more trip ideas and things to know before you travel to the UK.
Getting to London
London is fantastic, and it’s often cheap to fly to. Part of that reason is because there are so many airport servicing London. The downside – it’s a pain in the @$$ to get to Central London from all of the airports. If you’re flying from Europe, cheap flights on RyanAir, EasyJet and other discount airlines makes up for the inconvenience.
Search for discount flights using SkyScanner. Derek used them every time he flew to London for work and we use SkyScanner today for pretty much every flight we book.
World Nomads is our go-to source for travel insurance. We don’t mean to nag – but it’s important to travel with insurance, and for the small cost you pay, it’s worth the peace of mind. Emergencies come up all the time and if you wind up getting sick or having to change your travel plans for an emergency it’s crucial to be covered.
When we book excursions, tours, museums or attractions we always use GetYourGuide. The reasons why are simple: online booking, immediate confirmation, receiving tickets online through electronic vouchers and skipping the lines.
The tours above are all available through GYG, and you can search all their activities in London HERE.
You can always search for a property on Airbnb or try out Misterbnb – the gay version of Airbnb.
We like Misterbnb because we know we’ll have a gay or gay-friendly host that can give us good advice on the city we’re exploring.
In London and all of the United Kingdom, you are expected to tip. The tipping culture applies to a small tip for your hotel bellhop to at least 10% for service in a restaurant and a small tip for bartenders.
The Best Time of Year to Visit London
London is great all year round, but expect shorter days and cold weather from October through early April and larger crowds in the summer months. We love to visit in the shoulder seasons. The UK and Europe are just amazing destinations for the Spring and Fall travel. Check out our post on the best places to visit in Europe in October.
If you’re visiting London from outside of the EU or UK, you can get unlimited WiFi right from your pocket. For up to two weeks, you can enjoy a portable WiFi rental service. CLICK HERE for the details.
Now You Know Everything About Gay London
We hope you enjoyed our gay London guide. London is one of the best cities in the world and full of treasures and hidden gems. Hopefully you feel set up to plan an amazing gay trip to London.
Let us know what you think of gay London below!