LGBTQ+ LONDON

The history of dedicated queer spaces in London stretches back to the 18th century (and almost certainly earlier though its near impossible to find proper records given how underground the gay scene was) and though the number of LGBTQ+ venues has been declining in recent years, due to rising rents rather than regular raids, there are several still standing strong. From bars to bookshops, these are the best LGBTQ+ venues in London.

Soho and Vauxhall have historically been hubs for queer spaces and remain so today. The Royal Vauxhall Tavern has been going for almost 160 years, having weathered raids and redevelopment threats – Paul O’Grady performed as Lily Savage there for years and Princess Di even visited in the 80s, dressed as a man with Freddie Mercury, Kenny Everett and Cleo Rocos for company. Above The Stag Bar and Theatre is another popular South London haunt known for its LGBTQ+ themed programme of exhibitions, readings, plays, musicals, cabaret and comedy.

The Kings Arms, aka London’s fave bear bar, is truly a part of LGBTQ+ history in Soho – they started off being known as a ‘gentlemen’s bar’ back in the 1970s and became officially recognised as a gay bar in 1981. Another Soho pub, the Duke of Wellington, is popular with locals thanks to its weekly DJ sets every Friday and Saturday night and regular drag shows.

A number of newer venues have opened in East London, from Jonny Woo and John Sizzle’s The Glory to the ever-popular Dalston Superstore to bookshop cafe The Common Press and sister bar Common Counter, proving that there’s still lots of life in LGBTQ+ London.

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BETHNAL GREEN WORKING MEN'S CLUB

£
42-46 Pollard Row, London E2 6NB, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday: Closed
  • Wednesday: Closed
  • Thursday: 8:00 PM – 1:00 AM
  • Friday: 8:00 PM – 2:00 AM
  • Saturday: 8:00 PM – 2:00 AM
  • Sunday: Closed

Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club has been around for decades (since 1953 to be exact) and it’s still an East End icon and fave for its drag nights, burlesque shows, karaoke, comedy, DJ sets and more. The interior is reminiscent of the club’s mid-century roots, with wood-panelled walls and checkerboard floors, while their trademark giant light-up heart takes centre stage against a backdrop of tinsel fringe curtains. In their own words, this is the place to be for a “wild and unhinged time” – what more could you want?

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GAY'S THE WORD

66 Marchmont St, London WC1N 1AB, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Tuesday: 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Thursday: 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Friday: 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Saturday: 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Sunday: 1:00 – 6:00 PM

Gay’s The Word is the oldest independent LGBT+ bookshop in the UK. It was set up as a community space (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners held their first meetings here during the strike of 84-85) and community events are still held in the store to this day. The shelves are packed with a range of books spanning fiction, non-fiction, classics, plays, poetry, history, graphic novels, queer studies and more.

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THE QUEEN ADELAIDE

483 Hackney Road, London, E2 9ED

So The George and Dragon is dead. Yes, sad times indeed. But there’s no need to lie in mourning because after a facelift and quick move a mile up the road, it has been reborn as The Queen Adelaide. Many of the best bits of the old joint – the life-size figures, the paintings, the horse’s head, the staff – have made the move over to the former strip club, meaning not too much has changed. Late licence, lots of tunes, and a crazy crowd…what’s not to like?

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COMMON COUNTER

118 Bethnal Green Rd, London E2 6DG, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday: 1:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 1:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Thursday: 1:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Friday: 1:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Saturday: 1:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Sunday: 12:00 – 10:00 PM

Glasshouse, on the corner of Brick Lane and Bethnal Green Road is home to multimedia events space The Commons, bookshop cafe The Common Press, and bar Common Counter. The bar menu features serves that reference queer figures and queer history, including the Dance of the Forty One (mezcal, vermouth, nitro cold brew, xocolatl syrup & mole bitters), inspired by the 1901 raid on a Mexico City house where a secret drag ball was being held that led to the arrest of 41 men, an incident which has now been reclaimed as a defining moment in Mexican queer culture. The bar is also be stocked with locally sourced spirits, wines from GRAFT and beers from The Queer Brewing Project, and also plays host to everything from voguing dance classes to poetry nights to book club-style discussions 

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RETRO BAR

££
2 George Ct, London WC2N 6HH, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: 4:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Tuesday: 4:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 4:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Thursday: 4:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Friday: 2:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Saturday: 2:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Sunday: 2:00 – 10:30 PM

As the name suggests, Retro Bar has total retro vibes, with vinyl banquettes, mismatched chairs, an eclectic jukebox and baby pink walls decorated with a rock n’ roll gallery and multi-coloured fairy lights. It’s been a hangout for the alternative LGBTQ+ crowd since the 90s and hosts a series of regular events, including Busy Lady Bingo with Sheila Simmonds, a pub quiz hosted by Princess Julia and DJ sets by Mike Menace and Kat Hudson.

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THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON

££
77 Wardour St, London W1D 6QB, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM
  • Tuesday: 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM
  • Wednesday: 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM
  • Thursday: 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM
  • Friday: 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM
  • Saturday: 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM
  • Sunday: 12:00 – 11:30 PM

The Duke of Wellington serves as a Soho local to the LGBTQ+ community, a classic British pub – so you know what you’re getting – that’s super friendly and welcoming. There’s definitely more of a chilled-out and casual vibe, but the Welly also has weekly DJ sets every Friday and Saturday night and regular drag shows.

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ABOVE THE STAG THEATRE & BAR

72 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7TP, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: 4:30 – 11:00 PM
  • Tuesday: 4:30 – 11:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 4:30 – 11:00 PM
  • Thursday: 4:30 – 11:00 PM
  • Friday: 4:30 PM – 1:00 AM
  • Saturday: 2:00 PM – 1:00 AM
  • Sunday: 3:00 – 11:00 PM

Above the Stag Theatre & Bar is known for its LGBTQ+ themed programme of exhibitions, readings, plays, musicals, cabaret and comedy. With their two theatres, a gallery, cafe and bar, they’re dedicated to providing a platform for queer voices and, of course, to be entertaining. Make sure to grab a drink in the bar in the renovated railway arch or on the outdoor terrace before settling in for your show.

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THE KINGS ARMS

££
23 Poland St, London W1F 8QJ, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: 12:00 – 11:30 PM
  • Tuesday: 12:00 – 11:30 PM
  • Wednesday: 12:00 – 11:30 PM
  • Thursday: 12:00 – 11:30 PM
  • Friday: 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM
  • Saturday: 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM
  • Sunday: 1:00 – 10:30 PM

The Kings Arms is truly a part of LGBTQ+ history in Soho – they started off being known as a ‘gentlemen’s bar’ back in the 1970s and became officially recognised as a gay bar in 1981. They’re affectionately known as ‘London’s favourite bear bar’, and have been running their popular Bearaoke night for 20 years. As well as that, they have a midweekly quiz night, a range of cabaret shows, Dragaoke, LGBTQIA+ open-mic night, and at weekends there are guest and resident DJs playing disco, house and electro beats.

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DALSTON SUPERSTORE

££
117 Kingsland High St, London E8 2PB, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: 5:00 PM – 12:00 AM
  • Tuesday: 5:00 PM – 1:00 AM
  • Wednesday: 5:00 PM – 2:30 AM
  • Thursday: 12:00 PM – 2:30 AM
  • Friday: 12:00 PM – 3:00 AM
  • Saturday: 11:00 AM – 3:00 AM
  • Sunday: 11:00 AM – 2:00 AM

Dalston Superstore is a multitasker – it’s a queer bar, club, gallery, cafe, performance and community space, all wrapped into one. By day, there are drag brunches, queer art exhibitions and Essential Vegan cooking up burgers and sandwiches in the kitchen. And by night, regulars like Uncontrollable Urge collective and Femme Fraiche take over as the Superstore transforms into a club/performance space, pumping out disco, electro, techno and house tunes until 4am.

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ROYAL VAUXHALL TAVERN

££
372 Kennington Ln, London SE11 5HY, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: 7:00 PM – 12:00 AM
  • Tuesday: 7:00 PM – 12:00 AM
  • Wednesday: 7:00 PM – 12:00 AM
  • Thursday: 7:00 PM – 12:00 AM
  • Friday: 6:00 PM – 4:00 AM
  • Saturday: 9:00 PM – 4:00 AM
  • Sunday: 4:00 – 11:00 PM

The Royal Vauxhall Tavern is South London’s oldest surviving LGBTQ+ venue, housed inside a 19th-century pub, that’s still loved today for its drag shows that have been held at the RVT since the end of WWII. There’s something on every night at the RVT, whether it’s cabaret shows, drag performances, or club nights, with events hosted by the likes of Duckie, Baby Lame and BeefMince.

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HEAVEN

££
9, The Arches, Villiers St, London WC2N 6NG, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: 9:30 PM – 4:00 AM
  • Tuesday: Closed
  • Wednesday: Closed
  • Thursday: 9:30 PM – 4:00 AM
  • Friday: 9:30 PM – 4:00 AM
  • Saturday: 9:30 PM – 4:00 AM
  • Sunday: Closed

Heaven landed in London in 1979 and became hugely popular on London’s gay scene, even being credited as a game-changer in terms of acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community. It’s remained a major destination ever since. It was the venue for the 1982 Nick Cave gig that’s still talked about today, where New Order played live for the first time post-Joy Division, and it’s still home to iconic shows today from the likes of Charli XCX, Caroline Polachek, The Garden and Rina Sawayama, to name a few. Plus their drag and club nights (home of the renowned G-A-Y party) have gained Heaven worldwide acclaim. But be warned, they’re known for their long queues and strict entry policies, so go equipped with a plan B.

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THE GLORY

££
281 Kingsland Rd, London E2 8AS, UK
OPENING HOURS
  • Monday: 5:00 – 11:00 PM
  • Tuesday: 5:00 PM – 12:00 AM
  • Wednesday: 5:00 PM – 12:00 AM
  • Thursday: 5:00 PM – 12:00 AM
  • Friday: 5:00 PM – 3:00 AM
  • Saturday: 5:00 PM – 3:00 AM
  • Sunday: 2:00 – 11:00 PM

Opening its doors in 2015, The Glory quickly became an East End (even city-wide) LGBTQ+ linchpin, getting a well-deserved rep for being camp incarnate and a great night out. There’s always something on at The Glory, whether it’s a drag show, cabaret, comedy, theatre or all of them at once, with notable names like Princess Julia and the bar’s co-founders John Sizzle and Jonny Woo taking to the stage, so keep an eye out for the next performance.

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QUEER BRITAIN

2 Granary Square, London N1C 4BH, UK

It took four years to find the space but Queer Britain, the nation’s first LGBTQ+ museum is open in Granary Square. It’s a fully-accessible, inclusive and free-entry space that “will be an essential place for all regardless of sexuality or gender identity, to find out about the culture they have been born into, have chosen or seek to understand.”

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