For hundreds of years, members of the LGBT community have been venturing to London to find refuge from discrimination in their home villages, cities or countries. But in the last 20 years, the LGBT community has become even more prevalent in London, with gay bars and clubs slowing moving from London’s basements and back alleys, to main streets and tourist areas.
Not only that, in recent years some of the most famous LGBT events in the world have been held in an around London, such as the annual Gay Pride Parade, the Winter Pride Art Awards, and the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival; (just to name a few).
If you’re hoping to attend one of London’s many LGBT-related events, or even if you want to check out some of London’s many happening gay and lesbian-friendly clubs, bars and venues, here are the best neighbourhoods in London known for their LGBT-friendly vibes:
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the epicentre of London’s gay community is in Soho. As a matter of fact, London’s West End has been known for its thriving gay culture for hundreds of years, especially around Covent Garden and Piccadilly Circus. But Soho’s gay community can be traced all the way back to the 1890s, and there were even records of gay-friendly cafes in the 1920s and 1930s as well. Today, Soho is home to countless gay bars and clubs, cafes and sex shops, and even home to the London LGBT Tourist Office. Old Compton Street in particular has a ton of different gay and lesbian restaurants, cafes and clubs, and the Admiral Duncan at 54 Old Compton Street even displays a plaque in honour of those who lost their lives in the 1999 homophobic bomb blast in London. LGBT-friendly places to visit in Soho: G-A-Y, Candy Bar, The Friendly Society, The Admiral Duncan Shadow Lounge, Edge, Ku Bar, She Soho
Vauxhall is considered to be the second most popular gay-friendly area in London (behind Soho, of course), and originally became a gay destination in London during the 1660s after the opening of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. Vauxhall was also a popular destination for the LGBT community during the 1950s as it was famous for many cabaret and drag acts, and The Royal Vauxhall Tavern has been welcoming members of the gay community since the Second World War.
Many clubs and venues in Vauxhall host fetish and special interest nights (with the Hidden and the Hoist being the most popular), and there’s also gay-friendly cocktail bars and pubs, as well as a male-only gym.LGBT-friendly places to visit in Vauxhall: The Royal Vauxhall Tavern, Pleasure Gardens, Barcode, Chariots Fire, Hidden and The Hoist, Chariots and Locker Room, Crash
Given that Camden is the epicentre of London’s alternative scene, the gay community has been venturing to Camden’s welcoming streets for many decades. The Black Cab was a popular LGBT-friendly pub in London for many years (although it closed last year), and was considered a “key gay community venue” since as far back as the 1960s.
Today, there are thousands of members of the LGBT community living, working and studying in Camden, and the neighbourhood is also home to many LGBT organizations like the Camden Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Forum, and Age UK Camden Opening Doors London (which offers telephone advice as well as monthly walks).LGBT-friendly places to visit in Camden: Electric Ballroom, Bloc Bar, Proud, Central Station, G.A.Y. Late, Friendly Society, The Black Cap
Although Stoke Newington or “Stokey” is home to several gay clubs and bars, it’s also a popular residential neighbourhood for members of the LGBT community as well. As a matter of fact, one of the schools in Stoke Newington was the first to include LGBT History month into its curriculum, which made the area even more popular among gay families.
The gay nightlife scene in Stoke Newington is mostly centered around Blush (one of the most popular lesbian-friendly clubs in London), but there are also a variety of alternative venues like WANC Cafe (Women’s Anarchist Nuisance Cafe), as well as Tonic’s karaoke and drag show events.LGBT-friendly places to visit in Stoke Newington: Blush, Tonic, WANC Cafe (Women’s Anarchist Nuisance Cafe), Church Street
This North London neighbourhood has the highest number of same sex couples of the UK, and also offers a ton of different gay bars and clubs (especially among Essex Road and Upper Street).
During the 1970s, Islington was a popular destination to members of the LGBT community in London because of the Prince Albert (a legendary gay bar and “political activism haven”), and today there are a ton of male-only clubs and bars, as well as some lesbian-friendly bars and events as well (such as Y Bar on Thursday nights).LGBT-friendly places to visit in Islington: Central Station, Eastbloc, Y Bar, Scala, Fabric, anywhere along Upper Street and Essex Road
Believe it or not, Clapham has become known for its thriving, vibrant gay scene, and some people believe that the best gay bars in London are located in this happening London neighbourhood.
The Two Brewers is known to host some spectacular drag cabaret events, and the funky disco bar known as the Kazbar is a popular hangout among the gay community as well. The two bars also help promote the popular annual Clapham Street Party, which draws in party-goers from all walks of life.
Not only that, the 2007 film Clapham Junction (which was inspired by the murder of Jody Dobrowki in 2005), depicts the experiences of a group of gay men in Clapham. The film was broadcasted on Channel 4 to mark the 40th anniversary of decriminalization of homosexuality in England and Wales.LGBT-friendly places to visit in Clapham: The Two Brewers, Kazbar, The Sun, Bridge
Not only is Hampstead home to one of the oldest gay bars in London (William IV), it has also been a popular gay destination for many years (mainly thanks to the Hampstead Heath bathing ponds, which are still used today).
The Hampstead Heath ponds have become known as “the world’s number one cruising ground,” and many members of the gay community would venture here for hook-ups without fear of discrimination. The ponds, which include the Ladies’ Pond, the Men’s Pond and the Mixed Pond, offer a sheltered concrete sundeck (which is ideal for nude sunbathing), and for many years police and local authorities “turned a blind eye” to the activities that went on in its secluded lakes and woodlands.LGBT-friendly places to visit in Hampstead: William IV, Hampstead Heath Ponds