Whether you're after cool cocktail bars, old-school boozers or edgy drag venues, you're likely to find what you're looking for among London's LGBT+ bars.
Though the number of LGBT+ venues in London has seen a decline in the last decade or so, the city's gay scene isn't ailing yet – in fact, a handful of excellent new venues have opened in recent years around the city. Check out the best LGBT+ bars in London.
Get your bearings
The highest concentration of LGBT+ spaces can still be found around Old Compton Street in Soho, a former red light district that's been heavily gentrified in recent years, but remains London's gay heartland. If you've never dipped your toes into LGBT+ London, Soho should be your first port of call.
Vauxhall in south London remains a must-visit; here you’ll find three key LGBT+ venues within walking distance of one another, including the historic Royal Vauxhall Tavern. East London's LGBT+ scene is generally more fashion-conscious and gender-fluid, but this doesn't mean you won't get a friendly welcome. If you like the kind of bonkers and provocative alternative drag performances you won't see on RuPaul's Drag Race, this is the area to head to.
Central London LGBT+ bars
Comptons of Soho
This Soho stalwart tends to attract a slightly older crowd of gay guys and has a reputation for being cruisy. If you don’t fancy jostling for space in the main bar, head upstairs for a more sedate experience in the surprisingly classy lounge – it even has a chandelier.
The Friendly Society
Probably Soho’s quirkiest queer spot, this fab basement bar has Ken and Barbie dolls hanging from the ceiling and snug seating areas that are great for dates. The drinks aren’t the cheapest on the scene, but Instagram-friendly surroundings and a soundtrack of glorious disco music make up for it.
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Bright, brash and brimming with younger LGBT+ folks, G-A-Y is the place to go for cheap drinks, unapologetic pop music and an unpretentious good time. When this Old Compton Street bar closes at midnight, simply walk round the corner to G-A-Y Late in Goslett Yard, where the party keeps going until 3am.
The Apple Tree
Located in Farringdon, midway between Soho and trendy Shoreditch, The Apple Tree is one of London's newest LGBT+ venues. It calls itself "your unconventional neighbourhood pub", and lives up to this billing with high-quality drinks and a super-inclusive atmosphere that's proving popular with folks from all sections of the LGBT+ community.
Tucked away down an alley off The Strand, this cosy two-floor bar is a bit of a hidden gem. The walls are filled with pictures of queer icons including David Bowie and Beth Ditto, and the well-stocked jukebox keeps the alternative pop bangers coming until closing time at 11pm.
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The Yard Bar
This Soho bar’s main draw is its al fresco courtyard, which fills up pretty quickly on fine days. The upstairs lounge bar is a bit less characterful, but opens onto Soho’s best smoking area, so The Yard is a strong option whatever the weather.
Central London’s only dedicated lesbian venue is housed in a smart and stylish basement accessed from Old Compton Street. It stays open until 3am on weekends, and on weeknights there are regular karaoke and jukebox request nights, as well as drag king showcases. Guys are welcome, but only if they’re with a group of female friends.
East London LGBT+ bars
Located on the main drag in uber-cool Dalston, this versatile two-floor venue hosts everything from hilarious weekend drag brunches to trendy electronica-based club nights. Wherever you sit on the LGBT+ spectrum, you should feel right at home at the place locals simply call Superstore.
Though it only flung open its doors four years ago, this LGBT+ pub, performance space and dancing spot in Haggerston, near Shoreditch, already feels like the beating heart of east London’s queer community. The main bar is a cute spot for an early evening drink, and both the upstairs and downstairs spaces host a dazzling array of alternative drag shows.
The Queen Adelaide
A brisk 20-minute walk from The Glory, this pub-club in Cambridge Heath offers the quintessential queer east London experience. Expect a cool, gender-fluid crowd, a healthy sense of kitsch, and weekend discos in the basement that get sweatier and sweatier as the night goes on.
South London LGBT+ bars
Once known for its super-cruisy darkroom, this Vauxhall bar was freshened up (and cleaned up) a few years ago. It still attracts a slightly older and predominantly male crowd, except on Sundays, when it welcomes Horse Meat Disco, one of London’s most consistently cool club nights.
Royal Vauxhall Tavern
Known to locals as the RVT, south London’s oldest LGBT+ venue is an enduring marvel. Somehow both stately and shabby, it’s a place rich in history – legend has it that Princess Diana partied here with Freddie Mercury in the '80s. But thanks to brilliant regular nights such as Bar Wotever, a super-inclusive cabaret showcase, and Duckie, an indie-leaning Saturday staple, it remains a vital part of London’s queer community.
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The Cock Tavern
Located a short walk from Eagle London and the RVT, this classy pub in Kennington is definitely worth checking out. It’s closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but hosts a raucous Sunday pub quiz and gets pretty packed on Friday and Saturday nights when the small dancefloor fills up with a largely, though not exclusively, gay male crowd.
Located in Clapham, a 15-20 minute tube ride from the city centre, this traditional gay pub-club is a perennial favourite with LGBT+ Londoners who love an unpretentious party. Expect drag shows, DJs who always play Britney Spears and the Spice Girls, and the very real possibility of waking up with a hangover the next morning.
West London LGBT+ bars
Keeping the gay flame burning out west is this traditional gay pub in Ealing, a leafy suburb that’s about 25 minutes by tube from central London. West 5 has the homely feel of a cosy local, complete with a pool table and grand piano, but stays open until 3am on Friday and Saturday nights and often books RuPaul’s Drag Race stars.