21 best gay bars London: From Vauxhall to Soho

Looking for the best gay bar in London? It’s bound to be one of these 21 London gay bars we’ve listed.

Drinkers have long bemoaned the loss of the capital’s LGBTQ+ drinking establishments, but a raft of new openings mean things are looking up for London’s queer drinkers. Besides, we really are a nation of moaners anyway – there’s tonnes of great spots to party in the capital….

In terms of new openings, Circa, from the people who run the Soho club of the same name, will open a new bar and club on the Embankment later in 2018, with room for 750 partygoers only a few minutes’ walk from triumphant gay club, Heaven.

And Sedition has just thrown open its doors on the site of the former East Bloc.

Here are the best of London gay bars – both classic and contemporary – that are already alive and kicking.

The Historical One: Royal Vauxhall Tavern

Empty gay bar in London

Vauxhall, London gay bar. Of course, it looks a lot livelier than this on a night out.

Princess Diana was once smuggled into this London gay bar, disguised as a man by none other than Freddie Mercury. Decades on, the bar is still a highlight of the Vauxhall gay scene, and a particular favourite for live theatre, pantomime and drag shows.

The flexible space feels more like a pub during the day, but a whopping sound system and a quick sweep of the chairs and tables makes way for pumping nighttime raves, or try the Sunday daytime party for a more sophisticated clubbing experience.

Visit the Royal Vauxhall Tavern

The Renovated One: Eagle London

Dance floor in a London gay bar.

This Vauxhall joint used to have a sex license, but that’s all in the past, due to a trendy new refurbishment. A new sleek and modernised fit has invited a younger, party-going crowd in.

Although the area’s older gay men still frequent the horseshoe bar.

Visit Eagle London

The Alternative One: Dalston Superstore

Gay bar in Dalston, London

Dalston is London’s alternative nightlife district, and the cherry atop its nightlife cake is no doubt Dalston Superstore.

Live drag shows are an almost nightly occurrence in the upstairs bar, and on weekends the club downstairs suits dancers keen on partying until 2 or 3 and then getting a (relatively speaking) early night (DS closes at 3am).

Often a pit stop on the way to larger clubs or club nights, Dalston Superstore gets rammed at peak times at weekends when getting to the bar is its own unique challenge.

Visit Dalston Superstore

The Brand New One: Sedition

East Bloc, Old Street London gay bar

Sedition, gay bar in London

Formerly known as East Bloc, Old Street’s shoebox-sized late-night venue has reopened as Sedition.

Still proudly boasting its 6am license, Sedition, which opened in March 2018, hosts eclectic nights of house, disco and techno music.

London scene queen Princess Julia has become a relatively stable resident of the venue’s second room.

Visit Sedition

The Soho Classic: Admiral Duncan

Men and drag queen standing outside the Admiral Duncan London gay bar

Outside the Admiral Duncan gay bar

Tragically the site of the only fatal attack against the LGBTQ+ community in the UK, the Admiral Duncan has stood the test of time as a loud and proud Soho establishment.

A neo-Nazi set off a nail bomb which killed three people and wounded 70 in 1999.

Admiral Duncan has been trading since the 1830s though and undeterred, carries on being a Soho siren. A friendly and mixed crowd attend weekly drag events.

Visit Admiral Duncan

The Mainstream One: Heaven

Heaven, gay night club

Nearly 2,000 partygoers fit snugly into this subterranean party spot by Embankment station, which has one of the most positive, uplifting and youthful vibes of all London’s gay clubs.

Commercial and throwback pop tunes are the order of the day in the cavernous main room, and during the week live bands from the LGBTQ+ scene and further afield gig here too.

There are a number of offshoot rooms with dance and hip hop DJs, and a 4 am license which is pretty late for such a central London spot.

Visit Heaven

The Hipster Favourite: VFD

VFD logo

The night that famously began as Vogue Fabrics has transitioned into VFD.

Now more of a multi-disciplinary arts space than plain club, VFD’s window exhibitions promote local artist’s work, alongside visual art galleries and queer events that run late into the night for “sweaty dancing”, says their website.

Related: New London gay club to open in bid to remedy ‘slow decline’ of capital’s LGBTQ+ venues

Visit VFD

The One That’s Always Open: Union

The Union Club

The Union Club say on their website they are “the only club in Vauxhall – and possibly London – where you can party every night of the week and well into the following morning.”

In fact, the club is known to have the longest opening hours in London.

Union frequently stays open until 11am in the morning and features eclectic line-ups from the dance music scene, and attracts largely attracts gay men, along with house and techno music fans.

Visit Union

The Techno One: Fire

night club

The most famous and high energy of the London gay clubs is surely Fire.

Built into the Vauxhall railway arches, Fire hosts the best names from the house and tech scene from all over the world.

Three distinct rooms host different DJs, and parties frequently begin at 2 or 3 in the morning, and run until the middle of the next day. The crowd is largely gay men, and can get quite X-rated depending on the party you choose…

Visit Fire

The New One: Bloc South

Bloc South sign, men only gay bar club

London’s newest club, Bloc South is a men only party and is home to famous Bloc nights BRÜT, Fitladz, JOXXX, Man Up, Hard On and RUT which are largely catering to cruising gay men.

There is an interconnected cruising bar called The Bloc, open Monday to Thursday nights.

The club is the latest venture from Wayne Shires, who also runs Bloc in Camden and formerly East Bloc in Dalston, but by opening in Vauxhall, Shires is hoping to relaunch the area as London’s original “gay village”.

Related: The Russian vodka boycott is an example of passive gay activism

Visit Bloc South

The Youthful One: G-A-Y Bar

Old Compton Street is the central vein running through London’s central gay district of Soho.

The most popular London gay bar on the road is G-A-Y Bar, a right-of-passage of young gay men and those on their way out clubbing at Heaven or G-A-Y Late, a similar bar around the corner which is open until 3am.

It’s known for being super cheap – most drinks at £2 on weeknights – and for its upbeat playlist of modern pop and early-ish dancing from around 6 or 7pm.

Visit G-A-Y Bar

The Beautiful One: Yard

The Yard bar, gay bar in London

Yard, down a cobblestone side street in Soho’s heart, has a distinctly carnivalesque vibe, with a semi-covered outdoors dance floor and indoors bar. (Yes, in the heart of blustery central London).

There’s a more intense upstairs club for dancing later into the night, but Yard best suits well-made cocktails after work, to be sunk under twinkling nightlights draped over flora and fauna.

It’s decadent and refined until the sun goes down – then expect a sea of dancers.

Visit The Yard

The One For Girls: She Soho

London lesbian gay Soho

Soho’s female-only venue is also found on raucous Old Compton Street.

The intimate subterranean venue has a modern, minimal look, with a blue light wash.

A roster of events includes burlesque nights, drag kings, live DJs and karaoke.

Visit She Soho

The Themed One: Retro Bar

Retro signs

In one of the alleyways near Heaven nightclub on the Strand lies Retro Bar.

The bar has iconic cultural memorabilia on the walls and celebrates bygone eras of alternative music, largely rock and indie.

Weekly quiz nights run and on Thursday nights, Lucky Dip delves into the archives to uncover different sounds to the norm.

Visit Retro Bar

The Centrally Located One: Ku Bar & Club

Inside a London gay bar Leicester Square, Ku Bar & Club

On the fringes of Leicester Square, Ku Bar & Club has two distinct spaces, one for relaxing and one for late-night dancing.

The ground-floor London gay bar is a refined and sophisticated hang out for cocktails, with a glamorous design and open from midday, but head downstairs into the club for nightly antics until 3am.

Or there’s Ku Soho overlooking Old Compton Street, in the heart of the district’s nightlife area over two floors. With less of an intense vibe, it still kicks until late.

Visit Ku Bar & Club

The Literary-Inspired One: New Bloomsbury Set

barman making a cocktail

Inspired by its namesakes The Bloomsbury Group, this gay-friendly bar is near Russell Square, where the Bloomsbury Set of writers including Viriginia Woolf inhabited.

A daily happy hour on cocktails between 4 and 8pm makes the most sense, which a mixed crowd enjoy to the tune of subtle mood lighting in neon purples and pinks.

Related: TV show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend took a not-so-subtle swipe at straight women who go to gay bars

Visit New Bloomsbury Set

The Camden One: Her Upstairs

drag queen London bar

Open and “camp as Christmas every day” (their words) Her Upstairs is the legendary Camden cabaret venue run “by queer people for queer people”.

Despite the name, the bar say identity is never a barrier, so long as you’re not an “a**hole!”.

Dedicated stage time is given for live shows from the POC, drag king and drag queen communities, alongside new artists and comedy shows, in central Camden.

Visit Her Upstairs

The Neighbourhood Favourite: The White Swan

drag queens

(Photo credit: Cybil’s House, Corinne)

This east London bolthole has reliably late opening hours, until 2am Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and until 4am Friday and Saturday.

The crowd in attendance are theatrical, and high fashion and drag are commonplace for the nights, which often have glamorous – or faux-glamorous – themes.

Former stars of RuPaul’s Drag Race have been known to tread the boards on stage in front of the clubbing crowds.

Visit The White Swan

The Modern Day Boozer: THE Glory

Drag queens in London gay bar

In the wake of so many club closures, it’s revitalising to see new ones open.

The Glory – a fresh gay pub from LGBT+ pioneer Jonny Woo – is a no-frills and community-led space in Haggerston, within walking distance of Shoreditch.

Weekly drag nights employ the biggest names in town, in a non-pretentious boozer setting with a small stage.

Downstairs, in the “Glory Hole” there’s club nights at weekends and the whole thing gets rather messy.

Visit The Glory

The Former Lap Dancing Bar: Queen Adelaide

lap dancing bar on Hackney Road London

A former lap dancing bar on Hackney Road, this boozer takes a “left field” approach to partying, and kicks until 3am Thursday to Saturdays.

There are three distinct spaces: the colourful basement bar for dancing, the White Cubicle art gallery and project space and a stripped-back pub for quizzes and casual drinking.

Impressively, the London gay bar stays open until 1am every night of the week, including Sundays.

Visit Queen Adelaide

The Clapham One: The Two Brewers

drag queen in red

Clapham’s stand-alone gay venue, community is at the heart of The Two Brewers, which has a mixed but older crowd.

There are two rooms, one of which is 80s and 90s pop-friendly and one which caters to dance music fans, with a darker more Vauxhall feel.

Try Rock ‘N’ Roll Bingo on Mondays, a weekly quiz on Wednesdays and typically drag acts throughout the week.

Visit The Two Brewers

The West London gay bar: West 5 Bar

blue hair drag queen singing

(Aidan Orange Photography)

West London’s only gay bar, West 5 illustrates how nuclear the capital’s gay scene can feel.

Ealing makes it up for the lack of gay friendly nights in West London with a strong set of live performances most weekends.

Names which play at the bar on Friday and Saturday nights traverse from cabaret favourites to X Factor rejects.

Sundays are open for chilled drinks, and Thursdays can be very popular, but the venue closes slightly earlier, reigning in the weekend’s 3am licence to 1am.

Visit West 5 Bar