The best LGBT clubs in London
By day, this East End favourite plates up brunch and burgers; by night, it’s London’s best pansexual party spot. The upstairs bar is fun for a warm-up drink, but the basement is where the club action happens. Regular nights include Uncontrollable Urge (eccentric electro on Wednesdays) and SorryNotSorry Sundays (a monthly helping of ‘unapologetic pop’). It’s all very trendy but everyone is welcome: don’t be surprised to see drag queens rubbing shoulders with off-duty dads from nearby Stoke Newington.
Formerly (and still commonly) known as Vogue Fabrics, this bijou Dalston basement hosts drag and spoken word events as well as genre-spanning club nights and parties. As its name suggests, it attracts a creative and fashion-conscious LGBT crowd who love to dress up (though no one will really care if you rock up in sneakers and a polo top). VFD has the chutzpah to host club nights with names like Cuntmafia and Sassitude, but never takes itself too seriously. After all, the venue’s most famous feature is the massive penis mural in the loos.
Tucked away under a Turkish supermarket near Old Street, you’ll find this deliciously dingy disco basement. Sedition, formerly known as East Bloc, is compact yet filled with intrigue as you slink from one grotto-like room to the next. The music jumps from night to night (think more underground dance music than Top 40), but it generally attracts a varied crowd including beardy homo hipsters, edgy East End drag queens and trendy gay girls with asymmetric haircuts.
This Vauxhall institution has recently had a facelift to rival Sharon Osbourne’s. Out went the licence permitting sexual activity on the premises and in came the trendy decor inspired by New York’s Meatpacking District. Eagle’s large horseshoe bar still attracts many an older, burlier gay gent, but the overall ambience now feels slick and sexy rather than, well, slightly sleazy. On Sunday nights, the dancefloor welcomes a younger and more fashion-conscious crowd for Horse Meat Disco, one of London’s very best club nights. Debbie, a monthly Saturday night party which only plays songs by female artists, is also worth seeking out.
Venue says Aug 14-18: Madonna Celebration! A week of special events and parties to celebrate the Queen of Pop's birthday!
Held every Saturday in a huge cavernous space near London Bridge, XXL is the UK’s biggest bear night. It’s a men-only affair, but you don’t have to be hench ’n’ hairy to have fun: the crowd is friendly and anyone who enjoys whipping his top off on the dancefloor will feel at home. XXL is so popular that it regularly attracts up to 2,000 punters. Most will be found dancing to house remixes in the main area; others will slope off to explore the (in)famous dark room.
When it opened in 1979, Heaven was revolutionary. London’s first gay superclub, it was the birthplace of Hi-NRG and acid house, and a magnet for queer celebrities. Nearly four decades later, Heaven is no longer cutting-edge, but still offers the UK’s most famous gay night out. On Thursdays it hosts the G-A-Y Porn Idol amateur strip contest, Fridays is filled with ’80s and ’90s cheese at G-A-Y Camp Attack, and Saturdays are reserved for the main G-A-Y club night, often featuring pop star PAs. Tourists and the younger crowd love it, and just about every LGBT Londoner has danced the night away here at least once.
Occupying a prominent spot on Soho’s Chinatown fringes, this large LGBT venue is regularly voted London’s best. The ground floor offers a bright and modern bar space with video screens playing chart hits; downstairs is a clubbier room where fresh-faced types of all genders dance to pop and EDM. Now called Ku Klub, it has its own side entrance and opens its doors from 10pm until 3am every day. Be prepared to queue for entry on Friday and Saturday nights, safe in the knowledge you’ll be greeted inside by some of London’s best-looking bar staff.
London’s best-known trans night has changed venues a few times, but it now takes place every Saturday under a railway arch near Tower Hill tube. It’s open to everyone at the T end of the LGBT spectrum, plus their friends and admirers, and attracts a loyal crowd of friendly regulars. The capital’s nightlife has more options for the trans community now than when WayOut began in 1993, but this night endures because it’s so warm and inclusive; there’s even a changing area for punters who don’t want to travel in drag.
The weekly little sister of 'genderfuck army' Sink The Pink, London's coolest club collective, Savage has become one of the East End's most celebrated parties. Taking over Bethnal Green strip club Metropolis on a Friday and Saturday, it's the place you come to slut-drop to bangers until 5am. Spread across multiple floors, you'll find stripper poles, sand (yep) and now a new basement. The crowd is as queer as it comes, with representation from every corner of the LGBT community, and the music is pounding, which when you're sliding down a pole after a doing a sambuca shot is no bad thing.
There’s a reason why Duckie has been running on Saturdays at the RVT for over 21 years: it’s an absolute blast. Host Amy Lamé – who’s now London’s Night Czar, too – introduces performers who run the gamut from legendary to terrible: you could see tap-dancers or a drag queen, or you could end up watching a heterosexual couple from Essex having a bust-up on stage. In between and after the turns, DJ duo the Readers Wifes drop a hard-to-describe mix of Britpop, disco and leftfield chart hits from Bowie to Britney. Whatever your gender and sexuality, Duckie is a must-try; the only real rule is no whipping off your top like you’re at XXL.
Looking for a bar?
Here’s a comprehensive list of the capital’s gay and gay-friendly bars and pubs