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Royal Vauxhall Tavern
Photograph: Tim Boddy

Ten LGBTQ+ spots to visit in London

Get to know the city's queer landscape by heading on a tour of these landmarks and venues

Written by
Alim Kheraj
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Alim Kheraj, author of ‘Queer London: A Guide to the City's LGBTQ+ Past and Present’, has spent the year digging into the capital’s queer landscape. He’s looked into the bars, shops, events, charities and clubs that make London’s LGBTQ+ scene what it is now and has even asked how we got here too. Who better, then, to give us a guide to places of queer cultural significance in London? This is his rundown of the venues that are at the core of London’s LGBTQ+ culture and the landmarks that can tell us some of our city’s most important history. 

  • Shopping
  • Bookshops
  • Bloomsbury

More than just a bookshop, Gay’s The Word has been the epicentre of queer life in London for more than four decades. Once a hub of political activity, the shop now provides a sanctuary for LGBTQ+ people of all ages and an incomparable stock of queer literature.

Admiral Duncan Memorial

In 1999, a nail bomb attack at the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho killed three people – Andrea Dykes, Nik Moore and John Light – and injured dozens more. In St Anne’s Gardens, there is the Admiral Duncan Memorial Bench and three trees planted in their memory. 

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Above The Stag Theatre
  • Theatre
  • Vauxhall

Originally above a pub called The Stag in Victoria and now housed under the arches in Vauxhall, Above the Stag is the only dedicated LGBTQ+ theatre in the UK. Complete with two performance spaces and a bar, it hosts everything from musicals to comedy. 

  • Nightlife
  • Alternative nightlife
  • Haggerston

Founded by London drag royalty Jonny Woo and John Sizzle, this East End boozer is home to some of the best drag and cabaret acts in the city. Like the gay bars of yesteryear, it also exudes a community spirit so often missing in today’s queer venues. 

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CloneZone

With one shop in Soho and another in Earl’s Court, CloneZone has been serving the LGBTQ+ community since 1982, specialising in everything from underwear to adult toys. The west London branch also has basement specifically for fetish gear. 

  • Nightlife
  • Alternative nightlife
  • Mile End

The UK’s longest-running, and now last, leather bar, Backstreet (and its door policy) hasn’t changed in more than 35 years: if you’re not wearing leather, rubber or fetish gear, you’re not getting in. Visitors can borrow leathers, however, if they’re eager to come inside. 

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Royal Vauxhall Tavern
  • Nightlife
  • Clubs
  • Vauxhall

Royal by name, royal by nature, this London institution has welcomed gay men since the 1950s. It’s now the city’s most inclusive spot for alternative theatre, cabaret and drag, as well as iconic club nights like Duckie.

  • Nightlife
  • Alternative nightlife
  • Soho

This basement space located underneath Little Ku in Soho is London’s only permanent lesbian bar. While it might be on the small side, it’s definitely mighty, offering a safe space for queer women and hosting London’s best drag kings.

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  • Clubs
  • Charing Cross

Opened in 1979, this mammoth club has evolved throughout the decades, although it’s always been a space for LGBTQ+ people. It’s now home to G-A-Y, which regularly hosts PA performances for the likes of Kylie Minogue and Little Mix. 

The WayOut Club

The oldest trans night in London, this weekly event launched in 1993 and has built a real community around it. Open until 3am and playing mostly pop hits all night, there’s usually also a performance from a drag act or trans singer. 

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