London is an incredibly diverse city, in all senses of that word; it’s ethnically diverse, culturally diverse, and, of course, it’s diverse in terms of gender and sexuality.
It’s also incredibly inclusive. While it’s, sadly, impossible to not fight bigots at all in any given space, London has been kind to its LGBTQ+ residents. It holds a yearly Pride parade, promotes Pride month with fervour and holds some of the oldest LGBTQ+ spaces and decriminalised homosexuality back in 1967.
So what can you do in London if you’re looking to pass time in accordance with your place on the spectrum?
Special locations and events
While gay bars and clubs are, definitely, important, and I will list some popular/important examples further down, I wanted to highlight some slightly more unique spaces first.
Gay’s The Word
This is London’s first – and, regrettably, only – shop that focuses entirely on LGBTQ+ literature and cinema. You can buy books there, or participate in frequent book events, workshops and other. Truly unique, and highly appraised as a true gem by London’s queer community.
Location: 66 Marchmont St, Saint Pancras, London WC1N 1AB
Above the Stag
This is the UK’s first and only LGBTQ+ centric theatre. While, obviously, you could find content by or about queer people in a lot of other places, this is the only theatre that presents a year-round programme of LGBTQ+ interest theatre. I’d say it’s worth a go.
Location: 72 Albert Embankment, Lambeth, London SE1 7Tp
London LGBTQ+ Film Festival
Formerly known as London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, this is a yearly cinema festival that usually takes place in spring – around March/April – and brings the best homosexual-centric cinema to various locations in the city. Having existed for over 25 years as of now, it is the UK’s third largest film festival, and Europe’s biggest LGBTQ+ film festival.
Starting in June, the Pride Month is a big deal in London – with all kinds of spaces, from large grocery stores like Sainsbury’s, to the TFL trying to express their support for the cause in all possible ways.
The Pride Parade, taking place every July, has been in place for 47 years now; it is the climax of the Pride month, that unfolds with numerous events and parties. Numbers of visitors grow every year, with over one million having attended in 2018, and it always spans numerous locations within the city.
If you’re not a party animal or are just uncomfortable with crowds – believe me, I feel you – then there’s a number of other recreational activities you could engage in, like studying LGBTQ+ history in London.
You could visit the home of the iconic Virginia Woolf, read up on queer history in the Bishopsgate Institute’s LGBTQ+ library section, or visit the historical and iconic Royal Vauxhall Tavern that has seen faces akin to Sir Ian McKellen, Graham Norton and even Freddie Mercury (with Princess Diana, no less).
You could also go on one of the numerous LGBTQ+ tours, that offer a variety of historical insights and queer-friendly activities.
And, of course, some bars, pubs and clubs
While Heaven is the most well-known, and one of the oldest gay clubs in the city, it’s not really the public’s favourite anymore – there are other LGBTQ+ spaces to have much more fun in in London.
There are louder ones, like Eagle London, which is a club and a disco space; the above-mentioned Royal Vauxhall Tavern, which is a pub/bar that is one of the top choices for most LGBTQ+ performances; Little Ku, which is a small, intimate spot to have a drink in; Dalston Superstore, which is a café, a bar and a drag performance hotspot all in one, The Friendly Society, which is a quiet, gorgeous cocktail spot.
The list goes on – the number of queer spaces in London is, honestly, limitless, with a large portion of those being centred in, but not limited to the Soho and Vauxhall areas.