Are you planning the trip of a lifetime to London and wondering what this city has to offer to queer folks who want to explore, make the most of the British culture, and feel at home here? There are so many things to do, it’s hard to count them all, and certainly hard to make time to do them all – but here are some top activities you may want to try!
If you’re a night owl and you’d love to party into the small hours, you may want to check out one of London’s queer clubs, such as The Glory or HEAVEN. If you’re more of a bookish person, there’s Gay’s the Word in Soho, and a plethora of statues and memorials dedicated to LGBTQ+ history. You can also check out the only dedicated LGBTQ+ theater in the UK, or the Royal Vauxhall Tavern.
As you can see, there’s a wide range of options and you’re probably eager to get started – so let’s jump right in!
Activity 1) Queer Clubs
If you’re looking for queer clubs to dance the stars to dust… well, London delivers! There are queer clubs aplenty, with all kinds of different atmospheres, delicious alcoholic drinks, great dance scenes, and more to explore. The Glory is one famous one that opened relatively recently, and it brings together fantastic drag performances, a great bar, and a fun nightclub under one roof.
There’s also HEAVEN, which has seen thousands of gay visitors in the last 40 years, and which hosts some of the biggest gay nights in London, including Camp Attack Fridays and more.
If that doesn’t take your fancy, why not check out Village 512, a relatively new club in East London, which offers delicious cocktails, a range of local beers, and guaranteed fun no matter what.
Activity 2) Gay’s The Word
This was the first LGBTQ+ bookshop to open in the UK, all the way back in 1979, so it’s got a record of being welcoming and it’s dedicated to the celebration of queerness: it’s so worth a visit if you’re in London. It has an incredible history, as you might expect, and has been like a second home to many queer folks in London throughout the years.
The shelves offer everything you could want in terms of fiction, with something for all ages, as well as non-fiction, and even some practical books on adoption/parenting for LGBTQ+ individuals. There are also regular book signings here, so check out what’s happening and don’t miss out on your chance for a signature!
Activity 3) Memorials & Statues
Celebrating history and remembering the challenges of queer people that have gone before us is always a powerful and moving activity, and London is a wonderful place to do this if it’s something you want to spend some time on. You will find memorials and statues aplenty scattered throughout the city, so let’s check out some of the most outstanding ones.
There are, of course, many museums and exhibits you can visit, but the history of LGBTQ+ people is also resplendent throughout the city’s streets. For example, there’s the fascinating coffin-shaped statue of Oscar Wilde, the famous but much-persecuted poet. This is found near Trafalgar Square.
Alternatively, head to Paddington and you’ll find the metal-work “statues” of several local heroes, including the gay codebreaker Alan Turing, who played a highly significant role during the war. Furthermore, you can visit a plaque in Highbury Fields that commemorates the first gay rights demonstration, which took place in 1970.
There are many other great sites, so if this interests you, look up some lists, and consider combining them with museum visits. That should give you a start, though; now let’s move on to some other options!
Activity 4) Above The Stag
Under the arches in Vauxhall, Above the Stag is the UK’s only theater dedicated to LGBTQ+ individuals, and it’s well worth a visit, even if theater isn’t your favorite thing in the world. There are two comedy spaces and a bar, and this is a wonderful way to while away the evening. You can also attend readings, exhibitions, and more here.
If you’re interested in the name, it was originally located above The Stag (a pub), but moved in 2013, following the demolition of the building. Thankfully, we didn’t lose this venue when the pub disappeared!
Activity 5) Royal Vauxhall Tavern
Love a really special tavern and excited to visit one while you’re in London? This pub has an incredible history and dates all the way back to 1863, and it’s a legendary space for the queer community – making it a must-visit spot, even if you’re only in London for a relatively short period.
If you’re interested in the who’s-who and the see-and-be-seen vibe, there are lots of fantastic rumors about this place! It’s said that Lily Savage started out behind the bar here, and that Princess Diana visited Freddie Mercury under its roof. It’s also got some incredible queer nights to offer, and is a huge part of the LGBTQ+ scene in London.
No matter what you go to see or do, you’re bound to have an amazing night, and it’s also worth noting that we’re again lucky this venue has continued; it has faced multiple threats over the years, but now has been protected in several ways – great news for the queer community who want to continue enjoying this extraordinary asset.
Activity 6) UK Black Pride
One of the important things about the LGBTQ+ community is that it welcomes everybody, but some parts of it still feel occasionally alienated or overlooked, and that’s what UK Black Pride is here to address. It’s now a huge event and has been running since 2005, marking a celebration of the diverse individuals who make up the queer world.
Almost 8000 people attend the event each year, and it’s an incredible thing to go to if you happen to be in London in August. Why not check it out?
Activity 7) Queer Britain
If a museum takes your fancy, you may want to make a trip to Queer Britain, a museum dedicated entirely to LGBTQ+ history, and the celebration of the amazing people who have made their mark. The museum is largely operated by the LGBTQ+ community, and it only opened in 2022, so it’s a brand new option if you’re looking for something different to do, and if you want to show your support.
The place is enormously moving for many visitors, making them feel seen and celebrated; it’s beautiful to see the collection of art, activism, history, and culture all being brought together under one roof. Check out the latest exhibitions or simply stroll along and let yourself be surprised by what’s on offer. No matter what, it’s sure to wow you!
Activity 8) Hampstead Men’s Pond
Looking for a way to cool off while you’re in London? Hampstead Men’s Pond could be the answer for you; it’s the closest option to a gay beach that you’ll find in the capital city. It’s also an enormously important pay of gay history in London, because it’s been in existence since the 19th century.
There’s also the women’s pond (and notably, the mixed-use pond, which is not so centered upon the LGBTQ+ community).
Surrounded by beautiful woodland and nesting birds, and offering lovely cool water, Hampstead Men’s Pond is very much a spot for cruising – which you might want to familiarize yourself with before you head to the pond if it’s not a term you know.
The female pond offers sheltered areas that are perfect for sunbathing, and you’re likely to see a good few topless ladies enjoying just that in the soft grass. The men’s pond also offers a diving board.
The weather needs to be good to go for a dip here, but the water is always fresh and inviting. It’s well worth knowing about if you’re planning to visit London in the summer, as it can get very hot! If you want to step out of London’s hustle and bustle, this is the perfect spot – and nearby is the King William IV, which is a historic gay pub. When you’ve finished swimming, drop in for a pint.
London is brimming with things to do for every queer enthusiast, whether you want to hit the clubs and mingle or learn about LGBTQ+ history. You’ll find a great many interesting places to explore, plenty of queer shows to attend, historic buildings to check out, and amazing spots where you can relax and be yourself.