Your Ultimate Guide To UK Gay Bars
Your Guide To Gay Bars UK & Gay Clubs
Looking for the best UK gay bars and UK gay clubs? You are in the right place! ManPlay.com is #1 when it comes to gay bar UK & club guides the world over!
Are you looking for the best UK gay bars and UK gay clubs? You are in the right place! ManPlay.com is #1 when it comes to gay bar and club guides the world over! Here, you will find history on the gay clubs gay bars UK scene, see our picks for the top gay bars and gay clubs in the United Kingdom, and be able to explore our more in-depth and extensive UK gay bars guides by city!
UK gay barsand UK gay clubs are not only fun and unique, but they play an important role in creating safe spaces for gay men and members of the LGBT community in a world that is not always accepting as it should be. Whether you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transexual, pansexual, queer, questioning, or just an ally, you have found the perfect UK gay bar guide to point you in the right direction when it comes to hitting the town during your visit or after your move to the United Kingdom.
Gay Bars UK: A History
Here on ManPlay.com, we have covered a lot of gay and LGBT history: gay marriage, gay pride, and so much more. When it comes to the history of gay bars and gay clubs, a lot of it ties right back into the wider history of the gay and LGBT communities all over the world. In the United Kingdom, it is more or less assumed that gay bars and gay clubs always existed (at least, as long as bars, pubs, and clubs have existed). At the time, of course, these venues would never be referred to as "UK gay bars" or "UK gay clubs", but simply be venues which offered shelter and safety for those of the gay community who wished to be social without fear of embarrassment, harassment, or violence.
The first UK gay bar that we officially know of was established in 1912 in London, England by Madame Strindgberg. It was called The Cave of the Golden Calf (named after the Golden Calf of the Biblical story, an icon of impermissible worship) and it resided at 9 Heddon Street, just off of Regent Street. This UK gay bar was established as a night club for the wealthy, aristocratic, and bohemian. It was set up as an artistic and avant-garde venue, and soon captured the attention of upper class gay men. Many UK gay bars and UK gay clubs have been since created using the same format as The Cave of the Golden Calf.
In 1967, when homosexuality was decriminalized in the United Kingdom, UK gay bars and UK gay clubs began to become more visible. By the early 1990s, UK gay bars and UK gay clubs were actively being promoted as such and the United Kingdom had a vibrant and firmly established UK gay bar and gay club scene.
Today, many cities across the United Kingdom have their own UK gay bar and UK gay club areas, such as Soho or Vauxhall in London, Stanley Street Quarter in Liverpool, Canal Street in Manchester, and Birmingham Gay Village in Birmingham.
Gay Bars UK: The Best & Brightest
Below, you will find our selections for the best and brightest of the UK gay bars and gay clubs all over England, Scotland, and Wales. These UK gay bars and UK gay clubs will all be discussed more in-depth within their prospective cities: UK gay bars and clubs guides, but here are some brief descriptions of the best of the best across all of the United Kingdom. As well, each of these gay bars and gay clubs were also listed in Out.com's "200 of the Greatest Gay Bars in the World list.
Gay Bars UK: England
REVENGE: Located in Brighton, England—otherwise known as the "Gay Capital of Britain,ÓRevenge has been the reigning Queen of the UK gay clubs scene for over twenty years. Beloved by locals and visitors alike, Revenge is a cornerstone of the Brighton gay and LGBT community. It has three floors and a rooftop terrace that looks over the English Channel. Its sister bar, Bar Revenge is equally as popular as this top notch UK gay bar and together they have been host to every kind of themed party imagineable. Not only are these two venues the best of the best in UK gay clubs and bars, but they are definitely also the brightest, glitteriest, most glamorous UK gay club anywhere in the country.
DALSTON SUPERSTORE:Located in one of London's most up and coming neighborhoods, Dalston, Dalston Superstore is the current "it" place when it comes to UK gay bars. Although it is inaccessible by the tube, that does not stop the massive hordes of gay men that patron this establishment. This UK gay bar is host to a variety of LGBT and artsy events, such as dance parties (queer, homosexual, girls only, etc.), art shows, live music performances, and many more eccentric oddities.
FIRE: Located in London's Vauxhall district, Fire is regarding as a more "hardcore" version of all the UK gay bars you find in Soho. This reputation comes from the fact that they stay open all night long. In fact, the only time they close is during the day, they open at 10:00 PM and go until 12:00 noon the next day, every day! The hallmark of this UK gay bar is their huge, industrial-styled railway arch and three massive dance rooms lit entirely by neon lights. Each room of Fire has its own DJ spinning the best house and electro music. The crowds consist heavily of muscle daddies and twinks, but all are welcome here!
HEAVEN: Located underneath the Charing Cross railway station in London, Heaven is known as "the world's most famous gay nightclub". Established in 1979, Heaven was a pioneer in the popularity of the gay nightlife in London. It has endured and succeeded for over 35 years in the gay bars UK scene. The interior of Heaven is broken into several areas: main floor, star bar, balcony bar, stage bar, and departure lounge. Heaven is a favorite of the young gay crowd and tends to mostly play the latest pop and house music when they aren't hosting diva performances by the likes of Cher, Kylie Minogue, and Madonna. Other events hosted by this UK gay bar include drag shows, strip competitions, and more.
THE JOINERS ARMS: Located in London's Shoreditch district, The Joiners Arms is the ultimate UK gay bar for mixing gay subgroups. Here, you will find gay clubs UK circuit boys dancing alongside rough scally lads; daddies and bears mixing with more than just twinks and cubs; otters, chubs, lipstick, jocks, gay-listers, and more! This UK gay bar is well-known as a "last chance saloon", as it opens late and has no cover change for entrance (part of the reason you you get such a mixed crowd as well). On its packed weekends, The Joiners Arms definitely gives in to the UK gay club its patrons want it to be, but for the rest of the week, it exists as a straight-up UK gay bar pub.
ROYAL VAUXHALL TAVERN: Royal Vauxhall Tavern was erected on the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens—one of the most famous gay cruising areas of the Victorian era—in the Vauxhall neighborhood of London in 1893. It originally served as a music hall, but attracted local gay men after the Second World War with drag shows. Bu 1975, Royal Vauxhall Tavern was attracting local workers with their public bar and dart boards, and attracting the local gay community with cabaret shows where drag queens would dance and perform atop the bar. Now, this UK gay bar is known for everything from cabaret and comedy shows to live music performances and bingo nights. Royal Vauxhall Tavern attracts locals and visitors alike, and was also frequently visited by Freddie Mercury in the 1970s!
CANAL STREET: Okay, so Canal Street is not so much a UK gay bar as it is us be indecisive about choosing one single UK gay bar on Canal Street! Canal Street, located in Manchester, England, is the center of Manchester's gay village and a gay paradise that has been featured heavily on the UK version of Queer as Folk. Canal Street has been pedestrianized too, so you don't have to worry about dodging cars as you stumble up and down the street! Our suggestion would be to do an epic bar crawl all along this gay man's dream of a street, but some highlights are definitely: Queer, Via, Chruchill's, Tribeca, and Velvet.
THE STEAM PACKET: The Steam Bar is the only UK gay bar located in the Lake district of Workington, England. More often affectionately referred to as The Fag Packet, this UK gay bar is one of the most exotic in England, with shows such as transgender women doing cabaret while dressed as Nazis while snorting Ovaltine like cocaine and spitting into each other's hair. This is a place where things really get out of control quickly… but, in a good way!
Gay Bars UK: Scotland
POLO LOUNGE: Located in Glasgow, Scotland, Polo Lounge is a small, but wildly popular, UK gay bar. With only five or six UK gay bars in the whole city, most of the venues in Glasgow are fairly popular, but Polo Lounge is definitely at the top of the heap. They have a stylish interior, several dance floors, and ample seating.
THE REGENT: Located in Edinburgh, Scotland, The Regent is regarded as a real "man's man" type of UK gay bar. It is really more of a classic UK pub than it is a bar, and has the perfect friendly and low key attitude that allows for introduction and conversation. You will not find a fancy cocktail menu here, nor will you hear the booming dance jams beloved by UK gay club DJs. You will, however, find gay men of all ages, traditional decor, and an extensive selection of ales, stouts, and lagers.
Gay Bars UK: City By City
ENGLAND: Gay Bars London
The first gay bar in Britain, in the modern sense, was The Cave of the Golden Calf, it opened as a night club in London at an underground location 9 Heddon Street in 1912. The nightclub became a regular hangout for the wealthy, aristocrats, and bohemians and was set-up as..
ENGLAND: Gay Bars Soho
Being that Soho was once the center of London's sex industry, it makes sense that it morphed into the conjoined entertainment and gay district. The gay bars Soho scene really is at the center of London's gay district. One of the single most influential events in the history of the..
ENGLAND: Gay Bars Vauxhall
When it comes to Vauxhall, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern is the oldest and most historic. Built in 1863, it was originally a Victorian music hall, but attracted gay men and servicemen returning from war after WWII. The venue held drag shows, and added 2 bars by 1975, making it, technically..
ENGLAND: Gay Bars Liverpool
Most, if not all, of the Liverpool gay bars in the city are in the Stanley Street Quarter. This area is also known as the Village or the Liverpool gay quarter. There are lots of shops and restaurants to go to, but the best part of the area is the..
ENGLAND: Gay Bars Manchester
Most Manchester gay bars are located on or around Canal Street, which is the centre of the city's Gay Village. This street runs along the Rochdale Canal, hence its name. The area is an extremely popular tourist destination nowadays, with its multiple gay bars and shops welcoming everyone. It's closed..
ENGLAND: Gay Bars Brighton
The gay bars Brighton scene caters to its large gay population as well as the loads of gay visitors and tourists that visit every year. Brighton was established as a destination for leisure during the Napoleonic wars with so many garrisoned soldiers spending time there. By the 1930's, Brighton had..
ENGLAND: Gay Bars Blackpool
Blackpool is often called the "gay capital of the North". It has long been a haven for the LGBT community, and has had gay bars long before the town first started openly celebrating Gay Pride in 2006. Blackpool, along with many other seaside English towns, was historically known for their..
SCOTLAND: Gay Bars Edinburgh
The Edinburgh gay bars scene may not as rich a history of some other UK gay bars scenes out there, but it does have a story of its own. Long before there were Edinburgh "gay bars," there were simply bars, pubs, and clubs that became known as "safe spaces" for..
SCOTLAND: Gay Bars Glasgow
Glasgow in recent years has been making an argument as to why it could be considered UK's gay capital. That title is usually associated with Brighton and their very gay friendly beach clubs and nude beaches. Glasgow though has the beautiful gay Merchant City neighborhood, sometimes referred to as the..
There are thousands of UK gay bars and UK gay clubs to explore all over these great countries, but we hope that with our UK gay bar guides above, you will be able to get a good start on your exploration! We worked hard to bring you real, experienced reviews of each and every UK gay bar and UK gay club that we featured in these guide, and we truly believe they are the best of the best!
Gay Bars UK: Resources
Want to learn even more about UK gay bars and UK gay clubs? Here are some additional resources that you can check out if you are looking for more information:
- TravelGayEurope's Gay United Kingdom Guide
- Yelp's 10 Best Gay Bars Near Soho
- Inverness gay travel guide
And do not forget: You can learn more about gay bars around the world right here on Manplay.com! Check out our guides on Gay Bars US and Gay Bars Canada to get a better feel of what gay bars are like far and wide in this little ol' world of our.