Gay Vacations in London, England

Aerial view of double-decker buses in Piccadilly Circus in London, England
Piccadilly Circus in London, England (Peter Adams/Digital Vision/Getty)

London Highlights

  • Choose Heathrow. Most U.S. flights land in either Gatwick or Heathrow airports. Heathrow is on the London Underground ("Tube") system, making your entry into London a little easier. Gatwick is farther from town and not linked to the Tube. Taxis to London from Gatwick are pricey, although there is a surface train.
  • Don’t count on the Tube when you're out late. London’s subway system stops running just after midnight on weekdays, and 11:30 PM on weekends. But thousands of buses work the streets at all hours.
  • Your bible is TimeOut. The authority for LGBT London is the weekly magazine TimeOut, which lists hundreds of LGBT parties, events, shows, and venues.

From Edward II to Oscar Wilde to Virginia Woolf, queers and London have always gone hand in hand. And London is once again in top form as a spellbinding, modern, international capital of culture and fashion, just as it was in its 1960s heyday. Its LGBT scene is massive and can't be tackled in just one trip. Most of the homo-happenings are focused on Soho in the middle of the West End, with the pulsating, bar-filled Old Compton Street as its vibrant gay center. Soho has taken over for the former main gay area of Earl's Court (dubbed "Girl's Court") in West London, which still overflows with queers nonetheless. Other neighborhoods where lesbian and gay Londoners live include North East London's Islington and Stoke Newington areas, Camden and Hampstead in North London, and Vauxhall (especially), Brixton, and Clapham in South London. The lesbian scene in London is particularly well developed, with a number of venues and lots of women’s nights at various establishments. The LGBT nightlife scene in London in general is the reverse of the Brits' stereotypical upper-lip-stiffness: It careens, thumps, and explodes with life. Get ready for long nights of socializing! Or get hitched: In 2006, the U.K. allowed same-sex civil partnerships.

Most gay tourists make their home base near Soho, which is a good choice becuase it's not only close to the nightlife, but to landmarks such as Covent Garden, Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus. London is full of art and monuments that no serious traveler should miss. On the cultural center of the South Bank, there's the National Theatre, Saatchi Gallery, and National Film Institute, home since 1986 to the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in March and April (and not to be missed). Other cultural highlights are found in the London's Riverside districts, where you’ll find the Shakespeare's Globe, the vast Tate Modern museum and the London Eye Ferris wheel. And don't forget the old standards: Buckingham Palace (partially open to the public), the world-famous artifacts in the British Museum, the gruesome history in the Tower of London, and the royal tombs of Westminster Abbey. London may be one of the most expensive cities in the world, but its kinetic energy and fascinating scene make it worth every penny.

Published: 16 Jul 2008 | Last Updated: 23 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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