It’s really easy to just think that Soho has always been the gay mecca of central London, but in fact, Soho’s current guise is its second wave of popularity, stretching back from the Early 80s.
Back in history, gay and queer people had a period of time when they turned their back on Soho and central London, due to high rent rises and cheaper accommodation options over in West London, especially in the Earls court area during the 1950s until the late 1970s.
Some of those spaces are still there today, with Clone Zone Earls Court, Balans and of course Teds Place!
It wasn’t until the late 70s that central London began to flourish once again, becoming the LGBTQI+ mecca it is today. Madame Jojos had opened back in 1968 and it took then until 1979 for the opening of the now-iconic nightclub, Heaven. In 1986, a pub often frequented by gay and queer people called the Swiss Tavern, became Comptons of Soho.
Soho was still full of sex shops and brothels, but then in 1987 came a big clampdown on these venues by Westminster City Council, this meant a number of empty premises became available right in the centre of town, soon to follow was The Yard, Rupert Street, Admiral Duncan and Halfway to Heaven.
Soho itself has not been without its events, from the 1999 bombing of Admiral Duncan, to the fight against gentrification and the loss of some major venues, like the Ghetto and The Astoria and of course the Coronavirus.
Today our central London venues mean more and are needed more than ever. As a place of fun, safety and visibility and ones you must experience. There is a venue to suit every one part of our LGBTQI+ community.
The Apple Tree
Quirky and colourful, The Apple Tree is not your run-of-the-mill pub. Independently owned and proud to be non-conformist, they offer a warm welcome to all and home to the LGBTQ+ communities and to those living an alternative lifestyle.
Their friendly bar team are on hand to mix you up some delicious, fresh cocktails with homemade infusions and cordials, inspired by the current season and includes vegan and no alcohol options.
The kitchen team have created an eye-catching, mouth-watering menu made up of small plates, perfect for a light meal or order several plates for a sharing feast. The majority of The Apple Tree’s dishes are plant-based, with meat and dairy options carefully sourced from higher welfare suppliers.
The Admiral Duncan
Admiral Duncan will always be a triumph of brash fun over basic flirting. This Soho stalwart attracts a party-orientated crowd to its one-room bar in the middle of Old Compton Street.
Known locally and internationally as an accepting, fun and embracing venue, it has a myriad of entertainment options through the months, offering something for all, most nights of the week.
Central Station has stood strong in its corner, serving the gay community near Kings Cross station for many years.
Spread over three floors, it has something for everyone. In a much evolving area, surrounded now by redevelopment, it’s been able to cater to its new lunchtime audience, with a fantastic food and drinks menu and a busy terrace over summer, through to its LGBTQ+ programming, hosting everything from karaoke to fantastic drag shows.
Very much a traditional gay venue, with a downstairs play space with a separate entrance, suited for those looking for something a bit more niche.
Comptons of Soho
“Our Bar, in the middle of our street” Right in the heart of Soho’s ‘Gay village’, Comptons has been an integral part of London’s gay scene since June 1986. Famous for its outside drinking with a view up and down Old Compton St.
Once inside you’ll find a busy downstairs bar, with regulars Dj’s and a cruisy vibe, with the option of heading upstairs to their quieter, opulent lounge to have a relaxed drink and with friends.
The first LGBTQi+ venue to be launched in Central London for over a decade. Based in the palatial Hungerford House right at the entrance of Embankment Station, it’s so well placed and easy to find.
With a large opulent chesterfield filled lounge and of course the trademark Circa mirrorball DJ booth, you will know Circa Embankment is part of the family. With legendary DJs, a comprehensive drinks menu with amazing cocktails whether you party inside or sit in the large outdoor seating area, you’ll be guaranteed a fantastic night.
The Duke of Wellington
Situated on the Gay Village border, right next to Theatre Land, this friendly local bar has a vibrant and friendly team, with tender toned decor over two floors, the Duke offers great ale and drinks offers and a great place to socialise with friends.
A very busy spot for after-work drinks, with a fantastic covered and heated outdoor space to cruise and see the bustle of Soho, very popular with the Bear crowd with regular pub quizzes and events in the upstairs bar.
The Friendly Society
Open the door and walk downstairs, to a crazy and fabulous space. Quirky in every sense, this small little gem in the middle of Soho, hidden away but it’s one to find.
With friendly and helpful staff and a range of great cocktails it’s a great place to grab a midweek drink and a natter, or come down on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday for a more underground disco vibe, with regular DJs and drinks offers. Make sure you check out the ceiling covered in dolls!
Get your booty to this music video mecca, popular with a young, poptastic crowd, enjoying music videos streamed across all 3 floors, fantastic drinks offers with welcoming and friendly bar staff.
Usually busy across the evening until its sister venues G-A-Y Late and Heaven open their doors. Get your discounted G-A-Y entry bands here!
Halfway to Heaven
Renowned for being a great, lively and friendly venue for the LGBT community of London. Situated between Charing Cross Station and Trafalgar Square.
Upstairs is a friendly pub, serving great cask ales and lagers, while downstairs is their centre-stage bar, with live entertainment, cabaret and karaoke seven nights a week. Resident to some legendary drag queens. Well worth a look.
The Kings Arms
Probably the most famous “Bear Bar” in London. Bears flock from all over the world to Poland Street. Serving Ales, Beers and fantastic drinks offers seven days of the week.
The Kings Arms hosts regular karaoke with “Jivin Julie” on a Sunday and regular DJ slots on Fridays and Saturdays. With beary patrons often spilling out over the street outside in summer, if you like beards and hairy chests, this is the place!
One of London’s award-winning venues, a jewel in the crown of the Ku Group, sat on the edge of Chinatown, within easy reach of Charing Cross. You can always guarantee lots of hot guys, VERY hot bar staff with fantastic service and bubbles flowing most evenings.
Serving Beers, Cocktails and fantastic drinks offers in a glitzy, bougie venue that’s always busting most evenings and extra busy on a weekend. Go check it out!
New Bloomsbury Set
An independent cocktail bar, based in the heart of Bloomsbury.
Surround yourself with the gorgeous surroundings of their cosy basement oasis to catch up with friends, start your night out, or for an intimate date.
A popular spot with a discerning after-work crowd, make sure you grab one of the signature cocktails and take advantage of the daily drinks offers!
Set just off the Strand, the Retro Bar is famous for its entertainment schedule, from Cabaret to Quizzes, its a bar with a fantastic vibe, it has that plush lounge feeling, always red n cosy with proper stools at the bar.
Enjoy daily drinks offers, real ales, beers and a selection of bar snacks. Popular with a wide range of after-work regulars, definitely a place where they will end up knowing your name.
A self-proclaimed, premium gay bar in the heart of Soho, open seven days a week. famous for friendly service, great cocktails and fabulous people-watching location.
Don’t forget, there is also weekly DJ’s on rotation, offering everything from cosy bar vibes to pumping house.
Get yourself along and enjoy great drinks deals every day, including legendary happy hour, noon–8pm. You can also hire the Snug area and be your own VIP!
Part of the vibrant KU Group, A modern venue for women and their male guests in the heart of Soho, operating as both an LGBTQ+ community hotspot and after-hours club!
SHE is the only women-priority venue in London, drawing a great variety of LBTQ+ individuals all year round.
SHE’s modern basement bar operates both as a community hotspot, and a vibrant after-hours club, showcasing the hottest DJs on the scene, alongside regular drag king cabaret, burlesque and social events.
With a prime location, in the heart of Soho’s Old Compton Street, She, attracts a wide range of women, of various ages and backgrounds and with the fabulous drinks offers, they keep em coming!
Soho most unique gay venue. Nestled in an intimate courtyard tucked away off Rupert St. The Yard is a welcoming retreat for the hustle and bustle of busy London with a heated, beautiful garden courtyard bar and comfortable balconied loft bar. Perfect for spending long summer or cosy winter nights with friends or loved ones. Tables and VIP areas can be reserved, free, for special occasions and The Yard also boasts one of the most comprehensive cocktails menus in town! Make sure you check out the tasty barmen too!
In its 8th year, Circa continues to be one of the places to be seen. Shouting about the hottest mixed crowd and best Dj’s, fulfilling both your aural and visual pleasure daily. Party bar where the volume goes up across the weekend, with fantastic drinks offers, up for it atmosphere and disco ball DJ booth! Go check it out!
City of Quebec
If you’re looking for somewhere with a lot of Gay History, Quebec has it in spades. Established in 1946, from the outside, it looks like a typical provincial pub, inside you’ll find two floors, upstairs serving beers, ales and drinks offer as well as a substantial food menu. Typically attracting an older crowd, mixed with a few younger guys.
For a more lively vibe, head downstairs, where you’ll find regular cabaret and DJ’s on rotation playing the hits of the ’80s, 90s and beyond.
Freedom is a stylish and sophisticated Bar and Club, located on Wardour Street, in the heart of Soho.
Freedom is the destination of choice for many West end Performers and had a uniquely theatrical atmosphere, reflected in their extensive cocktail list and gorgeous luxurious decor. Home to the wonderful, fresh, fun and funky people, Freedom is the beating heart of Soho.
Fresh flowers, friendly professional staff, stunning visuals, Dj’s and dance poles come together to give a unique fun vibe. Hosting regular cabaret and alternative nights, from comedy to burlesque. Get on down!
“Little” Ku Frith Street
Ku Group’s naughty sibling venue. Just off the main stomp of Old Compton St, Frith St, in the heart of Soho, normally sporting some lovely flags on its outside, you won’t miss it.
Standard Ku Glamour across both floors, with beers, wines and spirit offers plus some fabulous cocktails. One of the best places to catch up for gossip over a G & T. Look out for the huge open windows across summer in the upstairs seating area. Lush!
Village is Soho’s original gay venue and although it’s been around since 1991 it’s still as youthful and flamboyant as ever with a perfect combination of party and unique, laid-back spaces to relax.
On the weekends, check out the gorgeous Go-Go boys on the bar along with their fabulous sassy resident DJ’s who will provide the soundtrack to your night.
Village really does offer something for everyone all under one roof.
Get yourself down there and experience the Soho of the past and the future!
The middle sister of G-A-Y’s London family of venues, let the party carry on with a late license and loads of video screen pop playing. Popular with both the Gay and Lesbian crowd, dancing and partying to pop tunes until the early hours.
Typical G-A-Y high standards, with friendly and helpful staff, fantastic drinks offers plus entrance offers to G-A-Y at Heaven. Well worth a visit!
Ku’s Late night venue, Open 7 nights a week, until 3am.
DJ’s Every Night on rotation, the music and ethos of Ku Klub is chart-topping Pop. Current chart popular tracks with a sprinkling of floor fillers from over the last few years. Guaranteed to keep you dancing with hot boys until the sunrise.
Ku Klub is Free Entry from Sunday to Thursday.
One of London and the World’s most iconic nightclubs, spread across 5 floors! Host to Jeremy Joseph’s G-A-Y Brand Across the weekend with ‘Porn Idol’ Thursdays, ‘Camp Attack’ Fridays and of course ‘G-A-Y’ itself on a Saturday night, with the ever famous ‘Popcorn’ on a Monday night!
Popular with a wide-ranging mixed crowd. Regular performances by some of the biggest names in Pop, with Dj’s playing a selection of pop, dance and R&B. Get ready to dance!
The Ultimate cruise bar. Head through the discreet front door, downstairs to a basement, guaranteed to get you in the mood. Offering something horny 7 days a week, from Cruise to Stripped, a naked event to underwear only.
If your thing is fully clothed, not clothed at all, or you want to sport and show off your newest jock or crisp new Calvins or something even less, this is the place for you.
All of that plus daily drinks offers, lockers to change and leave belongings in and welcoming and friendly staff, if you’re around central London it’s one to not miss.
London’s busiest gay sauna and gym, with the hottest guys. Multi award-winning Sweatbox offers, massage, personal training and the sexiest events.
Some highlights include a fully equipped gym, a 40 man steam room, 14 man jacuzzi, private cabins and chill-out lounge. Popular with both locals and tourists. Host to some exciting events, from foam parties to naked workouts.
Clonezone SOHO is one of Soho’s favourite gay superstores featuring a huge range of fashion, fetish, underwear, adult toys, R18 DVDs, Lubes.
Always with a fun and colourful window, inviting you in to see what’s new. From fetish to just fun and sexy products, you can buy everything from a puppy mask to flavoured lubes. Friendly and helpful staff are always on hand to help if you are a regular, tourist or totally new, with always great offers and deals across different ranges, go check them out!
Gays The Word
A very important piece of gay history, Gay’s The Word is the UK’s oldest LGBT bookshop and a touchstone for the broader LGBT community. The bookshop was set up in January 1979 by a group of gay socialists as a community space where all profits were funnelled back into the business. This ethos continues today with shelves bursting with books and the space used for book and community events, all stewarded by three members of staff: Jim, Uli, and Erica.
Across the website, they have included details about their history, features in print, radio, and film, photographs and recordings from past events and our new online shop.
You always know you’ve entered the gay village when you spot those little neon paws on the outside of the corner store that is Prowler Soho. Selling everything from Gay DVDs to kitsch Pink Poodles and Gay Flags.
Prowler is a well-established brand within the gay community with over 25 years of experience. Founded in 1989 and opening their first retail store in 1997.
Founded initially as a publisher of gay magazines, they have grown over the years to be one of the largest gay retailers in the UK. Prowlers mail-order service has been delivering high-quality products to gay men around the world since the early 00s and has become a trusted name for gay men internationally.
Don’t miss their fantastic underwear range including their own “Prowler” line!
Spread over two floors, Regulation London is one of Soho’s destination fetish stores. A licensed sex shop and stockist of a huge range of own-brand and labelled men’s clothing, bondage, and fetishwear, with spacious changing rooms and a custom fit service you are bound to find something just right. You can shop in-store or click and collect seven days a week.
Covent Garden Health Spa
Covent Garden Health Spa is a premier London male-only spa. Situated in Covent Garden with facilities to help relieve the pressures and stress of busy London living.
Open 7 days a week, offering a discreet environment for guests to unwind and relax, with sauna, steam room, spa pool and wet areas and private cabins.
Book a private massage if you fancy the ultimate relaxation or even a haircut from their new in house barber. Often host to many private Jamie HP events as they also have a fully stocked licensed bar. Get your towel. You’ve pulled!
The Pleasance Theatre
The Pleasance Theatre has been one of the most exciting Off-West-End theatres in London since it opened its doors in 1995, providing a launchpad for some of the most memorable productions and renowned practitioners of the past decade and staying true to its mission of providing a platform for the talent of the future. Across three spaces, the theatre welcomes artists at all stages of their careers, with a commitment to new work that pushes boundaries.
The Pleasance plays host to some of the biggest names in comedy and the likes of Michael McIntyre, Russell Brand, Micky Flanagan, Mark Watson, Adam Hills, and Mark Thomas have all regularly complimented our comedy program as well as a large LGBTQI plus oriented program.
The Portsea Sauna
The Portsea is a small and friendly sauna that caters for those who desire a discreet and quality venue that provides a wide range of services. Specialising in massage with normally up to 3 masseurs available each day.
Open 7 days a week, really close to Marble Arch it’s the perfect spot for both locals, tourists and visitors into town. Enjoy both steam and heat in their sauna as well as a number of private cabins, video lounge and rest areas with free refreshments available at the bar.
Prowler RED is the darker fetish brand of Prowler Stores. Located in the old Fifty & Dean location, right in the middle of Old Compton Street. Always sporting huge window displays, tempting you over to the dark side. Tempted to enter? Go on! You’ll find everything from jockstraps to leather harnesses, hoods, cock-rings and everything in between. Anyone whose into fetish, this is their mecca. With alternative ranges, including fashion T’s and caps, there’s something for everyone. Go get your fetish on!
Face Clinic London & Soho Skin
A friendly London based facial aesthetics clinic offering Wrinkle Treatment, Sweating Treatment and Dermal Fillers in Soho, London. Founded by two fully trained and experienced doctors in the heart of London, Face Clinic aim to provide a professional and friendly service to all of their clients.
All our injectable treatments are given by fully qualified GMC registered doctors.We offer all new clients an impartial and independent consultation where we work together to achieve their personal aesthetic goals. All clients receiving wrinkle treatment are offered a free two-week post-treatment review with a doctor.
Soho Skin, Face Clinics sister service based in the same building, offers a choice of advanced facials and male beauty services, including intimate male and female waxing, to make you look your best. Plus their shelves are stocked with the latest pampering products from REN and our advanced skincare line by ZO Skin Health.
So you can have a pamper and take home some glorious products to let you continue at home!
X-it is the only salon in central London that offers full body hair removal using the ancient art of sugaring. Owned and run by husband and wife team Sean and Tracy. Born from a male client base, X-IT is a unisex salon.
X-it specialises in sugaring and has over 10 years experience of looking after the beauties of Soho. Offering very high standards of care with friendly and relaxed service. Tracy and Sean will always make you feel totally at ease, giving you the right amount of time to make sure your treatment is done to a very high standard, with no rushing, every time.
Liberation – the Libidex boutique in London’s Covent Garden – not only stocks a wide range of Libidex latex clothing but is central London’s only latex clothing store. They’ve been established since 2004, and we’re still serving the fetish public!
Described as “London’s coolest kink boutique”, Liberation’s ground floor and discreet fetish basement are well supplied with a good selection of garments from the Libidex latex collections, and offer a fascinating range of good-quality accessories, gifts, adult toys and a few kinky antiques, for your delectation!
There are two changing rooms, supplied with talc and wipes, and the premises are fully air-conditioned. They also have the Libidex catalogue available for you to browse on a tablet while waiting for your partner to try on their outfit!
Liberation also sell tickets for many major fetish events in the UK and the rest of Europe. If you’re in London, Liberation is a ‘must’ for any keen rubberist.