With the largest gay community in the whole of Europe, it’s no secret that areas in London have a hugely diverse and proud LGBT scene. Here is our guide to some gay friendly neighbourhoods in London.
London is regularly listed as one of the best gay-friendly cities in the world, with a whole host of micro communities to rival the likes of The Village in New York and Canal Street in Manchester. London's also home to many world-famous LGBT events, including an annual Gay Pride parade and the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, which are growing more prominent with every year.
Gay citizens in the UK are entitled to equal rights in all cases, including marriage, and London is considered by many people in the gay community to be a safe and welcoming place where they are free from the persecution that still blights many countries.
UK based charity Stonewall have played a major role in the fight to end bigotry in the UK, and their list of the best approved employers for LGBT workplace equality and educational establishments includes many London-based companies and universities, including Barclays, The Home Office, Tower Hamlets Homes, St Mungo’s and UCL.
While LGBT venues can be found across the city, there are a few places which are particularly renowned if you’re looking for a fun, lively and diverse LGBT scene right on your doorstep. These range from the warehouse nightclubs of Vauxhall to the relaxed bars of Stoke Newington, so whatever kind of gay-friendly area you’re looking to live in, you can certainly find it in London.
The West End of London has been considered as the centre of gay culture in the city for hundreds of years, when cruising culture, ‘gay guidebooks’ and private bars, brothels and bathhouses began to spring up around Covent Garden and Piccadilly Circus. Soho itself was associated with gay culture from the 1890s, and there are records of numerous gay-friendly cafes in the 1920s and 1930s, but it didn’t really get it’s reputation as the heart of the action until the 1980s, when many of the resident porn barons were pushed out by the council and the growing gay businesses came in to occupy the empty lots.
Nowadays it’s full of gay bars, cafes and sex shops, as well as world-class restaurants and infamous venues such as Admiral Duncan, G-A-Y and She Soho. It’s also home to the London LGBT Tourist Office, and you can even take part in an LGBT Soho Walking Tour if you want to learn more about the historic haunts of the area.
Soho is much more a commercial area than a residential one, but there are some amazing apartments in converted buildings and historic townhouses if you can afford the eye-watering rent. Most people tend to visit Soho on the evenings and weekends instead, and live outside of Zone 1, but it you’re interested in living right in the heart of London’s gay community check out our Soho London Guide.
Despite the painful loss of iconic gay venue The Black Cap earlier this year, a historic pub which had been considered as a key gay community venue in London since the 1960s, Camden in North London still has a thriving gay scene. It’s known for being an alternative, loud and proud area which has long attracted eclectic types as well as media and literary luvvies, families, and students. Great gay-friendly venues here include the Electric Ballroom, Bloc Bar and Camden institution Proud, which made the news last year when the owner cancelled a Christmas booking for an international company due to their homophobic enquiry, by reportedly informing them that although not strictly a gay bar, ‘we are pretty gay and a lot of gay stuff happens here. Gay drinks, gay food, gay loos etc. Sorry to disappoint. Booking cancelled’.
As for living, Camden is a brilliant area if you want to be close to plenty of bars and restaurants as well as having great transport links, and despite the NW1 location it’s still possible to find a well-priced apartment either here or in the neighbouring areas of Kentish Town and Chalk Farm. There’s everything from period houses to slick modern apartments overlooking the canal, so all range of needs and budgets are accommodated here. Check out our Camden London Guide for more information on what Camden has to offer.
Not far from Camden, the swanky North London area of Islington claims to have the highest number of cohabiting same sex couples in the UK. Essex Road and Upper Street are known for having a few great gay bars including Eastbloc, as well as plenty of renowned restaurants and cafes, good shops, and easy connections to central London and the rest of the city.
The area is popular with city workers and couples, and there’s a diverse mix of housing options here, although rent is generally high in this part of London. The majority of rental properties in the area are apartments, which range from converted Georgian and Victorian terraces to purpose-built blocks on the canal and former local authority buildings from the 1960s.
Vauxhall has become second only to Soho as London’s most popular gay-friendly area, although it actually boasts an even older LGBT history than the West End. Vauxhall originally became a gay destination in the 1660s, with the opening of Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, while in the 1950s the area was famous for cabaret and drag acts.
Nowadays there’s every type of venue here, including the huge warehouse clubs such as Area, Crash, Fire, Barcode and Club Colosseum, fetish and special interest nights at Hidden and The Hoist, saunas including Chariots and Locker Room, quiet pubs, cocktail bars and even an exclusively male gym, so you’ve no excuse not to get involved in the scene!
Meanwhile, this part of South London is also a good area to live in, albeit very urban, and with a huge regeneration project currently underway it’s predicted to see thousands of new homes built in the next decade. The American Embassy is poised to arrive, and despite an unbeatable location next to the Thames and brilliant transport links, it’s not nearly as expensive as you’d expect either.
The borough of Hackney, and in particular the areas of Dalston and Shoreditch, have become a popular LGBT hub in the last ten years with gay-friendly venues such as Dalston Superstore and Vogue Fabrics, as well as club nights including as Sink The Pink. There are also plenty of relaxed gay pubs, including The George and Dragon, and nearby Hoxton is home to Europe’s largest gay choir.
As for living, Hackney’s got a huge assortment of residential options, from the city apartments of Shoreditch to family homes in Homerton and Hackney Central, so you’re bound to find something in budget close to your favourite local gay-friendly venues.
While most people might associate Clapham with rugby players, city boys and yummy mummies, this part of South West London has a thriving gay scene with loads of clubs and bars both here and in nearby Brixton. The Two Brewers is a beloved local club and cabaret joint, while Kasbar and The Bridge are also worth a visit.
With a huge green common, a busy train station and various tube stations, Clapham is also one of London’s most sought after areas, particularly with young professionals and students who are looking for a reasonably-priced apartment close to all the amenities of the high street. Rental prices are swiftly rising here though, so get in quickly if you’re planning to move here.
The friendly area of Stoke Newington (known as ‘Stokey’ to many) is home to a large lesbian and LGBT community, mostly centred around independent bars such as Blush. It’s a quiet and relaxed part of London with a vibrant high street, and has recently started to host a range of innovative new food pop-ups. Stoke Newington school was also one of the first to introduce the teaching of LGBT History Month to the curriculum, which has contributed to making the area more popular with gay families.
Stoke Newington has seen a huge amount of gentrification over the last decade, and in the last few years has come to be seen as a very desirable London area for those who want to be in a close community but still have easy access to the rest of London. It’s still possible to find a good value apartment here close to the train station (there’s no tube unfortunately), most of which are in converted Victorian terraces or ex-authority buildings.
Main image credit: Guillaume Paumier