Soho will always have a place in gay London, however as rent prices increase and more locals move out to the fringe neighbourhoods, the LGBTQ scene has seen a slight revival and resurgence elsewhere in the city. Shoreditch and Hackney in East London have long been the site of London’s alternative cultures, so it’s no surprise to see some of those institutions (and new ones, opening often) with large LGBTQ crowds. Here’s where to go for a gay-friendly experience in East London.
This is a small venue with a big heart, especially if you are up to embracing London’s diversity. With a small stage for drag shows and live DJs next to the dance floor, The Glory is a trendy pub for a cold pint or a cocktail. Located on Kingsland Road, the eclectic space is all about performances, with Saturdays being the favourite for both local and foreign adventurers. Prices are welcoming and many activities are free before midnight, with an entrance of five pounds for late-comers. The gay pub is co-owned by legendary East London performer, Jonny Woo.
One of the biggest gay clubs in East London, the Dalston Superstore is famous for its wild nights. Also located on Kingsland Road, it attracts both local and well-known DJs for parties just about every night of the week. In earlier hours, you can grab food at the space. It’s mostly comforting food like sloppy joes (not unlike the sloppy joes you’ll find on the dance floor after 1am) and all-day brunches. Art from local queer artists is regularly featured on the walls and drag shows, pub quizzes and lesbian nights are common staples on the Dalston Superstore’s event calendar.
The celebrated Brick Lane has always been a place of discovery. Every Sunday, the market reappears in this tiny street among the Indian restaurants, cafés and local thrift stores. The street food isn’t just delicious but it’s also prepared with the heart and traditions of a dozen different cultures and countries. From the chicken empanadas from Argentina to the spicy soups from Thailand, a Sunday at Brick Lane means affordable food, live music and mojitos. Bring a date.
Has there ever been such a pretty street market before? We don’t think so. Each Sunday, Columbia Road Flower Market transforms the quiet, peaceful street into a cacophony of flower-sellers, scents and street buskers. It’s the perfect place for a romantic, leisurely stroll on a Sunday morning, just before brunch.
One of the most interesting ways to explore the East End is, perhaps predictably, to do it with some food in your mouth. The East End Food Tour introduces you to local foodie classics, like the fish-and-chips from Poppies to the salt beef bagels at Beigel Bake. Interspersed with historical stories about the neighbourhood, everything from Jack the Ripper horror stories to Harry Potter references, this always-changing area is hard to track back, but the Eating London Food Tour offers the perfect opportunity for understanding its current development as the epicentre of fusion and creativity.
While two or three Banksy pieces can be spotted during this amazing walking tour, the best lesson you will learn is that street art is a complex universe of sometimes tiny manifestations and almost imperceptible changes. You will encounter a variety of street artists who work not only with spray paint but who do their magic with paper, tiles, and even bubble gum. Shoreditch is famous for its street art interventions and famous artists come frequently to update the neighbourhoods with new works. The tour also makes reference to erased works and points out the restrictions and difficulties that street artists face in London.
This trendy Mexican bar and restaurant, DF/Mexico, serves up American-inspired Mexican foods—and fast! Popular both at lunchtime in the evenings, it’s right in the heart of Shoreditch, on the site of the former Old Truman Brewery alongside other equally trendy bars and restaurants. Ordering food is done by clicking some buttons on an iPad at the front, by the bar, and the food comes quick and tasty. With bottomless horchata available, and ice-cold margaritas, it’s a fun and casual restaurant to begin an evening out.
Founded at the turn of the 20th century, the Whitechapel Gallery has a history of showing revolutionary works. It was the first and the only gallery in Britain to show Picasso’s Guernica, as well as legendary works by Jackson Pollock, David Hockney and Cy Twombly. Today, it’s at the forefront of London’s contemporary galleries, with regular exhibitions relating to feminist and social issues in modern society. A previous exhibition of Hannah Höch’s works (a Dada artist from Weimar-era Germany) included pieces representative of the artist’s feminist ideals and bisexuality.
Open since 2006 in Shoreditch, The Hoxton isn’t just a place to sleep, but also a place to meet others, to eat and to drink. The front lobby’s large windows and plush sofas make it a cosy place to make friends, plus with urban yoga events and pop-up shops operating in the building, it’s a great place to get situated in the Shoreditch hipster scene.
A bit more expensive than affordable, the Ace Hotel is all about design and the ‘scene’. Located right in the heart of Shoreditch High Road, this is the perfect accommodation alternative for those who travel to London for work, pleasure, or both. Its restaurant, Hoi Polloi, offers amazing breakfast varieties and incredible main dishes, including the local’s favourite Hoi Polloi cheeseburger. The co-working space is frequently visited by locals and travellers, making it a perfect spot for networking and casual meetings with friends. Plus, the hotel frequently hosts events such as the London-based Naked Boys Reading group, which is exactly what it sounds like.