By Oren Sam
What comes to mind when one thinks of London? Big Ben? Tower Bridge? What about the queen, palaces, double-decker buses, theater, and, well, the list goes on. While those monuments and staples have made the UK what it is today, what does the city have to offer its gay tourists? Right before the sexy athletes swamp the city for the 2012 Olympics (now there’s an attraction!), the city’s gay factor is worth contemplation.
Big Ben, or just Big? Whatever you want, Gay-Ville’s Gonna Help You Get It.
London never goes out of fashion. Places open and close, but a combination of historical locations and vibrant nightlife always makes the city worth a visit. It’s not as sleazy as Berlin or as romantic as Paris, but London has other charms a gay tourist will find irresistible. The gay “scene” is divided into two main areas: The traditional one is Soho (West End), and the newer, edgier one is located in Vauxhall (East End).
In Soho, the main bar and club street is Old Compton, the streets around it, and Soho Square. You can find popular places like The Edge (illuminated in pink), the Village, Balans (a great restaurant that’s not pricey and comes with a side dish of pop divas as a soundtrack), the Barcode, and the most iconic club of all: G-A-Y. People dance to pop music, videos are displayed on the screens, and there are theme nights and performances. The Soho crowd is quite young, and it’s a friendly mix of gay and straight.
The atmosphere in Vauxhall is much more steamy and dark. In addition to fetish clubs like The Hoist, most of the places are “men only,” and the crowd tends to be older than in Soho.
Once you get your bar fill, make sure you check out London’s amazing theater scene. The West End is second only to Broadway for shows, and you’ll have the added advantage of hearing many of them in the Queen’s English. Remember, Shakespeare is from these here parts. London loves its musicals, and a trip here means you’ll find such popular staples as Wicked, the Phantom of the Opera, Billy Elliott, and Mama Mia. You won’t, however, find the Naked Cowboy or Times Square tacky tourists.
This year should be especially hot for a cold-ish city, as the Olympic Games take place from July 27th through August 12, right after Gay Pride, celebrated the first Saturday of the month. All of you athletic supporters should hang out to see which jocks are coming early to hang it all out.
One can’t visit London without experiencing the fantastic shopping. The main area is Oxford Street, which has more than two kilometers of shops and department stores, from known brands to small boutiques. Camden Market, northwest of the city, is also a must-see, as is Portobello Road Market and the famous Notting Hill neighborhood. You know, where Julia Roberts was just a girl, looking at a boy…
London is quite expensive, but if you’re smart you can do it on a budget. Major stores offer good discounts on holidays and at the end of each season. So, before the prices go higher, and the city gets too crowded, treat yourself to a London vacation. Hard or soft, East or West, the city and its boys will live up to your standards.
For more information on London places and gay hotspots, go to Gay-Ville. These guys have the total package.