|Kings and Queens of Queer London|
The London gay scene has nothing to do with the image that you may have about prudish Victorian England. London is home to the largest gay and lesbian population of any major European city, and the gay community is as diverse as the gays themselves.
Old Compton Street in Soho is undisputedly the heart of gay and lesbian London. Vauxhall, Camden, Hampstead, Islington, Brixton, Clapham, Hackney, and other areas also have many interesting venues, but even if you are staying for a long time it's not possible to visit all of them. Lesbian life can be found in Stoke Newington where there are bars, restaurants and shops for the female locals.
London also has numerous attractions, museums, theaters and cultural activities.
If you want to see the major London sights, then you should visit Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, Big Ben, and Hyde Park with the famous Speaker's Corner and of course one must go to Piccadilly Circus, Westminster Abbey, Kensington Palace and the British Museum.
London Pride lasts for a fortnight (18.6.-3.7.2011) with the parade on 3rd of July. Other gay and lesbian festivals are XXL Bear Pride (27.5.-30.5.2011), the GFest - gayWise LGBT Arts Festival, UK Black Pride, the Birds Eye View Film Festival (Celebrating Women Filmmakers) (8.3.-17.3.2011), the BFI London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival (31.3.-6.4.2011) and the Outburst UK LGBT Arts & Cultural Day in November. Soho had it's own Soho Pride from 2003-2008 and it's not sure if it will be held again.
In summer 2012, London will be the venue for World Pride (23.6.-8.7.2012) with a big parade on 7th July. This is just before the Olympics from 27th of July to 12th of August 2012.
There is no hotel in London that is exclusively gay, there is Victoria Gay Hostel, which is for gays and lesbians, as well as hotels such as Edward Lear Hotel and Blades Hotel, which welcome everybody, in particular gay and lesbian visitors. There are also countless gay-friendly hotels in the city, such as Hotel Indigo, Quality Crown Hotel Paddington, Radisson Edwardian May Fair Hotel and Cadogan Hotel (where Oscar Wilde was arrested in 1895 in room 118), just to mention a few.
In the city there are more than a dozen saunas for gay men, all are more or less good. As a fan of gay saunas, you should maybe start at Pleasuredome, or visit one of the Chariots Saunas in Waterloo, Streatham or Shoreditch, or E15 Club.
No visit to London is complete without a night out at the pub. The oldest gay pub is The Quebec, which has a traditional London pub interior. Other popular gay pubs are Duke of Wellington, Comptons of Soho and 79cxr.
For dancing go to Club Union or Fire Nightclub.
The biggest gay and lesbian party in England, the G-A-Y, is held in what used to be the legendary Heaven. A pre-party can be found at G-A-Y Bar, and later one can go to G-A-Y Late.
Those who prefer queer comedy shows should visit Comedy Camp, Two Brewers, or The Royal Vauxhall Tavern.
Vault 139 is the best bar for cruising and bears definitely go to The King's Arms, or XXL.
For those who like it mixed and metrosexual, Rupert Street Bar is your place. Another institution on the gay scene is Central Station, where special "men only" events are regularly held.
If you just want a drink at a place with a good mix of people, go to Village Soho.
English cuisine may be open to dispute, but London offers a wide selection of restaurants to meet every taste.