by Dirk Baumgartl
You have to make up your mind: Those who visit the British capital for the first time simply cannot avoid the big touristy circuit. Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Saint Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Covent Garden, Tower Bridge, Piccadilly Circus – the list of famous sights to visit could go on. London was in the spotlight for an entire summer – first with the celebrations for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, then with the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Beautifully staged as always were all the famous sights of one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Europe.
Traditional and trendy – you can find all of this close together in London so that it’s easy to get excited up to a point near additcion: to art, culture, music and long nights out. London’s gay scene has always been regarded as particularly hip – the peculiarities that Britain still carefully cultivates in its distinction from the rest of Europe can also be found in the city’s gay life. Anyone interested in the historical development of gay and lesbian life in London should join a guided walk in Soho.
Richard Roques, our guide for Walks.com, is a kind of walking encyclopedia of anything about homosexuals in London. We learn about gay aristocrats, 19th century prostitution and the trials of Oscar Wilde. The walk terminates on Old Compton Street – Soho’s traditional homo mile. Here you find traditional gay pubs like Admiral Duncan, classics like Comptons of Soho and popular mainstream bars and clubs like G-A-Y or Shadow Lounge. If you are there on a Thursday, you should have a peek at the Room Service party series at Miabella. This small club is also located in Soho, but with its fashion-conscious and eccentric crowd it is a type you rather find in East London.
In clubs like East Bloc, The Joiners Arms or Dalston Superstore, you find bearded hipsters and cool guys, fashion freaks and punks – in short, that alternative mix of people that despise streamlined bars and stylish events. If there’s such a thing as the heart of the East London gay scene, it can be found somewhere here: Among the kitsch objects hanging from the walls and the rustic bar of The George and Dragon. This typical English pub is the perfect place to have your first beer on a weekend’s evening. The music is at least as eclectic as the guests which all have to leave after the last round at about midnight.
This leaves you enough time to move over to one of Vauxhall’s clubs – e.g the Area. The city’s most famous after-hour party, Beyond, starts there every Sunday morning at six a.m. Another highlight, a must also for non-night owls, is a visit to Royal Vauxhall Tavern on a Sunday afternoon. The “RVT”, the oldest gay restaurant in South London, is a mixture of a pub and a theatre, where various events and parties take place. The “Dame Edna Experience” by Jonathan Hellyer, however, is in a class of its own and has been thrilling the London scene for over ten years. This is due to Hellyer’s humour, especially his voice. The successor of Jimmy Somerville at Bronski Beat interprets the great songs of the disco era like no other drag queen. And everyone sings along.
Official homepage of London providing a lot of inormation for gay and lesbian tourists.
Lufthansa offer several daily flights to London Heathrow from various German airports such as Munich, Frankfurt, Berlin and Hamburg. Return flights are available from 119 Euros. Keep your eyes peeled for special offers on the airline’s homepage.
Radisson Blu Edwardian Bloomsbury Street (9–13 Bloomsbury Street) Beautiful, modern and luxury hotel north of Soho, www.radissonblu-edwardian.com
Radisson Blu Edwardian Hampshire (31–16 Leicester Square) Luxury hotel, centrally located on Leicester Square, www.radissonblu-edwardian.com
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