London's gay and lesbian bars are centred around Soho and Covent Garden. The nights are long, the pace is fast, and anything goes!
Old Compton Street (OCS), Soho's main drag, is often called the gayest street in Europe.
The Admiral Duncan
The good ship Duncan, one of the capital's best-loved queer haunts, sails on. A traditional, endearingly rough around the edges boozer, the sounds at the Admiral Duncan remain firmly rooted in those halcyon days of the 1980s and 1990s.
Open Mon-Sat, noon-11pm, and Sunday, noon-10.30pm
For something a little more mature, Barcode is the place mostly post-30s gay men assemble nightly. A cruise-y joint, Barcode isn't averse to a muscle or two. Try downstairs for dancing; Tuesday nights are the side-splitting Comedy Camp. So don't forget your corsets.
Open Mon-Sat, 4pm-1am and Sun, 4pm-10.30pm
The Box is famous for its worked-out-to-within-an-inch-of-their-lives barmen. It attracts a similar type, but also a scattering of savvy media types from nearby Covent Garden. Its walls are often given over to some hot new happening gay artist.
Girls just wanna have fun at Candy Bar, the UK's first women-only venue with a licence to strip! The erotic dancers in the basement are poles apart.
Open 7 days a week from 5pm onwards
Bovver boots and bomber jackets are the uniform of choice at this renowned trad drinking hole in Soho. But don't let that mislead you. Comptons sees plenty of cruising, but no bruising.
Open Mon-Sat, noon-11pm, Sun, noon-10.30pm
The Duke of Wellington
This hugely popular "local" pub, slap-bang in the middle of Soho, is a one-up, one-down. The Duke of Wellington is warm and welcoming downstairs, chic and chilled upstairs.
With no fewer than 4 floors of pleasure to choose from – a ground bar, a lounge bar, a piano bar and a club bar – The Edge is like the Empire State Building of gay abandon. A Euro-style fooderie during daylight hours, it turns into a throbbing nightclub at sundown.
Open Mon-Sat, noon-1am, Sun, noon-10.30pm
For something a little livlier, try Escape. With its shiny floor and disco music, designer-clad young lads and an up-for-it attitude, Escape is a bijou space that's a great pre-club dance bar.
Open Mon-Sat, 3pm-3am
First Out Café Bar
It's like those heady student days all over again. Head to First Out for veggie food, cheap drinks... hell, even art exhibitions. Right, who's for a debate about world peace? First Out has it all.
Open Mon-Sat, 10am-11pm and Sun, 11am-10.30pm
Mad as a box of hair, with fish tanks, kids' wallpaper and funny space-age banquettes, intimate pre-club fave, the Friendly Society is fun, fun, fun. (With a bit more fun on the side).
The name leaves you in no doubt as to what to expect. The G-A-Y Bar is all velvet and va-va-voom, with video screens beaming out Kylie, S Club, Gloria Gaynor et al. There's a girls' bar in the basement.
Open Mon-Sat, noon-midnight and Sun, noon-10.30pm
Halfway to Heaven
A popular stop-off point on the way to the celestial-sounding superclub (see Heaven), Halfway to Heaven is the calm before the storm. There are no frills to speak of in this everyman's boozer, but the atmosphere is friendly.
Open Mon-Sat, noon-11pm and Sun, noon-10.30pm
The King's Arms
Brad Pitt was once spotted enjoying a pint of good ol' British here. But for the most part, the King's Arms is home to friendly bears hustling pool with their nearest and dearest.
Candles and a stylishly eccentric decor give the Ku Bar an old-curiosity-shop ambience that will inject a breath of fresh air into your social schedule. Popular with a young crowd.
Polish off some tasty grub from the extensive menu, then dance it off in front of the huge video screen playing the latest hits downstairs. Kudos attracts a particularly multiethnic crowd.
Open Mon-Fri, 3pm-11pm, Sat, noon-11pm and Sun, noon-10.30pm
Aptly named, the Village is like several venues rolled into one. Stretched over 3 distinctive floors, the diverse decors – everything from Morocco to the musicals, boudoir to Buffalo Bill – alongside a young, mixed Euro crowd ensure you'll never get bored at Village Soho.
Open Mon-Sat, 11.30pm-1am and Sun, noon-midnight
The Mayfair Bar
Sip classy cocktails in the heart of influential Mayfair at the intimate Mayfair Bar. You'll find an unusual and refreshing mix of drinks, expertly made by the skilled Mayfair bartenders. This is a place to snuggle away; unwind by the recessed fireplace and enjoy the original artwork, sense of privacy and the luxurious surroundings.
Not hugely Canadian (or French, for that matter), Quebec is a trad bar loved by people who consider themselves too old, proud or too out-of-shape to wear skinny-fit tees.
Open Mon-Wed, noon-1am, Thu-Sat noon-2am, Sun 1pm-midnight
The Retro Bar
At the Retro Bar, skinny indie boys and babes in Adidas and drainpipes pogo to the latest and greatest alternative offerings from Britpop and across the pond.
Open Mon-Sat, noon-11pm and Sun, noon-10.30pm
A suave retreat away from the hustle and bustle of London's hub. If the suited banker boys don't grab your attention, then the beautiful bar tenders serving up colourful cocktails will. The food at Rupert Street is a treat, too. Rammed most Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, with the chitter-chatter flirting often spilling out onto the street.
Open Mon-Sat, noon-11am and Sun, noon-10.30pm
Hunky lads, pumping tunes and even a name that reminds you of your first Ford Escort are among the delights of 79 CXR. And with a tasty, varied menu, an outside seating area and friendly bar staff, who could ask for anything more?
Open Mon-Sat, 1pm-3am and Sun, 1-10.30pm
The Yard Bar
The Yard Bar is popular with the office boys and money men. Comfy sofas, cheery staff and open-air drinking make it the perfect place to relax at the end of the working day.
Open Mon-Sat, 5-11pm and Sun, 5-10.30pm