If you’re visiting the UK to check out the queer scene, you’ll no doubt make a beeline for London. The capital is naturally packed with iconic LGBT events and historic places to visit. However, anyone who lives here knows that London is just the tip of a rainbow-coloured iceberg. The UK is filled with wildly creative queer hubs, each with a distinct identity and vibrant calendar of parties, performances and Pride festivals. Here you’ll find nine amazing cities that shouldn’t be missed if you’re looking for a real taste of the UK queer scene.
All of these cities have very established gay scenes that you can read about in any number of other gay travel guides. This list is about the events, festivals, and spaces inclusive of everyone who exists under the queer umbrella. So, if you like your LGBT events to feature drag kings, QTIPOC hosts and non-binary DJs, then here’s everything you’ll want to know about.
📷 above image from Homobloc 2019 in Manchester. CREDIT: Jody Hartley
Have I missed something fabulous? Comment below and share the love 👇
Despite only legalising same-sex marriage in January 2020, Northern Ireland’s capital has a small but very vibrant queer scene. Yes, Drag Race UK contestant Blu Hydrangea is from here but it’s also home to the very fabulous Ross Anderson-Doherty (aka Cake Daddy). Catch them performing at Cabaret Supper Club and the annual queer art and performance festival, Outburst, alongside a whole host of other local talents.
Venues: sparkly drag spot Maverick Bar; arts venue and bar Black Box; dine and drag Cabaret Supper Club; queer/feminist arts space The 343, gay bar/club Boombox Belfast.
Parties and clubs: Ponyhawke, Queertopia, Ellen and Edie Present, Haus of Falls (who throw the Troll Ball), GIRL, Harland & Poof.
Festivals: queer arts festival Outburst (12-20 November 2021); free arts festival Culture Night (Sept 2021 date TBC).
Projects of interest: QueerSpace Belfast, Belfast Trans Resource Centre, Pride in Solidarity.
Pride: Belfast Pride 2021 is TBC but is rumoured to be 31 July-1 August. The next Trans Pride NI will take place in 2021 (date TBA).
The UK’s second-largest city has its very own Gay Village that is bursting with sceney bars. But scratch its surface, and you’ll discover Birmingham has a fantastic array of queer arts festivals. Keep an eye out for local performers such as the (hopefully soon to be launched) House of Bab.
Venues: queer pub The Fox; campy club The Nightingale.
Parties and clubs: DragPunk, Kings N’ Things, Mother’s Meeting.
Festivals: queer art and culture festival Shout (November 2021 dates TBC); international theatre and performance festival Fierce (10-16 October 2022); QTIPOC film festival CineQ (November 2021 dates TBC).
Projects of interest: Unmuted, Map of Queer Brum.
Pride: Birmingham Pride will next take place on 25-26 September 2021.
Arguably the queerest place in the UK, Brighton’s LGBTQ+ history dates back to Napoleonic Wars when garrisoned soldiers turned the seaside city into a gay hotspot. These days, Brighton is one of our most trans-friendly cities, holding Europe’s first Trans Pride march in 2013, thanks to local activists, including fashion historian E-J Scott and author Juno Dawson.
Venues: queer pub and theatre The Marlborough (under new management from mid-2020); gay bar/club Revenge; old school boozer Bedford Tavern.
Parties and club nights: Kingdom, Polyglamorous, The Powder Room, Traumfrau, Lip Sync For Your Life.
Festivals: LGBTQ+ literature festival The Coast is Queer (2022 date TBC); Film Pride (2021 date TBC).
Exhibitions: Queer the Pier at the Brighton Museum (until February 2022). You can also collect the LGBTQ Trail for the Brighton Museum at the entrance.
Tours: Piers and Queers.
Places of interest: AIDS Memorial Sculpture in New Steine Gardens, The Feminist Bookshop.
Projects of interest: QTIPOC Narratives, Brownton Abbey, Marlborough Productions (formerly ran the queer pub The Marlborough)
Pride: Brighton Pride will next take place on 6-8 August 2021 and Trans Pride Brighton & Hove on 17 July 2021..
Long favoured by anarchists and environmentalists, Bristol has a very radical vibe and a big queer scene. It’s also one of the most popular cities for polyamorous people outside of London. My top tip? Don’t miss the outdoor parties thrown by People Like Us during the summer – fantastic crowd, music and energy.
Venues: live music venue Exchange; club Queenshilling; gay-owned pub and party venue Phoenix.
Parties and clubs: Bitch Please, Brizzle Boyz, Don’t Tell Your Mother, Slaughterhaus, People Like Us, Horseplay, Indigo/Hush, Grrrl Crush, Scritch Cabaret, Punka.
Festivals: Queer Vision film festival (part of Bristol Pride in July); queer arts festival All Out All Dayer (2021 date TBA).
Exhibitions: the M Shed has an LGBT+ history audio guide.
Projects of interest: Kiki, Thorny, Queer Kink Bristol.
Pride: Bristol Pride will next take place on 10 July 2021. Trans Pride South West takes place in Bristol, with its 2021 date TBA.
Often overlooked by tourists who flock to neighbouring Edinburgh, Glasgow actually has the biggest queer scene and largest Pride celebration in Scotland. There’s an impressive amount to do here – including a queer walking tour, bookshop and sex shop – but the Lesbian Archive should not be missed, as it’s one of the most significant collections of LGBT+ history in the UK.
Venues: drag king/queen shows Katie’s Bar; queerish cabaret bar The Riding Room.
Parties and clubs: Queer Theory, Push It.
Festivals: queer film festival SQIFF (2021 date TBC); live art and radical performance festival Buzzcut (3-5 June 20201); queer theatre readings festival QWERK (2021 date TBC).
Tours: Queer Glasgow walking tour.
Places of interest: Queer bookshop Category Is Books, lovely queer sex toy shop Luke & Jack.
Projects of interest: Scotch Bonnet, Outspoken Arts, the Lesbian Archive at the Glasgow Women’s Library.
Pride: Pride Glasgow 2021 date TBC. Trans Pride Scotland changes its location every year (2021 date TBC).
It could be said that this northern city encapsulates both the history and the future of queerness in the UK. Not only is Leeds home to The New Penny (our oldest, continuously running gay pub), but it’s also home to Mermaids, a charity that supports trans and gender-diverse children. I also love how many DIY women-centric parties and creative groups there are here.
Venues: legendary drag bar Viaduct; performance art theatre CLAY; arty events venue Wharf Chambers.
Parties and clubs: Dyke Chambers, House of Suarez Vogue Ball, Girl Gang Leeds, Grind Girls, Love Muscle.
Festivals: Leeds Queer Film Festival (2021 date TBA); Queer Arts North Showcase (2021 date TBA).
Places of interest: The New Penny.
Projects of interest: Queerology, Non-Binary Leeds, West Yorkshire Queer Stories, QTIPOC Leeds, Mermaids.
Pride: Leeds Pride and Trans Pride Leeds have both been postponed till 2022, with new dates TBA.
Legendary queer club Garlands (RIP) may have only recently shuttered its doors, but there is still so much worth visiting Liverpool for. Homotopia, the UK’s longest-running LGBTQIA arts and culture festival, is a highlight of every autumn, while Liverpool Queer Collective keeps you up to date on events throughout the year. Personally, I’m obsessed with the power and style of local drag performer Tammy Reynolds (aka Midgitte Bardot).
Venues: ornate basement bar Lisbon; art/club space 24 Kitchen Street; glam club/party venue District.
Parties and clubs: House of Suarez Vogue Ball, Lost & Found, Sonic Yootha, Eat Me.
Festivals: international LGBT+ arts festival Homotopia (Oct/Nov 2021 date TBA).
Exhibitions: Museum of Liverpool’s LGBT+ collections.
Projects of interest: Liverpool Queer Collective.
Pride: both Pride in Liverpool and Liverpool TransPride are awaiting the announcement of their 2021 dates.
It’s been over 20 years since the original series of Queer As Folk was shown on UK TV, and not a whole lot has changed on Canal Street, Manchester’s gay village, and the show’s setting. However, an alternative queer scene has grown up around it, holding some of the country’s most iconic vogue balls and parties. Homobloc is one not to be missed.
Venues: loft-style bar and event space Tribeca; iconic lesbian bar Vanilla; vogue ball venue Gorilla; mecca of alternative culture Islington Mill.
Parties and clubs: Black Pride Vogue Ball, The Boi Zone, Bollox, Cha Cha Boudoir, Grind Girls, Homoelectric, House of Suarez Vogue Ball, Mother’s Ruin, House of Ghetto.
Festivals: arts festival Trans Vegas (summer 2021); epic electronic music festival Homobloc (6 November 2021); LGBT+ writing and performance festival OutStageUs (2021 date TBC); BAME dance, theatre, and live performance festival Black Gold Arts (2021 date TBC); queer arts festival Turn On Fest (2022 date TBC).
Places of interest: the Transgender Remembrance Memorial, The Beacon of Hope (HIV/AIDs memorial) and the Alan Turing Memorial are all in Sackville Gardens.
Projects of interest: Girl Gang Manchester, Outing the Past, Rainbow Noir, Superbia, Trans Creative.
Pride: Manchester Pride will take place on 27-30 August 2021. Sparkle Weekend, Manchester’s version of Trans Pride, will next take place from 8-10 July 2022.
Last (but definitely not least) is a proper renaissance city. Left to crumble for decades, this once iconic seaside town has seen a resurgence in the past few years, with a small but vibrant queer community springing up. The perfect day trip from London, Margate holds my favourite Pride festival in the UK because it has such creative DIY energy.
Venues: queer arty events space Margate Arts Club; open-air summer bar The Sun Deck; gay bar Sundowners.
Parties and clubs: Cockles and Muscles, Queer Neon Nights,
Festivals: arts and culture festival celebrating International Women’s Day POW! (March 2021); Margate Pride includes a week-long arts fest with year-round programming.
Pride: the amazing Margate Pride will take place on 14 August 2021.
Subscribe for more queer travel!
Go on gorgeous – pin this blog for later!
Affiliate Disclosure: This blog has affiliate links for Booking.com, Get Your Guide, Awin and Hostelworld. This means I may earn a small commission if you click-through and makes a purchase. All my recommendations are genuine and are in no way influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative. By clicking on an affiliate link, you accept that third-party cookies will be set (so that they can link the reason for your purchase to my blog).