These are our picks for the best unmissable sightseeing highlights in London for gay travelers.
“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.”
Famous true words spoken by the English 18th-century poet, Samuel Johnson. We truly believe this, especially from an LGBTQ perspective. London has one of the best gay scenes in the world, which we love. It's a very progressive city where we always feel comfortable and completely accepted.
If it just wasn't for the bad weather…
London of course is Stefan's home city where he was born and raised. This is also where we met back in February 2009, so it will always have a special place for us. These are our 10 favorite sightseeing highlights for first-time gay travelers to London based on our many years of experience exploring this awesome city.
Watch a fabulous musical
New York has Broadway, and London has the West End. This area around Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, and Covent Garden is home to some of the best theatres in the world. Here you'll find the best musicals at any time of the year, which is one of the reasons why London is considered the theatre capital of the world.
We sang through Mamma Mia, cried in awe during the Lion King, laughed at Kinky Boots, and more recently, were completely blown away by Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre. This show, loosely based on the story of the Supremes is just incredible. The singers' voices made our hairs stand on end. And the performance of “And I Am Telling you” brought tears to our eyes. It gets a standing ovation every time without fail!
For more inspiration, check out our guide to the best gay musicals in London showing right now!
Don't miss London's fabulous gay nightlife
If you want to visit the gay bars and clubs in London but don't want to go alone, never fear! We recommend you join a Gaily night-time tour with a local guide to show you the best good old gay London has to offer.
Pride Day at the Houses of Parliament
For us, London is synonymous with the image of Big Ben rising up next to the gothic-style Palace of Westminster. This is home to the country's Parliament – the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
As its a public building, anyone is allowed to visit for free and watch Parliament in session. They also do excellent tours, which we definitely recommend to get a deeper insight into how our Parliament operates.
The Houses of Parliament also run LGBTQ tours and events throughout the year. We recommend checking the Pride at Parliament website for more information.
Take selfies with gay icons at Madame Tussauds
We LOVE the Madame Tussauds waxwork museum which is definitely one of our favorite sightseeing highlights of London. Here you can find many famous gay icons immortalized as wax sculptures such as Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Britney, Madonna, and even The Queen herself.
TRAVELLER TIP: this is one of London’s top tourist attractions so it’s always super busy with huge queues. We therefore strongly recommend going early in the day on weekdays to avoid the crowds and book your time slot in advance to minimize waiting time.
For more, check out our article about our favorite gay icons at Madame Tussauds you need to take a selfie with:
The Shard: a romantic cocktail in the tallest building in the UK
The Shard is the Mordor-like tower and most recent dramatic addition to the London skyline. It opened in 2013, standing proud at 310m (1,017ft) high. It is the tallest building in the UK and in the EU (at least until March 2019!). We recommend going to Tower Bridge around sunset to get the best pictures of it.
You can also visit the top called “View from The Shard”, where you can get some spectacular views of the London skyline. It's a very romantic experience, especially after sunset when the city is completely lit up. There is a very cool bar here from where you can order a few cocktails, which we highly recommend. They even offer a “proposal package concierge service“.
For the more adventures, there are two virtual experience games you can play at the viewing gallery – one which makes you feel like you're in a slide zooming around the Shard, the other pretending you're trying to walk across one of the planks at the top. It feels very real and is not recommended if you suffer from vertigo!
See the crown jewels at the Tower of London
The Tower of London used to be a Royal residence until 1100. It then became a place of torture, imprisonment, and execution until 1952, with public beheadings taking place here.
Despite its gruesome history, it's a fascinating place to explore, least because it is also home to the famous Crown Jewels, including the Imperial State Crown worn by the Queen at the opening of Parliament. The famous jewels are kept locked away in a thick bombproof vault, which you can visit, but there is a strict “no photos” policy in place!
We also recommend looking out for the charismatic Yeomen Warders (also called Beefeaters). They are the famous dressed-up guards you see here, who give a fascinating walking tour every hour. We loved this the most and highly recommend it to get a more insightful experience of the Tower of London.
The London Eye: watch the London skyline at sunset
For Millennial Londoners like Stefan, the London Eye has always been a symbol of our generation. It opened in 2000 to celebrate the dawn of a new Millennium, hence the nickname “the Millennium Wheel”.
A ride in one of the London Eye cabins takes around 30 minutes for one full revolution and reaches heights of 135m (443ft). For a more private and romantic experience, you can book a private cabin for two to 12 guests – perfect for a special proposal.
Tip: pre-book your time slot online to cut your queue waiting time, and aim for sunset, or as late as possible to see London when it's all lit up.
Visit the Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum is our favourite in London. It's a very beautiful building, and as a bonus, it's free to visit. We also love it because it always has a fascinating mix of exhibitions taking place throughout the year.
One of our favourite exhibitions is the Wildlife Photographer of the Year. It's based on a competition amongst professional wildlife photographers. The finalists and winning entries are displayed here in a magnificent exhibition.
We go religiously every year and get a lot of our travel inspiration from it.
The Tate Modern museum
The path along the Embankment by the River Thames is one of our favourite places in London for a romantic walk together. Starting from the London Eye, you pass the Royal Festival Hall, National Theatre, the OXO Tower and the Tate Modern.
The Tate Modern is another free museum in London, which is always worth a stop over. There is always something interesting to see here. The exhibitions inside range from the fascinating to the ludicrous, but we urge you to visit with an open mind!
They also have some quirky displays outside. One of our favourites was the Louise Bourgeois giant spider sculpture back in 2007. Check their website to find out the latest talks, exhibitions and displays taking place.
Trafalgar Square + the National Gallery
We love Trafalgar Square because it is such an important symbol of London. It's where all demonstrations culminate, and where large outdoor concerts take place. For us in particular, it reminds us of London gay pride, which culminates here, then turns into a large fun concert with speeches, live music with an overall fun party atmosphere.
The most famous part of Trafalgar Square is Nelson's Column and the 4 bronze lions surrounding it. Overlooking the square is the gorgeous National Portrait Gallery, which is free to enter and definitely worth checking out. Check their website to find out what their latest exhibitions and displays are.
Watch a live opera in Covent Garden
The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden is the place to come for opera lovers. Although tickets can be expensive, they frequently have last minute deals and standing seats available on their website.
For a more unique experience, we recommend getting a spot in the courtyard area of the Crusting Pipe pub, located on the lower ground floor of Covent Garden's market building. Here, some really talented buskers perform, drawing huge crowds around. We've seen some terrific opera here, as well as string quartet performances, and more. As a bonus, the food at the Crusting Pipe is also pretty good!
Happy travels are safe travels
For more inspiration:
- Check out the best gay drag clubs in London with the best drag shows
- Find out why we love attending Pride in London every year
- After London, use our gay guide to Manchester to plan your trip to this gay-tastic city
- If you're going even further north then don't miss our gay guide to Inverness in Scotland
- These are the gayest cities in Europe you'll want to experience
- Along with our top picks for the best gay holiday destinations in Europe
- Visit the best gay beaches in Europe to work on your tan
- And stay at the best gay hostels in Europe