These are some of the coolest gay bars in the world

Ten spots that are hip and happening four or more days a week

This article was originally published by Xtra’s sister publication Pink Ticket Travel.

Cool is in the eye of the beholder. But for us, cool is something that’s not cookie cutter. A place that has a sense of style in its décor, its music and its entertainment programming. Not necessarily trendy, but with some attention paid to shaping the space.

A venue where the crowd has a real vibe—you get who these people are and you suspect everyone there has a story to tell. A little bit of an edge … but inclusive.

Cool is, of course, what many monthly queer club nights are providing these days in many cities across the globe. But these 10 venues are hip and happening four or more days a week. And they have addresses, making them easier for travellers who need proper directions and can’t schedule their visit to an every-third-Friday-venue-TBA party.  

West Hollywood, California

The Abbey Food & Bar (692 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood). With a history going back to 1991, the Abbey is an iconic venue with a maze of indoor-outdoor spaces—a spot perfect for whatever mood you’re in. The décor is unique (the main room feels like the inside of a circus tent), but what makes it deeply cool is its proximity to celebrity: Kim Kardashian, Elton John, Lady Gaga and Dita Von Teese, among others, have all been. Recently purchased by Tristan Schukraft, the tech entrepreneur who has been busy gaying up his waterfront hotel in Puerto Rico, he’s promised to keep it queer.

Washington, D.C.

TRADE (1410 14th St. NW, Washington, D.C.). In the polarized button-down U.S. capital, TRADE is a place to let your hair down, no matter how long or short it is (that is, if you have any hair at all). With nights ranging from bad boy-style Rough Trade to drag, trans-focused and Latinx nights, the themes are all over the LGBTQ2S+ spectrum. You might not meet your gay twin here, but you’re bound to meet someone who intrigues you.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Club NYX (Reguliersdwarsstraat 42, Amsterdam). Named for the Greek goddess of the night, daughter of Chaos, this graffiti- and poster-splattered space gets the balance just right between fierce and playful. Orientation and gender identity matter less than mindset. Take off your shirt or cover yourself with balloons—this place is full of surprises, and you should be one of them.

Berlin, Germany

Panorama Bar, Berghain (Am Wriezener bhf, Berlin). Yes, we all heard about that weekend when you went into the world’s most famous nightclub on Thursday and didn’t come out again until Sunday morning. We’re sending you to its Panorama Bar for the house music and slightly chiller vibe. You might, if you dare, be able to strike up a conversation there. If you want something more wordless, head to the Berghain’s men-only basement sex club (separate entrance), Lab.oratory, where the bouncers are less judgy about what you’re wearing (because you won’t be wearing much or anything once you’re inside). The no-photo policy is stricter than the door policy.

London, United Kingdom

Dalston Superstore (117 Kingsland High St., London). The storefront diner-like space is dolled-up in rainbow and progress flag colours. But you won’t see much of the room when it’s a fun night—it’ll be too packed with artists, hipsters and everyday locals. A café, cabaret, gallery, club and community space, their drag brunch is legendary, as is their support of art- and community-based projects. They’re certainly not afraid to throw some politics onto the dance floor. 

Mexico City, Mexico

Rvuelta Queer House (Puebla 94, Roma Nte., Cuauhtémoc, Ciudad de México). In a city full of so much cool, it’s hard to pick the coolest thing. Even Mexico City’s bear bar has a certain flair to it. But this artsy, queer indoor-outdoor resto-bar-community centre has a young heart and an old soul. Come in full drag or grey sweatpants—nobody is going to judge you as long as you own it.

Istanbul, Türkiye

TEKYÖN Club (Cihangir, Sıraselviler Cd. No 63/C, Beyoğlu, İstanbul). This long-standing dance club doesn’t make our cool list just because of its 1980s discotheque vibe—though we love the pink padded walls. We celebrate it because it’s stayed audaciously homo, go-go boys and all, in the face of an anti-gay government. Reliably packed and cruisy on weekends.

Tokyo, Japan

coolest gay bars

The Eagle Tokyo Blue has a real sense of style. Credit: Bottom Line Productions (Ellis Photo)

Eagle Tokyo Blue (Casa Verde 1F, B1F Shinjuku 2-11-2, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo). While Eagle Tokyo (Shinjuku 2-12-3, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo) is probably the biggest gay bar in Japan—and it’s a fun, welcoming place—its sister club, in another building just around the corner, has more stylistic flourishes. Neon blue light saturates beefy-men manga murals by gay artist Jiraiya. The bear-y staff make fun cocktails for a mix of ready-to-be-thrilled Japanese and international patrons.

São Paulo, Brazil

Casa Fluida (R. Bela Cintra, 569, Consolação, São Paulo). Three storeys (including a rooftop deck) can’t contain the hipness at this temple of drag—the crowd overflows into the courtyard. Although the performers and fellow patrons are the main attraction, the graffiti art, coloured lighting and draped fabrics give the space a true bohemian vibe.

Dublin, Ireland

Pantibar (7-8 Capel St., North City, Dublin). Banish from your mind the stereotype of the Irish pub with overstuffed booths, dark wood and someone dancing a jig. The hospitality-sector enterprise of Ireland’s most famous drag queen, Panti Bliss, who played a part in Ireland’s 2015 legalization of equal marriage, is a glitzier affair. The bar—staffed by a surprisingly high number of Brazilians, some who must have fled a career in modelling—is backlit with warm orange light. Though the emphasis is on chin-wagging and flirting, DJs and performers sometimes take to the small stage. 

Paul Gallant

Paul Gallant is a Toronto-based journalist whose work has appeared in The WalrusThe Globe and Mail, the Toronto StarTHIS magazine,, and many other publications. His debut novel, Still More Stubborn Stars, was published by Acorn Press. He is the editor of Pink Ticket Travel and a former managing editor of Xtra. Photo by Tishan Baldeo.

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Travel, Explainer/FAQ, Travel

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