Where to Go in 2020: London Calling

by Dan Allen

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday January 6, 2020

Queer hotspots come and go, but London endures year after year as one of the world's top destinations for LGBTQ travelers. Steeped in centuries of tradition but always on the cusp of the cutting edge, the city always surprises and never disappoints. No matter which way draws you to London in 2020, you're bound to discover much more than you bargained for.


Morning: Shakespeare's Globe
William Shakespeare's original Globe Theatre was shuttered by proclamation way back in 1642 (something about actors being rogues), but this fantastic reconstruction — opened in 1997, 400 years after it first debuted just a few blocks away — offers 40-minute tours all day long that explore the Globe's long and colorful history.

Afternoon Tea: The Theatre Cafe
This "stagiest place in town" is the perfect spot for a thespian respite in the heart of the theater district — and thanks to its expansion last summer, it now has space to offer afternoon tea.

Afternoon: National Theatre
Backstage tours at Britain's esteemed National Theatre reveal the behind-the-scenes intricacies of its various productions. Specialty tours dedicated to the building's distinct architecture, as well as costumes, are also offered throughout the week (check schedule). In addition, The National has helped develop technology for theatergoers with hearing loss through the use of smart caption glasses.

Hot Ticket: "Daddy"
Jeremy O' Harris's "Daddy" is the show to see this spring at the Almeida Theatre. The wild ride follows the story of a young black artist who meets an older white art collector. Add in a swimming pool, a gospel choir and Bel Air setting for good measure. (March 30 — May 9, 2020).

Where to Stay: W London
The W London's sublime Leicester Square location puts visitors right next to the Soho gayborhood and steps away from the city's throbbing West End theater district. Like all W's, it's incredibly LGBTQ-welcoming — and the London version features an ongoing lineup of queer entertainment, including a popular Sunday drag tea. What's more for theater fans, Lead Insider (W's version of a concierge) Jamie is an actor and can lend expert advice on the best shows to catch.


Morning: National Portrait Gallery
London's incredible NPG surprised everyone in November by announcing that it'll close on June 29, 2020, for three long years of renovations, so now's your last chance for a long while to see its glorious collection — plus, as luck would have it, special queer-themed shows "David Hockney: Drawing from Life" (February 27 to June 28) and "Cecil Beaton's Bright Young Things" (March 12 to June 7).

Afternoon Tea: Sketch Gallery
The Instagram-legendary Sketch Gallery is a pink wonderland of creativity, its walls lined with hundreds of original prints and drawings by Turner Prize-winning artist David Shrigley, who also designed some of the dishware. Bonus: The tea itself is divine, and includes a caviar man.

Afternoon: Tate Modern
The iconic Tate Modern will host must-see retrospectives for two queer artistic giants this year: Andy Warhol from March 12 to September 6, and South African photographer Zanele Muholi from April 29 to October 18.

Dinner: Rex Whistler, Tate Britain
Head over to the Tate Modern's older sibling, Tate Britain, for an excellent meal at the museum's own Rex Whistler — named for the famed (and maybe gay) British artist, who also painted the specially commissioned mural that surrounds the restaurant's interior, "The Expedition in Pursuit of Rare Meats."

Where to Stay: The Curtain
One of the hippest spots in London right now (for locals and visitors alike) is this combination hotel/members club/live music venue/creative freelancer workspace in the city's arty East End neighborhood of Shoreditch. The sprawling former office building hosts a gobsmacking array of completely different but equally inviting areas and spaces, from the stunning rooftop pool to the first outpost of Marcus Samuelsson's Harlem-based Red Rooster restaurant in the basement.


Morning: British Museum
Wander the Bloomsbury streets where the likes of Virginia Woolf once roamed, and pay a visit to London's last remaining queer bookstore, Gay's The Word. Head a few blocks to the British Museum, where its self-guided LGBTQ tour (pamphlets available at the information booth) will steer you through the museum's vast collection to some of its most relevant pieces for the LGBTQ community.

Afternoon Tea: Belmond Cadogan
Oscar Wilde loved the elegance at the Cadogan, and you will, too, at this luxurious Chelsea property that reopened last year as part of the posh Belmond family. Celeb chef Adam Handling takes charge of the surprisingly cozy afternoon tea, inspired by childhood memories from his grandmother's house.

Afternoon: Bishopsgate Institute
Bishopsgate is home to one of the largest collections of materials relating to LGBTQ+ history, politics, and culture in the UK, and its holdings — including the 300,000-piece Lesbian and Gay Newsmedia Archive, which dates back to the 1890s — can be readily viewed by the public.

Drinks: Royal Vauxhall Tavern
RVT is one of London's longest-running LGBTQ venues, with a gay clientele dating back at least to the 1940s. In 2015, it was the first UK building to be officially recognized for its importance to Britain's queer history. Today, it's still going strong, offering rollicking fun seven nights a week, including the beloved Sunday institution Duckie.

Where to Stay: Kimpton Fitzroy
Set in a majestic heritage building overlooking Russell Square, the Kimpton Fitzroy reopened in 2018 after a spectacular $100 million renovation. Grandeur astounds at every turn, but the ambiance is decidedly (and Kimpton-hallmarked) warm. The Bloomsbury location is ideal for exploring London's literary past, with its unquestionably queer flair.

Dan Allen covers travel and LGBTQ culture for numerous outlets around the world including NBC Out, CBS Watch!, the Los Angeles Blade, Passport and Fodor's.

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