The 50 Greatest Gay Bars in the World
By Out.com Editors
AXEL SKY BAR (pictured)
Perched atop the Hotel Axel, which bills itself as homo-friendly, Sky Bar commands stunning views over the Catalan city, and it's also handily situated by the hotel's pool and Jacuzzi. The bar hosts a party every year to welcome the start of the summer, and although it has begun to show a bit of wear and tear, it's still a hot place to cool down under the Spanish sun. Located in the Eixample, the heart of the gay quarter of Barcelona, Sky Bar is perfect for kicking off an evening or hanging out all night. 011 34 933239393
Keep your eye on the back booth at this Franco-era speakeasy on Madrid's pulsing Gran Via'director Pedro Almod'var and his posse hang out here. Anyone fashionable is welcome among the mostly gay crowd here, where handsome bartenders can hand-crack ice for your mojito or serve you at your art deco banquette.
011 34 915 326 737
This cozy tavern is tucked away in a quaint alley in the bohemian Cihangir neighborhood. During the week it's perfect for intimate t'te-'-t'tes, though once Friday rolls around, bartenders shower the bar top with whiskey and set it afire to the delight of a mixed crowd of Turks and tourists'guys, girls, trannies'who usually get caught up in sing-alongs to golden oldies and international hits. 011 90 212 243 2879
THE POLO LOUNGE
Glasgow'like its sister city Edinburgh'has a small gay scene in proportion to its size. This is because its bars overall tend to be mixed. Of the five or six gay bars or clubs in the city, the Polo is probably the most popular, catering to an upmarket crowd'or at least as upmarket as Glasgow gets. Polo is stylish downstairs, with a warren of dance floors and seating areas. 011 44 141 553 1221
THE JOINERS ARMS
This traditional East End boozer was once a haven only for scally gays from the housing estates that surround it, but the gentrification of Shoreditch has brought in a new clientele. Club kids and fashionistas, who frequent nearby bars and clubs such as Boombox or the George & Dragon, now drink alongside a mix of rougher, readier, and quite possibly sexier customers, whose outfit of choice often consists of tracksuit bottoms and Reeboks'and not much else. Busy enough during the week, Joiners is packed on weekends.
011 44 070 90 422 729
ROYAL VAUXHALL TAVERN
There has been a pub on the site of the Royal Vauxhall Tavern since 1893. It was erected on the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, one of the most decadent cruising grounds in the Victorian era. Even then it was a focus for performance, camp, and drag'which remain central to the pub to this day. From its cabaret and comedy nights through its bingo and live-music evenings to its legendary Saturday night event Duckie to the last defiant gasp of the weekend on Sunday, the RVT is an institution attracting a wide range of gay locals and visitors from across London and beyond.
011 44 020 77 374 043
THE STEAM PACKET
The only gay bar in the Lake District, the Steam Packet (known, affectionately we assume, as the Fag Packet) is a truly bizarre place in unlovely Workington. Here the trannies do cabaret dressed as Nazi frauleins, snort Ovaltine like cocaine, and spit it into the audience's hair. Gay-loving straight boys invade for last call and throw the trannies around like large, fluffy cushions. On the night we were there, they tried to give a young wide-eyed boy a Lambrini enema. It's surreal in a way that would make Gilbert and George puke with envy. The proprietors will also helpfully put you up in a gay B&B in the middle of a nearby housing project . The opposite of every metropolitan try-hard cabaret bar you ever visited, this place is Weimar Berlin with cling-wrap ham butties. 011 44 19 006 2186
ASIA + PACIFIC
THE IMPERIAL HOTEL
From the outside, the mauve (ochre?) building looks blah, but walk in and discover a thriving icon of gay Australia. Nestled in the Sydney suburbs is the three-bar Imperial Hotel, which is home to a mixed community of gays and lesbians (together at last). Intricate vintage fixtures sprout dusty rainbow flags, and 1980s videos play from 12-inch TV sets. A restoration is under way, but right now the Imperial is a faded beauty queen reliving her prime. There's zero attitude but a ton of frills. The final scenes from The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert were shot at the Imperial, and drag legend Mitzi Macintosh has been reenacting them here ever since. If not Priscilla, she'll do The Rocky Horror Picture Show. And her show's free before midnight.
011 61 (0)2 9519 9899
FUSION BAR AT
An unassuming valet stands guard outside a small door on one of Kathmandu's busiest streets, but just beyond the door lies Dwarika's Hotel, a cluster of the most painstakingly handcrafted terra-cotta- and wood-adorned buildings in the city. Poolside at the two-level bar is the best spot for evening cocktails and live music. The crowd, though mostly straight, is almost exclusively expat, so if there's a well-heeled homo traveling through Kathmandu at the same time you are, chances are he'll swing through here. 011 977 1447 3725
One night in Bangkok? Then the oyster is at the end of a gay alleyway just around the corner from the notorious pussy shows of Patpong. Tourists, expats, and locals all converge on DJ Station. Admission is the price of a drink, and you get a drink ticket with admission. That's justice. The music blares, the space consists of three levels of industrial metallic, and the dance floor is always in full swing. Thai boys have the taste for a new face even when it's an old face. At DJ Station fresh meat is ageless, and there's so much body contact on the dance floor, one wonders if the sexy locals are looking to dance, find love, or pick a pocket. Probably all those things, but who cares? It's Bangkok. 011 66 (02) 433 4029
Down a dark and gritty alley in Patpong, look for a brightly illuminated sign spelling out G.O.D. (Guys on Display). On one night around 3 A.M., this three-level club packed with stages, cages, and zebra-patterned couches was almost empty save for Coco, a dazzling transsexual parading around the bar. G.O.D.'s notorious drag shows don't really get going until after 5 A.M. but continue into the late hours of the morning. No number available.
BANYAN TREE* (pictured)
Situated 61 floors above the bustling streets of Bangkok, Vertigo restaurant's Moon Bar is the highest outdoor bar in the Asia-Pacific region. Settle in for stunning views, sumptuous cocktails, or an unexpectedly inventive barbecue menu. Don't let the setting sun distract you from finding visiting corporate executives flashing black Amex cards and suggestive smiles.
011 662 679 1200
In Hanoi's French Quarter the solid-oak bar at GC (Golden Cock) greets you from the street while a huge pool table dominates a back room full of expats, transvestites, and hairless Hanoi hipsters. Farther back is a lovely open-air garden. A word of caution: GC not only closes early but is also often raided by local police'even if at last visit they seemed more interested in the pool stick'straddling transvestites than in pimping bribes.
011 84 4 825 0499
HO CHI MINH CITY APOCALYPSE NOW
One of the oldest clubs in the former Saigon, AN is the unofficial after-hours spot in the city. Amiable pimps and local prostitutes shoot pool as hordes of foreigners drink tequila and party until dawn. The best night for those looking for action is Tuesday. 011 84 8 825 6124
YOUR LOCAL BAR
Naturally, the only bar that really counts is the bar you like to spend your time in. Go to Out.com and give us a description of your favorite local watering hole. Does it have a kickass jukebox? The best bargain beer bust? The sexiest bartender? We'll print the best ones in the January issue of Out. n
Matthew Breen, Emily Drabinski, Aaron Hicklin, Jimmy Hilburn, Bill Keith, Jason Lamphier, Bruce Mason, Gareth McLean, Jonathan Riggs, Christopher Rovzar, and Jason Rowan contributed to this article.