With so many to choose from, let us help you discover some of the best gay bars in Sydney. Home to the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, if you’re visiting the city for the annual event or you’ve just moved here and looking to find some of the best bars and gay clubs in the city, look no further!
Our resident writer, Amii is a member of the LGBTQ + community and is here to rave about Sydney’s gay scene and the best places to dance and be your best out and proud self! Even though we use the term gay bar, be assured that every place on this queer beautiful list is inclusive of the full LGBTQ+ community.
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History of Sydney’s Gay Scene
The first LGBTQ venues opened in 1969 on Oxford Street, 6 years before homosexuality was legalised in Australia. In 1978, protestors gathered in Taylor Square in solidarity with the US on the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, this was a historic event in the gay liberation movement and became the first ever Sydney Mardi Gras parade.
Today, Sydney Mardi Gras is a three-week event full of pride celebrations and live entertainment where everyone can wave their rainbow flag and keep raising awareness for LGBTQ equality.
Luckily, we don’t have to wait for Mardi Gras in February; you can celebrate LGBTQ pride any day of the week at one of these famous gay bars!
1. Start your night at Stonewall Hotel, Oxford Street
Taking its name from the Stonewall riots, Stonewall Hotel is one of the best places to go for gay nightlife. With a public bar and stage for drag shows on the ground floor and a dance floor with DJ taking song requests on the first floor, you will be sure to have the best night.
Join Stonewall Hotel for Monday trivia nights, Tuesday Karaoke or drag shows every Friday and Saturday nights.
2. Step into a Priscilla Queen of the Desert movie scene, Imperial Hotel, Erskineville
The legendary Aussie film, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, starts and ends at the Imperial Hotel. The main characters in the film start their famous road trip to Broken Hill from Sydney Imperial Hotel and our writer Amii wrote about her experience driving this same route to stay at the famous Palace Hotel.
The Imperial is not only known for the legendary Aussie film scenes; it is one of Sydney’s premier gay bars. You absolutely must book into their drag-and-dine event at their restaurant Priscillas; guaranteed to be one of your best gay nights out in Sydney! Friday and Saturday nights are full of drag live performances and a dance floor on the street level bar. Head upstairs for a neighbourhood pub feel and grab yourself some pub grub any day of the week.
3) Dance to 80’s throwbacks at Palms on Oxford Street
80’s throwbacks at a laid-back tropical-themed bar? Sounds gay, I’m in! Palms on Oxford is one of my favourite gay bars to dance the night away. Known for its daggy disco ambience, Palms on Oxford is a safe space to pull out your awesome moves to 80’s throwbacks on the dance floor and be your best gay self!
4) Celebrate 7 nights of Drag Queens at Universal, Oxford Street
That’s right, you can see drag performers every night of the week at Universal which is known to be some of the best shows in Sydney with euphoric lighting displays and incredible choreography. Their main bar on the ground floor is free entry with great music and a raised dance floor and my favourite place to end my night out on Oxford St. Join the queue for the upstairs gay club if you want to dance into the wee hours of the morning!
5) Hit up everyday happy hour at The Oxford Hotel
Every day at the iconic Oxford Hotel, you can get $5 happy hour beer and wine between 5 and 7 pm. If that’s not enough to convince you to go to the Oxford Hotel opposite Taylor Square then you should know they host RuPaul drag race viewing parties hosted by a Down Under contestant and is a great place for pub grub in Sydney.
6) Join the Sunday Sessions at The Beresford Hotel, Surry Hills
‘Sun-gay’ nights at The Beresford Hotel are legendary for gay nightlife. Formerly a gay bar, this Surry Hills bar still attracts a gay following and on Sunday nights you can join the mixed crowd with a drink in their courtyard or one of their two floors with a DJ or live music. Check out their website for LGBTQ+ events such as showing the Rainbow Swan’s game every year and drag nights.
7) People watch from the Rooftop bar at The Colombian Hotel, Oxford Street
With 3 levels including a refurbished cocktail bar and rooftop bar, The Columbian Hotel is a widely popular Sydney gay bar. Boasting themed events, live music and intimate booths to relax and enjoy a fancy cocktail, The Columbian is a must-visit.
8) Try your hand at Queer Speed Dating at Burdekin Hotel, Oxford Street
The Burdekin hosts all the events your Queer heart could desire, from a Queer speed dating party to emo nights or a house and tech dance club. With something different planned 6 days of the week, this gay bar on Oxford St welcomes everyone to be themselves! “Why fit in when you were born to stand out”.
9) Celebrate the Queer art community at The Bearded Tit, Redfern
The Bearded Tit gay bar is committed to giving Queer artists a safe platform to perform and showcase their art. Keep an eye on their events and drop by to support and empower the community and The Bearded Tit who celebrates them. Love wins, every time!
10) Go to Sydney’s biggest gay rave with Poof Doof at The Ivy, CBD
Saturday nights at The Ivy are hosted by Poof Doof who are legendary in the gay nightlife scene, making this CBD venue into one of the biggest gay clubs for one night of the week. Join them for a house and techno rave on the first floor or a ‘snap crackle pop’ night of pop hits on level 2. For $30, you can dance with fellow Qweens from 10 pm until sunrise, yes, please!
11) Get arty at a Queer life drawing class at Ching-a-lings, Oxford Street
Queer inclusive life drawing classes every month at Ching-a-lings to celebrate all genders, bodies and love! If this isn’t enough to spark your interest, this iconic cocktail bar hosts open mic-style showcases, inviting any performers on stage and encouraging all weird and crazy performance art.
12) Get through hump day at The Bank, Newtown
The Birdcage event on Wednesday nights at The Bank in Newtown has been growing bigger and better for 10 years. It is Newtown’s only gay and lesbian weekly party showcasing and celebrating Queer artists. Join them, for free, on Wednesday nights and see why they are always on the list of best Sydney gay clubs.