The UK’s and Ireland’s top cities for exploring drag

The popularity of RuPaul’s Drag Race has raised the profile of drag across the globe. Drag culture is more prevalent in mainstream society than ever before, and LGBT+ tourism is attracting international travellers to the most popular gay nightclubs and extravagant pride events in Europe and around the world. 

Photographer: Guy Levy

The UK recently screened the finale of the first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, with The Vivienne being crowned the UK’s next drag race superstar. As more gay men begin to explore the world of drag, new talent is being driven to the UK’s most popular LGBT+ scenes, meaning travellers have even more choice. 

HOLLYWOOD, CA – MARCH 17: RuPaul Charles attends the Paley Center For Media’s 2019 PaleyFest LA – “RuPaul’s Drag Race” held at the Dolby Theater on March 17, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by JB Lacroix/Getty Images)

From London and Liverpool, across to Dublin and down to Brighton, cities across the UK are equally filled with camp drag theatricality and head-turning looks. While London is one of the world’s capital cities for LGBT+ nightlife, there are still many more UK cities that have something equally special to offer. Here’s a list of top spots to head to for your drag race fix, and to get a head start on your favourites for the second season of Drag Race UK, due to air in 2020.

Photographer: Guy Levy

London: Soho and world-famous Heaven

Soho is the UK’s most famous gay district. A constant hub of activity, the bars of Old Compton Street cut through Soho to connect the district’s most popular gay bars – and when midnight strikes, the parties move to nearby clubs around the corner.

LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 17: Vinegar Strokes, Baga Chipz, The Vivienne, Cheryl Hole, Gothy Kendoll, Scaredy Kat, Divina De Campo, Sum Ting Wong, Blu Hydrangea and Crystal attend the Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK Launch on September 17, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)

Admiral Duncan, one of the oldest gay bars in London, is a second home to several drag queens, including Drag Race UK stars Sum Ting Wong and comedy queen Baga Chipz. Known both locally and internationally as an accepting, fun and embracing venue, Admiral Duncan has various entertainment options throughout the month that cater to a wide range of LGBT+ and drag interests. One regular queen to watch is Mary Mac, a camp comedy queen with a dirty mouth and wits as sharp as her Scottish-inspired looks. 

T6A5MP Soho, London, UK. 30th Apr, 2019. 20th anniversary of the tragic bombing at gay pub Admiral Duncan in Soho with a community-led act of Remembrance outside the historic venue in Old Compton Street. On the same day in 1999, a nail bomb attack at the pub in Soho killed three people and wounded 79. Four of the survivors had to have limbs amputated. Credit: Penelope Barritt/Alamy Live News
T6A5MX Soho, London, UK. 30th Apr, 2019. 20th anniversary of the tragic bombing at gay pub Admiral Duncan in Soho with a community-led act of Remembrance outside the historic venue in Old Compton Street. On the same day in 1999, a nail bomb attack at the pub in Soho killed three people and wounded 79. Four of the survivors had to have limbs amputated. Credit: Penelope Barritt/Alamy Live News

Heaven, the gay nightclub found under the arches at Charing Cross, is a cultural bastion for both gay and straight communities. Featuring dance-remixed pop songs and a 2am balloon drop, Heaven is where the world’s most popular drag queens take the stage, performing some of their most well-known sets, giving iconic looks and signature on-brand quirks.

A5XNE1 hospital records event clubnight at heaven nightclub london uk

These venues host London’s top drag performers who are already superstars on the scene and will undoubtedly be in line for season 2 of Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK, the casting call for which has already come and gone. 

Dublin: The George

In May of 2015, Ireland legalised same-sex marriage, and it’s changed the face of Ireland’s gay nightlife, especially in Dublin, where older venues have found new popularity, and with new venues popping up around the capital. 

R848J2 Ireland,Dublin, The George, exterior of a typical pub

The George is the heart of the LGBT scene in Ireland. Featuring drag shenanigans and drag DJs nearly every day of the week, The George has been, and continues to be, a long-standing staple of the Irish nightlife scene.

Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage

Brighton Club Revenge 

Brighton has a large LGBT+ community – so much so that it’s known as the gay capital of the UK. 

RA91JE A nightclub close to the Brighton seafront

The Powder Room at Club Revenge hosts the biggest stars from RuPaul’s Drag Race. Self-proclaimed as the South Coast’s number one LGBTQ+ venue, Club Revenge hosts award-winning club nights and is renowned for being the ultimate party destination where you can go nuts on the dance floor and feel safe from start to finish. 

Photo by Shirlaine Forrest/Getty Images

Liverpool’s Stanley Street Quarter

RuPaul’s Drag Race UK winner, The Vivienne, is set to become the most famous drag queen from Liverpool. The Viv frequently performed at GBar, infamous for its after-hour parties. Having won countless awards and notoriety over the years, GBar in Liverpool is one club not to miss. 

D4BBWG Liverpool Street Sign.
Photographer: Leigh Keily

One queen to keep an eye on: JodieHarsh, who was rumoured to be working with Rupaul and his team prior to the first season of Drag Race UK. Having not been cast in season 1, perhaps Jodie will be in the second season’s line-up?

WAE8F1 Jodie Harsh attends the Press Launch for MTV Cribs UK in London.
LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 21: Jodie Harsh during the GAY TIMES Honours 500 at Magazine London on November 21, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images for GAY TIMES)

Also found in Stanley Street quarter are Superstar Boudoir and Heaven, where you’ll find some of RPDR’s most famous queens. 

2AA5212 Heaven, LGBT friendly nightclub, at the Fruit Exchange, Liverpool, UK with rainbow flag.

Drag artists performing at these famous venues across the UK will undoubtedly feature their city’s top-performing drag acts to rival the charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent of Drag Race’s current superstars. No matter where you’re travelling to in the UK, a vibrant LGBT+ community of drag is not far away and it’s never been easier to stalk your favourite Drag Race queens! There certainly won’t be any shortage of drag culture in 2020.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – AUGUST 24: The Vivienne of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK poses during Manchester Pride 2019 on August 24, 2019 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Shirlaine Forrest/Getty Images)

Compiled by global contributors at Culture Trip, this guide to seeing your favourite UK Drag Race queens will ensure you know where the hotspots are and which queens to look out for in season 2. 

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