Sydney is one of the world’s queer capitals—and the host of Sydney WorldPride 2023. The pot of gold at the end of its rainbow is found in the lively bars, pulsing clubs, and raucous drag shows of Oxford Street and beyond.Less
Sashay—don’t delay!—to this treasured drag-centric club in Sydney’s inner west. The Impy, as it’s cheekily called by locals, hosts DJ nights, parties at rooftop trattoria Carlotta’s, lip sync competitions on Sundays, and, of course, outrageous performances galore. But the basement parties—a smorgasbord of heady performances and wild dance nights—are the real draw here. Arrive early to snag a table at Priscillas, the veggie-friendly on-site eatery, to fuel up for the debauchery downstairs.
This notorious, no-frills dive bar doesn’t even have a website. But when you’re this much of a classic, you don’t need one. An essential piece of Oxford Street, this beloved basement hangout is covered in kitschy decor (bunches of disco balls, a palm tree mural on the wall) that creates the perfect backdrop for late-night revelry. Divas dominate the sound system, naturally. Of note: There’s a strict policy against open-toed shoes, but the tobacco shop next door sells cheap flats in a pinch.
This Darlinghurst institution recently reopened after a full renovation that brought in lasers, a souped-up sound system, and, most importantly, air conditioning (because with drag parties every single night, Universal tends to heat up). Friday’s FAME party, hosted by Tina Bikki, is the glittery pop partner to Saturday’s clubbier affair, DÉJÀVU. If you’re looking for fresh drag talent, Les Beau Fierce, Raquel Feltch, and Karma Bites host the queer open stage night Sunday Shenanigans.
Named in tribute to New York’s Stonewall uprising, which sparked the gay rights movement in 1969, this nonstop party spot on Oxford Street is a celebration: Rainbow flags, string lights, and disco balls line the ceiling. Keep an eye out for celebrities (Sam Smith, Dua Lipa, and Kylie Minogue have all been by), but don’t miss the magic around you: Cage dancers and fabulous drag queens abound. Hang in the bar downstairs or head up to Hello Darlings for the full cabaret experience.
Oxford Street almost lost a vital space when this legendary queer mega-club closed during the pandemic with no sign of reopening. In 2021, the venue’s fate appeared sealed when it was listed for sale. But in 2022, ARQ returned, this time with splashier lighting, better sound, and expanded programming (aerialists, drag shows, and house DJs). For deeper electronic cuts and less stimulation, pop down into The Vortex, a performance space with an intimate dance floor that never stops moving.
Named for the vintage Red Rattler trains that were once ubiquitous in Sydney, this nonprofit Marrickville arts center—affectionately called “The Rat”—is a favorite among the city’s artistic community. Founded in 2009 by five queer artists, it’s dedicated to showcasing a wide (and often wild) array of emerging and established LGBTQ+ talent: pop-punk bands, dancehall DJs, master classes from boundary-pushing techno producers, and Pride events geared toward broadening queer representation.
When it’s not the scene of Leak Your Own Nudes, a regular queer underpants party, The Tit is simply a great little pub dedicated to bringing the LGBTQ+ community together. A hybrid bar, gallery, and performance space with a Haight-Ashbury vibe, this bohemian Redfern establishment hosts everything from rowdy drag nights to “Tit Talks,” a conversation series of welcoming, openhearted discussions around all things queer. Look for the bright yellow marquee that reads “Free Love Not Free Beer.”
For a break from the laser beams and glitter bombs of Oxford Street, escape into this dimly lit, loft-style oasis—affectionately known as “Chingz”—that only has room for about 100 people. You’ll find a mix of drag performances, house and disco DJs, and spoken-word artists (Thursday is open mic night)—plus a monthly Queer Lyfe event that pairs cocktails with an art class. It’s a near-perfect pregame spot too, with a laidback rooftop terrace draped in string lights.
At first glance, The Berro is a typical pub with a sprawling, bustling beer garden just off Oxford Street in Surry Hills. But head down the alley, through a discreet door, and up a dark flight of stairs, and you’ll find yourself in one of the best gay clubs in Sydney. The biggest parties go down every Friday and Saturday, but if you still have some life left in you, pop by for Beresford Sundays, a free afternoon DJ party that really turns up once the sun goes down.
You haven’t experienced Sydney’s gay “Golden Mile” until you’ve danced at this legendary queer institution. All are welcome, and with four floors of music and entertainment, there’s something for everyone. The basement club, aptly named Underground, is a well-known gay bar. On the ground floor, Top 40 echoes throughout the bistro and terrace. Ginger’s, just upstairs, is dedicated to cabaret. And the posh Polo Lounge, perched on the venue’s top floors, is usually reserved for private events.