Gay and lesbian nightlife
Did you know?
On 1 December 2006 South Africa became the first country in Africa – and the fifth country in the world – to legalise same-sex marriage.
The thriving nightlife in South Africa’s cities includes several clubs, pubs and venues that cater for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. Supported by South Africa's post-apartheid constitution – the first in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation – these nightlife venues form part of the country’s extensive and welcoming LGBT travel network.
Renowned for their nightlife areas, Johannesburg and Cape Town have a particularly vibrant social scene, which includes clubs and bars exclusively for either men or women from the LGBT communities.
Cape Town, which was recently recognised by the United Kingdom’s Guardian newspaper as one of the 10 most popular gay destinations in the world, has many venues to choose from.
Amongst the most popular are Café Manhattan, an inclusive bar and restaurant in De Waterkant area, and the Loft Lounge which is known for its topless barmen. Bubbles Bar specialises in drag nights and Lion Corner in Observatory is a relaxed pub where you can get a meal or a drink with like-minded people. Also in Cape Town, Bar Code, a men-only venue, has a dress code of leather, rubber and uniforms. Nearby, The Hot House is a men-only leisure club, with sauna, steam room and outdoor sun deck. Amsterdam Action Bar is also a men-only establishment in Cape Town.
In Johannesburg, Oh! Bar is a popular part of the gay and lesbian party scene. Also in Johannesburg, Simply Blue has a reputation as a leading gay bar for ‘people of colour and those who appreciate colour’. There’s also an exclusive bar at the REC Room, a gay sauna. Factory is another men-only bar and fetish meeting space next to Ellis Park Sports grounds.
In Pretoria, Babylon Bar is popular gay hangout (it has a smaller branch in Johannesburg too), and Sauna Boyz includes a bar and restaurant in its men-only facilities.
In Durban, The Lounge is spread over two levels and includes five bars, three dance floors, two outdoor balconies plus lounge areas and pool tables. It's extremely popular with the LGBT community in the city but also welcomes the straight community.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)21 469 2600
Tours to do
Several tour operators offer travel packages specifically for gay and lesbian visitors.
Where to stay
South Africa has a wide variety of gay and lesbian-owned, gay and lesbian-friendly and exclusively gay and lesbian lodges, hotels and guest houses. See the Out2Africa website for more information.
Look out for events like Cape Town Pride, Jo'burg Pride, the Pink Loerie Mardi Gras, Durban Pride, the Out in Africa South African Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Mr Gay South Africa pageant and the Mother City Queer Project.