Exterior of the Oasis Nightclub
Oasis is gay nightspot in a former bathhouse featuring cabaret and drag shows, DJs & dance parties. Credit: Photo via Oasis website

11 Essential LGBT Bars in San Francisco

You don’t have to travel far to find a great LGBTQ bar in San Francisco.

From young, hip lesbian bars to old gay theater hangouts to kinky leather bars, the City by the Bay has LGBTQ bars for every persuasion. If you’re only in town for a night or a weekend, here are the 11 must-visit San Francisco LGBTQ bars. And because the city’s just 49 square miles, you can see them all in a night — a long, fun night.

Nob Hill

The Cinch

1723 Polk St.
(415) 776-4162

Polk Street is San Francisco’s original gay district. The first Gay Pride in the country marched, danced and sashayed its way down this street. Little of the LGBT nightlife remains, save The Cinch. This leather bar has been a San Francisco standard since the gay hustler days of the 1970s, and it still remains one of the city’s quintessential gay bars. Walk through the swinging saloon doors, grab a stiff drink, and spend some time perusing their wall of historic photos and one infamous painting. You’ll know it when you see it.

Mission District

El Rio

3158 Mission St.
(415) 282-3325

San Francisco lesbians don’t have very many watering holes to call their own. Luckily they don’t need many; they have El Rio. El Rio is the go-to bar for in- and out-of-town lesbians and the center of SF’s lesbian scene. Always free and usually packed, this Mission District bar is a must-visit for any ladies’ night out during the first Saturday of the month when Hard French, the monthly soul dance party, happens. Ask any of the locals for recommendations on the lesbian after-party, or just follow the crowd — everybody starts their night out at El Rio.


The Lookout

3600 16th St.
(415) 431-0306

No tour of San Francisco’s LGBT bars would be complete without a visit to The Lookout. Most nights, this upstairs Castro District spot is filled to the brim with sexy partygoers; but it’s on sunny days that The Lookout becomes the real go-to spot in the city. The large, outdoor deck is perfect for sipping Bloody Mary’s while taking in the all of the “sights” worth seeing.



1437 Haight St.
(415) 864-4213

Dive-y and relaxed, Trax is a neighborhood staple and considered one of the only queer hangout spots north or west of the Castro. Trax is a relic of queer history and is the only remnant of the Haight's status as a pre-Castro LGBTQ enclave. Go here to enjoy their barrel-aged Manhattans, chat with friends on their comfy couch, or play a round of pool.


Aunt Charlie’s Lounge

133 Turk St.
(415) 441-2922

Definitely not for the faint of heart, this long-standing Tenderloin hole-in-the-wall specializes in strong, cheap drinks and legendary drag shows. Drop in on disco-gem dance parties hosted by DJ Bus Station John every Thursday—but don’t get caught looking at your cell phone. If it’s Friday or Saturday, be sure to arm yourself with plenty of dollar bills for the Hot Boxx Girls’ shows. This little spot gets full fast, so reservations are recommended if you want to ensure a spot inside.


440 Castro

440 Castro St.

Formerly called "Daddy's Draws," 440 is an iconic bar on Castro Street attracting the leather daddy crowd. Go to 440 on Mondays for their famed "underwear night" and party with shirtless go-go boys. 440 also opens at noon, making it an excellent place to enjoy a daytime cocktail and people-watch.


Hi Tops

2247 Market St.

This raucous gay sports bar is known for its fabulous atmosphere and delicious food. Try their fried chicken sandwiches, "trash salad", or corn dogs while watching football on one of their flat-screen TVs. Hi Tops has themed nights for everyone, including various trivia nights and "gym class" (essentially go-go dance party). Their drinks are pretty fun as well. Try their "haterade," which comes in its own themed glass. 

Mission District

Wild Side West

424 Cortland Ave.
(415) 647-3099

This no-frills establishment has been a Bay Area lesbian bar since 1962. It initially opened in Oakland, changing locations to San Francisco in 1976. During this move-in, neighbors protested by leaving objects like broken toilets and garbage in front of the bar doors. The former owners took the trash to create art that would later decorate their iconic, whimsical downstairs garden, a great place to enjoy a glass of wine or a cold beer. Wild Side West is beloved by the neighborhood and has a fantastic Wednesday comedy night and trivia show.  



298 11th St.
(415) 795-3180

Located in a former bathhouse, Oasis is an LGBTQ+ nightclub and event space with plenty of parties to offer. Opened on New Year's Day 2015 by two local drag legends, the 8,000-square-foot warehouse is known for its incredible drag parties and eccentric comedy shows. Come to Oasis for cabaret, performances from local and visiting drag stars, as well as DJs and other musical acts. There’s something for everyone at Oasis.



1347 Folsom St.
(415) 552-8689

Powerhouse is undoubtedly not for the prudish. This famed SoMa cruise bar attracts a kinkier crowd and is known for its JUNK underwear nights, drag queen shows, and leather events. Expect naughty behavior, and make sure to stop and check out the outdoor parklet, Pigpen.

Mission District


3079 16th St.
(415) 815-7387

This self-described "queer womxn and femme-centered bar" opened in the Mission in February 2023, helping fulfill San Francisco's great need for more lesbian bars. Mother is San Francisco's first "new" gay bar in a while, replacing Esta Noche, a former gay bar opened in the late 70s. The new space, dark and cozy with queer media projected onto its purple walls, is low-key but also incredibly welcoming and fun.

Maddie Pratt's headshot
Maddie Pratt

Maddie Pratt is the Sr. Associate of Design & Content at San Francisco Travel. She grew up in nearby Marin County, just a bridge away from the City. After moving to San Francisco in 2020, she knew she'd found her home base. Maddie enjoys walks in Golden Gate Park, chowing down on dim sum and sunsets at Baker Beach.