San Francisco's Top Lesbian & Queer Bars
Lesbian Nightlife in San Francisco
San Francisco is easily known to be one of America’s most gay friendly cities. Over 6 percent of the city’s population identifies as LGBTQ+ which makes it the highest population per city in the US. When you visit San Francisco you will find it to be a vibrant and colorful city giving so much rainbow love. From the multiple colored houses to the extensive rainbow decals and flags it is easy to feel a welcoming to be yourself and love whom you want.
History of San Francisco LGBTQ Scene
Harvey Milk + Transgender Roles
With all of the rich history in San Francisco, we felt it was only fair to give a shoutout to Harvey Milk. Harvey was California’s first open gay politician and served as a huge role in politics for the LGBT community during a time of hate and unacceptance. San Francisco was also the world's first transgender organization, the National Transsexual Counseling Unit, was established in response to the Compton's Cafeteria Riot that occured in August 1966. The riot is not as widely known as the Stonewall Riot but this was one of the first in retaliation against transgender discrimination and police violence. Transwomen picketed outside the Cafeteria but their riot was unsuccessful. At the intersection of Castro St. and Market St., you’ll find the Rainbow Honor Walk, recognizing all the LGBTQ individuals who have made an impact and continue to make an impact.
LGBTQ Districts in San Francisco
1. The Castro
The Castro is one of the first LGBT districts in all of the United States and remains one of the most iconic neighborhoods for the LGBT movement still to this day. Starting in the 1960s,the Castro held many of the most history-making activism and events in the world. Today you will find the neighborhood painted with rainbow sidewalks, sex stores, and rainbow flags in every direction.
Lesbian Bars in The Castro
456 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94110
(currently closed due to reconstruction from fire upstairs)
Q bar is one of the dancier bars in the Castro. While it is catered to gay men most of the week, Q bar has a lesbian night every Tuesday called 13 Licks. You will find the place packed of all kinds of ladies you can dance the night away with. The apartment above Q Bar had a fire recently which temporarily has the bar closed for renovations. Hopefully, when it is reopened we will find a new and improved dance spot.
Queer Bars in The Castro
401 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114
Twin Peaks is the historical gay bar dubbed the "Gateway to the Castro" as it sits on the corner entrance of the gay district. The wrap around windows (that open up fully in the summer) allow for the best view to people watch year round. Those same windows were what made the bar so iconic in it's earliest years by showing to the public that it was a gay bar when it first opened. This was known to be a bold move as other LGBT bars were windowless to hide from violence or prejudice. Today, you will typically find an older gay crowd which might not be the scene for most lesbians, but Twin Peaks is a must see iconic bar even for a drink or two.
4049 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94114
Moby Dick is an unpretentious neighborhood bar located on the far side of the Castro. It started off as a gay bar for gay artists to hang their work. They have great happy hour deals if you are looking for a chill bar to hang out at. They have a mixed crowd and more gay men, but you will find lesbians and queer ladies grabbing a few drinks before the night out begins.
4086 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94114
The Mix is a dingy pub on the far end of the Castro district. You will find a mixed (pun intended) crowd here more on the gay man side, but lesbians welcome. They have pool tables and cheap beer nights. However, don't expect it to be a 5 star looking bar. I typically like going here for a few pre game drinks to be around other LGBTQ people before making my way to another queer bar later.
2. SoMa (South of Market Street) & Mission
Home to the How Weird Festival and Folsom Street Fair, SOMA has been a staple for the LGBT community for decades now holding some of the longest running queer bars in San Francisco. Folsom Street is located in SOMA and notorious for being one of the kinkier areas of San Francisco. You will find leather fans, kink fetishers, drag shows, and annual street fairs held here. In addition to SoMa, you’ll find The Mission. The Mission tends to be the hipster area of San Francisco with hip bars and quirky laid back pubs. Some of San Francisco’s oldest pubs and queer bars can also be found here.
Lesbian Bars in SoMa & Mission
2700 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103
A neighborhood bar sitting near Folsom Street and the Mission District. After the Lexington Club closed down it left San Francisco without a bar specific to lesbians year round. However, in 2018 Jolene’s Bar opened making it a super fun and vibrant predominately lesbian bar (not exclusive to only lesbians.) As soon as you walk in you see a sign “You are safe here” which is exactly the vibe it provides. The also have drag/ bottomless brunch on Sundays as well as Uhaul- a lesbian night on Fridays.
Queer Bars in SoMa & Mission
399 9th St, San Francisco, CA 94103
The Stud was open and poppin for over 50 years! It was there mission to keep nightlife at the heart of queer culture especially in San Francisco. This is a great place for some dancing and drag events. While they just closed their doors permanently we thought they deserved to be recognized on the list of the best LGBT bars San Francisco has ever seen.
527 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110
Casanova Lounge is one of the Missions classic neighborhood cocktail bars. When you walk in there is a vintage esthetic with velvet paintings and lamps with dim red lighting. The bar itself has been here for over 60 years and the Casanova taking over in 1997. If you are looking for a classic coktail to start your night out this is a good spot for you!
3158 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110
El Rio is known to be one of the most mixed queer scenes with a little bit of every sexuality coming in to grab a drink. It picks up alot more of the lesbian scene than other bars, but it also has gays, trans, dive bar goers, hipsters and more.
424 Cortland Ave, San Francisco, CA 94110
A true San Francisco past time to lesbians, Wild Side West opened it's doors in 1962 by lesbians for lesbians. While you can find a queer mix here, you will find more of a lesbian crowd then most queer bars throughout SF. They also have two outdoor sections to enjoy during the summer time!
The End Up is one of San Francisco most notorious after party spots. Opening in 1973, The End Up has the only night life spot with hours extending past the 2 am bar closing curfew. They open their doors at 10 pm and go on until 4 am Thursdays and Sundays and until 10 am Fridays and Saturdays. They do not sell alcohol after 2 am in accordance to San Francisco law, but If you are wanting to stay out late and extend your night full of dancing you should check out The End Up.