It’s hard to imagine a more gay and lesbian friendly travel destination than Amsterdam. In 2001, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to officially recognise same-sex marriages. Other countries like Belgium, South Africa, Argentina and most Scandinavian countries followed shortly after. Amsterdam has a long and fierce reputation of tolerance and respect for the rights of minorities, including those of gays and lesbians and homosexual couples can openly show their feelings for one another in public without fear in the Dutch capital.
With four distinctive gay districts in the city centre, rainbow flags on nearly every other street and the annual Gay Pride celebration, Amsterdam is the place to be for gays worldwide. The street parties, club events and exhibitions of Amsterdam Pride draw more than 350,000 participants and visitors each year. On the first Saturday in August, thousands of people line the Prinsengracht and Amstel River to watch the world’s only pride parade on water. The cavalcade of colourful canal boats packed with hundreds of extravagantly costumed homosexuals is like nothing most people have ever seen. Even gay politicians, policemen and other people with public professions sail along, although the cops were warned not to strip this year.
Another major party for gays and straights alike is celebrated on April 30.
Unfortunately, not everything is as bright as it seems at first glance. After the suicide of controversial gay entrepreneur, Sjoerd Kooistra, in June 2010 who owned half of Amsterdam’s gay venues, the local scene was plunged into a noticeable depression. Lenders also shut down many of the city’s old time favourites as a consequence of the financial crisis. Another negative development resulted when a few instances of violence towards gays occurred in 2010. Although Amsterdam is still as safe as many other big cities in Europe, these incidents have proven that Amsterdam isn’t immune to gay bashers.
On the bright side, in 2011 the city is still full of energy and gorgeous boys and girls and the loss of some classic venues has made room for new gay entrepreneurs to make their mark. All in all, Amsterdam still has an impressive range of gay hotels, shops, restaurants, bars, saunas, clubs, travel agencies and other facilities.
Several areas form what can be dubbed Amsterdam’s Gay Village. All areas are within easy walking distance from one another. The prime area is the Reguliersdwarsstraat (Gay Main Street) and prime hunting ground for upmarket clubs and trendy restaurants. Other areas include the Kerkstraat (near Leidsestraat) with two gay hotels (The Golden Bear and Amistad) as well as a kinky cruise club, Warmoesstraat in the Red Light district (with cruise bars, a leather scene and a cinema) and the Zeedijk (home to some cosy local cafés).
And last but not least there's a vast concentration of party places around the Amstel, Halvemaansteeg and Rembrandt Square.
More information: Spuistraat 44, GAYtic
(Specialised in Gay Touristic Information,
Monday - Saturday 11.00-20.00, Sunday 12.00-20.00) and Spuistraat 44 (inside shop Gays & Gadgets).
At the Gay Information Centre (Gaytic) in the Spuistraat you can find all information about party's, shps and gaymagazines. Openingtimes are from 11:00-20:00, in the weekend the Gaytic opens an hour later.