Gay Amsterdam - An Overview of Amsterdam's Gay Scene
Gay Amsterdam has been around for a very long time. Despite other cities catching up somewhat, Amsterdam is still one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world.
This page covers gay events, gay clubs and hotels, special gay sights, and the history of gay Amsterdam.
Homosexuality was legalized in Amsterdam as early as 1811, while the governing councils of most of the rest of the world were busy tugging on their mutton chop sideburns and fretting nervously about the very idea.
Gay flag over Amsterdam
In 1927, gay Amsterdam got its first bar, with the opening of Café 't Mandje at Zeedijk 63. Not only the first gay bar in Amsterdam, Café 't Mandje is often considered to be one of the first openly gay bars in the world. Since then many more have followed, with the real influx of gay bars and hotels happening from 1955 onwards. In 1946, the first organisation for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders in the world - the COC - was founded in the Netherlands.
Gay Rights in Amsterdam
Same-sex marriages are a basic right afforded to gays and lesbians since 2001, the Netherlands being the first country to institute this. As a result, many gay couples have chosen Amsterdam as their home for the benefits that cities in other countries are sorely lacking.
Amsterdam Gay Pride
The biggest event in gay Amsterdam's calendar is, of course, the Gay Pride celebrations. On the first weekend of August, Amsterdam becomes a lot more glamorous as the city's gay population takes to the streets to party and watch the unique floating parade that winds its way through Amsterdam's iconic canals.
The fun doesn't stop after the parade however, outdoor street parties and gay dance parties in the clubs mean those feeling the swell of Pride can party all night. Venues and clubs change from year to year but are mostly in the heart of gay Amsterdam, based around Kerkstraat and Warmoesstraat. Check out the official Amsterdam Gay Pride website at www.amsterdampride.nl for more specific details.
Other annual gay events include the Leather Pride, Europe's biggest annual leather, rubber and fetish event, held each November in Amsterdam, and Roze Zaterdag (Pink Saturday) on the last Saturday of June, each year in a different Dutch city.
Amsterdam Gay Clubs
While gay visitors to Amsterdam don't need to limit their visit to establishments flying the rainbow flag in order to receive a warm welcome, there are a number of popular spots in the gay Amsterdam scene that deserve a special mention.
One of Amsterdam's most famous gay bars, Cockring, located at Warmoesstraat 96 on the edge of the infamous Red Light District, offers live strip and sex shows Thursday to Sunday. Don't be daunted by the fact that it's located in a leather part of town: Cockring is a place for all of gay Amsterdam and no particular dress code applies.
Café 't Mandje and Saarein, mentioned above, are two popular places with a lot of history between them, open and welcoming to gay guys and girls of all walks of life. Less of a club scene than Cockring, these bars offer more of a chance to chat over drinks or food in slightly more traditional 'brown café style' surroundings.
Other places to look out for are Prik, offering drinks, dancing and "sexy snacks" at Spuistraat 109, Café Wilsons at Gedempte Raamgracht 78 and rocking cruise bar De Spijker at Kerkstraat 4.
Amsterdam also has a few gay saunas.
Gay Hotels in Amsterdam
Hotels abound in gay Amsterdam, whether you're looking for an exclusive gay hotel with the right crowd and extra features, or simply a quality, gay friendly 4 star deluxe. Within the canal ring of Amsterdam's centre, literally dozens of hotels can be found, while outer Amsterdam offers its own choice of places to stay a bit further from the hustle and bustle.
The Golden Bear is Amsterdams first exclusive gay hotel, opening its doors as early as 1948. It still remains a staple in the city's gay scene and offers a great place to stay on Kerstraat 37, right in the heart of gay Amsterdam.
Other hotels to keep an eye out for are the leather district's exclusively male hotel the Black Tulip at Geldersekade 16, the luxurious Amistad Hotel and Apartments at Kerkstraat 42 and Lilliannes Home, a lesbian hotel found a bit further from the city centre at Sarphatistraat 119, near the zoo.
Here's our main page about gay hotels in Amsterdam.
Gay Tourist Information
Since August 2009, Amsterdam has a special tourist office for gays: GayTIC (Gay Tourist Information Centre) at the Spuistraat 44 (Tel. 020-3301461). It's an official, government-sponsored tourist office. You can get their free information kit containing magazines at their office or online at www.gaytic.nl, a guide and map to gay Amsterdam, and discount coupons.
Next to gay-specic materials, you can get all regular products and services at their office, such as the Iamsterdam Card. GayTIC also supports gay travellers in need of help. Meanwhile, London has followed this Amsterdam example.
'Homomonument' in Amsterdam
On 5th September 1987, a tribute to all those gay men and women who have suffered hardship and persecution, during World War II and beyond, was unveiled at Amsterdam's Westermarkt. Located right beside the Pink Point gay information centre and the Anne Frank House, this monument stands as a symbol of the strength and courage of gay communities in Amsterdam and the rest of the world.
Despite the historical presence of Café 't Mandje's owner, legendary 'Queen of the Zeedijk' Bet van Beeren, gay Amsterdam has less of a lesbian focus than some might expect. While the city's famous tolerance extends to the lesbian community, gay girls tend not to be as active and noticeable as gay guys in Amsterdam.
There are of course lesbian bars and bookstores, and the less macho of gay Amsterdam's male bars welcome female visitors, but a keen eye can be needed to spot the best places in lesbian Amsterdam. Saarein, at Elandsstraat 119, was one of Amsterdam's first women only bars and today is a great meeting place for gay girls, while Café 't Mandje is of course as lesbian friendly as can be.
Is Amsterdam's Tolerance on the Retreat?
Some foreign commentators have been puzzled by the sudden rise of what they call 'right-wing' or 'populist' politicans in the Netherlands, notably Pim Fortuyn (who was murdered in 2005) and Geert Wilders (who has received thousands of death threats, and lives under 24/7 police protection). Had Amsterdam suddenly done away with it's famous tolerance?
Actually, in some ways it's almost the opposite. Pim Fortuyn (a flamboyant and very openly gay politician) was critical of Islam because too many Muslims in his view do not accept liberal democracy with all the freedoms and citizen rights that come with it, including gay rights. And while this website does not wish to take political sides, no one claims Wilders doesn't strongly back gay rights and all other typical Dutch freedoms.
It is true that Dutch society has been debating whether you can have too much of a good thing (namely, tolerance). Dutch society is not only very liberal but also very ordered. Freedoms ranging from gay's rights to have sex in some public parks in Amsterdam (no, we aren't kidding) to allowing soft drugs and prostitution, are given their own relative and well-confined 'free zones'.
There's always an ongoing debate in the Netherlands on exactly where the limits are. They will always move inches to the right, to the left, and back again. But to the large majority of the Dutch, and especially the Amsterdammers, it's inconceivable that we will ever let politicans or religious groups tell us which private sexual behaviour is acceptable, as long as other people involved consent and are of legal age.
- A list of Amsterdam gay saunas
- Where to find a gay hotel in Amsterdam
- The Gay Pride Amsterdam: Europe's biggest gay party
- How to meet Amsterdam boys?
- Hotspots of Amsterdam's nightlife
- The hottest Amsterdam clubs
- Amsterdam guide: basics Amsterdam information
- From gay Amsterdam back to Amsterdam Advisor