Amsterdam is one of the few cities in the world where the traditional idea of a gay bar is no longer necessary. As one of the most forward-thinking countries, the Netherlands legalized same-sex marriage in 2001. Amsterdam, the capital city, is famous for legal prostitution. Cannabis fans can legally purchase and smoke hash at a coffeeshop. The Otherside Coffeeshop, a longtime gay favorite, is one of many in Amsterdam offering cannabis to the public.
Fun Facts about Amsterdam
Even though it’s politically very progressive, Amsterdam has a quaint look. Before we take you through the best sites gay Amsterdam has to offer, let’s indulge in some fun facts.
Amsterdam was a fishing village in the 12th century. Around the 17th century, though, it evolved into an important port city, setting the stage for Amsterdam to become one of Europe’s financial centers. Thanks to Amsterdam’s unique geography, there are around 165 canals — all thanks to careful city planning. About 2,500 houseboats float around the city. You can even rent one to stay in, instead of getting a hotel!
Amsterdam is also multi-cultural — 85% of the people here speak at least two languages: Dutch and English. One of Europe’s greenest cities, Amsterdam is incredibly bicycle friendly. Many people only use a bike to get around.
Must-Visit Amsterdam Attractions
For a real Amsterdam experience, Jordaan is a great place to start. Jordaan started as the working-class neighborhood, though now it’s one of Amsterdam’s upscale neighborhoods with independent art galleries, antique shops, courtyard gardens and amazing restaurants. No wonder — its picturesque view, narrow streets and quaint buildings make Jordaan postcard-perfect.
If you need some retail therapy, head directly to De Negen Straatjes or “The Nine Streets.” This area connects the main canals between Leidsegracht and Raadhuisstraat and is home to over 200 retailers. You’re sure to find something from the wide swath of independent boutiques, vintage and specialty stores selling designer apparel and handmade cosmetics. The hip neighborhood, Haarlemmerdijk, the Utrechtsestraat, or the delightful Czaar Peterstraat in the Amsterdam East area are all excellent shopping districts, too.
Recently renovated to become a first-class neighborhood, the 19th-century district of Oud-Zuid is an art lover’s dream. The open square between the buildings buzzes with activity. There are also open-air exhibits, markets and a large wading pool for warm days. In the winter, the pool turns into a lovely outdoor ice rink.
There’s over 50 museums in Amsterdam, and some of our favorites can be found in Museumplein, the cultural center of the city. Here you can find the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art.
If you’re sick of looking at the greatest art Europe has to offer, you might find some of these weird museums fun. The Torture Museum offers a unique experience learning about torture devices throughout history. From the guillotine to the skullcrusher, you will find many genuine (and genuinely nightmarish) objects in this small space.
The Sexmuseum Amsterdam, also known as the Venustempel, is world’s first and oldest sex museum. This temple to the act of physical love has an extensive collection of erotic pictures, paintings, objects, recordings, photographs and attractions. Also, the 17th century property on the Damrak housing the museum is amazing in its own right.
The Hash, Marijuana & Hemp Museum is devoted to to cannabis and its many uses. This museum offers visitors information on historical and modern marijuana consumption. You can also see pot plants in various growth stages in their live cannabis garden. There’s a wide range of pipes and roach clips on display. Not just that, but weirder items, like a 1836 Dutch Bible made of hemp.
Gay Amsterdam Nightlife
Though it’s one of the most inclusive cities in the world, the glory days of gay Amsterdam peaked in the ’70s and ’80s. So you won’t find the same type of gay clubbing scene in Amsterdam that you expect in other big European cities. However, Amsterdam still hosts monthly circuit parties, like the Rapido Events at Paradiso, an old church converted into a theater.
There are still a handful of gay bars in Amsterdam’s original gayborhood, Reguliersdwarsstraat. SoHo, a local favorite, offers a cozy space for after-work drinks or a night out. SoHo also has DJs spinning on the weekends for special events. With a cute staff and fun crowd, Soho is an authentic gay Amsterdam experience.
Taboo, another fun bar on Reguliersdwarsstraat, has fabulous drag shows in an intimate space. Local drag queens like Miss Tabitha host live shows every Wednesday. Regulars come to Taboo for happy hour to socialize and jump start a night of fun.
NYX, Amsterdam’s main gay dance club (formerly called Exit), is the few venues still hosting dance parties. In a four storey building, NYX hosts different themed events with local and international DJs playing a variety of music. Also, make sure you go to Dollhouse, a fun Saturday night event spanning three floors, spinning records from hip-hop to pop music and your favorite guilty pleasures.
The Amstel neighborhood also has a few bars with a more traditional Dutch atmosphere like Amstel 54. This bar is one of the oldest and most trusted establishments in the Amsterdam gay scene. It’s been serving the community since 1964. Amstel 54 creates a friendly environment and hosts fun events like Latin Friday.
The other popular gayborhood is between Zeedijk and Warmoesstraat. This is where you can find fetish shops, cruising bars like Eagle or leather bars like Cuckoo’s Nest. At Dirty Trick, lose your inhibitions and play with strangers in a two-storey building. There are plenty of darkrooms to check out, plus cubicles and glory holes for you to explore. No wonder it’s right by the famous Red Light District.
Gay Amsterdam Events
Amsterdam Gay Pride is also a must-see event. It’s unlike any other pride you’ll find. The actual parade takes place on the water, with spectators watching from the banks of Amsterdam’s famous canals. Huge boats full of sexy dancers and leather clad bears float along the waterways of the city.
Another event worth checking out is the Milkshake Festival— a relatively new LGBTQ-focused, outdoor music festival held in July. The Milkshake Festival is an inclusive party celebrating diversity with a fun crowd. This welcoming party has great live entertainment for everyone. You’re sure to have a great time.
Photo by Lorado via iStock