Gay Vacations in Amsterdam

Dusk over the spire of Oude Kerk, near Centraal Station, in Amsterdam, Netherlands
The spire of Oude Kerk, near Amsterdam's Centraal Station, The Netherlands (Rene Frederick/Digital Vision/Getty)

Amsterdam Highlights

  • Cruise the canals. They may look cheesy, but the glass-roofed canal boats are a great way to orient yourself through mazelike Amsterdam and get a history lesson.
  • Go on foot or pedal. You'll be doing a lot of walking in Amsterdam, so bring comfortable shoes. Just watch out for the city's half-million bicycles, or better yet, ride one yourself. Rentals are about $10 a day, but lock your bike up well because thefts are common.


Amsterdam's somewhat dated reputation for drugs, sex, and rock 'n' roll is juxtaposed against a genteel atmosphere, with quaint canals lined with historic buildings, shady trees, and grandmothers pushing baby strollers past open-air cafes (and a few adult bookstores). Even if Amsterdam—which feels and looks more like an overgrown neighborhood than a major city—didn’t have its liberalism and gay infrastructure going for it, it would still be worth visiting because of its unique and scenic layout alone. More than 1,200 bridges spanning 160 canals are illuminated at night by tiny lights that make it feel like you have landed in a, well, fairy city. Everything is clean, cozy, and magical.

Same-sex marriage is legal in Amsterdam, home to the world’s first monument to LGBTs killed in the Holocaust, and gays and lesbians are so commonplace no one even hiccups when watching men kissing on the street. The gay scene is dispersed around town, but four areas are especially queer: the trendy Reguliersdwarsstraat area, the neighborhood-y bars of the Kerkstraat area (the original gay area), the bars catering to older men along the Amstel River and the adjacent Halvemaansteeg, and last but not least, the leather-y Warmoesstraat area in the heart of the red-light district.

Beyond the joints and gents, Amsterdam has great sites like the Rijksmuseum with its Dutch Masters paintings, the Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank House, and outdoor shopping at the Waterlooplein flea market and the Albert Cuyp street market. Don’t forget to visit during the national holiday the gays have claimed as their own, the boisterous Queen’s Day celebrations on April 30, as well as the pride event in August, complete with a flamboyant canal parade. October brings Amsterdam Leather Pride, one of Europe's biggest events of its kind.

Published: 17 Jul 2008 | Last Updated: 23 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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