Amsterdam is traditionally a very popular gay destination. This is due to several factors, including the long history of gay culture, its tradition of tolerance from the open-minded inhabitants and the liberal attitude towards certain so-called soft drugs.
The city lost its attraction at the beginning of the century, where other cities in Europe became the new magnets with exciting new gay scenes. Rumors about the end of the famous coffee shops didn’t help improve the city’s former image. Many of the gay guesthouses and bars after struggling against local legislation have disappeared.
In the last few years the city of Amsterdam has re-discovered its gay culture and has invested a lot of work and money in promoting their city. The right-wing populist and racist politician Geert Wilders was finally defeated in the recent elections and a new liberal wind is sweeping through the Netherlands.
One company which has continually supported the gay community over the last years, advertising in gay publications and bringing gay men to the Netherlands is the official airline KLM. The Dutch airline has some exciting new features such as Meet & Seat, where you can choose the ideal person to occupy the seat next to you on your long-haul flight or Internet which will also be on board from 2013!
A true highlight in the gay calendar of Amsterdam is the Gay Pride and Canal Parade, which first took place on the canals of the city in 1996. This unique parade which takes place on the first Saturday in August attracts around 500.000 spectators to the canals in the city centre, making Amsterdam Gay Pride unlike any other event worldwide.
This amazingly tolerant city celebrates its gay community, with many heterosexuals becoming so-called “gays for a day”, with such enthusiasm and heartwarming joy. Organized by the professional ProGay group, Gay Pride is a party for the whole family from old to young, and reflects the philosophy lived out in the city “live and let live”. The city’s inhabitants seek the best viewpoints along the Prinsengracht and along the Amstel, particularly near the City Hall and the Muziektheater (Amsterdam Music Theatre).
The unique location on and on the banks of Amsterdam’s canals gives the whole event a special flair. The Amsterdamers live on and around their waterways every day and therefore this water parade is so normal for the locals.
Not only were the 80 boats colorfully and artistically decorated, the participants on the boats were tastefully dressed and after many hours of practice in the weeks leading up to the parade the performances were perfected and added to the exuberating atmosphere. Everyone looked and did their best to make an excellent show. After all a cup for the best boat was the ultimate challenge.
The live singers on many of the boats caused the emotions of the normally rather reserved Amsterdammers to explode. Even the short and intense rain shower didn’t manage to cool down the heated emotions.
It all started on Friday afternoon. Our host Jennifer Hopelezz met us at the Homomonument in the centre of the city. I was one of the fortunate ones to be invited by Amsterdam marketing to visit their wonderful city and this unique event. Amsterdam’s Homomonument was officially unveiled on Saturday, 5th September 1987! Exactly 25 years ago to the day. Its goal: a memorial to the gays and lesbians persecuted and killed in the Second World War and as a source of inspiration for the men and women who “continue to suffer persecution today”.
The monument, designed by Karin Daan, consists of three equilateral triangles made from pink granite symbolize the past, present and future and are part of the walkways, integrating the monument into everyday life. In the early evening the Drag Olympics took place here, with exciting events such as the high-heel race, handbag throwing and hula hoop competitions. It was so way-out that you had to love it! The drag queens were unique and very original. The whole event was absolutely hilarious.
The gay bars in the city centre were quite the night before this grand event. The gay scene is concentrated in three main areas. The largest of which was not far from my hotel, in the Warmoesstraat, not far from the Central Train Station. Here you will find the oldest building in the city, which now houses the Eagle Cruise Bar, the flag shop RoB and the famous Mr. B leather and rubber shop.
It is also not far to the Cafe ‘t Mandje at the Zeedijk. This was the first gay and lesbian bar in the Netherlands and celebrates its 85th birthday this year. It is so famous that a copy of the bar along with original decorative memorabilia can be found in Amsterdam’s History Museum. Amazingly Joseph Ratzinger was born 85 years ago, but sadly not in Amsterdam!
The second gay area is around the Flower Market (hardly surprising). The third and smallest gay area is not far from the Leidse Plein in the Kerkstraat, with the famous Church Cluband the Pink Point for gay information about the city. The Homomonument is located next to the Pink Point.
Of course a visit to Amsterdam would not be the same without a canal cruise. There is an extensive range of different cruises on offer – from a regular canal cruise to a cocktail or candlelight cruise to a dinner cruise with live cooking on board. With a City Card a free canal cruise is included in the price, as well as free entrance to 40 museums in the city, including the Van Gogh Museum.
Amsterdam Gay Pride is a huge celebration with the goal of equality for the gay, lesbian and transgender communities and will be held from Saturday, 27 July to Sunday, 4 August 2013.
If you can’t wait that long, the second largest “gay” event on the canals of Amsterdam Konninginnedag (Queen’s Day) on the 30th April. Thousands of brightly decorated boats pack the narrow Amsterdam canals. The next best thing to being on one of the boats is watching – and dancing – from one of the many bridges.
400 years of the Amsterdam canals – one of the city’s most iconic sights, 2013 marks the 400th year of the Canal Ring.
125 years of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra with chief conductor Mariss Jansons at the helm, the renowned orchestra celebrates its 125th anniversary with a world tour taking in six continents.
40 years of the Van Gogh Museum which will re-open following internal renovations in 2013, 160 years after the birth of Van Gogh and 40 years since the museum opened.
For more information, see: http://www.iamsterdam.com