Amsterdam is the “gay capital of Europe,” with nearly 100 queer bars, discos, shops and cafes, and is the proud location of the world’s first gay wedding—everything you’d expect from the city that first taught us to put our fingers in a dyke. Dutch altruism is reflected in their accepting attitudes towards sexuality (the fascinating Red Light District is a must-see), and “soft” drugs (marijuana, hash and mushrooms). Gay and lesbian locals and tourists hang out all over this gorgeous and welcoming city and in the three main gay neighborhoods (Kerkstraat, Reguliersdwarstraat and Warmoesstraat).
First stop: Pink Point, the official Gay and Lesbian Information Center (Westermarkt Square, corner of Keizersgracht & Raadhuisstraat, pinkpoint.org). Pick up party flyers, a gay map of the city and queer souvenirs ad infinitum. The Homomonument is just across the street: a huge, pink, marble series of triangles stepping down into the Keizersgracht canal, a symbol of support for those living an openly gay lifestyle. Your map will lead you to gay-owned and gay-friendly establishments around the city, most marked with a rainbow flag above their doorways.
If you’re looking for a comfy crash pad, the NH properties (nh-hotels.com) are clean, modern and strategically placed throughout the city. The NH Barbizon Palace ($190-260, Prins Hendrikkade 59-72) is just off Central Station; the railway stop is just 15 minutes from the airport, where most of the city’s trams originate. All hotels are queer-friendly, but there are several gay hotels in the city (check your map, or gayamsterdam.com). The two official women-only bed and breakfasts each have one room to rent, but Lilliane, the owner of Lilliane’s Home (Sarphatistraat 119, +31 20 627 4006), suggests asking the bartender at Vive La Vie (Amstelstraat 7, vivelavie.net) to get insider information on “unofficial” lesbian accommodations.
The number of Pan-Asian eateries and South American steakhouses outnumber traditional Dutch restaurants in the city center, but there are a few local treats not to be missed. Meneer Pannekoek (Raadhuisstraat 6) serves traditional Dutch pancakes, savory or sweet. It’s worth the search to find Van Dobben (Korte Reguliersdwarstraat 5-9), where locals lunch on croquettes and hot and cold Dutch sandwiches with assorted fillings. Ask for a menu in English, or live dangerously and point to a daily special written on the wall.
One of the first things you’ll notice is that every other person on the road is on a bicycle, a safe way to burn off those indigenous Netherland carbs. There are bike rentals all over the city (ask a friendly local; they all speak fluent English), or hop on a Gay & Lesbian Bicycle Tour offered by MacBike (macbike.nl).
Amsterdam is a shopper’s mecca catering to every style and budget. Touristy tchotchky shops, sex and fetish gear shops and a few European department stores are near Central Station. Bargain and Euro-trend shoppers fill the back-to-back designer knock-off shops on Kalverstraat. 9 Straatjes (the nine side-streets between Raadhuisstraat and Leidsestraat) is a historic artisan’s quarter with Euro-couture shops wedged in between organic cafes, bakeries and cheese shops.
Time for a cocktail or a booty shake? Popular lesbian pub Saarein II (Elandstraat 119) becomes crowded early most nights, especially Fridays, and right down the street is the recently opened Custom Café Sugar. Every Saturday, Vive La Vie crowds in a set of young dancers. Women are welcome to crash the gay guy hangouts like super-chic Arc, (Reguliersdwarsstraat 44), and Exit, the crowded disco right next door. If you’re in town on a Sunday, pay $1.50 to get into De Trut (Bilderdijkstraat 157-159), a non-profit underground mixed gay club. What better place to unwind, especially after a tasty space cake? And should you encounter a dyke in need of attention, remember what we told you about your fingers.
For more info, check pinkpoint.org and underwateramsterdam.com.