Known as one of the most liberal cities in the world, it’s no surprise that Amsterdam welcomes LGBT visitors with open arms, bold dress codes and cheap drinks.
The Netherlands has long been progressive when it comes to LGBT rights, and it was the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage in 2001.
The city is so onboard that it doesn’t limit itself to just one gay district but has several scattered amongst the canals. Amstel is the most traditional, with old style brown cafes at their best during city-wide events like Pride and King’s Day when the parties spill out onto the streets. And while it’s not as out and proud as it used to be, Reguliersdwarsstraat is historically one of the most important to Amsterdam’s gay communities -- it’s also where you’ll find a favourite of many, Club NYX. In the centre of the city, the Homomonument is a must-visit and is next door to the Pink Point, the official LGBT information kiosk helpful for local advice, recommendations and suggestions.
Whether you’re here for cruising, leather parties, or a big night out with a mixed group of mates, there are plenty of queer-focused clubs open to whatever gender or orientation. This is our guide to the best of LGBT Amsterdam.
For a vivacious evening head over to Cafe t’ Sluisje, Amsterdam’s top dragshow restaurant. Settle down for a three course dinner accompanied by an unforgettable performance by some of the city’s best drag queens. Expect innuendo aplenty and glitter galore. For a smaller, but no less wow-inducing time, Lellebel is the city’s oldest drag cafe where the performers often blend in with the customers. Cosy up to all the wigs and eyelashes in this tiny place and see some worthy lip syncs.
If you enjoy the Olympics, get ready for the Drag Queen Olympics. The 13th international games are usually held the first week of August at the Homomonument and see drag kings and queens from all over the world compete in fiercest line-up of challenges including the 100m Stiletto Sprint, Handbag Toss and Bitch Volleyball.
An LGBT night out in Amsterdam doesn’t have to mean the full Red Light District treatment. If you prefer something more low-key, head to Getto. It’s a laidback gay and lesbian bar open to everyone and anyone: they say you’re as welcome in full leathers as you are bringing your mum. Plus they do great burgers and cocktails so it serves as a good starting point before a big night out. In Amsterdam West, the underground scene offers up Trut, a non-commericial bar staffed by volunteers and kindly donating profits to charity. It’s a classic disco welcoming gay, lesbian and trans customers with cheap drinks and a low-key but respectful atmosphere.
Another local highlight is Prik. Their motto is “queer or not, Prik is hot” so it’s a good option for a mixed group of straight and gay friends. They also do top-notch cocktails, many of which are pink.
The Red Light District is not short on bars and clubs catering to every kink and fetish imaginable, but The Web is a go to. It’s a popular cruising bar for after-work drinks downstairs, with a more discreet dark room upstairs that can get hot and heavy. Plus they serve snacks at 6pm every day – what’s not to love?
For all the bars that say “all welcome”, women can often appear to be the minority. Not so at Cafe Saarein, an iconic lesbian bar in the Jordaan district. The traditional brown bar was opened in 1978 by a female collective and now the crowd is mixed ages, especially popular at the weekend.
Club Church on Kerkstraat is as full on as one might expect from an Amsterdam gay club. They have a VERY imaginative line-up of themed parties, with a Naked Bar every Wednesday where the dress code is pretty self-explanatory: shoes only. They’re pretty clear on which nights are for who, so check the website and make sure you’re not gatecrashing a men-only night or bears party, but there are several nights that are open to all genders and sexualities. Trans-men welcome.
If you’re looking to purely dance rather than get down and dirty, try NYX – three floors of lively beats and a friendly crowd. It’s a gay club that welcomes everyone so this is where to take your straight mates without spoiling the party. Or, for something on a smaller scale, Club Soho is a classic gay club with an international crowd, parties (and after-parties) until late and an inclusive atmosphere.
The best LGBT club nights are normally travelling pop ups from mysterious queer art collectives and Amsterdam is no different. Ultrasexi run M.U.L.T.I.S.E.X.I. at Club Claire with ace international DJ line-ups, regular themes and mind-blowing aesthetics.