1092 AD AMSTERDAM
The area around the Amstel is one of the city’s traditional LGBT areas. There are numerous brown cafés that reflect traditional Dutch culture, including frequent bouts of local folk music. During Amsterdam Gay Pride and King’s Day, the bars in this district are prime viewing platforms for everything going on around and on the water. What’s more, they tend to collaborate and organise their own entertainment too, setting up a stage and hosting free performances. Key spots to visit include Chez René and Amstel 54. Around Rembrandtplein, Café Montmartre and Café Entre Nous bring an authentic Parisian vibe to the heart of Amsterdam. Nearby there’s Café Vivelavie, while on Utrechtsestraat, there is the Netherlands’ only drag queen café, De Lellebel, which is renowned for its glittering lip-sync performances.
The historic and picturesque street cuts through the centre of Amsterdam, running from Leidsegracht to the Magere Brug on the River Amstel. Along its route, it crosses paths with the popular LGBT nightlife district around Reguliersdwarsstraat, but in recent years the Kerkstraat has begun to take on a life of its own. As well as being home to a number of gay-friendly hotels and bed & breakfasts, the street boasts Club Church, which hosts large-scale club nights, often themed, throughout the week. Also in the street is De Spijker bar – a local institution since 1978 – and the Black Body shop (Kerkstraat 173).
The Reguliersdwarsstraat is one of the most important LGBT streets in Amsterdam for wining, dining and partying. At the core of the area is the espresso bar Lunchroom Downtown. It originally opened in 1970, and although it wasn’t the first gay business in the area, it was the first one to be openly so, favouring large, open windows to barred-up ones. It has remained active and is a pleasant hangout to this day, inviting patrons to relax with coffee and pancakes. In the late 70s and into the 80s, the street then began to explode with new gay bars and clubs, helping to cement Amsterdam’s role as an international gay capital. Over the following decades, many of these businesses have come and gone, but the area has remained strong through its solid sense of community and entrepreneurship. These days there is a great deal of collaboration between the businesses, all working hard to keep the street colourful and fun-loving. Key bars and clubs include: SoHo, Bar Dvars (formerly EVE), Taboo, NYX (formerly Exit) and EXIT Aprés Chique. Highlighting the broad cross-section of visitors to the area, Reality is a bar that typically caters to Surinamese and Antillean homosexuals, referring to itself as a ‘gay bar with a tropical flavour’. And nestled behind Pathé Tuschinski, you'll find Café het Dwarsliggertje. More details about events and businesses on the street can be found on the Reguliersdwarsstraat website.
Zeedijk and Warmoesstraat
The area around Zeedijk and Warmoesstraat remains one of the most intensive hubs of LGBT-friendly shops and nightlife in Amsterdam. Located at the edge of the Red Light District, the Zeedijk has a rich past. Initially a notorious port of call for sailors, it still maintains a global feel, but that’s primarily because it is now one of the key streets in Amsterdam’s Chinatown. But this street was also home to the first gay & lesbian bar in the Netherlands! Café 't Mandje opened its doors in 1927, operated by local lesbian Bet van Beeren and family members, until it closed in the early 80s. However, the interior of the bar was preserved by the family and the bar reopened in 2007. It remains a central point within the city’s scene, though certainly not the only one on the street: De Engel van Amsterdam and De Barderij have a keen following, while the Queen’s Head is home of the infamous Drag Bingo. You'll also find the ES Collection shop at Zeedijk 61.
The Warmoesstraat remains a dedicated home for many revellers, too. At the softer side of the spectrum, Getto provides a cosy and relaxed ‘open to all’ atmosphere while serving cocktails and burgers named after drag queens. But this street is also a focal point for Amsterdam’s leather scene, housing bars and clubs such as The Eagle, Argos and Dirty Dicks and erotic stores such as RoB and Mr. B. The street is also a key player during the annual Leather Pride Amsterdam, which takes place in or around November.
In addition to the huge range of LGBT bars, stores and companies in the areas featured above, you’ll find numerous pink businesses and institutions throughout central Amsterdam. The Homomonument by the Westerkerk is a good option for first port of call. Next to the Homomonument is Pink Point, Amsterdam's official gay and lesbian information kiosk. Pink Point provides information about the Homomonument, as well as general information on gay and lesbian Amsterdam. Staffed by friendly and knowledgeable volunteers, it presents a wide range of information and flyers from local organisations. The Vrolijk Bookstore Amsterdam is a well-stocked LGBT bookshop spread over two floors; their selection includes novels, non-fiction, travel guides, children’s books, comics, photography, calendars, magazines, small gifts and films. If you haven’t found what you were looking for at Vrolijk, try IHLIA, an international gay/lesbian library, archive, information and documentation centre about homosexuality and sexual diversity in the Amsterdam Public Library (OBA). And now for something completely different… there are two long-established leather and fetish bars in the centre: the Cuckoos Nest on Nieuwezijds Kolk 6 and The Web on Sint Jacobsstraat 6.