Guest writer Adam Spawton-Rice takes us on a trip to Amsterdam, one of Europe’s most laid back and liberal cities – well known for its friendliness towards the gay community – which celebrates its Pride on the first weekend of August.
Amsterdam Gay Pride Guide: Why Amsterdam deserves your pink Euros
Pride in big UK cities like London, Manchester and Brighton have been going strong for years and is an event which is celebrated all throughout the country – in Birmingham, Blackpool, Norwich and even Exeter, so what about the rest of Europe?
Speaking to other gay travellers, I picked up tips for the likes of Prague, Berlin and Tel Aviv Prides, however Amsterdam – not even one of the hottest – got some pretty rave reviews. So this year, I’m going to spend a couple of hours on Friday the 3rd of August getting myself to Amsterdam, to celebrate Pride weekend – Dutch style.
Amsterdam Gay Pride Weekend – 3rd-5th August 2012
The annual Amsterdam Pride has become one of the Netherlands’ largest public events; the first weekend of August has seen the city throw its big orange arms open to gays every year since 1996 – ‘Dam pride is popular with both gay and straight visitors and with an apparently low turnout of 560,000 in 2011, now is the time to get behind this stratospheric event.
The Dutch are known for their tolerant attitudes to just about everything (yes, including ‘you know what’); many of the city’s hotels are part of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association, with diversity training carried out as a matter of principle wherever you are in the Netherlands. This means no pin drop silences, or awkward laughter as you nervously shuffle away from the check-in desk with a mortified look. Traveling as a single gay or as a couple (‘a double…bed, please’), I’ve taken in a fair few ‘gay-friendly’ cities – although I’ve never previously made it to a Pride event outside the UK.
Why should you go?
In addition to being the inventors of gin, the Dutch have been setting the precedent for the legal rights of LGBT folk for a while. Consensual fun was decriminalised during the 1800s, and gay marriages have been performed there since 2001. Not to be outdone by Denmark’s first gay ‘marriage’, the Netherlands was the first country to give equal legal status to gay and straight couples’ vows. But vows aside, there’s plenty going on elsewhere…
Starting in earnest on the 1st of August, events run before and after the parade. Pick up one of the city’s 48 hour travelcards and you’ll be in the perfect position to take on the bars and clubs on Rembrandtplein and Leidseplein. As for street parties, hit the Reguliersdwarsstraat (not far from the Anne Frank Huis and Homomonument) where the annual Drag Queen Olympics takes place on Friday.
Check out Amstel’s small-but-cool Club Roque – the the place to go if you’re a Dutch speaker (see below); whereas both Rembrandtplein and Leidseplein attract just about everyone, with cooler, busier nightspots like Jimmy Woos and Paradiso. Amsterdam’s Arab/Moroccan bar Habibi Ana on Leidseplein is a turn up for the books, offering ‘exotic music and exotic guys’ – cute if you fancy a quiet shisha.
This colourful event takes places along the city’s winding canals (on which you can now rent boats from Hertz in time for Pride), which makes for a totally different Pride experience if you normally watch the march. Get to one of the canal bridges along Prinsengracht around midday Saturday to watch, as the parade route runs right through town. The loud, floating, er, floats full of semi-clothed men and women will almost certainly put this year’s London World Pride to shame.
Amsterdam is home to a massive global expat community and the Dutch are a dab hand at English. All of the signage around Amsterdam is also in English – so if you’re looking to chat someone up you shouldn’t run into any trouble. Just in case however, here are a few of handy phrases:
Good morning: ‘Goedemorgen’
How are you?: ‘Hoe gaat het?’
Do you speak English?: ‘Spreekt u Engels?’
If the sun decides to come out and stay out, why not check out a couple of the city’s urban beaches? On Friday 3rd you can jump on the number 22 or 48 busses from Centraal station and take a slow-mo run towards ‘open-minded’ beach party ‘Gaywatch’ at the Strand IJburg – just 15 minutes out of town. Also within easy reach of the city centre is Strand West, which has regular events throughout the summer. It should be noted that this beach does not allow swimming (for safety reasons), though does redeem itself with a great restaurant.
Keep an eye out…
The relationship between Amsterdam’s conservative immigrant communities and the liberal majority hasn’t always been easy. To celebrate a 400-year-old relationship with Turkey this year will see the first official Turkish float feature in the Amsterdam Pride parade.
Download the app
The Pink Perspectives Museum app points smartphone users to historic points around them – from streets and venues to secret meeting places. It incorporates a map for you to find points of interest on your own, but the tour itself kicks off at 4pm from the Amsterdam museum. It’s free for both Android and iPhone.
For more information
Pink Point is a one-stop gay tourist information point, located just around the corner from Homomonument. They know where all the cultural points of interest are, and can even point you to bars and clubs. You’ll even be able to pick up as many leaflets as you can carry, or you can view a map of the city or specifically its gay area here.
A 4-star bed and breakfast stay in Amsterdam for the Pride weekend on the easyJet holidays website (including flights) starts from just £240pp.
For deals on the site throughout the year, check out the Amsterdam deals page.
Photo credits: Carolina Georgatou, Bas Leenders and Franklin Heijen.