They do things differently in the Netherlands. Historically this is a live-and-let-live society, which explains why it was the first country to allow same-sex marriage. People here don't look kindly on an institution, whether political party or religious denomination, telling people what they can't do. What does this refreshing attitude mean for gay people? You won't find police roughing up guys in the cruising spots; in fact, one local park, De Oeverlanden, actually has signs provided by the city, pointing to the cruisiest section.
As for nightlife, there are plenty of cozy cafes, lounges and dance clubs for every taste, and as English is almost universally spoken there's no difficulty in meeting people. Hash smokers over 18 may still enjoy the freedom to light up at one of about 200 Amsterdam coffeeshops. The proposed January 1st ban for foreigners, and the registration of locals, was put on hold by the Mayor of Amsterdam, Eberhard van der Laan, who opposed the new regulations. The government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte would still like to enforce prohibition, but for now says that local city councils will have the last word. Magic mushrooms were banned in 2012, but the milder "Truffles" (aka "philosopher's stones") were then sold at "smart shops."
Sex, that other big North American taboo, is less of a legal issue here, with live shows, and plenty of busy backrooms and regularly scheduled naked party nights. Sex-work is legal and regulated, but for health reasons rather than moral concerns. Big circuit parties regularly roll into town throughout the year, but especially during the gay holidays, and for leather events in the fall.
Or you can enjoy peaceful canal-side cafe relaxation or reading, seeing the works of the city's renowned artists, browsing the car-free pedestrian shopping streets and squares, or ambling the bike paths along tree-shaded waterways. Every sort of international cuisine can be sampled at the many restaurants, but fresh sandwiches, quiche or pastries from bakeries, taken to eat at Dam Square on a sunny day -- perhaps while watching the street performers there -- can taste special. Avoid those nasty pizza slices around Warmoesstraat - but the Vlaamse frites (fries to go, with mayonaise, ketchup or viinegar) are fresh, cheap and satisfying.
Big annual events here include King’s Day, the commemoration of Dutch King Willem-Alexander’s birthday, an occasion for the whole country to party, April 26th. On Koninginnenacht, the night before, the streets surge with celebrants, dressed in orange, and full of national pride and high spirits; and of course the bars are packed and circuit parties throb. Queen Beatrice abdicated in favor of her son, the former Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, in 2013.
Amsterdam Gay Pride takes place each July/August, with events and street parties over a weekend. The main event, Canal Parade, is on the Saturday afternoon. Watched by tens of thousands from canal-side perches along the Prinzengracht, and on the Amstel River, the parade is one of floating barges decorated in over-the-top gay glory, unique to this city and a treat to behold.
Amsterdam's Schiphol International Airport is several kilometers from the city center. Speedy direct trains cost a few euros and depart from the airport every 10 minutes. For info on Netherlands train service see the NS website. Bus number 197, running frequently between Schiphol and Leidseplein, is an easy, cheaper alternative to the train and tram transfer.
The bicycle is the favored mode of transportation, with designated lanes along many streets. Watch them whiz past, or join them; bikes can easily be rented. Try Black Bikes, Bike City or Star Bikes.
Public trams and trains are frequent and convenient, see their website at GVB. They don't run all night, but few nightspots will be far from your hotel room. A discount strip card, sold at stations and convenience stores, is inexpensive and valid throughout the Netherlands.
For leather and sex bars, check out the Warmoesstraat where you'll find the flagships of the famous leather stores, Mister B and Rob, along with men's leather and cruise bars Argos, Dirty Dicks, and The Eagle, keeping testosterone levels high. The bar/restaurant Getto, plus other coffeeshops, take-outs and porn shops fill out the spaces in between. Replacing Club Fuxx in July 2013, The Warehouse now brings dance parties from the Rapido Group to this part of town.
Across the Damrak, around Nieuwezijds Kolk, the Cuckoos Nest, the Web, and Boys Club 21 offer more erotic relaxation. Near Centraal Station, where Warmoesstraat meets the Zeedijk, the picturesque gay pubs on narrow streets on the canals draw mixed but mainly male crowds, from the maturely sophisticated to the young and artsy: Cafe De Barderij, De Engel van Amsterdam and the Queen's Head are standouts.
On streets around Rembrandtplein and the Amstel canal, the local gay bars include Amstel Fifty Four, Club Roque, Hot Spot and Montmartre. A block south of the flower market, Reguliersdwarsstraat is famous for summer nights when this pedestrian street is packed wall-to-wall with young gay people moving between clubs, many of them new, that include: Club NYX, Dvars, Exit Après Chique, and Pub Soho, among various mixed nightclubs, lounges and restaurants along both sides of the street.
Near Leidseplein, Club Church, Spijker and Bronx Video make their stretch of Kerkstraat sexy, and Thermos, one of Europe's finest saunas, isn't far away.
Gay News and Gay & Night magazines are in Dutch and English, each with maps and nightly events. Gay Krant, after 30 years of publishing, ended their print edition in mid-March 2013. Their website will continue, in Dutch, as before.
To keep up with the circuit party activity all year around town see Nighttours. Party websites for ongoing, mostly monthly dance events, include: Club Rapido, Bear-Necessity, Danserette, Glams, Spellbound, and UltraSexi.
I Amsterdam is a good online guide to most everything else in this city. MuseumApp, interactive smartphone cultural/museum tours bundled in one app, includes PinkPerspectives, taking you from dark days when ‘sodomites’ were sentenced to death on Dam Square, to gay marriage today in the Netherlands.
For locations and website links to businesses listed below, see our Amsterdam gay map & listings pages.
Amistad Hotel (Kerkstraat 42; 20-622- 9997), small stylish gay hotel, helpful and efficient staff, stylish rooms, luxurious apartments, all with computers, breakfast to 1pm, afternoon/evening internet cafe, free gay magazines and maps.
Eden Amsterdam American (Leidsekade 97; 20-556-3000 ), 1900 Art Deco building, stained glass windows, Café Americain terrace coffee/cocktails, all amenities, breakfast, high tea, jazz brunch.
Golden Bear (Kerkstraat 14; 20-627- 0164) comfortable gay guesthouse in 1737 buildings, spacious rooms, breakfast until noon, helpful reception staff.
Hotel NL (Nassaukade 368; 20-689- 3225), gay-owned, 'straight-friendly' design hotel overlooking Singel canal, casually sophisticated ambience, breakfast, full amenities include cable TV and internet access.
Triple Five Guesthouse (Prinsengracht 555; 31 20 428-3809) two comfortable private rooms overlooking the canal, convenient to museums, shopping and gay nightlife.
Near Warmoesstraat/Central Station
Anco Hotel (O.Z. Voorburgwal 55; 20- 624-1126) canal-side lodgings for men only, cruisy halls, internet access, breakfast in the bar, free gay mags and maps.
Barangay B&B (Droogbak 15; 62-504-5432) relaxed comfort from two friendly guys, 1777 era building near Central Station by Singel & Prinsengracht canals.
Amsterdam Boutique Apartments (Singel 401; 20-707-7954), at Spui between Dam and Reguliersdwarsstraat gay clubs, style, comfort and privacy in monumental canal house, five-star amenities.
Blue Moon (Singel 401; 20-428-8800) central location opposite the Rijksmuseum, two rooms, enhanced amenities, en-suite baths, in-room or roof terrace breakfast.
Other central lodgings
Amsterdam B&B (Roetersstraat 18; 20 624-0174 ), SE central Plantage neighborhood by Amstel River, private suites, separate entrance, from 90 euros.
Freeland Hotel (Marnixstraat 386; 20- 622- 7511) cozy, gay-friendly old house, fifteen single, double and triple rooms, named for flowers, all with bath and TV.
Hotel de L'Europe (Nieuwe Doelenstraat 2-14; 20-531-1777) quality classic hotel, luxury and elegance, fine dining, perfect location overlooks Munt Tower, stroll to shops, museums, gay nightlife.
Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Centre (Nieuwezijds Kolk 19; 20-530-1818), 239 rooms, convenient location, 4-star amenities, breakfast, restaurant and lounge, use of sauna/spa and workout facilities, massage, bike rentals.
ITC Hotel (Prinsengracht 1051; 20- 623-0230) small 20 room hotel, 18th-century house on quiet stretch of Amsterdam's grandest canal. Breakfast buffet until noon.
NH Carlton Amsterdam (Vijzelstraat 4; 1017 HK), large, central, Flower Market location, breakfast buffet, cafe/restaurant, bar/lounge, parking, bike rentals.
Radisson Blu (Rusland 17; 20-623-1231) large, modern, central hotel, fitness facilities for sauna, workout, or tan, concierge services, secure parking.
See our hotel maps and listings tab for links to these and other room options, also for web links of bars and clubs below.
Bars: Warmoesstraat & Zeedijk to Nieuwmarkt
Argos (Warmoesstraat 95) local favorite for leather lovers and bears, sex parties, naked and fetish nights, new outdoor back terrace on the Oudekerksplein.
Cafe De Barderij (Zeedijk 14) hip vibe, romantic pub, mixed, very welcoming crowd of locals, expats and visitors, popular Sunday evenings.
Cafe 't Mandje (Zeedijk 63), popular in earlier days, reopened recently after 25 years, looking much as it always did.
De Engel van Amsterdam (Zeedijk 21-23) high-energy cafe and pub, two bars, packed with shirtless men, canal-side seating on terrace.
Dirty Dicks (Warmoesstraat 86), orginal "sleaze pit" men's bar, famous last Thursdays Golden Shower parties, first Sunday fisting, second Sundays naked.
Eagle Amsterdam (Warmoesstraat 90), men-only cruise bar reborn, fresh energy, 1485 building, leather, rubber, uniform, skinhead, sports dress code nights, 3 floors, lounge, dance floor, DJ music, dark basement, smokers' lounge, open 'til 4 or 5am.
Getto (Warmoesstraat 51) bar/restaurant, specialty cocktails, exotic beverages, free internet, meals, snacks and American holiday food specials.
Queen's Head (Zeedijk 20) beautiful interior, canal views, popular for exuberant variety of evening events that include NetherBears nights.
The Warehouse (Warmoesstraat 96), old Club Fuxx and Cockring site, new dance club from Club Rapido circuit party promotion group.
Bars: Nieuwezijds Kolk/ Spuisstraat to Dam vicinity.
Cafe 't Sluisje (Torensteeg 1) bar, restaurant, drag cabaret songs, three course dinner shows.
Club Stereo (Jonge Roelensteeg 4) weekend late-night dance club near the Dam, energetic young crowd.
Cuckoo's Nest (Nieuwezijds Kolk 6) big place, fully equipped SM cellar, videos, cabins, busy night and day.
Mankind (Weteringstraat 60), bar/cafe near Rijksmuseum, canal-side terrace tables.
Prik (Spuisstraat 109), bar and cafe, just off Dam Square, frisky young crowd, mostly Dutch, very popular on weekends.
Web (Jacobsstraat 4-6) venerable leather bar, roof garden, 'not too dark' darkroom, earlier cruising, popular Sunday.
Bars: Amstel /Rembrandtplein
On streets leading to Rembrandtplein from the Amstel River there are some lively local bars and a lively Pride Weekend street party each year.
Amstel Fifty Four (Amstel 54) lively happy hours and late nights, tourists mix easily with locals, summer terrace.
Cafe De Jaren (Nieuwe Doelenstraat 20), large grand cafe, mixed crowd, lunch, dinner, coffee, terrace overlooks river.
Cafe Rouge (Amstel 60) popular bar, stylish, old-fashioned decor, mature atmosphere, Dutch music, showtunes.
Chez Rene (Amstel 50), small gay pub, young crowd, special party nights.
Club Roque (Amstel 178), Wednesday to Sunday cocktails and dancing until 4-5am, young guy crowd.
Entre Nous (Halve Maansteeg 14) mixed bar, Dutch music and pop, gayer as nearby bars close.
Hot Spot (Amstel 102) young, mixed crowd bar on the river, big video screen, pop music, open late.
Lellebel (Utrechtsestraat 4) bends gender with live shows, theme nights, nightly events.
Montmartre (Halve Maansteeg 17) busy nightly happy hours, popular later with locals young and old, Dutch tunes, dance classics.
Vivelavie (Amstelstraat 7) tiny corner bar and restaurant, intense crush of young women, popular late weekend nights.
Bars, cafes: Reguliarsdwarsstraat
A block south of the flower market, Reguliarsdwarsstraat, lined with bars, restaurants, and shops, has traditionally been filled with young gay party people on summer nights. Many of the gay clubs on Reguliersdwarsstraat that closed suddenly in 2010, have reopened this summer. Check updates at the Reguliers website.
Betty, Too (Reguliersdwarsstraat 29), Betty Boop theme, 18+ marijuana coffeehouse, snacks and beverages.
Café-Pub Soho (Reguliersdwarsstraat 36), among largest gay bars in the city, classic wood interior, fireplace, dancing, cocktails, mostly guys, locals and tourists.
Café het Dwarsliggertje (Reguliersdwarsstraat 105), tiny but lively gay bar, diverse crowd mixes with casual aplomb, Dutch and international music.
Club NYX (Reguliersdwarsstraat 42), former Exit re-opened on three levels, each with it's own music/atmosphere; mostly gay, straight-friendly dance crowd, Friday and Saturday nights afterhours until 5am, see Exit Après Chique.
Dvars (Reguliersdwarsstraat 44), trendy gay cocktail lounge, two bars, finger food, fireplace, terrace, (the former Eve).
Exit Après Chique Café (Reguliersdwarsstraat 42), gay bar at Club NYX, open daily until late (4am, Friday/Saturday until 5am), popular dutch and international pop music, dance if you can find room in the crowd.
Free-I (Reguliersdwarsstraat 70), gay-frequented marijuana coffeeshop, deep-house to lounge music from well-known local DJs.
House of Rising (Reguliersdwarsstraat 41), fashion, art, music bar, newest, brightest and boldest artists; last Thursday Kitty women's nights with live music.
Ludwig (Reguliersdwarsstraat 37), old April site, underground music and visual arts eclectic ambiance, front bar and terrace, dance club in back opens later in the evening.
Lunchroom Downtown (Regulierdwarsstraat 31) handy location, busy inside and outside for lunch, coffee, snacks; read, chat, or watch the world go by from the summer terrace.
Other Club (Reguliersdwarsstraat 17-19), old Havana site, new concept, global multicultural food and music mix, all-inclusive crowd.
Reality Bar (Reguliersdwarsstraat 129) diverse crowd, tropical setting, hip-moving multicultural music and vibe from warmer climes.
Taboo (Reguliersdwarsstraat 45) colorful cocktail bar/lounge on two levels, big screen music videos, popular happy hours.
Clubs, cafes: Near Leidseplein
Club Church (Kerkstraat 52) nightly theme events include naked, underwear, leather, rubber, bears, piss, and SM.
Paradiso (Weteringschans 6-8), big dance club east of Leidseplein, location of big Club Rapido circuit parties.
Spijker (Kerksstraat 4) beer busts, big-jackpot bingo, pool table, backroom, darkroom, porn and cartoons.
Walem (Keizersgracht 449), gay-friendly cafe/ bar, terrace tables beside canal, lunch or afternoon coffee, tea, cake; dinner.
Clubs outside the center
Panama (Oostelijke Handelskade 4), upscale fashion-conscious crowd, Flirtation women-only alternate month dance nights.
Saarein (Elandsstraat 119, Jordaan), mostly women, men-friendly mixed bar and cozy cafe, pool table, smoking area.
Trouw (Wibautstraat 131) fashionable restaurant/dance club in old newspaper building; bowling lanes, gay-friendly dance parties.
Trut (Bilderdijkstraat 165) basement dance party every Sunday night, fills up fast, young crowd, cheap beer.
Sauna Damrak 54 (Damrak 54), oldest men-only sauna in Amsterdam, two Finnish dry saunas, steam-bath, whirlpool, roof-terrace, relax area (no cabins), bar, private sauna facility, massage-services. "Straight, gay or bi-sexual... none of our business."
Sauna Nieuwezijds (Nieuwezijds Armsteeg 95), new gay sauna near Centraal Station, from the Club Church guys; lounge/bar, Jacuzzi, Turkish bath, Finnish sauna, private cabins, smoker's lounge, massage. Open 365 days/year.
Thermos Sauna (Raamstraat 33), five- level steam/sauna complex, free cabins, swimming pool, whirlpool, sports area, bar and lounge, hot tub, theater, roof terrace sun deck, shop and restaurant with dinner nightly. Great Sunday afternoon crowd.
In Arnhem, a short train ride away from Amsterdma, Steamworks is known for their monthly Wild & Wet parties.
In the town of Enschede, by the German border, 't Bölke is a gay sauna and cafe/disco complex to check out.
Club Church (Kerkstraat 52), all kinds of erotic events, including Ladz fetish parties, plus naked parties, sneaker and sports fetish and more.
Same Place (Nassaukade 120), erotic bar, open to all, irrespective of gender or sexual preferences. Monday night men-only sex parties 8pm-1am.
Prostitution is legal and regulated in Amsterdam. Many websites offer attractive young men.
Boys Club 21 (Spuisstraat 21), bar/ house of boys, handsome, sensual guys, ready and willing, casual meetings at bar/lounge, Wednesday and weekend strip shows, four full-amenity theme rooms upstairs. Rates set by the house.
Michael's Boys, 18-38 year-old international escorts at your hotel or at your home, photos online.
People Escorts, ages 18-35, 'any place, any time, anywhere.' Pay web site features photos.
Nieuwe Meer (Anton Schleperspad) day and night, can be muddy, sometimes attracts gay bashers.
Vondelpark (near Leidseplein) day and night, at the rose garden in the center of the park.
Oosterpark (by Tropenmuseum) cruisy after sunset, park gets very dark, popular with local Arab guys.
Cinecenter (Lijnbaansgracht 236, near Leidseplein) gay-friendly art-house cinema with screenings in original languages
Pathe de Munt (Vijzelstraat 15) international classic gay movies every first Wednesday 9pm. Admission 7.50 euros.
Eating out in Amsterdam is an experience as varied in flavors as the residents and foreign tourists alike with creative chefs and every cuisine imaginable. Some gay favorites follow. See our full listings for links to these and another 35 restaurants.
Cafe Mankind (Welteringstraat 60) gay-friendly cafe and bar near the Rijksmuseum, canal-side terrace and docking area, lunch, panini sandwiches, soups, egg dishes, ba.
Garlic Queen (Reguilersdwarsstraat 27) has everything made with healing and aromatic garlic, including ice cream.
Getto (Warmoesstraat 51) 'serving hungry homos since 1996,' home cooking, a mix of cuisines from Louisiana to Paris, Sunday brunch, and American Thanksgiving if you're missing the turkey.
Golden Temple (Utrechtsestraat 126) vegetarian international cuisine, many vegan options.
Hemelse Modder (Oude Waal 11) French and Italian food with an Asian twist; 'heavenly mud' is chocolate mousse.
La Margarita (Reguilersdwarsstraat 47-49) Caribbean fusion restaurant, tropical cocktails, salsa and merengue music.
Lunchroom Downtown (Reguliersdwarsstraat 31), gay-popular cafe since 1970, diverse crowd, summer terrace seating.
Other Side (Reguilersdwarsstraat 6) friendly gay coffeeshop, pre-rolled hash, potent pot, munchies, hot chocolate.
Saturnino (Reguliersdwarsstraat 5), authentic Sicilian restaurant, inexpensive wine list, gracious host.
Cafe 't Sluisje (Torensteeg 1) offers drag show dining with two seatings.
Supperclub (Jonge Roelensteeg 21) reclining couches, in-house DJs, fun cast of characters, five- course set meals.
Walem (Keizergracht 49) has a gay- friendly vibe, and canal-side terrace.
Boekhandel Vrolijk Gay & Lesbian Bookshop (Paleisstraat 135), has an extensive Dutch and English selection, academic works, art-house movies, just off Dam Square.
Spui Square is a center for bookshops. On Fridays the area fills with stands of booksellers from far and wide.
Athenaeum Bookshop (Spui 14) is a large Dutch bookstore here in the square, with titles in many languages, including photo and art books.
American Book Center (Spui 12), and Waterstones (Kalverstraat 152) are large retail bookstores in or near Spui Square, where English is the common tongue, with the city’s best assortment of books and magazines, from all around the Anglosphere.
Shopping: Gifts & Clothes
ES Collection (Zeedijk 61), retail store for Spanish fashion underwear and swimsuit label.
Gays & Gadgets (Spuistraat 44), tee shirts, underwear, gay-theme cards, posters, knick-knacks, souvenirs and pop art.
Pink Point (Keizersgracht at Westermarkt) gay and lesbian information kiosk near the Homomonument, maps, guides, tips and souvenirs.
Rufskin (Reguliersdwarsstraat 54), US men's fashion label denim, tops, custom leather, sport, swim and underwear.
Shirtshop (Reguliersdwarsstraat 64), for guys, dress-to-impress at affordable prices, not mass-product, indIvidual shirts, cool tees, jeans and jackets.
A world center for leather clothing and equipment, Amsterdam has top-notch stores and services. Look first to the heart of the leather scene under the black-and-blue flags in Warmoesstraat.
Black Body (Kerkstraat 173) has selections from rubber socks to body bags, good prices on jeans, chaps, shirts, vests.
Mister B (Warmoesstraat 89) has fine leather/rubber retail store, accessories, magazines, toys, piercing, tattooing, and art.
Mister B (Van der Madeweg 5b) like the retail store, but for traders, shop owners and internet stores.
Rob Leathers (Warmoesstraat 71) the famous leather maker's flagship store, has custom-made items and accessories.
Shopping: Sex shops
Amsterdam is a center for gay sex shops and cinemas with wide selections, on-site screenings, cruising and DVD rentals.
Adonis Cinema (Warmoesstraat 92) magazines, screenings, cabins, dark rooms.
Amsterdam Gay Zone (Spuisstraat 21) gay porn videos for many tastes, theater, darkroom, cabins, sex toys, accessories, mags; below Boysclub 21.
Bronx Video and Bookshop/Cinema (Kerkstraat 53, near Leidseplein) magazines, books, DVD sales/rentals, video cabins, internet.
Drake's (Damrak 61) magazines and videos, peep booths, glory holes.
Le Salon (Nieuwendijk 20-22) plenty of things to read and watch, peep booths, glory holes.