7 must-do’s for gay travelers visiting Amsterdam

If you’ve never visited Amsterdam, it can feel like you’re the only gay person who hasn’t. And if you have visited, you probably eager to return to this magical, perfect cruise port. If weather and your abilities or energy level permit, walk or bike this gay-friendly city rather than taking a cab or Uber. Read on for my seven top experiences to help you experience the best Amsterdam has to offer gay travelers.

Gay-friendly Amsterdam is a delight to explore on foot! Photo: Randall Shirley

Gay-friendly Amsterdam is a delight to explore on foot! Photo: Randall Shirley

 

A public transit tram in Amsterdam is painted in LGBTQ rainbow colors. Photo: Randall Shirley

A public transit tram in Amsterdam is painted in LGBTQ rainbow colors. Photo: Randall Shirley

 

A cruise ship in the port of Amsterdam -- a perfect cruise port for gay travelers. Photo: Randall Shirley

A cruise ship in the port of Amsterdam — a perfect cruise port for gay travelers. Photo: Randall Shirley

Anne Frank House

The experience of climbing the stairs and wandering the rooms the Frank family hid in during WWII is deeply moving. The Anne Frank House remains essentially untouched. Reservations are essential. 

Homomonument

Let me break that down for you: homo-monument. Amsterdam’s waterside monument to gay folks is simple, yet photogenic. Every canal tour passes this highly visible landmark; many walking tours also stop there—and not just gay tours. This touching spot is just one more way Amsterdam continually earns its reputation as an LGBTQ travel mecca. Homomonument is near Anne Frank House, making them an easy combination for the gay visitor. The city’s gay info center is also located there.

The Homomonument in Amsterdam is a beautiful and sobering reminder of the importance, and fragileness, of our LGBTQ rights. It is popular with gay and straight visitors alike. Photo: Randall Shirley

The Homomonument in Amsterdam is a beautiful and sobering reminder of the importance, and fragility, of our LGBTQ rights. It is popular with gay and straight visitors alike. Photo: Randall Shirley

Van Gogh Museum

Amsterdam boasts many art museums. One could spend days wandering their halls. If you’ve got time for just one, choose the Van Gogh. Few other artists, Dutch or otherwise, have captured such broad and ongoing public admiration. The outstanding museum’s permanent collection offers a career-long perspective of his work, from his earliest sketches through many of his well-known works. Both exquisite and approachable, the museum will enhance your appreciation of Van Gogh. Bonus: the museum’s café offers outstanding food, beer, and wine.

Go to Church

And we’re talking a different kind of worship! Club Church is a unique party/sex/dance space with a different theme each night of the week. My husband joined a Dutch friend on “anything goes” night and came back with eyes-a-poppin’! He’d seen just about every kind of sex happening—gay, straight, bi—but claims to have spent his time on the dance floor… who am I to doubt? Local Dutch friends speak highly of the venue, and it truly exhibits the openness and eases that their culture has around sex.

Bar hop

Amsterdam has a number of gay bars scattered around the city. We found them very friendly, with most everyone speaking excellent English. Highlights near the train station include the fun and chatty Club Prik, and a cruisey bar (complete with dark basement) called The Cuckoo’s Nest. Nearby, you can find the city’s main bathhouse/sauna for gay men, called Nieuwezijds Sauna. A few blocks away, several gay bars line Reguliersdwarsstraat, a very fun area to hang out in the after-work hours. Super-friendly locals offer a warm welcome, making you feel you’ve escaped the major tourist zone.

Eat Pancakes

The Dutch may not have invented pancakes, but their culture embraces them as a staple. Amsterdam has outstanding restaurants specializing in “pannenkoeken,” served sweet or savory (we liked both!) A popular chain is called Pancakes Amsterdam, and while it required a wait for a table, we completely enjoyed a meal of crepe-like pancakes topped with ham, mushrooms, and cheese. For a more intimate option, we sampled sweet pancakes which came rolled up and cut into bite-size pieces at The Happy Pig. YUM.

The author, left, and his husband, Denni, enjoy Dutch pancakes in Amsterdam. Photo: Randall Shirley

The author, left, and his husband, Denni, enjoy Dutch pancakes in Amsterdam. Photo: Randall Shirley

De Hallen Market and environs

A visit to De Hallen Market was a highlight of our Amsterdam time—a true hidden gem recommended by a Dutch friend. De Hallen is a collection of unique boutique shops, food-court-style eating, and groovy culture, all under one roof. We didn’t find it touristy at all, and we were there in high season. The surrounding Kinkerbuurt neighborhood was pleasant and felt like a “real” and current place where normal Amsterdamers live.

De Hallen in Amsterdam is just one of the places that make this city a perfect cruise port for gay travelers. Photo: Randall Shirley

De Hallen in Amsterdam is just one of the places that make this city a perfect cruise port for gay travelers. Photo: Randall Shirley

A custom jeans shop is just one of the many cool things you'll find in De Hallen, Amsterdam's hipster shop/browse/dine facility. Photo: Randall Shirley

A custom jeans shop is just one of the many cool things you’ll find in De Hallen, Amsterdam’s hipster shop/browse/dine facility. Photo: Randall Shirley

Additional Amsterdam tips

If you have more time, other great activities include: a visit to the Amsterdam Museum, taking a canal cruise, checking out the Hermitage Museum, and renting bikes. If you’re looking for something a bit quieter, Mark and Dale listed Amsterdam’s Beghinhof among their favorite cruise experiences.

A one-hour canal cruise is a superb way to get a sense of what's what, where's where, and why it all matters in Amsterdam. Photo: Randall Shirley

A one-hour canal cruise will give you a more complete picture of the city. Photo: Randall Shirley

Don’t bother: Amsterdam Sex Museum (sounds fun, but is tired and very straight).

Where to stay: If you’re in Amsterdam a few days before or after your cruise, I recommend the Kimpton De Witt Hotel. The Kimpton offers a central location to most Amsterdam attractions. Although not in the gayest neighborhood, we easily found gay bars and the main bathhouse within 5 minutes walk. The rooms and property are gorgeous.

The very cool Kimpton De Witt Hotel in Amsterdam is an excellent and very hip place to spend a few nights in the city. The tile in the bathroom is so cool! Photo: Randall Shirley

The very cool Kimpton De Witt Hotel in Amsterdam is an excellent and very hip place to spend a few nights in the city. The tile in the bathroom is so cool! Photo: Randall Shirley

Note: The author and his husband paid for their own Amsterdam travels. Amsterdam Marketing generously provided Amsterdam City Cards which allow for entry into multiple cultural venues as well as discounts and unlimited public transit for a certain number of days. In our experience, the cards represent good value for the purchase.