The gay capital of Europe, Amsterdam, is the perfect city to go to as a lesbian traveller. Or well, Amsterdam doesn’t carry that title anymore officially, but the city is still very liberal, tolerant, welcoming and diverse. The city is perfect for your lesbian vacation or short city trip! You can truly be yourselves and enjoy all the beauty it has to offer. It’s a city where our love story began, so Amsterdam has a special place in our hearts. Continue reading for the ultimate travel guide to lesbian Amsterdam. Including our best insider tips and spots!
Amsterdam is the capital city of the Netherlands and it’s most famous for its beautiful canals, gingerbread houses, coffee shops (not for coffee!), the infamous red light district and lots of bicycles. Amsterdam has a lot more to offer; there is something for everyone.
IN THIS BLOG POST
• LGBT rights in the Netherlands
• The gay area in Amsterdam
• Amsterdam itinerary: the best things to do in the city
• Lesbian bars in Amsterdam
• Gay bars in Amsterdam
• Gay events in Amsterdam
• When to visit Amsterdam?
• How to get around Amsterdam?
• Where to stay: gay hotels and hostels in Amsterdam
• Where to eat the best food in Amsterdam?
Good to know before your visit: in the Netherlands, you go to a café for coffee and to a coffee shop to smoke weed.
LGBT rights in the Netherlands
First, we will tell you a bit about LGBT rights in the Netherlands. The Netherlands is seen as one of the most LGBT friendly destinations in the world. Therefore it isn’t weird that LGBT rights in the Netherlands have been some of the most progressive in the world. Homosexuality was decriminalised in 1811, and in 2001 the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. Yes, we are very proud of that! The first gay bar opened in Amsterdam in 1911.
Do you want to learn more about LGBT rights in the Netherlands, read our blog post ‘How LGBT friendly is the Netherlands?‘
The Gay Area in Amsterdam
The gay street of Amsterdam is the Reguliersdwarsstraat. It’s the most colourful street in Amsterdam and the gay scene is concentrated around it. The Reguliersdwarsstraat is located close to Rembrandtplein and Bloemenmarkt (flower market). At the Reguliersdwarsstraat, you can find most gay and lesbian bars, clubs, cafes, restaurants and shops. Especially during Amsterdam Pride (end of July/early August) and Kingsday (April 27), the parties shift from the bars and clubs to the street.
Amsterdam Itinerary: Best things to Do in the City
Wander around the neighbourhood Jordaan
The city centre of Amsterdam is very picturesque. You see canals and beautiful houses everywhere. There are multiple neighbourhoods in the city centre and especially the Jordaan is well known for its cute streets. The famous Negen Straatjes (Nine Streets) is filled with boutiques, cafes, galleries, vintage shops and hidden gems. Just wander around the neighbourhood and enjoy!
Bike Around the City
There are more bicycles than people in Amsterdam. How crazy is that?! When we lived in Amsterdam we both owned two bicycles. You never know who’s visiting and needs to borrow a bike! And Dutchies just love to bike. We bike everywhere: to work, to school, to the shops, everywhere. You will notice parents biking with 2 or 3 kids on the bike. Luckily, the Netherlands doesn’t have any mountains so it’s easy to bike around. You can find bicycle lanes everywhere. We highly recommend renting a bicycle to enjoy Amsterdam the way locals do it. Though, you need to have some bicycle skills. As there are many people on bicycles in the city it can get crazy. Especially when tourists forget they are walking on the bicycles lanes (tip: if the ground is painted red, move! You’re standing on a bicycle lane). Remember: bicycles rule traffic!
Hop on a ferry to Amsterdam North
This is one of our favourite spots in the city: NDSM Werf (wharf). Behind the central train station, you can hop on a free ferry and in about 15 minutes you reach the wharf. It’s an industrial area with cool street art, awesome cafes, restaurants and a cool hotel. The area makes for great pictures. Once a month the biggest flea market in Europe is held at the wharf, de IJhallen. Our favourite cafes and restaurants are Noorderlicht and Pllek. Especially during summer, Pllek is amazing. You can sit, or lay, next to the water with your feet in the sand and a beer in your hand. The Feralda Crane Hotel is the place to stay if you want to sleep in a unique place. It’s a crane overlooking the IJ-river and has a hot tub on top!
Visit one of many museums
There are many museums in Amsterdam, try to visit at least one of them! We are huge fans of modern art, so we love the Moco Museum. The Rijksmuseum is the biggest art museum in the Netherlands, hence the name National Museum. The museum has many paintings, with the Night Watch by Rembrandt as the most famous piece. The exterior of the building is as beautiful as the art inside! Other well-known and interesting museums in Amsterdam are: Anne Frank House, Van Gogh Museum, Stedelijk Museum and we love photography museum FOAM.
Swing on Europe’s highest swing
Across the IJ-river, behind Amsterdam central station, there’s a tall building: the A’DAM Tower. You can go to the top of the tower and enjoy a beautiful view of Amsterdam. Something we loved, even more, is the swing on top of the tower. It’s the highest swing in Europe, how cool?
Eat delicious stroopwafels at the Albert Cuyp market
The Albert Cuyp market is one of the oldest and largest markets in Amsterdam. The market is located in the neighbourhood the Pijp and is open from Monday to Saturday. Something you got to eat when you visit the Netherlands is stroopwafels. On the market you can find them freshly prepared, those are the best! Other Dutch things to eat on the market: poffertjes (small pancakes, these ones are our favourite) and if you like fish, try out haring (herring) or kibbeling (battered chunks of fish). Another fun market in Amsterdam is the flea market at Waterlooplein.
Visit the Homomonument
Beside the Westerkerk (church), there’s a large triangle memorial, the Homomonument. The monument memorializes all gay men and lesbians who have been prosecuted because of their homosexuality. It’s built in 1987 and it became the first monument in the world to remember homosexuals who were killed by the Nazis. The monument consists of two parts, head to the water to see the other triangular part.
Next to the monument is the Pink Point, an official gay and lesbian information kiosk. They provide information about the monument and more gay & lesbian info about Amsterdam.
Hop on a canal cruise
Amsterdam has over 100 kilometres (62 miles) of canals. So obviously, you have to explore the city on the water! There are many companies that organise canal tours through Amsterdam. Rederij P. Kooij (at Rokin) and Lovers Company (near central station) are great companies. It’s also possible to rent a boat yourself and drive around the city. Or paddle around on a paddle boat. There are many options! Especially during summer, it can get very crowded on the canals with boats. Therefore, it’s not allowed to swim in the canals. If you want to swim, you can go to a designated swim spot.
During winter time, in December and January, there’s a fantastic light festival throughout the city. We loved seeing it from a boat!
Enjoy the greenery
While exploring a city it’s also important to enjoy some nature, right?! We always love relaxing in a park to gain energy after a long time walking around. In the city centre of Amsterdam, the place to go to is Vondelpark. When the sun is out many people head to Vondelpark to meet friends, to picnic (or even barbeque) or to do sports. It can get crowded in the park, and it’s a nice mix of locals and tourists.
You can also (practice) bike around the park. If you fancy a longer bike trip, head to Amsterdamse Bos (forest). The Amsterdamse Bos is about three times bigger than Central Park in New York City! Here you can fully enjoy nature and even jump in the ponds for a swim. In spring, there are beautiful sakura blossom trees in the Amsterdamse Bos.
Have fun at the Westergasfabriek
Westergasfabriek is a creative, hip and culture venue in Amsterdam, located in Westerpark. Former industrial buildings are transformed into restaurants, party-venues, galleries and there are a cinema and retro arcade bar. Every year the biggest LGBT film festival of the Netherlands is hosted here: Roze Filmdagen. And in July queer festival Milkshake is held at the Westergasfabriek. The motto of the festival is ‘nothing is a must, everything is an option’ (in Dutch it sounds better). The festival is all about respect, love, freedom and acceptance. We highly recommend going to this festival if you are around! If you like games, head to TonTon club for drinks and games.
There are some spots in Amsterdam you have to see. The Red Light District de Wallen is one of them. Many tourists have heard of this area and want to see it with their own eyes. In the Netherlands, prostitution is legal as long as the prostitutes are inside a building (not on the streets), which is why all the prostitutes are behind windows and have their own room. There are around 300 rooms with women (including transgender women) working at the Red Light District. In case you were wondering, the neon red lights in the windows make for the name.
If you want to see it yourself, go at night when the district comes alive. Other famous spots in Amsterdam are de Dam, Museumplein, Leidseplein, Rembrandtplein and Nieuwmarkt. The last three are great if you are looking for a place to drink and/or eat.
Find the best photo spots
Lesbian bars in Amsterdam
Sadly, two years ago THE lesbian bar of Amsterdam, Vivelavie, closed its doors after 37 years. Vivelavie was an iconic bar where many lesbians went. The good news is, early 2019 a new lesbian bar in Amsterdam opened its doors: Bar Buka. Besides Bar Buka there are other safe places for lesbians in Amsterdam:
- Bar Buka is the newest hotspots in Amsterdam for lesbian women. Everyone is welcome in the bar but women are in the spotlight. Bar Buka is located in the neighbourhood de Pijp. The bar attracts queer women of all ages.
- Saarein is a traditional brown cafe founded by ten women in 1978. Originally it was a women-only bar but nowadays Saarein is open for all queer minded people. Though, you will find many women in the cafe. The visitors of Saarein are usually a bit older than places like Bar Buka.
- Club NYX is one of our favourite spots in Amsterdam for drinks and dancing. Not only gay men and women like to visit this club, but many straight people also go here. The club is a home for everyone! Fun fact: the club is named after the Greek Goddess of the night.
- Cocktail bar Prik in the heart of Amsterdam is the place to go to for a cocktail! The bar offers a friendly, no-nonsense environment where you can relax. We must say that it’s mostly men visiting Prik, though you will find some women here as well. We especially love Prik during Pride, when the party moves to the street!
- One of Amsterdam’s oldest gay and lesbian bars in Amsterdam is Cafe ‘t Mandje. The cafe welcomes everybody and is an authentic brown cafe.
- We know Amstel 54 very well because of the Wednesday-night drinks of our former student association ASV Gay. Amstel 54 is a modern LGBT friendly bar and especially Wednesday evening is perfect for the younger generations (the gay students of Amsterdam).
- De Trut is an iconic disco spot where you mostly find locals. It’s only open on Sunday night and it used to be incredibly popular. De Trut is a non-commercial gay disco. Phones/pictures aren’t allowed inside de Trut!
- Club Yolo is a welcoming LGBT+ club that opened its doors last year. A couple of years ago Yolo used to be the lesbian night club You-II. Nowadays it attracts a mixed young audience.
- Getto is a restaurant and bar with an attitude-free zone. It welcomes everyone and is the perfect place for people to meet for a drink and some food.
- Club Soho is a stylish club at the Reguliersdwarsstraat. It’s a club open for all, though you will many (gay) men at Club Soho.
Besides Amsterdam, the Netherlands has so much more to offer! Read about interesting cities to visit in IGLTA’s guide.
Gay bars in Amsterdam
- Cafe Lellebel is a drag show bar with some amazing shows. It’s Amsterdam’s only drag show bar.
- The Church is a famous men-only gay sex club. They often organise themed nights.
- Eagle Amsterdam is also a men-only bar, it’s one of the most visited men’s bars in Amsterdam.
Gay events in Amsterdam
- Amsterdam Gay Pride: yearly from the end of July to the beginning of August. It kicks off with the Pride Walk (pretty much a traditional Pride protest march) on the first Saturday. The main Canal Parade takes place on the first Saturday of August. Good to know: the canal Pride parade is a celebration rather than a protest! Read about more about Amsterdam Pride
- Milkshake festival: queer music festival at the end of July, held at the Westergasfabriek.
- Flirtation: a women-only beach party in Bloemendaal aan Zee, 45 minutes from Amsterdam.
- Roze Filmdagen: the LGBT film festival of the Netherlands, at the Westergasfabriek. Yearly in March.
- Kingsday at the homomonument: every year, on the birthday of the King, the 27th of April, the entire Netherlands turns orange and there are parties everywhere. At the homomonument in Amsterdam, there’s a free-to-enter open-air LGBT+ party! And not only on Kingsday but also during Kingsnight (the night before).
- Liberation Day at the homomonument: On the 5th of May, Liberation Day (the end of Nazi occupation in WW II) is celebrated in the Netherlands. Same as Kingsday: free-to-enter open-air LGBT+ party!
- Roze Zaterdag (Pink Saturday): The Dutch version of the original gay pride (protest march). Takes place on the last Saturday of June, since 1977. Every year it’s held in a different city.
When to Visit Amsterdam?
Amsterdam is a great city to visit all year round. Dutch weather is unpredictable, you can have good or bad weather all year round (even within one day). During the warmer months, everybody goes outside to sit on terraces and in the parks. In spring, the tulip season starts. Usually, in April, there’s a tulip festival around the city of Amsterdam. For the large flower fields, you have to leave Amsterdam and visit the Keukenhof for example. In winter the city is really romantic with many lights, and if you’re lucky, you can go ice skating on the canals. That sadly rarely happens nowadays. In December and January, you can always ice skate at the skating rink at Museumplein! In fall, Amsterdam turns all orange and in summer it can get nice warm – every season has its charm.
Read more about exploring the tulip fields in the Netherlands!
How to get Around Amsterdam?
As we mentioned before, we highly recommend exploring Amsterdam by bicycle. Only if you know how to ride a bicycle! Biking in Amsterdam can get crazy (even for experienced Dutchies). Everywhere in the city, you can find shops to rent bicycles. When locking your bike make sure to attach it to something (like the rack), as many bikes get stolen.
Public transport in Amsterdam is convenient but not so cheap. There are trams, buses and metros going through the city. The OV-chipkaart (public transport chip card) is used to travel on public transport by locals. If you visit Amsterdam as a tourist it’s most convenient to get a one-hour card or day card (valid for one of seven days).
The I Amsterdam city card, for example, provides free entrance to many attractions in Amsterdam AND offers unlimited public transportation. Between Schiphol airport and the city centre, there are regular trains (takes 15 mins!) which makes it easy to reach Amsterdam, even during a layover.
Where to Stay: Gay Hotels in Amsterdam
Booking a hotel or hostel in Amsterdam as a same-sex couple should not be a problem at any hotel. Though there are some hotels in Amsterdam that are extra LGBT-friendly:
- W Amsterdam is a hip and a quite luxury hotel. This hotel brand attracts the younger generations and is in general super LGBT friendly. We love the swimming pool on the rooftop of W Amsterdam, overlooking the city.
- Moxy Amsterdam is a very Instagrammable and hip hotel located at the Houthavens. It’s a brand new hotel and we love their art and swimming pool.
- Sofitel Legend The Grand Hotel is an IGLTA member and welcomes LGBT travellers with open arms. It’s a luxury hotel with a central location.
- The Hoxton is a hotel located in 5 canal houses in the city centre of Amsterdam. It’s a hotel chain of trendy hotels.
Gay hostels in Amsterdam
The St Christopher’s Inns backpacker hostels are definitely very LGBT friendly. They have three locations in Amsterdam, the Winston, the Flying Pig Downtown and the Flying Pig Uptown. We haven’t stayed at their hostels in Amsterdam but we staying in a St Christopher’s Inn in London. Their hostels are always LGBT friendly. Clink Noord in the north of Amsterdam is also a hostel that warmly welcomes LGBT travellers.
Planning a Europe trip? Like Amsterdam, Stockholm is a great and welcoming city to visit!
Where to Eat the Best Food in Amsterdam?
Dutch cuisine isn’t really that special, so you won’t find many typical Dutch restaurants. Traditional Dutch food is mostly homemade meals. We love the dish boerenkool (mashed potato with kale) but never had it in a restaurant. Though there are a lot of food and snacks to try out in the Netherlands. Must-tries: stroopwafels, poffertjes, Dutch apple pie, drop, kroket, frikandel and kaassouflé. At the FEBO, you can get a kroket, frikandel and kaassoufflé out of the wall. Go to the FEBO and you will see what we mean with ‘out of the wall’. These are our tips for the best food spots in the city:
- Happyhappyjoyjoy has great Asian street food. And we love the style of the restaurant brand. There are three different locations of Happyhappyjoyjoy in Amsterdam.
- If you want to try a traditional Dutch homemade meal, go to restaurant Moeders (means mom in Dutch) or La Falote. We highly recommend the dish boerenkool!
- Burgermeester for the best burgers in town!
- Looking for something different? Restaurant Addis Ababa has delicious Ethiopian food. We absolutely love Ethiopian cuisine.
- Pllek and Noorderlicht in the north of Amsterdam are great locations for some food or a drink.
- Oma Ietje in Amsterdam Zuid-Oost is our absolute favourite spot for delicious toasted sandwiches and great coffee.
- For cheap and delicious pizza and pasta head to the area of Leidseplein. We love pizzeria Rimini.
- De Biertuin (beer garden) serves delicious grilled chicken combined with craft beers. Most of the beers at de Biertuin are produced locally.
- Hannekes boom is a great spot to go to if the sun is out! Enjoy some food and a drink next to the water with a great view of the NEMO Science museum.
- For the best apple pie of Amsterdam, head to Winkel 43.
Enjoy the wonderful city!!! And if you like our tips, feel free to share it with your friends.
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