Every summer, Amsterdam comes to life with the legendary weekend-long party that is Amsterdam Pride. The city is well-known for its liberal nature and its all-inclusive character is no more apparent than during the first weekend in August when the streets and canals of Amsterdam are buzzing with energy and people from all walks of life as the city celebrates the vibrant LGBTQ community, in the Netherlands and beyond!
Amsterdam is one of the most attractive cities in Europe for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer both tourists and locals with a plethora of gay-friendly attractions and a relaxed attitude towards whatever life style should choose to adopt. ‘Live and let live’ is one of the favourite sayings of Amsterdammers!
History of Pride in Amsterdam
Amsterdam has long been a progressive city and is considered by many as one of the birthplaces of LGBTQ rights having decriminalised homosexuality in 1811. Bet Van Beeren, the legendary Queen of Zeedijk, also opened a gay and lesbian bar in Amsterdam in 1927. People came from all over the world to visit this small bar where homosexuals and lesbians were free to be open about their sexual preferences. There is a positive view towards the LGBTQ community in Dutch society and people are generally open about and supportive of working towards LGBTQ freedoms and equal rights.
The first official pride celebration was held in 1996. Unlike other Gay Prides, which began as demonstrations for equal rights, Amsterdam’s event was very much intended as a festival celebrating freedom and diversity. In 2008, Amsterdam Pride was announced to be the best Gay Pride in Europe. The same year, it also won the Welcome Award as the most hospitable event in Amsterdam. In 2009 it was one of the five events nominated as best gay event in the world!
Pride has now been celebrated in Amsterdam over the last weekend in July / the first weekend in August for over twenty years. The official celebrations run from Friday to Sunday but there’s a general buzz around the city and a significant increase in people visiting on the days either side of the weekend too – all arriving to take part in the internationally renowned knees-up that is Amsterdam Pride!
When things happen, where to go during Amsterdam Pride
Amsterdam Pride celebrations kick off officially on Friday night, so if you’re planning a visit it’s a good idea to arrive on Friday afternoon, or even on Thursday to give yourself time to settle in and find your way around. Friday night is all about street parties as revellers line the streets and music fills the air. The young and trendy set make their way to Reguliersdwarsstraat behind the Bloemenmarkt. You’d be hard pressed to find a corner of Amsterdam that isn’t gay friendly. But Reguliersdwarsstraat is the place to head for the full gay experience. As Amsterdam’s most famous and trendy gay street, head here to find an eclectic mixture of super gay friendly coffeeshops, lifestyle shops, hairdressers, restaurants, bars and clubs – it’s got it all! The area has a real village-like character, right in the centre of the city. Of course, this is the main area to party during Pride! For the ladies, the best places to head are Westermarkt and Paardenstraat. For a more local vibe, Amstel and Thorbeckeplein are a great bet.
The main parade is held on Saturday and, unless you’re hiding in a hole somewhere, it would be pretty hard to miss! Beginning at around 2pm, a host of extravagantly decorated barges cruise along the canals putting on a real show for happy spectators, spreading the message of equality and having a hell of a lot of fun along the way. The parade starts at Weterdok harbour on Prinsengracht, passes the length of the canal before turning left onto the Amstel river towards the Muziektheate, and then finally turning right towards the Oosterdok. Crowds spill out into the streets to soak up the good vibes. Expect pumping tunes, wacky themes and a big, gay day out that’s hard to beat. Check out the official site to see the parade route. The parade normally lasts until 6pm and is watched by an estimated 500,000 spectators each year.
Sunday is a day for winding things down and trying to get over the sore heads brought on by Saturday’s antics! The official Pride Closing Party will be held at Dam Square in front of the Royal Palace, with plenty of international artists and DJ’s taking to the stage.
What else is there to do during Amsterdam Pride?
Aside from the main pride events there’s a whole lot of gay-friendly fun happening throughout the city over the course of Amsterdam Pride. Milkshake Festival takes place on the 28th and 29th July at Westerpark. Whether you’re big, small, gay straight, trans, black or white you are all most welcome to come shake your thing at Milkshake! The Drag Queen Olympics at the Homomonument are also well worth a watch, with the Handbag Throw, the 100m Stiletto Sprint and the Tug-of-War all proving to be incredibly entertaining sporting feats performed by some super glam ladies! Famous Art Deco nightclub Cabaret La Gaîté will relive its glorious past on July 28th with a host of performances from the LGBTQ rainbow community, paying homage to famous artists of the venue’s past like Maurice Chevalier, Marlene Dietrich and Edith Piaf. If you’re looking to escape the city, head to Pride on the Beach, at Zandvoort aan Zee – also known as Amsterdam Beach. On Tuesday 31st July, the beach bars will be throwing various events and parties with plenty to get involved with.
For those looking for something a little more low key, there’s various exhibitions running over the course of Amsterdam Pride too. Beurs Van Verlage is hosting a unique exhibition, ‘I will Speak, I will Speak. Hundreds of films, photos and stories of men and women living with HIV or AIDS have been gathered from people from all walks of life, living across six different continents. Throughout the exhibition there will be speakers, yoga classes, a daily talk show, discussions, live recordings, parties and a showing every day of the associated documentary. Also worth checking out is ‘Take me to Church,’ an exhibition about fetish club ChUrch, displaying photographs taken at 10 selected parties by photographer Remon van den Kommer. In the era of social media and Grindr, Club ChUrch literally brings people together to explore their fetish but marginalised sexual subculture.
Anything else I should know?
As you can imagine, Amsterdam Pride is a popular event. If you’re looking to get a good view of the Canal Parade – or at least be able to see a little bit of it! – you should arrive early and set yourself up with a nice spot. Bringing a camping chair or a blanket to sit on is a great idea. It’s also sensible to bring plenty of snacks and drinks with you too -having this much fun is hunger-inducing and thirsty work! That said, there is usually plenty of sustenance on offer as street food vendors pedal their wares around, generally offering things like giant pretzels. A whole lot of portable toilets are placed along the canals to cater for the throngs of crowds, but you’ll be lucky to find one that you don’t need to queue for. If you’re looking for a quicker loo trip, it’s sensible to bring some change as a lot of restaurants, cafes and even some private residences allow the public to use their toilet for a small fee. Finally, if you are thinking about planning a visit to Amsterdam for pride then you’ll need to get accommodation booked well in advance. Amsterdam is a popular tourist destination already so when a big event like pride rolls around the city’s hotels, hostels and apartments get extremely busy. Get ahead of the crowds and get a place to stay sorted well in advance. Most importantly of all, come along with a free spirit, an open mind and have loads and loads of fun!
Planning your trip to Amsterdam?
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