Home to Europe’s first gay bar, Amsterdam has long been known as an accepting and welcoming city, so you’ll find numerous LGBTQ-friendly bars, cafés and clubs throughout the Dutch capital.
In the 1970s and ’80s, Reguliersdwarsstraat – situated close to Rembrandtplein – became a focal point for Amsterdam’s gay nightlife, and remains so to this day, boasting a tight community in which everyone seems to know each other.
“Amsterdam is unique in that it has a very diverse gay scene concentrated in the rather small area of the historical Amsterdam city centre,” says Peter Koop, who runs reguliers.net, the go-to web resource for the famed gay street. “Also unique is that many of the gay bars are at locations that have been gay places already for many decades.”
Nevertheless, other areas of the city – such as Amstel, Kerkstraat, and Zeedijk – have also grown popular with the LGBTQ community over the years, so we’d recommend starting your trip with a stop at the Pink Point (Westermarkt t/o 9), which provides information for gay and lesbian tourists. Bear in mind, too, that Pride Amsterdam is held every year over the first weekend in August, with hundreds of thousands of people in attendance.
The Queen's Head
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The Queen’s Head can be found in the Zeedijk, an area on the livelier end of the spectrum and perched on the edge of the Red Light District. The bar itself is tucked away from the busier streets (perfect if you’re looking to get away for a breather) and easy to find – keep an eye out for muscled men in various stages of undress ready to greet you at the window. Within, you’ll find drag queens dancing to a backdrop of red glitter lit by chandeliers, and drinks that pack a punch at surprisingly low prices. Stop by on a Tuesday night for Drag Queen Bingo.
Famous for being Amsterdam’s only drag-show bar, the clientele and employees are what really makes this place special. An intimate brown café with candles casting long shadows into dark corners, this is a haven for those looking to truly let loose. There is an extensive cocktail list, and drinks are not overly pricey. Live shows, events and theme nights take place every week, and there are always drag queens sitting outside and happy to chat.
Known for being the first gay bar in Amsterdam, this historical café was opened in 1927 by Bet Van Beenen and, after her death in 1967, taken over by her sister Greet until its closure in 1982. The entire bar was left unchanged, frozen in time, until Greet decided to resurrect the Amsterdam institution just before her own death in August 2007. Since then, it’s been owned and run by her niece, Diana Van Laar, operating as part brown café, part nostalgia shop, with memorabilia on the walls, a jukebox and billiards table, plus cocktails with names like Freddy Fuddpucker, Woody Woodpecker and the Blow Job (Baileys, amaretto and cream). “The whole point of our legacy is that it shouldn’t matter what your sexual preferences are,” explains Diana. “Be nice, have fun together. Our clientele is a healthy mix of people: LGBTQ mixed with straight guests, no problem. Our motto: Fun and respect since 1927. We don’t know any better.”
Prik is bathed in pink and features prosecco on tap | Courtesy of Prik
Prik (which means bubble in Dutch), with its neon pink hues and strobe lights, is nothing if not highly Instagrammable. It offers an array of cocktails – including the Strawberry Cheesecake if you’ve got a sweet tooth – plus pink and white prosecco on tap and all the pop music you can stand. Stop in on a Tuesday night for Gin Tuesday.
This non-profit bar is only open on Sundays, and the entire building in which it lives was once was a squat, many of which were legalised in Amsterdam in the early ’90s. The space existed until 1985 as a disco called Flux, but transformed when a group of volunteers started coming together to serve affordable drinks every Sunday night, with all the profits channelled back into helping the LGBTQ community. The vodka tonics are highly recommended, and photography is strictly forbidden.
One of the most popular gay clubs in Amsterdam, NYX is exactly what we all imagined a nightclub was like back when we were teens. Spread over three floors, each one with its own music genre and a lively crowd, you’ll feel like Alice in Wonderland – falling down a rabbit hole full of graffiti, neon and smoke. The huge drinks menu includes a highly recommended gin and tonic, and there’s a DJ booth in the toilets, in case you were worried about missing out on the fun during your bathroom break. “Our Amsterdam LGBTQ community is a variety of different kinds of creative souls,” says Junior Van Keulen, who runs NYX. “Club kids, drag queens, ravers, performers… and they’re more than kind enough to show the tourists their world.”
During the day, you might be fooled into thinking this bar is just a typical Dutch brown café – albeit with an exquisite chandelier and plush booths. In the evening, however, you’ll find drag queens and live entertainment added into the mix, plus an inexpensive drinks menu (and a ‘wheel of drinks’ spinner for the indecisive). Drop by on a Sunday for the brilliant Drag Fever show.