Today many cities can pride themselves of being LGBT-friendly, same sex marriage is legal in many western countries and the presence of a lively and active gay community is considered a sign of a thriving cultural and varied metropolis.
But it wasn’t always the case. In the early part of the 20th century Amsterdam represented a beacon of tolerance and freedom in a very repressed and bigoted Europe: the first gay bar opened in 1927. After the war the city quickly re-acquired that title with the first LGBT association founded in 1946 and in the 60s and 70s it was one of the few places in the world to not just tolerate but legally protecting and promoting LGBT rights. It is not a coincidence that the Netherlands were the first country to legislate for same sex marriage in 2001.
So that’s what makes this city special – others may be louder and glitzier today, but Amsterdam got there first. And it still has its mojo.
When to Visit
Amsterdam is very close to the North Sea and its vicinity mainly determines its weather. Winter can be very cold, windy and wet at times, with snow not infrequent. Spring is a magical season in the Netherlands, with millions of colourful bulbs and flowers. Summers are characterised by very long hours of sunlight and the city comes alive along its canals on the beautiful evenings. Autumn is when the tree-lined canals turn orange and red in a stunning parade of colours.
Cultural Festival | March-May
There is nothing more Dutch than a flower festival and this one is on a grand scale, featuring 7 million bulbs in a garden area of 32 hectares, one of the largest parks in Europe. Located in Lisse, which can be easily reached by bus from Schiphol Airport rail station.
For more information, visit keukenhof.nl
Cultural Festival | 27 April
King's Day (Koningsdag) is held on 27th April (the King's birthday) every year. This is one of those days when the city literally erupts into a myriads of parties, some gay, some not; being Amsterdam pretty much all of them are very welcoming and inclusive. Expect the whole central area to be traffic-free and everyone wearing orange from head to toe (the colour of the Royal Family, the House of Orange-Nassau). Apart from the street parties, the day is famous for its improvised traditional street markets and boot sales as this is the only day when traditionally tax is not due on such trades.
For more information, visit iamsterdam/kingsday
LGBT Pride Festival | Early August
An event that is truly unmissable. Unique in its nature, featuring hundreds of floats (real floats) parading the canals on a Saturday afternoon, followed by a flotilla of private boats joining in the fun. Straights or gay, old and young, white and black, this event gets the whole city partying as one. In 2016 Amsterdam played host to EuroPride, held in conjunction with Amsterdam Pride. Read our featured blog about this oustanding event.
For more information, visit pride.amsterdam
Music Festival | Mid-August
If classical music is your passion then the Grachtenfestival (Amsterdam's Canal Festival), must be one of the cultural highlights of the city's summer. The ten-day festival of classical music is held at numerous beautiful locations, however one of the highlights is the free Prinsengracht Concert, taking place on the pontoon by the Pulitzer Hotel and drawing in huge crowds each year.
For more information, visit grachtenfestival.nl
Art Festival | November-January
A festival of light sculptures & installations to brighten up even the darkest of the winter days. Look out for dedicated canal cruises and a walking route taking in the selection of spectacular illuminated artworks.
For more information, visit amsterdamlightfestival.com