CHARMING AMSTERDAM BILLS ITSELF THE GAY CAPITOL OF THE WORLD, AND THAT’S BEFORE PROBING ITS NOTORIOUS FETISH HALLS, DARKROOMS AND RED LIGHT DISTRICTS! STORY AND PHOTOS BY MARC ANDREWS.
There are bicycles everywhere in this city of less than a million and, as might be expected, plenty of boisterous young tourists. Many have arrived from less open-minded corners of the globe hoping to try their first hash cookie or space cake, splurge at one of the many sex shops or trawl past the city’s notorious red light district. One of the great contrasts of Amsterdam is that places of ill-repute are often nestled comfortably in rather gracious 19th Century houses or lofty elegant buildings.
It’s about a half-hour taxi ride from the airport to central Amsterdam, the souvenir postcard part with charming canals, grand old facades and the sex and drugs bit, of course.
Amsterdam has long been considered one of the world’s great gay capitals, with the city boldly promoting itself as the gay capital. While that is debatable, there is no disputing that Amsterdam is home to one of the world’s largest, most liberal and diverse gay populations anywhere.
There are a number of out and proud streets flying the rainbow flag, but Warmoesstraat is perhaps the best place to start. Make a point to visit the RoB Amsterdam store to view a spectacular piece of wall art incorporating a huge variety of dildos housed in arty orange plastic tubes. Who needs to visit the Van Gogh Museum or Rembrandt House when you can enjoy this inventive art for free?
You can also try Gays And Gadgets on Spuistraat for fetishwear, toys and everything else you would expect to be stocked in a store that promotes itself as “the ultimate gay shopping experience”.
Plenty of the gay bars are found on Warmoestraat, but you’ll also find them spilling over onto Spuistraat and Zeedijk, too. Pick up the city’s local free gay magazine, Gay And Night, to find out what’s on and where.
The city is also rapidly becoming famous for Amsterdam Fetish Pride and the four yearly Rapido parties that usher in a huge horny crowd from Europe and beyond. Also making inroads is the Bear Necessities brand, held every two months, which alternates with the London party of the same name.
My boyfriend and I headed there for BN’s sixth birthday party in February, meeting up with friends from Belgrade, Berlin and Brighton at the same hotel. We chose the Grand Amrath Amsterdam, which is, as the name suggests, rather grand but well-priced. If you like ye olde world wallpaper, wandering maze-like corridors and rooms with secret hidden corners then let this be your place of residence.
We arrived in Amsterdam in the late afternoon ahead of the big night out, looking forward to meeting up with our party pals. The next five hours were spent running between our hotel rooms working out which outfits
to wear, playing loud music down the long corridors and hitting the hotel’s wellness centre for good measure.
Finally, we were all ready to go out and brace the cold, but not unbearably so, winter night. We shared two cabs to the Odeon Amsterdam venue and the party was already well underway. There were two dance floors and a balcony area (nothing too fancy but a good space nonetheless) while the music was good in a way that managed to be both sexy and uplifting without being either too cheesy or too industrial. The crowd was sexy, in that muted Dutch way, and very approachable. On the dance floor, sweating it out and looking hungry-eyed, we met a handsome couple, Sergio and Albert, who told us they were holding a chill-out after the party if we wanted to join. Before too long, seven of us were travelling back to their apartment for some après-party, Dutch style.
From the outside, their apartment block looked snug and even a little bland. Inside, however, was a totally different story. These guys had done some major preparation. The entire living room area had been reconfigured as a playroom complete with big screen porn, a dedicated sling area, a mattress on the floor (with a protective lining, thankfully), boxes of toys and plenty of leather, lycra and rubber to try on at will. Everyone suddenly was either naked or in something brief and the chillout, which was actually more of a hot-up, was underway. It was a fine warm welcome to Holland indeed.
While much of the iconography of the country centers around timeless things such as tulips, windmills and, er, dykes, the reality is that Holland is one of the most forwardthinking countries in the world. They have long held much more relaxed attitudes towards
Step inside and you’ll quickly see the sling hooks on the walls, the dildo artwork and the handsome, very tall Dutch men who are only too happy to assist.
sex and drugs, in particular, than most other parts of the world.
Amsterdam is a kinder, gentler version of Berlin and a much prettier and sweeter version of London all rolled into one. You really can’t go past the beauty of those meandering canals, Venice-style bridges and tall Dutch hunks, right? Since the country switched from a Queen to a King, the Netherlands now celebrates its big banner day of Koningsdag every April. Everyone goes crazy wearing orange (it’s a Dutch thing!), with many insisting on dying their hair for the occasion. The Dutch name for this orange madness is oranjegekte. You have been warned!
If you prefer something more pink and with plenty of hot Dutch muscle close at hand, opt instead for Amsterdam Gay Pride which takes place from 26 July–3 August this year. It includes the must-see Boat Parade through the city’s canals where some 80 boats will take part to the theme of “Listen” – focusing on international solidarity with the 80 countries where being openly gay runs the risks of imprisonment or even the death penalty. So while there’s a sense of hedonism about the event, there’s also a deeper underlying message to the world. That perfectly sums up this nation and city. They are truly naughty and nice at the very same time.
Having already established that the Dutch are a gentle, caring breed of people, it also needs to be noted that the rubber scene in Amsterdam is booming, with a Mr Dutch Rubber contest now held annually. For those who need to know, the Amsterdam Fetish Pride is from 29 May–2 June this year complete with parties, activities, dinners (mind the Dutch cheese, though!) and more. The red light district, incidentally, is called De Walletjes, in case you want to see what inspired a lot of Gaga’s work.
As it is, Amsterdam offers every possible scene that anyone could either wish for or imagine, which is also part of its mischievous backroom charm. While the buildings may look pristine and wholesome from the outside, step inside and you’ll quickly see the sling hooks on the walls, the dildo artwork and the handsome, very tall Dutch men who are only too happy to assist you with a smile, or more.
In some ways, the story of Anne Frank, the Jewish teenager hiding from the Nazis in an attic with her family, gives true insight into the nature of the Dutch. They generally go out of their way to help others and be respectful of different values. If only the rest of the world could be more Dutch, and more cities like Amsterdam, it’s fair to say planet Earth would truly be a much more loving, beautiful and sexy place. As the Dutch saying goes, “Leef en laat leven” (live and let live).
more: gayamsterdam.com, amsterdampride.nl, amsterdamfetishpride.com
Go Dutch at the house of tulips.
The infamous red light district.