Amsterdam Travel Guide

Amsterdam Travel Guide

Amsterdam always delivers, packed as it is with romantic cobblestone streets and canal waterways lined with lilting merchant houses, eyebrow-raising museums and independent design studios crafting everything from art to fixie bikes. This Dutch capital is one of Europe’s most popular city breaks, receiving 4.5 million tourists annually, for very good reason. Its progressive history and watery whereabouts have lot to do with Amsterdam’s global stardom, established in the 12th century as a fishing village and since becoming a firm multicultural metropolis where antiquated and modern architecture align and over a thousand bridges connect locals to countless coffee shops and a renowned Red Light District. While the Amstel is Amsterdam’s traditional LGBT hub, no one can contain this city’s gay pride, which outflows into the historic areas of Kerkstraat, Regulierdwarsstraat, Zeedijk and Warmoesstraat, as well as around the entire city, particularly during Pride in August. Famously free-spirited, laid back and liveable, Amsterdam is the perfect gaycation. But how exactly do you choose what to see in Amsterdam? Here’s where Mr Hudson’s Amsterdam gay city guide can help you out.

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The best hotels in Amsterdam

Let’s start our Amsterdam gay travel guide with a roundup of the best hotels in Amsterdam. There are over 600 hotels in greater Amsterdam, but it doesn’t get much more majestic than the neo-gothic Conservatorium Hotel. Part 19th century landmark, part 21st century architectural showcase, this Museumplein-based luxury lodging is a former music conservatory where the seductive suites are beautifully complemented by the basement holistic spa with neon-lit pool and top-tier restaurant. Conservatorium’s translucent Tunes Bar is also a lure, serving up continent-inspired cocktails and a grand selection of gins. Meanwhile, on Prinsengracht, Amsterdam’s most beautiful canal lies Hotel Seven One Seven. Inside this stunning, formerly residential townhouse, guests will find a homely space, lined with bookshelves, hanging art and cabinet drinks, making for a serene, picture-perfect stay.

Conservatorium Hotel

Conservatorium Hotel

Next is the blissful boutique known as Pillows Anna van den Vondel, spread across a trio of elegant 19th-century mansions beside Vondelpark on a canal-veined section of the city. As relaxing as it gets with subtle yet flawless service, Pillows provides luxury bedding in pastel-hued rooms of soft lighting filled with fragrant eucalyptus. While the poetic attic rooms are small and intimate, if cosy doesn’t cut it, opt for the Deluxe Room or Pillows Suite for a bigger bathroom and the best garden views. Well located in a 17th-century merchant’s house near the museum district and since redesigned in contemporary styles while retaining the rustic textures and rich fabrics of the Dutch Old Masters, is 4-star offering Canal House. Here guests will find seductive rooms overlooking the romantic courtyard garden as well as antique ceiling art and curiosity cabinets all contrasted by modern art and luxury amenities including a full breakfast service.

One more of our favourites is the Sir Adam Hotel, a bang-on-trend glass and concrete affair towering over the buzzing Noord district. The pared-down, warehouse-cool aesthetic at Sir Adam is maintained across the quirky communal areas, complete with vinyl library, acting as the perfect hub to socialise ahead of a night out at Noord’s lively bars, restaurants and clubs. Expect bold artwork, bespoke wood furniture and bright accents, as well as their unique selling point of in-room Crosley record players and Gibson guitars for that amateur jam session you’ve always wanted.

Photo: Bruno van der Kraan

Photo: Bruno van der Kraan

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Recommended hotels in Amsterdam
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Conservatorium Hotel, Akasha Holistic Wellbeing Centre

Conservatorium Hotel, Akasha Holistic Wellbeing Centre

Things to do in Amsterdam

If you want to get into that Amsterdam groove, rent a bike. Cyclists own this compact city, and though some main attractions are located no more than a stone’s throw away from the historical centre, there are so many more things to do in Amsterdam than ogling the working girls, seeing the windmills and spending time on the water.

For a serious photography fix, head to FOAM. Nestled snugly within the canal belt, in a glorious white-walled 16th Century building, Amsterdam’s primary photography museum exhibits renowned artists like Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, as well as up-and-coming photographers. A ten-minute bike ride away, in the equally stunning Plantage area, award-winning interactive museum Micropia focuses on an entirely different kind of close-up: microbes. Trust us – it’s so much more magical than it sounds.

Pllek | Photo: Jitske Schols

Pllek | Photo: Jitske Schols

Due to its ever-growing popularity, Amsterdam has recently spread its welcoming wings to the industrial shores of the North, the city’s diamond in the rough. These days, the real magic happens outside the historical city centre: a palpable buzz of opportunity can be felt on the other side of the IJ, and Amsterdam 2.0 is sure to surprise even its most avid fans.

Right opposite Central Station, the glorious EYE Filmmuseum – a free, short ferry ride away – hosts standout exhibitions and has the best waterfront terrace in town. Or why not opt to sail on to Pllek, a groovy restaurant and city beach located on the tip of the former NDSM dockyards, now adored by artists and entrepreneurs. You won’t forget the view from here any time soon.

Finally, come Sunday morning, you will want to treat your weary feet and aching back at Het Massagehuys. Oriental massage meets Scandinavian design here in Amsterdam’s wild West. Treat yourself to the snazziest brunch in town at the Intercontinental Amstel Hotel’s La Rive restaurant afterwards, truly experiencing the Venice of the North from its balcony, and this trip will leave you feeling positively Royal.

FOAM | Photo: FOAM

FOAM | Photo: FOAM

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Due to its ever-growing popularity, Amsterdam has recently spread its welcoming wings to the industrial shores of the North

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Recommended experiences in Amsterdam
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What to see in Amsterdam

While there are many tried and tested answers of what to see and what to do in Amsterdam, this much-loved city is best experienced through a local lens, away from the tourist-crammed main attractions. We’ll go straight to the Westerpark neighbourhood, just off of the city centre in Amsterdam West. The area’s eponymous park is an expansive green space where you’ll commonly find locals enjoying walking, skating and picnicking between the trees and ponds that are dotted throughout. Set within the park you’ve also got the whole Westergas complex, a recently renovated former gasworks which now houses cool cafés and eateries as well as cultural institutions such as the art-house cinema and small creative businesses frequently hosting large public events, parties and weddings. In addition to the monthly Sunday Market that takes place here, late July’s Milkshake Festival is surely one for the diary, a dance-centric event hosted by Amsterdam’s two biggest and most liberal clubs showcasing entertainment, music and fashion to a diverse crowd with an emphasis on free love and tolerance.

Thinking outside the box for Amsterdam sightseeing spots takes us to The Begijnhof, a quiet city centre rarity often overlooked by tourists on their way to more prominent attractions. This largely residential corner of the city is joined by tiny lanes and pathways that are public throughways just begging to be explored. The Begijnhof is where some of Amsterdam’s oldest houses are found and your walk will allow you to glimpse the last standing 14th-century wooden house (a former Catholic commune) as well as many well-kept lawns and courtyards. Another for the ‘B’s is The Beurspassage, a recent addition to the city, serving to connect Damrak Avenue and Nieuwendijk Street via an unexpected yet beautiful passage decorated in Italian glass mosaics and gold chandeliers.

Milkshake Festival | Photo: Dennis Bouman

Milkshake Festival | Photo: Dennis Bouman

Milkshake Festival | Photo: Dennis Bouman

Milkshake Festival | Photo: Dennis Bouman

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To find Amsterdam’s oldest church you’ll in fact have to head to the heart of the Red Light District. Known as Oude Kerk, this early 14th-century church is also the city’s oldest building full stop, having withstood riots, wars and several reformations. The medieval wooden vaulted roof is one of Europe’s largest and dates back to 1390. Come in off the streets to find solemn Calvinist interiors with wonderful acoustics, the full magnitude of which are best heard during the church’s many scheduled concerts. While you’re here, don’t forget to take a jaunt up the bell tower, to check out the 47-bell Carillion from the 17th century amid grand views of the entire city. One more architectural marvel is Hoge Brug, more commonly known as the Python Bridge, located in the Azartplein district. Extending 90 metres across and connecting the Borneo and Sporenburg peninsulas, Python Bridge is hard to miss thanks to its scarlet, snake-like aesthetic.

For something a little – or a lot – different, consider Electric Ladyland: The Museum of Fluorescent Art, a one-of-a-kind museum dedicated to the niche joys of fluorescent light. Owned and operated by ponytailed artist Nick Padalino, Electric Ladyland is an immersive basement exhibit packed with psychedelic neon bulbs, fresh out of a Love Generation fever dream. The experiential room is a main attraction here, as well as the UV light-reflective rock collection and vintage black light displays. Next, right in the centre of Flevopark in a converted church lies the hidden gem known as Distillery ‘t Nieuwe Diep. A store and working wine distillery, this place is a great place to taste-test over 100 of its homemade wines, liqueurs and vodkas on its serene pond-side terrace. Because, why not make an afternoon of it!

Photo: Jordi Moncasi

Photo: Jordi Moncasi

Dam Square | Photo: Redcharlie

Dam Square | Photo: Redcharlie

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For a more locally sourced affair, we suggest you take your pick from the slew of contemporary, no-nonsense restaurants that have taken Amsterdam by storm

Where to eat in Amsterdam

The Amsterdam gourmet scene took a while to take off but has finally come into its own. As a truly cosmopolitan city should, it now offers a plethora of great options for foodies, chefs and amateur explorers alike.

If you’re in the mood for authentic Italian, ristorante Toscanini’s prime Jordaan location, incomparable antipasti and extensive wine list are impossible to beat. But if Asian street food is more up your alley, look no further than HappyHappyJoyJoy, an exuberant, colourful place that evokes the hustle and bustle of Bangkok and Hanoi, and offers an imaginative menu based on the same tropical tendencies. Equally equatorial-sounding CT Coffee and Coconuts actually opted for a minimalist approach to complement its art-deco surroundings. Their excellent beans, juices and organic delicacies make for a hearty and healthy lunch.

For a more locally sourced affair, we suggest you take your pick from the slew of contemporary, no-nonsense restaurants that have taken Amsterdam by storm. BAK is a prime example. Housed on the top floor of an old theatre, with unparalleled views over the IJ, the bold, veggie-friendly chef’s menu – all from local produce – and exquisite vins natures will make you fall in love over and over again. Drawing on the same principles, the boys at Scheepskameel serve their honest recipes in one of the most elegant locations you’re likely to come across, on the historical marine grounds near Oosterdok. And they only have German wines – toll! But the winner when it comes to waterside industrial charm and affordable modern cuisine is Hotel de Goudfazant in the North, a 1200 square meter former car garage that makes for a classy yet easy-going night out.

HappyHappyJoyJoy | Photo: Wouter van der Sar

HappyHappyJoyJoy | Photo: Wouter van der Sar

Shopping in Amsterdam

Small designer boutiques and craft shops define the future of Amsterdam shopping. If you want to make a day of it, the charming Haarlemmerstraat / Haarlemmerdijk double whammy should be high on every gentleman’s list. For starters, the guys at Tenue de Nîmes will slip you into that single perfect fit. Denim, that is.

After checking out the home design, leather and vintage accessories at the Six and Sons concept store a bit further down, you’ll be in need of some freshly roasted espresso. Thankfully, Two for Joy Coffee Roasters are waiting for you right at the end of the line. Or, in case you woke up in the West, try Lot Sixty One Coffee Roasters’ signature blend. Your taste buds won’t know what hit them.

Ready for a change of scene? Cycle uptown and enter Renny Ramakers’ droog design emporium in the Staalstraat. This cutting-edge Dutch design studio and shop doubles as a single bedroom hotel, a spa, an exhibition space, a garden and a restaurant, and will keep any design enthusiast inspired for hours. And Puccini Bomboni, the city’s best chocolatier, is right next door, turning chocolate into art. Now there’s something lovely to take home!

Six and Sons

Six and Sons

Tenue de Nîmes

Tenue de Nîmes

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The city’s famous ‘brown bars’ are not to be missed, as some have expanded and now specialise in wine as well as jenever (Dutch gin)

Amsterdam nightlife

After a full day of exploring all the best Amsterdam points of interest, let our Amsterdam gay scene guide initiate you in the concept of gezelligheid – an untranslatable feature of Dutch hospitality – a concept fully at work in Amsterdam’s bars and clubs. The city’s famous ‘brown bars’ are not to be missed, as some have expanded and now specialise in wine as well as jenever (Dutch gin). Try GlouGlou, a natural wine bar that oozes timeless Jugendstil charm and true gezelligheid. GlouGlou’s winegrowers work without pesticides or any artificial additives, making their drinks a little cloudy yet sublime and healthy! Sipping on an unfiltered pét-nat on their sun-drenched corner terrace in the Pijp just became the closest thing to heaven.

Another bar lifting its patrons to the heavens is the award-winning SkyLounge, a unique spot to glimpse unmatched panoramas both day and night. With indoor and outdoor spaces on the 11th floor, SkyLounge is a great spot for anything from simple bar snacks and ice creams to caviar and champagne. For those who like being secretive, the prohibition era-inspired Door 74 is your type of hidden wonder. Once guests have made a reservation and been ushered through the hush-hush lobby, they’ll be presented with 20th-century style Art Deco furnishings in a classy space. Or how about an Old Fashioned muddled to perfection at speakeasy Hiding in Plain Sight, on one of Jodenbuurt’s most scenic back streets. While seemingly small and cramped, climb to the second floor to be greeted with luxuriantly louche leather couches amid antique curiosities and bookshelf backdrops. The letterpress-style menus present a range of craft cocktails, including ‘The Walking Dead’ which will literally ignite your table.

 

Photo: Pexels

Photo: Pexels

Picking a single bar on the infamous Reguliersdwarsstraat is hard, so why not make it a pub crawl? One on the crawl list should be PRIK, a Rainbow Award-winning gay bar with fun vibes, the friendliest shakers in town and a dance floor so pink it would make Barbie blush. Open all hours, PRIK is the perfect place to lounge while nibbling on snacks and swigging on cocktails before taking to the dancefloor to groove to their weekend line-up of great DJs. Another great gay bar on Amsterdam’s main gay street is Taboo, known for its sociable staff, fun crowds and extensive drinks menu. As well as enjoying the Taboo Kantine/Lounge next door, the main bar’s outdoor terrace is a chill spot for chitchatting with the city’s gay scene. Come on Wednesdays for the cabaret cocktail night, celebrating queer culture with fabulous shows, games and cheap cocktails. Finally, a long-standing institution among the city’s gay scene is Amstel Fifty Four, established since 1964 and providing a laid-back social atmosphere where the top drag shows and attractive bartenders draw in a diverse crowd of locals and tourists time and time again.

PRIK

PRIK

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