Dutch culture is synonymous with tolerance and inclusivity. It’s what allows red light windows to exist alongside churches, and shawarma to be an acceptable pizza topping. This long-held belief in flexibility and acceptance has made the Netherlands a world leader in LGBTQ+ rights, and Amsterdam a hub of LGBTQ+ friendly experiences and attractions.
Homosexuality was decriminalised here more than 200 years ago, setting the precedent for societal emancipation in Western Europe. The Netherlands was the first country to legalise same-sex marriage in 2001, and in the same year, same-sex couples were granted adoption rights. When visiting Amsterdam, consider stopping by some of the hallowed locations that have contributed to the city’s LGBTQ+ history.
The Homomonument is a celebration of diversity and defiance in the face of oppression
‘Never again’ is the idea behind Amsterdam’s Homomonument. Never again to war, never again to lives senselessly lost, and never again to the targeted persecution of homosexuals. This monument is dedicated to the gay men and women who lost their lives in World War II, either on the battlefield or during the occupation of Amsterdam.
The monument was constructed in 1987 after an event that occurred on Remembrance Day, 1970. Two members of the Amsterdamse Jongeren Aktiegroepen Homoseksualiteit (AJAH) were arrested for laying a wreath at Dam Square to commemorate gay war victims. The public protests that followed led to the building of the Homomonument, which consists of three pink granite triangles set on the ground. The design takes a symbol of oppression – the patches homosexuals were forced to wear in concentration camps – and redefines it in a context of empowerment.
You can learn more about the monument and Amsterdam’s LGBTQ+ history by picking up some reading material from the Pink Point – an information kiosk adjacent to the Homomonument. The volunteers who work the kiosk will be more than happy to chat about anything related to LGBTQ+ history and culture. You can find the Homomonument in a peaceful waterfront square behind the Westerkerk. This visible heart of LGBTQ+ life in the Dutch capital is a must-visit.
IHLIA LGBT Heritage Collection
Discover real stories behind the LGBTQ+ community at IHLIA
The Internationaal Homo/Lesbisch Informatiecentrum en Archief, better known as IHLIA, is the largest archive of LGBTQ+ history in the world. Spanning cultures, communities and centuries, this collection of artefacts and documentation is a knowledge resource and window into the lives of marginalised people.
IHLIA boasts some 100,000 archival objects,from books to old advertisements and even vintage condom wrappers. The organisation also hosts talks and workshops to unravel the complexities of LGBTQ+ identities, so make sure to check their programme before planning your visit.
IHLIA LGBTI Heritage Collection is free to enter, though donations are welcome. You can find this hidden gem of an archive-museum on the third floor of the Amsterdam Public Library, located on Oosterdokseiland.
Café ‘t Mandje
Take a trip down memory lane and enjoy a drink at the oldest gay bar in the world
Café ‘t Mandje prides itself on being the oldest gay bar in the world. The cafe was founded in 1927 by Bet van Beeren, an enterprising lesbian who wanted to provide a safe space where LGBTQ+ people, including sex workers and pimps from the nearby Red Light District, could enjoy themselves without fear of judgement. It’s located at historic Zeedijk 63, right by the Red Light District – and inside, little has changed in almost 100 years.
Café ‘t Mandje remains in the hands of van Beeren’s family and houses a trove of vintage LGBTQ+ memorabilia that range from the founder’s personal belongings to kitschy art objects that showcase life in turn-of-the-century Amsterdam.
Step inside, grab a Pilsner and learn all about the world’s oldest, openly gay nightlife spot – and its enigmatic founder.
The Aidsmonument is designed by Jean-Michel Othoniel, a contemporary artist who specialises in emotional geometry. This living artwork, titled Living by Numbers, is shaped like a giant abacus and counts down to the moment that AIDS will leave our world for good. It’s located at the south bank of the river IJ, between Amsterdam Central Station and the Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ.
Plaques around the monument tell the story of the pain and degradation the gay community suffered during the AIDS panic of the 1980s. The disease disproportionately affected a whole generation of bisexual and homosexual men, many of whom lost lives to HIV/AIDS.
This is a poignant place to ponder the strife LGBTQ+ community while taking in a tranquil waterfront framed by the scenic cityscape.
Pink Saturday/Park Pride
Pink Saturday is the Dutch response to the Stonewall riots. It usually takes place on the last Saturday of June in Amsterdam’s Vondelpark, amid the city’s Pride festivities. The event attracts thousands of visitors and is characterised by its more activist nature compared to Canal Pride.
Pink Saturday sheds light on the long history of Dutch LGBTQ+ protest movements. The first-ever demonstration took place on January 21, 1969, at the Binnenhof, the seat of the Dutch government in The Hague – five months before the Stonewall uprising. Hundreds of young people protested against the controversial Article 248-bis of the Dutch Criminal Code, which set the age minimum age for gay sex at 21, while straight consenting parties could have sex from 16 years of age.
Much of Roze Zaterdag is in Dutch, but the music, sporting activities, people and activism transcends borders to open up dialogues about multiculturalism, LGBTQ+ refugee rights, and other intersectional issues. It’s a place where you can tune into talks, support LGBTQ+ owned businesses – and maybe even have a go at some team sports.
Amsterdam-based travel leader Booking.com has introduced a new Proud Hospitality program to support accommodation providers in delivering more inclusive and welcoming experiences for LGBTQ+ travellers.
Cities with multiple Proud Certified properties will be showcased on a designated Travel Proud page, where travellers can learn more about the initiative and find and book properties around the world that are Proud Certified. The Proud Hospitality training session that the company has developed in partnership with HospitableMe helps accommodation providers become a Proud Certified property on Booking.com through online training.