Do you hear it in the air? That ruffle of feathers. The stretch and slap of bright pink Lycra. And an ever so faint chorus of Madonna’s classic 90s hits.
It’s getting louder by the day, and there’s only one explanation: Amsterdam Pride is back in town. While the famous gay festival will peak on the weekend of 6-8 August, official celebrations begin from the 1st…and as for the costumes? Well, they’ve been planned for months already!
What is Amsterdam Pride?
Amsterdam Pride is a celebration of diversity and a devotion to equality for all gay and lesbian communities. Considering the city’s famous liberal-mindedness and global status as the ‘gay capital of Europe’, it couldn’t be held in a better place.
On another level, this is one damn good excuse to party! Imagine more than 500,000 people engaged in an epic street celebration of garish costumes, crazy dancing, wild parties, vibrant cultural activities, hectic sporting competitions and the world-famous Canal Parade on Saturday 7 August.
Of all the major events in Amsterdam, only Uitmarkt and the April Queen’s Day draw bigger crowds. And, with the Pride festival celebrating its 15th year running, audiences are set to be bigger than ever.
Canal Parade: Whatever Floats Your Boat
The evident climax in a weekend of partying is the big, bright and brash Saturday Canal Parade. A departure from your typical truck-lined streets, Amsterdam chooses to be slightly more unique: forget four-wheels, here it’s all about floats on boats. That’s right, starting at 2pm on 7 August, a procession of the most garishly decorated crafts and cruisers will depart from Westerdok Harbour, travelling along Prinsengracht Canal, left onto the Amstel River and back into the Oosterdok just outside Central station. For a good route map, check out the official Amsterdam Gay Pride website.
When started fifteen years ago, the Amsterdam Canal Parade consisted of a mere handful of decorated boat-floats. Last year, the event attracted more than 550,000 spectators, all lined along banks of River Amstel and the Canal. Now that’s what we call growth.
Visitors can expect to see more than 70 large vessels, each decorated with a unique theme, alongside scores of ever-so-flamboyant smaller water crafts. Don’t forget to get in early for a good vantage point. And make sure to bring a camera!
Top tip: The beginning of the parade is always packed hours before the official starting time. To score yourself a great view free from the crowds it’s best to walk a little further along the Prinsengracht (although not right down to Amstel itself).
Party, party, party
While the Canal Parade is no doubt a highlight, there’s no shortage of parties on the Amsterdam Pride weekend. Don’t expect to get much sleep over this 3-day period. Rather, grab yourself a double espresso, because you’re going to want to celebrate 24/7!
Although street parties are the name of the game, if you fancy a club night, make sure to check out popular music venue Melkweg for some massive nightly events. For something a little different, head to the gay bear parties at Odeon Theater or Club Roses on Saturday night. And you absolutely cannot miss the cool mix of Dutch artists and DJs performing at the Stopera for a traditional closing party on Sunday.
A spot of sport and culture
While partying may be a primary pursuit, it’s not the only thing on offer at Amsterdam Pride weekend. Check out the We Are Proud website for a full list of sporting and cultural events (Google translate may help you on this one!)
- Daily presentations about homosexuality in the animal kingdom at Artis Zoo
- The tenth annual Amsterdam Pride Tennis Toss held from 4pm on 6 August at Amstelpark
- Gay-themed films at the Open Air Film Festival on the Nieuwmarkt
- A ‘Pink with Pride’ exhibition at the GO gallery running daily from 31 July to 5 September
Fancy sticking around a little longer? Check out some more slightly unusual things to do in Amsterdam after the Pride festival weekend is over.
Where to stay
Being one of the most liberal cities in the world, the majority of hostels in Amsterdam are gay-friendly. If you can, try to call up and book in advance as chances are these rooms will get snapped up quickly.
For those who fancy a weekend of partying, The Flying Pig Downtown is a perfect choice. Situated in the midst of the Red Light District, it offers a bar that’s open until 4am, the cheapest beer in town and a designated ‘happy room’ for guests to ‘get happy’! Another good option within the same area is The Bulldog, which is one of the highest rated hostels in the world, offering an incredibly liberal atmosphere in its range of cool apartments, private and dorm rooms.