Amsterdam A to Zed OR 26 reasons to visit Amsterdam

Clay Doyle moved from Los Angeles to Amsterdam in 1998, intending to stay a year. He is still there. Here are some of the reasons why..

A is for Ambassade

The worst thing about living in Amsterdam is that I have no longer have a reason to stay at the Ambassade—one of my favorite small hotels anywhere. It’s made up of a row of 17th century canal houses and fairly oozes with charm. If the Ambassade is booked, try one of the many other small canal house hotels that dot the city center–a more romantic choice than the ubiquitous chains. B is for Bicycle

You just have to ride a bicycle—it’s by far the quickest, easiest way around the city. It may look intimidating at first, but once on a bike you have the advantage as bicycles have the right-of-way. Rent one from Frederic Rent-a-Bike—their bikes don’t have any annoying logos that label you as a tourist.

C is for Canal

It’s all about the canals—they are the city’s greatest monument. Canals embody the history, planning, and character of Amsterdam—and they are beautiful. Rent a motorboat and see the city from the water; a cheesy rondvaart tour can be fun too, but choose a boat with an open-air deck.

D is for Darkrooms

Admit it, you want a little tryst with a local on your holiday, and what darkrooms lack in romance, they make up in efficiency. The Eagle has the nicest space, and the Web is the friendliest, but there are plenty to explore. Make sure you buy a drink upon entering a bar with a darkroom though–it’s considered the price of admission.

E is for English

A foreign country where everyone speaks English–It’s almost as if it were a holiday spot designed for Americans. And we’re not talking basics here–your new Dutch acquaintances will eagerly engage you in discussions of politics, culture, and travel. And they are far easier to understand than the English!

F is for Film Museum

Catch a great film in one of the three small, comfortable screening rooms at the Nederlands Film Museum. Every day brings something different—from American classics to French new wave to communist-era East European musicals. Many programs are in English. Located in the Vondelpark, the museum has a lively café as well.

G is for Gay Capital of Europe

Paris has more men, London more clubs, and Berlin has more sex, so why is Amsterdam Europe’s gay capitol? Perhaps it is the lack of ghettoization—you’ll find plenty of gays anywhere you go. And the compact city center makes bar-and-club hopping effortless—nothing is more than a 15 minute stroll away.

H is for homomonument (and gay rights)

The netherlands was the first country to erect a monument to gay victims of the holocaust and homosexual oppression. I like the monument, but I like even more The Netherlands commitment to respect and equal rights for gays, including most recently, full marriage rights for same-sex couples.

I is for Itinerary

The charm of Amsterdam is that there’s enough in the way of culture to keep you busy, but not so many sights that you feel compelled to run from place to place all day long. The Van Gogh museum and Rijksmuseum are must-see destinations; the Stadelijk (modern art) and the Amsterdam Historical Museum often have interesting temporary shows. Check out the Royal Palace and the several canal house museums–the Van Loon, the Willetholthuysen and the Amstelkring. Go to the Anne Frank house late in the day to miss the crowds. Feeling energetic? Climb to the top of the Westertoren for a superb view of the city.

J is for De Jaren

De Jaren is everybody’s favorite grand café and why not—the terrace on the Amstel River is one of the prettiest spots in town. The tomato soup is fantastic, and though the service can be chaotic, the waiters are cute. Second best canal side cafe: Spanjer and van Twist.

K is for Keukenhof

It’s not hip or trendy, but what could be more Dutch than tulips, and the Keukenhof is THE place to see them. It is one of the most beautiful gardens anywhere. A short train ride from the city, the Keukenhof is open March through May only.

L is for the light in summer

The summer days are amazing. Daylight lasts late into the evening, ensuring plenty of time for exploring, strolling, and sitting in cafes. Then watch the sun set as you enjoy a magical late dinner outdoors. The canal side tables at the Belhamel are too romantic.

M is for marijuana (of course!)

Contrary to it’s well-publicized image as a drug mecca, there are probably more stoners in San Francisco than Amsterdam. But there’s something about getting high in a pleasant sidewalk café—it’s just so civilized. The Belmondo on the Nieuwmarkt, the Kandinsky and Dutch Flowers in the Negen Straatjes and the gay coffeeshop The Other Side are laid back and friendly choices. Best to avoid the tourist traps around central station and the Leidseplien.

N is for Negen Straatjes

This is my neighborhood, the “nine little streets” between the Singel and the Prinsengracht. This 17th century district is home to numerous interesting and unique shops and pleasant cafes. Treat yourself to a stylish wallet from designer Hester van Eigen, an erotic woodcut from local artist Eddy Varekamp or a new outfit from the gay boutique Nieuwe Kledding van de Keizer.

O is for Out all night

Dance with the circuit boys at Salvation or the revamped IT. Alternative boys flock to de Trut and locals love the COC and the Montmartre. Trendy boys pose at the Arc, the Soho and the Exit. Sleazy bars can be found on Warmoesstraat, and neighborhood places along the Amstel. Everyone seems to end up at the Cockring eventually and before you know it, it’s 5 am.

P is for the pace of life

New Yorkers may pride themselves on how busy they are, but Amsterdammers make time to enjoy life, and you should do the same—linger over a coffee, spend three hours at dinner, sit in the sun. Once the work day is over, the pace of life is leisurely and relaxed. Enjoy it—and don’t expect speedy service in shops or restaurants, it just doesn’t happen.

Q is for Queen’s Day

It’s Amsterdam’s most festive holiday—a 24 hour celebration in honor of the Queen’s birthday. The party starts the night of 29 April as revelers pack the bars (gay and straight) until the early morning hours. On Queensday, the 30th, the city becomes a giant flea market, a stage for myriad performances, and a citywide street party—cars, taxis and even trams are banned from the city center. The Vondelpark is devoted to children selling toys and performing; it’s charming and worth a morning visit. There are plenty of Gay parties too—gays throng the Westermarkt, the Amstel, and the Reguliersdwaarstraat, for performances, cruising, and of course, beer.

R is for Romance

Avoiding Amsterdam because you aren’t interested in a sex holiday? You’ve got the man of your dreams? Amsterdam is a great place to be in love. Stroll hand in hand down romantic canals, have a long, delicious dinner at Borderwijk, paddle through the canals together in a canal bike, give your significant other a kiss on a bridge—no one will mind.

S is for Schipol

Bright and calm, well designed and well organized, Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport takes some of the pain out of flying in these trying times. Plus, the a train station inside the airport makes getting to the center of town quick, effortless and cheap!

T is for Tourists

With a population of only 750,000 (even if well over ten percent are gay) visitors to the city make up a sizable portion of those out on the town, providing an interesting, international mix. Tourists are vital to the gay scene in Amsterdam, so do your part and visit!

U is for Utrechtsedwarstafel

This is one of my favorite restaurants for a splurge–owners Hans and Igor always dazzle my guests with some fabulous new creation. It’s one of a number of small uniquely Dutch restaurants where chef decides what you will eat, based on the availability of the market. More moderately priced versions of this concept can be enjoyed at my other favorites Balthazar’s Keuken and Helder.

V is for Vondelpark

What’s not to love? This beautiful and expansive city park is also Amsterdam’s favorite people watching spot. Rent some rollerblades or have a drink at the 30’s moderne Blauw Teehuis, or join the shirtless gayboys for an afternoon of sun on the lawn at the rose garden.

W is for the Weather

Nobody comes to Amsterdam for the weather—but really it’s not that bad. Spring and Fall are beautiful, the Summer is never too hot, and Winter’s not as cold as new york. Yes it’s rainy—it’s the locals’ number one topic of complaint–but the sunny days are glorious.

X is for x-rated

Amsterdam’s century old red-light district is the Disneyland of sleaze. Gaudy but totally non-threatening, lingerie-clad ladies sit in the red-lit windows of cute 16th century houses on some of the city’s oldest canals. The real show is watching the crowds of stoned and gawking tourists; grab a seat in in the window of the popular gay bar Casa Maria for a ringside view.

IJ is for IJ

IJ (say eye) is a letter unique to the Dutch language. A brief review of Dutch pronunciation (all those funny double vowels are easier than they look) will help in reading street signs, and your slight effort will endear you to the locals. Plus, you’ll be able to order a delicious rijstafel at Kantjil en de Tijger.



Z is for Zeedijk

One of the oldest streets in Amsterdam, the Zeedijk is the city’s newest “gay” street. Sometimes very low-key, sometimes very festive, the bars here–the Cock and Feathers, the Barderij, and especially the Queenshead are worth checking out. Finally, the Nieuwmarkt square, at the southern end of the Zeedijk, is a favorite for its outdoor cafes.


Article by Clay Doyle,

Photos by Clay Doyle and Michael Logan (except Queensday Photo by Patrik Noome)

{Published in Next Magazine, New York City, April 11, 2003}


The List


Favorite Hotels



Herengracht 341;


fax +31-20/624-5321;



Seven Bridges

Reguliersgracht 31





Café Nielsen

Berenstraat 19;



Café De Jaren

Nieuwe Doelenstraat 20



Spanjer & Van Twist

Leliegracht 60



Le Soleil

Best place in town for Dutch pancakes!

Nieuwe Spiegelstraat 56

(31 20) 622-7147




De Belhamel

Brouwersgracht 60



Hemelse Modder

Gay owned, stylish, good food!

Oude Waal 9




Noordermarkt 8;




Utrechtsedwarsstraat 107-109;




Taksteeg 7

+31 20 320 41 32

Fax +31 20 320 41 32


Balthazar’s keuken

Elandsgracht 108, Amsterdam

+31 20 420 21 14


Kantjil en de Tijger

Spuistraat 291/293

+31 20  620 09 94

Fax (020) 623 21 6





Reguliersdwarsstraat 44




Reguliersdwarsstraat 37




Reguliersdwarsstraat 36




Halvemaansteeg 17



Amstel Taveerne Amstel 54



Casa Maria

Warmoesstraat 60





COC Friday Night Disco (

Rozenstraat 14


Fri 11pm-4am


de Trut

Bilderdijkstraat 165

+31-20/612-3524 S

Sun 11pm-4am, doors open at 11pm



Warmoesstraat 96




Amstelstraat 24

+31 20 489-7285

Sat 11am-6 am




The Web

From 4pm til Midnight!

Sint Jacobsteeg 6



The Eagle

From midnight to 4 am

Warmoesstraat 90





The Other Side

Reguliersdwarsstraat 6




Rosmarijnsteeg 9





A Bigger Splash

The city’s gayest gym is also clean, well staffed and well equiped.

Looiersgracht 26-30;


day passes available


Thermos Day Sauna

For a different sort of work out!

Raamstraat 33



Eddy Varekamp

30 Hartenstraat

1016 CC Amsterdam

tel. 31 20

Open Saturdays 1-6pm


Frédéric Bike Rentals

Brouwersgracht 78


Friday, April 11, 2003

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