Event: 17th edition of Amsterdam’s world-leading Gay Pride

Location: Indoor and outdoor venues all over Amsterdam

From: 28 July to 5 August 2012

Last year it was confirmed by the Respons ‘Top 100’ survey that Amsterdam Gay Pride is officially the biggest public yearly recurring event in the Netherlands’ capital, in terms of impact (attendance and media coverage). This year, for the 17th edition of Amsterdam Gay Pride, the festivities will be more inclusive – not to mention more fun – than ever, with a host of indoor and outdoor parties, exhibitions and ceremonies running the course of nine spectacular days. As ever, Amsterdam Gay Pride culminates in the celebratory Canal Pride parade, on Saturday 4 August, whereby organisations and partygoers take to the stately Prinsengracht waterway for the afternoon. Still the only Gay Pride parade on Earth to take place on the water, this event is, for many Amsterdammers, the highlight of the summer’s cultural agenda. For visitors of all stripes, it’s the perfect excuse to come and explore and celebrate a city treasured internationally for its unique spirit of tolerance and diversity.

This year’s theme: We Are On The Move!

Incorporating four days of street parties, 98 outdoor bars and four football pitches of dance floor, this year’s Amsterdam Gay Pride will be bigger than ever. But the event has grown in more ways than just in terms of its scale. Over the years, a concerted effort has been made to include all members of the LGBT community, incorporating events like ‘Grey Pride’, which focuses on the contribution made by older members of the community. Irene Hemelaar, executive director of ProGay, the association that organises Amsterdam Gay Pride, says that care has been taken to include more neighbourhoods of Amsterdam with a variety of street festivities. ‘The theme also references the fact that, worldwide, there is still much to achieve in terms of LGBT rights,’ she says. ‘There’s no room for complacency. We want Amsterdam Gay Pride to be an example to the world. And, of course, to have a lot of fun in the process!’

 An example to the world

It goes without saying that Amsterdam has a rich gay tradition. The first gay bar opened here in 1927 (Café ’t Mandje, still open today at Zeedijk 63) and the planet’s first gay marriages happened in Amsterdam’s City Hall in 2001. Since then, many world cities have followed the Dutch capital’s lead. Andrée van Es, Amsterdam Alderwoman for Diversity and Integration, sees such ‘competition’ as a welcome progression: ‘The more gay capitals there are, the better,’ she says. ‘Amsterdam is proud to have led the way in that regard’. One important aspect of Amsterdam Gay Pride this year is to show solidarity with LGBT people in places where there is progress to be made. Arnold Meijer, the president of the ‘Ambtenarenboot’, a boat in the Canal Pride parade manned by the city’s civil servants has been reaching out to campaigners from St Petersburg, where a ban on so-called ‘homosexual propaganda’ has driven LGBTs underground: ‘We’re trying to fulfill that “gay capital” duty’, he says, ‘by acting as an example to places in the world where the right to be yourself can not be taken for granted.’

A renaissance for gay Amsterdam

Like cities throughout the world, Amsterdam’s gay scene has experienced social and economic challenges of late. Executive director of ProGay Irene Hemelaar thinks that the city has risen to these challenges through unprecedented innovation: ‘I see so much positive activism and creativity among LGBT people in Amsterdam now. Five or six years ago, that wasn’t so visible. Recently, I’ve met so many interesting, hardworking LGBT people who want to make Amsterdam a fun place to be’. She points to the example of Peter van Vught, 29-year-old nightlife whizz behind Milkshake, a ‘gay-minded’ dance party in the city’s Westerpark that precedes this year’s Amsterdam Gay Pride. A collaboration between two Amsterdam mega clubs, Paradiso and AIR, Van Vught says the event encompasses the city’s new spirit of solidarity: ‘Like Amsterdam Gay Pride, we promote the importance of tolerance and positivity’.


35,000 condoms distributed – 45,000 visitors – 4 days of street parties – 98 outdoor bars – 200,000 beers – 4 football pitches of dance floor – 72 indoor parties – 10 outdoor stages – 3,000,000 beats.


Amsterdam Gay Pride has much more to offer than just the Canal Pride parade:

 – Tears of Pride March (2 August, 16.00)

Starting at the Mercatorplein and ending at the iconic Homomonument, this procession represents the more serious side of Pride: an impassioned display of solidarity and unapologetic visibility from the entire LGBT community of Amsterdam.

 – LesBian Pride

Ladies are invited to gather any time at the ‘L-Meeting Point’, in mixed pool bar Saarein in the picturesque Jordaan. In addition, the city’s gay archive and library IHLIA on the sixth floor of the amazing OBA public library, hosts women-oriented events on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 July.

– Grey Pride

A series of events, from debates to cabaret, geared towards a mature crowd.

– Drag Queen Olympics (3 August, 19.00)

Featuring grueling disciplines like the Handbag Toss and the High Heel Sprint, this bedazzling sporting contest on the Homomonument is something of an Amsterdam Gay Pride institution.

For full, updated event listings, visit


Gaypride AMS
Gaypride AMS



 Gaybourhood #1: Homomonument

Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, Karin Daan’s three-sectioned pink triangle – symbolising past, present and future – was a world first. It’s also a place to celebrate and be proud: for Amsterdam Gay Pride, it gets annexed as an open-air disco, and the site of the world-famous Drag Queen Olympics. The nearby Pink Point hut offers year-round information and souvenirs.

Gaybourhood #2: Warmoesstraat/Zeedijk

The long and narrow Warmoesstraat is the oldest street in town, and it’s home to leather bars, sex shops and Getto, a friendly café where the burgers are named after drag queens. Among the Asian eateries of nearby Zeedijk, you’ll find Café ’t Mandje, Amsterdam’s – perhaps the world’s – oldest gay and lesbian bar, which celebrates its 85th anniversary during Amsterdam Gay Pride. Nearby, The Queen’s Head pub is known for its colourful and cosy bingo nights.

Gaybourhood #3: Reguliersdwarsstraat

Practically every bar and shop on the miniature strip between the Koningsplein and the Vijzelstraat is broadly painted with the pink brush, including the ultra-chic new addition Ludwig II and the mixed, cocktail camp of EVE.

Gaybourhood #4: Kerkstraat
Home to gay hotels, outrageous Club Church and Bar Bump, the spacious-yet-always-packed new venture from the owners of ‘Prik’. Nearby on Lange Leidsedwarsstraat you’ll find the Netherlands’ only Arabian gay bar.

Gaybourhood #5: Amstel
The scene neighbouring the Amstel river to the east of the centre is lighthearted, friendly and camp, with tiny brown cafes in the traditional Amsterdam mould, but there’s the odd slick newcomer, like Club AIR. In business for over 30 years, Vive la Vie on the Amstelstraat is one of the city’s most vibrant lesbian venues.


Marja van Bijsterveld
Marja van Bijsterveld

Where does Amsterdam stand in terms of Gay rights worldwide? Marja van Bijsterveldt, Dutch Minister for LGBT and Gender Emancipation policy, gives her perspective.

1. As incumbent ‘Minister for LGBT and Gender Emancipation Policy’, what does your role entail?

Within the Dutch government, different cabinet members are responsible for LGBT policy within their own field. For emancipation policy to have maximum effect it should be properly integrated in broader policies. As minister for LGBT and Gender Emancipation policy, I have a supporting, monitoring, awareness raising and agenda setting role. And, last but not least, one of the perks of the job as coordinating minister for LGBT policy is that I have the privilege of hosting the official cabinet boat on the Canal Parade!

2. Do the Netherlands still lead the way in terms of LGBT emancipation?

I think we have made a huge move forward the last decades. According to the latest European and International Social Surveys, 91% of the Dutch population is comfortable with lesbians, gays and bisexual people. That’s the highest percentage in the world. The government and – more importantly – the wider populace in the Netherlands feel that LGBT emancipation is an important ‘export product’ of the Netherlands. These successes do not take away the need to make improvement at home in the Netherlands too. We should remain vigilant. The government issued a policy plan 2011 – 2014 in which it made a commitment to removing remaining legal inequalities for LGBT people, to increase safety for LGBT people and social acceptance in their living environment and to have the Netherlands taking a leading role internationally in these efforts.

3. Do ‘progressive’ nations like the Netherlands have a responsibility to encourage others to change their view? If so, what are the best ways of doing this?

Yes, there’s an element of noblesse oblige. In 2004 The Netherlands government initiated a group with like-minded countries in Europe. Nowadays the group has grown to a number of 14 countries joining forces in moving forward. Furthermore, we are seeking cooperation with like-minded governments in other regions of the world. There are many things we can learn from them and share with each other.

4. In your opinion, what are the most pressing challenges in terms of LGBT international human rights?

Of course it is deeply saddening to hear of violence towards members of the LGBT community. Everybody should be free to express their gender identity or sexual orientation without fear for their safety. But there are other – often more subtle – examples of discrimination against LGBTs that we need to combat as well. The lack of freedom of assembly and expression for LGBT people, problems with freedom of movement for LGBT persons and their partners, the reported incidents of suicide and bullying of LGBT children, homophobic and transphobic incidents in the workplace and prejudice based stereotyping of LGBT people in Europe and abroad. We still have a long way to go. 

More info:
Amsterdam Gay Pride
Stichting pro Gay