Imma let you finish, Stonewall.
Having decriminalized homosexuality in 1811, founded one of the world’s first gay rights organizations in 1946 and became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2001, the Netherlands is, in fact, the birthplace of LGBT rights.
And, after a two-year hiatus, Pride Amsterdam, the world’s largest LGBTQ+ equality event, averaging 500+ thousand annual visitors in pre-pandemic years, returned with a bang this summer.
A weeklong affair—from July 30th through August 7th—the celebration included a 3-day beach festival, dozens of photography exhibitions and film screenings, street parties, park performances, a Pride Walk, and the cherry on top: the legendary Canal Parade.
This year’s theme, “My Gender, My Pride,” focused on the “T” of LGBT. Organizers believe that, despite historically being at the frontlines of the fight for rights like in the 1960 Stonewall Riots in New York City, transgender people are still disproportionately the target of violence, and their rights and basic dignity continue to lag.
Unlike NYC Pride, criticized for its over-commercialization, Pride Amsterdam highlighted boats from UNHCR, Amnesty International, Democrats Abroad, Gays Expats Amsterdam and other non-corporate organizations.
Shoutout to Heineken, one of the most-celebrated floats because of its deep ties to the Dutch people, including the LGBTQ+ community. Other companies, like Google, Amazon and Bookings.com, were also present.
Naturally, the Parade’s end didn’t mark the end of the party. Quite the contrary: after the last boat sailed away, the celebration overflowed the canal and people—gay, straight and everything in between—partied well beyond dusk.
We ventured out of the busy city center and explored the Westerpark neighborhood for a brief break. Home of Westergas, a 19th-century gas factory-turned cultural complex, the area offers trendy theaters, cafes, art galleries, bars and restaurants. We especially loved BAK, which serves spectacular food, wine and views of Houthhavens Harbor.
Back at the Red Light District, the bar hopping didn’t disappoint. We grabbed beer pints at Eagle, Dirty Dicks and The Web. There were long lines and the bars were packed and a blast, despite the ongoing street parties that continued to absorb the crowd into the late night.
We stayed at the Swissôtel Dam Square. The following day, we checked out, stored our bags, took brunch and went for some sightseeing before our late flight back to London. We admired the nearby Royal Palace of Amsterdam and Nieuwe Kerk, amazed that the city was already squeaky clean and organized.
We made a spur-of-the-moment decision to continue our sightseeing from the water. We were in Amsterdam after all! Enter Those Dam Boat Guys, who kindly accommodated us on such short notice (and on Pride Week nonetheless!).
The 90-minute gorgeous tour through the canals was the best €59 (€29,50 each) ever spent because it was a smaller boat of about 8-12 passengers, and you could bring anything to drink, eat (or smoke) on board, which made it the more intimate.
We had a bit of a late start because Lee, our Canadian-Dutch driver (I know, doubly nice!), had to rescue the prior boat, which had gotten stuck with one of the few remaining pieces of litter from the preceding day’s parade. But she more than made it up for during our turn.
Aside from dropping exciting bits of the history of Amsterdam—including the building of the canals in the 17th century—Lee filled us in on some of the more practical stuff like the difference between neighborhoods, rent prices and taxes.
My favorite part was witnessing the locals reclaim their waterways and take their loved ones on relaxing boat trips after the event that cements their reputation as one of the most progressive places on earth.