Amsterdam

 

While there's never a bad time to visit Amsterdam, this year could be the best of the best to plan a vacation in the notoriously gay-friendly Dutch capitol. For starters, 2013 marks the reopening of the national art museum, the Rijkmuseum after 10 years of renovations—and with it, the return of one of the world's most celebrated art works, Rembrandt's The Night Watch, which has been out of public view for the past decade. In addition, the Van Gogh Museum is open again this spring after a smaller facelift of its own. And if that weren't enough change, the biggest of them all takes place April 30, when Holland gets is first male monarch since 1890. That's when Queen Beatrix, who has been on the throne since 1980, will abdicate in favor of her eldest son, Willem-Alexander.

In other words, if you think you know gay Amsterdam, it's about to surprise you again. With so much change and so much celebration, this city's colors will be even brighter and its canals (which turn 400 in 2013) will be bustling like never before.

Of course, not everything has changed. The beautiful people still frequent the upscale bars of the predominately gay Reguliersdwarsstraat. Friendly locals lounge over beers at laidback watering holes along the Amstel River and the adjacent Halvemaansteeg. And the leather crowd still hits the Warmoesstraat, in the heart of Amsterdam's red-light district, while charming gay cafes and neighborhood hole-in-the-walls stand serene on quiet Kerkstraat. As it's not a huge city, many people wander from one venue to the next, consequently with a lot happening in the streets.

Bike through the upscale yet quaint neighborhood of Oud-Zuid, browse the witty Dutch design products at Options on the Damrak, shop the quirky fashion boutiques of the Nine Streets area, prowl the art studios of the revitalized NDSM shipyard, or sample the organic plates in De Kas's glowing greenhouse dining room, and what you'll see is a blooming renaissance. Suddenly spawning an exuberant wave of top chefs, designers, and futuristic architects, along with whole new neighborhoods, re-imagined museums, and a new monarch, Amsterdam has reverted to its roots, as an urbane burghers' city with a fine eye for beauty and the brown to keep pulling itself out of the sea.

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