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EXCLUSIVE | Three Gay Days: Amsterdam Part One

EXCLUSIVE | Three Gay Days: Amsterdam Part One

Here's your must-have road map to 72 hours in one of the world's gayest destinations. Where to stay, eat, play and meet in ultra-liberal Amsterdam.

With her glistening canals reflecting the facades of classic 18th-century homes, her boisterous sing-along nightlife and her libertine attitude toward sex and drugs, Amsterdam delights even the most casual visitor. A couple of high-profile bashing incidents have shaken up the local LGBT community; however, the Dutch capital is still one of Europe's safest gay centers. There's more to see here than you can wrap your tulips around, but three days should be enough for a brief, well-planned visit.

Amsterdam is laid out in a series of concentric, horseshoe-shaped circles of canals (grachts) alternating with streets (straats). The main train station, Centraal, is at the top of it all. It's a compact city, and most places are within easy walking or biking distance from one another. Cars have a hard time fitting through the narrow streets, but bicycle taxis like Wielertaxi (+31-6-2824-7550) can zip around efficiently. The local tram service is also popular.

All of Amsterdam is very gay-friendly, so you won't sense the "gay ghetto" mentality common in other cities. Nonetheless, some streets and neighborhoods do have a higher concentration of rainbow flags, tank tops and leather chaps. The Reguliersdwarsstraat is home to trendy bars for the young hair-gel set. Along the Amstel River and the adjacent Halvemaansteeg, you'll find an amiable mix of younger dudes, older guys and anyone else who loves to quaff a beer while listening (or singing along) to music. The leather crowd frequents the Warmoesstraat, in the heart of Amsterdam's infamous red light district. The Kerkstraat is a quieter street, with some pleasant gay caf?s and neighborhood bars. The Jordaan district is another quiet neighborhood, home to numerous caf?s, bookstores and some excellent shopping.

Hotel Amistad (Kerkstraat 42, 1017 GM; +31-20-624-8074, fax +31-20-622-9997; from 75 EUR) is an artsy gay-and-lesbian accommodation, where breakfast is shared at common tables with the other guests. Afterward, the dining room turns into an Internet lounge.

The ITC Hotel (Prinsengracht 1051, 1017 JE; +31-20-623-0230, fax +31-20-420-4369; from 39 EUR) is a budget accommodation redeemed by its location right on a canal in a charming neighborhood. Ask to see your room before committing. There's a bar and lounge onsite, and breakfast is served daily.

The Amsterdam House ('s Gravelandseveer 3-4, 1011 KM; +31-20-626-2577 or 800-618-1008, fax +31-20-626-2987; from 75 EUR) is gay-popular, offering seven apartments and seven houseboats with fully equipped kitchens -- and a chance to experience "life on the water" as so many Amsterdammers do.

Banks Mansion (Herengracht 519-525, 1017 BV; +31-20-420-0055, fax +31-20-420-0993; from 209 EUR) is in a prime spot, just one block from the bars of Reguliersdwarsstraat. Guests enjoy a complimentary private bar, free movie channels and free Internet.

Design mavens may want to check into The Dylan (Keizersgracht 384; +31-20-530-2010, fax +31-20-530-2030; from 270 EUR), an oh-so-hip hotel in a lovely canal house on the Keizersgracht.

Another elegant boutique property is the Bilderberg Hotel Jan Luyken (Jan Luykenstraat 58, 1071 CS; +31-20-573-0730, fax +31-20-676-3841;; from 139 EUR), with its 62 rooms showing off contemporary design in a converted 19th-century merchant's land house.

Part One | Part Two | Part Three

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