If there were ever a city designed for the convenient mixing of work and play, Amsterdam would be it. Well known for its legal and regulated red-light district and "coffee shops," where hash brownies are sold as casually as corn muffins, it's also the business and financial capital of the Netherlands. This is a compact city, laid out along radiating canals that were built during the 17th century, when its merchant marines made it the richest city in the world.
Today's Amsterdam is progressive, tolerant, and particularly welcoming to gay people, who will find affirmation everywhere, from the pink granite triangles of the Homomonument to the gay-affirming, sex-positive exhibits in the Teen Facts zone of Nemo, the city's science center. Amsterdam even has a gay-specific information booth: Pink Point (at the Homomonument, Westermarkt), open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. With unusual shopping opportunities, vibrant cultural offerings, and exciting nightlife, this city has something for everyone. And finding it all is easy. You can't stand on a corner looking at a map for more than a few moments without a friendly native offering assistance -- in your language: English is so widely spoken the only Dutch word you'll need to learn is bedankt (thanks!)
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EAT: 3 Unexpected Options
Holland has never been known for its culinary prowess or native restaurants, but some trendy and modern dining options have arrived in town to make sure you don't have to leave your appetite at home.
• Stork Restaurant: Seafood lovers can't miss Stork in the citys industrial north, where a former aircraft manufacturing plant (one wall open to the vast Het IJ canal) is reclaimed as a restaurant dishing up simple but stunning preparations of the freshest North Sea catch. (Dedempt Hamerkanaal t/o 96; RestaurantStork.nl)
• Lion Noir: Dark woods add to the seductive vibe, and the dining room upstairs is decorated with choice taxidermy and colorful art to cultivate a homey atmosphere. If the weather's nice, go sit on the back patio while the bartender makes you his own concoction. (Reguliersdwarsstraat 28; lionnoir.nl)
• ANNA The nouveau menu at this upscale restaurant in the heart of the red-light district never swerves off course, but the seafood dishes are tops. (Warmoesstraat 111; RestaurantANNA.nl)
SLEEP: Every Room Is Gay Friendly
Because all of Amsterdam is gay-friendly, you don't need to scout out the gay ghetto to find a gay-friendly hotel. Instead, just focus on staying near where you want to play. Here are a few options.
• Conservatorium Hotel: This high-end hotel is in a converted 19th-century bank that was formerly a music conservatory. As you walk into the soaring glass-enclosed lobby/lounge, the Piero Lissoni-designed interiors will take your breath away. (Van Baerlestraat 27; ConservatoriumHotel.com)
• Hotel Pulitzer: An upscale hotel full of history -- it's composed of 25 restored 17th- and 18th-century canal houses -- this place retains its charm while also offering a wonderful restaurant and cocktail lounge (Prinsengracht 315-331; PulitzerAmsterdam.com)
• The Black Tulip: Perfect for the sexual adventurer, seven of the nine rooms at the Black Tulip have slings, restraints, and other sex-fantasy equipment, and the hotel's central location is extremely convenient to the train station, red-light district, gay bars, and shopping district. (Geldersekade 16)
SEE: One Card Makes Exploring Easy
The "Amsterdam" card gives you 24, 48, or 72 hours of public transportation, admission to 26 museums, and benefits at dozens of attractions and restaurants. Here's where to use it.
• 9 Streets: No shopping trip to Amsterdam would be complete without an amble through 9 streets -- a shopping mecca in central Amsterdam that's centered around, you guessed it, nine streets. There are blocks upon blocks of Dutch fashion shops and upstart pop-ups side-by-side with vintage shops. (TheNineStreets.com)
• Hermitage Amsterdam: The newly renovated outpost of the world-famous St. Petersburg museum is an un-missable stop in Amsterdam. Now 10 times its former size (after a $53-million upgrade in 2009) it houses more than 1,800 objects drawn from the Russian State Museum. (Amstel 51; Hermitage.nl)
• Van Gogh Museum: No trip to Amsterdam is complete without a visit to this legendary Dutch artist's museum. The permanent collection houses the world's single larges collection of his work and spans his entire career. Just as impressive, however, is the museum's strong collection of work by Van Gogh's contemporaries. (Paulus Potterstraat7; VanGoghMuseum.nl).
PLAY: 3 Must-Experience Hangouts
Sure, Amsterdam has had her share of the downturn (at one point only one gay bar was still open), but things are ramping up, and most of the gay bars and clubs have come back Here's where to start.
• Bar Ludwig: Some remember Ludwig as Amsterdam's most famous gay bar, the April, but it's been transformed into one of the cities hippest hangout. Think real-art photographs on the walls and pretty burlesque boys slinging vodka and champagne to a mature but trendy crowd. (Reguliersdwarsstratt 32; barludwig.com)
• Bump: A new bar from the guys behind Prik, Bump is where the where the cute, creative hangout. (Kerkstraat 23; clubbump.nl)
• Danserette: The city's gay dance floors are few and far between, so Amsterdammers wait for parties like Danserette, held once every two months, to get their groove on. Don't get shut out: Order tickets before you come to town. (Danserette.nl)
MY CITY: AMSTERDAM
By bike or by foot, Dutch Fashion Foundation manager Boyd Raimond struts the city catwalk. READ MORE
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