What's PRIDE all about?
Imagine Kingsday, just more sun, smiles and most importantly, pride: pride to be who you are, to celebrate your identity, to identify as and with LGBT. On the first weekend of August that is exactly what is going on in and around Amsterdam. During the Pride weekend from 2nd to 4th of August, the city will be booming, cloaked in all colours of the rainbow, full of music, dancing, and all sorts of tomfoolery to celebrate one of the greatest gay events worldwide.
This annual event occurs citywide during the first week of August. The main event, the Pride canal parade, attracts thousands of visitors each year and is one of the biggest – certainly the loudest and most colourful – in the Netherlands. Read to discover what’s on and how to experience the best Pride has to offer.
A little history of PRIDE
Amsterdam Pride was first organized in 1996 and differentiates itself from other pride events around the world. Contrasting with other pride parades, gay pride in Amsterdam did not begin as a movement for equal rights, but as a celebration of freedom and diversity. It is less a political demonstration and more a huge extravagant party to foster unity out of difference.
The demonstrations for equal rights in the Netherlands are represented by Stonewall Riots – also referred to as Pink Saturday. Pink Saturdays began in 1979 and are held in a different city across the Netherlands each year.
The Canal Parade, as we know it today, evolved from the decline of Amsterdam’s gay scene at that time. A group of people from the popular and trendy gay community in the Reguliersdwarsstraat then came up with a new event: Amsterdam Pride. They chose the first weekend of August, due to the…unpredictable…Dutch Summer weather. The Canal Parade was so successful, that the concept has been replicated in other Dutch cities. Since 2010 there’s been a floating Gay Pride parade in Alkmaar, as well one in Utrecht since 2017.
It is the strength of the Amsterdam gay community, as well as the Netherlands’ forward thinking approach towards LGBT issues that gives PRIDE a special place in the hearts of many Amsterdammers. Even beyond the immediate LGBT community, it is an event that inspires exactly what it purports to: pride.
Canal Pride Parade
The main event of the Pride week is the canal parade, which happens on the first Saturday of August. The parade begins in the east of Amsterdam at Oosterdok next to Het Scheepvaart museum at 12:30, making its sparkly way through the city centre, crossing the Amstel River, and coming to a dignified though rather less sober stop at the Westerdok at 17:00.
The first boats arrive at the beginning of the Prinsengracht about an hour after the official start. The parade features 80 themed and decorated boats with DJ’s, singers, drag queens, gogo dancers and beautiful boys and girls.
The theme of this years’ Pride in Amsterdam is ‘Remember the past, create the future’, recalling the anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which broke out in New York exactly 50 years ago. After the main event, the city turns into one enormous afterparty. There are stages with music and other performances going on all over the city from around 16:00. Check out the ones in Amstelveld as well as in Dam square and Rembrandtplein.
Tips and Tricks
The fact that the gay pride week in Amsterdam is a huge tourist attraction helps make it the amazing event it is known for today, but it also has some downsides. Here are some tips and tricks to enjoying your PRIDE as much as these guys are!
#1 Don't be late!
If you want a good viewing spot, make sure to show up on time. Many people will come very early to bag a good spot to view the parade, as early as, let’s say, 9 am (although it’s not unknown for people to camp out with sleeping bags…).
Just bear in mind it will be extremely busy all over the city. However, the route along the canals is several kilometres long, so there are plenty of great places to take it all in. The best spots include the banks of the Prinsengracht, the Magere Brug on the Amstel River and the Eenhoornsluis at the end of the route.
#2 Arrange a meeting point
We’ve all been there… The lost puppy expression it’s impossible not to wear as we search for friends and family in a haze of colours and packed streets.
There’s often no phone network available in the city centre, which makes matters worse. Therefore, we suggest you arrange a meetup spot in case you get lost so you can go on enjoying the fun together as a tribe.
#3 Bring your own drinks
Make sure to bring your own drinks along with you when watching the parade. Once you found a spot to watch, you’ll probably not want to leave to buy drinks in the packed bars along the canals. You’ll lose your spot, spend half an hour peeling your way through people, and return with an almost empty cup from spilling it on your way back. So if you’d rather not be left without any refreshment, and gradually wither away as the boats go by, bring some nice cold beers with you and a good supply of water.
#4 Don't take valuables with you
Please make sure to leave anything valuable at home. Pickpockets take advantage of chaos of the event. And let’s be honest: you will enjoy the day more with less to worry about!
#5 Be Confident!
Wear something bright and sparkly. If you think your outfit is outrageous or too risky, trust me, it isn’t!
What else is going on in Amsterdam gay pride?
If you’re lucky enough to be in town over this first week of August be sure to check out other events related to the pride week. The entire week is filled with hot and glittery events. Here is a quick summary of the main events around Amsterdam that you shouldn’t miss.
Milkshake Festival, Saturday & Sunday 26th - 27th July
The weekend before the main gay pride weekend features Milkshake Festival. The festival is two days long over the last weekend of July and takes place at Westerdok. It consists of 6 stages, including all sorts of music genres and is an unofficial extension of PRIDE (see above!).
Street Parties - Friday 2nd August
This Friday kicks off the main pride weekend with street parties all around the city. Street parties include stages at Zeedijk, Spuistraat, Damasuare, and Amstelveld (which is considered more straight). There are also parties along the famous Reguliersdwarsstraat, which don’t have an outside stage but consist of an intimate street party. Furthermore, an event will be held at the Beursplein, in the heart of the city, which will cater to the fetish community. See you there 😉
Be sure not to miss out on the opportunity to see (or join in!) the Drag queen Olympics at Westermarkt. The Drag queen Olympics is a sporting event, including the Handbag Throw, the 100m Stiletto Sprint, and the Tug-of-War. Competitiors include Drag Queens of all ages and nationalities, and everyone is welcome to participate. Competitors wanting to take part can turn up from 17:00 at the Homomonument with wig and heels.
Closing Party - Sunday 4th August
Sunday is the closing day. The traditional Pride closing party of 2019 will be held at Dam Square in front of the Royal Palace and at the Vondelpark, where the official Rosario takes place outside at Proeflokaal ‘t Blauwe Theehuis.
All that remains to be said, is to wish you the sparkliest PRIDE imaginable, and to keep safe, hydrated, intoxicated, and above all proud of our city and our LGBT community.