Read an Excerpt
Being gay or lesbian influences our choice of accommodations, nightlife, dining, shopping, and perhaps even sightseeing. This book will enable you to plan your trip confidently and with authority. On the following pages I've tried to provide ideas for every segment of our community, giving you the skinny on everything from bars and clubs to gay beaches, from where to find the gayest Indonesian restaurant in Amsterdam to the best hand-dipped chocolates in Brussel. You'll also find a wide selection of accommodations, from exclusively gay guest houses to mainstream hotels. And you'll be shown which properties are closest to tourist attractions and which are near gay nightlife.
How I Researched this Book
I spent about five weeks in Amsterdam, making numerous side trips to neighboring Dutch and Belgian cities, during a particularly cold and damp autumn (November is a less than ideal time to see the Netherlands, at least if you require an occasional dose of sunshine). Throughout my travels, I interviewed local gays and lesbians -- newspaper editors, activists, innkeepers, barflies, and people on the street. I also grilled friends and associates back in the United States, asking them for their favorite spots in and around Amsterdam.
This is an opinionated book. I don't hesitate to say what I think -- I'm prone to describe certain neighborhoods as characterless, resorts as touristy or uppity, restaurants as dumpy or over-the-top. My intention is always to relate what I've observed and what I've heard locals say.
For the most part I traveled without announcing myself -- the majority of the businesses in this book had no idea I waswriting about them when I visited. In the end Fodor's Gay Guide to Amsterdam is a service not to hotels and guest houses, nor to gay bars and restaurants, nor to anybody in the travel industry. It is a resource for you, the traveler.
The Amsterdam chapter has several sections, each covering a different aspect of life in the city, from exploring to dining out. The chapters detailing excursions from Amsterdam to different Dutch and Belgian cities are structured similarly. Here's a quick rundown:
The Lay of the Land
If you're looking for a quick summation of each destination's geography, its neighborhoods and major attractions, and its shopping, you'll want to read this carefully.
The places I investigated were suggested by gay and lesbian locals, advertise in gay publications, or were reviewed positively in local newspapers and magazines. I stopped by almost every restaurant (and ate at as many as I could).
I've tried to include choices for every budget. Many recommendations are in or near gay-oriented neighborhoods. A few establishments get a nod less for the food than the overtly festive atmosphere. Conversely, some places are listed simply because they represent some of the destination's finest or most unusual dining. The omission of your personal favorite may be more because it was similar to a place I did include than because I think it's not up to snuff. Unless otherwise noted, any restaurant in this book is at least somewhat popular with the community.
I checked out nearly every bar in Amsterdam, and dozens of them in cities throughout the Netherlands and Belgium. If a place opened after my visit, I telephoned an employee and also got a report from a knowledgeable local resource to ensure an accurate review.
The most popular spots are listed under the heading "Prime Suspects." I've also written short reviews about neighborhood bars, roving parties, music clubs, bathhouses, brothels, and gash bars -- plus a few straight bars with queer-friendly reputations. In the Amsterdam chapter, I've located the most popular gay bars and nightlife venues with bullets on the maps.
Male-oriented places outnumber those that cater mostly to women by about 10 to 1. This is not a reflection of my preferences but of European gay-bar culture -- it's overwhelmingly young and male, as it is in the U.S., as well. Still, don't assume that a bar described as 80% male or mostly young doesn't welcome lesbians or older guys. Descriptions of each bar's crowd and its "cruise factor" are based on my own observations and interviews and are provided simply to give you a profile of what's typical.
I've included any gay-specific establishments that I felt confident recommending. If the establishment was straight-owned and I had no knowledge of its gay-friendliness, I checked with the owners to verify their interest in being covered in a gay publication. My descriptions of the clientele, compiled without the owners' input, are there to give you a general sense of the place.
When I discuss larger hotels, particularly those in cities, don't assume that they are gay-friendly (or otherwise) unless the reviews specifically state so. Obviously the degree of tolerance you encounter at a large property with many employees will depend largely on who happens to assist you. I've favored mainstream properties that are in and near gay neighborhoods and those that have a strong reputation with the community.
The Little Black Book
This resource guide contains tips and information about climate, currency, language, opening and closing times, passports and visas, and telephones. If some establishments have closed by the time you read about them -- bars and restaurants often have unpredictable life spans -- try the contacts here to get the latest scoop. Local tourist boards can be helpful, and lesbigay bookstores and community centers are tremendous resources. I've included a few gay-popular gyms, and the phone numbers of resources for persons who are HIV-positive or who have AIDS.