So ‘dam good!

by Adrian Gillan for Bent.Com


Distinctive city of contrasts: Amsterdam – the “Venice of the North”! Adrian Gillan enjoys the Dutch capital’s higher, and lower, pleasures! And all a short aerial hop away, on ab fab Flybe!

Famous for its canals, bicycles and trams, plus Red Light District, ‘coffee shops’ and queers, few world cities have such a strong identity as compact Amsterdam. And yet, its creativity still constantly surprises!

You can get as high on all the fine arts showcased within its world-class, oft cutting-edge, galleries and performance halls as you can so do merely passively inhaling its ubiquitous legally leafy airs whilst dreamily sauntering past myriad ‘joint joints’ named Freeworld, Greenhouse or some such! And every pleasure, high or low, set against the magical backdrop of Amsterdam’s 17th Century canals – built during the Dutch Golden Age of empire and commerce, and now on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The Dutch government may sit at The Hague, but Amsterdam remains the constitutional and cultural capital, not to mention the most populous city in the Netherlands. Almost 2.5 million live in the wider urban region, tho’ that’s less than half the number (5 million) of international visitors lured here annually!

And, with fab low-cost carrier Flybe serving Amsterdam from 8 or more UK airports, you too can add to that growing number, in no time at all – and with extra cash left in your pocket! Punctual, and with highly personal, yet still professional, service, the purr of the propeller engine lives on in many a Flybe hopper route – strangely reawakening the adventurous glamour of a bygone age of travel. We love ‘em!


There can be no more gay-friendly or authentic place to stay in Amsterdam than Mauro Mansion (Geldersekade 16, Amsterdam;): a relaxed, romantic and quirky boutique hotel, in an atmospheric 16th Century canal house, slap bang in the middle of the historical centre – a mere two minute stroll from Central Station where your airport train will most likely arrive into – and run by charming, professional, helpful and yet unassuming Berry and Marcel.


Its 9 rooms perfectly meld the heritage building with modern design, comfort and fun. This property actually used to be gay fetish hotel, The Black Tulip, a few years back, and the new owners and designers chose to leave in a few of the old fittings – think bars, chains, lockers etc – as a funky touch! Otherwise, it’s all-change. Rooms look over the canal itself, or onto a small inner courtyard. The ceilings are high; the bathrooms – with lovely Rituals products – modern and spacious. Enjoy free Wi-Fi, coffee/tea facilities, a small safe, an iPod docking station, wake-up lights and hairdryer – even a fridge with extremely welcome welcome drinks – including Prosecco and beer! And rest assured, even though in the middle of old Amsterdam, you will get a good night’s sleep since group bookings and families with tiny nippers are kept at bay.


You can relax with complimentary coffee, day or night, in the light and airy ground floor café area where – for a modest sum – you can also enjoy a fab breakfast! All in all, pure Amsterdam – an utter gem!



Naturally, you can soak up the unmistakable atmosphere of Amsterdam for absolutely free, just by wafting around! Beyond which, you’d be crazy to miss out on any of these Top Ten Tips:


Canal Cruise
– this city just has to be seen from the water!

Hire Bike – feel like a local; plus see more in less time!

Anne Frank House – home, hideout and celebration of a young WW2 diarist!

Rijksmuseum – imposing building housing Dutch Old Masters!

Hermitage Amsterdam – vast museum showcasing world-class temporary exhibitions. Don’t miss ‘Spanish Masters’ (‘til 29 May 2016); or ‘Catherine the Great’ (18 June 2016 – 15 January 2017). Great collection of Dutch group portraits and quirky Outsider Art Museum too!

Rembrandt’s House – genius’ former home and studio. See ‘Rembrandt’s Naked Truth’ exhibition (‘til 16 May 2016); then ‘Rembrandt the Etcher’ (28 May – 18 Sept 2016).

Van Gogh Museum – world’s largest collection of a one-eared wonder!

Royal Concertgebouw – gorgeous and historic concert hall, not just home to its namesake world-renowned orchestra, but additionally oft hosting the utterly fantastic Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra which, under amazing chief conductor Marc Albrecht, also performs throughout the Netherlands and wider, and is the principal orchestra for the Dutch National Opera…

Dutch National Opera & Ballet – both national opera and national ballet companies are truly world-class, innovative and accessible; and grace a stunning modern venue overlooking the River Amstel. Forthcoming highlights include operas, Mozart’s ‘Don Giovani’ and Tchaikovsky’s ‘Pique Dame’ (Queen of Spades); and ballets ‘La Bayadère’ and ‘Coppelia’.

Hortus Botanicus – one of the world’s oldest botanical gardens. Fab glasshouses!


Amsterdam’s gay scene has three main districts.

Reguliersdwarsstraat has the trendier bars like Soho or Taboo, plus top gay club NYX with its large bar, airy dancefloor and heaving darkroom.

For something more traditional a clutch of old-school pubs, albeit many with more recent make-overs, can be found along the Amstel/Rembrandtsplein, like Amstel 54.

And a leather/code scene can be found around the Warmoesstraat just west of the Red Light District – places like The Eagle or Dirty Dicks.

Also keep your eye out for weekly or fortnightly sex or j-off parties like Sex on Sunday / S.O.S, and even utterly one-off backroom events.

The main steamer in Amsterdam is now modern, spacious Sauna Nieuwezijds.

And gents have been known to ‘take airs’ of an eve around the rose garden of the leafy Vondelpark, a.k.a. ‘Fondle Park’, just south of the centre.

Fly high with Flybe


Flybe flies to Amsterdam from Birmingham, Doncaster Sheffield, Dundee (from 23 May 2016), East Midlands, Exeter, Inverness, London City, Manchester and Southampton, with one-way fares from £24.99 (€35) including taxes and charges. This brill, great-value airline is punctual, offering friendly yet professional service; and has a fantastic and ever-expanding network of exciting routes, covering much of the UK and Europe.