'ad it with Amsterdam? OutUK's Adrian Gillan reaches Nether-parts other guides don't reach in Holland's creative and buzzing electro capital Rotterdam.

Holland's second biggest city, in its South West - birthplace of the great Dutch humanist Erasmus, and home to around two thirds of a million - punches well above its gay weight!

Somewhat blitzed in the last war, Rotterdam has risen - ex nihilo, from the ashes - as a creative, cutting edge and contemporary hot-house in the fields of electro-music, art, architecture and design.

Rotterdam still retains its links to the waterfront and harbour that put it on the map and reaped riches centuries ago via sea trade links with the Dutch East Indies; all intermingled with dramatic space-age bridges and towers.

A great way to see the city is by foot or guided bicycle tour (see The Little Black Book below), taking in the modern Cube Buildings overlooking the massive marketplace; the lovely walkway through the Old Harbour and floating section of the Maritime Museum; the Walk of Fame, full of hand and footprints of the great and good; the futuristic Erasmus Bridge; the Het Park and Euromast; and Museum Park and Kunsthal - not to mention all the amazing pedestrianised shopping areas just back from the sparkling water.

Cycling in Rotterdam
©Erik De Graaf/Dreamstime
As we all know, Netherlands dearly loves its queers. Though few overtly gay-targeting restaurants, you'll feel particularly at home at middle-eastern themed Bazar, with its sociable communal dishes and exotic, lamp-lit ambience; swish, pink-coloured Stockholm down by the Old Harbour, with its contemporary Euro fare; and Engels which has good food and some outdoor seating.

FERRY started out as a print magazine in 2011 and has now grown into a meeting spot for the LGBTQ+ community of Rotterdam. With 2 floors, a separate room and a spacious terrace, it offers good music, a warm atmosphere and a tasty menu with bar specials.

GAY PRIDE

Rotterdam Pride serves as umbrella organisation that combines and communicates all the activities from different organisations during Rotterdam Pride. They work with cultural partners and partners from different industries to produce the annual celebrations each year in June.
Protest Fist on a Rotterdam Brick Wall
Photo: VlatkoRadovic
Rotterdam Pride is the first and oldest pride in the Netherlands which includes Pink Saturday found on the Coolsingel, one of the best known streets in central Rotterdam located in the Cool district. Yes, they really do have a "Cool" district!

SHOPPING

Gaytoys Rotterdam has been the store for gay sex toys in Rotterdam for more than 30 years. They have a wide range of dildos, masturbators, BDSM toys and clothing, and a selection of must-haves and care products for your adventures including condoms, lubricants, toy cleaners and room odorizers that should certainly not be missing in your bedside table.
Rotterdam also boasts a friendly, lively and sizable queer scene, mainly clustered around Van Oldenbarneveltstraat. Meet the queer locals up close - all ages, genders and sizes, at cheery & boozey Bar De Regenboog, undoubted lively stalwart of the gay community, with its welcoming long bar and raised bopping stage. The famous cube houses of Rotterdam
©Erik De Graaf/Dreamstime

BARS

Two of the most popular bars are Bar Loge 90 which is almost exclusively gay, and late at night, the bar just about everyone squeezes into Café Keerweer. It's so packed you'll be lucky to get a drink, but sure of continual groping and "vertical frottage" - of necessity, very cruisy.

Strano on Van Oldenbarneveltstraat is a gay bar that's good for having a dance or simply to meet friends and have a conversation. It's busy at weekends and the music is known for being good.

Café Bonaparte is a cozy Dutch gay & drag café in the heart of Rotterdam, which is normally open all night. At Bonaparte you will not find people who let themselves be placed in a straightjacket. They welcome gays, lesbians, straights, drag queens, transvestites and transgenders - acceptance and respect are paramount.

NIGHT CLUBS

The Maasboulevard is the main eastern access road from the center of Rotterdam in the Dutch province of South Holland and it has two night clubs in close proximity. There's a gay night club called Maasboulevard which just down the road from a mixed disco club, previously known as Club Vie, but now called Munch.

STEAMED UP

There are also a handful of saunas, the most popular of which are the Cosmo Sauna above its eponymous bar - open daily from 1pm; and Gaysauna Finland which is open from midday and is one of the longest running saunas in The Netherlands - it has a large playroom, sling and cabins; whilst many punters get straight down to business at The Moods Bar which is an erotic cafe and cinema for sex couples, couples, heterosexuals, transvestites, transsex, gay, nudists, crossdressers and everything in between here. The venue is full of slings, dark and not so dark areas and especially renowned for its fetish parties. Their website has details.
Rotterdam's club scene is renowned in Holland and has a well-earned reputation throughout Europe. Not surprisingly, many of Holland's top DJs hail from the city, or are based here - like Michel de Hey, Jay Samuel and Speedy J. Ever since the early nineties the dance music produced and played in the city has had its own unique feel: hard, fast, rough and gritty - just like its gorgeous men. These early techno records led to a subgenre that later became known as "gabber".

One of Rotterdam's most popular nightlife areas is Witte de Withstraat. Besides the street's many restaurants, its pubs, cosy cafés and stylish wine and cocktail bars attract a varied crowd. Tourists, locals, students, intellectuals, clubbers, creative professionals, colleagues enjoying drinks after work: they all rub shoulders on a good Friday or Saturday night, in an exuberant and cheerful atmosphere.

The city is also awash with hot electro-based record stores and keep an eye out for many of the annual Music Festivals that celebrate the unique music scene of this vibrant city. If it's literally underground that you are after then Toffler is a house and techno club situated in a former metro tunnel.

TRAVEL INFO

We can recommend the four-star Hilton Rotterdam - located in the vibrant heart of the city, in the middle of the nightlife and shopping districts, or check out our hotel partners Booking.com for a wide variety of hotels at special discount rates.

For general info about Rotterdam, including the great value Welcome Card, offering free or discounted travel and entries go to rotterdam.info.

KLM's discount airline Transavia fly direct to Rotterdam from London Luton or from Edinburgh. Other airlines like Easyjet and BA go to Amsterdam Schiphol and then you can take a train to Rotterdam from the airport.

THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK
Bar De Regenboog (Van Oldenbarneveltstr. 148a; T: +31 (0)10 413 9125; facebook)
Bar Loge 90 (Schiedamsedijk 4; T: +31 10 414 9745; facebook)
Bazar (Witte de Withstraat 16; T: +31 (0)10 206 5151; Website)
Café Bonaparte (117-A, Nieuwe Binnenweg; Website)
Café Keerweer (Keerweer 14 / Binnenwegplein; T: +31 (0)10 413 1217)
Engels (Stationsplien 45, T: +31 10 411 9550; Website)
Ferry (Westblaak 127; T: 010 750 5324; Website)
Gaysauna Finland (Grondherendijk 7; Website)
Gaytoys Rotterdam (Keerweer 10; T: 010 411 3522; Website)
Hilton Rotterdam (Weena 10; T: +31 (0)10 710 8000; Website)
Maasboulevard (Maasboulevard)
Munch (Maasboulevard 300; Website)
Rotterdam Pride (Schiekade 189; Website)
Stockholm (Spaansekade 12, Old Harbour; T: +31 (0)10 414 7295; Website)
Strano (Van Oldenbarneveltstraat 154; T: +31 (0) 10 412 5811)
The Moods Bar (Gravendijkwal 92; T: +31 (0)10 225 1725; Website)
Toffler (Weena Zuid 33; Website)

Urban Guides provide excellent travel information via their Website

Revised March 2022.

 

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