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Rainbow street


Already since 1980, Reguliersdwarsstraat is the most famous and trendy gay street in the Netherlands. Here you can read how in those 40 years the street has developed into a true rainbow street!

updated: 03-06-2024


The open and international character of Reguliersdwarsstraat started with lunchroom Downtown which opened already back in 1970. Other gay places at that time still had shuttered windows and a doorman at the door.

Such a closed place was the Mac Donald, which opened in 1963 as the very first gay café in Reguliersdwarsstraat, and also De Viking (1976-1987), the first gay disco in the street.

A view alongside April and Downtown (1983)
(photo: David Jarrett)

The glory years

The big break through came in 1980, when Frans Monsma and Guus Silverentand started to organize high-profile parties out of Downtown, which made Reguliersdwarsstraat the hippest place to be. They then opened April (1981-2010), which became Amsterdam's most famous gay café.

The most popular place of the nineties was gay café/dancing Havana (1989-2002), which attracted countless gay and straight people, natives and immigrants, Amsterdammers and tourists for many of whom it still has a special place in their heart.

Hollywood-party starting outside Havana and ending in club iT (1994)
Video: Michael Littaur

Hollywood-party at Havana, with Manfred Langer of the iT
(photographer unknown)

The Kooistra businesses

Eventually, April and Havana were taken over by bar tycoon Sjoerd Kooistra, who in 1988 added gay disco Exit and the Exit Café, and in 1999 opened café-pub Soho. Finally, he also bought cocktailbar ARC, which had been opened in 2002.

Under Kooistra the highly popular Happy Hour was introduced and ever larger street parties were organized, culminating in the performance of Kylie Minogue during the Gay Pride in the year 2000:

Performance of Kylie Minogue during Gay Pride (2000)
(video: MVS Gaystation)

Street parties

The Amsterdam Pride, with its famous boat parade, was set up in 1996 by a group of people from Havana, not as a protest or demonstration like in other cities, but to celebrate freedom and diversity.

The street party to celebrate Pride in Reguliersdwarsstraat is still one of the absolute highlights of the year. This also applies to the street party during King's Day - which is the successor to Queen's Day, that was celebrated in the street already since the eighties:

Street party during Queen's Day (2009)

Current places

In 2010, Reguliersdwarsstraat received a major blow when the business empire of Sjoerd Kooistra collapsed and all his well-known gay places had to close. Meanwhile the street has fully recovered and now there are even more gay venues than before that time.

In addition to the classic café-club Soho, there's the late night Exit Café, the hip openminded club NYX, and the popular Taboo Bar with neighboring Taboo Kantine.

The bustling Bar BLEND expandend in 2021 with BLEND XL. The newest place in the street is the lesbian café B'Femme, which opened in April 2023.

Finally, in the eastern part of Reguliersdwarsstraat, near Rembrandtplein, there's the Caribbean gay bar Reality.

Reguliersdwarsstraat at night (2018)

Gay Village

Besides the nightlife venues there are also a few gay-friendly coffeeshops, a number of gay lifestyle shops and hairdressers as well as a series of restaurants where gays traditionally like to go for dinner.

With this concentration of gay-oriented businesses, Reguliersdwarsstraat can rightly be called the Gay Village of Amsterdam, comparable to the gay neighborhoods of major cities elsewhere in the world, like San Francisco, Montréal, Manchester and Berlin.

The village character also speaks from the seclusion by the surrounding buildings and the pedestrian area and is further enhanced by the planting that was introduced in 2016.

Lots of green in Reguliersdwarsstraat (2018)

Rainbow street

First, only the gay venues had rainbow flags flying, but in June 2020 all bars, restaurants and shops in the western part of the street got two rainbow flags to show the openness and diversity of the entire street.

One month later, Reguliersdwarsstraat also got its own rainbow sidewalk to brighten up the previously rather dark arcade under the Carlton Hotel. It's not a pedestrian crossing, but has a more artistic shape with wavy stripes in rainbow colors:

The rainbow sidewalk in Reguliersdwarsstraat (2020)

Flag display

At some point, Amsterdam flags were hung next to the rainbow flags. These were replaced in May 2022 by those of the participants in the Eurovision Song Contest, which was then celebrated with the three-day street party Reguliers Celebrates.

Meanwhile, in the summer of 2020, the classic rainbow flags at the gay venues were replaced by the more inclusive Progress Pride flag, which in the spring of 2023 made everywhere way for the Pride flag which includes the symbol of the intersex movement as well.

In August of that year, 12 large glossy hearts were added. Under the motto Spread the Love they once again emphasize that Reguliersdwarsstraat is a safe environment for all members of the rainbow family:

Reguliersdwarsstraat in August 2023


- In Portuguese: Reguliersdwarsstraat, a histórica rua gay de Amsterdam
- LGBT nightlife: Gay Village Amsterdam © 2007/2020