'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; Engels which has good food and outdoor seating; and Flierefluiter which is a well liked bar with good food.
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, booze-fuelled De Regenboog, undoubted lively stalwart of the gay community, with its long bar and raised bopping stage.

BARS

Two of the most popular bars are Loge 90 which is almost exclusively gay, and LOUD Rotterdam which has a small dancefloor, outside seating and caters for a lesbian and gay, transvestite and transsexual clientele. Late at night, everyone squeezes into Keerweer: so packed you'll be lucky to get a drink, but sure of continual groping and "vertical frottage" - of necessity, very cruisy.

A five minute walk south and you find a second queer cluster. Cosmo is the very antithesis of cool; extremely laid-back and markedly multicultural - dark room at the rear.

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.

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.

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.

Choice mainstream clubs, worth checking out for their music alone, include: Club IMAX - an old converted cinema that's full of soul, and if it's literally underground that you are after then Toffler is a house and techno club situated in a former metro tunnel.

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.

THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK
Bazar (Witte de Withstraat 16; T: +31 (0)10 206 5151; Website)
Cosmo Sauna (Schiedamsesingel 133; T: +31 (0)10 412 3668; Website)
Engels (Stationsplien 45, T: +31 10 411 9550; Website)
Flierefluiter (Schiedamsedijk 9a, T: +31 61 103 0611)
Gaysauna Finland (Grondherendijk 7; Website)
Loge 90 (Schiedamsedijk 4; T: +31 10 414 9745; Website)
LOUD Rotterdam (Posthoornstraat 9; Website)
The Moods Bar (Gravendijkwal 92; T: +31 (0)10 225 1725; Website)
Hilton Rotterdam (Weena 10; T: +31 (0)10 710 8000; Website)
Keerweer, Café (Keerweer 14 / Binnenwegplein; T: +31 (0)10 413 1217; Website)
De Regenboog (Van Oldenbarneveltstr. 148a; T: +31 (0)10 413 9125)
Stockholm (Spaansekade 12, Old Harbour; T: +31 (0)10 414 7295; Website)

Urban Guides provide excellent travel information via their Website

Revised August 2016.

 

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