• Private boats following the official parade down one of Amsterdam's main canals. (SBS)Source: SBS
The only pride parade where the floats actually float. Even churches get in on the festivities, flying rainbow flags.
Ben Winsor

9 Aug 2016 - 12:18 PM  UPDATED 8 Aug 2016 - 8:59 PM

Amsterdam Gay Pride has to be one of the most unique pride celebrations in the world.

For one thing, the floats in the parade actually float – onlookers flock to Prinsengracht canal, which rings the city centre, as roughly 80 boats full of revellers motor by on a Saturday afternoon. 

Last weekend, as Amsterdam celebrated its 20th annual canal parade, spectators from around Europe and the world crammed onto the banks of the canal, bridges and party boats that had moored especially for the occasion.

Boats pumped out music, worked bubble machines and shot confetti, with parade participants slowing only at the 20 or so bridges along the route to deflate decorations and duck for cover. 

Large and small companies, the local police, the military and major political parties all take part in the parade; government ministers and prominent personalities duck the bridges along with everyone else.

The parade route takes it past one of the city’s major tourist attractions, the Anne Frank House. Nearby is the Homomonument, one of the first memorials to commemorate the gay rights movement and LGBTQIA+ victims of the Holocaust. 

Westerkerk, the Protestant church on the same square, rolled out rainbow flags for the occasion. Noorderkerk, another church on the canal route flew the pride flag as well. “Welcome without exception,” a church sign read.

For a country known for its acceptance of diversity, the Netherlands' premiere gay pride parade is relatively new, having first started in 1996. 

Other LGBTQIA+ parades and protest marches had been held in the country before, but the canal parade debuted relatively recently with the sole intention of celebrating freedom and diversity. 

The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legislate for same-sex marriage, holding the world’s first legally recognised ceremonies in 2001.

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