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How to see the Red Light District in Amsterdam [2024 Guide]

Amsterdam's spiciest neighbourhood 🌶️

Lyna Meyrer 🇱🇺

Amsterdam’s Red Light District: it’s sexy, it’s scandalous, and it’s one of the Netherlands’ most popular tourist attractions. 

Whether you’re here for the obvious reasons (*wink*), to learn about the fascinating history of De Wallen, or simply passing through on your Amsterdam trip — here’s how to best see the Red Light District in Amsterdam.

📍 Where is the Red Light District in Amsterdam?

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Amsterdam’s Red Light District has existed since the Middle Ages and is not restricted to just one zone.

In fact, the district has three major neighbourhoods: 

  • De Wallen , the largest, oldest, and most famous area near Oude Kerk; 
  • the Singelgebied , part of the Singel canal that runs from the IJ to Muntplein Square;
  • and the Ruysdaelkade , a canal in De Pijp in Amsterdam Zuid.

READ MORE | 33 best things to do in Amsterdam in 2024 [UPDATED]

Typically, when you hear people talk about Amsterdam’s Red Light District, they are referring to De Wallen , which is located right in the heart of the capital. 

Just a 10-minute walk from the city’s main train station, De Wallen is easily accessible by foot or bike. You can also take the tram to one of the nearby stations — most are just a street away.

This part of the Red Light District in Amsterdam covers more than 17 alleys and streets and includes over 200 window brothels.

the-red-light-district-amsterdam-moulin-rouge-oudeszijds-achterburgwal-at-night

Prostitution takes place in the following streets: Barndesteeg, Bethlehemsteeg, Bloedstraat, Dollebegijnensteeg, Enge Kerksteeg, Goldbergersteeg, Gordijnensteeg, Molensteeg, Monnikenstraat, Oudekerksplein, Oudekennissteeg, Oudezijds Achterburgwal, Oudezijds Voorburgwal, Sint Annendwarsstraat, Sint Annenstraat, Stoofsteeg, and Trompettersteeg.

Want to know the best route to explore Amsterdam’s Red Light District? Keep reading!

Of course, you can explore the Red Light District in any way you’d like, but the great thing about De Wallen is its central location, close to many of Amsterdam’s other famous attractions.

We suggest starting at Amsterdam Central Station and following a circular(ish) walkway that lets you see all the best spots and attractions around.

Amsterdam Red Light District walking route

Psst! Prefer a Google Map to explore Amsterdam’s Red Light District? Scroll down!

  • Start your walk at Amsterdam Centraal Station , the city’s main railway station, and head south on Damrak! This is a busy street lined with shops and restaurants.
  • At the end of Damrak, you’ll reach the famous Dam Square, a central square with historical significance and stunning architecture!
  • Continue walking south on Damstraat , and after a few minutes, you’ll enter the Red Light District. 
  • Once arrived in De Wallen, follow the Oudezijds Voorburgwal , one of the main streets in the district. Here, you’ll find a mix of shops, cafes, historic buildings and, of course, the occasional red light window.
  • Explore the Red Light District’s many alleyways and streets. You’ll find something different at every corner, from a glorious old church (the Oude Kerk) to coffee shops, and the infamous brothels!
  • In the Red Light District, we recommend you check out Warmoesstraat. This street offers a range of restaurants, cafes, and shops. 
  • You can also explore the nearby Chinatown , located around Zeedijk, by taking a short detour. From here, you can head back to Amsterdam Centraal Station.

The best time to walk around the Red Light District in Amsterdam is in the evening. As you can imagine, the red lights come on once the sun goes down. 🌅

Red-lanterns-on-wall-Red-Light-District-Amsterdam

However, Amsterdam’s Red Light District can be visited at any time of year, and at (pretty much) any time of day.  

The window brothels are only closed for two hours a day, between 6 AM and 8 AM. Most bars and clubs in the area close at 3 AM or 4 AM on weekends.

Since most of the windows tend to be empty during the day, De Wallen looks just like any other Dutch street. So, you may find yourself walking through it without even noticing.

READ MORE | Why is Amsterdam’s Red Light District red? The answer is, well, kinda gross

De Wallen tends to be quite calm from around 7 PM until 9 PM, especially from Sunday through Thursday. This is a great time for a walking tour if you’re trying to avoid the crowds.

red-light-district-by-day-amsterdam

Since De Wallen is right in the city centre of A’dam, and home to many bars, clubs, and coffeeshops, it tends to get crowded on weekends after 9 PM — so visit at your own discretion! 🗣️

How long to spend visiting the Red Light District

How long you spend visiting the Red Light District Amsterdam depends on what your plans are when you get there (if you know what we mean 👀).

If you’re happy to stroll through the area while taking in Amsterdam’s vibe, pretty canals, and also sneak a quick peek at a window, then you can see the best of the Red Light District in just 20 to 30 minutes.

READ MORE | The Amsterdam canal houses: why are they so wonderfully weird?

If you’re looking to get down to business and want to go see a live peep show, visit a sex worker, or even just hang out at a bar while you’re there, then you may want to spare around two hours. 

You know where the Red Light District in Amsterdam is, the route you’ll be taking, and you’ve put the right amount of aside time to visit — fantastic! 💪

But there are some things you may still be wondering about when it comes to this unique place. So get out that notepad, and let’s get your questions answered! 

Is prostitution legal in Amsterdam? 

The short answer to this question is: Ja , prostitution is indeed permitted here. Though controversial, it has been legal in the Netherlands since 1881.

READ MORE | Why is there XXX on Amsterdam’s flag? Hint: it’s not what you think

The Dutch government emphasises that legal prostitution refers only to sexual acts between two consenting adults . Nonetheless, they acknowledge that “abuses like forced prostitution, underage prostitution and unsafe working conditions still occur.”

How to behave in De Wallen

red-light-district-amsterdam-visitors-walking-along-streets

When you go to the Red Light District in Amsterdam, the most important thing is to be respectful — of both the neighbourhood’s residents (yes, people live here), and of the workers.

READ MORE | Where to live in Amsterdam: the definitive neighbourhood guide for 2024

This should be common sense, but we’ll reiterate it just to be sure: don’t litter, don’t drink in public, don’t cause a nuisance, don’t take photos of the girls, and don’t be a creep. Easy as that. 🤷‍♀️

Note: While prostitution has been legal in the Netherlands since the 19th century, public drinking and smoking weed is prohibited in the Red Light District and can land you a hefty fine!

Should you look at the girls?

As we said before: the general rule for visiting the Red Light District in Amsterdam is the following: don’t be a creep. Please, mensen (people). 

Of course, this also (and especially) counts when looking at the girls in the windows. We get it; you’ve never seen anything like this before and are curious, so you want to see what it’s all about by glancing around. That’s okay. 

What’s not okay, however, is creepily staring at the workers in their window for an extended period of time with no intention of going in. 

Remember, they’re trying to do their job. Stopping at a window and staring is not just rude, and uncomfortable for the workers, but could also scare away potential customers. 

Speaking of things you shouldn’t do in De Wallen, let’s look at the proper etiquette when visiting the Amsterdam Red Light District. What are the dos and don’ts?

Here’s our handy-dandy list of tips on what to be mindful of.

  • Be open-minded
  • Bring cash (many banks don’t operate in the Red Light Districts)
  • Carry your ID
  • Watch out for pickpockets

DON’T ❌

  • Take pictures of the workers
  • Be disrespectful
  • Talk to street dealers
  • Drink alcohol in public
  • Smoke weed on the street

Getting around in Amsterdam is easy as taart (pie), and the Red Light District can be reached easily from any side of the city.

There’s no formal entry to De Wallen, or screens that block you from seeing it or going in. Instead, Amsterdam’s Red Light District pretty much looks like any other Dutch street — except at night, when everything lights up in red. 👠

READ MORE | 11 things to know before taking a taxi in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a very walkable city, so if you’re staying in the city centre, chances are high that De Wallen may be easily accessible by foot. If you’re coming from the central station, simply follow the Oudezijds Voorburgwal, and you’ll be there in no time.

If you want to get around like a true Dutchie, you can also access the Red Light District Amsterdam by fiets (bike). Be warned, though, cycling in the busy centre of Amsterdam requires some serious skill ! 🚲

public-tram-crossing-damrak-main-street-crowded-with-tourists-amsterdam-netherlands

Lastly, Amsterdam has a great public transport system , which can also comfortably lead you to the infamous Red Light District. The best way to get there is by tram. Depending on where you come from, the closest tram stop will likely be either Rokin, Paleisstraat, Dam, or Nieuwezijds Kolk. 

The easiest way to find your route to De Wallen is by using the power of technology, of course. So, when in doubt, simply look it up on Google Maps. 🤳

You’ve made it to De Wallen, welkom ! But what is there to see or do? 

Well… a lot!

Your options rank from your average tourist attractions to the more risqué options, such as peep shows or hiring a sex worker. 

Look around, or visit a sex worker

The most obvious thing to do in the Red Light District is take a little walk — but not the kind you’re used to! 🤫

Here, as you take a stroll along the Oudezijds Voorburgwal, you have the chance to admire the ladies behind the windows. If you’re up for it, you may even want to visit one of the workers.

Visit a museum 

If you want to learn more about the history of sex and prostitution in the Netherlands, the Amsterdam Red Light District has two great museums for you. 

READ MORE | If Emily in Paris were set in Amsterdam: here’s what our readers had to say

You could visit the Museum of Prostitution , for example, or the world’s biggest sex museum! 

Visit a peep show

Amsterdam-Red-light-district-moulin-rouge

If you’re feeling adventurous, check out one of the many peep shows in the area. A peep show is a live sex show — so essentially, you’ll watch people, well, do the deed.

This is not for the faint of heart (or the conservative), but they offer a unique and thrilling experience you won’t forget anytime soon. 👀

You can check out Casa Rosso , for example, where peep show prices start at a mere €2!

Take a canal tour 

The Red Light District is located right in the heart of Amsterdam’s canal district, so why not take a boat tour and see De Wallen from a different perspective? You can even combine it with the Museum of Prostitution !

It’s a great way to get some fresh air and see the city in a new light (still in red, though!).

Listen, we won’t lie to y’all: Amsterdam is pricey, and the Red Light District sure as heck is no exception. 

Visiting the Red Light District itself is free — it’s a great cheap tourist activity to do. Simply walk through its many streets, admire the workers, and maybe grab a drink (or a joint, if you’re up for it).

red-light-district-amsterdam-sex-shop

READ MORE |  Smoking weed in Amsterdam: ultimate guide [Updated 2024]

When it comes to visiting a prostitute in the Amsterdam Red Light District, you can expect to pay anywhere between €50 and €100 for a visit of roughly 15-30 minutes. This, of course, also depends on the type of… service you request.  

Note: It’s generally advised to carry cash if you are planning on visiting a sex worker in the Red Light District. The reason for this is that many banks and transaction companies do not want to be active in the sex industries.

Other incidental costs will, again, depend on what you’re after in the Red Light District Amsterdam. A drink (a biertje , for example) will cost you around €4, while cocktails may be up to €12. For a full dinner (meal and drinks), you can expect to pay around €25 per person. 

The Red Light District Amsterdam has played a significant role in the cityscape of the Dutch capital since the Middle Ages. Built around 1385, it’s the oldest district of the city — and one of the most famous districts of the world.

Oude-Kerk-(Old-Church)-in-Amsterdam-red-light-district

In the 14th century, before TikTok tourists roamed the streets, traders and sailors were the main demographic in De Wallen. They would visit the city to do business and, when bored of the bureaucracy and their long voyages, they’d be down to have a little fun. 🤪

Over time, the Red Light District grew to be associated with prostitution, sex work, and other simple pleasures, such as drugs and drinking. The neighbourhood’s tiny alleys and alleyways were dotted with brothels, sex shops, and bars for Amsterdam’s visitors.

The red lights hanging outside the brothels’ windows are to blame for the district’s nickname. According to legend, this custom originated in the 17th century, when lanterns were used to inform sailors that they had arrived at the correct port of call.

Though historic and undoubtedly one of Amsterdam’s main tourist attractions, the Red Light District may soon become subject to some BIG change. In fact, it may disappear completely from the city centre, and De Wallen as we all know and love it, will be no more.

Yup, as strange as it sounds to relocate a whole city district (and a huge part of Amsterdam’s history), in 2020, Femke Halsema, the Mayor of Amsterdam, proposed an “erotic department store” as an alternative to the Red Light District Amsterdam. 

READ MORE | Begijnhof: Amsterdam’s worst-kept secret in the heart of the city centre

An architect has already designed a snazzy multi-storey building, hosting 100 rooms for sex workers, as well as bars, restaurants, entertainment spaces and a health centre. 

The city has decided on three potential locations: De Groene Zoom, Europaboulevard at the RAI in Amsterdam Zuid and Docklandsplot at the NDSM-werf in Amsterdam Noord.

Why? Years of worsening nuisances, criminal activity, unmanageable crowds, and a Mayor that is dedicated to “improving the quality of inner-city life.” Although not everyone is loving the idea, the municipality of Amsterdam continues to work on its plans.

Want to impress your friends with fun facts about the Amsterdam Red Light District? Look no further!

Amsterdam’s narrowest alleyway is in the Red Light District

Although Amsterdam is far from narrow-minded, it hosts a whole bunch of other narrow things. Think houses, stairs, bridges, and also teeny tiny alleyways.

READ MORE | The narrowest house in Amsterdam: everything you need to know

As if the streets of the Amsterdam Red Light District weren’t unique enough, the district is also home to the very narrowest of the city’s alleys: the Trompettersteeg. Despite its width of only 100 centimetres, it’s one of Amsterdam’s busiest streets, thanks to its location.

The Blue Light District 

What? Blue lights? In the Red Light District? Jazeker .

Within the Amsterdam Red Light District, there is a special area where the windows are lit up in blue. This area mainly spreads over two streets: the Bloedstraat and the Gordijnensteeg .

READ MORE | Btw, turns out public sex in this Amsterdam park is LEGAL 

What does it mean? A blue light indicates that the woman behind the window is transgender. Many of them have male genitalia, and use the blue light to indicate to customers they are different from the biologically-female sex workers. 

Window workers rent their windows per night

Another thing that many people don’t know is that windows actually get rented out by sex workers per night. Rent is paid at the beginning of each shift, and usually ranges between €85 and €115 per night.

Window-screens-of-red-light-district-Amsterdam

On a bad night, this can mean that a worker may pay more for the rent than they make, but this is a rare occasion. Thanks to the popularity of the Red Light District Amsterdam, most sex workers make between €200 and €600 on an average evening, with up to €1000 on a good night.

If De Wallen’s turbulent history and these fun facts have left you wanting more, you’re in luck! There are various ways to learn more about the area and its history — and all the saucy business that happens in it. 

The Sex Museum

How about a trip to the world’s FIRST Sex Museum? If any city would host such a museum, of course, it has to be Amsterdam. And it’s right in the heart of the Red Light District!

Get ready for sexy displays, ranging from ancient aphrodisiacs to mind-boggling sex toys, and take photos with a huge penis chair — because that’s exactly the kind of content your parents will want to see.

​​In true liberal Amsterdam fashion, the museum opened all the way back in 1985. Today, it’s one of the Netherlands’ most visited museums, with over 675,000 visitors in 2015. 

The Museum of Prostitution

Entrance-Museum-of-Prostitution-at-the-red-light-district-Amsterdam-daytime

Virtually awaiting you at the Museum of Prostitution is Inga from Russia — Amsterdam’s most famous lady of the night. She has been working in the Amsterdam Red Light District for over 15 years, and will tell you all you need to know about the world’s oldest profession.

In the form of a guided audio tour, Inga guides you through the museum, and gives you all the ins and outs (pun intended!) about the industry. Equal parts cheeky and educational, the museum sheds light on topics like sex workers’ rights, their challenges, and their ongoing fight for empowerment and respect. 

READ MORE | Criminalising prostitution in the Netherlands would be a disaster for women

The building, which used to be a famous Amsterdam brothel, is still in its original state, and lets you walk through real prostitution rooms. Still curious? Take a seat behind one of the district’s famous windows and feel the pedestrians look at you.

Walking tours

Another great way to explore the Amsterdam Red Light District is by a self-guided tour.

While the city of Amsterdam banned guided tours of over four people from the Red Light District area in 2012, there are other options. 

Some self-guided tour routes are available online, and alternatively, you are able to participate in a guided tour, as long as you’re in a small enough group — like in this Red Light District guided tour .

Amsterdam-Dutch-canal-terrace-red-light-district

Did sightseeing get you hungry? Understandable. Lucky for all of us, the Red Light District offers more than just a feast for the eyes (we’re talking about the architecture, of course)!

Whether you’re on the hunt for some typical Dutch dishes, or would rather explore some budget-friendly Thai meals — you’ve got plenty of choice.

Mata Hari: Mediterranean cuisine in the heart of Amsterdam

Mata Hari, named after a famous Dutch spy , is located right in the heart of the Amsterdam Red Light District.

This restaurant offers a mix of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine in a cosy atmosphere and overlooks one of Amsterdam’s canals. Oh, and it’s heel lekker (very tasty)!

📍 Location: Oudezijds Achterburgwal 22, 1012 DM Amsterdam 💰 Price: €18-25 for a main

Bird Thais Restaurant and Snackbar: Thai deliciousness on a budget

Just a street away from Mata Hari, you’ll find Bird Thais, an authentic Thai restaurant with raving reviews. 

In a hurry? Check out their snackbar! Right across the street from the restaurant, it serves delicious large portions that will not break the bank. 

📍 Location: Zeedijk 72-74, 1012 BA Amsterdam 💰 Price: €15-20 for a main

De Waag: a piece of Amsterdam history

If you’re looking for a restaurant in a unique location, De Waag is for you! Housed in a city gate that dates back to 1488, this place serves food all day — ranging from small bites and sandwiches to elaborate seafood dishes.

READ MORE | Tipping in Amsterdam: all you need to know [UPDATED 2024]

It’s perfect for that 11 AM late breakfast, or that 4 PM mid-day break. Whatever you prefer!

📍 Location: Nieuwmarkt 4, 1012 CR Amsterdam 💰 Price: €20-30 for a main

red-light-district-amsterdam-people-having-beer-at-bar

Time for a drink! We’re sure you won’t be surprised that the Red Light District Amsterdam is home to many lively bars and cafés.

It gets pretty crowded here on weekends, so if you want a guaranteed table, make sure to show up early, or (where possible) reserve a table.

Red Light Bar: a Red Light District staple

You can’t go to the Red Light District and not check out the Red Light Bar! With its well-stocked selection of spirits, beers, and creative cocktails, the Red Light Bar truly caters to everyone’s taste.

READ MORE | 14 best clubs in Amsterdam according to locals [2024 guide]

With a rotation of performing DJs, pool tables, and numerous screens to stream sports events, no boring night has ever taken place at the Red Light Bar (except maybe during the pandemic).

📍 Location: Oudezijds Achterburgwal 61, 1012 DB Amsterdam

Café ‘t Mandje: a historic gay bar

Looking for a bar that’s iconic in every sense of the word? Head to Café ‘t Mandje (it even has its own Wikipedia page !). 

A testament to Amsterdam’s progressive and liberal spirit, Café ‘t Mandje was the city’s very first gay bar. It opened in 1927, and still today is one of Amsterdam’s best gay bars . Its quirky interior, along with its impressive selection of drinks, is guaranteed to give you a great time.

📍 Location: Zeedijk 63, 1012 AS Amsterdam

Café Hill Street Blues: an authentic Amsterdam atmosphere

Cosy vibe? Check. Lovely staff? Yup. Lekker drankjes? (Delicious drinks?) Of course. 

At Café Hill Street Blues, you’ll find all of the above and more (think walls covered in stickers and graffiti, for example!). Oh, and if you feel like smoking some weed, that’s allowed here too!

READ MORE | What Amsterdam bars can I smoke weed in (that aren’t coffeeshops)?

Whether you want to sit inside or on the terrace, unwind or bop along to some DJ tunes, have a velvety cappuccino or a strong Jenever (Dutch gin) — this is the place for you.

📍 Location: Warmoesstraat 52A, 1012 JG Amsterdam

red-light-district-amsterdam-people-walking-to-hotel

Hotels, hostels, your one-night stand’s place? Decisions, decisions: there are plenty of places you could stay during your trip to Amsterdam.

One of the great things about Amsterdam is its easy accessibility. Metros, trams, and great ( flat !) walking routes connect the whole city. No matter where in Amsterdam you’re staying, it won’t take you long to get into the Red Light District.

READ MORE | The 18 best street markets in Amsterdam: the ultimate guide

That being said, let’s talk about staying near the Amsterdam Red Light District — no matter how wild you are, you should probably have a planned roof over your head (just as a suggestion 👀). 

Keep in mind that prices for hostels and hotels greatly vary between seasons and depending on how far in advance you book.

Hostels near the Red Light District Amsterdam

We won’t lie to y’all: visiting Amsterdam is expensive. If you’re balling on a budget, or prefer to spend your hard-earned cash on food and (spicy) experiences, rather than a place to stay, then hostels are your best bet.

Here are some of the most highly-rated hostels near the Red Light Districts:

  • The Bulldog Hotel 
  • Hostel Warmoes
  • St Christopher’s at The Winston
  • Durty Nellys Inn
  • Hostel the Globe

Hotels near the Red Light District Amsterdam

Prefer a little more privacy and luxury? Then you may want to go for a hotel. Amsterdam has plenty of great ones, ranging in price, star rating, and services. 

READ MORE |  9 of the best hotels for an epic stay in Amsterdam

Some of the top-rated hotels near De Wallen are the following:

  • ⭐️: Hotel Corner House
  • ⭐️⭐️: Hotel Clemens
  • ⭐️⭐️⭐️: A-Train Hotel
  • ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️: Hotel Estheréa
  • ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️: Anantara Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky Amsterdam

amsterdam-red-light-district-street-with-people-standing-outside-coffeeshops

Whether you’re an experienced smoker or it’s your first time trying some herb in Amsterdam — we want you to visit only the very best coffeeshops near the Red Light District.

Coffeeshop Voyagers: for a fun ‘trip’

If you take a voyage (sorry) to the very bottom of De Wallen, east of the Damrak. Here, you’ll find Coffeeshop Voyagers right near Amsterdam’s Central Station. 

They have knowledgeable staff that is happy to help you out, as well as a great selection of weed, hash, and edibles! Prices are very reasonable, but the only downside is that there are only two seats in the whole place. Takeaway it is!

📍 Location: Geldersekade 2HS, 1012 BH Amsterdam

The Jolly Joker: for an after-lunch pick-me-up

If you plan on going to Amsterdam’s famous De Waag restaurant, you’ll find Jolly Joker right next to it — the perfect spot for a nice digestive joint, or an edible for dessert. 

The Jolly Joker offers some top strains, and their staff can advise you on just the right thing to take to get you right where you want to be.

📍 Location: Nieuwmarkt 4-A, 1012 CR Amsterdam

Coffeeshop Tweede Kamer: a piece of coffeeshop history

Tweede Kamer is not only one of the best coffeeshops in Amsterdam , but it is also housed in a beautiful venue in a historic building.

This coffeeshop represents the warm and welcoming smoker’s culture of Amsterdam, and with an extensive and high-quality menu, Tweede Kamer is a favourite among locals and tourists alike!

  📍 Location: Heisteeg 6, 1012 W C Amsterdam

One thing is certain: Amsterdam’s De Wallen neighbourhood is one of the most unusual and fascinating places in the world. 

Whether you’re visiting for cheeky reasons or out of sheer curiosity for the oldest profession in the world, you won’t regret your stroll through the Amsterdam Red Light District!

Have you ever been to the Red Light District in Amsterdam? Tell us about your experience in the comments!

How much does it cost in Amsterdam Red Light District?

Of course, all the costs you may run into in the Red Light are dependent on what you’re after. 

When it comes to visiting a prostitute in the Amsterdam Red Light District, you can expect to pay anywhere between €50 and €100 for a visit of roughly 15-30 minutes. 

A drink (a beer, for example) will cost you around €4, while cocktails may be up to €12. For a full dinner (meal and drinks), you can expect to pay around €25 per person.

What is legal in Amsterdam’s Red Light District?

Sex, drugs, alcohol: what’s legal and what’s not?

While the super-liberal Dutchies made prostitution legal in the 19th century, public drinking and smoking weed is actually prohibited in the streets of the Red Light District.

Besides that, some common-sense laws apply, like: no urinating in the street, no littering, and no harassment. Stay out of trouble, kids! 🫡

How much is a red-light girl in Amsterdam?

Every worker in the Red Light District sets throw own prices. A girl in the Red Light District Amsterdam generally asks somewhere between €50 and €100 for a visit of 20 to 30 minutes. 

Of course, prices may vary depending on the service you request.

Where is the Blue Light District?

Amsterdam’s Blue Light District mainly spreads over two streets: the Bloedstraat and the Gordijnensteeg .

The blue light indicates that the woman behind the window is transgender. Many of them have male genitalia, and use the colour of their light to indicate they are not biologically-female sex workers. 

Is Amsterdam Red Light District cash only?

Although credit and debit cards are king in most of the Netherlands, many banks and transaction companies do not want to be active in the sex industries.

Therefore, cash is the most used form of payment in the Red Light District in Amsterdam. If you want to visit a prostitute in Amsterdam, make sure to bring enough cash money (in euros). 

Can couples visit the Red Light District in Amsterdam?

They sure can! The Red Light District is open to anyone, no matter their gender or relationship status.

While it may not be the most romantic date, a couple that would like to visit a sex worker together while in Amsterdam may do so in agreement with the worker. While not all will agree, some will be open to it — just ask around!

What are the three red light districts in Amsterdam?

Amsterdam’s Red Light District has three major neighbourhoods – De Wallen, the largest and oldest one near Oude Kerk; Singelgebied, part of the Singel canal that runs from IJ Bay to Muntplein Square; and Ruysdaelkade, a canal in De Pijp in Amsterdam-Zuid.

What is the best red light street in Amsterdam?

While prostitution happens across many streets in the Red Light District in Amsterdam, the Oudezijds Voorburgwal and the Oudezijds Achterburgwal are the district’s two main streets.

Here, you’ll be able to not just see the workers, and take in the unique liberal vibe of the Red Light District, but you’ll also find various great sex shops, coffee shops, and cafés!

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The Complete Guide to the Amsterdam Red Light District

Amsterdam Red Light District

Amsterdam’s Red Light District is the world’s premier red light district. If you’re headed to Amsterdam and curious about the Red Light District, this page will provide you with a complete travel guide to the Amsterdam Red Light District and explain everything there is to know about the famous adult playground.  

Amsterdam is an incredibly popular tourist destination. And one of the main things people come to see is the famous Red Light District. The world’s oldest profession is on display in central Amsterdam, as well as so much more. So read on to see what the Red Light District is all about. 

Guide to Amsterdam’s Red Light District – The Basics

History of amsterdam’s red light district, prostitutes , sex museums , bars and cafes, people’s houses, something you won’t find: strip clubs, visiting one of the girls, things i’ve seen in the red light district, landlords and government regulations , red and purple lights, house rules in the red light district, other things to do in the red light district.

Where to stay in Amsterdam

Amsterdam Red Light District – FAQs

Amsterdam red light district – final word.

Note: this article contains affiliate links, which means that should you purchase something or get a quote through them I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. This helps keep the site running with up to date information. I do not represent World Nomads, Booking.com, or GetYourGuide. This is information only and not a recommendation to buy the product mentioned in this article.

Full disclosure: I have never myself visited a woman of the night in Amsterdam. In fact, the vast majority of visitors to the Red Light District are just there to look around and not actually go to a prostitute. 

So a lot of what you will learn here about visiting the girls is second-hand information from friends of mine that have. But there’s much more to the Red Light District than the girls in the windows. We will go over all of that here. 

If you’re visiting Amsterdam for the first time make sure to read my Local’s Guide to Amsterdam and my Amsterdam travel tips for first time visitors first. Or if you’re considering a life in Amsterdam then check out my pros and cons of living in Amsterdam . Those pages go over Amsterdam in great detail, whereas this page is all about the Red Light District.  

What exactly is the Amsterdam Red Light District?

The Red Light District is a section of the “de Wallen” (the Walls) neighborhood in central Amsterdam that is a designated area for prostitution and sexuality explicit shows, shops, and museums. Red light districts can be found in many cities around the world, including many other Dutch cities like Haarlem and Groningen . But none are as famous as Amsterdam. 

In the Red Light District, prostitution is legal and regulated. The sex workers occupy small “windows” where they basically just have a bed, a bathroom, and a window with a curtain. Customers knock on the “window,” which is really just a glass door, to initiate a business transaction. 

The Red Light District also has multiple sex shows and peep shows, where you can literally watch two people have sex or a woman perform a solo show as you sit in a room with total strangers. It’s as awkward as it sounds. 

Where is the Red Light District?

Amsterdam’s main Red Light District is right in central Amsterdam. It runs along both sides of the canal at Oudezijds Achterburgwal (herein referred to as “the main canal”), with little side streets here and there. Refer to the map below for the exact location.

I say “main” red light district because there are a couple other locations in the city with red light windows. These are just across the main canal at the Oude Kerk (considered part of de Wallen), a few blocks away on Oude Nieuwstraat, and at the south side of the city on Ruysdaelkade.

The alternate red light districts are not nearly as popular and as internationally famous, so from here on out we when I say “Red Light District” I’m referring to de Wallen neighborhood in the city center.

When is the Red Light District most busy? 

The Red Light District is most busy from about 10 PM to 2 AM. But it’s hard to say as it’s sort of seasonal with the sunset. Winters are darker and colder and things get going a little earlier. 

There are sex workers in windows throughout the day and night, but far fewer during the day, as you might imagine. The bars and museums in the Red Light District are open during the day, but the sex theaters are only open at night. 

Best time of year to visit Amsterdam’s Red Light District 

The Red Light District is happening all year round. Prostitution and sex shows never take a break. But one thing to consider if you really want the complete Red Light District experience is that the district doesn’t really get going until after dark.  

Amsterdam is located at about 53 degrees north, which means there’s a stark difference in sunset times between summer and winter. In June, the sun sets after 10 PM, making it light till almost 11. Oftentimes the best ladies won’t show up till it’s dark, so that means pretty late in the summer. Contrary to that, it’s pitch black by 5:00 in December, and the popular ladies tend to show up a bit earlier. 

Amsterdam Red Light District in daylight

You will have to consider the weather though, as you’ll probably be outside most of the time when visiting the Red Light District. So for the best combination of decent weather and adequate darkness, October is probably the best month. 

Believe it or not, prostitution has not always been legal in the Netherlands. Amsterdam’s Red Light District traces its origins back to the 13 century, when prostitutes started showing up on account of all the male sailors and traders going through the nearby harbor. It was good business and de Wallen neighborhood became known as a place you could go to get lucky with a lady of the night. 

That is, until the Protestant Revolution took hold in the Netherlands. Prostitution was flat out banned in 1578. This didn’t stop it, or kill the de Wallen neighborhood. It just forced it underground. Not literally. But think of it like any prostitution in the United States or most countries where it is not legal. It still happens, just behind closed doors. 

Prostitution remained this way for about 200 years until Napoleon’s army invaded. The French soldiers really liked the Dutch girls apparently, and prostitution was made legal again. (This isn’t the only effect Napoleon had on the Netherlands, he also gave them their last names ).  

It remained legal in Amsterdam when the French left, even if other parts of the country outlawed it again. But sexual freedom was not to last. Yet again, in 1911, prostitution was fully banned. 

This time, the prostitutes took their trade to the streets. Authorities pushed back and came to a compromise in the 1930s that the women could work behind mostly closed curtains with a red light inside that would be visible from the street. Thus, it became known as the “red light” district.

The future of the Red Light District

The modern Red Light District was born in 2000, when brothels and prostitution were fully legalized by the Dutch government. These days the curtains are fully opened with red lights blazing. If the curtain is closed, that means she is not open for business at the moment!

The future of Amsterdam’s Red Light District remains up in the air, though. There have been various movements since 2000 to move the district from de Wallen and make a special brothel building away from the city center in an attempt to discourage obnoxious tourists in de Wallen neighborhood. 

Most recently the Amsterdam City Council is proposing to build a high rise brothel in the south of the city near the RAI train station that they dub the “ Amsterdam Erotic Center ”. The red light windows would be moved there and made part of a large adult entertainment complex. Something similar to Nana Plaza in Bangkok , I presume. 

As of December 2023, however, Amsterdam’s famous Red Light District is still in the city center where it has been for 800 years. Many residents disapprove of the city’s proposed plans and it remains to be seen if the Erotic Center will ever actually get built. So for now, you will find all the fun stuff right where it’s always been.   

Things You Will Find and Things to do in the Red Light District

So what exactly can be found in the Red Light District? Is it just prostitutes in windows? We will get into that here, but the simple answer is no, there is much more to the Red Light District than just the sex workers. We will start with them, though. 

Amsterdam Red Light District girls in the windows

Amsterdam’s Red Light District revolves around prostitution, as one would expect. There are about 350 prostitutes that work in the Red Light District. There are more sex workers that work in theaters and shows, so I’m just talking about the women who you can pay for sex here.   

The prostitutes work in small… let’s call them “studios”… that each feature a full height window – which is actually a door – with a red fluorescent light above the door. Inside, there is a small bed and bathroom and that’s about it. The studios are not super well-decorated or anything and surfaces will often be covered in plastic. They are utilitarian, made for business. 

The Red Light District also has numerous sex theaters / sex shows. These are small theaters you go in to see a live sex show. Yes, two people will actually be having sexual intercourse right in front of you while you sit in a dark theater surrounded by strangers. Sounds fun, right? 

The sex shows are more than just two people going at it, however. In fact, that’s usually just the conclusion of the show. It’s mostly female solo performers until then. The solo showgirls will do various adult themed performances, like holding a Sharpie you know where and drawing on a member of the audience.  

Casa Rosa Amsterdam

The oldest and most popular sex theater is Casa Rosso. They run shows continuously from 7 PM to 2 AM and charge 60 euros for 8 performances. You can enter and leave any time, as the performances just repeat about once an hour. Another popular sex theater is Moulin Rouge, which is a bit cheaper at 40 euros but only has 5 performances. 

You don’t need to book sex theaters ahead of time, but it’s best to go by at least an hour or two before you want to go to the show to make sure you get a ticket. 

You will also find a peep show in the Red Light District at the Sex Palace. Peep shows sound like something out of the 1920s, and they probably haven’t changed much from that. Throw a two euro coin in the machine and the window will clear up. You’ll then have a direct view of the performer, who is on a rotating circular bed with about 10 peep windows facing her. 

Sex Palace Amsterdam Red Light District

The performances at the peep show are also mostly solo female performers, but there are sometimes couples too. The establishment lets you know who is performing at the time so you’re not surprised. 

Sex Palace also has private pornography viewing rooms, which is exactly as disgusting as you’re imagining. I guess it used to be popular before the internet. But I’d avoid those at all costs if I were you!

The Red Light District is also loaded with sex stores, i.e. adult entertainment stores. These stores sell mainly sex toys. You can find some pretty kinky stuff in these stores. If you’ve never been in one, it might be worth checking it out just to see what it’s all about. 

There are two museums dedicated to adult entertainment in the Red Light District: The Erotic Museum and the Red Lights Secret Museum . The Erotic Museum is more of an exploration of sex and erotism, whereas the Red Light Secrets Museum is solely dedicated to educating you about the Red Light District in Amsterdam. 

I recommend the Red Lights Secret Museum, while you can pass on the Erotic Museum. The Red Lights Secret Museum is the only museum in the world dedicated to prostitution and it will teach you a lot about the history of the world’s oldest profession in Amsterdam.  

The Red Light District is in central Amsterdam, so it’s loaded with bars and restaurants. But let’s reduce our reach to just the main canal in the Red Light District here. There are still tons of bars and some cafes, even if there are no proper restaurants sandwiched between red light windows. 

The bars on the main canal are some of the more grimey bars in Amsterdam. They’re usually loud, crowded, and often dirty. Throw in the number of 19 year old intoxicated British kids in them and it’s enough to make you want to grab a drink somewhere else. 

But I have to plug my favorite bar in the Red Light District, Cafe de Zeevaart . Right where the red light windows start, it’s the perfect place to sit and have a Heineken and watch random guys go into the doors across the canal. It’s the number one thing to do in the Red Light District in my book!

Amsterdam Red Light District main canal

You might be surprised to hear this, but people do actually live in the Red Light District. Like, literally right on top of the red light windows. If you think it’s a bit weird to be cooking dinner in your kitchen while a sex worker is doing her thing with an awkward tourist one level below you, then you’re not alone. But some people are now phased by this.

The old row houses on the main canal are gorgeous, in that typical traditional Dutch architecture. The houses and apartments are not cheap to rent or buy in this area. It would be a great location if it weren’t for the constant noise all night, and the shady characters the Red Light District tends to attract.  

Whatever your opinion is of the people who live here, just be respectful and don’t purposely disturb them. This is their home. 

If you’re wandering the streets of the Red Light District looking for a traditional strip club, you’re going to be severely disappointed. While the Red Light District has many things, girls giving lap dances in a dark club is not one of them.

When you think about it, why would there be strip clubs, though? It’s considerably cheaper in Amsterdam to have actual sexual relations with a sex worker than it is to go to any “VIP room” at a strip club in the United States or elsewhere and be teased. Though I’m sure if you asked, one of the girls would be happy to give you a little dance instead if that’s all you wanted!

How the Red Light District Works

Visiting the Red Light District is much more enjoyable if you know how it all works. So here we will go through who it is that works in the Red Light District, how they operate, and how to visit one of them, if that is your wish. 

Let’s start by talking about who these women are that work as prostitutes in Amsterdam’s Red Light District. But first, let’s get rid of the stigma about sex workers. No matter what you think about prostitution, it is legal and a thriving business here. 

Sex with clients is their job. They live perfectly normal (boring) lives outside of their work, just like you and me. Many of them are in committed relationships and they hang out with friends and travel just like any other young woman. 

Amsterdam Red Light District - what a girl might see inside the window

Most of the women in the windows come from Eastern Europe and very few of them are actually Dutch. They usually work 8 hour shifts (with 8 PM to 4 AM being the most common shift) and they will take as many clients as they can get in that shift. 

Between clients they will stand behind the glass in thong bikinis or lingerie. Sometimes you’ll see them dancing or otherwise showing off their bodies. Sometimes you’ll also see them just sitting, on their phones usually, likely texting repeat clients or each other. 

A good one can get as many as 16 clients per day. It’s flabergasting to think of having sexual relations with that many different people in one day, but that’s life as a successful Amsterdam sex worker. A girl who gets this many clients can easily bring in over 2000 euros per day. When’s the last time you made that kind of money!?

The women are all extremely attractive, fit, and friendly. Part of the allure of going to one for many men is that many of these girls are basically perfect 10s, unattainable by conventional methods. One walk down the main canal and you’ll see what I mean. 

Even if you don’t plan on hiring one of the ladies, I still suggest you read this section just to know how it works. Again, I’ve never visited one of the ladies myself, other than just knocking on the window a couple times to see what they say, but this info is second-hand from a trusted friend, and not just hearsay. 

In Amsterdam, you initiate contact with the ladies. This is contrary to many other places in the world where sex workers will approach you and try to sell their services, like Bangkok or Las Vegas . In Amsterdam (and the Netherlands in general), it’s up to you. 

The ladies are essentially on display as you walk the streets and alleyways of the Red Light District. Sometimes they will tap on the window from inside and smile at you, especially if they see you looking at them, but that’s about as much salesmanship as they do until you go inside. 

When you find a girl you like, you make eye contact with her and go up to her door and she will open it up. Not all the way, more like crack the door to speak with you. She will say something to you like “hi, you come to Amsterdam for sex?” (Yes one of them really did say that) or something that gauges your actual interest. 

bed inside the Amsterdam Red Light District

Once she’s determined that you’re serious about this, she will invite you in and close the curtain. The starting rate for a sex worker in Amsterdam is 50 euros. This gets you in the door and theoretically gets you sexual intercourse. Every girl has her own rules, but typically the 50 euros will just cover a couple minutes with no touching. Basically you just lay there until she says time’s up. 

This is where the extra charges come in. Everything after that is a negotiation and it depends on exactly what you want. If you want sensual contact and to finish on your terms, it will cost you extra. If you want round 2, it will cost you extra. Negotiate and be clear on the terms ahead of time, or you might end up getting suckered into paying hundreds of euros.

According to the Red Light Secrets Museum, the average time a man is inside with a sex worker is 6 minutes. These women are professionals and know exactly what they are doing. And in case you’re wondering, yes they do have condoms so you don’t need your own. 

Once the deed is done you get dressed and be on your way. She will freshen up then open back up the curtain and wait for her next customer. You’re nothing more than a client well served she’ll forget about tomorrow! 

One of my favorite things to do when friends visited was to go down to the Red Light District and grab beers at Cafe de Zeevart. From the bar you can see across the canal to four windows that are usually occupied after 9:00 PM. We’d all bet on which girl would get the next customer. Winner was exempt from buying the next round of beers. Sounds strange, but don’t knock it till you’ve tried it! 

view from cafe de Zeevart in Amsterdam

From that vantage point over the years I saw quite a few interesting things, such as:

  • An elderly man who was in there with a blonde girl for about 45 minutes (which is super long!).
  • A young guy who was with a girl for literally 2 minutes, barely enough time to undress and redress.
  • A group of 5 young guys all go in together and come out together about 20 minutes later.
  • An older guy visit one girl then go a few doors down to another.
  • One girl have four different guys in about a 45 minute span. 

So how is all of this regulated? Do the girls own these little studios they work in? Let’s discuss all that here. 

First, the main reason that prostitution was legalized in the Netherlands is because the government figures it’s going to happen anyways, so might as well regulate and tax it. It’s far safer for the girls to have it legal than to have it underground with pimps and international human smugglers. 

The girls in Amsterdam do this voluntarily. There are no pimps taking all their money. Only the Dutch government and their landlords eat into their profits. They are each sole proprietors that essentially run their own business. 

The studios they use, however, are owned by separate individuals or corporations. The girls rent out the space on an hourly basis. It costs at least 100 euros for an 8-hour rental. The room rental is a business expense.

The girls pay taxes on their money just like anyone else living in the Netherlands. And given how much money they can make, they actually contribute significantly more than the average white-collar worker in Amsterdam. Although, with their payment method being cash only, who knows how much they actually report on their tax returns! 

red light rooms for rent in Amsterdam

While you’ll see mostly red lights in the windows, not every light is red and it’s important to know what the other colors mean. If you see a purple (or blue) light at a window, this means that the sex worker is trans. There are a few purple and blue lights scattered around, but they are not on the main canal through the Red Light District.  

Now that we’ve gone over how the Red Light District works let’s go over a few things you can’t do. 

  • No photos of the girls – you cannot snap photos of the girls in the windows. If you do and they see you, they will come out and beat your ass. You can take overall photos of the street and canal but under no circumstances should you point your phone directly at a girl. 
  • No open container – this is new as of 2019, but you can no longer freely drink on the street in the Red Light District. This law was enacted to limit idiotic behavior from drunk tourists. So no beers in your hand as you walk the street. You will get a citation. 
  • Don’t accept or buy drugs from anyone – this is more of a general safety rule. There are some shady characters that hang out on the street and try to sell drugs to drunk people. The drunker you are, the more pushy they will be. Never buy drugs from any of the street dealers in the Red Light District. You don’t know what you’re getting, so just don’t do it. 
  • Cash only – the sex workers only accept cash. Do not go to them if you don’t have cash or can’t get cash from one of the many nearby ATMs.
  • Do not be aggressive or violent towards the girls – this goes without saying, but you will get in trouble. There’s policemen everywhere in the Red Light District and they are looking out for the best interests of the girls, not for you. 

We have already gone through the sex-related things to do in Amsterdam’s Red Light District. But there is much more to de Wallen neighborhood than just prostitution and sex shows. On the streets off the main canal you’ll actually find all sorts of great restaurants, bars, and other attractions. 

De Oude Kerk

De Oude Kerk (“the old church”) is the oldest cathedral in Amsterdam. Dating back to the 14th century, it’s one of the most architecturally impressive churches in Amsterdam, though it might pale in comparison to the cathedrals in places like Ghent or Cologne. 

The church is open daily from 10-6 and charges 13.50 euros for entrance. You can buy a ticket online ahead of time, but it’s not required. 

Borstplaat in Brons 

The Borstplaat in Brons is a nifty piece of street art from 1993 just outside de Oude Kerk. Borstplaat in brons literally means “breast plate in bronze”. It’s a tiny sculpture almost hidden in the cobblestone street that features a bust of a woman’s breasts with a hand touching the left breast. 

It’s a nod to the history of prostitution in Amsterdam and if you’re not on the lookout you’ll certainly miss it. The exact location is here . Just be sure to look down. 

Have a good meal

Houses on the canal in Amsterdam

There are a ton of great restaurants in and around the Red Light District. There are also some god awful restaurants. But if you follow my recommendations you’ll be sure to avoid the touristy overpriced restaurants full of mediocre food.

I’ve dedicated an entire article to Dutch food and you can find my top 10 restaurants in Amsterdam there. 

Have a craft beer 

Just off the main canal you’ll find the brewpub for Brouwerij de Prael , one of the best Breweries in Amsterdam . The brewpub serves great food and beer in a lively environment. Often full with tourists and locals alike, it’s a great place to get a taste of Dutch craft beer near the Red Light District. 

Get your smoke on

If you’re into marijuana, as you probably know already it’s legal and regulated in the Netherlands (just like prostitution!). The establishments where you can buy and smoke (or eat edibles) marijuana are known as “coffee shops” and they are all over the Red Light District. 

Just know that you can’t just openly smoke weed on the streets of Amsterdam. You must be at one of the coffee shops, on their terrace, or at a private residence. 

Take a tour

Being such a popular tourist attraction, there are a ton of companies offering tours of the Red Light District. The guides will teach you about the history of the district (though if you’ve read through this entire article you probably know more than them now!) and show you all the best spots. Some options on GetYourGuide are below.

  • Amsterdam Red Light District and Coffee Shop Tour
  • Amsterdam Red Light District Tour

As you’ve gathered by now, the Red Light District can get pretty loud and stay loud all night. If you’re looking for a quiet night, the heart of the city center is not ideal. However, once you get outside the peak city center, it gets much quieter at night and there are tons of great hotels.

central Amsterdam canal

The bigger issue with choosing where to stay in Amsterdam is your budget. Hotels in the city can be really expensive. If you want to save a few bucks and still stay at a nice place, consider staying by Sloterdijk train station, especially the Mercure . Just 5 minutes away by train, the hotel prices are much more reasonable and it’s super easy to get into the city center. 

Budget: The Flying Pig Hostel

Affordable: Mercure Sloterdijk

Mid-range: The Hendrick’s Hotel

Luxury: Andaz Amsterdam

Travel Insurance

When visiting Amsterdam you’ll want to have a quality travel insurance policy. We use World Nomads when we travel and can recommend them. You can find a great policy on World Nomads by using the link below. 

travel amsterdam red light district

How much does it cost in the Red Light District?

Visiting one of the girls in Amsterdam’s Red Light District cost at least 50 euros to get in the door. Everything beyond that is negotiable and it’s up to the girl to set the price. 

Can couples go to the Red Light District Amsterdam?

Many couples find the sex shows exhilarating to attend together. But that’s totally a decision for you and your partner. If you’re looking for a couples experience with a woman of the night, all you have to do is ask – and pay, of course.

What time do the girls come out in the Red Light District?

There are girls working in the Red Light District 24 hours a day (with the exception of 6-8 AM). But if you’re looking for the time when the most beautiful, most prolific girls come out, that’s usually between 8-10 PM, depending on the season. They come a bit later in the summer when the sun doesn’t set till past 10. 

What do Amsterdam’s 3 X’s mean?

Contrary to what some people might say, the XXX in the Amsterdam coat of Arms has nothing to do with sex or pornography. It actually represents 3 St. Andrews’s crosses. The symbol goes back well before XXX became internationally synonymous with pornography. 

Amsterdam has the most famous red light district in the world. People come from all around the world to see the famous girls in the windows. But there are many things to do in the Red Light District even if you don’t want to visit a woman of the night.

Hopefully after reading through this guide to Amsterdam’s Red Light District you are prepared for an awesome time in the city! 

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Chris Heckmann

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A guide to Amsterdam's Red Light District

May 29, 2019 • 4 min read

A canal-side shot of Amsterdam's Red Light District

The Red Light District in Amsterdam is awash with blazes of neon and almost endless vice. © Olena Z / Shutterstock

Amsterdam 's infamous Red Light District is a carnival of vice, with skimpily-clad commercial sex workers in brothel windows, raucous bars, haze-filled 'coffeeshops', strip shows and mind-boggling museums. It's not for everyone.

If you choose to satisfy your curiosity with a wander around the area, keep your wits about you and watch out for pickpockets. Most importantly, remember that there's more to the Red Light District than its salaciousness – and much more to this multifaceted city than the Red Light District.

A canal-side shot of Amsterdam's Red Light District

The Red Light District – a warren of medieval alleyways making up the inner-city area locally known as De Wallen – is just southeast of Centraal Station, on and around the parallel neon-lit canals Oudezijds Voorburgwal and Oudezijds Achterburgwal; Warmoesstraat is home to the district's main gay action.

An exterior shot of the Red Light Secrets Museum of Prostitution in the centre of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Red Light District background

A major trading harbour since the Middle Ages made Amsterdam a magnet for the 'world's oldest profession.' As early as the 1300s, women carrying red lanterns (due to their flattering light) met sailors near the port, and bars, clubs and risqué entertainment venues flooded into the area. But sex work wasn't legal until 1810, and brothels weren't legalised until 2000.

Changes continue: since 2007, city officials have taken measures to clean up the district by reducing the number of red-light windows in an effort to eliminate pimps, human traffickers and money launderers (all of which are illegal). Project 1012, named for the area's postal code, encourages fashion studios, art galleries, cafes and other creative enterprises to set up here. In 2013, the council raised the minimum age for sex workers from 18 to 21 and introduced mandatory red-light window closing hours between 6am and 8am. In 2020 tourists to Amsterdam will no longer be able to take a tour of De Wallen. It's a measure designed to combat overtourism, but sex workers have come out against the plan.

Tourists walking in the red light districts, where prostitutes try to lure customers from behind their windows.

Despite the changes, more than 290 red-lit window brothels remain, and the industry generates about €650 million annually, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics (yes, commercial sex workers pay taxes).

Ground-zero for red-light windows is, ironically enough, Amsterdam's oldest building, the 14th-century Oude Kerk (Old Church). Near its entrance, look down to see the 'golden torso' pavement plaque of a hand groping a breast.  On the Oudekerksplein is Belle , a bronze statue of a sex worker with the inscription 'Respect sex workers all over the world'. Just nearby, the Prostitution Information Centre is a fount of information for both sex workers and visitors, and runs informative 90 minute Red Light District walking tours twice a week. They also sell self-guided tours for €3 at their shop.

Need to know:

  • Don't photograph or film sex workers in the windows – out of respect, and to avoid having your camera flung in a canal by their enforcers. Seriously.
  • On the De Pijp neighbourhood's western border along Ruysdaelkade, there's a second, smaller district with a strip of red-light windows (minus the stag parties and drunken crowds).

A statue depicting a commercial sex worker known as Belle in the Red Light District in Amsterdam

Opened in 2014, brothel-turned-sex work museum Red Light Secrets  gives you a behind-the-scenes glimpse and insight into the profession. You can check out bondage exhibits and other eyebrow-raising displays at the Red Light District's Erotic Museum or, for more raunchy exhibits, head northwest to the Sexmuseum Amsterdam , between Centraal Station and Dam square.

Learn everything you ever wanted to know about hash, marijuana and hemp at the eponymous Hash, Marijuana & Hemp Museum .

Coffeeshops

Coffeeshops (ie cannabis cafes) exist all over the city (and country), but the Red Light District has an especially high concentration. Greenhouse  and Baba are two of the area's most popular. Cannabis is not technically legal in the Netherlands but the possession and purchase of 5g of 'soft drugs' (ie marijuana, hashish, space cakes and truffles) is widely tolerated and users won't be prosecuted for this amount.

The most potent cannabis varieties contain 15% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active substance that gets people high (anything above 15% is classified as a hard drug and therefore illegal). If you do partake, always exercise caution; even many regular smokers can't stomach the local product. The Red Light District's Cannabis College has reams of information.

The lowdown:

  • Drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco (whether mixed with marijuana or on its own) in coffeeshops is illegal.
  • Don't ask for hard (illegal) drugs.
  • Never buy drugs of any kind on the street – fatalities can and do occur.

The exterior of the Hash Marijuana & Hemp Museum in the Red Light District in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Drinking and dining

As well as all the seedy dive bars and rowdy pubs you'd expect, the area also has some wonderful jenever (Dutch gin) tasting houses, charming bruin cafés (historic Dutch pubs), and an independent brewery, Brouwerij de Prael . Fast food – including local specialties frites (fries, usually slathered in mayonnaise), pancakes, and FEBO outlets dispensing deep-fried snacks from automat windows – proliferates.   Zeedijk , on the district's eastern edge, is the heart of Amsterdam's Chinatown, with eateries galore.

Condomerie Het Gulden Vlies sells condoms in every imaginable size, colour, flavour and design (horned devils, marijuana leaves, Delftware tiles...).

Last updated in May 2019.

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Spark Nomad

Red Light District Amsterdam City Centre Netherlands Stock

Red Light District Amsterdam: 12 Things You NEED To Know Before Visiting

Amsterdam, often celebrated for its picturesque canals, world-class museums, and vibrant culture, is also famous for a district that draws the curiosity of visitors from around the globe—the Red Light District.

This intriguing area, with its distinctive red-lit windows, has a history dating back centuries and offers a unique glimpse into Amsterdam’s social and cultural fabric.

In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the depths of the Red Light District, providing insights, history, tips, and a respectful understanding of this iconic neighborhood.

Table of Contents

1. The History of the Red Light District

Amsterdam’s Red Light District has a history that stretches back to the 14th century. Originally, the district was a bustling harbor area, and the term “red light” likely originated from the red lanterns sailors used to guide them back to port. Over time, the district transformed into an entertainment and nightlife hub, becoming synonymous with Amsterdam’s liberal attitude towards certain activities that were prohibited or frowned upon in other parts of Europe.

2. The Layout and Geography

The Red Light District is situated in the heart of Amsterdam, nestled within the city’s historic canal ring . The Oudezijds Voorburgwal Canal borders it to the east, the Oudezijds Achterburgwal Canal to the west, and the Warmoesstraat Street to the south.

This area is divided into several sections, each with its own character and offerings. The district is known for its narrow alleys, historic buildings, and, of course, the red-lit windows. It’s one of the things to do in Amsterdam that’s high on the list for many.

3. The Red-Lit Windows

The red-lit windows are undoubtedly the most iconic aspect of the Red Light District. These windows serve as the workplaces of sex workers who showcase themselves in a bid to attract clients. It’s important to recognize that sex work is legal and regulated in the Netherlands, and the women (and men) who work in these windows do so voluntarily.

The red lights are a symbol of the district’s trade, and they have become an integral part of its identity. However, it’s crucial to respect the privacy and autonomy of sex workers. Taking photos of them is strictly prohibited, and it’s important to refrain from harassment.

4. Sex Work in Amsterdam

Sex work in Amsterdam is a regulated industry. Sex workers must register with the Chamber of Commerce, pay taxes, and adhere to specific health and safety regulations. This approach is aimed at ensuring the safety and well-being of sex workers and their clients.

It’s essential to remember that sex work is a profession like any other, and the individuals involved should be treated with dignity and respect. Many sex workers choose this line of work, and they deserve the same rights and protections as anyone else.

5. Nightlife and Entertainment

The Red Light District isn’t just about sex work; it’s also a vibrant nightlife hub. The area is dotted with bars, clubs, and theaters that cater to diverse tastes. You can find everything from classic pubs and jazz clubs to live music venues and comedy shows.

IMPORTANT: Starting in May 2023, a new regulation prohibits public marijuana smoking in specific areas of Amsterdam, including Dam Square, the Red Light District, Damrak, and Nieuwenmarkt. However, you can still enjoy cannabis outdoors on the terraces of licensed coffee shops. Be mindful that openly smoking on the streets in these designated zones may result in a 100 euro ($110) fine. This law aims to address issues related to disorderliness in high-tourist areas, promoting a more orderly environment.

6. Cafes and Restaurants

Amsterdam’s Red Light District isn’t just about nightlife and entertainment; it also has a thriving culinary scene. You’ll find a wide range of cafes and restaurants serving Dutch cuisine and international dishes. Whether you’re craving traditional Dutch “bitterballen” or international fare, you’re sure to find something to satisfy your taste buds.

7. Window Shopping and Souvenirs

While the red-lit windows are a significant part of the Red Light District, visitors are not obligated to engage with sex workers. You can simply explore the district and soak in its unique atmosphere without participating in any sexual activities.

Additionally, the district features shops selling souvenirs, clothing, and adult-themed items. If you’re looking for a quirky memento of your visit, you’ll find plenty of options here.

8. The Erotic Museum and Other Attractions

If you’re interested in learning more about the history of eroticism and its cultural significance, the Erotic Museum in the Red Light District is a must-visit. The museum offers an educational and historical perspective on human sexuality, highlighting its role in art, literature, and culture throughout history.

Beyond the Erotic Museum, you’ll find other adult-themed attractions in the district, each offering its own unique insights into this aspect of human experience.

9. Safety and Respectful Visitation

When visiting the Red Light District, it’s crucial to prioritize safety and respect. Here are some practical tips:

  • Stay in well-lit areas and be aware of your surroundings , especially at night.
  • Refrain from taking photos of sex workers or engaging in any form of harassment .
  • Respect the privacy and autonomy of sex workers . They have the right to decline clients.
  • Be cautious of scams or aggressive promoters on the streets. It’s okay to politely decline offers and continue on your way.

Additionally, consider protecting yourself with travel insurance such as SafetyWing , which can cover medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and other unforeseen incidents during your stay. Use the widget below to snag the perfect policy for your needs and travel with peace of mind knowing you’ve got your back covered, no matter what adventures come your way!

10. Photography and Privacy

The ethics of photography in the Red Light District are a topic of importance. While the district itself may seem like a curious and photogenic place, it’s important to remember that people live and work here. Taking photos of sex workers without their consent is not only disrespectful but also illegal. When in doubt, always ask for permission before taking pictures, and respect people’s privacy.

11. Beyond the Red Light District

While the Red Light District is undoubtedly a unique and captivating part of Amsterdam, the city has much more to offer. Don’t limit your visit to this district alone. Explore other neighborhoods, museums, and cultural sites that Amsterdam is famous for. The city’s rich history and vibrant arts scene are waiting to be discovered.

12. Travel Tips

Before you embark on your visit to the Red Light District, here are some practical travel tips:

  • Transportation: The district is easily accessible by public transportation. Consider taking a tram, bus, or walking from the city center.
  • Accommodations: If you plan to stay in the area, there are several hotels and hostels in Amsterdam in and around the Red Light District. However, book accommodations well in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons.
  • Best Times to Visit: The Red Light District is active day and night. Depending on your preferences, you can visit during the daytime to explore its unique architecture or experience the vibrant nightlife.

Where To Stay in Red Light District Amsterdam

Heart of amsterdam hotel (budget).

Heart of Amsterdam Hotel is affordable, has a good location, and offers dormitory and single rooms. The hotel is a typical Dutch building with modern decorations. Having a 24-hour reception and free Wi-Fi is convenient.

Eden Hotel (Mid-range)

Eden Hotel is lovely, with uniquely designed rooms and a great tourist location. It provides free Wi-Fi and toiletries, making it a comfy and handy choice for those with a moderate budget.

Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam (Luxury)

Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam is a fancy 5-star hotel made of beautiful red brick, mixing French and Dutch designs. It’s one of the few luxury hotels in Amsterdam with an indoor pool. The hotel has various rooms and suites, all with lots of natural light and views of the courtyard, city, or garden. Guests enjoy free Wi-Fi and access to a gym, and there’s a restaurant right there, too.

For more accommodation options, you may click on the map.

Frequently Asked Questions – Red Light District Amsterdam

What is legal in amsterdam red light district.

In Amsterdam’s Red Light District, several activities are legal and regulated, including:

  • Sex Work: Prostitution is legal and regulated in the Netherlands. Sex workers in the Red Light District operate from licensed brothels and are required to register with the Chamber of Commerce, pay taxes, and adhere to specific health and safety regulations.
  • Live Sex Shows: Live sex shows, typically performed in theaters in the Red Light District, are legal and regulated entertainment options.

It’s important to note that while these activities are legal in the Red Light District, they are subject to specific regulations and guidelines to ensure workers’ and visitors’ safety and well-being.

Can Tourists use Red Light District Amsterdam?

Yes, tourists can visit the Red Light District in Amsterdam. It’s a popular destination for those curious about the area’s unique culture and atmosphere.

Visitors can explore the district, dine in its restaurants, enjoy its nightlife, and even take part in legal and regulated activities such as watching live sex shows. However, tourists need to be respectful of the local laws, customs, and the privacy of sex workers while visiting the area.

Is the Red Light District Open 24 Hours?

The Red Light District in Amsterdam typically operates during the evening and nighttime hours. Most sex workers in the district start their work in the late afternoon or evening and continue until the early morning hours. The exact opening and closing times of businesses, restaurants, and entertainment venues in the district may vary, but the area tends to be most active during the night.

It’s worth noting that while the district is primarily known for its nightlife, there are also daytime activities and attractions in the area that cater to visitors who prefer exploring during daylight hours, such as museums and souvenir shops.

Conclusion – Red Light District Amsterdam

Amsterdam’s Red Light District defies easy categorization. It’s a neighborhood with a complex history, a unique atmosphere, and a tapestry of experiences. When visiting, it’s important to approach the district with an open mind, respect for the individuals who live and work there, and understand its cultural context.

As you explore the red-lit windows, indulge in Dutch cuisine, and immerse yourself in the nightlife and entertainment, remember that the Red Light District is just one facet of this captivating city. Amsterdam has much more to offer regarding art, history, and culture. By taking the time to explore beyond the district, you’ll discover the multifaceted beauty of this European gem.

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Related Reads:

  • Where to Stay in Amsterdam: Navigating the City’s Diverse Neighborhoods For an Unforgettable Stay
  • Best Hotels in Amsterdam: Your Guide to the Perfect Stay

Marjolein Dilven

Founder of Spark Nomad, Radical FIRE, Copywriter

Expertise: Personal finance and travel content. I’m a full-time traveler, and I’ve been to 49 countries and 5 continents. Education: Bachelor of Economics at Radboud University, Master in Finance at Radboud University, Minor in Economics at Chapman University. Over 200 articles, essays, and short stories published across the web.

Marjolein Dilven is a journalist and founder of Spark Nomad, a travel platform, and Radical FIRE, a personal finance platform. Marjolein has a finance and economics background with a master’s in Finance. She has quit her job to travel the world, documenting her travels on Spark Nomad to help people plan their travels. Marjolein Dilven has written for publications like MSN, Associated Press, CNBC, Town News syndicate, and more.

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Amsterdam’s Red Light District: All Your Questions Answered

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  • Destinations
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  • The Netherlands
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Note: The Travel Awaits team regularly updates content to provide the latest, and most accurate information to our readers. The updated content in this article may not reflect the views or opinions of the original author.

My first glimpse of Amsterdam’s red light district was as a teen on a family vacation. Years before the bossy lady at Google Maps could dictate step-by-step directions to any destination under the sun in real time, my mom was consulting a well-traveled paper map in an attempt to visit the Anne Frank House while my dad navigated the narrow cobblestone streets of Amsterdam.

As Mom buried her nose deeper in the map and Dad’s eyes swept back and forth across the road watching for bicycles and pedestrians, I became acutely aware of our surroundings at this early evening. Attempting to block my little sister’s view, I stole a long, shocked look at the scantily clad women standing in the windows.

Returning to Amsterdam numerous times since, nearly every travel companion of mine has wanted to walk through the red light district, mostly out of insatiable curiosity and the chance to return home and say “been there, saw that.” And I’m always happy to show them the way to De Wallen because it is a part of Amsterdam’s history and is one of the best examples of the open-minded Dutch culture.

Whether you want to visit the area to satisfy your curiosity, indulge in its legal activities, or bypass it completely, this guide should answer all of your questions about Amsterdam’s red light district also known as the red neighborhood.

Pro Tip: From navigating canals to avoid being run over by a bicycle, read up on the nine things to know before your first trip to Amsterdam .

What Is the Red Light District In Amsterdam?

Named for the neon red lights that outline windows and doors where women in lingerie lounge provocatively and flirt with potential customers, the red light district in Amsterdam is world-renowned for its legal prostitution and colorful sex workers in window displays.

Amsterdam has long been known for its open-minded policies toward pot and prostitution. But for the past several years, the largest city in the Netherlands has been trying to attract tourists interested in its many other offerings including picturesque canals, world-class museums, and wheels of cheese the size of tires and so many other sites to see especially if visiting Amsterdam in the spring .

And the effort to tamp down on cannabis and sex tourism (AKA “party tourism”) has only intensified with the pandemic .

Red Light District in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

How Many Red Light Districts Are There In Amsterdam?

Believe it or not, there are three red districts in Amsterdam. The most famous red light district is known as De Wallen. Located near the city center, it covers more than 17 alleys and streets and includes more than 200 window brothels with plenty more sex workers. But there are other red light districts in Amsterdam. 

Located less than 2 miles south of the tourist attraction is De Wallen, Ruysdaelkade is often considered to be a more authentic red light district because it’s incorporated into a residential neighborhood and is frequented by locals rather than tourists. Another Amsterdam red light district is near the intersection of Spuistraat and the Singel Canal. With about 40 windows, it’s also much smaller than De Wallen.

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Fun Fact: In Dutch, the red light district is known as De Wallen (the walls) because some of the canals in the area used to be walled. But the term “wall” also used to be a code word for “paid sex.”

The canal through the Red Light District in Amsterdam.

When Did the Red Light District Start In Amsterdam?

Dating back to the Middle Ages, prostitution in Amsterdam is as old as the city, beginning when visiting sailors and local widows arrived at a mutual understanding when it comes to having sex for money. In the 14th and 15th centuries, only a third of sailors would return home safely. And church laws wouldn’t allow the wives left behind to remarry.

That meant that many Dutch women were left without an income, desperately seeking ways to support their families. Foreign sailors docking in Amsterdam would wander the cobblestone streets near the harbor searching for entertainment, and these women were happy to offer companionship for a price.

The world’s oldest profession the Netherlands was officially outlawed in 1570. While the police would occasionally raid the brothels — arresting the women and sentencing them to the spinhuis to spin wool for a bit — not much was done to uphold the law.

The Dutch government officially legalized prostitution in 2000, recognizing brothels as legal businesses and allowing prostitutes to be legal sex workers if register at the chambers of commerce as independent contractors and rent their own window spaces from licensed brothel owners which stopped being known as illegal sex shops.

Red Light Bar coffee shop in Amsterdam's Red Light District.

What Can You Do In the Red Light District?

Although the red light district is most commonly associated with window brothels, the area isn’t exclusively about attractive sex workers and legalized prostitution. You’ll also find bars, restaurants, sex shops, live erotic shows, and strip clubs in the red light district. The neighborhood also includes the Museum of Prostitution and the world’s first condom specialty shop .

De Wallen is also home to some of the city’s 250 coffeeshops, establishments where anyone over the age of 18 may legally purchase and consume cannabis or hashish.

If you want to visit the neighborhood to satisfy your curiosity, a tour may be the best thing for you to do in the red light district. You’ll find a wide range of options including self-guided audio tours, guided walking tours led by a local, and brothel tours led by a sex worker.

Pro Tip: While the terms “coffeeshop” and “coffee house” may conjure images of delicious lattes and smooth jazz outside of the Netherlands, coffeeshops in Amsterdam have nothing to do with a cup of joe. Rather, they are establishments where anyone over the age of 18 can purchase and consume marijuana and hash. From espresso to cold brew, if you want a cup of coffee in Amsterdam, ask for a cafe instead of a coffee shop.

What Not To Do Based on Red Light District Amsterdam Laws, Rules, and Etiquette

Although prostitution, sex workers, and pot are legal in Amsterdam, the red light district is not an “anything goes” free-for-all place, and there are several things you should absolutely not do in Amsterdam’s red light district. 

One of the most important rules — and there are signs widely posted to remind you — is to never take photos or film the women in their windows . Although it’s technically not against the law, breaking this etiquette rule and taking photos can result in security guards demanding that you delete the image or a smashed cell phone with little sympathy or support from the local authorities.

It’s also not appropriate to stop and stare at the women in their windows. Not only is it rude to gawk, but “window shopping” in this sense can interfere with their ability to interact with paying customers.

It’s also important that you do not purchase drugs from a street dealer . The coffeeshops throughout Amsterdam are licensed businesses where it’s perfectly legal to consume marijuana or hash. But it is illegal to purchase these items (or other offerings) from a street peddler or consume any drugs out on the streets.

Lastly, don’t be gross. Just like you shouldn’t anywhere else in the world, don’t throw trash on the street or in the canals. Don’t consume alcohol in the street, be drunk or stoned in public, or otherwise disturb the peace. And absolutely do not urinate in public, especially when there are “ sexy loo ” public toilets available with video screens designed to fit in among the red, neon-lit window brothels!

In the Barndesteeg and the Bloedstraat, you can find transgender or transsexual sex workers alongside male and female sex workers. The red district etiquette implies gender tolerance so bear that in mind if you have Amsterdam on your bucket list .

How Safe Is Amsterdam’s Red Light District?

Compared to other prostitution areas around the world, the Amsterdam red light district is one of the safest. Not only do police officers regularly patrol the streets, but many of the prostitutes employ private bodyguards, and the area is further monitored by cameras. That said, the red light district is still a busy area in a large city, so you’ll want to watch for pickpockets and otherwise be mindful of your surroundings. 

travel amsterdam red light district

When Is The Best Time To Visit The Red Light District?

Not surprisingly, De Wallen really comes to life as the sun goes down. If you want to avoid the crowds, opt for a self-guided or guided tour between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., especially from Sunday–Thursday. Things really start to pick up around 10 p.m. — especially on Friday and Saturday nights — and slow down between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. as the neighborhood businesses start to close.

How Do I Avoid The Red Light District Amsterdam Sights?

Even if you’re not interested in lighting up a joint, consuming an edible, or stepping inside a window brothel, you’ll likely want to venture close to Amsterdam’s red light district. Why? Because De Wallen is situated in one of the oldest areas of the city. Nearby you’ll find the beautiful Oude Kerk (old church), the Anne Frank House, and picturesque canals flanked by cobblestone streets and tall, narrow brick houses.

But if you’d rather not walk past peep shows, live sex shows, video booths, or answer questions from fellow travelers about the scantily clad women standing in the windows (like when I visited Amsterdam with my school-aged son), it’s easy to explore Amsterdam’s city center without wandering through the red light district.

Just avoid De Wallen red neighborhood when plotting your course via a paper or electronic map, and you should be all set. After all, there are so many amazing things to do in Amsterdam !

Proposed Relocation of the Red District – Facts and the Reactions

In 2023, sex workers in Amsterdam have been protesting against the planned transfer of their popular red light district to an out-of-town “erotic center”.

The mayor, Femke Halsema, wants to relocate the red light district out of town aiming to rid Amsterdam of its image as a “sex city”. This also aims to reduce the large number of tourists and crime rates in the area.

Halsema has found herself up against local residents who do not want the new center on their doorstep, She also faces resentment from sex workers who feel they are being made scapegoats for the criminals and crowds piling up around their neon-lit booths.

The city council has earmarked three possible sites for the erotic center relocation options, which would have 100 rooms for sex workers. One sex worker, who identified herself as Lucie, dismissed the idea as “one big gentrification project”.

She said: “It’s mainly about combating the crowds in De Wallen, but that is not the sex workers’ fault so I don’t see why we should be punished for it.”

The European Medicines Agency has also been caught up in the controversy after realizing that one possible future site for the erotic center would be near its headquarters. The EMA voiced outrage, saying it could affect the safety of people working late at the office on their way home.

Most people see moving the red light district as Amsterdam’s latest effort to transform its image as a party and legal prostitution capital.

So far, more than 20,000 people have signed a petition against the transfer of the booths and saying goodbye to their red neon lights. They demanded better crowd control in the area and more vigilant police surveillance 24/7. We will update you with the developments as soon as there is more news.

Interested in the Netherlands? Check out our coverage of the Dutch country:

  • 9 Reasons Retirees Love The Netherlands
  • How To Spend A Perfect Day In Delft, Netherlands
  • How To Spend A Day In Maastricht, Netherlands

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Bitten by the travel bug as a preschooler when her family moved abroad for the first time, Sage Scott is addicted to travel. From her nomadic upbringing in a military family to her personal and professional travels as an adult, Sage has visited all 50 states, lived abroad twice, and explored nearly 30 other countries.

Now settled in America’s Heartland, Sage writes with a midlife traveler’s perspective from Kansas City — the Midwestern cowtown affectionately called the Paris of the Plains and the undisputed Barbecue Capital of the World — and is always in search of new experiences whether in her hometown or halfway around the world.

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Amsterdam Red Light District: What’s It Like (Facts & Tips)

Published: September 9, 2023

Modified: December 27, 2023

by Lurline Furman

  • Netherlands
  • Safety & Insurance
  • Travel Destinations
  • Travel Tips

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Introduction

Welcome to the enchanting and provocative world of the Amsterdam Red Light District. Nestled in the heart of one of Europe’s most vibrant cities, this unique neighborhood is renowned for its infamous displays of sensuality and allure. With its narrow cobblestone streets and glowing red-lit windows, the Red Light District offers a fascinating glimpse into a legalized and regulated sex industry.

While the Red Light District is often associated with its notorious reputation, there is more to discover beyond the seductive facades. This article will delve into the history, layout, and working conditions of the district, as well as provide insights for tourists who are curious about exploring it.

For centuries, the Red Light District has been an integral part of Amsterdam’s identity. Its roots can be traced back to the city’s early days as a bustling trading center. Sailors who docked in the port would seek companionship from women along the canals, giving rise to the first instances of prostitution in the area. Over time, the district evolved and became the vibrant and diverse neighborhood that it is today.

One of the defining features of the Red Light District is its unique layout and structure. The district is divided into several smaller streets, each lined with a variety of establishments where sex workers display themselves in illuminated windows. It is an unapologetic and open display of an industry that is both controversial and deeply ingrained in Amsterdam’s culture.

As intriguing as the Red Light District may be to outsiders, it is important to consider the working conditions and regulations that govern the industry. Prostitution in Amsterdam is legal and regulated, with strict guidelines in place to ensure the safety and well-being of the sex workers. The district employs various measures, such as mandatory health checks and organized support systems, to protect the rights of those involved.

For many tourists, visiting the Red Light District is a must-do experience. It offers a unique blend of cultural and historical attractions alongside the explicit adult entertainment. From museums dedicated to the history of sex work to iconic landmarks like the Oude Kerk (Old Church), there is a wealth of experiences awaiting those who venture into this vibrant district.

While exploring the Red Light District, it is important to be mindful of certain considerations for a safe and enjoyable experience. Understanding the etiquette, respecting the privacy of the sex workers, and being cautious of surrounding areas will enable visitors to navigate the district with respect. Additionally, familiarizing oneself with the local laws and regulations can help ensure a trouble-free visit.

So whether you are a curious traveler seeking a unique perspective on Amsterdam’s culture or simply interested in historical and social insights, this article will serve as your comprehensive guide to the Amsterdam Red Light District. Embark on a journey of discovery as we navigate the enthralling alleys and intriguing secrets that lie behind the red-lit windows.

History of the Amsterdam Red Light District

The history of the Amsterdam Red Light District can be traced back to the city’s early days as a bustling trading center in the 14th century. During this time, sailors and merchants from various parts of the world would flock to Amsterdam, seeking fortune and adventure.

As the population grew, so did the demand for companionship and entertainment. In response to this demand, various forms of prostitution began to develop in the city. However, it wasn’t until the 15th century that a designated area for prostitution, known as the “Steenstraat,” was established in Amsterdam.

Over the years, the district expanded and evolved into what is now known as the Amsterdam Red Light District. The name “Red Light District” is believed to have originated from the red lanterns that were used to identify brothels in the area.

Throughout the centuries, the Red Light District became an integral part of Amsterdam’s culture and identity. The presence of prostitution in the city was not only tolerated but openly accepted. In fact, during the 17th century, when Amsterdam was experiencing its Golden Age, the city’s authorities regulated and taxed the sex industry.

During this time, the Red Light District flourished, attracting not only local customers but also wealthy traders, artists, and intellectuals from around Europe. The district became a hub of activity, with brothels, taverns, and entertainment venues dotting the streets.

However, the perception and treatment of prostitution in Amsterdam went through significant changes during the 19th and 20th centuries. The rise of religious and social movements led to a shift in attitudes towards the sex industry, and efforts were made to regulate and reform it.

In 1911, the Dutch authorities introduced the “Regulation of Prostitutes Act,” which aimed to monitor and control the industry. This act allowed for the establishment of legal brothels and required sex workers to undergo regular medical check-ups.

Fast forward to the present day, and the Amsterdam Red Light District continues to be a unique and controversial part of the city. It is a place where the worlds of legality, sexuality, and commerce intersect.

Today, the Red Light District is not only a tourist attraction but also a symbol of Amsterdam’s liberal attitude towards sex and sexuality. While the district has faced its fair share of controversy and challenges, it remains an iconic and intriguing part of Amsterdam’s history and culture.

As you explore the Amsterdam Red Light District, take a moment to appreciate the rich and complex history that has shaped this captivating neighborhood. From its humble beginnings as a trading center to its present status as a global symbol of acceptance and debate, the Amsterdam Red Light District continues to be a testament to the colorful and fascinating nature of the city.

Layout and Structure of the Red Light District

The Amsterdam Red Light District is characterized by its unique layout and structure, which adds to the allure and mystique of the neighborhood. Spread across several small streets in the city center, the district is a vibrant and bustling area that attracts both tourists and locals alike.

The heart of the Red Light District is defined by two main streets: Oudezijds Voorburgwal and Oudezijds Achterburgwal. These two canals are lined with the iconic red-lit windows that showcase the sex workers and their services. Rows of narrow alleys, known as “straatjes,” branching off from these main streets, create a maze-like network for exploration.

Walking through the district, you will find a diverse range of establishments that cater to various tastes and preferences. Each establishment is denoted by the presence of a red-lit window, behind which sex workers wait to engage with potential clients. The windows provide a clear visual indication that these establishments offer sexual services.

One of the intriguing aspects of the district is its transparency. People passing by can easily see the sex workers in the windows, providing a glimpse into the experiences and services they offer. However, it’s important to respect the privacy of both the sex workers and their clients and refrain from taking photographs or engaging in any form of harassment.

While the Red Light District is primarily known for its sex industry, it’s worth noting that there is more to discover beyond the windows. The district is also home to an array of cafes, bars, restaurants, and shops, making it a vibrant and multi-dimensional neighborhood.

As you wander through the district, you’ll also stumble upon cultural and historical attractions. The Oude Kerk, or Old Church, is a prominent landmark in the area and serves as a reminder of the district’s long history. Dating back to the 13th century, the church offers a peaceful respite amidst the bustling streets.

The structure of the Red Light District is not solely limited to the streets and buildings. There is a sense of community and support among the sex workers themselves. Organized initiatives, such as the Prostitution Information Center, provide resources and support to sex workers, helping to ensure their wellbeing and safety.

It’s also important to remember that the Red Light District is a residential area for many people who live and work there. Recognizing this, the local authorities have implemented measures to strike a balance between the interests of residents, businesses, and tourists. The streets are regularly patrolled by police officers to maintain safety and security for all.

Visiting the Red Light District offers a unique opportunity to explore a neighborhood that exists at the intersection of commerce, culture, and controversy. By appreciating the layout and structure of the district, you can gain a deeper understanding of the complex dynamics that shape this captivating part of Amsterdam.

Working Conditions for Prostitutes in the Red Light District

As you stroll through the Amsterdam Red Light District, it’s essential to consider the working conditions of the sex workers who operate within the district. The area is known for its legal and regulated sex industry, which aims to ensure the safety and well-being of those involved.

Prostitution in the Netherlands is legal, and the Red Light District operates under a framework of laws and regulations. One of the key aspects of this framework is the protection of the rights and safety of the sex workers themselves. Measures have been put in place to monitor and support those working in the industry.

One of the primary requirements for sex workers in the Red Light District is registration with the Chamber of Commerce. This process involves providing identification and proof of age, as well as regular updates on personal information. The registration helps to ensure transparency and accountability within the industry.

The district also implements strict health and safety guidelines. Sex workers are required to undergo regular medical check-ups, including screenings for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). These check-ups not only protect the well-being of the sex workers but also safeguard the clients and the broader public health.

Sex workers in the Red Light District have the autonomy to set their own working hours and fees. They negotiate directly with clients and have the choice to refuse service if they feel uncomfortable or unsafe. This control over their work allows for a level of agency and consent within the industry.

Another important aspect of the working conditions in the district is the support systems available to the sex workers. The Prostitution Information Center (PIC) is an establishment dedicated to providing resources, advice, and assistance to individuals in the industry. It serves as a valuable hub of information, giving sex workers access to legal, medical, and social services.

Furthermore, the district endeavors to provide a sense of community for the sex workers. Organizations and networks, such as the Red Light United group, create platforms for solidarity and mutual support among the workers. These initiatives contribute to a more supportive and safe environment within the Red Light District.

However, it’s important to note that despite the efforts made to protect the rights and safety of the sex workers, challenges still exist. Issues such as stigma, discrimination, and exploitation can persist, highlighting the continued need for ongoing advocacy and support.

Visiting the Red Light District provides an opportunity to engage with the realities faced by sex workers and to foster a greater understanding and empathy for their experiences. By respecting their autonomy, privacy, and consent, tourists can contribute to creating an environment that values the rights and well-being of everyone involved in the sex industry.

Legal Framework and Regulation

The Amsterdam Red Light District operates within a legal framework that governs and regulates the sex industry. The city of Amsterdam, known for its progressive and liberal policies, has established laws and regulations to ensure the safety, rights, and well-being of both sex workers and the broader community.

Prostitution itself is legal in the Netherlands, and this legalization has played a crucial role in shaping the Red Light District as it exists today. The aim of the legal framework is to provide a safe and transparent environment for sex work, while also addressing issues related to human trafficking, exploitation, and public nuisance.

One of the key aspects of the legal framework is the requirement for sex workers to be registered and undergo regular health check-ups. Sex workers must register with the Chamber of Commerce and carry a valid identification card while working. This registration ensures transparency and accountability within the industry.

Regular health check-ups are mandatory for sex workers in the Red Light District. These check-ups include screenings for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and are designed to protect the health of the sex workers, clients, and the general public. This preventative approach helps reduce the spread of STIs and ensures the overall well-being of those involved in the industry.

In addition to health regulations, strict guidelines are in place to address issues such as public order and safety. Measures are taken to prevent public nuisance and maintain order in the district. The police regularly patrol the area to ensure the safety and security of both the sex workers and visitors.

Efforts are also made to combat human trafficking and provide support for victims. The Dutch government recognizes that not all individuals working in the sex industry do so voluntarily, and measures are in place to identify and assist victims of trafficking. Organizations such as the CoMensha Foundation work closely with authorities to combat human trafficking and provide support to those affected.

The regulatory framework in Amsterdam aims to strike a balance between protecting the rights and safety of sex workers and addressing issues related to exploitation and trafficking. It acknowledges that prostitution is a complex and multifaceted industry, and a comprehensive approach is required to ensure ethical practices and human rights.

While the legal framework in Amsterdam is progressive and strives to create a safe and transparent environment, challenges and debates surrounding prostitution persist. Ongoing discussions and advocacy efforts are crucial to continuously improve the regulation and support systems within the Red Light District.

By understanding and respecting the legal framework and regulations, visitors to the Red Light District can play a role in facilitating a safe and responsible environment for sex workers. Supporting initiatives and organizations that advocate for the rights and well-being of those in the industry is another way to contribute to positive change within the district.

Tourist Experience in the Red Light District

Visiting the Amsterdam Red Light District offers a unique and intriguing experience for tourists from around the world. It provides an opportunity to delve into an environment that is both controversial and captivating, where the worlds of legalized sex work and cultural attractions collide.

For many tourists, curiosity and intrigue draw them to the Red Light District. It’s important to approach the district with an open mind and a respectful attitude. Recognize that the Red Light District is not merely an entertainment zone, but a neighborhood where people live and work.

As you wander through the district, you’ll encounter a vibrant and energetic atmosphere. The streets are lined with a variety of establishments, each marked by its signature red-lit window. Behind these windows, sex workers await clients and offer their services.

It’s crucial to remember that the sex workers in the windows are individuals with their own autonomy and agency. Respect their privacy and avoid taking photographs or engaging in any form of harassment. The sex workers have the right to refuse service, and it’s important to accept their decision gracefully.

While the district is primarily known for its adult entertainment, there is more to discover beyond the explicit displays. The Red Light District is home to a range of cultural and historical attractions that provide a deeper understanding of the neighborhood and its rich history.

The Oude Kerk, or Old Church, is one such landmark. Dating back to the 13th century, it is the oldest building in Amsterdam and stands as a peaceful oasis amidst the bustling streets. The church also hosts art exhibitions and organ concerts, offering a different perspective on the district.

There are also several museums dedicated to the history and culture of the Red Light District and the sex industry. These museums provide insights into the evolution of the district, the lives of sex workers, and the broader social and political contexts surrounding the industry.

While exploring the Red Light District, you’ll also find an array of bars, cafes, and restaurants. These establishments offer a chance to relax and immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of the district. From traditional Dutch cuisine to international fare, there is something to suit every palate.

It’s important to be aware of your surroundings and personal belongings while in the district. Like any popular tourist area, the Red Light District can attract pickpockets and opportunistic individuals. Keep your valuables secure and be mindful of your personal safety.

Lastly, consider the impact of your visit to the Red Light District. Support businesses that operate ethically and responsibly within the industry. You can also consider donating to organizations that provide support and resources to sex workers, contributing to the well-being and empowerment of those involved.

Visiting the Red Light District can be an educational and thought-provoking experience. By approaching it with respect, open-mindedness, and a desire to learn, you can gain a deeper understanding of Amsterdam’s intriguing culture and history.

Cultural and Historical Attractions in the Red Light District

Beyond its infamous reputation, the Amsterdam Red Light District is also home to a wealth of cultural and historical attractions. From centuries-old landmarks to thought-provoking museums, these notable sites provide a deeper understanding of the district’s rich heritage and the broader social contexts surrounding the area.

One of the most iconic cultural attractions in the Red Light District is the Oude Kerk, or Old Church. Dating back to the early 13th century, this striking medieval church is not only the oldest building in Amsterdam but also a symbol of the district’s deep-rooted history. Its Gothic architecture and serene interior offer a stark contrast to the lively streets outside.

Within the walls of the Old Church, you’ll also find temporary art exhibitions and organ concerts, providing a unique blend of historical and contemporary culture. Exploring the church and its surroundings offers a moment of reflection and contemplation amidst the bustling district.

For those interested in the history and evolution of the Red Light District, a visit to the Red Light Secrets Museum is a must. Housed in a former brothel, this interactive museum takes visitors on a journey through the world of sex work. It provides insights into the daily lives of sex workers, the industry’s historical context, and the social debates surrounding it. The museum offers a thought-provoking experience that challenges preconceptions and invites visitors to delve deeper into the complex realities of the district.

The Museum of Prostitution is another informative destination for those seeking to expand their understanding of the Red Light District. It explores the history, regulation, and culture of prostitution in Amsterdam through a range of exhibits and displays. The museum presents the stories and experiences of sex workers, shedding light on the diverse individuals involved in the industry.

Art enthusiasts will appreciate the presence of contemporary art galleries in the Red Light District. These galleries showcase a variety of artistic mediums and tackle a range of themes, often exploring the intersection of sexuality, identity, and societal norms. Exploring these galleries can provide a unique perspective on the district’s cultural landscape.

In addition to these dedicated cultural attractions, the Red Light District is also home to a vibrant and diverse music scene. Small music venues and bars offer live performances ranging from jazz to rock to experimental electronic music. These intimate spaces allow visitors to experience the district’s lively atmosphere and connect with local artists and musicians.

As you delve into the cultural and historical attractions of the Red Light District, take a moment to appreciate the complexities and contradictions that define this distinctive neighborhood. From the timeless beauty of the Old Church to the thought-provoking displays of the museums, these attractions provide a deeper understanding of the district’s past, present, and the broader societal issues it navigates.

Tips for Visiting the Red Light District

Visiting the Amsterdam Red Light District can be a fascinating and eye-opening experience. To ensure a respectful and enjoyable visit, it’s helpful to keep a few tips in mind before exploring this unique neighborhood.

  • Respect the privacy of the sex workers: The sex workers in the Red Light District are individuals who have chosen their profession. It’s important to respect their privacy and not take photographs or engage in any form of harassment. Remember that they have the right to refuse service and it’s essential to accept their decision gracefully.
  • Stay on the designated pedestrian areas: The Red Light District is a busy area with narrow streets. It’s important to stay on the designated pedestrian areas to ensure your safety and avoid obstructing traffic. Be mindful of cyclists and vehicles navigating the streets.
  • Do not purchase or use drugs: While the Red Light District is known for its liberal policies, it’s important to note that drug use and possession are illegal in the Netherlands. Engaging in illegal activities can lead to fines or legal consequences, so it’s best to steer clear of any involvement with drugs.
  • Be cautious with your belongings: Like any popular tourist area, the Red Light District can attract pickpockets and opportunistic individuals. Keep your valuables secure and be mindful of your personal belongings. Avoid displaying large amounts of cash or wearing expensive jewelry.
  • Choose responsible establishments: If you decide to visit a cafe, bar, or restaurant in the Red Light District, choose establishments that operate responsibly and ethically. Support businesses that are committed to the well-being and empowerment of sex workers in the district.
  • Stay informed about local laws and regulations: Familiarize yourself with the local laws and regulations of the Netherlands, particularly those related to public behavior and personal conduct. Being aware of the rules can help ensure a trouble-free visit and a positive interaction with the local community.
  • Explore beyond the windows: While the Red Light District is primarily associated with its sex industry, there is more to discover beyond the red-lit windows. Take the time to explore the district’s cultural and historical attractions, visit museums, and appreciate the vibrant atmosphere of the neighborhood.
  • Be mindful of noise levels: The Red Light District is a residential area for many people. Respect the rights of residents by keeping noise levels to a minimum, particularly during late hours. Be considerate and mindful of the local community that resides in the district.
  • Be aware of your own limits: The Red Light District can be an overwhelming and stimulating environment. It’s important to know your own limits and take breaks when needed. Pace yourself, stay hydrated, and prioritize your own comfort and well-being during your visit.

By keeping these tips in mind, you can ensure a respectful and enjoyable experience while visiting the Amsterdam Red Light District. Embrace the opportunity to explore this unique neighborhood with an open mind, while being mindful of the cultural complexities and the rights of those who live and work there.

Safety and Security in the Red Light District

When visiting any unfamiliar area, including the Amsterdam Red Light District, it’s important to prioritize safety and security. While the Red Light District is generally a safe place to visit, there are certain precautions you can take to ensure a worry-free experience.

Firstly, it’s essential to be aware of your surroundings. The Red Light District can be crowded, especially during peak tourist hours. Stay vigilant and keep an eye on your belongings to avoid becoming a target for pickpockets. Keep your bags and valuables secure, and avoid displaying expensive items such as cameras or jewelry.

Walking in groups can also enhance safety. If possible, explore the district with a companion or join guided tours to ensure you have someone to navigate the area with. Traveling in a group can help deter potential opportunistic behavior.

If you are approached by individuals offering services or substances, it’s best to decline politely and continue on your way. Engaging with suspicious individuals can lead to unwanted situations or encounters.

It’s important to note that the Red Light District is a residential area for many people. Respect the rights of residents by keeping noise levels to a minimum, particularly during late hours. Be considerate and mindful of the local community that resides in the district.

The district is regularly patrolled by police officers to maintain safety and security. If you have any concerns or need assistance, do not hesitate to approach the police. They are there to help ensure your safety and to address any issues that may arise.

If you find yourself in need of medical assistance, there are clinics and hospitals nearby that can provide the necessary care. Familiarize yourself with their locations and keep their contact information easily accessible.

Lastly, trust your instincts and use common sense. If something feels unsafe or uncomfortable, it’s best to remove yourself from the situation. It’s important to prioritize your own well-being and to make decisions that ensure both your physical and emotional safety.

By being mindful of your surroundings, respecting the local community, and taking necessary safety precautions, you can have a secure and enjoyable experience while visiting the Amsterdam Red Light District. Remember that responsible and considerate behavior contributes to creating a safer and more enjoyable environment for both locals and tourists.

The Amsterdam Red Light District is a destination that captivates with its intriguing mix of history, culture, and controversy. From the iconic red-lit windows to the centuries-old landmarks, the district offers a unique and multifaceted experience for visitors.

The district’s rich history as a trading center and its evolution into the legalized sex industry have shaped its distinctive character. It not only provides a glimpse into the complexities of the profession but also serves as a reminder of Amsterdam’s liberal attitude towards sexuality.

Exploring the Red Light District requires a balance of respect, open-mindedness, and cultural understanding. It is crucial to recognize the autonomy and agency of the sex workers and treat them with dignity. Visitors should also appreciate the historical and cultural context of the district, immersing themselves in its museums, landmarks, and vibrant atmosphere.

Safety and security should always be a priority when visiting the Red Light District. Taking basic precautions, such as being aware of your surroundings and keeping your belongings secure, can help ensure a worry-free experience.

By approaching the Red Light District with curiosity, respect, and a willingness to learn, visitors can deepen their understanding of Amsterdam’s unique culture and the complexities surrounding the sex industry. Embracing this distinctive neighborhood with empathy and an open mind will enable a more meaningful and enriching experience.

As Amsterdam continues to evolve and shape its policies around the Red Light District, it is essential for visitors to remain informed about local regulations and support initiatives focused on the well-being of sex workers. Through responsible tourism, we can contribute to creating an environment that upholds the rights and dignity of those involved in the industry.

So, whether you’re drawn to explore the cultural attractions, delve into the historical significance, or simply wish to witness this controversial neighborhood, the Amsterdam Red Light District invites you to embark on a journey that is both thought-provoking and unforgettable.

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Amsterdam Red Light District: What’s It Like (Facts & Travel Tips)

by Aileen Adalid Nightlife , Netherlands 27 comments

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Now don’t get excited. (Amsterdam Red Light District)

I’m not going to discuss an ‘ experience ‘ in a Red Light District because I would never— what…? Oh, you lost interest in reading this now? Haha! Can’t blame you, I did try to mislead you with the title. *pats myself on the back*

Anyhow, I hope you’d still stick around especially if you’re curious about Amsterdam’s famous and largest Red Light District called De Wallen . Besides, up till now, I still remember how surreal it was and I would like to share with you the experience that I had.

…And yes it really was my first time to step into such a place because in Asia, though our RLDs are equally ‘famous’, they are not the kind of tourist attractions that the general public would look out for (unless you’re a man or woman seeking for the other kind of tourism: sex tourism).

Where to Stay in Amsterdam?

Come and check out my detailed post on the ‘ Best Hotels in Amsterdam ‘

Simply put: it’s a shady business, which is much like everything else in the world. For example, the ones we have back in the Philippines are disguised as bars, KTVs, massage parlors, or clubs since it’s definitely considered illegal; however, the government turns a blind eye on it since it’s ‘very profitable’ due to the sexpats .

Besides, even if I’m curious about how it works or looks like, I wouldn’t dare venture into those establishments or streets during their ‘peak hours’ because:

  • I value my life, thank you very much
  • I have visions of pimps kidnapping me, and;
  • I also don’t want to be mistaken as one of the girls .

However, the Amsterdam Red Light District is somehow different . Similar, yet altogether different.

It has a tinge of seediness— of course, that feeling will always be there —but for the most part, it felt or seemed so… normal .

Nothing is ‘hidden’ either; they’re as vocal, straight-forward, and transparent as they could be to the public, probably due in part to how prostitution in the Netherlands is legal : establishments have clear huge neon lights directly advertising sex shows or peep shows, and of course, there are the rows of tiny rooms with the scantily-clad girls, offering their services behind a glass door/window that’s illuminated in red.

This kind of red light district is NOT only found in Amsterdam. It’s a common thing in the whole of Europe; Antwerp, for example, has something similar to this and it was more ‘organized’ in a sense that the windows are in a flowing manner, whereas the ones here in Amsterdam are very scattered and you have to walk through small side streets etc. . RELATED READ: Amsterdam Coffeeshop First-Timer Tips

Table of Contents

Amsterdam Red Light District

Amsterdam Red Light District, Moulin Rouge

“IT FELT NORMAL” : I say this because it was such a ‘touristy’ place. You can see families strolling around, eager to see the ‘ oddity ‘ of this nightlife spot—and yes, there were even families with kids — which still baffles me to this day.

Of course, you will also see the occasional man negotiating and talking to a ‘window girl’ (he gets in, a red curtain will be drawn over the window, once done, he gets out in a rush). BUT the number of curious couples and groups were far more rampant, that the Amsterdam Red Light District becomes a mystifying thing on its own. Groups of girls during their ‘hen night’ or bachelorette party are common here too; most likely giggling around and daring one another to watch the sex shows.

There were even police people stationed at certain spots to ensure that public order is maintained. In fact, it can be said that the Amsterdam Red Light District here is one of the safest areas in Amsterdam because of the number of policemen, as well as the bodyguards (pimps?) that the girls personally have.

I’m here to simply inform you how I saw and interpreted this RLD. If you’re curious how prostitution is handled in this side of the world, then, by all means, visit it yourself and quench your inquiring mind or continue reading this post. . I, for one, was peculiar about Amsterdam’s liberal and tolerant attitude about all of this, that’s why I wanted to see for myself how they embrace the fact that some people are just into prostitution, soft drugs (read my experience with that as I visited their special Amsterdam coffeeshops ), and pornography—that it is all a ‘human’ thing. That rather than banning it (because it will always be there; people will always find a way) it’s better to regulate it in order to protect the women involved.

But naturally, if you’re the kind of person who hates these kinds of things in the first place, then surely don’t go; you’ll definitely end up loathing it.

Also, if you’re a family, please don’t bring your kids to the Amsterdam Red Light District; let them discover this place on their own when they are older. But I guess… okay, whatever floats your boat. Society is becoming more open-minded than before and I could understand if some parents want to expose their kids to the realities of this world, but I do hope to goodness that you guys are mindful of what you’re doing.

– – –

“IT IS LEGAL” : Prostitution was legalized in Amsterdam back in 2000 with the aim of regulating the business, protecting the women, and ensuring that organized crime, human trafficking, or money laundering are kept at bay.

With this, prostitution became some sort of a ‘ legitimate business’ wherein all girls have to be registered in the government with a self-employed status (to also ensure that they are not younger than 21) and are positioned in the same tax bracket as that of a tour guide. So yes, they do pay taxes and they have to be officially licensed.

The girls also have the right to choose which customers to take in (it must all be consensual) , and if ever there’s trouble—money dispute or a bad customer—they always have an alarm button in their area that would connect them to the police who are just minutes or seconds away (remember how I said that they’re scattered around the RLD?).

However, I understand that we can never know, despite all the efforts of the government to regulate this business, if there are girls who are still involved in human trafficking (there’s a high chance that there still are) . But for the most part, this appears to be seasonal work for some girls who leave their European countries, looking for profitable work in a short period (like 6 months or more) so that they can return to their country with a small fortune.

Laws for prostitution vary across Europe but the 8 countries: Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Greece, Turkey, Hungary, and Latvia have made prostitution legal and regulated so that there won’t be room for exploitation with the prostitutes. . Some countries, however, made prostitution wholly illegal, either criminally prosecuting the clients or the prostitutes themselves. Whereas countries like Spain, Belgium and the Czech Republic have prostitution as not officially and not legally regulated; they are simply tolerated or recognized as a job and a laissez-faire.

» Where is the Red Light District: De Wallen?

Girls on Red Windows - Amsterdam

De Wallen or De Walletjes is located in the oldest part of the city, covering several blocks to the south of the church of Oude Kerk and a 10-minute walk away from the Amsterdam Central Station. (There are no tram stops nearby but the nearest station is Nieuwmarkt).

The Amsterdam Red Light District consists of a network of alleys containing approximately 300 tiny one-room cabins rented by prostitutes and that together with the other lesser-known prostitution areas Singelgebied and Ruysdaelkade , form the Rosse Buurt (red light areas) of Amsterdam.

The old canals Oudezijds Voorburgwal and Oudezijds Achterburgwal pass through this Amsterdam Red Light District as well, giving the place a distinct charm.

But then again, without the sex shops, red windows, and whatnot, this area already holds a sense of glamour as it is the most medieval part of the city—given its old buildings and 14th-century architecture. (It’s actually along these canals where you will find the main part of the Red Light District. It’s easy to spot because you’ll see all the establishments that hold sex shows. To see more ‘red windows’, you will have to go through the side streets and alleyways.)

» Amsterdam Red Light District Do’s and Don’ts

  • While strolling around, I personally witnessed a girl getting mad at a guy who took a photo of her; I didn’t know what happened next but it’s likely (like what other people’s stories go) that they will ensure that it’s deleted/gone — or worse, crush the camera or phone. So it’s best that you respect the girls’ privacy.
  • Mind your belongings – the place is safe with all the clusters of policemen, but still, due to the crowd, pick-pocketing can happen. So always try to go in groups or at least go with someone so you don’t attract any unwanted attention especially in the side streets.
  • Don’t start a conversation with the girls – IF you don’t intend to do any business with them; they or their bodyguards will get mad at you for wasting their time. Nevertheless, it’s okay to look at them; they don’t go out of their windows to seek ‘business’ from you anyway.
  • Don’t buy from dealers – sometimes there are people who will try to sell you drugs or bikes here. Do NOT buy them. As I’ve mentioned in my other post about ‘soft drugs’, they are only allowed to be sold in ‘coffee shops’ so if you buy them outside , you’ll find yourself on the other side of the law!
  • Go at night – though there can be girls already at their windows during daylight, it’s less lively. So to get a better feel of the RLD, go and visit during night time when it’s filled with people and the neon lights are on to illuminate the area and the canals. It’s at its peak during 11PM; though at 9PM, the atmosphere could already be busy.
  • READ: Things to Do in Amsterdam

» What else to do?

Bronze statue of Belle

Aside from the girls on the red glass windows/doors, there are a lot more things for you to do here in De Wallen .

By the way, before I go on, let me tell you some observations that I had while I walking around this vicinity. Other than witnessing someone getting apprehended for taking photos of one of the girls, and seeing a man rushing out of a ‘cabin room’ after finishing his business, I have also witnessed how these girls would normally act behind their glass windows/doors:

  • Sitting, standing, or just staring at the onlookers
  • Texting on their phones
  • If they are in single closed rooms, they would open their doors slightly, animatedly talking to one another and ignoring everyone that passes by .
  • Dance slightly
  • One of them smiled + waved to me that somehow, I felt giddy; it happened so rarely that I had to tell my friend who was with me that “Someone smiled at me!!
  • I never saw a boy behind the glass doors/windows but I’ve been told that they exist. Probably they are out when it’s really late. We were at the RLD around 9PM-10PM.

Now of course everyone is wearing provocative clothing (lingerie, swimsuits, etc.) sporting different designs and whatnot; some even wear clothing that would illuminate under the neon light of their windows/doors. A part of me became a bit conflicted, thinking about how they couldn’t find another job—but then I also had to sensibly think that there are people who enjoy being sex workers. The truth of the matter is, I’ll never know their background nor intent, so I had to keep certain thoughts at bay.

Moreover, given the laws and protection that the Netherlands gives plus the fact that most of them didn’t seem to be ‘caged up’ (texting away, valuing their privacy so people from back their home town won’t find out, etc.) gives me a bit of assurance that they weren’t involved in human trafficking.

Moving on to the other things to do in De Wallen …

Casa Rosso Theatre, Amsterdam

For those who want the erotic stuff , there are plenty of sex and peep shows. The top 3 popular places for these can be easily identified by their distinct elements: the pink elephant sign from Casa Rosso (oldest live sex theatre in Amsterdam), the red figure signs from Moulin Rouge (not to be confused with the French show), and the yellow banana sign from Banana Bar (said to be for those who are looking for more interaction).

This was NOT my cup of tea so if you want to know what exactly happens in these places, you’ll have to discover it yourself. I noticed though that there seemed to be a fair amount of couples and groups of girls who seem to be the kind of ‘general audience’ that these establishments get.

Another observation: the ‘bouncers’ who are outside the Casa Rosso and Moulin Rouge were insanely friendly. Despite their body size and bulky appearance, it was a bit of a sight seeing them talking to people with all smiles as they try to entice them to come in and watch a show. (Well, they must bring in some business!)

And oh, if I may add, they were wearing suits! One of the guys outside Moulin Rouge was even wearing a tuxedo and he reminded me a lot of Michael Buffer (that “ Let’s get ready to rumbleeeee! ” ring announcer guy).

Condomerie, Amsterdam

For those who are looking for goods, there are a LOT of sex shops in De Wallen! Just stroll around and you’re bound to see one. This was also the first time that I have seen sex toys so I was in a giggle fit all throughout our ‘exploration’— like come on… seriously? Some people can fit that in?

Anyhow, they were fun places! The store people don’t seem to mind if you snap photos away either and they don’t even mind if you’re a bundle of laughter (I guess they get it all the time). Actually, in these sex shops, I never saw someone going in there to buy something; it’s rather full of giggling couples and friends!

Anyways, there’s one interesting shop that you should visit which is Condomerie ( buy some funny condom souvenirs here for your friends but taking photos inside is NOT allowed) and if you’re into exploring sexuality in an ‘olden fashion’, then drop by the Sex Museum !

For the other kind of ‘goods’ like cannabis or weed, there are coffee shops scattered around the RLD too.

READ : Amsterdam Coffeeshops

Oude Kerk Church

For those who want history, culture and landmarks, RLD has it! Remember that this is Amsterdam’s oldest part so it’s still full of interesting normal areas. There’s the 800-year-old Oude Kerk (the city’s oldest parish church), there’s even the picturesque street of Zeedijk (Amsterdam’s Chinatown), the dreamy canals of Oudezijds Voorburgwal and Oudezijds Achterburgwal.

» Top Amsterdam Red Light District Tours «

Red Light Walking Tour

Red Light Walking Tour Explore the red light district with local guide!

Red Light Secrets Museum

Red Light Secrets Museum Get to know the girls of the Red Light District!

Amsterdam Red Light District

Amsterdam’s red light district is a unique kind of wonder in itself and it’s up to you if you want to witness it or not.

But remember that this isn’t what Amsterdam is all about either; that’s why I suggest that you don’t visit this first and only. (To see the other activities that you can do, go here .)

And again, in no way am I supporting this business but as a traveler, I felt the need to see this for myself—I want to quench my curiosity and gain an understanding as to how this part of the world deals with such a business.

To end this post, remember this: “ Every window and door has a story .”

So respect the girls; they may be sex workers but they are human like you. Some of them choose to work there, while some have no choice but to have that as their source of income. We wouldn’t know for sure who are those that are still forced to be there despite all the efforts of the government to stop human-trafficking; but we always have to consider the fact that most of these girls have this kind of work as their profession, whether it be because they enjoy it or that they just have to (financial reasons, etc.) so let’s try to put in some sensibility on this matter.

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How to start a successful blog, 27 comments.

Luca

Hahaha I live in Amsterdam and I’ve gotten so used to it. I’m 16 and when I was little, a friend of mine lived at De Wallen. When I would look out of the window, I would see the prostitutes. I asked my mom why they weren’t wearing clothes and my mom told me “they have a swimming pool inside! they’re wearing bikinis!”

She really thought I was stupid :P

Juan Ovalle

I went to Amsterdam for the first time when I was 19 and walked the RLD with my brothers. We didn’t have a guide like your post but this would have definitely been useful for a bunch of teenage first-timers then!

Bruna Venturinelli

I remember the first time I went to the Red Light and I was surprised by the girls on the windows, but today it feels normal. I don’t know. It’s weird to say that but it’s regulated by the Dutch government, so…

Aileen

Yes, true that. When I went there first, I was mystified. The second time I went, I knew the background already so it didn’t feel weird anymore :)

Kaylini Naidoo

Thanks for the honest recount Aileen. I’ve been to Amsterdam and also did a local walking tour through De Wallen. I think what I liked most about it was how the guide explained that this is a job and occupation for the individual just as any other individual would be a nurse or lawyer etc. They are there only for the purpose of making money for themselves or their families and it honestly made me feel like there was nothing sleazy about it. At the sex museums I learnt further about how dangerous the profession can be and how it’s important for the ladies to have someone ‘check in’ on them after, as there have been a number of abuse and murder cases too. I think it’s really important to highlight all aspects of a new destination and for Amsterdam this is certainly one of them!

dan

Loved the post Aileen. You gave a very honest review of how you felt and what you thought about the experience without being judgemental against the girls. One of my favorite quotes is “Dont judge a person until you have walked a mile in their shoes” Probably none of us reading the post have come close to walking in these girls shoes. (especially me, I would just fall right down in those darn high heels, lol)

I’m glad you liked this post, Dan, and I agree with you!

And oh, haha I love your last statement; heels are darn hard indeed ;)

Shailender Kumar

I have been to Amsterdam couple of times although never been to this place. But now it is there on my list, Amsterdam calling ha ha.

Really? Then you should definitely check this out then. It’s quite something.

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travel amsterdam red light district

Everything You Need to Know About Vices in Amsterdam’s Red Light District

A msterdam’s Red Light District (AKA De Wallen) is a small area that is densely packed with some of Amsterdam’s best-known businesses: coffeeshops , sex-show venues , window brothels, and sex clubs. But the Red Light District is not just for those looking to get high or get laid, the neighborhood has mix of art venues and unusual museums that can be enjoyed by everyone. No matter what you’re looking for in Amsterdam’s Red Light District, there are do’s and don’ts you should adhere to.

  • Where is the Red Light District in Amsterdam?

What is the Red Light District in Amsterdam?

Is amsterdam’s red light district legal, what drugs are legal in amsterdam’s red light district, what time should i visit the red light district, is amsterdam’s red light district safe.

  • What are the rules of the Red Light District?

Where to stay in Amsterdam’s Red Light District

Where is the amsterdam red light district.

The Red Light District, known locally as De Wallen, is the oldest neighborhood in Amsterdam. It is in close proximity to central landmarks such as Dam Square (three minutes on foot) and the main train station, Amsterdam Centraal (less than 10 minutes on foot). Oude Kerk (Old Church), the city’s oldest building, is located within De Wallen.

Amsterdam's Red Light District

Photo: username /Shutterstock

The Amsterdam Red Light District, just like red light districts in other parts of the world, is an area of a city where there are a lot of sex-oriented businesses, such as sex clubs, sex show venues, brothels, strip clubs, etc. In De Wallen, there are also a number of coffeeshops (establishments that sell cannabis products) and bars.

There are three red light districts in Amsterdam: De Wallen, Singelgebied, and Ruysdaelkadeis, with De Wallen being the most famous.

In the Netherlands, prostitution is legal, but only if it involves sex between consenting adults (people over the age of 21). Brothels, sex clubs, and other businesses where one can buy sex, need a special license to operate legally.

When it comes to cannabis, the Netherlands is tolerant of those who possess, consume, and buy the drug in a maximum amount of 0.18 ounces (five grams). Since May 25, 2023, it is illegal for anyone to smoke cannabis on the streets of Amsterdam’s Red Light District, Nieuwmarkt, and Dam Square. Those who are caught breaking the law will be fined $110 (100 €). Smoking cannabis inside coffeeshops and on the terraces of coffeeshops remains tolerated. (Note that you must be 18 or older to enter a coffeeshop.)

All drugs are illegal in the Netherlands, including cannabis. However, the law is not enforced for those who buy, consume, or possess 0.18 ounces (five grams) or less of cannabis. Coffeeshops selling small quantities for personal use are allowed to operate with a special license.

The Red Light District, or De Wallen, is a normal neighborhood, with businesses of all kinds, year-round residents, and no gates, therefore, it is always open to visitors, no matter the time of day. If you’re thinking of visiting Old Church (the city’s oldest building), patronizing a coffeeshop, a bar, a sex club, or a brothel, the best time to go is when they are open so just check out their hours of operation.

There is a heavy police presence in the Red Light District, keeping the area safe. However, as is the case in any areas packed with tourists, you should keep an eye out for pickpockets.

What are the rules of the Red Light District? Seven do’s and don’ts

Don’t drink in public.

No alcohol sign in Amsterdam's Red Light District

Photo: De Jongh Photography /Shutterstock

There is no shortage of places where you can get an adult beverage in the Red Light District, but limit your drinking to designated areas, i.e. inside and on the terraces outside of bars. Don’t drink alcohol on the street unless you want a serious fine. Public drunkenness is also not tolerated and can lend you a fine of $110 (100 €).

Do go to church

Oude Kerk (Old Church) in Amsterdam

Photo: Shutterstock

Two of Amsterdam’s most important cultural sites are located in the Red Light District, and they happen to both be churches turned into museums. The first is the Oude Kerk (old church). Built in 1305, it’s the oldest building in Amsterdam. Inside, you can learn about the history of the church and catch a classical music concert or check out a contemporary art exhibition.

Onze Lieve Heer op Zolder (Our Lord in the Attic) is a little less conventional. Built in 1663 in a beautiful canal house that once belonged to a wealthy inhabitant of the city, Our Lord in the Attic is a clandestine — celebrating mass in public was forbidden in 17th-century Amsterdam — and today is a museum dedicated to tolerance and religious freedom.

Don’t buy illegal drugs

Cannabis is illegal in Amsterdam. That said, the authorities have a tolerance policy, so coffeeshops are allowed to sell cannabis and you won’t be prosecuted for possessing or buying cannabis if the amount is smaller than 0.18 ounces (five grams). Above that amount, however, all bets are off.

The tolerance policy doesn’t extend to other drugs. Amsterdam is not a free-for-all, so don’t go about town possessing, buying, and using pills, heroin, cocaine, and meth — you will be in serious trouble if caught.

Do treat others as you would like to be treated — including sex workers

Many residents of the red-light district complain that the tourists treat the area like a theme park. The Red Light District is a neighborhood of Amsterdam where people live, work, and go about their daily lives. Keep your voice to a respectable level at night, don’t throw up on people’s doorstep, don’t pee all over the place, and don’t leave trash behind. Most importantly, don’t harass the sex workers or take photos/videos of them without their consent. They’re people, too.

Do visit the Red Light Secrets Museum of Prostitution

Museum of Prostitution in Amsterdam

Photo: MindStorm /Shutterstock

If you want to find out what is behind the windows of the shops in the Red light District without visiting one yourself, check out the Red Light Secrets Museum of Prostitution .

Located in a former brothel in a 17th-century canal house, the museum is a window into the lives of the sex workers in the district. Inside, you can walk through replicas of the rooms where the sex workers meet their clients and listen to interviews of the women and men who work in the neighborhood.

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Is Amsterdam Safe? Warnings and Dangers Travelers Need to Know

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Amsterdam is one of Europe’s most visited cities for good reason. The Netherlands’ postcard-perfect metropolis, lined with canals, tulips, and bicycling lanes, is almost impossibly rich in art, culture, and history. It’s also as welcoming as it is beautiful. And those wondering “Is Amsterdam safe?” can be pointed to The Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2019 report , which ranks Amsterdam as the world’s fourth safest city—and Europe’s number-one safest city.

But that’s not to say that Amsterdam travel warnings don’t exist, or that the Amsterdam crime rate doesn’t register. The Dutch city still has its problems. Indeed, much of the concern is due to the chance of terror attacks, which has ballooned throughout Europe in recent years; more on that below.

It’s also worth mentioning that Amsterdam’s violent crime rate has seen a recent sharp spike , mostly linked to drug trafficking, though commonplace muggings and robberies in Amsterdam have increased somewhat as well. According to recent figures, Amsterdam’s property crimes, including pickpocketing and thefts out of cars, are on the decline, and sex crimes are slightly down, too.

Regardless of when you’re planning to visit Amsterdam, here’s a rundown of the Amsterdam dangers you need to be most aware of, and what you need to know and do in order to maintain your safety in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam Travel Guide

Tips for Safety in Amsterdam

  • Is Amsterdam dangerous? Not if you know where to go. There aren’t too many areas to avoid in Amsterdam, although sightseeing the Red Light District after dark can be risky. Steer clear of southeast Amsterdam’s Bijlmer area as well. Instead, spent time in the safest places to stay in Amsterdam—they include the Old Centre, the Jordaan, Grachtengordel South, the Old Jewish Quarter, and the Museum Quarter.
  • Pickpockets are active in Amsterdam, and the most likely people to fall victim are tourists who look distracted or insecure, or who are prominently exhibiting valuables. Criminals also try to scam tourists by selling them used transit tickets, stolen bikes, and fake gold rings. Planning on buying drugs in Amsterdam? Stick to the legal marijuana sold in licensed coffee shops. Every other type of drug is still illegal in the Netherlands, and it’s definitely against the law to be procuring any form of narcotics from dealers on the street.
  • Amsterdam’s Red Light District is mostly safe for travelers who come to see it by day. But nighttime in De Wallen is a different story, with intoxicated crowds, scammers galore, and an industry that depends in large part on exploiting foreign-born women who are victims of sex trafficking.

Areas to Avoid—and the Safest Places to Stay—in Amsterdam

How safe is Amsterdam? As with most destinations, that depends on where you go—and don’t go—within the city. There are definitely areas to avoid staying in Amsterdam, and it’s certainly worth knowing which are the safest places to stay in Amsterdam.

If you were to look at an Amsterdam safety map, you’d see that the vast majority of Amsterdam neighborhoods are safe for walking around in—even alone—with a few key exceptions. One of the areas to avoid in Amsterdam after dark is the city’s infamous Red Light District. While it’s filled with all types of people during the day, the area attracts a much seedier population at night, including pickpockets and drug dealers.

Another area that negatively affects the Amsterdam crime rate is called Southeast (Zuidoost), or the Bijlmer , which, thankfully, is a distance from any of Amsterdam’s tourist mainstays. Full of impoverished migrants from around the world, the Bijlmer’s crime rate is higher than elsewhere in Amsterdam; best to stay away.

Those looking for the safest places to stay in Amsterdam might book a hotel in the Old Centre, which is near Amsterdam’s main tourist attractions (but also not far from the Red Light District, which might not appeal to everyone). Other attractive, safe areas in Amsterdam include the Jordaan (far from attractions, but gorgeous canals), Grachtengordel South (good for nightlife), the Old Jewish Quarter and Plantage, the Eastern Docklands and Amsterdam Noord, as well as the culture-rich Museum Quarter.

10 Safety Mistakes Women Shouldn’t Make When Traveling Alone

Is Amsterdam’s Red Light District Safe?

Amsterdam is famous, of course, for its sexy Red Light District. But is Amsterdam’s Red Light District safe for travelers to visit? When the sun is shining, the answer is yes. But when dusk rolls in, so do the criminals and other shady types. Crowds of intoxicated people converge in De Wallen to sell and do drugs, pick tourists’ pockets, and objectify the women in the windows—whatever you do, don’t take pictures of the sex workers .

While Amsterdam’s Red Light District is mostly safe for tourists, it’s less so for many of its sex workers, many of whom are victims of trafficking. While some of the women who work as prostitutes in Amsterdam’s Red Light District do so willingly, others —especially the foreign-born ones—were bought and sold as slaves, brought to the Netherlands against their will, and were forced to have plastic surgery and abortions. It’s this chilling fact that’s forcing the government to consider what to do with the Red Light District and its problems. Meanwhile, as a traveler, it’s your choice whether to patronize a district whose key source of income and fame is the brazen commodification of women.

10 Travel Safety Tips You Can Learn from the CIA

How to Get Around Safely in Amsterdam

Pickpockets in Amsterdam should be chief among travelers’ concerns while visiting the city: As in any tourist-heavy destination, Amsterdam pickpockets prey most on those who look distracted or insecure, or who are prominently exhibiting valuables. So walk confidently and keep all of your possessions out of sight (at home or in your hotel safe, preferably) to protect yourself from becoming a victim of theft in Amsterdam. Children as young as age nine often work in groups, at the behest of adult criminals, to steal travelers’ valuables. Be particularly alert for thieves in Amsterdam’s Red Light District, as well as in Centraal Station and at the Bloemenmarkt.

Other matters to consider when thinking through Amsterdam safety: None of the canals have fences or barriers , so watch children closely and be cautious if you’re cycling. Speaking of bicycles, they’re stolen quite frequently here, and they hit people sometimes too, so never walk in a bicycle lane, and look both ways before crossing one, just as you would do with a street full of cars.

In Amsterdam, public transportation and taxis are safe. The Canadian government notes that road conditions and transit safety are “excellent throughout the country.” Taxis are required to use meters ; make sure your driver turns on the meter so that you don’t get price-gouged. There are also more than 2,000 illegal taxis operating in Amsterdam; to make sure yours is legit, check to see that it displays the proper licensing.

Ride-sharing apps including Lyft and Uber are available in Amsterdam, though it’s important to take the usual precautions. When waiting for your ride, choose a busy, well-lit area, and when the vehicle arrives, confirm that the driver’s face and license plate match what comes up on your phone. Don’t tell the driver your name when you arrive; ask for the name on the booking instead. Then sit in the back seat, never the front. During the drive, share your progress with a friend or family member.

11 Important Rideshare Safety Tips for Travelers

There are certain scams in Amsterdam that travelers should be aware of. Common Amsterdam scams include crooks trying to sell used public transit tickets, stolen bikes , and fake gold rings to tourists.

Amsterdam has historically been known for its liberal stance on marijuana, but if you’re planning on buying drugs in Amsterdam, keep in mind that it’s still illegal—and imprudent—to buy cannabis anywhere except from Amsterdam’s licensed coffee shops . All other drugs, including cocaine, remain illegal throughout the Netherlands, and collaborating with street dealers in Amsterdam can lead you into lots of trouble: Fun-seeking travelers who follow street dealers into dark alleyways to get drugs in Amsterdam often find themselves with a gram of something faux—and robbed of their cash and phone.

A different kind of problem involving drugs in Amsterdam happens when an unsuspecting reveler leaves a cocktail unattended, or accepts a drink from a stranger, only to fall victim to drink spiking. The Canadian government urges travelers to Amsterdam to “never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances, as they may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.” In addition, never become so intoxicated in Amsterdam that you can’t keep your wits about you to minimize your risk of being mugged, drugged, or worse.

Though Amsterdam’s risk of natural disasters is very low—save for the occasional strong windstorm, during which you should take cover—the same can’t be said for Amsterdam’s risk of terrorism, unfortunately. According to the U.K. government , “Terrorists are likely to carry out attacks in the Netherlands.” Be on high alert in crowded tourist spots, report any suspicious packages, follow local authorities’ instructions in the event of an attack, and enroll in the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to make it easier to locate you, should an attack occur.

Finally, plenty of would-be travelers wonder: Is it safe to travel to Amsterdam alone? Thankfully, that answer is yes, even if you’re female ; Amsterdam is a remarkably safe city for solo women to visit. That said, if you’re alone in Amsterdam, it’s still important to take the normal precautions that you would anywhere—don’t get incapacitated, don’t buy anything illegal, steer clear of remote areas, and always appear confident and keep your wits about you.

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—original reporting by Avital Andrews

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Amsterdam’s Red Light District: The Dos And Don’ts

Learn about the etiquette of what to do and what not to do in Amsterdam's Red Light District.

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Tourists are fascinated by Amsterdam’s Red Light District and the area sees large crowds. It’s distinct with rose-coloured lights, a plethora of brothels, sex shops, and theatres. Also known as De Wallen, Red Light District in Amsterdam is home to sex workers and also acts as a residential area. The district has been around since the Middle Ages and the narrow streets also have museums and restaurants apart from red light areas in Amsterdam. You can also shop till you drop by its many boutiques and stores. While it is understood that you are curious, you cannot be offensive. If you are wondering where Amsterdam’s Red Light District is—it’s just southeast of Amsterdam Centraal.  

Red-light district in Amsterdam

What Not To Do In Amsterdam’s Red Light District

1. no photos.

No matter how curious you are, do not take any pictures of the sex workers and brothels without consent. Some of the sex workers might want to remain anonymous or are not comfortable being photographed. You are free to take pictures of the streets, canals, and other surroundings.

2. No Whistling

Treat sex workers with respect. They have often felt that Amsterdam’s Red Light District is seen as a theme park. Do not harass the workers by whistling or catcalling. The area is a place of work and home to many. Be on your best behaviour.

3. No Staring

While the Red Light District in Amsterdam might be new to you, it does not warrant staring. It is rude and disrespectful. Do not stare or stand too long in front of a brothel’s windows if you have no intention of going in. Amsterdam window brothel’s opening hours start from 8 AM and go on till 6 AM the next day. Some sex workers pull eight-hour shifts. So just standing and staring will block their business.

Amsterdam red light district

4. No Drinking And Drugs

Drinking alcohol on the streets is strictly prohibited, and you can be fined 108 USD for it. Amsterdam has pleasant indoor and rooftop places to drink, so we recommend you go there. Do not think you can be discreet and get away, the area has a lot of police and you might face legal consequences. Buying, using, or possessing hard drugs like heroin, cocaine, and meth is illegal in Amsterdam. While cannabis is illegal, the authorities are tolerant of buying and selling under five grams. Anything over and you will face legal action.

5. No Littering 

Do not litter the streets of Amsterdam’s Red Light District. It harms the environment and is also against the law.

6. Don’t Indulge In Illegal Prostitution 

Sex workers are prohibited from advertising their services on the streets. So do not participate in illegal prostitution that is offered on the streets. Most sex workers want to work for brothels as it is safer. Amsterdam has over 350 window brothels so head there. Also, unprotected sex is forbidden for sex workers, so do not suggest it. 

The Dos Of Amsterdam’s Red Light District

1. relics amidst busy place: churches.

Oude Kerk is an old church that was built in 1305. It is the oldest building in Amsterdam’s Red Light District. Formerly a wooden chapel, it is now a beautiful cathedral that hosts art exhibitions and classical music concerts. The World Press Photo agency holds its annual exhibition here and the church keeps holding events regularly.

Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (translates to Our Lord in the Attic) is an unconventional church. Also called the Zolder kerk , or attic church, it used to be one where Catholics worshipped in secrecy. Built-in 1663, the church was a canal house that was owned by an affluent citizen. 

2. History In The Oldest Place In Amsterdam: Museums

Red Light District in Amsterdam also has an erotic museum on the Oudezijds Achterburgwal 54. The museum takes you through the history of the Red Light District. It is one of the two erotic museums situated in Amsterdam. The three-floor museum also showcases the erotic art of John Lennon.

Find out all about the cannabis sativa plant at the Hash, Marijuana & Hemp Museum. It aims to educate the public and inform people about its medicinal properties. You can also visit the Hemp Store which sells souvenirs like coffee, jewellery, and healthy hemp snacks.

Also Read: Check Out These Offbeat Things To Do In Amsterdam

All Kinds Of Entertainment

Amsterdam’s Red Light Area also has a lot of shopping places like the CODE Gallery Store for fashion and all kinds of red merchandise at ROOD. The area also has a lot of cafés and restaurants like Kapitein Zeppos and Blauw aan de Wal for diverse cuisine and seafood. For good beer head to De Prael. Irrespective of what your purpose is, remember that when you visit Amsterdam’s Red Light District you must conduct yourself with respect and treat everyone with respect.

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Unveil the Secrets of Amsterdam's Red Light District

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Explore the allure of Amsterdam's famed Red Light District. Click now to uncover the intriguing stories and vibrant scenes that define this iconic district!

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Red Light District

Discover amsterdam's red light district.

Anyone who has been in Amsterdam knows about the Red Light District, no doubt about that! Although people outside the Netherlands call it the Red Light District, the Dutch call it ‘De Wallen’. This name comes from the streets, some of them end with ‘wal’, something you can compare with dikes.

The neighborhood is full of sex-shops, sex-theatres, peep-shows, coffee-shops and of course the girls behind the windows. In the past, the Red Light District had about 400 windows for prostitutes, but this number has been reduced by the Amsterdam Council, mainly because of the suspicion a certain part of the girls were not working there voluntary but were supposed victims of human trafficking.

If you are visiting Amsterdam for the 1st time , it should be on your list!

About the Red Light district

Red light district amsterdam map.

Explore amsterdam

See which museums there are to discover, which activities are fun to do and what else you can see and do in Amsterdam.

Red Light District Amsterdam prices

First of all, don’t expect to find any Dutch girl behind the windows. If you have found one, you are lucky. Most girls behind the windows are from the Eastern part of Europe, like Bulgaria and Romania. If you wanna meet Dutch girls, just go to a regular bar and have a chat with them ;-).

The cost of the services from the girls depends on the services you want and how long you want to stay with her. In general, services start from € 60,- for 15 to 20 minutes.

Casa Roso in the Red Light district

How does it work?

Just walk through the streets and alleys and see the girls you like. Most of them will wink at you when you are passing by. When you approach the window she will open the door.

Now you have to negotiate with her about the services, time and the price. If you both agree, you enter the room, she will close the red curtain and you pay her in advance.

How does it work with sex-theatres and peep-shows?

One of the most well-known sex-theaters is Casa Roso. Here you can watch live performances. If you don’t want to go to a theater just watch a peep-show. You enter one of the cabins, insert Euro coins and the window will open to watch a live performance.

The price for a show at Casa Roso starts at € 60 with one drink included.

Red Light District Amsterdam along the canals

Red Light District opening hours

It’s a neighborhood where you can walk all day, there are no specific opening hours. After lunchtime, some women will take their seat behind the windows, but the area starts to live after 6 PM to 3 AM on the weekend. Casa Roso is open daily from 7 PM to 2 AM.

The women behind the windows start at the end of the afternoon till 03:00 AM, according to the new rules that take effect mid May 2023.

Is Red Light District Amsterdam safe?

Yes, in general, it’s safe. In the past, there were some problems with crime but nowadays there is more police presence in the district and the atmosphere is friendly. Still, like in every big city, you need be careful and take care of your belongings.

Best time to visit the Red Light District is between 7 PM and 12 AM in the winterseason. In the summer season after the sun goes down to see all the red en neon lights.

Street in the Red Light district in Amsterdam

  • pickpockets
  • buying drugs . You might be approached by guys asking you if you want to buy drugs. The stuff they sell is not the best around and sometimes just fake.
  • take pictures of the girls behind the windows
  • ask for unsafe sex, they won’t

Red Light District Amsterdam information

In the last years, The Amsterdam Council has bought several buildings in the Red Light District simply to shut down suspicious windows. Those windows have been changed into art galleries. Maybe around 30% of the windows have disappeared in the recent years, but the conditions for the women have been improved.

Prostitution in The Netherlands is legal, women behind the windows have in fact their own business and pay taxes.

The neighborhood is one of the oldest parts of Amsterdam, it’s full of the typical historical buildings in Amsterdam. The history of this area goes back to the 14th century!

If you want to read more about the Amsterdam Red Light district, read the wiki page .

Starting mid May 2023, the Amsterdam Council will apply new rules for the Red Light District. Windows will close at 03:00 AM and bars will close at 02:00 AM (last chance to get in is at 01:00 AM). Drinking alcohol and smoking joints will be prohibited .

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🚨 The 5 Best Red Light District Tours [2024 Reviews]

While you are in amsterdam be sure to see the famous red light district with a guided tour.

Amsterdam is known for its beautiful canals, incredible architecture, interesting history, and notorious Red Light District. This neighborhood offers a different kind of culture – one where you can find legal cannabis and sex work.

Located in the medieval city center of De Wallen, the Red Light District has not only its famous red-lit windows and workers behind them, but delicious food, stunning buildings, and much more.

However, if you want to really see it from a local’s perspective, we highly recommend doing a tour. We have all the top Red Light District tours in Amsterdam right here, so don’t go anywhere!

Be sure to see our reviews of Canal Cruises , Van Gogh Museum Tours and Windmill Tours .

Best Tours of the Red Light District in Amsterdam

Quick answer: the 5 best rated red light district tours for 2024.

  • Amsterdam Private Coffee Shop and Red Light District Walking Tour
  • Discover the Red Light District of Amsterdam at night
  • Amsterdam Private Red Light District and Food Tour
  • Amsterdam Red Light District: Private Walking Tour with Snack
  • Amsterdam Red Light District Tour with Canal Cruise

Amsterdam Red Light District Tour Reviews

1. amsterdam private coffee shop and red light district walking tour.

  • Duration: 2 to 3 hours
  • Departure: In front of the main entrance of the Park Plaza Victoria Hotel
  • Departure Time: Variety Available
  • Includes: Live tour guide

Amsterdam is a city that encourages freedom of expression, and you will find that clearly in the Red Light District. If you’re looking for a unique perspective on the neighborhood, this tour is a great way to get it.

Check out the Amsterdam: Private Coffee Shop and Red Light District Walking Tour ! Lasting 2 to 3 hours, it’s easy to fit into any schedule. We found the guides to be very prompt, and respectful of others’ time.

Your private guide will lead you through the narrow cobblestone streets as they tell you all about the history of the area. You’ll learn about the city’s liberal views regarding drugs and sex work.

Keep walking and you’ll see the sex workers’ windows, legal drug vendors, live sex shows, and hear the history behind them.

The coffee shops are a notorious part of the city, selling more than just coffee, but rather cannabis. Your guide will fill you in on what is legally allowed here, and what is not (which is helpful for anyone, really).

Keep exploring, and you’ll come across the famous Condomerie condom store, which has things you’re surely to have never seen before. Other shops sell more hardcore leather and sex products, and you’ll learn about the XXX video cabins.

Your guide will then lead you and the rest of your group to the city’s first coffee shop, where you’ll see the defense tower of the Schreierstoren. Overlooking the sea and harbor, it offers a mystical vibe about it. Today, it serves as a café and nautical bookstore

More Information & Tour Booking

100% refund for cancellations within 24 hours of tour experience, other amsterdam experiences you may enjoy:, 2.  discover the red light district of amsterdam at night.

  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Departure:  Prins Hendrikkade 47A, Prins Hendrikkade 47A, 1012 TM Amsterdam
  • Departure Time:  Variety Available

Next up, we bring you another exciting 2-hour tour – this time though, it’s going to be after dark! This is when things really start to heat up and come alive! If you haven’t seen the neighborhood later in the day, check out the Discover the Red Light District of Amsterdam at Night !

If you’ve never been here before, you may feel nervous about checking it out at night. However, with an experienced, local guide you don’t have to! They know this area like the back of their hand, and will make sure you learn a lot about it and feel comfortable, too.

Once you meet up with your guide and the rest of your group, you’ll venture into the depths of the district. It’s an absolute blast! You’ll get to see the beautiful architecture with the red-lit windows while learning about the culture and history of the city.

One of the most interesting aspects of the tour, is learning about how Amsterdam came to develop these ideals that even allow for the RLD in the first place.

Much more, how it’s become the most significant in the world, and still very much in operation, today.

See the oldest building in all of Amsterdam, and one of the oldest in the country. Stroll along the narrowest street as well, before checking out the first coffeeshop in the city. It’s a really fascinating place with tons to learn about regarding the products sold at the shop and their cultural importance.

You’ll also stop by different smart shops and an indoor prostitute street, where you’ll be able to see them, learn about the culture surrounding them, political acceptance and issues, etc.

Tour Information & Booking

Other amsterdam experiences to try:, 3. amsterdam private red light district and food tour.

  • Includes:  Private walking tour, ta sting of 3 Dutch foods

While Amsterdam’s Red Light District is definitely a place for many hedonistic ventures, it’s also one of the top neighborhoods for foodies. Oh, and if you thought that Amsterdam only offered Dutch food, you’re in for a treat!

On the Amsterdam: Private Red Light District and Food Tour you’ll certainly have some insight into local culture. You’ll start out at Amsterdam Central Station, which is pretty easy to access from any point in the city.

Here, you’ll meet your tour guide and any others attending the tour with you. Lasting approximately 2 hours, they certainly manage to fit a lot into this time.

If you have an empty block in your schedule, it’s a great way to learn a bit more about the area from a local, while also doing things you probably wouldn’t otherwise.

You’ll make the walk over to the RLD, where you’ll see various notable attractions such as the Old Church, Chinatown, the narrowest street of the city, and Amsterdam’s first coffee shop!

They do offer quite a bit of background knowledge on each site, their cultural relevance, as well as some personal anecdotes and stories. They really make each place come to life – more lively than they already are, that is!

You’ll hear about Dutch law, what’s legal, and what’s not – along with the reasoning behind each law.

Soak in all that valuable information while you try some local food, and learn about traditional Dutch snacks! Then, you’ll get to partake in a tasting of 3 Dutch foods, like krokets, Dutch cheese, and the delicious Stroopwafels.

4. Amsterdam Red Light District: Private Walking Tour with Snack

  • Departure: Contact tour operator
  • Includes: Live tour guide, s nack

Next up, we have the Amsterdam Red Light District: Private Walking Tour with Snack ! This is yet another 2-hour excursion which really is a fun way to explore a part of the city that many tourists don’t get to see.

On this private walking tour, you’ll have a professional guide who knows all the ins-and-outs of Amsterdam and who’s great at telling its history in a captivating, fun way.

Keep in mind that due to government regulations, your group can be no more than 4 people at a time. If you are going in a larger group, they’ll have to make more than 1 group out of you.

However, this is great if you’re going with just one or a couple other people. Seamlessly incorporating medieval history with modern culture, this neighborhood has a lot to offer.

You’ll stroll through the neighborhood as you hear all about how it came to be, along with notable changes throughout the years.

You’ll then walk by the red light window parlors and see legal marijuana sold from various coffee shops. Walk along the charming cobbled streets and check out the massive network of alleys with hundreds of single-room cabins rented by sex workers. All kinds of secret entryways are located here, and it’s pretty fascinating!

By now, you’re sure to have worked up an appetite. Make a stop at a local eatery to try some of the local dishes and chat with the others in your group about your experience and everything you just learned!

5. Amsterdam Red Light District Tour with Canal Cruise

  • Departure:  In front of the Amsterdam Central Station at the tram-B sign
  • Includes:  Local guide, c anal cruise

One of the most iconic parts of Amsterdam is undoubtedly its beautiful canals that wind through the city. On this tour, you’ll not only see the Red Light District and learn about its history, but also get to hop on a vessel to cruise around the stunning waterways.

If you have 3 hours to spare, do yourself a favor and sign up for the Amsterdam: Red Light District Tour with Canal Cruise ! Start out by meeting your guide at a central location that’s easy to get to for everyone.

Public transportation and great organization on behalf of the city’s systems make it a breeze. Then, venture off on your 2-hour walking tour, first. You’ll stroll around the infamous Red Light District, where your guide will lead you through all its nooks and crannies.

Learn about its history and culture surrounding it, consisting of bars, nightclubs, coffee shops, famous red windows, and so much more.

The city also has a surprisingly impressive Chinatown, which has its own set of wonders like the Buddhist Temple. You’ll get to see more amazing architecture, such as the city’s oldest church and narrowest street.

You’ll see the Condomerie, various coffee shops, sex shops, and smartshops while learning about their controversial history, as well!

Then, kick your feet up and take in the view from a canal cruise. Your guide will point out important landmarks from the water, and you’ll get to see some of these amazing homes that were built hundreds of years ago.

Sailing under so many beautiful bridges is exciting, as well, and there are even some with homes built in their structures, too!

Amsterdam Travel Guide

Getting there.

Getting to Amsterdam from the US is a breeze, as it is one of the most frequented European capitals. There are plenty of direct flights to Amsterdam from most major US cities, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Miami, and more.

KLM is the most popular airline serving Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, and sometimes they’re incredibly affordable! It all depends on the time of year you go, but you can realistically find some for under $500 from Delta, Air France, KLM, Virgin Atlantic, United, Air Canada, Lufthansa, SWISS, and others.

Getting Around

Amsterdam is an incredibly easy city to get around, due to their incredible public transportation. Even if you don’t speak Dutch, most speak English and many signs also include the English translation.

You have a network of metros, buses, trams, ferries, and trains. Walking is quite easy, however, we have to advise you to watch out for cyclists, as they are everywhere and sometimes seem to come out of nowhere if you aren’t watching.

Metro/Train – There are 5 metro routes that serve 7 major areas of the city, along with some on the outskirts of the city. 3 of those lines originate at Central Station, and are very clean and easy to get around on. They’re always perfectly on time, so make sure to get there on time. They run from 6 am to 12:30 am, and come about every 10 minutes.

Buses – With over 40 routes inside and around the city, there’s an ultra-convenient digital map on the GVB website which we highly recommend doing if you plan on using the buses. The app will tell you departures in real-time, as well as routes and stops. If you’re going to be out later than 12:30 am, the bus will save you as they run nightly from 12:30 am to 7 am every day.

Bike – This is one of the simplest and most budget-friendly ways to get around the city, as there are separate bike lanes on most larger roads and main areas of Amsterdam. Make sure you keep to the right and stop at red lights. Always keep your eyes and ears alert for trams and pedestrians who aren’t aware.

Shuttle Ferries – There are a whopping 14 different ferries that go through Amsterdam to Amsterdam-Noord. They operate 24 hours a day, every day, but range in stops from every 2 to every 30 minutes. They are free, however, so it’s a great resource to have!

Rideshare – There are plenty of rideshares available, and Uber is more convenient than a taxi if you’re heading to or from the airport.

Where to Stay

Centre – This is the best location for most people, especially if it’s your first time there. It may be a relatively compact area, but it has a lot to offer and very different areas.

Oude Centrum/Old Town – This consists of huge attractions like the Amsterdam Museum , Damrak, Rokin, Royal Palace, and some of the most impressive hotels. The Hotel The Craftsmen, Hotel TwentySeven, and others are highly recommended.

Canal Belt – Built during the 16 th century, this quarter is absolutely stunning. From the bridges to the homes, it’s unlike anything else in the world. Not to mention, it’s right on some of the biggest canals, making transportation to other parts of the city a breeze. The Ambassade and Boutique Hotel The Noblemen are our top picks.

Jordaan – We said it before, but it’s a beautiful area! Here, you’ll find Anne Frank’s House, Noordermarkt, and the Amsterdam Tulip Museum . Hotel Mercier and Mr Jordaan are top picks, but the Amsterdam Wiechmann Hotel is perfect for those on a budget.

Restaurants and Eating Out

Dutch food is surprisingly delicious, and we say “surprisingly” because we feel the food isn’t spoken about enough. There are tons of fantastic traditional dishes to try, but we recommend the Pannenkoeken (buttery pancakes made in a special Dutch way), and Bitterballen (addicted balls of breaded, fried, creamy pork). Oh, and you have to stop for some fries with the curry sauce! These are perfect for grabbing and munching on as you walk around the city.

If you’re into seafood, you’re in the right place because there are tons of fresh options like raw herring, smoked eel, and fat shrimp. This is definitely a cheese-lover’s city with gouda and edam available almost anywhere you go.

If you’re into sweets, check out both Stroopwafels (syrup-filled, warm waffles) and Poffertjes which are like little griddlecakes.

While the traditional, local food is incredible and highly-recommended, this is definitely a very international city. You’ll find everything from Mexican and Italian food to Turkish and Chinese.

Nightlife and Entertainment

Amsterdam nightlife is incredible, and easily one of the best cities in the world for nocturnal entertainment. There are tons of different clubs to suit literally every style of music – especially if you’re into electronic music.

Leidseplein – This is one of the top areas for nightlife, and caters to both locals and tourists. Melkweg is a massive club that operates some of the best weekday events like Techno Tuesdays (which are rarely not packed!). Cheeky Monday is a great way to start off the week with Drum and Bass.

Café De Spuyt or De Krul are must-visits, as they’re traditional brown cafes. Paradiso is another top-notch venue in the area, along with Cooldown Café and Bubbles which are popular with young locals.

Rembrandtplein – This is another area that’s always fun to go out in, as everything is so close together and walkable. Escape, Club Air, and Claire are some of the city’s top selections for your “typical” night out. Coco’s, Club Smokey, and Prime are also popular along with the close by coffee shops.

Red Light District – This area is probably one of the more obvious neighborhoods to go adventuring around at night. The iconic red windows and notorious coffee shops are everywhere, and while this area is full of tourist traps, there are some cool spots. Belushi’s, Hill Street Blues, and Aepjen are all fun.

Outside the City – If you’re into techno, you have to check out some of the most famous venues here – they throw massive events on a global scale. De School and Marktkantine have enormous raves!

The weather doesn’t vary a whole lot, as you can expect rain at any point. However, it is notably warmer in the summertime. It’s never really too hot, and tends to be partly cloudy. The winters do require you to bundle up though, as they can get windy, wet, and cold.

Attractions

Rijksmuseum – Founded in the late 1700’s, it was originally built to keep the country’s massive collection of art and antiquities safe. Today, you’ll find over a million artifacts ranging from back to the 1200’s to modern-day. If you’re into history, art, or literature, you’re in the right place (with over 35,000 books and manuscripts).

Anne Frank House – Be prepared, this is a pretty heavy experience. The home is quite compact and small – rather tall than wide. Much of it is the same as it was when Anne Frank lived there. While tickets often sell out, if you can manage to book a tour, you’ll get headphones to wear and listen to the stories about her and many of the other Holocaust victims.

Van Gogh Museum – Yet another hot spot for history buffs and art fans, the Van Gogh museum is dedicated to the country’s famous artist. With over almost 1,000 paintings, etchings, and drawings, you’ll want to have a guided tour of the Van Gogh Museum to fully appreciate it.

Vondelpark – This massive park covers 120 acres, and is perfect for picnicking or taking a stroll around the ponds and beautiful rose garden. However, there’s much more than just the park, itself. You’ll find various sculptures, statues, playgrounds for kids, rollerblade/bike rental places, and may even catch a concert or two!

Royal Palace – Formerly serving as the Town Hall, it was constructed in 1648 with its beautiful exterior and opulent interior complete with reliefs, ornamentation, marble sculptures, friezes, and more.

West Church – Completed in 1630, this Gothic Renaissance church stands a whopping 85 meters tall. At the very tip of the spire, you’ll see a big replica of Emperor Maximilian of Austria’s crown. Inside, you’ll be able to see a stunning organ dating back to the 1600’s and a 1906 marble column dedicated to Rembrandt.

Rembrandt House Museum – Speaking of which, the legendary artist lived in this home for 20 years, and contains many etchings and personal items from him.

Canal Tours – A great way to see the city is by the canals. Taking a canal tour will take you past most of the important tourist sites and a good way to enjoy dinner and drinks.

1. Bring some good walking shoes . No matter what, you’re likely going to find yourself walking a lot, whether that be from bar-hopping, catching a train, or sightseeing.

2. Use public transportation . Their system is one of the best out there, and you can fully rely on it at any day, any hour of the day. It’s clean, well-maintained, convenient, and budget-friendly.

3. Watch out for cyclists . They really are everywhere. Even when you think there aren’t any, one will come blazing full-force ringing the bell to make sure you know they’re coming.

4. Try the traditional food . Local cuisine is absolutely delicious, and is very fresh and flavorful.

Tour Guides

The Private Coffee Shop and RLD Walking Tour is our Editors Choice for the Amsterdam Red Light District tour

Robert Baker

Related articles, the 7 best amsterdam canal cruises [2024 reviews], the 5 best amsterdam dinner cruises [2024 reviews], the 5 best van gogh museum & rijksmuseum tours [2024 reviews], the 5 best amsterdam zaanse schans windmill tours [2024 reviews].

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COMMENTS

  1. How to see the Red Light District in Amsterdam [2024 Guide]

    Typically, when you hear people talk about Amsterdam's Red Light District, they are referring to De Wallen, which is located right in the heart of the capital. Just a 10-minute walk from the city's main train station, De Wallen is easily accessible by foot or bike.

  2. The Complete Guide to the Amsterdam Red Light District

    The Red Light District is a section of the "de Wallen" (the Walls) neighborhood in central Amsterdam that is a designated area for prostitution and sexuality explicit shows, shops, and museums. Red light districts can be found in many cities around the world, including many other Dutch cities like Haarlem and Groningen.

  3. A guide to Amsterdam's Red Light District

    Opened in 2014, brothel-turned-sex work museum Red Light Secrets gives you a behind-the-scenes glimpse and insight into the profession. You can check out bondage exhibits and other eyebrow-raising displays at the Red Light District's Erotic Museum or, for more raunchy exhibits, head northwest to the Sexmuseum Amsterdam, between Centraal Station ...

  4. Red Light District Amsterdam: 12 Things You NEED To Know Before Visiting

    The red lights are a symbol of the district's trade, and they have become an integral part of its identity. However, it's crucial to respect the privacy and autonomy of sex workers. Taking photos of them is strictly prohibited, and it's important to refrain from harassment. 4. Sex Work in Amsterdam.

  5. Know Before You Go: Visiting Amsterdam's Red Light District

    The Red Light District is one of Amsterdam's most visited places, with tourists flooding its neon-lit alleys, museums, and smoke-filled coffee shops daily. Despite being better known for its more X-rated activities, the neighborhood is also one of Amsterdam's oldest—with many historic churches, scenic bridges, and buildings to explore.

  6. Red Light District

    Red Light District. Amsterdam's De Wallen area is home to one of the world's most famous red light districts. Take a stroll to soak up the rousing yet beautiful lights, or visit the Red Lights Secrets Museum to learn more about Amsterdam's sex work profession. The district is also known for its trendy coffee shops, bars, and clubs.

  7. Red Light District Amsterdam Questions

    Believe it or not, there are three red districts in Amsterdam. The most famous red light district is known as De Wallen. Located near the city center, it covers more than 17 alleys and streets and includes more than 200 window brothels with plenty more sex workers. But there are other red light districts in Amsterdam.

  8. An Ultimate Guide to the Amsterdam Red Light District

    The most famous Red Light District street in Amsterdam is Oudezijds Achterburgwal in De Wallen. Located in the city's central area. It's well-known for its window brothels, sex shops, peep shows, and museums. Despite its reputation, De Wallen has a historic charm, featuring beautiful centuries-old buildings and canals.

  9. Amsterdam Red Light District: What's It Like (Facts & Tips)

    The Amsterdam Red Light District is characterized by its unique layout and structure, which adds to the allure and mystique of the neighborhood. Spread across several small streets in the city center, the district is a vibrant and bustling area that attracts both tourists and locals alike. The heart of the Red Light District is defined by two ...

  10. Amsterdam Red Light District: What's It Like (Facts & Tips)

    De Wallen or De Walletjes is located in the oldest part of the city, covering several blocks to the south of the church of Oude Kerk and a 10-minute walk away from the Amsterdam Central Station.(There are no tram stops nearby but the nearest station is Nieuwmarkt). The Amsterdam Red Light District consists of a network of alleys containing approximately 300 tiny one-room cabins rented by ...

  11. Guide to the Red Light District Amsterdam

    The Amsterdam Pass will give you an in-depth tour into the city's most controversial neighbourhood with a plethora of intriguing tales and noteworthy facts of the area. Starting at 7pm, these tours start as the sun sets and the area becomes alive. Apart from the obvious offerings that spring to mind, the Red Light District also has a host of ...

  12. Secrets of the Red Light District in Amsterdam: Etiquette and Hidden

    1 The History of De Wallen and prostitution in Amsterdam. 2 Etiquette for visiting the Red Light District of Amsterdam. 2.1 Sex workers are people too. 2.2 Do not take photos of the women in the windows! 2.3 Avoid any "tours" of the windows. 2.4 Avoid shouting and littering.

  13. Red Light District Amsterdam

    De Wallen. De Wallen has been around since Amsterdam's earliest days. It's become known as the red light district, but is a pretty neighbourhood in the heart of historic Amsterdam. In its early days De Wallen became a draw for sailors as in 1270 a bridge was built to connect Amsterdam's islands, making the connections between each place ...

  14. Amsterdam's Red Light District: What to Do and Not Do

    A msterdam's Red Light District (AKA De Wallen) is a small area that is densely packed with some of Amsterdam's best-known businesses: coffeeshops, sex-show venues, window brothels, and sex clubs.But the Red Light District is not just for those looking to get high or get laid, the neighborhood has mix of art venues and unusual museums that can be enjoyed by everyone.

  15. AMSTERDAM Travel Guide

    The ULTIMATE Amsterdam travel guide. From those infamous coffee shops to the Red Light District, Amsterdam is full of surprises and jaw dropping moments. Her...

  16. Is Amsterdam Safe? Warnings About the Red Light District and More

    Amsterdam's Red Light District is mostly safe for travelers who come to see it by day. But nighttime in De Wallen is a different story, with intoxicated crowds, scammers galore, and an industry ...

  17. Is Amsterdam's Red Light District Safe for Travelers?

    Amsterdam, known for its Red Light District, planned to ban foreigners from its famous 'coffee shops' where you can order dope straight up or cloaked in a milkshake. Just as the new "locals only" laws came into effect, there was a change of government. Although technically speaking you need a "weed pass" to purchase, the government has ordered ...

  18. Amsterdam's Red Light District: The Dos And Don'ts

    Amsterdam has over 350 window brothels so head there. Also, unprotected sex is forbidden for sex workers, so do not suggest it. The Dos Of Amsterdam's Red Light District 1. Relics Amidst Busy Place: Churches. Oude Kerk is an old church that was built in 1305. It is the oldest building in Amsterdam's Red Light District.

  19. Red Light District in Amsterdam

    In the past, the Red Light District had about 400 windows for prostitutes, but this number has been reduced by the Amsterdam Council, mainly because of the suspicion a certain part of the girls were not working there voluntary but were supposed victims of human trafficking. If you are visiting Amsterdam for the 1st time, it should be on your list!

  20. What it's like to live in Amsterdam's red-light district

    1 of 10. CNN —. Amsterdam's De Wallen red-light district has long been one of the city's most provocative neighborhoods thanks to its notorious window brothels. But the historic area has ...

  21. The 5 Best Red Light District Tours [2024 ...

    Amsterdam Red Light District Tour Reviews. 1. Amsterdam Private Coffee Shop and Red Light District Walking Tour. Tour Highlights: Duration: 2 to 3 hours. Departure: In front of the main entrance of the Park Plaza Victoria Hotel. Departure Time: Variety Available. Includes: Live tour guide. Amsterdam is a city that encourages freedom of ...

  22. Amsterdam's Red Light District Revealed

    Long famous as a bastion of social tolerance, Amsterdam actually has 3 red light districts (the other 2 are in the city's De Pijp and Singel neighborhoods), but it's the one in De Wallen at the city center that's best known to the world. With its roots stretching back centuries to a time when this was a harborside anything-goes zone full of lonely sailors and friendly working women, De Wallen ...

  23. Amsterdam Makes Big Changes to Red Light District

    Last updated: 12:00 PM ET, Fri February 10, 2023. The atmosphere in Amsterdam's red light district might feel a little different the next time you pay a visit to the Dutch capital. The BBC reported that in an attempt to cut down on the trouble that tourists cause local residents, Amsterdam is set to enact new measures that will ban smoking ...