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How to see the Red Light District in Amsterdam [2023 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 2023 [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 2023

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 2023]

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 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 2023]

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 [2023 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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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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The BEST Red Light District Tours for 2023 – With Reviews!

The BEST Red Light District Tours for 2023 – With Reviews!

How to do a red light district tour in amsterdam.

Image from author Larissa

Welcome to Amsterdam, a city known for its rich history, artistic heritage, and picturesque canals. Beyond its cultural offerings, Amsterdam has another side, one that’s both intriguing and notorious—the Red Light District, or De Wallen.  To truly understand the culture and history of this district, join us on a journey through our comprehensive Red Light District tours.

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The Best Food Tours in Amsterdam and other Dining Experiences

In this guide, we’ll explore the advantages of taking a Red Light District tour in Amsterdam, share expert tips for an unforgettable experience, and answer the seven most frequently asked questions about this enigmatic destination.

Larissa-Circle-Loving-New-York

Too long to read?

Do you want to know our recommendation for the BEST tour of the Red Light District in Amsterdam? Here it is:

  • Duration: 1.5 hours
  • Includes : Snacks, shots & guide accompaniment
  • Language: English, German and Dutch.
  • Price: Less than 30 Euros
  • Program: The main and most historic points of the Red Light District in Amsterdam with lots of information, jokes and curiosities.
  • Payment: Book now and pay later or pay now and have free cancellation up to 24 hours in advance.
  • Disadvantage: It’s not a small group tour, usually around 15 people take part.

Why is this the best tour? Because it’s a basic, low-cost, and comfortable option. In the course of 1.5 hours you REALLY learn a lot about the Red Light District and then you can explore on your own feeling much more confident.

BOOK The Best Red Light District Tour 

table of content

How was my Amsterdam Red Light District Tour?

Incredible. I opted for the “ Amsterdam Red Light District & Coffee Shop Tour ” which started at 8 p.m. As it was summer, it was still daylight, but soon the sun went down and we had the experience of seeing all the red lights shining in the dark. The tour guide was very attentive and incredibly funny and it lasted almost 2.5 hours . The group was small , 6 people, so we could ask a lot of questions. One great piece of advice for you guys : engage with the guide, ask questions, and seek recommendations. They often have insider knowledge that can lead you to hidden gems or help you make the most of your time in this iconic part of Amsterdam.

Book the 2 Hours- Red Light Tour

Amsterdam Red Light Tour

Compare the TOP 5 Amsterdam Red Light District Tours

Are you still wondering? Then here’s a comparison of the 5 best Tours in Amsterdam. Compare, choose, and book!

What are the advantages of an Amsterdam Red Light District Tour?

  • Insightful Narration: Our knowledgeable guides provide historical context, personal anecdotes, and detailed insights, making your tour both informative and engaging.
  • Safety: Although the district is generally safe, a guided tour offers a structured way to explore, ensuring you avoid potential pitfalls and feel comfortable.
  • Local Knowledge: Discover hidden gems, from the best bars to unique shops and eateries, that you might otherwise overlook as a visitor.
  • Understanding the Culture: Gain a deeper understanding of the district’s history, the societal context, and the lives of the sex workers, demystifying the often misunderstood world of De Wallen.
  • Respectful Exploration: A guided tour promotes responsible tourism by educating visitors on the rules and regulations while encouraging respect for the district’s residents.

Reviews of the Best Red Light District Tours in Amsterdam

Do you want to know more about Amsterdam Red Light Tours? Here you’ll find a long list of tours that go far beyond sex workers, legal marijuana consumption or the bohemian life of Amsterdam. Here you’ll find food tours, cultural tours and other facets of Amsterdam’s Famous Neighborhood.

Amsterdam: After Dark Red Light District Tour

Red Light District Amsterdam

The Amsterdam After Dark Red Light District Tour is a highly recommended experience for tourists. It offers a fascinating journey into the heart of Amsterdam’s famous Red Light District. This 1.5-hour guided tour , provided by The Oranje Umbrella Company, lets you explore the district when it truly comes alive at night.

Your resident guide, well-versed in English, German, and Dutch, takes you through historical secret areas and back alleys of De Wallen. You’ll visit coffee shops, learn intriguing stories, and even meet local workers.

The tour provides a captivating blend of history, humor, and mystery , creating an unforgettable Amsterdam experience. From the oldest building in Amsterdam to iconic red lights and a glimpse into the area’s future, you’ll be enchanted by the fascinating stories. Enjoy local flavors and tantalizing Dutch snacks at a quaint coffeehouse. You’ll even get to see Amsterdam’s oldest building, the historic oude kerk.

For those who want to explore the hidden charms and secrets of the Red Light District, this tour is a must. It’s a unique opportunity to understand the history and the future of this enigmatic and entertaining district . The After Dark Red Light District Tour combines knowledge with local experiences, making it a memorable adventure.

Please note that cameras are not allowed, ensuring a respectful and immersive experience. This tour operates at your own risk, and personal expenses such as drinks and souvenir purchases are not included.

This tour is highly recommended for anyone looking to explore the captivating Red Light District in Amsterdam . It’s a fascinating and eye-opening experience that offers insights into a unique part of the city’s culture and history.

Coffee shop and Red Light District tour in Amsterdam

Amsterdam, coffee shop

Do you want to learn more about the hedonistic party culture in Amsterdam? Then this beautiful walking tour of Amsterdam’s Red Light District is for you! With a local guide, you’ll stroll through the city’s historic alleys and understand how and why Amsterdam got its reputation as a liberal city towards sex and drugs.Along the way, you’ll be able to poke holes in the guide and hear from a local about the cultural significance of the coffee store scene , as well as learn more about the lives of the sex workers who wait for their next clients in the neighborhood’s infamous red-lit windows. I find it all super exciting and I’m sure you do too!

Red Light District Tour in English

Tour Rotlichtviertel in Amsterdam auf Deutsch

Discover the curiosities of the Red Light District of Amsterdam in English. In addition to a complete walking tour that shows you the most important sights of the district, you will also learn more about the lives of the sex workers. The Red Light District tour takes place in a small group and you will learn stories, facts and information that you would not discover on a walk through the district on your own. The English speaking tour through the Red Light District has a limited number of participants, so book in advance .

Amsterdam Small-Group Walking Tour

Amsterdam Walking Tour

Ever wondered how the Netherlands Amsterdam grew from a humble riverside village to a world-renowned city? There’s no better way to find out than by pounding its historic pavements. On foot, you’ll get up-close views of its intricate architecture and iconic sites, allowing you to soak in every detail.

If this is something that you’d like to do, consider joining the “Amsterdam Small-Group Walking Tour.” But, be warned, this isn’t just another short walk around the block; it’s a curated journey through history and culture. On the tour, you’ll navigate the bustling Dam Square, appreciate the architectural splendor of the Oude Kerk and the Royal Palace, and take a moment of reflection at Westerkerk.

Guided by an expert well-versed in Amsterdam’s past and present, you’ll unearth tales from its golden age of trade to the moving story of Anne Frank. Overall, it’s a comprehensive look at Amsterdam, offering both the broad strokes of its evolution and the finer details of its daily life.

So, tie up those walking shoes and dive deep into Amsterdam’s heart, one step at a time. By the tour’s end, you’ll see the city through a fresh lens, enriched with stories and insights.

Amsterdam Walking Tour with Cheese Tasting

Food Tour in Amsterdam

Cheese lovers will revel in this 3.5-hour tour that begins with a walking journey through downtown Amsterdam, where you’ll uncover hidden stories and history. And the best part is that the tour concludes with a delightful 1-hour cheese and wine-tasting session at an iconic Dutch cheese factory . From tales of Amsterdam’s muddy origins to its evolution as Europe’s trading hub, this tour serves a perfect blend of history and experience, all guided by an experienced expert. We recommend this food tour for those looking to deepen their understanding of the city while indulging their taste buds.

Amsterdam: Red Light District and Local Pub Tour

Red Light District Tour in Amsterdam

Exploring Amsterdam’s Red Light District in the evening was an interesting and educational experience. We had a great time with friends. This 2-hour tour delves into the district’s history, prostitution business, and some of the oldest local pubs in Amsterdam.

Our guide, Pedro, was knowledgeable and engaging. He provided insights into the history of Europe and evolution of the area , making the tour both informative and fun. We started in the Old Town District, learned about the city’s history like museums, church, and finally we visited famous pubs. The tour took us through narrow streets, revealing curiosities like the classics strip clubs in Amsterdam, coffee shops, and the unique Red Light District .

It’s fascinating to hear about the sex work industry, peep shows, and the district’s liberal laws . The tour concludes at Dam Square, passing by landmarks like the Condomerie and the Royal Palace.

For travelers looking to understand this part of Amsterdam’s culture and history, this tour is highly recommended . One tip: Remember to tip your guides; they enhance the experience with their insights.

Exploring Amsterdam’s Red Light District in the evening was an interesting and educational experience.

Amsterdam: Red Light District Pub Crawl

Amsterdam: Red Light District Pub Crawl

This five-and-a-half hour (or two day, depending on the option you book) bar crawl will take you to four different pubs , and end with free entry to a top club in Amsterdam!

You’ll be treated to unlimited shots for half an hour at the beginning of the night, and you’ll be given another free drink every time you enter a new venue.

And although the pub crawl itself will end at the nightclub , your night doesn’t have to! You can continue to party long after the official experience is over.

This is an awesome chance to dress up; since backpacks, shorts, sportswear, sandals, and flip-flops aren’t allowed . And you’ll be meeting up with the party in De Wallen!

Amsterdam: Ultimate Food and History Guided Tour

Amsterdam Food Tour

For our next tour, you’ll find yourself on a 3.5-hour trek that takes you to the heart of Amsterdam’s food and history. On this journey, you’ll stroll through three of the city’s historic neighborhoods, uncovering stories behind iconic eateries while indulging in delightful creations. From the oldest bakery to a family-owned delicatessen, you’ll sample over 10 tastes across 8 family-run businesses . Enjoy stroopwafels, Dutch apple pie, raw herring, kibbeling, fries, and Dutch cheeses accompanied by the knowledgeable narrative of your English-speaking guide.

Amsterdam: Walking Tour with Dutch Pancake Lunch

Food Tour in Amsterdam

For the next adventure, set out on a 2.5-hour tour to unravel Amsterdam’s best pancake spots . With a limited group of just 10 participants, you’ll have an intimate experience while strolling around iconic landmarks , including the Royal Palace, Dam Square, and the Anne Frank House. As you explore these historic sites, soak up the city’s rich history and cultural significance. Before you leave, finish your tour with a traditional Dutch pancake lunch, ideal for foodies and history buffs looking to experience the city’s sweeter side.

Rainbow Bar Stroll: Sashay through Amsterdam

Amsterdam Pub Crawl

An Amsterdam pub crawl that focuses completely on the best gay bars in the city, this is the ultimate party pub crawl for the LGBTQ+ community. You’ll be taken to multiple different venues as the two hour long bar crawl progresses. And you’ll be given plenty of opportunities to party, dance, and have a great time along the way!

Free shots won’t be included with this experience, but you can expect to get some discounts for specialty drinks in some of the venues. And furthermore, there’s no dress code for this bar crawl,. So feel free to let your personal style shine through.

The meeting point will be in Downtown Amsterdam!

FAQs About Amsterdam's Red Light District Tours:

Is it safe to do a red light district tour in amsterdam.

Yes, it’s generally safe to take a Tour in Amsterdam. These tours are led by knowledgeable guides who are familiar with the area and its norms. However, it’s wise to stick with your group and follow your guide’s instructions. While the area is safe, it’s also known for its bustling nightlife, so typical precautions apply. It’s better to experience this unique district with a guided tour, as your guide can provide valuable insights and ensure you have a safe and respectful visit.

Are there age restrictions for the Amsterdam Red Light District tours?

The age restrictions for Red Light District tours in Amsterdam can vary. Many tours have a minimum age of 18, as the district can be explicit. However, some offer “light” versions for those aged 16 and up, focusing more on the history and culture rather than the explicit elements. Always check with the specific tour operator for their age requirements to ensure a suitable experience for your group.

Can I take photos during the Amsterdam Red Light District tour in Amsterdam?

Photography rules during Red Light District tours can vary by tour operator. In most cases, it’s not allowed to take photos of the sex workers for privacy and security reasons. However, you can often take pictures of the area, canal-side views, and historic architecture. Always respect the rules and privacy of those in the district, as it’s essential to be a responsible and respectful tourist.

Can I interact with the sex workers during the tour?

Interacting with sex workers in Amsterdam is generally discouraged. These individuals are working, and approaching them can be invasive and disrespectful. It’s crucial to be a responsible and considerate tourist, respecting their privacy and the local culture. The tours are primarily for educational and cultural insight rather than personal interactions with the workers.

Should I tip the tour guide of the Red Light District Tour in Amsterdam?

Tipping your Tour guide in Amsterdam is a kind gesture but not mandatory. If your guide provided a fantastic experience, sharing a tip to show appreciation is always welcomed. A standard practice is for tour guides to offer around 10-15% of the tour cost. However, tipping amounts are ultimately at your discretion, and you should feel comfortable with the decision you make.

Coffee Shops in Amsterdam

Best Coffee Shops in Amsterdam in 2023

Amsterdam Food Tours

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Secrets of the Red Light District in Amsterdam: Etiquette and Hidden Gems of De Wallen

March 24, 2019 by Karen Turner 3 Comments

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So many visitors are curious about the Red Light District in Amsterdam. A former resident of Amsterdam, I have quite a bit to say about the Red Light District (known as de Wallen), which is one of the most debated neighborhoods in Amsterdam. This post will include etiquette for visiting the Red Light District, the history of De Wallen, and hidden gems of De Wallen.

  • History of de Wallen

Etiquette for visiting the Red Light District of Amsterdam

Tips for visiting the red light district, including safety.

  • Streets in The Red Light District worth seeing
  • What to do in De Wallen besides party: Hidden gems in the Red Light District

The History of De Wallen and prostitution in Amsterdam

A picturesque street within the Red Light District in Amsterdam.

De Wallen is one of the oldest parts of Amsterdam. The Damrak area is said to had prostitutes selling their services since the 13th century. At this time, the canals were walled off to prevent the Amstel river from flooding the city, so the neighborhood was named for the walls (De Wallen). (For reference, there are other smaller red light districts in Amsterdam, but de Wallen is generally referred to as “the Red Light District.”)

travel amsterdam red light district

In medieval times, married men and priests were not allowed to enter the area, but the trade was never fully illegal. Only after the Protestant Revolution did fornication become illegal in Amsterdam. Prostitution still persisted, but it went underground. During this time, the Netherlands had created an empire with countless ships, which only fed the Red Light District. Only in the 18th century did large-scale brothels become more common in Amsterdam. Finally, under the rule of Napoleon did prostitution become legal with the condition that prostitutes were checked regularly for health. A red card would be given after a clean exam.

Although attempts at banning prostitution all together have been attempted over the years, it has survived the test of time. That said, there are more regulations today than in the past regarding regular health checks as well as increasing the legal age for sex work to 21. De Wallen has survived although with the decriminalization of marijuana in the 1970s and the incredibly successful iAmsterdam campaign, the Red Light District only gained more infamy as it became a hub for rowdy partiyng tourists.

Beautiful daytime photo of the Red Light District in Amsterdam with coffeeshops and cafes.

Despite this legal status, prostitution within the Red Light District is often still debated in the Netherlands. Many people believe that prostitution should be tolerated, regulated, and taxed, but the debate at the moment is focused on whether the Red Light District is an acceptable environment for sex workers as many sex workers have been harassed by tourists. Fewer sex workers are choosing to have windows within the Red Light District due to the harassment of them and their clients. As a result, you’ll see a lot of vacancies within the windows when walking around. This is why it is so important that you do not take photos of the windows as sex workers also have the right to privacy.

Tours within the Red Light District have now been banned (2019) and there’s a sense in Amsterdam that the neighborhood has turned into something that nobody wants anymore. The city has instituted a ban on new tourist-oriented stores within the center of Amsterdam, regulated short-term housing better to force people to book proper hotels (rather than Airbnbs ), and instituted more measures to improve the quality-of-life within the neighborhood for residents. After mass tourism, badly behaving tourists aren’t being tolerated like they used to be and there’s a growing hostility against tourists who come solely to party in the Red Light District.

Trompettersteeg, the narrowest street in Amsterdam, is at the heart of Red Light District.  Graffiti states no photos!

Now that the history of De Wallen and the current debate is explained, I have quite a bit of etiquette and tips for visiting the Red Light District for the first time. This is an area of Amsterdam that has been plagued with issues related to overtourism, crime, and harassment, so you need to be mindful of people who work and live here.

Sex workers are people too.

Regardless of how you feel about sex work (e.g. prostitution), sex workers are people too. These are jobs and they have lives outside of these contexts. There’s no need to point or gawk when you’re walking by a window in the Red Light District.

Do not take photos of the women in the windows!

Unless you want your photo or camera broken often by bouncers, don’t take photos in the Red Light District. Not all of the family or friends of the “painted” ladies in the windows know about their work and publishing photos of these women online puts them at risk. You’ll see clear signs along Trompettersteeg telling you not to take photos. There are plenty of other things to take photos of within the Red Light District and Amsterdam in general. ( Click for the best photo locations in Amsterdam .)

Avoid any “tours” of the windows

The city of Amsterdam has officially made any tour that goes past the windows of the Red Light District as part of a tour illegal. If you’re walking and someone offers you a tour of the Red Light District, this is illegal and should be avoided. Going forward, evening tours of the Red Light District will be illegal. There are plenty of other tours in Amsterdam to choose from!

If you’re curious about what happens behind the scenes, you can head to the “Red Light Secrets” museum , which discusses the history of prostitution and gives you a peek behind the curtain from within a former brothel.

Avoid shouting and littering. This is still a neighborhood that people live in!

This is a big one. As someone who has friends who live in the Red Light District, I really urge you to be quiet until you’re within a bar or cafe . A friend of mine has to sleep with earplugs every night as the noise is so bad and many historic buildings within the Red Light District are protected, so the glass in the windows is single-pane. Similarly, look for trash bins as it’s someone’s neighborhood. Can you imagine people keeping you up at night screaming and littering all over your porch?!

It’s illegal to carry around alcohol

A new law that is enforced within the Red Light District is that you are not allowed to carry around alcohol. It used to be that you could carry around alcohol, but you will get a 95 euro ticket that must be paid immediately. If you see the sign “0.0% zone,” you’re in a zone where drinking in public is illegal.

Keep your joints within the coffeeshop

The Bulldog, a coffeeshop that sells marijuana within the Red Light District in Amsterdam

Although many people seem to think that marijuana is okay everywhere in Amsterdam, it’s not okay to smoke on the streets of the Red Light District. Stay indoors at the coffeeshops as you’ll have plenty of choices to ensure your smoke without disturbing the locals who don’t always want to breathe in smoke!

Avoid street dealers

I can’t condone drug use, but I urge you to use caution if you choose to use drugs in Amsterdam. Only marijuana and magic truffles are tolerated. The rest is not. One of the most dangerous things that you can do is to engage with street dealers. For a while, street dealers were selling heroin to tourists instead of cocaine, which killed people. You have no idea what you’re getting. Don’t be afraid to call the police (112) if you get robbed or need assistance.

Ensure that you have a bag that zips securely.

There are quite a few pickpockets in the Red Light District who look for intoxicated and distracted tourists. I recommend ensuring that you have a bag that zips well. I personally prefer a crossbody purse, but I’d also encourage you to move your wallet somewhere less expected.

Keep a close eye on your belongings and don’t leave them alone.

Red lights and canal houses lit up at night within the Red LIght District in Amsterdam.

A lot of pickpockets target tourists within coffee shops, cafes, and bars within the Red Light District. Don’t put your items down while you’re busy doing something else or leave them unattended!

If you choose to indulge in marijuana, do not mix substances and don’t overestimate how much you have.

One of the most common mistakes that tourists make is mixing marijuana with alcohol without knowing how marijuana affects them. Similarly, they really underestimate how potent the marijuana sold at the coffeeshops is. Know your limits and don’t be left sleeping/drooling on a bench.

Watch your drinks and do not leave your drink out while going to the bathroom.

As a general precaution, it’s important to not leave drinks that are unfinished out if you’re not watch them. This is especially true for women, even if they’re with a group. Keep an eye on your drinks and finish it before going to the bathroom. Also, don’t accept drinks from strangers without seeing it poured directly by the bartender.

If you’re traveling to Amsterdam solo, consider going out with a group

Before moving to Amsterdam, I traveled solo to Amsterdam and I generally don’t recommend visiting the Red Light District sober and alone. It’s weird. I’d recommend finding a group via your accommodations or a tour to go out with. It’s safer and more fun. (You can click for a solo female travel guide to Amsterdam .)

Don’t be afraid to say something to the bartender if someone is making you uncomfortable or feel unsafe. Many bars have security.

This is a big one. Most bars within the Red Light District have security, so if someone is harassing you or bothering you, don’t be afraid to call the bartender over. The bouncers are often happy to kick out creeps!

Your guide to the Red Light District in Amsterdam with etiquette that you must know before you visit and things to do in De Wallen besides partying.  Includes hidden gems in Amsterdam Centre. #amsterdam #holland #redlightdistrict #netherlands

Beautiful spots of the Red Light District

Although this might shock others, you can still a lot of beauty within the Red Light District. One very picturesque street that I always love to wander down is Heintje Hoekssteeg, which is close to Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (one of my favorite museums in Amsterdam). Similarly, Oude Hoogstraat 24 is the sight of the former V.O.C headquarters, now owned by the University of Amsterdam.

The end of Oudezijds Achterburgwal close to 208 is a surprisingly quiet and beautiful spot away from the crowds of the Red Light District. You’ll also find the entrance to Oudemanhuispoort , which is a small covered passage filled with book stalls. I also love wandering into the picturesque and quiet Walenpleintje and down the ivy-covered street of Bethaniënstraat .

Hidden Gems of De Wallen

Despite the crowds in the Red Light District, you’ll still find some hidden gems that make the area more tolerable away from the crowds! These are my favorite spots in the Red Light District.

Wynand Fockink Distillery

Jenever tasting within the Red Light District (De Wallen) in Amsterdam.

For those who drink alcohol, jenever is a well-known Dutch liquor that you’ll want to try within Amsterdam. Not surprisingly, you’ll find a number of great spots to try jenever in Amsterdam , but one of my favorites is the small and intimate Wynand Fockink Distillery. ( You can click for more information about visiting here. )

Browsing for used books at Oudemanhuispoort

It’s easy to pass through Oudemanhuisport without giving it a second glance. This small street with a beautiful archway is where a courtyard used to be located, but it’s now filled with book stalls where you can buy secondhand books. Bring cash and enjoy!

Stepping into a cozy brown bar

One of my favorite small delights of the Netherlands are the atmospheric brown bars where you can always step inside for a beer. Most are filled with gorgeous wood. You can click for my favorite brown bars in Amsterdam although I’d definitely recommend Proeflokaal de Ooievaar for the atmosphere.

Having a beer at de Prael, one of Amsterdam’s best craft breweries

For a beer, head to de Prael . This cozy Amsterdam bar has a cozy cafe where they serve their namesake beer at a reasonable price within a convenient location within the Red Light District. I prefer their Weizen (white) beer the most!

Seeing the church at the centre of it all and people watching at the cafe around the corner

The Oude Kerk within the Red LIght District of Amsterdam

The Oude Kerk is at the center of the Red Light District (ironically) dates back to the 13th century can be toured for a few euros. Otherwise, head to De Koffieschenkerij for a nice cup of coffee in the picturesque church garden. On a nice day, this is a great place to sit outside and people watch.

Seeing a hidden church in the attic of a building

One of my favorite spots in the Red Light District is Ons lieve heer op solder . This small museum included in the iAmsterdam pass includes three beautiful canal houses dating back to the Dutch Golden Age has a secret church in the attic. Catholics were not allowed to practice after the Protestant Reformation, so this museum is a moving testament to history and the freedom of religion. You’re guaranteed to learn a lot about Dutch history!

Finding the former V.O.C headquarters

One of the most beautiful buildings in the Red Light District has to be the former headquarters for the Dutch East Indies Company (V.O.C.). You can’t go inside, but you can admire it from the courtyard as you pass Oude Hoogstraat 24.

Dive Deeper into De Wallen: Tours Not to Miss

Amsterdam’s Red Light District, known locally as De Wallen, is more than just its infamous windows and neon lights. It’s a historic and cultural hub, and to truly understand its depth, guided tours can offer insights that casual strolls might miss. Begin your exploration with a Smoke and Lounge City Boat Cruise , starting right in the heart of De Wallen. For a more traditional canal experience with a twist, the Canal Cruise with Beer, Wine, and Cocktail Option offers scenic views with a side of refreshment. If you prefer to stay on land, the 2-Hour City Highlights Guided Bike Tour takes you through key spots, including parts of De Wallen. For flexibility, the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus and Boat options allow you to explore at your own pace. And as the sun sets, experience the district’s ambiance with the Evening Canal Cruise with Unlimited Drinks . Each tour offers a unique perspective, ensuring you see beyond the surface of Amsterdam’s most talked-about district.

Have you been to the Red Light District in Amsterdam?

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Planning your visit to De Wallen, the infamous Red Light District in Amsterdam? 20+ things to know before your visit to Amsterdam Centre with history and etiquette written by a former Amsterdam resident! #amsterdam #holland #netherlands

About Karen Turner

New Yorker–born and raised. Currently living in the Hague, the Netherlands after stints in Paris and Amsterdam. Lover of travel, adventure, nature, city, dresses, and cats.

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July 28, 2019 at 12:22 pm

Really interesting article . Thanks.

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September 30, 2019 at 9:48 pm

Interesting read, thank you, Karen.

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December 4, 2019 at 7:47 am

What a magnificent read. I only came for quick pointers but your entire article had me engaged. Thank you so much for such an informative piece, as well as a few nice recommendations. When I visit Amsterdam I’ll be sure to keep all of this in mind x

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Amsterdam’s Red Light District: All Your Questions Answered

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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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Craft Beer in the Netherlands

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Nightlife in Amsterdam

What to Expect in the Amsterdam Red Light District

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The Amsterdam Red Light District has earned a world-famous reputation, which intrigues most visitors enough to pay a visit. Find out what to expect in this area -- some sights might surprise you.

Thick Crowds of Tourists

The close proximity of Amsterdam's Red Light District to the city's main train terminal, Centraal Station, means it's often the first stop for visitors who arrive having heard all about the famously provocative area.

Expect the obvious groups -- herds of men celebrating a bachelor weekend , gaggles of girls embarrassing a bride, and college kids who've been planted in bars and coffee shops for hours on end -- as well as the more unexpected -- senior travelers fresh off a cruise ship, pointing and giggling at the fleshy sights all around. The point is, this compact area is popular with curious tourists, so be prepared to rub shoulders with all types. High tourist season (roughly April through August ) and weekends are especially busy.

Women Selling, Men Shopping

Stuart Gleave / Getty Images

Amsterdam's Red Light District gets its name from the windows rimmed in rose-colored lights, glowing signs that prostitution is legal in the Netherlands . Scantily clad female sex workers perch in tiny anterooms with floor-to-ceiling windows (some are doors) to advertise their services, and it's nearly impossible not to stare at the spectacle.

A bigger shock factor comes from watching potential customers negotiate with the women. Watch with incredulity all you like; what you absolutely shouldn't do is take a photo of the women. Some have been known to open their doors and demand that tourists hand over their cameras or delete the photos.

Curious about the industry? You might consider a tour of the area given by former prostitutes.

Sex Shops and Shows

John Foxx / Getty Images

Along with the sex-worker industry in Amsterdam come related Red Light businesses, namely sex theaters (yes, there are live sex shows) and shops hawking adult videos, sex toys, and accessories you've likely never laid eyes on. Perhaps the one shop that stops more people in their tracks than any other is the Condomerie, where colorful hand-painted cover-ups include all manner of animal species and hobbyists (bet you've never seen a scuba-diver or punk-rocker designed to protect such parts).

True, many of the sex shops and theaters aren't as cutesy as the Condomerie, and some are downright raunchy. But move beyond them as you would any other shop you're not interested in and you'll find they disappear into the background (almost).

Stunning Architecture and Treasured Museums

Juan Jimenez / Getty Images

Some of Amsterdam's oldest and most beautiful buildings call the Red Light District home, as this area is the site of the city's original settlement from the 13th century. The spire of the Oude Kerk -- Amsterdam's oldest church -- towers over the heart of the area.

Teetering canal houses along Oudezijds Voorburgwal and Oudezijds Achterburgwal (which makes my list of the city's most charming small canals ) date to the 1500s. One of Amsterdam's most treasured museums, a hidden Catholic church called Our Lord in the Attic (also known as Museum Amstelkring), sits unassumingly amongst the secular vices of the neighborhood.

Women's Clothes Replacing Unclothed Women

Atlantide Phototravel / Getty Images

Confused? In recent years, a movement to "take back" the oldest quarter of Amsterdam has arisen; one of the more fashionable approaches is leasing the windows formerly reserved for (and still directly adjacent to some) sex-selling women to style-hawking designers.

"Red Light Fashion" gives new meaning to window-shopping in the area; some spaces feature the mode makings of big Dutch names like Bas Kosters and Daryl van Wouw, while others playfully tempt passersby with vending-machine jewelry.

Delicious Spots for Dining

Kitty Terwolbeck / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Amsterdammers know that the Red Light District is full of redeeming qualities that have nothing to do with the red lights themselves. One of these is a selection of unique dining options ranging from a local-favorite artisanal bakery (De Bakkerswinkel, which also has a Westergasfabriek location) and a quaint, tucked-away tea house (Hofje van Wijs) to the authentic restaurants of the city's tiny Chinatown district and the romantic Zagat-rated Blauw aan de Waal for a fine Mediterranean meal.

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Red Light District

The best things to do in Amsterdam’s Red Light District

With sights ranging from a beloved chapel to a museum of weed, the Amsterdam Red Light District is full of intrigue

It’s no secret that Amsterdam is a seriously fun city. And the heart of the fun? That’s the Red Light District. The area is known for its sex shops, strip clubs, coffeeshops and huge gaggles of loud inebriated tourists, but we’ll let you in on a little secret – there’s a whole load more happening than just that.

You might not even know that the most popular, De Wallen, is only one of Amsterdam’s red light districts. And you might not know that it’s the oldest area in Amsterdam. Yep, we’re talking about tons of great sights and attractions, from museums to galleries, and from vintage shopping to the country’s most treasured church. Our Amsterdam experts have scoured it for the hidden gems that make it great. Here are our top picks. 

RECOMMENDED: 📍 The best things to do in Amsterdam 🪩 The best clubs in Amsterdam 🌿 The best coffeeshops in Amsterdam 🛏 The best hotels in Amsterdam 🔑 The best Airbnbs in Amsterdam

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Best things to do in Amsterdam Red Light District

Oude Kerk

1.  Oude Kerk

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Oude Kerk is the city’s oldest building, built in the 13th century by Catholics (then ransacked by Calvinists during the Reformation) and still holding huge importance to Amsterdammers. It might be like no where you’ve ever visited before – around 2,500 gravestones greet you when you walk through the door. Learning about its very turbulent history is fascinating in itself, but the venue is now a cultural centre in its own right, hosting exhibitions and gallery days from a load of international artists. 

Museum Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder

2.  Museum Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder

Explore Amsterdam’s turbulent religious heritage at this fascinating museum in the Red Light District. The whole place centres around a clandestine chapel built by an underground Catholic congregation after their religion was outlawed in the sixteenth century by the Protestant Dutch government. Decorated with pastel pinks and vivid iconography, the chapel appears frozen in time, allowing visitors to fully experience this important chapter of Dutch history. 

Brouwerij de Prael

3.  Brouwerij de Prael

This charitable brewery helps locals facing difficulties in the job market find meaningful employment. Known for its preference for time-honed recipes, Brouwerij de Prael mainly brews traditional styles of beer from the Netherlands or elsewhere in north-western Europe. Its massive tasting room has all the charms of an old-school beer hall, featuring dark wooden furniture, vintage collectables and a bar fitted with silver fonts. Tread carefully: the beers here are notoriously strong (and moreish).

Condomerie het Gulden Vlies

4.  Condomerie het Gulden Vlies

Founded in the 1980s to help promote safe sex during the Aids crisis, Condomerie was the world’s first condom specialist store. Besides selling johnnies of all shapes and sizes, the store serves as an information centre for safe sex and offers advice concerning everything from artificial lubrication to personal hygiene. Even though its aims are noble, Condomerie doesn’t shy away from humour and stocks a bunch of novelty items emblazoned with cartoon condoms, too.

De Koffieschenkerij

5.  De Koffieschenkerij

Set inside several rooms attached to Oude Kerk, this secluded coffeehouse feels worlds apart from the hubbub of inner Amsterdam. As well as offering peace and quiet in an otherwise hectic neighbourhood, de Koffieschenkerij serves light lunches, fresh coffee and juices from morning until late afternoon. Don’t leave without trying the homemade apple pie: it’s served with lashings of whipped cream and works wonders alongside a cup of java.

Frascati

6.  Frascati

With a reputation for promoting innovative, avant-garde theatre, Frascati puts on more than 500 productions each year, welcoming homegrown talent and international troupes alike. As independent Dutch production companies regularly premiere their latest work here, Frascati is among the best places in Amsterdam to discover the local drama, dance and comedy scenes. There’s also a two-storey bar that serves light bites and beer brewed in the Benelux region.

Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum

7.  Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum

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Dedicated to the often-overlooked history of cannabis, this museum retraces humanity’s relationship with weed from prehistoric times to the present. With highlights ranging from Samurai armour made from hemp to American anti-cannabis propaganda created during the height of Reefer Madness, the museum has plenty to offer seasoned stoners and history buffs alike. The space also hosts regular thought-provoking temporary exhibitions relating to cannabis cultivation, consumption and culture. 

Latei

8.  Latei

Vintage treasure hunters may have difficulty leaving this coffee room empty-handed – its wall-spanning collection of gorgeous retro knick-knacks, lampshades and embroideries are mostly for sale. While it certainly isn’t the largest spot in central Amsterdam, Latei boasts two cosy floors decorated with shabby-chic furniture and curiosities of all stripes, plus a small terrace with street-side seating. Food-wise, Latei mainly serves light, lunchtime dishes, like sandwiches, soups and cakes made in its tiny on-site kitchen.

W139

9.  W139

A bulwark of Amsterdam’s underground scene, this experimental exhibition space was founded by a group of squatters in 1979 who were miffed with the mainstream art world. Although its original occupants are long gone, W139 honours its founders’ wishes by giving artists free rein over exhibitions, allowing them to create site-specific pieces and installations that wouldn’t be possible anywhere else. Expect avant-garde, politically-conscious art inside.

Allard Pierson Museum

10.  Allard Pierson Museum

Home to ancient artefacts ranging from Greek marbles to Egyptian sarcophagi, Allard Pierson Museum must rank among the most well-respected archaeological institutions on the continent. Housed in a suitably magnificent building overlooking the Rokin canal, the museum has deep ties to the University of Amsterdam and was named after a local scholar. The museum’s permanent display of priceless archaeological finds is brilliant, and it also  hosts excellent temporary exhibitions throughout the year. 

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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, up for grabs, 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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City tours

  • Red Light District in Amsterdam: Everything You Need To Know
  • Places to visit
  • Tips for travellers
  • On November 6, 2023
  • In News Places to visit Tips for travellers

Red Light District in Amsterdam Unveiled: A Comprehensive Guide to the Infamous De Wallen

Do not visit the Red Light District in Amsterdam without doing some research. Then you run the risk of a bad experience. Or, you might just miss the best beautiful highlights in the Dutch capital. You do not want that!

Red Light District Video

Let’s start off with a video of Amsterdam’s Red Light District:

Get inside information about prices , windows, attractions , rules, prostitutes, history, tours, hotels and whatnot. This piece contains dozens of Red Light District pictures too.

Scroll down and discover the ultimate 2023 guide about Amsterdam Red Light District today.

QUICK JUMP TO:

Where Is Amsterdam Red Light District?

The Red Light District in Amsterdam is an area where prostitution is legal and regulated. The area is located in the center of the city, and it is bounded by the canals. It is also within walking distance of many of the city’s tourist attractions, like Dam Square, The Waag, Central Station and The Old Church.

The Red Light District has a long history, and it was formally established in the 17th century. In recent years, the area has become increasingly popular with tourists, and it is now considered one of Amsterdam’s most distinctive features.

While the Red Light District is best known for its window brothels and sex shops . But it also contains many other attractions, including museums, theaters, and cafes.

Red Light District Amsterdam Directions

Before you even visit the Dutch capital, you need to know the direction to the Red Light District. After all, you shouldn’t miss this!

Fortunately, this neighborhood is easy to find. Certainly from Amsterdam Central Station . The red-lit neighborhood is a 5 minute walk from the station.

  • Depart from the station and walk towards the center straight ahead over the bridge.
  • Turn left at Hotel Park Plaza Victoria . You see beautiful houses above the water (as shown on the picture below).
  • Walk on and follow the cars. Take the first street on the right. This one is called: Nieuwebrugsteeg.
  • This is where Amsterdam’s Red Light District officially begins.

Red Light District Map + Route

Still wonder: Where is the Red Light District in Amsterdam? Then check out the useful Red Light District map below. It shows the route from Central Station.

Also see how close this neighborhood is to Dam Square and Nieuwmarkt. Window brothels are also shown on this Red Light District map.

Windows & Route

  • Zoom in on the Red Light District map.
  • Click on the blue line for directions.
  • Hit the red lights to see the window brothels.

Attractions in Amsterdam Red Light District

There are many fun things to do in the Red Light District Amsterdam. It is, after all, an entertainment (and residential) area. Here is something for everyone! Discover all attractions in Amsterdam Red Light District below.

  • Our Lord In The Attic
  • World’s First Condom Shop
  • Hash, Marihuana & Hemp Museum
  • De Oude Kerk (The Old Church)
  • Red Light Secrets Museum
  • Europe’s Largest Buddhistic Temple
  • Erotic Museum
  • Amsterdam Stock Exchange

Need more tips? No problem! Check out these 31 fun things to do in Amsterdam .

Highlights & Things To See

  • Window brothels
  • Coffeeshops (= Cannabis Stores)
  • Schreierstoren (Weepers Tower)
  • Trompettersteeg (Most narrow alley in Amsterdam)
  • Condomerie (First condom shop in the world)
  • Cafe ’T Aepjen (Authentic Dutch bar)
  • Breastplate (a relief on the Old Church Square)

Red Light District Pubs

There are over 100 pubs in Red Light District. Big, small, old & modern. Below you will find the best bars known among tourists and locals.

  • The Old Sailor | 4,4 out of 5 stars | 2.092 Google reviews
  • Brouwerij de Prael | 4,4 out of 5 stars | 3.556 Google reviews
  • Cafe ’t Aepjen | 4,4 out of 5 stars | 416 Google reviews
  • Wynand Fockink | 4,7 out of 5 stars | 1.700 Google reviews
  • Red Light Bar | 4,3 out of 5 stars | 2.600 Google reviews
  • Het Elfde Gebod | 4,6 out of 5 stars | 557 Google reviews
  • San Francisco | 4,0 out of 5 stars | 292 Google reviews
  • Bar The Pint | 4,3 out of 5 stars | 243 Google reviews
  • The Black Tiger | 4,3 out of 5 stars | 715 Google reviews
  • Excalibur Cafe | 4,6 out of 5 stars | 2.900 Google reviews

Red Light District Amsterdam Cost

The pulsating heart of Amsterdam’s nightlife, the Red Light District, not only attracts millions of curious tourists every year but also significantly contributes to the city’s coffers. Local businesses, ranging from quirky bars, cafes, and souvenir shops to traditional Dutch eateries, thrive on the constant footfall. The economic ripple effect is tangible, benefiting multiple sectors.

Window brothels, one of the iconic aspects of the district, have their own economics. For instance, sex with a window sex worker typically starts from 50 to 60 euros, making it both accessible and regulated.

In Amsterdam’s Red Light District, window workers have the autonomy and discretion to determine their own prices for services rendered. This empowerment means that while there are general market standards, the final price is typically negotiated directly at the door of the window brothel. It’s a process rooted in mutual respect and understanding. As a mark of this respect and to maintain the dignity of the workers, it’s generally considered discourteous and inappropriate to begin negotiations below the 50 euro threshold. Engaging in such discussions reflects not just on the client’s intent but also on their understanding of the professional environment within which these workers operate.

1 | Red Light Areas

Fun fact: Dutch people use the word De Wallen, instead of the Red Light District.

Prostitution areas in Amsterdam

There are 3 window prostitution areas in Amsterdam:

The largest & most famous is ‘De Wallen’ – also known as Red Light District Amsterdam. De Wallen is Amsterdam’s world-famous red light district.

The name De Wallen comes from the city walls that used to surround this area of Amsterdam. De Wallen is located in the centre of Amsterdam and is easy to find. It is a small area, but it is packed with things to see and do.

There are many sex shops, brothels, strip clubs, and sex shows . De Wallen is also home to many museums and historical landmarks. The area has a very relaxed and open atmosphere.

It is safe to walk around during the day and at night. De Wallen is an excellent place to people watch and experience Dutch culture. If you are visiting Amsterdam, De Wallen is a must-see!

Ruysdealskade

Another red light area in Amsterdam is located on the Ruysdaelskade . There are about 40 window brothels . Ruysdealskade is a street located in Amsterdam.

This street has a lot of history dating back to the Dutch Golden Age. Ruysdealskade was once a part of the Amsterdam port and was used to transport goods between the Netherlands and other countries.

The street is named after Dirck Ruys, who was a 14th-century Amsterdammer. Ruysdealskade is a beautiful street that is worth visiting when you are in Amsterdam. The street is home to many different shops and restaurants, as well as museums and markets.

Singel & Spuistraat

The third red light area with window brothels is located around the Singel, Spuistraat & Oude Nieuwstraat. Also this district has about 40 windows brothels. Especially the Oude Nieuwstraat is a street filled with windows and prostitutes. See Google Street View below.

The Red Light District shown in Google street view above is also located in the city centre. It’s not De Wallen area but the other one at the Oude Nieuwstraat.

If you ever visited one place in Amsterdam, it should be the infamous RLD. The liveliest of places with many options for bars and coffeeshops. Walking in the alleyways at night is a must have experience. Sofia Janeiro | 5 out 5 stars.

2 | Windows

De Wallen is the biggest and oldest prostitution area in the Netherlands. Currently there are 201 windows here which are divided over 17 alleys and streets .

Prostitution has been taking place here since Amsterdam was founded in the 13th century. The concept of window brothels is relatively new. Window prostitution originated from the 1940s.

The number of window brothels in Amsterdam Red Light District has been drastically reduced. In 2006 there were 403 window brothels. Now, there are 201 red-lit windows.

In general, window prostitutes only work behind the windows.

3 | Workers + Prostitutes

Knowing that De Wallen has 201 window brothels that are rented out during the day and evening, but not all at once, it is estimated that around 375 sex workers are active in De Wallen Amsterdam.

4 | Rent Window Brothel

Prostitutes in the Red Light District Amsterdam pay rent to the window brothel operators. 80 to 100 euro in the daytime and 150 to 180 euro in the nighttime .

This is a fixed price that the sex workers have to pay in advance after they have presented all their documents to the operator.

Window workers are independent entrepreneurs who may charge their own prices. They do not have to pay commissions to the window brothels operators.

5 | Prices Girls

Amsterdam prostitutes in the Red Light District charge a minimum of 50 euro per 15/20 minutes. There are no fixed prices.

Negotiations with the customers take place in front of the entrance of the window brothel. Average prices are between 50 and 100 euros – depending on the service, time and friendliness of the customer.

Some clients are willing to paying (much) more for specific erotic services.

6 | Pictures

You’re probably wondering: How to take pictures in Amsterdam Red Light District?

Well, most sex workers in Amsterdam – and elsewhere in the world – lead a double life. Their family and friends often do not know what their profession is. This is caused by stigma, expectations and/or shame. They do not want to be photographed because of their double life.

In the Red Light District Amsterdam it is not officially forbidden to photograph sex workers, but it is considered very disrespectful and rude. Sex workers often take their own measures to counter this.

There are stickers on the window brothels stating that they do not want to be photographed. Sometimes the prostitutes open the door and throws someone’s phone on the floor when they take pictures.

7 | Security

All window brothels in Amsterdam – and the rest of country – are well protected by security-systems. The window brothels have panic buttons on the inside. In addition, there are always cameras installed on the outside of the window brothel that are monitored by the operators.

When a sex worker would press the panic button, a loud alarm would sound. The people on the street are then alarmed. An alarm also goes off at the brothel keeper and the police. Good security is one of the reasons why so many (foreign) sex workers want to work here.

8 | Right to Refuse

Clients in Amsterdam are regularly rejected by prostitutes at the window. Sex workers do not need or want to accept all clients. After all, they are their own boss.

9 | Police Cameras

A local agent of the Red Light District Amsterdam stated in Amsterdam Audio Tours app that there are 50 police cameras in this neighborhood. These cameras are monitored 24/7 by the police making the area safer.

10 | Alcohol On The Street

For several years it has been officially prohibited to drink alcohol in De Wallen. A violation is fined with 95 euros – which must be paid immediately. Local enforcers monitor this strictly. The anti-alcohol signs on the bridges also point out this prohibition.

11 | Smoking Weed in Public

There is no (local) law that says that it is not allowed to smoke weed or hash outside in Amsterdam Red Light District. Unlike the anti-alcohol signs in the area, there are no signs indicating a ban on public cannabis use. A visit to the Red Light District Amsterdam shows that people smoke weed or hash on the street.

12 | Residents

The Red Light District Amsterdam has 4,520 residents .

The number of inhabitants in the Amsterdam Red Light District has increased by 430 people from 4,090 in 2013 to 4,520 in 2021 (that is 11%). The number of inhabitants is the number of persons as recorded in the population register on 1 January.

People of all classes live here. Young, old, poor and rich. Some people live above a sex show , next to a window brothel, or are neighbours of a coffee shop.

There is even a daycare center next to window brothels, in the middle of the Red Light District Amsterdam.

13 | Coffeeshops

The Dutch capital has 164 coffeeshops , 14 of which can be found in the Red Light District. Some famous ones are The Bulldog , Voyager, Jolly Joker, Het Gelderse and Rusland.

14 | Cars and Parking

You won’t find many cars in the Red Light District Amsterdam. The local government has made this neighborhood car-free for several years. The main streets – such as Warmoesstraat – in the area are only accessible to residents and delivery staff. Parking on the street is quite difficult. There are just a few parking spaces.

15 | Open or Closed

Since this is also a residential area, De Wallen is accessible to everyone 24 hours a day. Also during the holidays! Of course there are closing times for the coffeeshops, window brothels, sex shows, cafes, restaurants, etc. The most flexibility applies to the window brothels. They only need to be closed between 6 and 8 in the morning.

16 | How To Visit

The very best way to experience the Red Light District is by foot because there are many narrow alleys and there’s lots to see. It is recommended to download the Amsterdam Audio Tours app. This way you can learn more about the oldest neighbourhood in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam App

Download the Amsterdam app and learn more today! This app contains an audio tour of the Red Light District with a virtual guide, stories from 22 experts, photos and a GPS map. It’s available in the Apple App Store & Google Play Store.

17 | Blue Light Area

The Red Light District Amsterdam also has a three streets where transgender prostitutes work. They often use blue lights instead of red lights.

Find the blue light area in the Koestraat.

18 | Undercover Police

In addition to visible police officers on the street, there are also undercover police officers present in the Red Light District of Amsterdam. They mainly focus on pickpockets and street dealers. The Red Light District is safe, but just like other cities, there are also bad people out there.

Tip: Leave your valuables in your accommodation and ignore street dealers.

19 | Social Control

Many people don’t realise this, but one of the most important aspects that makes this neighbourhood so safe is social control. The many people on the streets, the local residents, the entrepreneurs, the employees. Together they make this a safe neighborhood because there is a lot of activity.

The mixed cohesion of organizations, homes and good accessibility in the middle of the city offer safety through social control. For example, if something bad happened at a window brothel, everyone would witness it.

The social control in the Red Light District Amsterdam creates a barrier to breaking rules and laws.

20 | Prostitutes Age

All the sex workers who work in the window need to be at least 21 years old. That’s the minimum age. Amsterdam escorts are allowed to work at the age of 18. But in the Red Light District Amsterdam there is a minimum age of 21 years . A window prostitute must show her ID every time when she rents it from a window brothel operator.

21 | Sex Shows

The Red Light District Amsterdam is known for its tantalising entertainment. It counts seven sex shows that can be visited by anybody from the age of 18. Many can be found on the Oudezijds Achterburgwal which is the famous street in the RLD.

The most famous sex show is definitely Casa Rosso Amsterdam . Everybody in Holland knows it. It’s part of the Dutch city for over 50 years. This venue is located on the main street of the Red Light District. It offers 60 to 80 minute sex shows, including live sex one stage. The show is exciting, fun & unforgettable. Casa Rosso is very popular. It’s something that can only be experienced here in Amsterdam

But that’s not all. There are even more Amsterdam sex shows . There is also a Moulin Rouge, a 5D Porn Cinema and even a peep show. Discover all of them now!

22 | Amsterdam 5D Porn Cinema

In the heart of the Red Light District, next to the church, one can find the 5D Porn Cinema. It’s located next to a daycare. The Amsterdam 5D cinema shows exciting and funny movies about the Red Light District.

Apparently the customers of the nursery don’t mind this, because it’s a popular one. Moreover, the daycare has been located next to window brothels for decades. A perfect example how this area – De Wallen – represents Dutch liberalism and open-mindedness.

23 | 3D Printed Bridge

A 3D printed bridge can be found in Holland’s most erotic neighborhood, since July 15, 2021. It’s world’s first 3D printed bridge! The Queen of the Netherlands – Maxima – has officially opened the bridge.

This bridge can be found on the main street of the Red Light District in Amsterdam. It is next to the well-known sex theater Casa Rosso and the Hospital Bar.

24 | Public Toilets

In Dutch they are known as ‘curls’. The old-fashioned Amsterdam public toilets. Currently there are five public toilets in the Red Light District. Handy if you’ve had a beer too many.

These public toilets can only be used by men. They are cleaned daily by the municipality of Amsterdam.

Women and men can also visit Sexy Loo. A company with clean toilets in the middle of De Wallen. It’s located on the Oudezijds Achterburgwal, which is one of the main streets.

25 | Amsterdam Escorts

Escort definition.

An escort is a person who provides companionship and/or guidance (often involving sexual acts) for a fee. Escorts offer their erotic service online. Via websites, apps or escort agencies.

Escorts in Amsterdam do not work in window brothels of the Red Light District. Escorts prefer to get in touch with their clients via the internet, telephone or through an escort agency.

Advantages For Escorts

  • More flexible.
  • Able to have several jobs and hybride income.
  • Don’t have to pay rent for a window brothel.
  • Additional extras such as free dinner, free accommodation and free access to (exclusive) activities.

Advantages For Clients

  • More time for interaction.
  • More personal contact.
  • Wide choice online.
  • More exclusive.
  • Escorts available throughout the Netherlands.
  • Possibility to bring an escort to an event as a “girlfriend”.

26 | Prostitution Information Centre

The Amsterdam Prostitution Information Centre is a non-profit organisation that provides information and advice to sex workers, as well as to those who are considering entering the industry. The centre also offers support and assistance to victims of human trafficking.

The Prostitution Information Centre was founded in 1994 by former sex workers Mariska Majoor and Jacqeline Gautam. Since then, the centre has helped thousands of people to make informed choices about their involvement in the sex industry.

The Prostitution Information Centre is open to everyone. To this end, the PIC offers a range of services, including educational workshops, drop-in counselling, and a helpline.

The Dutch organisation also has a small shop selling and it publishes a frequent newsletter with news and information about the Dutch sex industry. Whether you’re considering working in prostitution, are already involved in the industry, or simply want to learn more about it, the Prostitution Information Centre is an excellent resource.

27 | Red Light District Tour Ban

Nowadays guided tours are not allowed anymore in Amsterdam Red Light District. The municipality prohibits tours in the Red Light District according to local laws. Also called General Local Ordinance. This makes it impossible for tourists to get a Red Light District from a guide.

The Red Light District tour ban has been introduced on 1 January 2020.

The municipality is changing De Wallen. The current administration wants fewer tourists, fewer economic benefits, fewer sex workers, fewer coffee shops and fewer Red Light District tours. The municipality of Amsterdam believes that guided tours cause nuisance. In addition, the municipality finds it inappropriate.

The sex workers are not bothered by tourists. Certainly not from tourists who are well informed through certified guides. This is evident from several studies. The window prostitutes consciously choose the Red Light District Amsterdam because of all the tourists.

Nevertheless, it is no longer allowed for guides or tour operators to host Red Light District tours.

Red Light District meaning

But why is this neighbourhood called like that? Where did the meaning come from? We asked a city historian how De Wallen or Red Light District got its name.

The historian says: “Already around the year 1300 there was a rampart (wall) around the city. Later, around 1340, much larger walls were built around Amsterdam: the burgwallen. Thus a wall was built on the eastern side of the city (the old side) and on the western side (the new side).”

As the city grew, new ramparts were built around 1385. For example, the existing wall became the ‘Voorburgwal’ and the new wall became the ‘Achterburgwal’, on both sides of the city. This is how the Oudezijds Voorburgwal, the Oudezijds Achterburgwal, the Nieuwezijds Voorbugwal and the Nieuwezijds Achterburgwal (the current Spuistraat) were created.

Entertainment for sailors

In the 15th century there was already prostitution in this area. It was close to the harbor and was therefore a place for sailors to seek entertainment. Also, many sailors’ widows lived there at that time (as only one in three sailors survived the sea voyage). To support themselves and their children, they offered their company in exchange for money.

After a long mourning period, widows hung a red lantern on their doors to indicate that they were ready for male contact again.

It was not until much later, in the 20th century, that the infamous neighborhood was increasingly referred to as ‘de Walletjes’. This was later changed to ‘De Wallen’.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do they speak english in red light district.

English is the most widely spoken language in this Amsterdam neighbourhood. The locals speak Dutch to other Dutch people.

Prostitutes speak English, Romanian, Bulgarian, Spanish and other languages. This depends on where the prostitute comes from. All employees in the companies here speak plain English. So feel free to order something in English.

How much does a prostitute cost in Amsterdam Red Light District?

Sex with a prostitute is offered from 50 euros . The duration is often about 20 minutes. The exact price depends on the duration and service requested. Some ladies also offer sex with massages. Also here are sex workers who offer a threesome.

Red Light District Prices

  • Hand job: > 50,-
  • Blow job: > 50,-
  • Sex (penetration): > 70,-
  • Sex + Massage: > 100,-
  • Threesome: > 200,-
  • BDSM: On request.

The prices are for the window prostitutes in Amsterdam. Discover prices for escorts in Amsterdam here.

On which streets are the window girls?

Red Light District : The window prostitutes work in the following streets:

Barndesteeg , Bethlehemsteeg, Boomsteeg, Bloedstraat, Enge Kerksteeg, Gordijnensteeg, Molensteeg, Monnikenstraat, Oudekennissteeg, Oudekerksplein , Oudezijds Voorburgwal, Oudezijds Achterburgwal , Stoofsteeg.

Can girls get prostitutes in Amsterdam?

No , women can not have sex with window prostitutes. The window workers do not offer their services to women.

However, women can get male escorts in Amsterdam. There are relatively fewer of them. But they are there for sure! Women can get in touch with a male escort through an escort company or through sex advertisements on websites.

Can you take pictures of the Red Light District?

Yes, you are allowed to photograph the Red Light District Amsterdam. It is, after all, a public space. There is no place in the Netherlands where you are not allowed to take pictures outside.

However, sex workers in Amsterdam Red Light District do not want to be photographed . Often because they want to remain anonymous. Please respect this. Stick to local etiquette. Be courteous and do not photograph the prostitutes.

Does the Red Light District in Amsterdam still exist?

Yes, it does! There are still sex shows, window brothels, cannabis shops, bars and lots of other entertainment. The neighborhood does change. In recent years, window brothels and coffee shops have closed. Also recently window brothels have closed again.

The municipality of Amsterdam is considering creating a prostitution neighbourhood outside the city, or in a rural area. There are currently 4 Red Light District scenarios for its future.

Can you get a STD in the Red Light District?

Yes, that is certainly possible. However, you can also get an STD outside the Red Light District. In general, the sex workers try to prevent STDs. They do this by having safe sex, using a condom.

In addition, all sex workers in the Netherlands can be tested free of charge for sexually transmitted diseases. Most prostitutes in Amsterdam are therefore regularly tested.

Furthermore, healthcare in the Netherlands is one of the best in the world. Every resident has easy access to care, such as general practitioners, STD clinics, hospitals, etc.

Why do men pay for sex?

There are a number of reasons why men pay for sex. For some men, it may be a way to act out a sexual fantasy that they would not otherwise be able to experience.

For others, it may be a way to avoid the emotional intimacy that is typically involved in a sexual relationship. Still others may view paying for sex as a way to ensure that they will always have access to sexual activity.

Whatever the reason, there is no one answer to the question of why men pay for sex. Each man who pays for sex does so for his own individual reasons.

What drugs are legal?

Weed, hash, magic truffles and alcohol are legal to use in the Red Light District Amsterdam. You must be at least 18 years old in the Netherlands to use cannabis or alcohol.

In the Red Light District it is illegal to consume alcohol on the street. This is also indicated by numerous signs, which can be seen on the streets and on bridges. You can be fined for drinking alcohol in public. It is allowed to consume alcohol in bars and on the terraces.

Smoking a joint on the street in the Red Light District is allowed. Officially it is tolerated. You are not allowed to carry more than 5 grams of weed or hash.

More Amsterdam Facts …

There are so many wonderful, fascinating Amsterdam facts to know. This Dutch city is centuries old and full of special facts. It is a shame not to inform yourself about this. We help you with this!

Amsterdam Audio Tours

Become an Amsterdam connoisseur! Download this Amsterdam app which includes an audio tour with fascinating stories of 22 experts. Hear real prostitutes, real police officers, real historians & other great experts.

Amsterdam’s Red Light District is an area like no other in the world. While it may be shocking or even taboo for some, it represents the Dutch culture of liberalism and freedom. If you’re curious to learn more about this unique district, be sure to download our new app today.

With tons of information and pictures, you’ll get a first-hand look at everything the Red Light District has to offer.

This app contains two hours of audio for just 5 euro. Listen to it at home or while exploring Amsterdam. Get the app and learn everything about Amsterdam now!

Got more questions? Discover this list with 65 Amsterdam Red Light District Questions & Answers.

10 Amsterdam Red Light District Rules

12x Free Must See in Amsterdam

10 Sex Shows in Amsterdam

Hi, this was really useful as it is over thirty years since my first visit.

Really impressive points you got there.

Interessant artikel over De Wallen. Ik wist niet dat deze buurt zoveel inwoners heeft. Hopelijk mogen de coffeeshops en alle raambordelen hier blijven.

Has the red light area been reduced down in areas. Thanks

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Why Amsterdam wants tourists to 'stay away'

travel amsterdam red light district

Amsterdam is taking a step closer to saying good riddance to wild bachelor parties and rowdy tourists.

The popular destination is launching a new campaign this spring aimed at curbing tourism-induced "nuisance and overcrowding" and building a more responsible visitor economy by 2035, according to the city's tourism plan . The campaign's new rules will impact some of the top tourist attractions: the Red Light District, river cruises, pub crawls and coffee shops. 

City officials say they are tired of businesses who "abuse the city’s image to promote it as a place of 'unlimited opportunity,' " according to the Vision on Tourism in Amsterdam 2035 . The city has long attracted tourists from around the world wanting to experience its liberal laws around prostitution   tolerance of soft drugs .

Should I book my summer travel now?: Travel experts share how to find the best deals.

Delta Air Lines  was the most on-time carrier in 2022, according to DOT data

Officials say it's been "at the expense of liveability and accessibility for residents."

"If it we go on like this, I think in 10 or 20 years, people will no longer be living in the inner city," Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema told Dutch News . "They will have moved out because they can’t afford it, because the atmosphere is too common, because the city has become too dirty … in all of the senses."

The campaign seeks to shine the spotlight on onto city's cultural wealth, like historic canals and museums. There's even an initiative called "Stay Away," which actively discourages visitors planning to "go wild" not come. 

This isn't the first time Amsterdam has cracked down on troublesome tourists. In 2019, the city banned guided tours in the Red Light District. Last year, the mayor wanted to ban non-residents from participating in coffee shops. 

Read below to learn how the new campaign could impact travelers.

It's not all about the Red Light District: 13 cool ways to spend a long weekend in Amsterdam 

Managing overcrowding: Why bookings might be the future in Hawaii

What are some of the proposed measures? 

The tourism plan outlines measures that "have implications for overnight stays, excess tourism and disturbances."

  • Reducing the hours of operations for bars, clubs and the Red Light District on the weekends. Bars and clubs will close at 2 a.m. with no new visitors allowed after 1 a.m., while sex work businesses will close at 3 a.m., three hours earlier than currently. 
  • Limiting river cruises
  • Expanding the ban on guided tours and pub crawls
  • A ban on smoking cannabis in designated areas of the city center
  • Restrictions on embarkation and disembarkation points for party boats in the Red Light District. 
  • Converting hotels to residential or office use

When will these new rules be in effect?

The campaign launches this spring and the new rules are said to be implemented in mid-May . But the overarching rebranding of Amsterdam's visitor economy will take place over the next 12 years by 2035.

Will Amsterdam limit the number of tourists?

Yes, the city is looking to take action on the number of overnight tourists. In 2019, over 18.4 million overnight tourists  came to Amsterdam. In 2021, an ordinance called " Amsterdam Tourism in Balance " was adopted by the city council that set a cap on the number of visitors to 20 million. If over 18 million people come to Amsterdam, "the municipal executive is obliged to take action" – this year, the city predicts that many tourists to arrive.

Katheen Wong is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Hawaii. You can reach her at [email protected]

🚨 The 5 Best Red Light District Tours [2023 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 Amsterdam canal tours .

Best Tours of the Red Light District in Amsterdam

Quick answer: the 5 best rated red light district tours for 2023.

  • 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 [2023 reviews], the 5 best amsterdam dinner cruises [2023 reviews], the 5 best van gogh museum & rijksmuseum tours [2023 reviews], the 5 best amsterdam zaanse schans windmill tours [2023 reviews].

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Amsterdam Makes Big Changes to Red Light District

Image: Red light district in Amsterdam (Photo via Lauren Bowman)

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 marijuana on the street and further restrict alcohol sales in the district.

The city will also require that sex workers in the neighborhood shut down their trade by 3 a.m.

"Residents of the old city center experience a lot of nuisance from mass tourism and alcohol and drug abuse on the street," the Municipality of Amsterdam said in a statement that was reported by CNN .

In addition to prohibiting the use of marijuana on the street, the city will also take steps to curb alcohol use in the district. The sale of booze at shops in the red light district is already banned after 4 p.m. Thursday to Sunday, but the city is proposing that it also be hidden from view or removed from stores completely during those hours.

In addition, the city said Thursday that bars and restaurants would have to close by 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and that no new customers would be allowed into establishments where alcohol is served past 1 a.m.

Red Light District in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

If approved, the new regulations would take effect by mid-May.

It's important to note that the De Wallen neighborhood of the city where the red light district is located has always been home to many local residents and is also home to beautiful architecture and canals like much of the historic center of the city.

Also worth noting that for now, marijuana smoking indoors and on terraces of licensed coffee shops will not be affected. The city said it would consider prohibiting to-go purchases of soft drugs at certain times and banning smoking marijuana altogether at coffee shops' outdoor seating areas if these new regulations don't get the desired result, however.

This all comes on the heels of a recent crackdown on guided tours in the neighborhood and proposals to relocate the red light district altogether.

Amsterdam is set on shedding its image as a hedonistic party haven and these new regulations could be just the beginning.

As a former Amsterdam resident myself, I believe this is a good thing for residents and tourists who would like to enjoy the canals, architecture and sights of this neighborhood in the heart of the city.

Amsterdam doesn't want to stop tourists from having a good time, the city is just trying to nudge tourists nicely towards behavior that is less out-of-control and an annoyance to locals-and I don't think that's unreasonable at all.

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Red light district.

Red Light District featuring a river or creek and heritage architecture

Visit Red Light District

Amsterdam’s historic Red Light District is called De Wallen (embankments), four of which make up this neighborhood. Visitors are often surprised to see that during the day De Wallen looks much like the rest of the inner city with cobblestone streets, narrow gabled houses and cozy cafés. Both the red lights and women displayed in windows become visible after dark. Go with an open mind if you are curious about this notorious adult entertainment district between Dam Square and China Town.

Sailors from all over the world have flocked to De Wallen since the early 1400s and these days prostitution is a legalized industry in Holland. The Dutch policy of “if you decriminalize it, you can make it safer” is also true for marijuana and hashish, which are sold in small quantities in the local coffee shops and bars.

The Red Light District is dominated by the 13th-century Old Church (Oude Kerk), one of Amsterdam’s earliest stone buildings. Step inside to see impressive decorations. Check out the statue of Belle outside, depicting a prostitute in a doorway, with a sign asking to “respect sex workers all over the world.”

While locals walk through De Wallen as if it’s just like any other neighborhood, most tourists can’t help gaping at the narrow windows displaying sparsely dressed women under red lights. Hundreds of women of many different nationalities try to sell their services by winking and gesturing at passers-by. Adult shops, sex museums and neon-lit erotic shows draw in curious — sometimes giggling — groups of sightseers. Be aware that these shows leave nothing to the imagination.

To get to the Red Light District, either walk from Central Station or Dam Square. De Wallen is a well-policed area, safer than some other parts of the city. Even still, pickpockets, beggers and drug addicts sometimes target unaware tourists. Be aware that it’s considered offensive to take photographs of the windows with prostitutes. To avoid confrontation, only point your camera at the general action on the streets and the buildings, instead of specific people, to capture the atmosphere.

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Check Red Light District hotel availability

Other neighborhoods around red light district.

Dam Square which includes heritage architecture, street scenes and a city

Old Town Amsterdam

Known for its fascinating museums, popular shops, and acclaimed art galleries, there's plenty to explore in Old Town Amsterdam. Top attractions like Dam Square and Anne Frank House are major draws. Catch the metro at Dam Stop or Nieuwezijds Kolk Stop to see more of the city.

Flower Market featuring a river or creek, markets and a city

Amsterdam City Centre

Dam Square and Anne Frank House are a few top attractions in Amsterdam City Centre. Hop around the city on the metro at Nieuwmarkt Station or Waterlooplein Station and check out the area's fascinating museums, charming cafes, and popular shops.

Amsterdam showing flowers, interior views and a garden

While you're in Binnenstad, take in top sights like Dam Square or Leidseplein, and hop on the metro to see more the city at Dam Stop or Paleisstraat Tram Stop.

Burgwallen Nieuwe Zijde

While you're in Burgwallen Nieuwe Zijde, take in top sights like Dam Square or Leidseplein, and hop on the metro to see more the city at Paleisstraat Tram Stop or Spui Stop.

Nemo Science Museum which includes a river or creek, modern architecture and a bridge

Nieuwmarkt en Lastage

While you're in Nieuwmarkt en Lastage, take in top sights like Dam Square or Leidseplein, and hop on the metro to see more the city at Nieuwmarkt Station or Mr. Visserplein Stop.

Anne Frank House showing a memorial, a house and interior views

Grachtengordel-West

If you're spending time in Grachtengordel-West, check out sights like Anne Frank House or Dam Square and hop on the metro to see more the city at Westermarkt Stop or Koningsplein Stop.

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Visit our site for amazing travel tips, up-to-the-minute news, breaking news, interviews, videos and top stories. We provide trusted Red Light District news as well as general news from Amsterdam and the rest of the Netherlands. Our news topics are focused on: Dutch culture, History, Sex Work, Drugs, Technology & Travel.

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British tourists staying away from Amsterdam red light district after rule changes

British tourists staying away from Amsterdam red light district after rule changes

The number of Brits visiting Amsterdam is declining - suggesting it's 'stay away' campaign has been a success.

The Dutch city launched a digital campaign earlier this year with the aim of 'discouraging' rowdy visitors descending from the UK .

Officials launched a fierce crackdown on anti-social behaviour to rebrand its raunchy reputation as a party capital for tourists.

Brits were bombarded with online adverts showing them the potential outcome of boozy behaviour in the Dutch capital.

Men aged 18-35 were confronted with posters of drunks being handcuffed, finger-printed and having their mugshot taken by police.

Another showed a young bloke being arrested and thrown into the cells alongside the caption: "So, coming to Amsterdam for a messy night? Stay away."

Deputy mayor Sofyan Mbarki said: "Visitors are still welcome, but not if they misbehave and cause nuisance . As a city, we are saying: we’d rather not have this, so stay away."

Amsterdam has discouraged boozy Brits from visiting the city. Credit: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images

Locals have long complained that tourists were nuisances who urinate in public, fight in the streets and vomit in the famous canals.

The viral voice note of the woman who allegedly had an X-rated 'encounter' with her own dad probably hasn't done us any favours either.

It seems that could have been the final nail in the coffin for UK holidaymakers, meaning the days of stag and hen parties doing pub crawls around the city might now be over.

Brits have clearly taken heed of the stark warnings from authorities and seem to have been warded off booking a trip to Amsterdam.

The Netherlands has seen a 22 percent decline in British arrivals this year, in comparison to pre- Covid levels in 2019.

The Dutch government even put a cap on the number of flights landing at Schiphol - for environmental reasons, as well as trying to reduce noise for residents.

This has caused some frustrations for airlines, with KLM branding the move 'incomprehensible'.

The number of British arrivals has dropped by 22% in comparison to 2019. Credit: Steve Christo/Corbis via Getty Images

Although most tourist boards would be in crisis mode due to the decline in visitors, the city are celebrating the news.

The Netherlands applauded the effectiveness of the 'stay away' campaign at the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) annual conference last week.

The figures were presented by ForwardKeys, which took a look at booking data for the industry and Amsterdam.

Vice-president of insights Olivier Ponti said: "The Netherlands has put a cap on air connectivity.

"That is obviously a hurdle and they have launched demarketing campaigns telling people to stay at home."

The Netherlands may roll out their 'stay away' campaign across other EU countries to deter other 'nuisance-causing visitors' over the coming year.

Bar owner and chair of local business association Robbert Overmeer said Brits aren't the only bad ones in the bunch.

He told the Daily Star: "It’s not only the English who make problems. Banning non-residents from buying drugs in coffee shops is the way to stop it."

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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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Amsterdam Looks to Dim Red Light District Tourism

Dawit Habtemariam , Skift

March 23rd, 2023 at 10:00 AM EDT

Amsterdam is trying to find a balance between its international reputation as an open and free city and resident quality of life. As it pursues its objective, it will have take on some restrictive measures in the Red Light District that run the risk of challenging its reputation.

Dawit Habtemariam

Amsterdam is trying to drive away party tourists in order to preserve resident quality of life and attract more mindful visitors. The city aims to reduce the appeal of the De Wallen, which is internationally called as the Red Light District, a major tourist attraction known for brothels, drinking, cannabis coffeeshops and other recreational activities.

At the moment, tourism to and within Europe has been booming. Europe is expected to reach its international travel volume this year, according to UN World Tourism Organization . Major cities like Amsterdam are back and growing in popularity again, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council . This year, travelers are more determined than ever to travel and spend their budgets, especially within Europe, according to the European Travel Commission .

But the Venice of the North doesn’t want to be popular anymore with some of these tourists. The city is launching a “Stay Away” campaign to actively discourage party tourists. In the Red Light District, by mid-May, smoking cannabis in public will be banned, and bars and restaurants have earlier closing times on select days and sex worker venues will close earlier. It plans to replace 100 of the 249 brothel windows in the district with a multi-story center for adult entertainment in another part of the city.

Some of the measures introduced are a followup to the city’s “Tourism in a balance in Amsterdam” plan , which was developed to preserve resident quality of life and combat “nuisance” tourism. The city council wants to cap the visitor maximum at 20 million (it received around 18 million in 2019) and discourage businesses and tourists that misuse Amsterdam’s image as a free and open city.

 “We would like tourists who come for the wealth and beauty of cultural institutions. Not the tourists who only come to walk around drunk and stoned,” Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema told Dutch news network  ONS .

Among Amsterdam’s visitors in 2022, about 17 percent have visited the Red Light. About 25 percent of all visitors have done party activities in the city, i.e. coffee shops and clubs, according to amsterdam&partners , which promotes the city. When it comes to spending, the average Red Light District visitor and party visitor both spend 182 euros, a little higher than the average city visitor who spends an average of 150 euros.

No doubt these significant segments contribute to Amsterdam’s world ranking in tourism. Amsterdam came in fifth place among cities in terms of international travel spend at $13.6 billion in 2022, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council .

But in the Dutch city, quality of life has suffered from overcrowding, road incidents, noise and Airbnb effects on rental prices, said Ed Lubbers, an Amsterdam resident of over 30 years and CEO of Travel Impact Lab.

@audirsq8_k9 Red Light District Amsterdam 2022 #redlight #redlightamsterdam #redlightdistrict🚨 #amsterdam #amsterdamcity #amsterdamredlightdistrict #amsterdamredlightstreet ♬ Summer day – TimTaj

The party crowd also influences the businesses that pop up in Amsterdam, especially the cannabis smokers. One government study found 58 percent of international tourists who travel to Amsterdam do so to in order to consume drugs. About 77 percent of party visitors go to a coffee shop, according to amsterdam&partners. Their purchasing habits have pushed business development in unfavorable directions.

“You have these endless roads of pancake shops because it’s a major draw for stoned travelers,” Lubbers said. “Amsterdam, in many ways, it’s been going downhill.” 

To give residents a rest, Amsterdam had to put the brakes on tourism promotion at one point, Lubbers added. Amsterdam prioritizing resident wishes and wishes reinforce a Skift megatrend that communities are no longer spectators in travel .  

Amsterdam is part of the growing list of destinations ditching mass tourism . A common impetus for such a pivot has been community frustration with tourism’s negative consequences.  Hawaii Tourism Authority, for example, pursued such a path in response to community backlash.

The party image isn’t sustainable for Amsterdam. As more people get access to travel and urbanization continues to accelerate, the city needs to find a balance, said a amsterdam&partners spokesperson. Tourism authorities are embracing regenerative tourism, a pivot from mass tourism. They are changing its image, focusing on its rich cultural history and driving traffic to lesser known hidden gems.

Visitors, however, haven’t stopped promoting the Red Light District, especially on social media. TikTok travel influencers, for example, regularly include the Red Light District in their Amsterdam itinerary recommendations that stack thousands of views. In addition, while guided tours are not allowed in the district, there’s nothing to stop tourists from spending time and money in the area.

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Tags: amsterdam , cannabis , netherlands , overtourism , sustainable tourism

The Telegraph

The Telegraph

Boozy British tourists are refusing to ‘stay away’ from Amsterdam

Posted: November 9, 2023 | Last updated: November 9, 2023

It’s night time, and the neon lights of De Wallen’s bars and coffee shops bounce off the canals. Young men mill about, screaming and shouting through the streets. They gawk at women glowing red under lamplight. They urinate, vomit, and scrap. 

These are the scenes Amsterdam’s council wants to eradicate. Locals are fed up, organising protests like ‘ Stop de Gekte ’ (literally ‘Stop the madness’). The city is listening, and has put British sex and drug visitors in the crosshairs.

But is this tightening up on hedonistic tourism working? And are residents feeling its impact? It’s questionable.

One of the most eye-catching anti-tourist measures taken by Amsterdam was this year’s ‘Stay Away’ initiative. Described as a “ digital discouragement campaign ,” the local government created a series of videos aimed at British men between the ages of 18 and 34.

This content, which showed inebriated individuals getting into trouble with law enforcement, was advertised to people when they searched things like “stag party Amsterdam,” “cheap hotel Amsterdam,” and “pub crawl Amsterdam” in an attempt to keep them away.

This is far from the only fix the city is trying. It has banned smoking marijuana outside in the red light district, and reduced the working hours of brothels and bars.

Sofyan Mbarki, an Amsterdam politician, put it this way: “Visitors will remain welcome, but not if they have misbehaved and caused nuisance. In that case, we as a city will say – rather not, stay away.”

Well, recent figures may be making Mr Mbarki smile. According to The Times , there’s been a 22 per cent drop in British visitors to Amsterdam since 2019.

Many reports have praised this as a victory for the “Stay Away” campaign, but, as someone who lives in the city, I’m dubious. An advertising campaign alone won’t dim the allure of the red light district — and it definitely doesn’t feel quieter.

To get some clarity, I spoke with Olivier Ponti, VP Insights at ForwardKeys, the company who provided the data in the reports.

“If Amsterdam is keen to deter British visitors, it does not appear to be particularly successful,” he tells me.

While it’s true there has been a 22 per cent decrease in UK bookings to Amsterdam since 2019, overall visits to the city have dropped by 26 per cent in the same period. In other words, British visitors are decreasing at a slower rate than those from other countries.

It’s also important to see these numbers in a wider context. Much of Europe has seen inflation and a cost-of-living crisis. That’s more likely to impact tourist numbers than adverts telling people to not visit Amsterdam. 

Despite this, I wanted to find out what locals thought. Had they seen any evidence of the ‘Stay Away’ campaign working? 

“It’s ridiculous,” says Monique, a Dutch bartender at Cafe Emmelot in De Wallen, when I ask her about Amsterdam’s attempt to deter tourists. She thinks the young crowds are vital to the area’s spirit.

According to Monique, she hasn’t noticed any change in the number of British tourists following the “Stay Away” campaign. “It’s about the same as it was before covid,” she says.

This opinion was broadly shared by other residents.

Huug, a Dutchman who lives in the middle of the red light district, tells me he “hasn’t really seen a difference” since the introduction of the campaign.

“Generally I’m okay with tourism, as we moved to the neighbourhood when things were already so busy,” Huug says. He does, however, say that the crowds can become annoying when he’s trying to move around the area.

There’s one element he’s clear on though: “There are lots of Brits and they tend to drink [heavily].”

Not everyone sees the anti-tourist measures as toothless though. During my walk, I arrived at the Bulldog Hotel. This iconic cannabis and coffee shop brand has a gamut of businesses across Amsterdam and is a magnet for hedonistic travellers.

“The red light district has been impacted,” the hotelier, who preferred to stay anonymous, tells me. He believes the restrictions on public smoking and drinking have made the area quieter. 

“Although,” he adds, “there has been no decrease in the number of guests at the hotel.”

So if the data shows a 22 per cent reduction in UK visitors, why aren’t I or many of the people I spoke with feeling the decrease?

“Ryanair increased its capacity from the UK to the Netherlands by 3 per cent in 2023,” Ponti from ForwardKeys says, “and overall flight capacity on the Stansted-Eindhoven route is up 6 per cent.”

It seems British tourists are simply finding alternative ways to get to Amsterdam, restrictions be damned. 

On the topic of the “Stay Away” campaign, the city’s local government hasn’t made any official announcements yet. If they deem it a success though, the plan is to expand the scheme to focus on nuisance tourists from other countries , not just the UK.

I can’t imagine this will be the case though. Amsterdam’s Red Light District is world famous and it will take generational efforts or a complete shutdown to alter that. Yes, the area is often an unpleasant place after dark, but it is part of the city’s heritage, and I’d hate to see it go.

If that is indeed the plan, I can say one thing for certain: it’ll take far more than a few videos to achieve that end.

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Amsterdam's 'Stay Away’ initiative aimed to discourage inebriated individuals from visiting

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Red Light District Halloween Pub Crawl in Amsterdam

travel amsterdam red light district

  • 30 minutes of unlimited shots
  • 4 bars and 1 club
  • 5 free Jaeger shots
  • Professional host
  • Food and drinks
  • Hotel pickup and drop-off
  • Souvenir T-shirt (available to purchase)
  • The Black Tiger Bar Amsterdam, Oudezijds Achterburgwal 23, 1012 DA Amsterdam, Netherlands Please meet our hosts who will be wearing a red tshirt. They will be downstairs.
  • Rembrandtplein, 1017 CV Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Not wheelchair accessible
  • Near public transportation
  • Confirmation will be received at time of booking
  • Most travelers can participate
  • This tour is intended for adults only. You must be at least 18 years or older to participate in this tour. You will be required to provide identification verifying your birth date at the start of the tour By offering this tour through its website, Viator and its affiliates do not encourage or condone excessive drinking or drunkenness. Please drink responsibility and take care of yourself and your friends. Non alcoholic beverages are also available .
  • This tour/activity will have a maximum of 200 travelers
  • For a full refund, cancel at least 24 hours in advance of the start date of the experience.

Similar experiences

travel amsterdam red light district

  • You'll start at The Black Tiger Bar Amsterdam Oudezijds Achterburgwal 23, 1012 DA Amsterdam, Netherlands Please meet our hosts who will be wearing a red tshirt. They will be downstairs. See address & details
  • 1 Red Light District (De Wallen) Stop: 5 hours See the redlight district during our Halloween special Read more
  • You'll end at Rembrandtplein Rembrandtplein, 1017 CV Amsterdam, Netherlands See address & details

travel amsterdam red light district

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travel amsterdam red light district

Red Light District Halloween Pub Crawl in Amsterdam provided by Ultimate Party Pub Crawl

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Amsterdam red light district

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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.

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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Amsterdam to hike tourist tax in fight against overtourism

Monday, 06 Nov 2023

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Amsterdam is working to prevent tourism that causes nuisances, and has set a maximum number of visitors. — Pixabay

Visitors to Amsterdam in the Netherlands will be charged Europe’s highest tourist tax from 2024 as the picturesque Dutch city is set to increase the levy on overnight stays from 7% to 12.5% in its ongoing fight against overtourism.

The tourist tax “will be further increased to fund the extra spending so that visitors make a bigger contribution to the city”, the City of Amsterdam said.

“This will also help tackle overtourism,” it added.

With an average room rate of €175 (RM884.80) per person, the increase will lift the tourist fee from €15.25 (RM77.10) to €21.80 (RM110.20) per night.

“In comparison, Barcelona’s tourist taxes average about €2.25 (RM11.40) per person per day, while in Paris you can generally expect to pay about €4 (RM20.20) per person, per night,” travel website Lonely Planet says.

Home to around one million people, Amsterdam has in recent years been struggling to handle between 15 and 20 million annual visitors.

“To maintain the quality of life in Amsterdam, the city is working to prevent tourism that causes nuisances, and has set a maximum number of visitors,” authorities announced.

Amsterdam has long been a magnet for hedonists, drawn to its so-called coffee shops where cannabis can be bought and smoked, and to its infamous red-light district.

The tax hike was expected, coming after city governors in 2022 said they aimed to “combat bachelor parties that cause disturbances and organised pub crawls”.

They were also looking to introduce earlier closing times for some bars and clubs in the city centre as well as a partial ban on smoking cannabis on the street.

Authorities launched a so-called “stay away” campaign earlier in 2023, asking British stag groups to take their often rowdy and debauched behaviour elsewhere. – dpa

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Tags / Keywords: Overtourism , Tourist Tax , tourism , amsterdam , europe , netherlands

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What to Do in the Red Light District

travel amsterdam red light district

Amsterdam's Red Light District is the subject of much fascination, but it isn't all about prostitution.

This post will tell you what the district is all about, things to do, available tours, and dining options.

  • Questions Answered
  • 13 Things to Do
  • Guided Tours
  • Dining Options
  • Things to Do in Amsterdam

QUESTIONS ANSWERED ABOUT THE RED LIGHT DISTRICT

Folks have many questions about Amsterdam's Red Light District, and we've answered some of them here.

What is the Red Light District?

Amsterdam’s Red Light District is famous for the line of windows and doors surrounded by red lights - red lights that signify legal prostitution.

You can walk down the street and see barely-dressed women sitting behind the windows and waiting for customers.

Of course, it's so much more than that. You'll find churches, palaces, museums, restaurants, hotels, bars, and coffee shops there.

See below for 13 things to do in the Red Light District .

How Did the Red Light District Come About?

Because of the nearby harbor, since at least the 14th and 15th centuries, and likely further back, many sailors and visitors came into the city.

Some were looking for entertainment, which often led them to sex workers.

Rules changed from century to century when under Catholic and then Protestant rule. Sex work was at various times legal, then not legal, then legal again.

At times sex workers were banned, and at others, men in certain positions (the clergy, for example) were forbidden from entering the neighborhood.

Finally, in 1811 the ban on street prostitution was lifted, bringing with it health checks to prevent the spread of disease.

Healthy sex workers were given a red card that indicated they were disease-free.

Brother owners then installed red gas lamps that signaled to customers what kind of business was taking place.

Today anyone over the age of 18 can legally become a prostitute as long as they pay their taxes and do not leave their windows.

Where is the Red Light District Located?

Also known as De Wallen, this district is the oldest part of the city and is full of things to do, see, and eat.

Where is the Red Light District

The neighborhood is located in the center of Amsterdam, just a minute away from Dam Square and a short walk from Central Station.

What is the Most Famous Street in the Red Light District?

Something few tourists know is that there are 3 red-light districts in Amsterdam.

The most famous one is in De Wallen. This is where hundreds of windowed brothels line the streets.

You'll find this on Oudezijds Voorburgwal, Oudezijds Achterburgwal, and some connected alleys.

The second largest, which has about 65 windows, is Singelgebied, near the corner of Spuistraat and the Singel Canal.

This is in a quiet tree-lined neighborhood and is much less lively than De Wallen.

The smallest is Ruysdaelkade. This one, which has about 40 windows, tends to be frequented by locals. You won't find many tourists there.

Are There Rules in the Red Light District?

It’s easy to think that anything goes in the Red Light District (De Wallen). But there are some rules worth knowing.

As with many tourist neighborhoods, watch out for pickpockets. They are likely the biggest threat to tourists.

Marijuana and alcohol are both easy to find here, but it isn’t legal to consume them outside or to walk around under the heavy influence of either one.

In fact, in March of 2023, new rules were introduced meant to crack down on the "nuisance behavior" caused by drunken tourists.

There is currently a curfew that closes the doors of sex businesses at 3 a.m. rather than 6 a.m., something sex workers are currently protesting.

There is also a proposal that would restrict alcohol sales and smoking on the street.

Sex work is legal, but taking pictures of sex workers standing in brothel windows is strongly frowned upon. You don't want to take out your camera and get in trouble.

It's also considered rude to tap on the widows, to stand and stare at the workers, or to shout out insults.

And while there’s a lot to look at, do check the ground once in a while to make sure you aren’t walking in a bike lane.

Especially at night, there will be loads of bouncers calling out to you to come inside and enjoy the 18+ entertainment and attractions (things such as peep shows, live sex shows, and strip shows).

Some shows are rather dodgy though, so feel free to ignore the calls and keep walking.

You may also find street dealers offering to sell you drugs. The city has launched a campaign against dealers, and many arrests have been made in recent years.

There's too much chance of getting bad drugs, robbery, and getting scammed by dealers to risk getting involved in a transaction

How Does Prostitution Work in the Red Light District?

Promoting the services of a sex worker out on the street is illegal, and can carry a fine for both the worker and the customer.

To hire a Red Light District sex worker, one goes to knock on a woman’s window or door to negotiate a price.

Once the service and price are agreed on, the sex worker and customer can go back into a room behind the glass-covered viewing area.

Customers must be 16 years old or older, according to the country’s age of consent laws.

Do You Need Cash in the Red Light District?

For those visiting sex workers, yes, cash is needed. They do not tend to accept credit cards.

Other than that though, there's no cost to walk through the streets of the Red Light District.

What is the Best Time to Visit the Red Light District?

The answer to this question has many answers.

A walking tour past many of the sites listed in our audio tour can take place any time of day.

Note that the later it gets, the more likely you'll run into rowdy groups of bachelor parties and people who have been imbibing.

However, an afternoon or early evening tour works just fine.

For those wanting to partake in other activities in the area, many sex workers start their jobs at midnight.

There's a current regulation that closes them at 3 a.m., but historically they have been open until 6 a.m.

Sex shops tend to open around 10 a.m. and noon and close between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Sex shows have varying hours. The Moulin Rouge is either open between 2 pm and 2 am, or 8 pm and 2 am.

Cassa Rosso opens around 7 p.m. and closes between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. You'll want to check online for the most recent schedules.

Is the Red Light District Safe?

Yes. Many people live and work there so there are always loads of people around. There are often many police officers as well.

As mentioned above, pickpockets are likely the biggest threat to tourists.

Can Anyone Go to the Red Light District?

Yes. These are normal streets, along canals, surrounded by homes and businesses.

The streets are full of tourists. Some are interested in the tourist attractions in the neighborhood.

Others in hoping to see the famous red windows. Others are there to hire sex workers and go to shows.

Can You Avoid the Red Light District?

Absolutely. However, if seeing sex workers is what bothers you, you might find it better to walk through the area during the day.

As mentioned below though, there are many sites worth visiting that have nothing to do with the sex industry.

13 THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN THE RED LIGHT DISTRICT

From museums and coffee shops  to churches, you might be surprised at what the district has to offer besides the red windows.

Below is a list of things to do and see in the neighborhood.

BONUS: Audio Tour

We offer an audio tour of the Red Light District, researched, written, and recorded by one of our own tour guides.

The positive of this kind of tour is that it can be done at your own pace. You can stop in at various sites of interest along the way, and then continue the tour again when you are ready.

Here’s a sample .

  • Purchase an audio tour  – $2.99
  • Get a confirmation email with .mp3, .pdf, and embeddable Google Map
  • Enjoy the tour(s).

amsterdam red light district map and tour

We can also recommend pay-what-you-will guided tours of Amsterdam: https://freetoursbyfoot.com/free-walking-tours-amsterdam/

Amsterdam Walking Tours

1. See a Museum

There are multiple museums in the Red Light District.

Those interested in archaeology should head to the Allard Pierson Museum run by the University of Amsterdam.

They hold Egyptian, Greek, and Etrian artifacts, among others. Check the website to see what exhibits are on.

From the history of cannabis use to hemp fashion around the world, you can learn a lot at the Hash Marihuana Hemp Museum .

Since cannabis is legal in The Netherlands, this is a fascinating subject for many visitors.

Red Light Secrets is the only Museum of Prostitution in the world.

You can learn about Amsterdam’s history with prostitution as well as get a look at what it’s like to be a window worker.

The Erotic Museum in Amsterdam is located in an old warehouse and has plenty of exhibits about the Red Light District itself. You can even legally take pictures in front of the museum’s window replicas.

Tip: To see as many museums as possible and save money, we recommend the Amsterdam Museum Pass .

2. Go to a Strip Club or Show

Many visitors might want a closer encounter with the Red Light District worker without actually purchasing their services.

For that reason, the District has quite a few strip clubs and sex shows.

The Banana Bar is one of the more famous clubs in the area and is often the location of bachelor parties. Waitresses serve drinks and perform party tricks.

For a more upscale sex show , Casa Rossa is set up theatre-style with velvet seats in front of the main stage.

The acts onstage rotate and repeat throughout the night, so there is no need to arrive at a certain time.

3. Attend Cannabis College for Free

New to Cannabis or want to learn more?

The Cannabis College has knowledgeable employees who can give you advice for safely using Cannabis - whether for recreation or medicinal purposes.

They give tours of their indoor Cannabis garden and educate visitors about Cannabis Activism.

They’re active in pushing for legislation reform all over the world.

4. Learn at the Prostitution Information Center

The Prostitution Information Center was started in the ‘90s by a girl who became a prostitute at the age of 16 and wanted to help reform the laws around prostitution.

Her goal was to educate the public about industry conditions for the workers. Now the PIC defends prostitutes’ rights.

There is also a PIC store that sells books about prostitution, legislation, and guides of the Red Light District.

5. Enjoy a Coffeeshop

Coffeeshops are integral to the culture of the Red Light District.

They began popping up in the 1970s and are now synonymous with Cannabis Dispensaries.

You can read more about guided coffee shop tours and coffee shop etiquette here .

The Bulldog is one of the first coffee shops in the city - and the first to open in the Red Light District.

If you want to experience smoking, make sure you ask questions about what the staff recommends and start slowly.

And don’t forget to try their coffee and desserts :).

6. See an Attic Church

You might not expect to find one of the most interesting churches in Amsterdam in the Red Light District, but On's Lieve Herr op Solder (Our Dear Lord in the Attic), previously called Amstelkring, has some fascinating history.

When the area became Protestant by law in 1578, Catholics had to go into hiding.

The Catholic church was hidden inside multiple canal houses, covering the top floor, and was built by a wealthy merchant.

You can see the entire house preserved as it was in the 1700s - including lavish furniture and an impressive art collection.

7. Visit the LGBTQ+ Friendly Warmoesstraat

Right on the edge of the Red Light District is one of the most well-known districts for gay bars and LGBTQ+-friendly spaces.

Amsterdam is known for building Europe’s first gay club, and today has a vibrant queer community.

You can find multiple gay clubs on Warmoesstraat.

One of the most popular is Getto, which serves food in the early evenings and proceeds to host cabaret shows later in the night.

Other popular spots include Queen’s Head and Eagle Amsterdam.

8. Play at TonTon Club Centre

Head to The TonTon Club to play some classic arcade games, foosball, air hockey, or Mortal Kombat.

This "barcade" was opened after a popular crowdfunding campaign to the delight of video and board game enthusiasts across the city.

The bright colors and decor really set the mood for a Dance Dance Revolution competition.

Don’t forget to sample their craft beer. And if you get hungry, you can sample their nostalgia-inducing nachos, hotdogs, and other snacks.

9. Browse the Nieuwmarkt Market

The city’s oldest and most popular Market is located just next to the Red Light District.

While it holds a daily market, the reason Nieuwmarkt is popular throughout the day and into the evenings is the collection of restaurants, cafes, and coffee shops that line the square the Market sits on.

You can find some excellent coffee and pastries or have lunch on a terrace. Or you can join the evening crowd for dinner and cocktails.

Of course, if you’re here between May and October and you love browsing a lively market, make sure to arrive on a Saturday morning to see the produce. Antiques are sold most Sundays.

10. View the Oldest Church in Amsterdam

This beautiful gothic building is Amsterdam’s oldest building, which also makes Oude Kerk the oldest church in the city.

You won’t be able to miss this architectural masterpiece if you walk past it.

It was built in the early 1300s and is now home to an impressive collection of art. Check the website to see what exhibitions are on .

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can go around to the back of the building for the (paid) guided tour up into the bell tower.

It is quite a steep climb to the top, but the views of the city are worth it, as is getting up close and personal to the bells!

11. Visit the Condomerie

This novelty shop usually features a crowd of onlookers outside its doors taking pictures of the display.

The Condomerie sells a multitude of condoms, souvenirs, postcards, and other items.

travel amsterdam red light district

You’re not allowed to take photos inside the shop, but anything set up in the window can be photographed.

12. Winston Hotel

The Winston Hotel and Nightclub isn’t just a conveniently-located place to party and sleep on the edge of the Red Light District. It is a local piece of popular film history.

Many movie lovers are excited to pass by and take pictures of the building where Quentin Tarantino spent several months in isolation working on the script of Pulp Fiction.

While it was set in Los Angeles, he wanted to be halfway around the world for a chance to concentrate without any distractions.

13. Madame Tussauds Amsterdam

Right in the middle of the Red Light District is an internationally-recognized name: Madame Tussauds .

In the Amsterdam location, you can find music stars like Ariana Grande, Zayn Malik, and Afrojack as well as famous film scenes.

Kids will love the Marvel Avengers room, and everyone can enjoy the TV broadcaster's room where you can read from the teleprompter and experience life as a news anchor.  

Note : Madame Tussauds is included in some Amsterdam City Passes .

TAKE A GUIDED TOUR

Want some more information as you walk through the Red Light District? You can get the history and interesting facts narrated to you on a walking tour.

We have an in-depth review and comparison of various Red Light District tours here .

Tours through the district are most often offered in the evenings to give you the full experience of seeing the glow of the red lights.

You can take your pick of walking tours from those that focus heavily on the history of the area, the prostitution, or the neighborhood’s food and pubs.

  • On this walking tour , you can learn about the District and experience a coffee shop with your guide, and even learn how to roll a joint.
  • Another walking tour includes a visit to a distillery with a complimentary drink.
  • You can also see more of Amsterdam from a boat on a canal tour .
  • Enjoy a self-guided mystery game covering several notable sites in the Red Light District and Amsterdam in general.

RESTAURANTS AND DINING OPTIONS

Find both takeaway meals and sit-down restaurants in the Red Light District.

Here is a list of some of the most popular places to eat in the Red Light District.

Wok to Walk

This made-to-order Asian restaurant offers stir-fries, and noodle bowls, and has vegan options.

They have a hole-in-the-wall atmosphere with a front window facing the glow of the Red Light District. 

Van Kerkwijk

Van Kerkwijk is a small cafe and restaurant popular with locals and tourists alike.

The menu changes depending on what seasonally-fresh ingredients are available and the waitstaff verbally informs customers of the day’s available dishes.

Brouwerij de Prael

Brouwerij de Prael is a 13-year-old microbrewery that has become well-loved for its beer selection and vibrant atmosphere.

The crowd that frequents De Prael is generally younger. They serve lunch, dinner, late-night snacks, and their in-house brews.

Amsterdamsche Vishandel  

Amsterdamsche Vishandel is an old-fashioned fish shop, the perfect place to try some local specialties.

The Dutch store’s specialty is fresh herring. The quaint decor adds to the atmosphere and they get their fish fresh daily from the market.

Stach is a quiet little shop that is home to some delicious pastries and other baked goods. If you’re looking for a snack, this is the place to go.

They also serve smoothies and full meals in addition to pre-packaged healthy snacks.

Pancakes Amsterdam

Breakfast is a perfect meal any time of day, which is how they like it at Pancakes .

This is the perfect opportunity to taste Dutch pancakes, which range from sugar-dusted to bacon and banana gourmet toppings.

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COMMENTS

  1. How to see the Red Light District in Amsterdam [2023 Guide]

    Ready to dive in? Jump to a section below! 👇 📍 Where is the Red Light District in Amsterdam? 🗺️ The best route through Amsterdam's Red Light District 🕜 The best time to visit Amsterdam's Red Light District 📘 What to know before visiting Amsterdam's Red Light District Dos and don'ts in the Red Light District Amsterdam

  2. A guide to 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.

  3. 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.

  4. The BEST Red Light District Tours for 2023

    6. October 2023 865 ratings Welcome to Amsterdam, a city known for its rich history, artistic heritage, and picturesque canals. Beyond its cultural offerings, Amsterdam has another side, one that's both intriguing and notorious—the Red Light District, or De Wallen.

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

    Tours within the Red Light District have now been banned (2019) and there's a sense in Amsterdam that the neighborhood has turned into something that nobody wants anymore.

  6. Red Light District Amsterdam Questions

    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.

  7. What to Expect in the Amsterdam Red Light District

    The close proximity of Amsterdam's Red Light District to the city's main train terminal, Centraal Station, means it's often the first stop for visitors who arrive having heard all about the famously provocative area. Expect the obvious groups -- herds of men celebrating a bachelor weekend, gaggles of girls embarrassing a bride, and college kids ...

  8. 10 Best Things to Do in Amsterdam's Red Light District

    There's also a two-storey bar that serves light bites and beer brewed in the Benelux region. Advertising. 7. Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum. Museums. Specialist interest. Dedicated to the often ...

  9. 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...

  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. Red Light District Amsterdam: Cost

    4 Comments Red Light District in Amsterdam Unveiled: A Comprehensive Guide to the Infamous De Wallen Do not visit the Red Light District in Amsterdam without doing some research. Then you run the risk of a bad experience. Or, you might just miss the best beautiful highlights in the Dutch capital. You do not want that! Red Light District Video

  12. New tourist rules in Amsterdam for Red Light District, coffee shop

    Reducing the hours of operations for bars, clubs and the Red Light District on the weekends. Bars and clubs will close at 2 a.m. with no new visitors allowed after 1 a.m., while sex work ...

  13. Red Light District Amsterdam

    The Red Light District is in the centre of Amsterdam old town, easily reached by foot from most hotels in the historic city centre. It is located in De Wallen and in essence is made up of two streets/canals and interconnecting alleys. These are Oude Zidsvoorburgwai and Oude Zidsachterburgwai. Click for map of De Wallen

  14. The 5 Best Red Light District Tours [2023 ...

    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 ...

  15. Amsterdam Makes Big Changes to Red Light District

    The sale of booze at shops in the red light district is already banned after 4 p.m. Thursday to Sunday, but the city is proposing that it also be hidden from view or removed from stores completely during those hours.

  16. Visit Red Light District: 2023 Red Light District, Amsterdam Travel

    The Red Light District is dominated by the 13th-century Old Church (Oude Kerk), one of Amsterdam's earliest stone buildings. Step inside to see impressive decorations. Check out the statue of Belle outside, depicting a prostitute in a doorway, with a sign asking to "respect sex workers all over the world.".

  17. An Ultimate Guide to the Amsterdam Red Light District

    Visit in May or September. You'll get good weather, beautiful scenery, and fewer crowds. How to Get Around: It wouldn't be a Dutch vacation without some time on a bike, and pedaling is the most popular way to explore the city. The GVB network of metros, buses, trams, ferries, and trains are free to anyone when you purchase an I Amsterdam City Card.

  18. Amsterdam Red Light District News

    Posted on: March 1, 2023. 17 Secrets About Amsterdam Red Light District Windows Amsterdam's red light windows have become an iconic feature of the city, attracting millions of visitors each year. But beyond the intrigue and curiosity lies a complex world of sex work, regulation, and controversy.

  19. British tourists staying away from Amsterdam red light district after

    British tourists staying away from Amsterdam red light district after rule changes Olivia Burke Published 10:59, 07 November 2023 GMT | Last updated 11:02, 07 November 2023 GMT Featured...

  20. Red Light District in Amsterdam

    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.

  21. Amsterdam Looks to Dim Red Light District Tourism

    Among Amsterdam's visitors in 2022, about 17 percent have visited the Red Light. About 25 percent of all visitors have done party activities in the city, i.e. coffee shops and clubs, according ...

  22. Boozy Brits are refusing to 'stay away' from Amsterdam

    Amsterdam's Red Light District is world famous and it will take generational efforts or a complete shutdown to alter that. Yes, the area is often an unpleasant place after dark, but it is part ...

  23. Red Light District Halloween Pub Crawl in Amsterdam

    You'll receive a free shot at every venue and unlimited shots shots from 8pm to 8:30pm. Starting in the Red Light District and finishing at Rembrandt Square, this pub crawl Halloween party tour will be an unforgettable experience on the spookiest night of the year! Ages 18-99, max of 200 per group. Duration: 5h.

  24. Go City®

    All-Inclusive Pass. Visit unlimited Amsterdam attractions each day of your pass. from €64.00.

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

    Nikitha Karnam. -. March 19, 2021. 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.

  26. Amsterdam to hike tourist tax in fight against overtourism

    Amsterdam has long been a magnet for hedonists, drawn to its so-called coffee shops where cannabis can be bought and smoked, and to its infamous red-light district.

  27. Things to Do in Amsterdam's Red Light District

    7. Visit the LGBTQ+ Friendly Warmoesstraat. Right on the edge of the Red Light District is one of the most well-known districts for gay bars and LGBTQ+-friendly spaces. Amsterdam is known for building Europe's first gay club, and today has a vibrant queer community. Warmoesstraat in Amsterdam.