Red Light District Amsterdam
It is very likely that you have heard about this neighbourhood and to be frank, everything you have heard is probably true. From brothels to sex shops to museums, the Amsterdam Red Light District has it all. But contrary to what a lot of people might think, the Amsterdam Red Light District has a very friendly atmosphere and isn't as dangerous as it used to be.
Accommodation in Red Light District tips
The best way to compare Red Light District accommodation options is by using the well-known booking engine "Booking.com". As the largest provider of this service they often have good deals and list all accomodation types. Hotels, hostels, apartments even houseboats. From budget to luxury. You can access their listings on this
Red Light District accommodation deals webpage.
If you would like to know more about this district or just have more fun, you can download an audio guide to your smartphone. It is a more private and cheaper alternative to a guided group tour. You can listen to interestimg stories and fun facts. And be directed to places that you might miss on your own.
Amsterdam prides itself, and rightly so, on its wholly liberal and tolerant attitude, embracing the fact that people may be into prostitution, soft drugs and pornography. And that it is only human. So instead of criminalizing everything, they enjoy the honesty of it all.
Nowadays, prostitution is legal in the Netherlands but not on the streets. That's why prostitutes in Amsterdam stand up behind a window and have their own room. The name of "Red Light District" comes from the red neon lights that highlight the 300 windows where women are working.
Amsterdam has three different Red Light Districts but the most famous and the most attractive is the one located inside the city center.
Since October 2000, window prostitutes have been allowed to legally offer their services. Today, prostitutes in the Netherlands are also taxpayers. Unfortunately, discrimination is still a part of this trade as many prostitutes report that some banks refuse to grant mortgages for example. However, now as a legal profession, the government ensures that all prostitutes are able to access medical care and work in better conditions by regulating and monitoring working practices and standards. Help is also at hand in the district itself thanks to the Prostitution Information Center. Also, contrary to popular belief, the RLD is actually the safest area in Amsterdam as clusters of policemen, and private bodyguards employed by the girls themselves are always on duty.
When to go to Red Light District Amsterdam?
Well, if curiosity does get the better of you, come down at night when the district really comes to life. During the day, the district is less lively and even less attractive as the more sordid aspects reveal themselves in natural daylight. Although there are women forever tapping on the windows even during the light hours, most of the action takes place around 11pm , when the district is swarming with crowds and the red neon lights illuminate the inky canals. The atmosphere pretty much thrives until around 2 or 3am when the crowds die down and businesses shut up shop.
Attractions in the Amsterdam Red Light District
Because RLD is in the historical centre of Amsterdam city, it is close to many interesting attractions and architectural wonders. For example:
- The Madame Tussauds wax figurines
- Body Worlds
- Rembrandt House
- Amsterdam Museum
- Our Lord in the attic
- Oude Kerk
- Amsterdam dungeon
- Torture museum
- Marijuana museum
Red Light District clubs and pubs
The Amsterdam Red Light District is not only about prostitution and coffee shops. You can find a great variety of sex shops, peep shows, strip clubs, sex theaters and typical Dutch brown cafes. Furthermore, you have a few cultural activities such as the Museum of Prostitution, the Museum of Erotism or the Museum of Cannabis.
Whether you are window-shopping Amsterdam style, or actually wanting to buy something, there is likely to be a place, window, or even two, that cater to your every whim. For those not easily offended, there are plenty of live sex shows and the most notorious of these go on at the theatres Casa Rosso (OZ Achterburgwal) and the infamous Moulin Rouge (Oudezijds Achterburgwal 5-7). For the merely curious, there are numerous peep shows that may come with video booths. But of course, for the more adventurous among us, there are more interactive shows, for example at Amsterdam Banana Bar (Oudezijds Achterburgwal 37). Exactly what goes on in these places is up to you to discover, if you so wish. For goods, there is a somewhat eclectic mix of videos, magazines, sex aids and toys. The RLD is also home to many gay bars and cinemas which can be found on the very busy Warmoesstraat. If the Red light alleyways are not your cup of tea, there are a number of brothels and private houses that offer a more traditional form of prostitution.
How to behave in Red Light District?
It is strictly forbidden to take pictures or film women behind their windows. A sign is sticked on every window as a reminder. Be careful if you try to take a photograph as working women can become very aggressive. The same rule is applicable if you go to a strip club, peep show or sex theater. The best is to keep your phone or camera in your pocket otherwise you risk to be kicked out by the bouncers.
Things to do and don't do in Red Light District
To make sure you get the best out of the Red Light District in Amsterdam and that it doesn’t get the worse out of you, stick to these tips closely:
Although the area of Amsterdam Red light district may look dodgy, it is certainly not any dangerous place to stay. It is actually quite safe and well controlled part of the city, Amsterdam's heart of night entertainment. Hotels located direcly in the Red Light District are often prefered by visitors seeking the close feel and excitement of Amsterdam's night life. If you still look for more quiet area, there are many hotels just a short walk away.
In the Amsterdam Red Light District are located most of the Amsterdam coffee shops. You can easily recognize a coffee shop. In fact, even if advertisement for cannabis is forbidden, most of the coffee shops have a cannabis leaf or a Jamaican flag on the front door. Discover the history of coffee shops in Amsterdam and the best places to experience the Amsterdam coffee shops.
Entertainment of Red Light District
Aside from ladies in their red lighted windows, sex clubs, and coffee shops, you'll also find eclectic stores and a myriad of adventurous dining spots. Like the café's, live jazz, salsa or dinner theatre. And a host of dining menus from around the world.
Amsterdam Red Light District history
The Amsterdam Red Light District is located in the oldest area of the city. The architecture is particularly beautiful and typically Dutch. The beauty of its building is also a reason why everyone should walk around this area. The Red Light District of Amsterdam exists since the 14th century. At that time, the harbor was not far from there. That is why, a lot of immigrants were living there and how prostitution has started. In fact, sailors were coming to this area in order to enjoy some drinks in taverns and distilleries and also to enjoy girls. In Dutch, the Red Light District is called "De wallen" (the walls) because some of the canals located in the area and next to the old harbor used to be walled. The second explanation is because "wall" used to be a code name for "paid sex".
Red Light District architecture
Perhaps what few really notice is that the Rossebuurt (Dutch for ‘pink’ or ‘red’ neighbourhood) is in fact one of the oldest and most beautiful parts of the city with its long winding narrow, cobbled streets and utterly charming 14th century architecture, such as the gothic Oude Kerk, or Old Church. The Amsterdam Red Light District simply oozes charm and one cannot help but admire the old buildings that lean at odd-angles, and the tree-enshrouded canals. Music, especially during the summer season, invites you to linger just that little bit longer while the arrival of new classier eateries and great authentic restaurants such as Café Pacifico, one of Europe 's first Mexican restaurants, make it so appealing. Recently resurfaced streets, restored façades and trendier clientele to the area are now transforming what was once a dark and seedy part of town.
Churches in Red Light District
As a contrast, this colourful neighbourhood also contains the monolithic Old Church, the Saint Nicolas Church, and a delightful museum “Our Lord in the Attic”, a clandestine Catholic Church atop a seventeenth century merchant house.
Public transportation to Red Light District
As you can see on the map below, the Red Light District is in the centre of Amsterdam old town. So to get there from the touristic part of town shouldn't be a problem on foot.
The Red Light District in Amsterdam is also called "Rosse Burt" if you wanted to ask someone around.
And if you are further away then you can use:
- trams numbers 4 or 14 to the tramstop Dam
- trams numbers 2, 12, 13, 17, 26 to the tramstop Centraal Station