The Red Light District at night — Photo courtesy of Massimo CatarinellaMany are curious about the Red Light District in Amsterdam and want to visit but are often uneasy or have questions. For instance, where is it located? How do I get there? What can I expect? Is prostitution legal? Can I take photos? When can, or should, I go? With this in mind, 10Best has put together a short guide to the Red Light District.
The Red Light District, also known as De Wallen or Rosse Buurt, dates back to the fourteenth century. This area, originally situated next to the harbor, was a place sailors would go if they required female companionship.
Not sure how to get to the Red Light District? There are actually numerous entrance points. Two little metal posts with red lights near the top mark the border of the district. If you are coming from Centraal Station, walk down the Nieuwebrugsteeg. You can also enter from Dam Square via Damstraat, which is located next to the Krasnapolsky Hotel. Explore the main streets, such as the Oudezijds Voorburgwal and Warmoesstraat, or wind your way through the area down one of the narrow side streets.
What To Expect
The Red Light District, while probably not appropriate for children, is suitable for a stroll, day or night. There are many things to see and do. As the Red Light District is one of the oldest parts of Amsterdam, it has that picture-perfect postcard look: tall, slightly leaning houses with gables at the top, peaceful canals, lively cafes and bikes everywhere. In the heart of the district, you’ll also find the beautiful gothic Oude Kerk (Old Church) and a hidden church in a historic canal house, Ons Lieve Heer Op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic). The Oudezijds Armsteeg is even home to six restored Delft Blue houses.
The Red Light District by day — Photo courtesy of Jessica LipowskiYet visiting the area may result in a bit of culture shock. The Red Light District is home to sex shops, coffeeshops that sell marijuana, live sex shows, scantily clad women standing in red neon-lit windows and a variety of other museums, such as the Erotic Museum and the Hash Museum.
Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands, and it is carefully regulated, as well as safe. The women not only have their own union but also police protection and regular check-ups. If you have any questions at all, make sure to stop by the Prostitution Information Center.
Restaurants and Accommodation
When you need a bite to eat, there are plenty of restaurants and pubs scattered throughout the Red Light District. Be sure to look near the Nieuwmarkt or the Zeedijk (China Town). There are a ton of fabulous places. If you want to stay in the Red Light District, have a look at Sofitel Legend the Grand, Hotel Luxer and Hotel Meeting Point.
- You can take pictures of your surroundings, but it is absolutely forbidden to take photos of the women
- Watch out for pickpockets
- While it is legal to smoke cannabis, please do so in a coffeeshop environment
- Do not buy drugs from dealers on the street
- Women, if you are traveling alone, you could be mistaken for a prostitute. Instead, find a friend that's willing to explore with you, travel in a group or take a tour
- Use common sense.