Amsterdam’s Red Light District is, perhaps, the most well-known part of town and one that most people know about long before they make their trip to the Netherlands. Many of the stereotypes about this part of town are true. Very little is left to the imagination in the Red Light District with plenty of brothels, peep shows, sex shops, prostitutes and condom shops on the strip. However, the district is so much more than this and also has many cultural highlights. Many new upscale restaurants and cafes are setting up shop in the Red Light District and bringing new life to this historic part of town. Also the number of windows have been declining the last few years.
What to Expect
The Dutch are famous for being liberal and tolerant. Prostitution is a trade that has deep roots in Amsterdam (and the rest of the world) and is completely legal. Those working in this trade have their own union, are protected by police, monitored by the government and frequently tested for diseases. Safety is of the utmost importance and something taken very seriously by the sex-workers in the Red Light District. There are approximately 250 windows in the district where curious tourists can “window shop.”
Tips for Tourists:
- Travel in groups – Although this part of town is considered generally safe and protected by police and private bodyguards, it is best to travel with at least one other person to avoid any unwanted attention and you might feel more comfortable this way.
- Be safe – The Red Light District is typically crowded at night. Pick pocketing is not uncommon, so keep this in mind before you leave.
- Leave your camera at home – Cameras are a big no-no in the Red Light District.
- Do not buy drugs on the street – This is illegal. If you do plan on buying drugs, do so in a nearby coffeeshop.
Explore the District’s History
The Red Light District is one of the oldest parts of Amsterdam. Its charming buildings and tree-line canals add beauty to this part of town. There are a number of pubs, restaurants, old homes and shops in the district. Locals of all ages and from all walks of life spend time in the Red Light District, so the atmosphere is lively and exciting.
The Old Church (Oude Kerk) is the oldest parish church in Amsterdam and located in the Red Light District. The church was constructed in 1306. Today, it shares a square with window prostitutes. This is a testament to the tolerance and liberal attitude the Dutch are renowned for. The interior of the church is home to excellent art exhibitions, weddings and concerts.
The Red Light District is a must-see for any traveler. No matter what your own personal views are, there is something for everyone in this unique part of town. From sex shops to relaxed cafes and fine restaurants, tourists can enjoy a truly unforgettable experience.
Be sure to also check out: The top 50 things to do in Amsterdam