The Red Light District in Amsterdam

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The Red Light District in Amsterdam

Visit one of the most famous districts in Amsterdam. People around the world know what goes on here: prostitutes stand behind windows to acquire customers. If you walk through these streets, you will see them do their job. But this district has more to offer. This oldest part of the city boasts many historical buildings, as well as museums that will tell you more about the history of this unique area.

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It may be the district in Amsterdam most popular among tourists:  ‘De Wallen’, also called ‘De Rosse Buurt’ or the Red Light District. The area around Oudezijds Achterburgwal is more or less devoted to adult entertainment. It is hard to imagine anything in this field that you cannot find here.

  • Visit the Museum of Prostitution and learn more about the world’s oldest profession.
  • You can also admire a number of extraordinary monumental buildings in this district.
  • The streets here are safe but there is a code of conduct to be observed.

Short history of the Red Light District

Prostitution in Amsterdam is nearly as old as the city itself. As early as the 15th century and possibly earlier, the first prostitutes arrived to earn a living in the harbor of Amsterdam. The Red Light District is still located in the oldest part of the city. The women initially plied their trade in the streets. In the sixties, the police made it illegal to solicit from doorways. Sitting behind the window was tolerated if the curtains were almost closed. By burning a red light behind the chink, it was clear to men that they could come here for a prostitute. Today it is allowed to keep the curtains open but the red lights are still used. As a result the evening hours are the best time to visit. The Red Light District then comes to life and clearly shows where its name originated.

Other activities in the Red Light District

You can do more in the Red Light District than stroll past the prostitutes’ windows. It is also home to the Museum of Prostitution where you can learn about this profession. Explore its history and take the opportunity to stand behind a window yourself. You are allowed to take pictures but are not required to receive customers, of course.

Want to know more about cannabis use? In that case you should visit the Cannabis College. This is where you will find more information about safely using cannabis. You can also visit the garden to see how the plant grows.

Monumental buildings

If you like historical buildings, visiting the Red Light District in Amsterdam is certainly recommended. The city’s oldest residence, for instance, is located on Warmoesstraat number 90. The facade dates from the 18th century but it was recently discovered that the structure behind the facade is much older. The residence itself was probably erected in 1485.

Another focal point in this district is Oude Kerk (Old Church), one of Amsterdam’s oldest churches. During the weekends, you can climb the church tower on a guided tour.

Another interesting place is Trompettersteeg, officially the narrowest street in Amsterdam. You cannot even walk side by side! If someone is coming from the other side, you will have to back up against the wall to let them pass.

Code of conduct in the Red Light District

Walking through the Red Light District is safe. Countless police officers patrol the area to keep an eye on things. Even so, as in all crowded locations in big cities, there are pickpockets. Keep a close eye on your personal belongings.

Taking pictures of the women doing their job here is not appreciated. We strongly recommend against it.

If traders accost you on the street to offer bicycles or drugs, it is better to refuse. Such goods are nearly always illegal or stolen. If caught, the police imposes high fines on both the seller and the buyer.

Please respect these rules to have a great time in a unique district that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

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