red light district amsterdam

Red Light District

Amsterdam’s world-famous “Red Light District”, or the Dutch capital’s sultry neighborhood, is more than 800 years old and a true symbol of the city. If you are visiting Amsterdam for the first time, your curiosity must lead you there. Famous for its many red neon windows where prostitutes are offered to the eyes of passers-by, you will also find the museum of hashish, eroticism, as well as cabarets, sex shops, massage parlors and brothels among others. It is one of the most touristic districts of Amsterdam.

If the red light district extends over a large part of the old city located just south of Central Station, its “hot” part is located in the district of De Wallen, centralized around the Oude Kerk church and along the canal oudezijds achterburgwal.

The rest of the red-light district gathers souvenir stores, sex-shops, coffee-shops and fast food restaurants. This district is of course to be visited at night when you will be wandering among the crowd of tourists. Do not take pictures, it is forbidden. Moreover this district is one of the most policed of the city (even if the policemen are not very “visible”), very supervised, you will not risk anything.

From brothels to sex shops and museums, the Red Light District leaves no room to the imagination. It’s very likely that you’ve heard about this district and to be honest, everything you’ve heard is probably true, but to put the rumors aside, you have to visit it for yourself. The Rossebuurt, as the locals know, is not like any other place. The Red Light District that everyone knows is certainly the one where women of all nationalities parade through the windows, many willing to give more than a show to an innocent boy in a private booth. Another familiar image of the Red Light District is the number of men, young and old, couples in close quarters, pointing with amazement at everything they see, Japanese tourists full of cameras (except in the direction of the female guests! This is strictly forbidden!). This is proof enough that the Red Light District is worth a visit.

It’s because the Rossebuurt (in Dutch, “pink district” or “red district”) is actually one of the oldest and most beautiful parts of the city with its windows, its charming streets from the 14th century architecture. Century, like the Gothic Oudekerk. The Red Light District is full of charm and it is impossible not to admire its old buildings positioned in a special way. The music, especially during the summer season, invites you to stay a little longer.

Amsterdam is proud of itself, and rightly so, for its totally liberal and tolerant attitude, accepting the fact that some people may be in the business of prostitution, soft drugs and pornography – this being only human. So instead of having an attitude where punishment is the key word. Enjoy the honesty of it all, because you won’t find it anywhere else. How to get there? It depends on which RLD area you’re looking for, as there are actually three Red Light Districts in Amsterdam: the main one is in the Walletjes area (between Central Station and Nieuwenmarkt), and the other two are in Singel (between Raadhuistraat and Central Station) and Pijp (behind the Rijksmuseum).

Prostitution in Amsterdam

Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands, and in Amsterdam it is largely centralized in the Red Light District where it has a long tradition of tolerance. Today, prostitutes in the Netherlands must also pay taxes. Furthermore, contrary to popular belief, the Red Light District is currently one of the safest areas in Amsterdam, due to the various police patrols that are carried out there and the private security guards hired by the prostitutes themselves.


So where to go? Well, if curiosity makes you impatient, come at night when the neighborhood really comes alive. During the day, the neighborhood doesn’t live as intensely and is even less attractive when the sleazy aspects are revealed in the light of day. But there are always women at the windows, even during the day, most of the action takes place around 11 a.m., when the neighborhood welcomes the crowds and embodied lights illuminate the canals. The atmosphere continues until about 2 or 3 a.m., when the crowds disappear and the business closes.

For those who are not easily offended, there are many live sex shows, and the best known of these shows take place in the theaters of the Casa Rosa (OZ Achterburgwal) and the no less famous Moulin Rouge (Oudezijds Achterburgwal 5-7). For the simply curious, there are many peep-shows that are accompanied by video booths. The Red Light District is also home to several gay bars and cinemas that are located in a very popular Warmoesstraat.

The Red Light District is also home to a number of special stores and pubs.

To make sure you get the most out of the Red Light District, read the following tips:

  • Do not take pictures of the occupied windows, this is strictly forbidden and any attempt will be refused.
  • Watch out for pickpockets, as this is a crowded area.
  • Try to always go in groups or at least in pairs and avoid attracting unwanted attention.
  • Don’t buy anything from the dealers
  • Do not visit the Red Light District first, otherwise you will get the wrong idea of the Netherlands and Amsterdam.

Hotels in the Red Light District of Amsterdam

The area of the Red Light District is certainly no more dangerous than other lodging places. It really is a very safe and well-controlled part of the city, the heart of Amsterdam’s nightlife entertainment. Hotels located directly in the Red Light District are often chosen by visitors looking for existing nightlife in Amsterdam. If you are looking for a quieter area, there is no shortage of hotels.