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The Red Light District in Amsterdam – A Guide to Amsterdam’s World-Famous Red Light District

Located in the heart of Amsterdam in the oldest part of the city and close to Dam Square and Central Station is the renowned Red Light District, sprawled over several blocks and canals.

Known to locals as De Wallen or simply Rossebuurt, it’s hard to miss this crowded district with all the windows blazed with fluorescent red lights. Here the oldest profession in the world prostitution is legal, with the exception of street prostitution.

Female sex workers of all nationalities can be found sitting in window parlors vying for the attention of the passing men. You can expect to see everyone from groups of rowdy men out on the town for a bachelor party to giggling girls on a hen night or indeed couples and families going about their everyday business.

The History of the Red Light District

Prostitution in the area can be traced to the 14th century when sailors arriving back in Amsterdam were in need of female company. Over the years the industry blossomed and today the area is renowned as one of Amsterdam’s major tourist attractions.

To people all over the world, Amsterdam is the land of the free where prostitution and marijuana are legal, but it is certainly not the land of the lawless, for though Amsterdam is dotted with coffee shops and boasts not one but three Red Light District areas, the streets are patrolled by not only the police but Handlers so the Red light and the city in general, is safe by day and night … apart, that is, from the ubiquitous pickpockets.

During the day the Red Light District is at its least lively.  As the sun starts to set the streets fill up with people from all walks of life. Popular sex shows can be found at Casa Rosso, Moulin Rouge, and Amsterdam Banana Bar. Whether you are just passing through this neighborhood or shopping, be sure to keep your hands on your valuables. Also, refrain from taking photos of occupied windows as it is strictly prohibited.

Besides all the sex shops, peep shows, museums and sex shows in the area, there are many other interesting shops, pubs, great restaurants and rows of tall, leaning buildings overlooking tree-lined canals for you to savor.

If you fancy visiting the area and not see anything to do with sex it is quite easy, and there are a number of places worth visiting which have nothing to do with sex.

For architectural beauty, stop by Oudezijds Armsteeg to see six restored Delft blue houses standing in a row and the gothic Oude Kerk (church), in this old and beautiful part of town. You might think this is a strange location to put a church, but it was originally meant as a place for local sex workers to repent their sins.

During your visit, you may like to settle down for a nice meal at the Mediterranean restaurant Blauw aan de Wal, or at the equally exquisite French brasserie Cafe Roux. The Nieuwmarkt area nearby is also a popular place for locals to socialize, while the Zeedijk and its many Asian restaurants are ideal to grab a bite to eat. On the Zeedijk you can have your afternoon tea at Hofje van Wijs. This hidden gem serves tea, coffee, scones and cakes in a charming setting complete with a courtyard garden.

Although you may not think of the Red Light Area as the best or even a safe place to stay during your trip, you couldn’t be further from the truth. You may be surprised to learn that there are many families with kids living in the area and prostitution and soft drugs are just considered part of life and not something from which children must be shielded and protected. If you feel like walking on the wild side then we offer cheap hotels and apartments in the area.

The primary Red Light District area is within walking distance from Amsterdam Central Station. Exit tram lines 1, 2, 5, 13, 14 and 17 at the Dam to get to the second Red Light District in the area located between the Singel and Radhuisstraat. The third Red Light Area can be found in de Pijp behind the Rijksmuseum.

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