Red Light District Amsterdam – The Ultimate Guide

The red light district of Amsterdam is known as the sex paradise of Europe. At the same time, it is one of the most beautiful and oldest parts of the city. In our guide, we present the highlights and tell you what you should definitely be aware of.

The Red Light District of Amsterdam - Sinful Mile between the Canals

Half-naked and beauties in red shop windows. The smell of sin is drifting through the alleys. A traditional corner pub here - a live sex show there. Is this how you imagine the Red Light District in Amsterdam?

Generally, you are bang on target!

Amsterdam’s Red Light District (De Wallen) is very close to the central train station.

Tip - Explore the Red Light District with a Local Guide

During a guided tour you can discover the secrets of the Red Light District with the eyes of a local. Friendly guides, insider information, and fair prices - we recommend the 2-hour guided tour offered by Get Your Guide. Buy tickets online.

The red light district attracts millions of pleasure-seeking tourists every year. Just like on the Hamburg Reeperbahn, not all visitors are perverts or potential clients.

The red light district is absolutely packed at the weekend

There are also couples watching a sex show together, or bachelor parties at strip clubs. Establishments such as the legendary "Bananenbar" attract customers with neon signs - tingling eroticism for every taste.

Prostitutes offer their services in these brothel windows

Non-binding sex at affordable prices. This concept has been a guarantor of good business for centuries. In the narrow alleys of the Red Light District, you will find all imaginable (and unimaginable) types of sexual services. The ladies usually charge between 50€ and 100€ for 20 minutes.

In the next part, you'll learn where to find the red light district and get tips for the best strip clubs, sex shows and pubs. Finally, we take a critical look at prostitution in Amsterdam.

Your Tour Recommendations

These are the Rules of the Red Light District

Out of respect for the sex workers and for your own safety, you should follow some rules. In the following section you will also learn how the transaction between clients and prostitutes works.

Window prostitution in De Wallen - Photo: © Anna Belkina Spb

Although the Red Light District feels like a big tourist attraction, you should always remember that prostitution is a serious matter. Especially for the women who work there to earn a living.

These are the rules in the red light district of Amsterdam

  • We recommend visiting after sunset – the Red Light District comes to life after 8 pm.
  • No photos! - The bouncers and ladies might get very irritated, and your camera will end up in one of the canals at best.
  • Please do not disturb if the curtain is closed in a red brothel window – the lady is busy.
  • What does a blue light in the shop window mean? – It means it is a transsexual prostitute.
  • Treat the ladies with respect – it is free to look. Only touch them with consent - and in return for cash.
  • Avoid noise – Believe it or not. De Wallen is home to many normal people who have to go to work early in the morning.
  • Beware of pickpockets – The alleys in the red light district are often very crowded, especially in the evening. Pickpockets like to take advantage of this. Always keep an eye on your belongings!

Flirting and naked skin. For some ladies, sexy lingerie is enough, others attract customers with dirty jokes. When a customer is interested in a lady, he knocks on the window. First there is a short negotiation. The standard is oral sex and regular sex. When both agree, the red curtain closes.

This is how the transaction between clients and prostitutes works

Of course, the whole interaction is always with a condom. If a client wants to stay longer, it will be more expensive. Kissing is taboo for most ladies because it is too intimate. Otherwise, almost anything is possible. When asked, the ladies list all the extras and the corresponding prices. Everything is a matter of negotiation. But be careful! Offering a price that is too low is considered quite disrespectful.

Read on to find out how to get to the red light district. On our map we have marked the best route for an exciting red light walk.

How do I get to the Red Light District?

From the main train station, you can get to the Red Light District in no time. As a reference point, you can always keep an eye on the "Oude Kerk" (old church). It is located in the middle of it. You can recognize the narrow, ornate tower if you look slightly to the left from the main train station.

Click on the picture to activate the map

Leave the main train station, go straight ahead and cross the large crossing (Prins Hendrikkade). Now turn left and cross the bridge, about 50 meters. Do not follow the main road now but walk straight ahead into the narrow Nieuwebrugsteeg Follow the alley until you reach a canal - this is the "Oudezijds Voorburgwal."

The perfect route through the Red Light District

All you have to do is walk along the Oudezijds Voorburgwal until you reach the Oude Kerk. This is where the Red Light District begins. The other main canal in the Red Light District is the "Oudezijds Achterburgwal".

Oudezijds Achterburgwal - One of the main canals - Photo: © Olena Znak

The two canals run parallel to each other. So, you can simply walk for a bit, cross a bridge and walk back along the parallel canal - and there you have the perfect route through the Red Light District. Our tip: Explore the narrow alleys between the canals - maybe you will discover a surprise or two. Show route on the map.

Two more red light districts in Amsterdam

Besides "De Wallen", the main red-light district in the center, there are two others in Amsterdam: "Singelgebied" is located about 400 meters west of De Wallen. In the much quieter alleys "Oude Nieuwstraat" and "Spuitstraat" there are about 65 more red-lit windows, some sex stores and cinemas (see map).

Red Light District in the neighborhood "De Pijp"

The smallest of Amsterdam's three red light districts is located in the trendy "De Pijp" neighborhood. The street "Ruysdaelkade" houses about 40 red windows (see map). There are hardly any tourists in this area.

Next up: The Best Strip Clubs, Sex Shows and Pubs.

The Best Strip Clubs, Sex Shows and Pubs – Our Tips

Of course, there are endless tourist traps within the Red Light District. Generations of sailors have dropped their last guilders in the panties of strippers. Still, it is worth the fun. We checked out the best bars, strip clubs and sex shows for you.

Highlights of the Red Light District - click to activate

The Old Sailor - authentic pub: The best sailor joint in the Red Light District. The pub is packed in the evening, and you will quickly find new contacts with other visitors. Fair prices, nice staff - perfect for a cold beer before you head off to the Amsterdam nightlife. Oudezijds Achterburgwal 39-A, at the bridge towards Oude Kerk.

Bananenbar – entertaining strip club: The legendary strip bar is a witty mix of half-naked girls, tourists, bananas, and alcohol. At the entrance you pay 60€ for one hour, drinks included - a good deal for fast drinkers. The special show with the bananas costs extra. The banana is included in the price. Oudezijds Achterburgwal 37.

Sex Palace – peep show: Here you pay 2€ for 2 minutes in a cabin. The cabins are arranged in a circle around a round stage. You can enjoy the show of the dancers through a peep window. Peep shows are part of the history of Amsterdam's Red Light District. You should definitely have fun while it lasts. Rumor has it that the Sex Palace will close soon. Oudezijds Achterburgwal 84, 1012 DT Amsterdam.

Sex Palace - Peep-Show at the Red Light District

La Vie en Proost – lap dance bar: Our insider's tip. The strip club is hidden in a narrow, red-lit alley. The entrance fee is only 5€, but the drinks are sinfully expensive. Pretty girls undress between the guests and on the bar, except for the panties – here you will enjoy a real red light feeling. If you want to see one of the girls naked, you have to pay 20€ for a lap dance. Bethlehemsteeg 23, 1012 JA Amsterdam.

Cannabis College – all about weed: There's not much to see at first. Glass showcases with information material and a cozy sitting area. However, if you talk to the staff, you get accumulated knowledge about the green crop. You can also try a vaporizer as an alternative smoking method. In the basement, you will find the cannabis garden. Here you can learn everything about breeding and growing under artificial light – it is fascinating to see it live. Oudezijds Achterburgwal 124.

Casa Rosso – live sex show: In these shows, couples have live sex on stage, and beautiful women perform erotic stunts. You are sitting on a bench, watching like in the movies. The Casa Rosso is one of the better shows in Amsterdam. Tourist trap or sexy entertainment? You have to decide for yourself whether the 50€ is worth it. Our opinion: if you are already in the Red Light District, you might as well watch a show. In any case, you will always remember that evening. Buy ticket here (skip the line). Oudezijds Achterburgwal 106-108.

You cannot miss the pink elephant

Red Light Secrets Museum: One of the most notorious brothels in the red light district has been turned into a museum. Red shop windows and slippery exhibits - everything was left in its original condition. Personal stories give you an authentic insight into the work of a prostitute. Buy ticket online. Oudezijds Achterburgwal 60.

Red Light Secrets - Photo: © Resul Muslu

Stay tuned. In the next section you will get an insight into the work of the prostitutes and learn why the Red Light District could soon be history.

Prostitution in Amsterdam - A Critical Look

For some it is pure exploitation of women - for others it is a normal profession. Residents, real estate agents, the tourism industry and the yellow press - hardly any topic is as hotly debated as what goes on in the red light district.

De Gestreelde Borst - Popular photo opportunity at Oude Kerk - Photo © S-F

Some would like to close down De Wallen immediately. The others want independent and legal sex workers with all rights and obligations. But the fronts are not quite that hard.

400 windows, 1000 prostitutes and 200,000 clients per year*.

Prostitution was legalised in the Netherlands as early as 2000. Everyone agrees that legal prostitution is better than a street prostitution with pimps and a lot of forced prostitution.

Tip - Prostitution Information Center (PIC)

The PIC (Prostitution Information Center) is located right next to the Oude Kerk and is an information centre for visitors to the Red Light District. On a tour with a former prostitute, you get an authentic look at the work in the Red Light District.

Today, the ladies pay taxes, work independently and even have their own union. When asked if they have a pimp, most ladies would say no.

Do the prostitutes work by choice?

Freedom on the job and a high income. Many former sex workers do not see themselves as victims. The staff at the PIC (Prostitution Information Center) say: For most prostitutes it was a free decision to earn money independently. Of course, many are influenced by difficult life circumstances.

The dark side of the story: There are still cases of human trafficking and forced prostitution. According to a study by the UNHCR, this amounts to between 100 and 200 cases per year in the Netherlands. The government is trying to curb the problem with stricter rules and laws. For example, customers face imprisonment if they notice that a woman is forced into prostitution and do not report it.

Where do the sex workers come from?

A conservative estimate is that two thirds do not come from the Netherlands. The largest part comes from Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia. Overall, however, almost all nationalities are represented.

What will the future bring? Is the red light district dying?

Noisy tourists, drug dealing and a dirty image - De Wallen is a thorn in the side of many. Malicious tongues claim that the city council wants to ban red windows and coffee shops from the centre in order to preserve the value of the expensive canal houses.

More than 10 years ago, project 1012 (that's the postcode of De Wallen) was launched to make the neighbourhood "cleaner". As a result, dozens of shop windows had to close. Overall, however, the project was only moderately successful.

The red light district is to be relocated - against the will of the sex workers

If the local council has its way, the prostitutes are to move to a huge brothel outside the city centre. The location for this has not yet been decided. According to a survey by the union Red Light United, 90 percent of the sex workers questioned want to stay in De Wallen.

The old harbour district - a place of tolerance and freedom

Even if things don't look so good for the Red Light District at the moment: Since the red lanterns were first lit in 1811, not too much has changed in de Wallen.

For many visitors and locals, the old harbour district is a place of tolerance and freedom. They hope it will remain as the cultural heart of Amsterdam.

That was our tour through the Red Light District of Amsterdam. Do you know any more good shops, or have you been to the Red Light District? Do you have any tips for other travelers? Then write us a comment below.

* The numbers are estimated

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