Red Light District

The Amsterdam Red Light District is one of the most talked-about neighbourhoods in the city, due to its housing of the world’s oldest profession. While prostitution can be found all across the globe, it usually happens behind closed doors. But not in Amsterdam! In the Red Light area Known as “De Wallen” (pronounced Day Vaw-len) to the Dutch, you’ll find prostitutes offering their “services”, from behind a window. Along with that, the area is known for its many live sex shows, sex shops, brothels, and strip clubs. Although the area used to be quite a notorious and unsafe area, things have changed a lot over the past decades. Besides pickpockets, the area is fairly safe to visit especially during the daytime. The oldest erotic theatre in the area is Casa Rosso, which until today, can be visited for some 18+ action. There’s no such thing as an age restriction to walk through the area, however, the adult shops and adult entertainment do not allow minors.

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Mariska Majoor from the Prostitution Information Center on sex work in the red light area

Red Light District Amsterdam
History Red Light District

The history of the area dates all the way back to the 16th century, as the Catholic government was being overthrown by Protestants. The district was transformed, making way for nightlife and entertainment for the many sailors and travellers passing through Amsterdam. At the time, the harbour in Amsterdam was one of Europe’s most important trade centres. It might be hard to imagine today, but Amsterdam has always been situated at sea. That was until 1932 when a giant dam called “Afsluitdijk” was completed, that cut off the former “Zuiderzee” from the North Sea.

ed Light District - Casa RossoCasa Rosso erotic theatre

Do you want to get a taste of the 18+ entertainment? Be sure to pay a visit to Casa Rosso! This is the oldest, most iconic place to experience the Red Light District. The theatre reminds of a small cinema, but instead of seeing a movie, you’ll be shown various 18+ plus shows. Think of striptease, S&M and live sex shows!

Red Light Secrets museum of prostitution

Red Light Secrets – Museum of Prostitution

Are you keen to find out more about the Red Light area and sneak-a-peek behind the scenes, Red Light Secrets is your place to go! This former brothel is turned into a museum dedicated to prostitution. You can actually experience sitting in a window to feel what it would be like, working from a window in this neighbourhood. An audio-guide will teach you a lot on the background of the Red Light District and the world of prostitution. The museum will give you a short, but thorough insight in this notorious area of Amsterdam.

Cruise with drinks with departure from Red Light District

A canal cruise is a great way to sit back and enjoy the city! This cruise including drinks departs from and ends in the Red Light District. So if you want to take a break from the hustle and bustle in the Red Light Area, hop on this boat, sit back and enjoy your drinks! Two drinks are included, or if you’re thirsty there’s also an open bar option.

Tour de bonton sexclub tour

Behind the scenes of prostitution; Bonton sex club tour

Prostitution is one of the most controversial topics in Amsterdam. Everybody has something to say, but few people have actually the knowledge to know what they are talking about. If you want to get a rare view behind the scenes, you might enjoy the Bonton sexclub tour. In this real-life brothel, that is still in service at night, you will get an exclusive peek behind the scenes. A former prostitute working in a sex club will tell you all about the job, the money and the emotions involved. You can ask her any question and get an honest answer! Bonton is not located in the Red Light area though, but instead, it’s located near the Heineken Experience.

Red Light District - entrance Trompetsteeg
The Trompettersteeg, next to Coffeeshop The Bull Dog, is on of the narrowest alleys in the Red Light District with brothels on each side of the alley
Red Light District - Old Church
In the heart, of the Red Light District, you’ll find the magnificent “Oude Kerk” or Old Church

What is the Amsterdam Red Light district and how does it work?

We’re aware that there’s quite a bit of mystery in this specific part of Amsterdam, so let us explain to you a bit more and answer some of the most frequently asked questions. The Amsterdam Red Light District is not an attraction. It doesn’t have an entrance or an exit, but it’s simply a small neighbourhood. It basically consists of two canals and some connecting alleys. In the area, you’ll find a lot of 18+ entertainment, sex shows, sex shops and brothels in the form of windows. Apart from that, you’ll find a lot of restaurants, bars and hotels. The area draws lots of visitors who are curious to experience the neighbourhood first-hand. Now, let’s go through some of the most common questions about the area.

  • Does the Red Light District have opening hours?

No, the area is always freely accessible as it’s just a neighbourhood on public roads. It does not close at a certain time. However, if you’re looking to use the services of a sex worker, you’re best off being there before 4:00 am when the windows start closing. The women that work there, work independently so can stop whenever they like.

  • How to order/make use of a sex workers’ service? 

If you want to make use of a sex worker’s service, simply walk up to the window to indicate that you’re interested. They will open the door for you, so you can discuss your wishes. Treat the person behind the window with respect, like you’d like to be treated. Remember; the workers have the right to refuse clients, don’t take this personally, maybe you simply look like a relative. If you agree on the kind of service and the price, you’ll be let in. You must pay cash up front, so make sure you have the right amount on you.

  • What are the prices at the Red Light District?

There’s no such thing as an entrance fee, as the area is publicly accessible. The sex workers are free to set their own prices, based on the clients wishes. However, to give you an indication; in most brothels, the tariffs start at €50,- for a short (10-15 minutes), basic service. If you have specific wishes or need more time you’ll most often be charged extra. Do keep in mind, that this information is purely indicative and that the sex workers can set their own rules and tariffs.

  • What street is the Red Light District on?

The heart of the area is formed by two streets, or canals: Oude Zijdsvoorburgwal and Oude Zijdsachterburgwal. The connecting alleys and surrounding streets are officially part of the Red Light District as well.

  • Is the Red Light District safe to visit (at night)? 

Yes, the area is safe both day and night time. The only real threat in the area is pickpocketing. Due to the area being crowded with tourists and a lot of distractions, the area is very popular among pickpockets.

  • Is there an age restriction for visiting the Red Light Area?

There’s no age restriction for the area itself as it’s publically accessible. However, we feel that you should question whether it’s really necessary to take minors to the window area; the Red Light District and sex workers are already under a lot of pressure from growing tourism. The workers are there to make money and it doesn’t help to have families staring at their customers, if you go for educational purposes, visit the Prostitution Information Center or Red Light Secrets Museum of Prostitution. For the shows, shops and brothels, of course, an age restriction of 18 years and over applies.

  • What are the rules of the Red Light District?

First of all, be respectful to the neighbourhood and the people living and working there. To decrease nuisance in the crowded area the following rules apply;

  1. No alcohol in public – feel free to visit one of the many pubs or restaurants in the area. You’re welcome to have a drink in a restaurant or pub, however, you can not take your drink out on the streets. Nor is it allowed to buy alcohol in a shop and consume it on the street.
  2. No smoking of marijuana in public – you’re welcome to smoke in the coffeeshops, however, smoking in public if not allowed.

Below, you’ll find a full list of do’s and don’ts.

Do’s  Don’ts
Be respectful to the sex workers. Do not take pictures of the sex workers
Leave valuables that you don’t need in your hotel. Do not drink alcohol out on the streets, it’s prohibited.
Behave, do not shout, sing, or in any other way be of public nuisance. There are people living in the area. Do not litter the streets, or the canals.
Visit at least one coffeeshops in the area. Do not smoke marijuana on the streets, it’s prohibited in the Red Light District
Ignore street dealers. You never know what you are buying. Best case scenario, it’s a painkiller or salt, but it can also be something more harmful! Do not stand too long in front of the windows, unless you have the intention of going in. You don’t want people staring at you while you are doing your job either
No Photo's - Graffiti art - Red Light District
Respect the working ladies in the Red Light District; Taking photos is not allowed!
Red Light District - No alcohol
Avoid getting fined a €90,- fine, don’t drink alcohol in the streets of the Red Light District. Go to a cafe or bar when thirsty!
Red Light District - No cannabis
Since 2023, a ban was placed on smoking cannabis in public in the Red Light Area

Legal forms of prostution in the Netherlands

Paid sex between adults (18+) is legalized in the Netherlands. Legal prostitution is found in different forms. Besides window-prostitution, found in Red Light District, it’s also legal visiting a Gentleman’s (sex) Club as well as using the services of an Escort Service. In all cases prostitutes are free to refuse a certain customer or certain sexual activities they don’t feel comfortable doing. When you decide to engage in sexual interaction with a prostitute, make sure to respect each other’s boundaries. If not, any actions will be punishable as rape. It is recommended to discuss any specific wishes or preferences upfront. Prices, for prostitution can differ as the sex workers are free to set their prices.

  • Window prostitution; prices range roughly between €50 – €100. Duration usually 15-30 minutes or less.
  • Escort agencies; prices range roughly between €150 – €200. Escort agencies usually charge per hour.
  • Sex clubs; prices range roughly between €200 – € 500. Usually you are charged an entrance price, after that you pay for a private room per hour.

Red Light District Tours

Since April 2020 the city council has put in place restrictions on guided tours in the Red Light District. These measures were taken to reduce the nuisance and improve the quality of living for locals, as well as the working conditions of the sex workers. Due to the immense popularity of the area, in combination with the narrow streets, the area was getting too crowded. The guided tour groups were causing congestion in the area. There were also sex workers who complained that the large amounts of guided tours were putting pressure on their earnings, as it was preventing customers from visiting. Therefore, guided tours along the windows were banned altogether, group sizes were limited and permits were required.

However, if you want to learn more about the history and secrets of this iconic part of Amsterdam, there are several alternatives;

  • A self-guided audio walking tour; an immersive journey into the heart of Amsterdam’s famed district. With the help of an app on your smartphone, you can explore the area at your own pace, while learning more about the area with commentary of a professional local guide.
  • Red Light Secrets; in this tiny museum housed in one of the former window brothels, you’ll get an exclusive look behind the scenes of the Red Light Area. The guided audio tour is narrated by a prostitute who has worked in the area for years. She will tell you her take on the profession and some anecdotes from first-hand experiences.
  • Prostitution Information Center; this local non-profit organization is mainly run by former sex workers. They visit the sex workers, to help them out with advice on topics such as taxes, housing, health, and more. As a visitor, you can hear their take on prostitution in the district during a Walk ‘n Talk. This informative talk is split up into two parts. In between you’ll go out to explore the district by yourself and when you return for the second part, you can ask any questions that might have popped up during your walk.
  • Explore the area with a local; on the website you can book a tour guide that tells you everything about the area. Due to the limited group size, these tours are still allowed in certain area’s.

Hotels in the Red Light District area

The Red Light District of Amsterdam is situated just minutes away from the very heart of the city. From either Dam Square or Amsterdam Central Station you will be able to walk in a matter of five minutes to the prostitution area. So if you’re looking for a hotel near the area, you can take practically any centrally located hotel near Dam Square, or either Central Station or subway station Amsterdam Nieuwmarkt.

Location of the district

Red Light District is situated right in the centre of Amsterdam. It’s a five to ten-minute walk from Amsterdam Central Station, while walking in the direction of Dam Square, take a left halfway. Most of the district is situated between the Zeedijk and the Warmoesstraat. For a quick impression of the area take a look at the map below.

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