Amsterdam’s Red Light District

The Red Light District consists of several canals, and the side streets between them, south of Central Station and east of Damrak. Known as ‘De Wallen’ (the quays) in Dutch, because the canals were once part of the city defences (walls and moats). Prostitution itself is limited to certain streets, mainly side streets and alleys, but the district is considered to include the canals, and some adjoining streets (such as Warmoesstraat and Zeedijk). The whole area has a heavy police presence, and many security cameras. Nevertheless it is still a residential district and has many bars and restaurants, and also includes historic buildings and museums — this is the oldest part of the city. The oldest church in Amsterdam, the Netherlands-gothic Oude Kerk on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal at Oudekerksplein, is now surrounded by window prostitution. The area has many sex shops and peep show bars.

Nowadays, prostitution is legal in the Netherlands but not on the streets. That’s why prostitutes in Amsterdam stand up behind a window and have their own room. The name of “Red Light District” comes from the red neon lights that highlight the 300 windows where women are working.

Amsterdam has three different Red Light Districts but the most famous and the most attractive is the one located inside the city center.

Since October 2000, window prostitutes have been allowed to legally offer their services. Today, prostitutes in the Netherlands are also taxpayers. Unfortunately, discrimination is still a part of this trade as many prostitutes report that some banks refuse to grant mortgages for example. However, now as a legal profession, the government ensures that all prostitutes are able to access medical care and work in better conditions by regulating and monitoring working practices and standards. Help is also at hand in the district itself thanks to the Prostitution Information Center. Also, contrary to popular belief, the RLD is actually the safest area in Amsterdam as clusters of policemen, and private bodyguards employed by the girls themselves are always on duty.

Red Light District Rules

It is strictly forbidden to take pictures or film women behind their windows. A sign is sticked on every window as a reminder. Be careful if you try to take a photograph as working women can become very aggressive. The same rule is applicable if you go to a strip club, peep show or sex theater. The best is to keep your phone or camera in your pocket otherwise you risk to be kicked out by the bouncers.

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