Exploring the Alleys of Amsterdam Red Light District

15 April, 2012

De Wallen is the largest and best-known Red-Light District in Amsterdam and a major tourist attraction. It is located in the heart of the oldest part of the city and covers several blocks south of the church Oude Kerk and crossed by several canals. De Wallen consists of a network of alleys containing approximately 300 tiny one-room cabins rented by prostitutes who offer their sexual services from behind a window or glass door, typically illuminated with red lights (explaining the term – red-light district).  Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands.  De Wallen, together with the prostitution areas Singelgebied and Ruysdaelkade, form the Rosse Buurt (red light areas) of Amsterdam.

Besides the windows, there are also countless sex shops, peep shows and sex museums in the area.  During the evenings, the main red-light district (the one along Oudezijds Achterburgwal – look out for the pink elephant sign – see picture below; where you will find the infamous sex show theatres Casa Rosso and Moulin Rouge) is filled with tourists so it is quite safe to walk around the area as long as you observe some basic rules:

  1. Do not take pictures of occupied windows – this is prohibited and you might be confronted so it could get messy;
  2. Watch out for your belongings – due to the crowd, pickpocketing is rife in this area;
  3. Try to go in a group or at least in twos to avoid unwanted attention especially if you go into the side alleys which are relatively quieter; and
  4. Don’t start a conversation with the prostitutes if you don’t intend to do any business with them.  You could get scolded or confronted for wasting their time.

Amsterdam Red Light District Netherlands Holland Prostitution Window

The prostitutes are typically scantily-clad (in bikinis or just bras and panties) behind the windows – it is ok to look and they will not go out of their windows to solicit business so they will not bother you too much (unless you break Rule Number 1 explained above).  The windows along Oudezijds Achterburgwal are only just a handful of all the windows in the whole red-light district.

If you explore the side alleys and the area around the church (Oude Kerk), you will find more windows and also a variety of the “red lights” above the windows.  The red lights are presented in different forms from red florescent tubes to red light bulbs but almost all windows have red curtains.  Along the narrow alleys around the Bulldog No. 90 Coffeeshop along Oudezijds Voorburgwal, you will find long rows of dedicated windows or prostitutes and very crowded alleys – very different from the street along Oudezijds Achterburgwal which is interspersed with sex shops and museum.

These girls typically pay around €100-150 for an 8-hour block to book the windows so it is important not to waste their time asking if you are not interested (see Rule Number 4).  From online sources, for about €50, clients get about 15-20 minutes of time with a prostitute and any extras e.g. more than 20 minutes required or other activities not earlier agreed will cost extra.

Amsterdam Red Light District Netherlands Holland Prostitution Window

The Amsterdam Red Light District at De Wallen is about a 10-minute walk from the Amsterdam Centraal Station.  There ain’t any tram stops nearby – the nearest Metro station is at Nieuwmarkt.  The red-light district around Oudezijds Achterburgwal is very near to Amsterdam’s Chinatown  (see map below for the landmarks – The Waag where the Nieuwmarkt metro is near and the Zeedijk street – Chinatown).  There are also 2 lesser-known red-light district areas in Amsterdam – Singel (between Raadhuistraat and Centraal Station) and de Pijp (behind the Rijksmuseum).

Besides sex shops and prostitutes, the De Wallen neighbourhood is also filled with interesting shops, pubs, fantastic restaurants, leaning gabled houses and the city’s most charming canal.  Don’t miss the vibrant Nieuwmarkt square, the medieval building – the Waag, the gothic Oude Kerk or a walk along the centre of Amsterdam’s Chinatown, the Zeedijk (also home to an impressive Buddhist temple).  You will also be able to find one of the best Chinese food in Amsterdam at Nam Kee (we had one of the best fried rice and wanton noodles here!).

Check out the map below for the walking route from Amsterdam Centraal Station to the red light district.  Once you have reached the Oude Kerk, you will also have reached the red-light district – look out for the red lights above the windows.

View Larger Map

Zhiqiang & Tingyi

Comments (8)

  • Chanda VenableReply

    17 April, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    I always thought of Amsterdam as a crowded place. Seems like I was wrong. But I knew that nightlife there is awesome. A really great place to hangout. Hope me and my girls would make it there this summer!

    • EstherReply

      24 May, 2014 at 9:19 pm

      If you go late on a Saturday night it is crowded. And summer can be extremely crowded in the center of Amsterdam.

  • DaleReply

    19 April, 2012 at 1:42 am

    First off I want to say awesome blog! I had a quick question which I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your mind prior to writing. I have had difficulty clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out there. I do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes tend to be wasted just trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or tips? Cheers!

  • Roman T.Reply

    21 April, 2012 at 2:36 am

    I envy you. Someday I’ll visit Netherlands too. Were you able to ask the history of the red light district? How it came to be like it is now? Thanks for sharing some photos here.


  • UberholidayReply

    28 April, 2012 at 11:32 am

    Wow you’ve even list the rates for the “local entertaintment” there, talk about being comprehensive. I absolutely love that Amsterdamn probably one of the most liberal places on earth!

  • EliseReply

    22 September, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    Being Dutch I know that De Wallen is one of the most known prostitution area’s but I would also say it’s one of the safest. Over the years it turned into a tourist attraction more and more. I go to Amsterdam quite often and sometimes you even see parents with their kids walking through there! (Which I think you shouldn’t do but ok!) The government is working on closing a lot of the shops/houses there because they believe it has gone to far over the years and don’t want The Netherlands to be known only for drugs and prostitutes .

  • DavidReply

    21 March, 2013 at 10:12 pm

    I agree with Elise 🙂

    It just feels unsafe because it’s something new for tourists and there’s a lot of druk tourists around.

    Even statistics show this district is very safe due to the number of people the social control is quite high. There’s a lot of police on the streets, mainly to make tourists feel safer.

    Pickpocketing is more common in other areas or the shopping area

  • EstherReply

    24 May, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    Prostitution might be legal (tax have to be paid is what it means), but quite a few of the women are forced to work as prostitutes in an illegal situation.
    In fact it is a sad place. Every window must have a story. You must be really rough around the edges to like a job in the red spotlight.

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