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An Ultimate Guide to the Amsterdam Red Light District

Belle Statue Amsterdam to Respect Sex Workers

As the capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam is known for its famous art museums like the Van Gogh Museum and is often referred to as the “Venice of the North” because of its elaborate canal system built during the 17th Century. But the oldest part of Amsterdam in the city center, the Red Light District, is arguably the most famous.

This Amsterdam guide will tell you everything you need to know about the Red Light District, from its sex workers to cannabis-friendly coffee shops. We’ll also share some of the best accommodations in the Red Light District, along with restaurants and bars that you can walk to from your hotel.

Belle Statue Amsterdam to Respect Sex Workers
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Amsterdam’s Red Light District – Tips for Tourists

Red light district in Amsterdam the Netherlands by night
Nataraj / Adobe Stock

While the Red Light District sounds like it would be an intimidating place to be, it’s really not. No seriously, it’s a very comfortable, open, and accepting area. I’ve seen kids in strollers, families milling about, and there’s even a daycare next to red light windows.

Admittedly, I was slightly taken aback when I saw a lady drop her child off at one such daycare, then go into the building next door, and then five minutes later I saw her dressed in lingerie in the window. But, it’s simply a different mindset. Sex work is regarded differently in the Netherlands, and if you aren’t willing to have an open mind, this area is probably not the right area for you to visit.

On the flip side, just like in any area of any other city in the world, if you overindulge and act like an idiot, no one respects that, and it’s hardly tolerated – least of all here. This isn’t an area where you can do whatever you want. People live here, people work here, (yes, sex work is still WORK) and that also needs to be respected.

Why is the Red Light District famous?

Red Light District in Amsterdam
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

De Wallen, more commonly known as the Red Light District, is home to legal window prostitution, with sex workers offering their services behind small windows. Street prostitution is not allowed, so the sex workers stand behind the 300+ windows.

Roughly divided into a day and night shift, the workers sit behind their windows from 8:00 am until 3:00 am. To hire a sex worker, visitors knock on a window to negotiate a price. Once the price and service are agreed upon, the customer enters the room behind the glass viewing area.

Not only is there legal prostitution, but Dutch coffee shops are permitted to…

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