Red Light District Amsterdam, The Wallen

Home/18+, Blog, Districts, Red Light District/Red Light District Amsterdam, The Wallen
  • Red Light District Amsterdam

Red Light District Amsterdam, The Wallen


The Red Light District

The Red Light District or the Wallen (in Dutch); there are several designations for this special neighbourhood in Amsterdam, but everyone knows which community is meant. Famous and notorious all over the world, for many almost unreal but for Dutch actually quite normal. The ramparts are right in the heart of Amsterdam’s oldest part of town. This district was already formed in the 13th century and has existed for hundreds of years. Amsterdam used to be an important port city and many men were at sea for a long time. When they docked in Amsterdam they were looking for female companionship and found this in the red light district. The neighbourhood spans several blocks which are crossed by the canals, south of the old church.

The Wallen and Chinatown

The ramparts are undoubtedly the most popular attraction in Amsterdam. An area called the Red Light District because of the typical red neon lights of the various clubs and windows. It is also a historic district with a lot of architecture from the 14th century, beautiful canals and the alluring ‘Oude Kerk’, which translates as old church. It’s a monumental work of Giorgio Andreotta Calò (Venice) and quite ironically placed in this neighbourhood. Make sure to step inside as you’ll end up in a swirling sea of red light which is quite a mesmerizing experience.

De Wallen - De Oude Kerk

Oude Kerk – Old church

Besides the many ladies behind the windows, there are also several restaurants and cosy cafés. The Red Light District borders China Town near the Nieuwmarkt where you are met by enticing scents of Asian food and Tiger Balm. Amsterdam’s China Town is a lot smaller than similar Chinese areas in London, Paris or New York. You can browse the whole neighbourhood in an afternoon.

Chinatown might not be the best description of the area though as a lot of shops and restaurants are not Chinese at all. You will also find influences of Thai, Indonesian and Malay cultures.

The neighbourhood has been extensively updated after 1985, when the municipality has bought many properties. Their renovation has really uplifted the area combining the real Amsterdam vibe with more exotic influences. One attraction worth visiting is the He Hua Buddhisten temple, an imposing building on the Zeedijk.

Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll

Impressive leafy green trees line the canals of the Red Light District with behind them historic houses with fascinating architecture. Making it a  fantastic lively neighborhood with a great atmosphere. You will also find many different shops and coffeeshops.

The area lives and breathes the free spirited nature that the Netherlands are known for. It’s inhabitants are proud of the free and open society they populate and understand that visitors of their community are looking for sex, drugs and rock & roll. Compared to other countries, this is a very open minded and modern take on things. To make sure that these privileges do not spin out of control, the city council has strict regulations everyone has to adhere to. This also applies to tourists, so be mindful of the rules, which we will explain further below.

Prostitution is legal

Prostitution became legal in the Netherlands in the year 2000, street prostitution not included which is still illegal. Since then, the income of prostitutes is taxed just like every other hardworking person in Holland. In return, the government ensures that all escort ladies and gigolos have access to medical care. Furthermore they provide safety by fitting regulation, including that sex workers are obliged to have regular medical checks, at the expense of the government. To further ensure the health of sex workers and their clientele, a health certificate is obligatory for everyone who goes to work “behind a window”.

Sex workers in the Red Light District

The ladies often rent a room or small studio in the network of The Red Windows ‘ consisting of over 300 rooms that are scattered over several alleys. 

Alcohol, drugs and sex

The Red Light District is primarily known for alcohol, drugs and sex. Especially the woman of all nationalities selling their bodily services from behind a big window is not something you can see anywhere. Therefore, lot’s of young and old men, giggling women, bachelor parties and also groups of Asian tourists visit the area.

Every day about 700 sex workers are present behind these windows, being visited by around 200.000 people each year. When you’re not just peeking out of curiosity and you’re looking for a little bit more privacy, calling a licensed escort might be something for you. Generally, the woman working for escort companies serve a higher segment and their rates are a little pricier consequently. Furthermore, it’s also possible to reserve a lady for a couple of hours or even for a number of days if you enjoy the companionship. These ladies have special qualities that can give you a more girlfriend like experience if you prefer this. Others are specialized in other areas and might fulfill your desires in certain fetishes of fantasies. We’ve listed the best escort agencies in Amsterdam here.

For the visitors of the Red Light District who just want a little extra, there are also several live sex shows to watch. We have listed the most famous for you (there are about 15 in total on the Wallen):

Moulin Rouge

A beautiful historical club with enchanting ladies. You are close to the stage, so you have a lot of interaction with the ladies on stage.

Bananen Bar (Banana Bar)

We believe not much explaining is necessary for this club, other than that this yellow fruit plays a mayor role in the entertainment.

Casa Rosso

Casa Rosso, is the oldest erotic sex theater of the Red Light District and probably the best place for a lap dance. You’ll recognize the club by the huge pink elephant shining brightly on the facade.

Many English stag parties spend time here celebrating their last nights as a bachelor and with good reason as the striptease shows at Casa Rosso are infamous. Also good to know is that the bachelor will get in for free and is allowed on stage if he’s/she’s dressed up. So pack your/his/her costume in your luggage to enjoy this special treatment.

Opening hours and entrance

Sunday – Thursday: 19.00 – 02.00 hours
Friday and Saturday: 19.00 – 03.00 hours

Entrance fee Casa Rosso: € 45,00 per person (€ 42,00 if you make an online reservation) or € 55,00 per person including 2 drinks (€ 52,00 if you make an online reservation).


Casa Rosso
Oudezijds Achterburgwal 106-108, 1012 DS Amsterdam
Thelephone: (+31) 020 627 89 54
Theater Casa Rosso

Coffee shops

The Dutch opium law concerning soft drugs is quite pragmatic and consequently you’ll find several coffee shops on the Wallen. The government acknowledged that a complete ban was not feasible and decided to regulate the sale and use of soft drugs like hash, weed, marijuana to have more control. This pragmatic approach was motivated by the idea that a drug-free Dutch society is unrealistic and unattainable, and efforts would be better spent trying to minimize harm caused by recreational drug use.

As a result of this “gedoogbeleid” (lit. “tolerance policy” or “policy of tolerance”) Holland is typically seen as much more tolerant of drugs than most other countries. But this does not mean that all drugs are legal and no rules apply. Soft drugs are only allowed from a minimum age of 18 years, under 18 severe penalties are imposed. Furthermore, hard drugs like heroin, cocaine, amphetamine, LSD and ecstasy are still forbidden.

Freedom of Love

On the Wallen there are also several shops to buy sex toys, videos, magazines and other sex(y) gadgets. These shops receive many visitors daily and have seen and heard it all, so don’t be shy and feel free to have a quiet look around here!

Gay Pride

Dressed up party people at Gay Pride

You can also find several gay bars in the Red Light District. Another thing that the Netherlands is known for, is it’s openness to sexuality. One of the biggest gay events in the world is celebrated on the canals of Amsterdam every August: Gay Pride. The culmination of a full week of festivities and activities promoting and celebrating freedom of sexuality is a procession of over 100 boats through the historic Amsterdam Unesco canals. The participants are cheered on from the docks celebrating gay pride on epic street parties.

The shops, coffee shops, bars, clubs and sex workers close for business at 3 o’clock at night at the latest. To make the most of the night before this, we have some tips to end our narrative of the Red Light District:

    • The best time to visit the Wallen is in the evening when it starts getting dark and the red lights the area is famous for light up the canals and give the area it’s special glow.

    • Respect the privacy of the sex workers and do not photograph them. It is considered very disrespectful and can lead to problems you want to avoid visiting the Wallen.

    • Even tough the Red Light District is certainly worth visiting, Amsterdam has a lot more to offer than just sex and drugs. The Jordaan or the Pijp are also interesting areas with a vibrant atmosphere, innovative restaurants and lot’s of shops.

    • You might expect that the Red Light District is an unsafe area, but that is not the case. Police patrol the area constantly to maintain order and keep everyone safe. Beware of pickpockets though, as they target tourists, in touristy areas like this.

    • If you fancy smoking a joint, you can do so if you are over 18. But do not buy one of someone on the streets, this is illegal. Weed, marijuana and pre-rolled joints can only be legally bought in coffee shops.