In the early 1900s it was strictly forbidden for prostitutes to lure their potential customers in whilst standing on their doorstep, but they were allowed to invite them in from behind a little crack in the curtains. This was the beginning of the window prostitution what Amsterdam nowadays is so famous for. The most popular area with many brothels is situated in the centre, close to Central Station, known as The Red Light District, or De Wallen in Dutch. Prostitutes can be found along the streets named the Oude Nieuwstraat, the Oudezijds Achterburgwal and all the little streets in between. Do you appreciate a little bit more discretion? Check out the high-end escort agencies in Amsterdam here.
Why red lights?
Even as early as the 14th century, woman carrying red lanterns met sailors near the port, because the red glow is flattering for your appearance. Nowadays, black light is also added, as it makes your teeth sparkle too. And with an average rent between € 75 and € 150 per window per eight-hour working shift, a prostitute needs to entice as many customers as possible for her services. A quickie costs around € 50, and usually takes no more than 15 minutes. If you are interested in more of these Red Light District facts, you can visit the Prostitution Information Centre, where former sex workers tell you all about it. And they sell pretty tasteful souvenirs as well.
Safe visit to the Red Light District
The area has a rough reputation and the expectation of a lot of criminal activities. And even though it’s wise to mind your belongings when you’re being distracted by all the things happening around you, this pretty much applies to anywhere in Amsterdam, as pickpockets are known to strike when you are not paying attention. The policy of the city counsel of Amsterdam, however, has been focused in recent years on making the Red Light District safer, for both visitors and the people who earn their living there. Part of this policy is to reduce the number of windows for prostitutes and coffee shops, and renting out these properties to artists to give them a place where they can create, exhibit and sell their designs. Different than you might expect, a lot of good restaurants, art galleries and shops can also be found in the Red Light District.
The Red Light District has a lot more to offer than just scarcely clothed women. You could go looking for the De Gestreelde Borst, an anonymous work of art hidden in the pavement of the Oudekerksplein. The caressed breast, as it’s roughly translated, is a bronze statue that appeared out of the blue in February 1993. When the city council tried to remove it, they discovered a meter of concrete attached to the bottom of the statue, eventually making them decide to leave it as it was. The bronze hand that caresses is not the only work of art that appeared overnight in Amsterdam, you could also go looking for the tree carver (boomzagertje) on the Leidseplein or the man that tried to catch line 10 (de man die lijn 10 probeert te halen) in the Marnixstraat.
The Old Church
A moral contrast can be found on the eastern side of the district, where the oldest stone building of Amsterdam, fittingly named the Old Church (Oude Kerk in Dutch), overlooks the Red Light District. The church is famous for its carillon (a Müller organ from 1724), the fantastic views from the tower (climb up between April and September), and the more than ten thousand people (!) that are buried under the worn tombstones set in the floor. The World Press Photo exhibition is also held in the Old Church every year from late April to late June.
In short, the Red Light District is a neighbourhood you must see when visiting Amsterdam! A safe and enlightening way to do so is to take the Red Light District Walking Tour.
Prins Hendrikkade (North)
Red Light District
The Red Light District is enclosed by these streets:
Prins Hendrikkade (North)