The Red Light district, Amsterdam's most sulphurous neighbourhood

Amsterdam's most famous and oldest district is none other than the Red Light District. Opposite the station and to the east of the Damrak, the sex shops, erotic cinemas and red neon windows of this narrow alleyway district attract tourists from all over the world after dark.

© S.Borisov / Shutterstock

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The history of the Red Light district

Better known as the Red Light District, it is actually called De Wallen and is one ofAmsterdam's oldest districts. In the 15th century, this area between two arms of the Amstel became a popular port where many men came and went, naturally attracting prostitution, which has since been alternately authorised and banned throughout history.

Red-curtained windows in Amsterdam's Red Light District.

- © Lena Serditova / Shutterstock

For a long time, women solicited their clients directly on the street, but this practice was banned in the 20th century. Prostitutes would then stand behind their window, curtains drawn, and switch on a red light to indicate their availability. The Red Light District was born. Today, the curtains are open but the red lights are still on.

Why visit the Red Light District?

Amsterdam's red light district, with its sex shops, museum of eroticism and glowing shop windows behind which women in skimpy outfits display their charms, can be as fascinating as it is shocking. Whatever your opinion may be on this topic, we still recommend that you drop in after dark to discover its truly unique atmosphere.

As you wander through the alleyways, you'll come across unusual boutiques, bars and erotic shows... Rest assured, even though the Red Light District is Amsterdam's "red light district", it is still very safe: surveillance cameras and police patrols ensure the welfare of tourists and sex workers alike.

A prostitute in a shop window in Amsterdam's Red Light District.

- © Andrea Izzotti / Shutterstock
Our favourite guided tour of the Red Light district Amsterdam

Our favourite guided tour of the Red Light district

Accompanied by a local guide, discover all the secrets of the Red Light district on a private tour of Amsterdam's most sultry neighbourhood.
£36 / person

Coffee shops

The Red Light District also has the highest concentration of coffee shops in the Netherlands, although they are not the most famous in Amsterdam. Be careful though, although cannabis consumption is tolerated, it is strictly monitored: it is forbidden to possess more than five grams and to consume it in public places.

Religious establishments

The Oude Kerk church in Amsterdam's Red Light District.

- © Neirfy / Shutterstock

More surprisingly, you'll also find religious buildings - and not just any. In this unique atmosphere, red neon lights mingle with Amsterdam's oldest church, the Oude Kerk, and a clandestine church, the Amstelkring, hidden in the attic of a house museum.

Our favourite hotel in the Red Light district

Hotel CC 3* - Amsterdam Amsterdam

Hotel CC 3* - Amsterdam

Right in the heart of Amsterdam, the rooms in this 3-star hotel offer breathtaking views of the canals!
£140 / night

Practical information for the Red Light District

The Red Light District is perhaps the most famous in Amsterdam, so it should definitely be on your list of things to do in Holland! You can easily walk around it in half an hour, it's up to you if you want to stay there...

How do I get to the Red Light district?

Right in the centre of Amsterdam, not far from Dam Square and the Royal Palace, it's very easy to get to the Red Light District on foot, by bike or by public transport:

  • Nieuwmarkt stop: metro 51, 53 and 54
  • Rokin stop: metro 52 or trams 4 and 14

Amsterdam's Red Light District.

- © Anton Gvozdikov / Shutterstock

When to visit the Red Light district

Visiting Amsterdam's Red Light District during the day allows you to discover its medieval architecture, magnificent monuments and unusual souvenir shops.

However, it's after dark that the district reveals its full potential. Around 11pm, the alleyways glow under the lights of the shop windows and fill up with tourists, and the atmosphere is in full swing until two or three in the morning.

A few tips for your visit

  • A number of organisations offer guided tours of the Red Light District for a few dozen pounds. It's a great way to learn more about the district!
  • Please, do not take photos or videos of busy shop windows.
  • The area is very popular with tourists, so watch out for pickpockets.
by Editorial Team
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