It is an extremely strange experience to walk the world-renowned district that is popularly known as the Red Light District. If you’re shy and retiring or in the least bit prudish, then don’t even think about walking this route, and do be aware that it’s not only sex that’s on sale here—drugs are also "business" in this region. I’m not talking about the "soft drugs" that can be accessed in the local "coffee shops"—this is the area where hardened addicts loiter. It can be an intimidating region. I would not want to give an impression that we were molested in any way, but the whole ambiance of the district is one of seediness. It exudes sinisterness, and we felt that we had no business being there—and in reality, we didn’t. We were there in a sheer act of voyeurism—to people-watch and wonder what brought people, other than the hoards of intrigued tourists, to this part of Amsterdam.
The shop fronts really were not conducive to stimulating eroticism, and we half-expected to see some of the women doing their ironing, preparing their meals, or watching TV. The individual "cells" were unfriendly business units, and occasionally we saw "punters" signing deals from the street through the shop-front windows. The traders ranged in attractiveness, from "not at all" to "not very," and we were all left with an uncomfortable feeling for both the prostitutes and their customers. Trading in broad daylight should have created an air of respectability, but it really didn’t, and we were certainly not sufficiently interested to return at night.
As we moved out of the centre of the Red Light District, the "business units" became more spacious, and there was the merest suggestion that perhaps it was a little less sordid. We saw "ladies" attempting to attract passers-by by cavorting in the large floor-to-ceiling windowed lounges of the canal-side apartments—in our terms, they attracted ridicule, but I guess that their enhanced price tags should have earned our admiration.
What did I expect? Well, I wasn’t expecting cozy streets with five-star accommodations, but I was expecting a well-ordered, clinical type of environment with regulated brothel lodgings. What I saw were a few sleazy back streets with sub-standard shop-front accommodations, set in a sinister and semi-threatening environment. I won’t return—even for a peek!
Results 1-10of 11 Reviews
New York, New York
November 8, 2010
March 30, 2007
Do’s:• Soak in the architecture (it is one of Amsterdam’s oldest and most beautiful parts);• Be aware of pickpockets;• Look in the windows!Don’ts• Take photos of the occupied windows;• Go by yourself (never do that, because it was scary);• Visit the Red Light District first;
From journal Amsterdam, Great as Usual!
November 10, 2005
From journal Amsterdam, Netherlands
January 14, 2005
From journal A great short week in Amsterdam
Glen Mills, Pennsylvania
November 5, 2004
The main street is wider and on either side of a canal, but the side streets are about 5 feet wide with 6-foot windows lined with all types of women (a few men too) in everything from jeans to bikinis.
We checked out Condomerie, a store that sells different types of condoms from all over the world.
We also decided to see what the Sex Museum was all about. The Erotic Museum is on Damrack, so there are actually two museums in Amsterdam devoted to the deed.
From journal The one and only--Amsterdam
San Francisco, California
February 27, 2004
A friend of mine told me that some prostitutes are more concerned about cleanliness than others.
Don't bring anything with you if you’re going cruisin’ in the red light district at night, but make sure you have enough money. Keep your head clear and keep the rest of your money back in your hotel safe.
From journal A stoner chick's guide to Amsterdam
January 29, 2004
From journal I Lost My Sense of Self in Amsterdam
May 29, 2002
During the day the twin canals of Oz Vootburgwal and Oz Achterburgwal on the far eastern side of the old town are a seedy no-go area inhabited by drug dealers and pimps a far cry from the well to do origins of the neighbourhood. After dark however something magical happens as the sun goes down and the neon comes on the entire district comes alive as entire families of locals and tourists alike take to the streets to promenade among the coffee shops, adult stores, live sex theatres and window brothels creating a relaxed atmosphere where drug addicts, prostitutes and the well to do come together in a sense of harmony that you could only get in Amsterdam.
The Hash, Marijuana and Hemp museum in the heart of the district at Oz Achterbergwell 148, entrance fee E5.70, has a political axe to grind, extolling as it does the benefits of all things cannabis, from the nutritional value of hemp to the therapeutic properties of marijuana. As well as drugs paraphenalia and pop cult icons such as Jay & Silent Bob and the Freak Brothers there are clothes made of hemp and pipes used in spiritual ceremonies around the world. There are also exhibits on smuggling, Rastafarianism and a hot house where you can watch the grass grow, so to speak. The museum will teach you everything that you wanted to know about cannabis but were too stoned to ask.
Far more whimsical is the titillating Sex Museum on the outskirts of the district at Damark 18. For the entrance fee of E2.50 you are rewarded with a comprehensive collection of erotica from throughout the ages and across the globe. This is augmented by biographical histories of such sex symbols as Marilyn Monroe, Rudolph Valentino and local girl made bad Marta Hari. There is also a particularly gruesome photo gallery of every perversion known to man and a number of animatronic displays of prostitutes, flashers, sailors, politicians and other nefarious characters.
I have no hesitation in recommending a stroll in the district to anyone willing to follow a few common sense rules, 1. don't photograph the prozzies as they are notoriously camera shy, 2. don't talk to the drug dealers as it's really not worth the hassle and 3. don't take it too seriously, think of it as a theme park, only without the height restriction on the rides.
From journal Going Dutch
March 29, 2001
Pop into a coffee shop if your so inclined and indulge in smoking without worrying about being busted by the man. You can legally carry 5 grams on your person, but wash your clothes before returning home as some countries aren't so forgiving.
One final thought....... Keep an open mind! They have a common sense approach to all this. The Netherlands may allow prostitution and soft drugs, but they also keep it off the street. You won't find street walkers a common site in Amsterdam as you do in many US cities. And if you compare the Netherlands with the USA (with our "War on Drugs") you'll find the per capita rate of hard drug users is much lower in the Netherlands.
From journal Amsterdam basics
Victoria, British Columbia
February 22, 2001
From journal Amsterdam-Everything You Expected!