Red Light District

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by MichaelJM on January 14, 2005

We must be about the only group that had difficulty finding Amsterdam’s Red Light District. Now, I wouldn’t want to give you the impression that we were desperate to find it, but we felt that we shouldn't leave without at least a cursory glimpse. We also feared that our street creed (what bit we still have) would be seriously diminished if we failed to orient ourselves. It was only when we ceased to look for it that we stumbled across it (often the case—or so I’m told!)

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!

Red Light District
Oz Vootburgwal and Oz Achterburgwal
Amsterdam, Netherlands

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