Red Light District / De Wallen
network of alleys and canals in the old centre with prostitutes behind windows, illuminated with red lights
Amsterdam's red light district also has a number of sex shops, sex theatres, peep shows, a sex museum, a cannabis museum, and a number of coffee shops offering various cannabis products.
There are plenty of live sex shows and the most reputed of these go on at theatre Casa Rosso (Oudezijds Achterburgwal 106-108) and Moulin Rouge (Oudezijds Achterburgwal 5-7). For the merely curious, there are numerous peep shows that may come with video booths. But of course, for the more adventurous among us, there are more interactive shows, for example at the Bananenbar (Oudezijds Achterburgwal 37).
Oudezijds Achterburgwal in the twilight
Women tapping on the windows
During the day, the district is less lively and even less attractive as the more sordid aspects reveal themselves in natural daylight. Although there are women forever tapping on the windows even during the light hours, most of the action takes place around 11pm, when the district is swarming with crowds and the red neon lights illuminate the inky canals. The atmosphere pretty much thrives until around 2 or 3am when the crowds die down and businesses shut up shop.
The Rossebuurt (Dutch for 'pink' or 'red' neighbourhood) is in fact one of the oldest and most beautiful parts of the city with its long winding narrow, cobbled streets and utterly charming 14th century architecture, such as the gothic Oude Kerk, or Old Church. The red light district has existed since the 14th century and formerly contained many distilleries, mainly catering to sailors.
When the merchants moved out to the new canal quarter during the 17th century, the district was taken over by pimps and prostitutes. Situated close to the port on the River IJ, this became the area into which the sailors headed in search of women, drink and good times.
To this day, it remains the adventureland of love, sex and rock 'n' roll in every form.
How to get there?
De Wallen is located in the heart of the oldest part of Amsterdam, covering several blocks south of the Oude Kerk (Old Church) and crossed by several canals. The name 'Wallen' refers to the names of the two canals in the area, the Oudezijds Achterburgwal and the Oudezijds Voorburgwal.
From Centraal Station, cross Stationsplein and turn left to Zeedijk. After Surinam-Chinese restaurant Kam-Yin turn right into Warmoesstraat - a street with low budget hotels and exotic restaurants nestled alongside coffeeshops and delicatessens - or continue down the Zeedijk to get at the Nieuwmarkt with De Waag building, the very heart of Amsterdam's red light district.
Between the Warmoesstraat and the Nieuwmarkt is a network of alleys and canals containing several hundred tiny one-room apartments rented by female prostitutes (and some ladyboys) who offer their services from behind a window.
Amsterdam's coffeeshops are a popular tourist attraction. Many people visit the city to smoke marijuana.
De WallenTip: Do not take photos of the occupied windows - this is strictly prohibited and any attempt will be quickly (and roughly) corrected.
Chinatown neighborhood with authentic Chinese restaurants, shops & markets
Convent of Bethany cloister from 1462
De Waag mediaeval city gate
East India House former headquarters of the Dutch VOC
Nieuwmarkt square dominated by a mediaeval citychurch
Oude Kerk Amsterdam's oldest parish church
Museum Our Lord in the Attic hidden Catholic church
CoffeeshopsWhat are coffeeshops?
Amsterdam Neighborhoods ExplainedAmsterdam is broken up into districts or boroughs (stadsdelen), which are further divided into neighborhoods. Read more