Visit this historic and famous area of Amsterdam, known for its many bars, brothels and adult entertainment venues.
Amsterdam’s Red Light District, De Wallen, has attracted travellers, locals and sailors for over 600 years with its offering of adult-only entertainment. Today, it’s a popular tourist destination as it symbolises the celebrated liberal attitudes and forward-thinking politics that characterise Dutch society. An open mind and common sense is all you need to bring with you to enjoy this area of the city.
Many visitors are surprised to find that De Wallen is actually one of the most beautiful parts of Amsterdam. Situated between Chinatown and Dam Square, the narrow cobbled streets are lined with charming gabled houses and cosy cafés. The area is home to the Oude Kerk, the Old Church, the city’s oldest stone building dating back to the early 13th century. Since March 2007, the bronze statue named Belle has stood outside the church, depicting the female figure of a prostitute standing in a doorway.
Ever since the 15th century, De Wallen has historically drawn many visitors, tempted by its notoriety. Prostitution, with the exception soliciting on the street, is a legalised industry in Holland nowadays, in line with the belief that “if you decriminalise it, you make it safer”. Regulations as well as taxation are now imposed on the city’s sex workers. Marijuana and hashish have also been treated with the same policy, and you can purchase small quantities for on-site consumption in the district’s many coffee shops.
The famous red-light windows displaying the many women only become truly visible after dark. Most locals barely acknowledge this spectacle, but you will always be able to spot the many groups of tourists gawping at the scantily-clad figures. Interspersed amongst these windows, you’ll come across all varieties of venues offering erotic shows, adult shops and sex museums. Should you choose to step in, be aware that these venues live up to their reputation!
De Wallen is a relatively safe area with a large police presence. However, do watch out for pickpockets that target tourists in crowded areas. Don’t take photos of individual women either, as this is considered to be offensive. The Red Light District is just a short walk from either Central Station or Dam Square.