8 Facts about the Amsterdam Red Light District

Some say it’s a sketchy neighborhood and it’s not for everyone. In some views this is true. With our walk in the Red Light District of Amsterdam not only was it a culture shock, but it was also educative. We have heard about stories before coming here, and we will tell you from our experience and some of the facts we’ve learned from this Red Light District Walk.

The first thing that was noticeable: It was very busy at the red light district. Many tourists walk here, from men who are on the hunt, couples who had an endearing walk together. Groups of friends on vacation just walking and looking, and those on a visit to Amsterdam for their work enjoying the scenery of the Red Light District. It was a lively area a few hours before midnight and it appears most nights are like these but weekends are really busy.

Taxes for Sex workers

Brothels were considered legal in October 2010 and prostitution itself became a legal profession, including rights as any worker as of 1988. This means that sex workers, prostitutes would need to pay taxes on their income.

History of Red Light District

Before 1988 it was a tolerated activity in Amsterdam that would date centuries before (around 15th century). In this century lonely sailors would come ashore after being months on the sea from their travels far abroad. Women with red lanterns would lead these lonely sailors to their room. Since it was in a time where gonorrhea and syphilis were common, many people died from these.

In 1810 Napoleon legalized prostitution but the sex workers would be checked for health to prevent the loss of his soldiers.

Rooms are rented to other than sex workers

Photo credit: aforero on VisualHunt.com / CC BY

Currently, there are about 300 rooms rented out to sex workers. Previously there were more but the Amsterdam municipality is encouraging other entrepreneurs more to rent out these rooms. The rooms are being used as art exhibitions, entrepreneurs opening a business and basically anything else.

Human Trafficking Red Light District Amsterdam

I will let the video speak for itself. The video about the Amsterdam Red Light District is only 2.30 minutes.

Sex workers choose their own customers

Amsterdam Red Light District
Photo credit: Steve Parker on Visual hunt / CC BY

Despite the fact that they provide a service for money, they choose who they want. They can refuse potential clients based on their own opinions. These could even mean looks. The Red Light District is a busy area where not only the customers can choose but the sex worker can choose as well.

Sex workers protect and help each other with law enforcement

Whenever something is up, they will call for help. Be it a picture taken, or blocking a window. These people help each other and will call for police, or friends to have the situation handled. Pictures taken can lead to the camera (cellphone) thrown into the canals. Bad and violent behavior, well just don’t be around for that.

Red Light District divided into areas

Photo credit: Qiou87 on Visual hunt / CC BY-SA

Red Light district has areas where the sex workers are divided into ethnicity and type. Some men like more round, tall, or from a certain part of the world. When you do your walk you can notice that near the old church the women attract a different audience than the ones in the alleys on the opposite side.

Male sex workers

The only male sex workers there are transgenders. Sometimes they could be recognized with an obvious blue light combined with the red light. The men work more like an escort service or self-employed gigolo. So for women thinking they can see men behind the windows, sorry to disappoint you.

Future of Sex Workers in Amsterdam 2020 and beyond

As we’re going in 2020 or when you are reading we are already there or beyond, the current mayor of Amsterdam wants to move the Red Light District. She wants Amsterdam to be known more than just the Red Light District, but also the cultural heritage. There have been debates and demonstrations about this, as locals and sex workers consider this an important part of Amsterdam.

So if it’s still around, and you’re interested in the ambiance or want to see for yourself how it is, go ahead! But keep in mind there are scarcely clothed women and even though there were families there, I do believe that children have no business being there.


Romantic things to do in Amsterdam

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