Amsterdam is one of the most visited cities in Europe, with The Red Light District being one of it’s main attractions. And we understand why. This neighborhood is full of life, always vibrant and an amazing mix of cultures and believes. After writing a guide on The Jordaan area and Amsterdam’s De Pijp, we thought it was time to show you the Red Light District Amsterdam!
About the Red Light District Amsterdam
The Red Light District, known to locals as De Rosse Buurt or the Wallen, is one of Amsterdam’s best-known attractions. It is the part where the Rock & Roll image of the city comes to life. The area lies between Amsterdam West and the City Center and is a place where people from all over the world come together to celebrate freedom. The area is full of restaurants, bars, coffeeshops, specialty stores and adult entertainment, making it the absolute heart of the cities nightlife.
In the area you will find the Warmoestraat, a quirky shopping street with a variety of shops and bars worth the visit during your stay in the city. Right next to the Red Light District you will also find the Amsterdam’s Chinatown with some great Asian restaurants, supermarkets and other affiliated shops and cafes.
Tip: If you want to get to know the neighborhood in the best way, you can have an ex-sex worker guide you around. Or visit the prostitute information center on the Enge Kerksteeg 3, where you can book a walking tour that will tell you more about the history of this part of town.
Things to do in The Red Light District
Although very intriguing, there is much more to do in the red light district than peepshows, sex shops and brothels. There are a lot of other things to see and do since this neighborhood is packed and surrounded by many of the cities most popular highlights. With both Amsterdam Central Station and Dam Square right around the corner you can easily spend a full day wandering around and visiting attractions like Madame Tussauds, the New Church and Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum.
The “Day” in this part of town starts late. So begin with a late lunch before you take this walking tour that will take you past all the highlights. After that you can visit the Allard Pierson Museum, Museum Our Lord in the Attic, Museum of Prostitution or Erotic Museum. A peep-show is also a must-see for those who are willing. At the infamous Casa Rosso you can view this live sex show for €2,- per two minutes.
The red light district is also home to some of the oldest buildings in Amsterdam. Old Church dates back to 1200, when Amsterdam was not more than a few rows of houses along the Amstel river. The city expanded throughout the years with new canals used for transportation and defense. The passing of sailors and traders during that time brought a large number of sex workers to the area and they have stayed ever since.
Do’s and Don’ts at the Red Light District
Some people feel a bit uneasy with visiting the red light district. There is absolutely no need to though, Amsterdam is generally a very safe city! However The Red Light District does come with some rules you should follow to have a good experience.
- No photographs of the women. No matter how excited you are to show people at home you where here, photographing the girls is not allowed. Don’t be surprised if someone swings your phone in the water when you do, people in the area do not like to be put in Instagram.
- No public drinking or intoxication. The red light district might suggest otherwise but drinking and being drunk and disorderly is not allowed. People live and work here, when you get a bit to rowdy the local police can interfere. Enjoy your drinks in the bar and try to keep it down when you walk around the streets.
- Don’t buy anything on the streets. We probably don’t have to tell you this, but stay away from anyone selling wares on the streets. Whether it’s drugs, a bike or some other product. Don’t do buy it or you’ll be acting against the law.
- Watch out for pickpockets. As you should in any other crowded area, be aware of your belongings. Although the Red Light District is the area with the most security in town, you should pay a little extra attention to your valuables.
Shopping at the Red Light District
Not so long ago the Dutch government started upgrading the districts image by giving local artists and entrepreneurs locations to work in. Even though the red lights will stay the main attraction of the area, the cultural activities have become just as important. The red light district is filled with boutiques and concept stores that will excite any shopper. Sneaker fanatics will get excited when entering the Internationally known Patta Store located on the Zeedijk 67. Looking for the perfect present? Head over to Anna + Nina for amazing jewelry, small gift items and interior design. Just a few minutes away you’ll find Amsterdam’s largest luxury department store: De Bijenkorf. This iconic building on Dam Square is filled with high-end fashion, beauty and interior brands. With shop-in-shops from Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Chloé and many more, you could call this a designer bag heaven.
Where to eat in The Red Light District
The Red Light District is full of quality restaurants offering all sorts of cuisines. From the best Asian restaurants at the Zeedijk to late night burgers at Burgerzaken. Head over to the Nieuwmarkt for a large selection of cafés, restaurants and coffeeshops surrounding the square. Read on to find out what the best places to eat are!
In de Waag
In de Waag is has become a household name in the Amsterdam Red Light District. This restaurant and bar is located on the lively Nieuwmarkt Square in the Old City Gate building dating back to 1448. Their kitchen offers local specials such as Dutch croquettes for lunch or a delicious Cote du Boeuf to share for dinner. Enjoy the cosy inside atmosphere in winter, or their beautiful terrace on any sunny day.
Omelegg is the place to be for all-day breakfast. It’s the first Omelettery in The Netherlands, and heaven for everyone that loves a good egg dish. They do eggs all the way, every way. How about the Greek Wedding, with feta cheese, onion, sundried tomoto, olive, chives and oregano? Or The Dutchie, that comes with spiced bacon, mushrooms, bell pepper and farmers cheese. Whatever you desire, they serve it.
De Laatste Kruimel
The name of this place says it all. “The last crumb” makes tasty pastries and savory sandwiches that you’ll want to eat until the very last crumb. It is the perfect place for breakfast before exploring the area or an in between sightseeing lunch. With a very long list of sandwiches to choose from and finger-licking-good sweets you’ll be sure to satisfy your cravings here.
Langebrugsteeg 4, Amsterdam
Oriental City is known to serve some of the best Dim Sum in town. Expect dishes Cantonese dishes like Crab, Stir Fries and roasted Peking Duck, all prepared using authentic ingredients and preparation methods. On weekends it’s often packed, with the possibility that you have to wait in line before being seated. Don’t hesitate to do so though. It is definitely worth the short wait if you love authentic Cantonese cuisine and Dim Sum!
Oudezijds Voorburgwal 177
Cut Throat is a bit of a unique spot. This is a barbershop, coffee corner, cocktail bar and food place all-in-one. So whichever of these things you want, this is the place to visit in the red light district. Enjoy their amazing food specials like Huevos Rancheros, Loaded Burgers and Pancakes or get ready for the day with Chicken n Waffles and a Bloody Mary.
Blaauw aan de Wal
Blaauw aan de Wal is located in an enchanting courtyard, offering delicious and inspiring seasonal dishes and the quality wines. The kitchen is inspired by seasonal products that speak to your imagination and taste. Some favorites on the menu are Scottish Razor Clams, Vialone Nano Risotto, Wild Sea Bass and Ibérico pork. Chef and owner Daan Olthuis and his team will make sure that you’ll have a delightful dining experience.
Oudezijds Achterburgwal 99
Mappa serves the fine people of Amsterdam pure, no-nonsense Italian comfort food. They prepare everything in their own unique and renown style, while keeping the Italian ways in mind. The regularly changing menu has an amazing variety of pasta dishes on it, as well as some beautiful antipasti and fish and meat specialties. The wine list at Mappa is predominantly Italian, from small vineyards in Puglia to great wine masters such as Walter Massa.
Bird red light district
Bird has for years been the best Thai restaurant in the Amsterdam red light district. Nothing fancy or hip, it’s the food that counts here. They serve typical dishes from different regions in Thailand. Chiang Mai, Phuket, Bangkok and Isaan all have a spot on their menu. Their specialties are the curries and there is a wonderful selection of vegetarian dishes as well. Whether you stop by for a bowl of steaming tom yam soup for lunch, linger over a regional set menu or simply choose a la carte, you’re sure to find all of your Thai favorites at Bird.
Bars and Coffeeshops in the Red Light District
As you probably know, the Amsterdam Coffeeshops are not your average. Don’t expect to get a latte and a slice of pie here, unless you’re looking for a different type of cake. The Red Light District is home to some of the cities most known coffeeshops where you can get marijuana and hash. Most places have a relaxing, cosy atmosphere serving food and beverages as well. From the Bulldog to the Jolly Joker and the Greenhouse. Even if you aren’t planning on buying any herbs, it’s worth it to have a peek inside.
Visit Rosalia’s Menagerie for amazing cocktails or head over to Wynand Fockink tasting tavern in de Pijlsteeg 31 for some great spirit and beer tastings. In for an active night out? The Ton Ton Club is a playground for the young at heart. This arcade café has all the games you can imagine and serves proper bar food and beverages to make your evening complete. And to finish with a bang, visit the infamous erotic Banana Bar. Perfect for a Bachelor party!
We hope you have an amazing Amsterdam Red Light District experience using our guide. It is part of the history of the city and we highly recommend a visit (even if it’s short) during your stay in the city. Check out our other Best of Amsterdam guides for more great things to do!
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