Amsterdam Red Light District

One of the most famous red light districts is in Amsterdam. The reason is that the pragmatic Dutch many years ago made prostitution legal. The Dutch reasoned that it is impossible to suppress the oldest profession via legislation, so it is better to control it and tax it instead. As in many cities, the Amsterdam Red Light District began as the seedier part of the city popular with sailors. Now that it is legal, it is more of a party area than seedy.

We strolled the Amsterdam Red Light District on a Saturday night and felt perfectly safe. Admittedly we started early at around 8:30pm. I understand that things get a bit rough later in the evening. We saw both Hens and Bucks groups starting a night of revelry. Apparently it is a popular destination from the UK.

We used an audio walking tour from Rick Steves downloaded to our iPhones. The tour led us around the district, told the history and highlighted a great deal that we would have missed. Highly recommended!

The prostitutes are referred to as “entrepreneurs”. There are no pimps. Negotiations are direct with the “provider”. They pay tax and government controls are tight on health and hygiene. The red windows that are famous in Amsterdam are considered “offices” and are short and long term leased under “offices for rent”. This approach removes the criminal side from prostitution.

In another stroke of pragmatism, the Dutch have made cannabis legal. All over Amsterdam but particularly within the red light district you will find coffee shops who also offer a menu of cannabis along with the smoking equipment. Customer have to specifically ask to see the special menu. It is against the law to promote or encourage the use of cannabis.

That said, you will find cannabis cookies and cannabis ice cream all over the city along with a wide selection of plant seeds.