Most famous for its streetside brothels, Amsterdam's Red Light District (De Wallen) also houses scenic canals, bustling restaurants, bars, and plenty of shopping. While this controversial neighborhood may not be for everyone, its winding cobblestone streets and narrow alleys evoke Amsterdam’s rich history and laid-back culture.
The Red Light District is best explored on foot or by bike. Walking tours typically provide a deep-dive into the neighborhood’s history and culture, while bike tours provide a broader overview of the city and allow you to visit the Red Light District along with attractions such as the Van Gogh Museum or New Market Square. Depending on your preference you can choose to visit by day or by night, when the district is especially lively.
Some tour options include admission to popular attractions such as the Sex Museum, the Red Light Secrets museum, Madame Tussauds Amsterdam, or one of the Netherlands’ legendary coffee shops. Opt for a walking tour led by a former police officer to learn about the district’s storied police history, or take a group pub-crawl tour to explore local watering holes.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Although the area's once-dangerous streets are now much more welcoming, be aware of your surroundings as pickpockets are still common.
- Taking photographs of sex workers in the windows is strictly forbidden. If you do, you may find yourself fishing your camera out of a canal.
- Nearby, the commercial thoroughfares of Warmoesstraat and Zeedijk are filled with shops and restaurants.
How to Get There
Also known as De Wallen (the Walls) or De Walletjes (the Little Walls), Amsterdam’s Red Light District is located just south of Centraal Station. While guided tours allow you to avoid the hassle of navigation, it’s also possible to arrive via tram or bus.
When to Get There
You can visit the Red Light District year-round—just don’t forget your rain jacket if you’re headed there during winter. Arrive after dark to see the area’s bustling nightlife.
The famous laid-back Dutch attitude is very prevalent in the Red Light District, especially in the form of cannabis and sex work. While smoking marijuana is illegal in the Netherlands, it is widely tolerated, and you may purchase or possess up to five grams. You may be surprised that this carnivalesque neighborhood is also where families, young couples, and senior citizens reside and socialize.