Amsterdam brothels are ages old. At least since 1413 AD, Amsterdam prostitutes have been allowed. Next to the window prostitutes in the Red Light District, Amsterdam call girls and luxury brothels in Amsterdam have taken a share of the market as well.
A 2007 city administration report cited 126 Amsterdam brothels and sex clubs employing prostitutes, next to the several hundreds of window brothels as well.
After the ban on Amsterdam prostitution as such was ended already in 1811, brothels in Amsterdam (i.e. employment of prostitutes) were also fully legalized in 2000 (see below).
Window brothels are small rooms that are used by self-employed, independent prostitutes. They rent the rooms per day or night shift from a number of room owners. There are several hundred of such window brothels at 3 locations in the city, but most are concentrated in the Wallen area (the actual Red Light District).
The Amsterdam window brothels are world famous. Nowhere in the world is this so out in the open. Sitting or standing behind windows or glass doors, the scarcely dressed prostitutes try to seduce the passing men to step into their room.
If a man is interested, they will shortly negotiate what she will do for what price. The standard service is 15-20 minutes of oral sex and intercourse for 50 euros, and anything on top of that is usually charged extra.
If they agree, they will go inside her small, red-lit room which usually has a bed, washing table and some small furniture. Prostitutes, who work independently, rent these rooms per day or night shift from a number of room owners.
This form of prostitution is ages old: in a document from 1413 AD, the Amsterdam rulers appointed the current Red Light District as an area where prostitution in Amsterdam would be tolerated.
The second most famous Amsterdam brothel (part of nation wide network) is the Jan Bik club at the Buiten Wieringenstraat 3-5. Owner Jan Bik, a former teacher who's now over 70, is a typical 'common Amsterdammer' who started his first venture in 1969 in the empty room above the book store where he sold 'naughty magazines'.
The Jan Bik brothels aim at the common man. Prices are kept very competitive and they publish 50% discount coupons in national newspapers.
There's even an actual procedure for unsatisfied customers. You can personally petition the owner if you feel you have been maltreated by one of the ladies or the staff and if necessary, and if unsatisfactory each party will appoint an expert to investigate the matter, so says the brothel's web site.
Since the full legalization of brothels in 2000, Jan Bik is fighting the Dutch tax authorities, since he maintains the position (which coincidentally converges with his business interest) that the ladies in his club are independent entrepeneurs, instead of employees.
The most famous of all Amsterdam brothels is no doubt Yab Yum, located in a fancy 17th century canal house at the Singel. Opening doors in 1976, the most famous of all luxury brothels in Amsterdam targeted very exclusive clients. Only well-to-do people could afford a visit there. Entry is 70 euros, including only one drink, and the ladies reportedly charge 300 euros an hour. Founder Theo Heuft became a well-known society figure.
But many top criminals were seen in it's gold leaf bath tubs - Dutch "god father" Klaas Bruinsma once destroyed a row of mirrors with gun shots here. This Amsterdam sex club played a role in several high-publicity affairs, including the famous and fraudulent stock market entry of Nina Brink's World Online.
Perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise then, that Yab Yum was closed in January 2008 by the Dutch city administration as part of their drive to combat crime in the Amsterdam prostitution scene.
The allegation was that Dutch criminals having been using the club for money laundering. Even Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen admitted it was "a pity, but a necessity" that this world-renowned brothel in Amsterdam had to be closed. The news made it to the international TV networks.
However, the ladies working in Yab Yum have joined forces and are trying to buy the place and open it again. They say they've always worked pleasantly (and profitably) there.
When asked, most Amsterdammers would have trouble mentioning any other Amsterdam brothels besides Yab Yum and Jan Bik. But other sex clubs that regularly advertise, are Huize Ria at the Overtoom, the Why Not Bar at the Nieuwzijds Voorburgwal and the Love Club 21 at the Koestraat (the latter two are in the Amsterdam Red Light District).
More brothels are listed on our page about luxury brothels in Amsterdam.
The invading French abolished the Dutch ban on prostitution in 1811. After the French were driven out of the Netherlands, the legalization remained and the Dutch government regulated prostitution, especially regarding health. But there have always been opponents to the 'normalization' of prostitution, and in 1911 they succeeded in installing a ban on brothels (meaning the commercial exploitation of prostitutes - prostitution itself was not banned).
However, the ban was never really effectuated, and since 2000, brothels are also entirely legal in the Netherlands. Brothels need to have a government permit and they pay taxes. Individual prostitutes, who are typically independent 'entrepeneurs' in a tax-legal sense, have to pay taxes too (although they have lots of ways to evade them).
The number of Amsterdam brothels, like elsewhere in the Netherlands, has declined considerably during the last decade. One theory points at the many websites where individual women offer their services privately: a new class of Amsterdam call girls.
Another theory is the big growth in web shops and post order companies specializing in sex related merchandise. Apparently there's a lot more excitement going on in the average Dutch household than a decade ago, eliminating the urge for men to seek their pleasure elsewhere. But this is speculation.
Also, the Amsterdam city administration is trying to clean up the Red Light Area. While prostitution in Amsterdam is still fully legal, and will never disappear from the city, the administration is trying to close down operations with ties to organized crime. Politicians argue (rightly so) that prostitution, legalized or not, will always draw "scum", and the prostitution business is attractive for money launderers since there's a lot of cash money with no receipts going around.
The Netherlands wouldn't be the Netherlands if the sex club owners hadn't started a trade association, euphemistically called the Association of Owners of Relaxation Companies, that's trying to give their branch an image of normalcy and negotiates policy issues with the government.
Book your museum, tour and canal tickets here with a discount and without the (long!) waiting lines!
We are able to offer this through an Amsterdam ticket broker whith exclusive deals with all major Amsterdam attractions.
Amsterdam-Advisor.com is written by local residents who once arrived in Amsterdam for the first time, just like you...