Many visitors will find the famous Amsterdam Red Light Area - 'adult Amsterdam' - quite a fascinating place to visit. It's much more laid-back than red light districts elsewhere in the world, and not more unsafe than other parts of town.
Prostitution in the window brothels is out in the open here: girls standing behind windows in provocative clothes, enticing passing men (and women for all they care) to step inside.
But what other things can you see and do here? This page has an overview of Amsterdam adult 'entertainment', from sex shops and sex shows to sex museums and former sex workers as tour guides. Any x-rated stuff that can be commercialized, basically.
Also browse the introduction page about the Amsterdam Red Light District, as well as our Frequently Asked Questions about Amsterdam prostitutes. And if you aren't interested in the sleazy stuff, read about the non-adult highlights and activities in the Red Light District in Amsterdam. It's one of the oldest parts of town with some amazing architecture and history to see, and many well-to-do Amsterdammers prefer to live here.
Tip! Join A Red Light District tour.
You can visit the Red Light District on your own but it is much more fun to do so with a guided tour.
Get to know all the secrets of the Red Light District. And find the best places to have fun.
Take a look at our Red Light District tour suggestions.
"Quality sleaze and filth!", in the words of Casa Rosso's street tout, actually describes this legendary sex theater quite well.
The theater has live shows with couples having actual sex on stage (we thought we better warn you), striptease acts, and more. Acts are heterosexual and "lesbian", but not gay.
A few doors further from her big sister, the Casa Rosso Peepshow (Oudezijds Achterburgwal 84-92) also has live shows where women tease and please on stage, and peep shows where men people can look at women privately behind glass.
Almost as famous as the Casa Rosso, in the Bananenbar scarcely dressed waitresses serve unlimited drinks for a flat fee of 45 euro per hour. For an extra fee, the women present will perform shows involving whipped cream and bananas in particular body openings. Women can enter, but contrary to the Casa Rosso, where often half of those present are women, the Bananenbar largely draws heterosexual men.
To be honest, this standard collection of erotic photos and tailor's dummies in lingerie is hardly worth the visit.
While this museum will draw many visitors simply because it's right between the window prostitutes, the Sex Museum at the Damrak (near the Central Station) is bigger, more entertaining and less expensive.
That's why the latter museum is the 4th best visited museum of Amsterdam.
Established in 1994 by former prostitute Mariska Majoor and staffed by (former) sex workers, the PIC organizes guided walking tours through the Amsterdam Red Light District.
Tours take 1 hour, cost 12.50 euro per person and can include a visit to a sex theater or window brothel on demand. The PIC tells visitors not to view prostitutes as victims: "It's their choice." At the same time, Majoor said in interviews that she would "certainly" not like to see her own daughter become a prostitute.
The PIC also runs a small souvenir shop with sex-related products. It's a serious organization that also works with e.g. academics and police departments. Currently, the PIC and their shop are only open a few days a week due to renovations. Check their site: www.pic-amsterdam.com
There are many sex shops in the Red Light District, selling videos, DVDs, magazines, toys, lingerie, etcetera. Moreover, some also have the possibility for you to watch any of the DVDs and/or videos in the private movie boxes in the back of the store. A few charge per movie, while others charge per time slot.
This fun shop - the name translates as 'The Golden Fleece' - is worthy of special mention.
You can buy any conceivable condom here: small and huge, with banana or strawberry taste, and with any added features.
Founded in 1987, it's on record as the world's first specialized condom shop.
While prostitution has been allowed since 1811, and the ban on brothels was ended in 2000, the Amsterdam city administration is busy cleaning up of the Red Light District.
The problem for the politicians is that Red Light District bosses like 'Fat' Charles Geerts (once the biggest owner of window brothels) and Jan Otten (who owns the Casa Rosso empire, including the Bananenbar, the Erotic Museum and several sex shops) are accused of having ties to organized crime, and using their companies to launder criminal money.
Of course, prostitution is ideal for money laundering in principle: thousands of euros in cash change hands each day, with no receipts written.
A new law makes it possible to close down businesses of people who are suspected of such criminal ties. As a result, a smaller number of window brothels the world famous Amsterdam brothel Yab Yum had to close already, and it's unsure what will happen to places like the Casa Rosso.
This won't stop 'clean' entrepeneurs from doing sex-related business in the Amsterdam Red Light District, however.
Get the know the details about prostitution in the Red Light District.
You can visit the Red Light District on your own but it is even better if you join a guided tour.
The friendly tour guide shows you around with a lot of humor. It is interesting and fun!
Get ready for one of the most unique experiences of your life.
Walking around with a local feels like being on a fun night out with a friend.
The tour guide has a a lot of knowledge about the area and can show you highlights of the area that are unknown by most tourists.
Get to know all the details on this 1.5-hour walking tour!
The Offbeat Red Light District Walking Tour
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...