The oldest area of the city has a reputation for being a seedy place full of drugs, prostitutes and drunk tourists. But the Red Light District has much more to offer. Come with us and discover our favorite spots in De Wallen.
NEIGHBORHOOD GUIDE • AMSTERDAM RED LIGHT DISTRICT
Red Light District Location and History
The Red Light District is located in the oldest area of Amsterdam also known as De Wallen. This part of the city was originally built in the 14th century, and is perhaps known as De Wallen because it used to be surrounded by the city’s defensive walls or ramparts.
De Wallen is officially bounded by the Lange Niezel in the north, Nieuwmarkt in the east, Sint Jansstraat in the south and the Warmoesstraat in the west. For the purpose of this Neighborhood Guide we also include a bit of the surrounding area in the heart of the city.
The oldest buildings in Amsterdam are in De Wallen, including the Oude Kerk and the Waag. Due to the historical proximity to the harbor, this area of town became the place where prostitutes would ply their trade from the 14th century on. Later in the 18th century gambling parlors employing prostitutes opened in the area. Prostitution was officially legalized in the Netherlands in the year 2000.
If you are interested in understanding more about prostitution and the Red Light District, visit the Prostitution Information Center and the Red Light Secrets museum. Visitors can also take a walking tour through the area with an expert from the PIC. Check out this video of our visit to Red Light Secrets and the Marijuana and Hemp Museum.
The Red Light District is also home to a large number of so-called “Coffee Shops” like the Bulldog and others. Read more about Coffee Shops in Amsterdam here.
In 2007, the city of Amsterdam purchased many buildings in the neighborhood to reduce the number of red light windows and encourage shops, cafes and other small businesses instead. In many ways these initiatives have been a success, bringing creatives and young entrepreneurs into the area.
Shopping in the Red Light District
Some of Amsterdam’s most interesting shops are located in De Wallen and the surrounding area. As mentioned above, the city is encouraging entrepreneurial small business to open in the area which has led to some wonderful shopping spots.
- Les Petites Puces: the cutest little vintage shop in town
- DIGNITA / Not for Sale: amazing initiative helping victims of human trafficking by selling local items including delicious soups
- De Wallen Winkel: unique souvenirs from the RLD
- Condomerie: every shape, size and color of condom you can imagine
- Wah Nam Hong: one of our favorite Asian supermarkets, good prices
- The Book Exchange: second-hand English language bookshop
- Anna & Nina: chic and sweet clothing and accessories
Eating and Drinking in the Red Light District
At first glance it may seem that the food choices in De Wallen are a bit limited but there are quite a few gems in the area. The Red Light District is bordered by Chinatown so there are many delicious Asian eateries nearby as well as other types of food.
Here are our favorite places to drink and dine in the Red Light District and surroundings:
- Quartier Putain: terrific coffee and sweet treats
- Koffieschenkerij: secret garden and a lovely lunchroom and coffee shop
- Omelegg: yummy omelets and egg dishes for breakfast all day
- De Laatste Kruimel: tiny cafe with yummy sandwiches and delicious cakes
- Gartine: breakfast, lunch and tea with an abundance of charm close to the RLD
- De Bakkerswinkel: tasty breakfast, lunch and coffee
- Latei: a fun and funky cafe where everything is for sale, even your chair
- IJscuypje: try the famous Dutch ice cream
- Sie Joe: cozy Indonesian restaurant for lunch or dinner
- The Lobby: chic hotel restaurant and bar
- Da Portare Via: fresh pizza for here or to go
- Oriental City: most popular dim sum restaurant in the city
- Thai Bird: popular snackbar and restaurant with yummy Thai food
- Burger Bar: a great place for a quick and tasty burger
- A-Fusion: mix of modern Chinese Asian fusion dishes
- TonTon Club: video and arcade games plus hotdogs and beer = fun!
- Wynand Fockink: drink in the history at this old distillery and tasting room
- Société Wunderbar: cocktails, beer and wine in a lounge atmosphere
- Bar Jones: friendly local bar with a pool table
- Mata Hari: restaurant and bar serving lunch and dinner
- Cut Throat: a barber, brunch, dinner and cocktails too
- Bubbles & Wines: a sleek wine bar tucked away on the Nes
- Brouwerij de Prael: taste local beers at this brewery in the heart of the city
- Stach Food: deli shop with great sandwiches and snacks
Things To Do in De Wallen
Aside from the obvious sex, drugs and booze, what is there to do in De Wallen? Plenty!
- The Oude Kerk is a fantastic place to visit and often has special exhibitions. Currently there is an art installation on the roof by Taturo Atzu.
- The second oldest building in Amsterdam is De Waag. Check out the interior by having some food or drink at their restaurant.
- Take the Old Amsterdam Food Tour to learn more about how food has shaped the oldest part of the city.
- Curious about prostitution? Join the Prostitution Information Center walking tour.
- Visit the Saturday organic market at Nieuwmarkt.
- TonTon Club: get your game on at this cool arcade.
Visit some of the amazing galleries, ateliers and creative spaces in the RLD including:
- Ultra de la Rue: exhibition and event space plus awesome fair trade coffee
- The Proud Otter: great little cafe, shop and creative platform
- W139: a huge art and exhibition space on the Warmoesstraat
- Dits Performance Store: interactive installations and art gallery
Getting to De Wallen
Amsterdam Central Station with the NS Trains and Metro is just a few steps away. You can also easily reach the Red Light District from the Nieuwmarkt Metro station.
Of course in Amsterdam the preferred mode of transport is always the bicycle but it is easy to reach De Wallen by tram or on foot. Check 9292.nl for tram information and routes. You can read more about getting around in Amsterdam here.
So don’t just come to the Red Light District for weed and women, take an alternative walk through De Wallen and enjoy all the wonderful things this neighborhood has to offer!
Take a look at our handy map to see what is nearby.
Be sure to check out our other Neighborhood Guides:
For more RLD alternative shops, cafes and tips, check out the terrific map, app and guide Red Light ABC made by Ultra de la Rue.
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