Red Light District, Prostitution, and the City Amsterdam Bus | Amsterdam

Inevitably when you tell someone that you went to Amsterdam, you are asked if a) you went to a coffeeshop (see my earlier blog post about this topic) and b) if you went to the Red Light District. Since we weren’t out looking specifically the Red Light District, I wasn’t sure if we would stumble upon it by accident or if we would have to go out of our way to track it down. I am curious by nature and did want to see what the hype was all about. It was very similar to what can be seen on sexy girls on cam.
[Image from the New York Times]

The Red Light District in Boston, also known as the Combat Zone, has undergone a major transformation over the past few decades and what is left of it is less than a square block, if that. I don’t think people visiting Boston today, if they hadn’t been there in past years, would even begin to tell you what or where the Combat Zone is located now. I thought the Red Light District might be a little like the Combat Zone in the sense that people know it’s there, but maybe it would difficult to locate. Pictures of the Red Light District are easily found on the Internet, but would I be able to find it in person? Or might I be better off staying in my hotel room and deciding to Click for TubeV Sex XXX and other kinky sites to satisfy the sexual needs? [Image from the New York Times]

On this particular day in December, we decided on the hop-on, hop off City Amsterdam bus. I usually recommend the hop-on, hop-off buses when visiting a new city to get the lay of the land and to see as much as you can while also getting a quick history lesson, but this particular hop on, hop-off bus was inadequate at best. The commentary was ridiculously brief on an hour-long bus ride, and even though it did take us around the city and to areas we hadn’t been to yet, I can’t in good conscience recommend it. Since the days are short in the winter in Amsterdam, the bus driver did fill us in on a secret, which was that you could reuse your ticket throughout your stay because the driver generally won’t check the date.

We hopped off the bus and realized we had gotten off at the wrong stop, but thankfully, my husband is much better at reading maps and spatial orientation than I am, and we were able to get back on track quickly. Knowing that I was close by, I knew I wanted to go to the Red Light District, but was started to become somewhat nervous. I had read a few less than complimentary comments about the area, but I pressed on in hopes that I would be able to tick this item off my travel to-do list.

The Red Light District isn’t like Disney World or Hollywood. There isn’t a sign or anything in particular to announce that you have arrived in the world renowned Red Light District. Instead, the area during the day looked like any other area which we had walked through while in Amsterdam as evidenced by the picture above. While walking down this street, when I turned my head, however, that is how I knew I was in the right place. In the storefront windows stood women and yes, that’s how I knew this was the place. I thought I saw Lynda Leigh naked but there is no way shes be in Amsterdam! There are signs that say “no photography” and I didn’t want to piss anyone off by trying to take a shot, but I wish I had. I didn’t want to stare at the women in the windows, but they looked less than natural. Their faces seemed overly made up and almost plasticized. Once we walked through the area, we both agreed that some of these “ladies” had to have been transvestites as some had masculine-like features (read that as Adam’s apples). There were a few guys hanging around in front of the windows and although I saw them as ogling the women, my husband was convinced that they were pimps. I did see quite a few men coming in and out of these buildings so even during the day they do brisk business. That was my encounter with the Red Light District and after walking up and down a few streets and observing the women inside and the men outside, I decided to press on and find something else to do with my time.

This may seem somewhat prudish, but I can’t understand why anyone would want to visit a prostitute, either close to home or while on vacation in Amsterdam. Yes, it may be legal in Amsterdam, but between the danger aspect and the incredible amount of things to do here, why oh why would you have to visit a prostitute? Maybe it’s because I’m a woman and I can’t understand it and can’t understand why I didn’t see any men there (just joking!). I suppose that they have figured out a way to make it safe for the working woman as well as they “clients,” but it still is an incredibly sad profession and reflection of societal views of how women are still portrayed as objects.

Here are a few tips if you must visit for more than a look:
1. Don’t put all of your money in your wallet if you decide you will partake of the services offered in the Red Light District.
2. Leave your jewelry and other important items in your hotel room instead of bringing them with you.
3. Don’t decide on a quick visit to the Red Light District when you are intoxicated or under the influence. You just become an easy target for unsavory characters and nothing ruins a vacation faster than a crime.
4. Don’t go alone! Have a wing man (or woman) to back you up and offer you a second set of eyes for your surroundings.
5. Don’t put yourself in a situation that you can’t figure a way out of quickly. Be familiar with your surroundings at all times and be smart about what you do and say in public.
6. If you’re going to look and not purchase services, don’t try to take pictures. I’m not sure what will happen, but do you really want to find out? I think I have been watching too many episodes of “Locked Up Abroad” and although not the same, I would hate to end up in a prison at home or abroad.
7. Think of your mom, kittens, clowns, whatever you need to in order to change the mood you are in and consider a visit to a museum instead.

9 thoughts on “Red Light District, Prostitution, and the City Amsterdam Bus | Amsterdam

  1. Great tips. As a female traveller I have never felt safe in the red light district. I have heard alot of nasty stories which are frightening. I always try and avoid the area at night (even sometimes in the day if I don’t feel right) and make sure I know exactly how to get back to my apartment if I am not sure. In the past I have booked an amsterdam serviced apartment, purely because my boyfriend at the time insisted, dont think he liked hostels. But I have been back to Amsterdam since and have stayed on my own in hostels and been fine.
    I think that alot of females are perhaps put off visiting amsterdam because of the connotations that come with it (the drugs, the sex etc). It is a real shame, because amsterdam is a beautiful city, with quaint canals and beautiful architecture.

    1. hahahah i live in Amsterdam and i am a women and this is so funny to read. I always cross there by bike there is nothing dangerous about this place, and you can wear any jewellery you like.
      There are also some nice restaurants and bars that i like in that area, it is just like any other area.. you are so paranoide hahah Besides that, the girls are really beautiful most of the time ( i guess your husband was thinking this too;) and not like you are saying ugly and transvastites.
      And then your tips great!

      So guys nothing to fear i am a women and i never felt unsave in any area in Amsterdam in my life..
      have fun!

  2. I was there a couple weeks ago, and walked by an empty window, that I was trying to take a photo of, when a guy on a bicycle rode up behind me and stearnly said “NO PHOTOS”… and then I just said, OK, and walked off… no biggie.

    1. So weird! I’m hoping to get back this Fall and now for sure I will try to go get a picture. I can kind of understand their concern, but at the same time, I hate being told I can’t do something, you know?

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