Amsterdam is a world famous hub of culture and entertainment, located in the western part of the Netherlands. It is the capital of the country, but compared to other major capital cities, it is tiny, numbering only 811,000 inhabitants. It is, however, the largest city in The Netherlands in terms of both population and landmass, with a total size of 219km. 166km of this is made up of land and the remaining 53km of water from the city’s winding canal network.
The city sprung up in the 13th century as a small fishing village and has gradually grown in strength and size to become the commercial and cultural powerhouse that it is now. Its culture is best displayed in its museums, of which it has the highest density of any city in the world. Artistic centers such as the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Hermitage Museum, and Rembrandt House rub shoulders with informative and occasionally dark journeys into the past in the form of the Jewish Historical Museum and the Anne Frank Museum. The typically Dutch way to explore these attractions is by bike, but it is also worth taking the tour on water through the beautiful canal district, which was made a Unesco World Heritage Sight in 2011.
There are three chief areas of the Red Light District (“Rosse Buurt” to locals): De Wallen, Singelgebeid and Ruysdaelkade. These are all located in the city center, interspersed with canals and just south of the prominent Oude Kerk (literally and aptly translated to “Old Church”). De Wallen is the biggest and oldest of the districts, located east of Damrak in between the Nieuwmarkt, Zeedijk, Warmoesstraat and China Town neighbourhoods. Ruysdaelkade is located near the Pijp (right behind the Rijksmuseum) and Singelgebeid near its namesake the Singel, which can be found in between Raadhuisstraat and Central Station./p>
As the RLD in Amsterdam is located in its old historical centre, the winding cobblestone streets do not make it ideal for arrival by car. Never fear, though, as the area is right next to Amsterdam’s Central Station, and you can get in easily using the city’s reliable and frequent rail network. From the airport, you can get a cheap and speedy train directly to there, and it takes only 5 to 10 minutes [to] walk from the station to reach the heart of the RLD. For the time-pressed among us (or simply the lazy), there’s a small metro station even closer called Nieuwmarkt, which is only 2 minutes from the action.
The RLD gets its name from the reddish neon lights found outside the assorted peep shows, coffee shops, sex theatres, sex shops and cabins for private prostitution. These cabins number almost three hundred on their own, and when added to all the above as well as the famous Sex Museum and Cannabis Museum, come together to create the most famous district of its kind in the Western World. Its seemingly endless sprawl through traditional alleys and canals never ceases to amaze foreign visitors.
Often overlooked is the genuine beauty of the neighborhood, with its trees ducking lightly into its canals and music emanating softly from shop fronts and artisan restaurants throughout the area. What was once a dangerous and unexplored part of town is now home to many trendy coffee shops and gastropubs, including Mexican restaurant Café Pacifico, one of the first of its kind in Europe when it arrived in De Wallen. “The Wall”, as the name of this area is translated, hails from 15th century Amsterdam when walls of mud and rock were erected to protect the city from invading peoples. It has been home to prostitution since 1413 and has retained its enticing aura and Bohemian charm ever since.
Wherever you are in the RLD, it is important to keep your wits about you at all times. Despite its cultural regeneration and impressive history, like all touristy areas petty theft is common, and you may be approached by street dealers offering drugs or prostitutes. Do not take them up on their offers; go only to places you trust and move in groups whenever possible to avoid being singled out. An important local rule which must be observed is to not take pictures of the prostitutes standing in windows. There are plenty of these available online and a quick snap is not worth being harassed by the often suspect hands behind the scenes of the sex trade. The Dutch authorities have worked hard in recent years to make the area as safe as possible, and the vast majority of visits are trouble-free, but it’s always worth taking care when necessary.
The draw of the RLD here lies in its local specialities, from coy smiles behind skimpy bras in windows to straight up live XXX sex shows. The openness of the industry, typified by workers flaunting shamelessly in windows, is close to unique in the world. There are few places where prostitution has been more normalized in society and, as a result, has become a safe and mostly unobtrusive part of city life to those who want to avoid it.
Strip clubs and Sex Shows
For those who are hesitant to pay for sex, but still want to experience the excitement of Amsterdam sexual nightlife, going to one of the city's strip clubs or live sex shows is a great alternative. In these establishments, visitors pay an entrance fee to observe a variety of stage shows. These shows range from girls stripping to performing candle and ping pong ball tricks. They even have live sex shows in which couples have sex on stage. Don’t forget to bring your wallet for any of these shows, as any sort of stimulation in Amsterdam comes with a price.
One of the best known sex shows in Amsterdam is the Banana Bar in the RLD. You pay an entrance fee and enter a bar full of tantalizing hostesses who will perform various tricks, including the famous banana trick, for a price. If you prefer more of a theatre atmosphere and less audience interaction, two of the most popular live sex shows are located nearby: the Moulin Rouge and Casa Rosso.
Le Salon is a popular cinema and sex shop with about a dozen cabins with porn tv’s. The cabins all have glory holes, and the interior is original 1980's vintage, but some people would call it filthy and in need of renovation. The cinema has a sort of darkroom (a compartment next to the seats, with no lighting), and 2 sofas, with enough room for 6 people. This club truly feels like an Amsterdam experience with the steep stairs connecting the various rooms.
Drakes is a conveniently located sex cinema, which you buy a ticket in the shop and go upstairs to an area where there are about 15 cabins for your private video-show. Almost every cabin has a glory hole with peep holes to see what the other is doing. The ticket is good for the whole day, and entry is free for those under 26. You’re able to go in and out using your ticket so you can share a ticket with a friend. There is mixed age clientele here, both younger & older.
Amsterdam sex clubs and brothels offer a chance to meet privately with a lady to smoosh. These clubs generally do business on site, so you will have to go to them. Be sure to arrange everything with the girl of your choice beforehand, because in most of these clubs the prices are not fixed and can vary depending on what and whom you wish to do.
Jan Bik has ten businesses throughout the country and is one of the largest chains of sex clubs in the Netherlands. The Amsterdam branch is on the western side of the city center, just off Haarlemmerstraat. In this club you can rent a room and a girl, or just a room if your love is already taken by another. If you’re looking for the best bang for your buck, Jan Bik should be on your list.
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Though it is a little out of town, Asmara provides a high-end experience and offers high class girls. The sex club has a higher cover charge than other areas, but the facilities are excellent and there are less hidden fees once you’re inside.
If you already have a lover and are looking for a way to broaden your horizons, one of the many Amsterdam swinger’s clubs might be for you. These clubs offer a place for singles and couples alike to indulge in a variety of adult activities and tend to have a scaled entrance fee based on whether you are a single guy, a single girl, or a couple.
Candyclub has a more relaxed, informal attitude than many other Amsterdam sex clubs and promotes easy to join group activities.
The Candyclub is found very close to Oosterpark, and prides itself as the oldest swingers club in Amsterdam.
Another popular choice for sex enthusiasts in Amsterdam is Sameplace. This club has a very laid back attitude, although some nights require a specific dress code, such as the fetish nights where black leather is the required attire and the downstairs dungeon is heavily used.
Prostitution only recently became legal in Amsterdam, with the Dutch ban on brothels being lifted in 2000 and replaced by a licensing system. Since the ban was lifted, there are two legal means of generating income from prostitution.
Part of the industry is regulated through licenses issued in terms of general municipal by-laws. Window prostitution, brothels, ‘private houses’ and escort services through agencies are legal, if they have a license. Owners and operators of prostitution businesses are also required to have a license and the police carry out regular checks to ensure they comply with the regulations. The most important rules: women may not be forced to work as prostitutes, and they must be of the legal age and be a legal resident of the Netherlands.
Prostitution at home does not fall within the license policy as long as the prostitute works alone and non-commercially. This “Legal Without a License” status is only if the working is not performing commercial prostitution. It is still illegal to advertise on the internet, or for multiple prostitutes to work in the same house.
Legal Age for Prostitution
The City of Amsterdam claims “people aged 21 are better able to make a well-considered decision about working as a prostitute than those aged 18, as well as being better able to cope with working in the industry.” Due to this decision, the minimum legal age to be permitted to work as a prostitute was recently raised, from 18 to 21, in July 2013. The reason for increasing the legal age is to help address the abuse in the prostitution industry as well as strengthen the position of prostitutes.
Amsterdam city center is a haven for the gay and lesbian community. You won’t find more gay-friendly attractions per square meter anywhere else in the world. ‘Amsterdammers’ have a relaxed and tolerant attitude toward alternative lifestyles, with ‘Live and let live’ one of the cities favorite sayings. It’s unsurprising then that Amsterdam has become so popular with gay visitors.
Main Gay Districts
This street runs through an edge of the RLD, parallel to Damrak. There are many coffeeshops and bars along this party street as well as a few leather bars, a disco, and several saunas can also be found in this district.
The Rembrandtplein is home to the city’s most upscale clubs that welcome gays and straights alike, but the nearby streets of Reguliersdwarsstraat just to the west, and Amstel to the north, are concentrated with gay clubs that match the glamour of Rembrandtplein.
This street is the oldest gay district in town and houses a few gay hotels. There are bars, clubs, and saunas concentrated in the main portion of this street. Although it’s not as popular as the Rembrandtplein areas or as crazy as the Warmoestraat area, it has a relaxed feel that has attracted visitors for decades.
Gay Dance Clubs
Church, in Amsterdam’s gay scene, is one of the most popular and well respected cruise clubs, at the Kerkstraat. Church’s two floors includes a dance floor, a great bar, showers, private rooms and almost anything that tantalizes a playful mind. Themed nights are common, and every Wednesday is naked night where shoes are the only clothes permitted. Look at their website to learn about theme nights and cover charges.
This mainstream club, in the heart of the Amsterdam gay district of Reguliersdwarsstraat, attracts a young gay crowd, but is welcoming of straight visitors. The club is divided into three floors, with each offering a different style of music. In the third floor bathrooms you can find something unique to NYX: a toilet DJ!
Another staple gay club in Amsterdam, De Trut has been around since the 80s and has always been a scene favorite thanks to its unique approach. The staff consists entirely of volunteers and any profits made are used to support LGBT causes. De Trut hosts club nights with specific dress codes which are strictly enforced, so be sure to check the website to see attire requirements before heading to this club.
Spellbound at Occii
On the first Saturday of every second month, Occii hosts Spellbound. While it is not a dedicated gay bar, this event is the city’s most beloved underground gay dance party. The most common music genres of the event are the LGBT favorite techno and house, and worldwide visitors come to dance and party in the unique surroundings of Occii. Like De Trut, every staff member is a volunteer and Occii serves as a centre for a wide range of alternative cultural events when not hosting Spellbound.
In 1995, gay prostitution attempted to break into the RLD, but it was a massive failure. Gay sex is still stigmatized to a point, but the Blue Light area is nonetheless developing.
When you walk through the streets of the RLD you might notice an occasional blue light in the window. This indicates that the person behind the window was not born as a woman. The blue lights are to denote transgender persons and transvestites. They are also called lady boys, she-males or t-girls. If you see a blue light, you can be sure that the woman in the window was not born that way.