Not only is prostitution legal in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, it is very much on display and open for business in a very retail, store-front kind of way in the city’s Red Light Districts. So famed (or infamous) is the red light district, that as a tourist of course I had to visit one just to say I went.
I (a female, traveling with a male) arrived at Amsterdam’s main Red Light District (RLD) around 12:30 am. The main RLD is in the Walletjes area (between the Centraal Station and Nieuwenmarkt) while the other two are in Singel (between Raadhuistraat and Centraal Station) and de Pijp (behind the Rijksmuseum). I was glad I went with a male, as there were some dodgy characters on the street and the single females seem like more of a target.
True to what I’d heard, the ladies really are on displays like in stores – they sit and stand in little window boxes in their respective brothel. Talk about a strange site! It’s like walking through a shopping center but instead of shopping for clothes you’re shopping for people. The brothels which are open for business are lit up on top by a thin red neon light, hence the district’s name, giving everything an eerie hue. and They call to passersby to come “watch before you buy”. I was a little surprised to realize that the women were motioning to me just as often as they were to my male companion; no discrimination here!
In addition to the girls on display another thing I couldn’t help but notice was the huge ‘NO PHOTOS’ signs (camera with a line through it). They are serious about not taking pictures and if you so much as reach for your camera or hold up your phone, nice policemen will come tell you to stop.
We did not “watch before you buy”, nor did we buy, and I noticed there weren’t a whole lot of other people doing so either. I thought this was due to the poor economy but instead it was apparently the time of day we were there – things picked up at 1am as we were leaving. I guess prostitution is one business immune to economic downturn to an extent. After 1am when the tourists dissipate, people really get down to business in the RLD, so if you’re only there to window shop and not make a purchase, you’ll be more comfortable going between dusk and 1:00 am.