NL: The Red Light District

In North America, Amsterdam is infamous and revered for its liberal attitudes towards sex, drugs, and public urination.


To the locals, the “red light district,” is known as Rossebuurt. My Dutch man struggles with what he calls “our prudish North American culture.”  Amsterdam’s red light district is comprised of three zones: De Wallen, Singelgebied, and Ruysdaelkade. The zone is a labyrinth of alleys, bars, brothels, sex clubs, and fetish fantasies.


Amsterdam’s red light district is the oldest “neighborhood” in the city. It came to life by its proximity to the Amsterdam Port. In the 14th century, this part of town offered “affordable” housing where a lot of immigrants lived. As early as the 1500’s sailors, would schedule a purposeful dock at Amsterdam so they could enjoy all the ale’s and girls their money could by.

If you the Dutch where you can find the “red light District,” don’t be surprised if they respond with something that sounds like Da Wallen.

The Dutch, refer to the Red Light district at “De Wallen.” Why? There are two explanations.  

  • The first, the old harbor area of town used to be walled.
  • The Second, “Wall” was an old code name for paid sex.


The red light district comes to life at night. It’s full of bars,  tourists, and partiers looking for a good time.

I’m not sure what my thoughts of the red light district were. I found the architecture of the old Dutch buildings beautiful, the experience eye-opening, and very sad.

As we wandered through the streets, I wondered what would make a girl want to stand in a window and sell her soul for money. I found myself thankful for my luck in life.

When Exploring The red light District:

  • Don’t take photos of the girls in the windows, or of coffee shops. You might have someone come break your camera.
  • Keep a tight grip on your valuables, as the area is know for pic-pockets.
  • Explore in a group, to avoid any unsolicited attention.