Europeans are generally more relaxed than Americans on the world’s oldest profession, so one of the things Amsterdam has become most famous for is the sex trade in its Red Light District
(‘De Wallen’ in Dutch). The Red Light district compromises some 300 rooms (kamers), where women display themselves behind windows, as they either make seductive gestures to lure men or play on their cell phones, bored. A college friend once told us that a prostitute once opened her door, pointed at her funky shoes and laughed. So ladies, you’re equally welcome to stroll the district safely, just be aware that wearing unusual attire could get you mocked, though Bell never has been. If you’re in the Red Light district do not
take photos of the girls, unless you want to get yelled at and risk your camera getting thrown into the canal. But as long as you’re just capturing the general scenery and not the actual girls, your golden to take as many photos as you’d like.
Aside from the prostitutes in windows, Amsterdam’s Red Light District offers several sex shows like the Casa Rosso
and Bananen Bar
, where you can shell out some euros to watch live sex theater. The Black Tiger Bar
has nothing to do with prostitution aside from its location, and offers great seats across the canal to watch men approach windows to negotiate sex, while you enjoy a Heineken or mixed drink. There’s of course a few coffee shops like the famous Bulldog
and Hill Street Blues
where you can buy and smoke weed while you’re in the area. When in Rome, right?
Amsterdam’s Chinatown borders the Red Light District on Zeedijk street. As is usually the case in cities worldwide, Chinatown is one of the cheapest areas to eat in Amsterdam. We used to occasionally sit down for Peking duck over steamed rice when we lived nearby as it was a great deal.
The Dutch pride themselves on being open and tolerant, and many believe ‘De Wallen’ is a testament to this. And indeed, the area is relatively safe as its regularly policed (though you should obviously take precautions for pickpockets, especially if your heavily under the influence of drugs or alcohol). Many argue that it’s better for the girls to be behind windows than on the streets, but others argue that Amsterdam’s open policy on sex trading only makes human trafficking easier. The reality is somewhere in between, prostitution and human trafficking exist everywhere and the United States arguably wastes a lot of resources to fight something that the government only pushes underground, into even more sinister terrain.
These photos were taken on a tripod in September, 2014, with our modest Canon Powershot camera with the lens opened wide and the shutter speed set to super slow, without flash, to capture as much natural light as possible. We found Amsterdam’s Red Light District to be a fantastic place to take night time photos. Just remember, unless you want to get smacked, don’t photograph the girls!