Is it still worth going to the Red Light District in Amsterdam?
February 14, 2008 10:27 PM   Subscribe

Is it still worth going to the Red Light District in Amsterdam now that it's in the process of being shut down?

I've been meaning for years to visit the Red Light District in Amsterdam to patronize the legal prostitution, but never got around to it. I've never actually done it before. Now apparently, half the place is shut down and the other half is going to be shut down "soon." It's going to take a lot of money and planning for me to get there, so I'm reconsidering if I'm going to go at all if it's effectively destroyed or will be by the time I can go.

I've already heard that the atmosphere has changed. What is it really like right now? Have the prices raised because of uncertainty? Is it still worth going? How much longer do I have until it's "gone?" If it's not worth going, where else is worth going?

More info: Adult male, over 30. Location: USA. Likely going alone or with another friend, staying 1-2 weeks.
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation around Amsterdam, The Netherlands (12 answers total)

Amsterdam is not the only city in the Netherlands with a red-light district. According to some online forums, if you are going for quality, you don't want to mess with those girls in the windows. I don't need to get into the reasons for that. Use your imagination.
According to Wikipedia, The crackdown in the last few months has only been concerning the windows in the red-light district. If you want to procure the services of a prostitute, there are no shortage of high quality brothels that are behind closed doors. Besides, once you check out the De Wallen, and see what a sad meat market it is, with one drunken bachelor party guest after the other going in and coming out, you may want to pass.
The PIC might be able to help you with other questions.
posted by chillmost at 12:23 AM on February 15, 2008

Just by looking at your profile, if you'd like to see something you'll never see in The United States - namely women and men sitting in shop windows selling their bodies for sexual purposes - then you'll see it in Amsterdam. Touching, of course is an whole other kettle of fish.

"I've already heard that the atmosphere has changed."

Well, I've been passing through Amsterdam on business for about fifteen years now, and the atmosphere has definitely changed - for the worse. Until about six years ago the Red Light district was very small, and very, very low key. Almost a pleasure to walk stroll through at night, morality issues aside.

Now The Red Light district is big business, few European women to be seen, and, as Chillmost already pointed out, large crowds of inebriated stag dudes and dudettes partying hardy through the night, hooting and hollering and (frequently!) falling into the canals with the occasional unhappy ending. The Red Light district has markedly expanded and spread out, so with these closures I suspect the city is just trying to reign it back in. That's ok by me, as it's clearly out of control. My wife and I keep a second flat in The Netherlands, spending about one week a month there and truth be told, I totally avoid that part of town now, it's that rowdy and unpleasant and I'm by no means closed minded. But there are quaint customs engaged in by different cultures that should be observed in a non judgmental manner to widen one's mind and views (my point at the outset of this post) and then there is big business exploitation.

I've heard that it's mostly organised crime behind the sex trade in Amsterdam now. That makes sense it me as I lived and worked in Frankfurt in the mid 90's, and the Red Light district there - der Kaiserstrasse - was reportedly dominated and controlled by Eastern European maifa.
posted by Mutant at 2:25 AM on February 15, 2008

No idea about Amsterdam, think you might have to put more effort into shopping then you think, and ignore "1" who obviously knows nothing about the sex worker industry.
posted by ewkpates at 3:47 AM on February 15, 2008

I'm living in Amsterdam now and the RLD is still going strong. I don't know how quickly or how much of the RLD is going to be shut down, but if you came here now, you wouldn't have a problem finding a girl you'd like. From talking to folks here, I've learned the average cost is about E50, or close to US$75, for what is known as a 20-minute "suck-and-fuck". (A tip I've heard is that you need to negotiate exactly what you want, from what you can touch to how much they are wearing.)

If you are looking to maximize your bang for the buck, there are other places, such as Mexico, that might be better. I recommend checking out for people's reviews of brothels and prostitutes around the world.
posted by bprater at 3:52 AM on February 15, 2008

I've never been a customer, but I've probably walked through half of the red light districts in western Europe and yes, you can skip Amsterdam's unless you really like crowds of drunk guys hooting and hollering. Prostitution is legal all over the Netherlands, Germany, and I think Belgium as well, so you don't need to feel like you can only go to Amsterdam. Pick any city with a reasonably large population and you'll find there's a red light district there that's more low-key (and presumably cheaper if you make sure to discuss the price and details before getting down to business) than Amsterdam's tourist attraction of one.
posted by cmonkey at 6:55 AM on February 15, 2008

What Mutant said. If you're going to Amsterdam for the sex, there are other places to get it than the RLD, which is full of stag weekend drunks, tourist gawpers, and women of uncertain legal and personal status under the watchful eye of scary, nasty pimps. Supporting sex trafficking? Not cool.

(I'll venture down Warmoestraat for the other shops, and can cope with the area around the Oude Kerk, but OZ Achterburgwal is just nasty.)
posted by holgate at 7:33 AM on February 15, 2008

As others have pointed out every major city in the Netherlands has legalized prostitution. The RLD in Amsterdam is a horrible tourist trap, so it isn't necessarily representative of the industry as a whole. I would recommend going somewhere like The Hague (Den Haag) and finding the RLD (actually as I recall there are three) to see the grim reality of what these places are (I only mention Den Haag as I used to live there but I'm sure its representative of many other cities in the Netherlands.) I've never been a customer and I am not in any way passing judgment, but if you have the idea that these places are like some paradisaical adult playground then you're way off.
posted by ob at 9:04 AM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Vegas might be easier/cheaper.
posted by afx114 at 10:33 AM on February 15, 2008

Except that prostitution isn't legal in Vegas. It is legal elsewhere in Nevada, however. Go figure that one out. :)
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:00 AM on February 15, 2008

I'm guessing that anonymous is not an idiot and knows that sex can be had for money anywhere. The whole point of going to see the RLD in Amsterdam is to soak in the party atmosphere.
posted by randomstriker at 11:18 AM on February 15, 2008

I was in Amsterdam 14 months ago. Most of the women I saw in the red light windows (not just in the RLD) had sullen, bored expressions....I have no idea why anyone would want to have sex with people like that.
posted by brujita at 12:09 AM on February 16, 2008

Sociologically it is quite interesting regardless of what your position is of the sex-worker trade.
posted by teg4rvn at 11:06 AM on January 7, 2009

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