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Amsterdam – Sex, Drugs and Pedalos?

We packed a lot into our three days in Amsterdam; boat trips through the historical canal district, museum visits, sight-seeing and, of course, plenty of gable-spotting. But I can’t leave without mentioning Amsterdam’s more infamous attractions; the Red Light District and the cannabis-selling coffee shops. We didn’t encounter any rock and roll during our trip but pedalos were prevalent and it sort of rhymed…

Oude Kerk, Amsterdam

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Amsterdam’s Red Light District

Amsterdam’s Red Light District area of De Wallen is actually one of the oldest and prettiest areas of the city.  Winding cobbled streets, pretty, leaf-lined canals, the gothic 13th century Oude Kerk (Old Church) as a backdrop and plenty of canal-side cafés makes it a pleasant area to enjoy in daylight hours.

Come dusk the Red Light District becomes a major tourist attraction and when my travelling companion, a girlfriend from school, and I returned to the area in the evening it was cast in a somewhat different light. The lanes were bustling with goggle-eyed tourists, us included, couples strolling hand-in-hand, tour groups and hen parties giggling and gasping their way past less than barely-clad women gyrating their way round the window frames. And, of course, there were those looking to buy. The atmosphere was now a tad edgier.

Take a walking tour of Amsterdam’s Red Light District. Click here for rates and availability.

Why not to take photos in Amsterdam’s red light district

As the lamplight cast a red glow onto the inky waters of the canal I heard a shout behind me. Looking back, I saw one of the girls launch herself from behind her window, run into the street and loudly admonish a tourist who’d been taking photos – photography is banned here to protect the people working there.

Luckily the camera remained intact and, I know I shouldn’t laugh, but seeing my friend being yelled at by a prostitute wearing 6-inch heels and little else still causes me to smile. What a rotten friend I am. We spent the next half an hour recovering with a gin and tonic watching the comings and goings from the safety of a busy pub. We reckoned the average curtain closure time to be 11 minutes.  As you can imagine the people-watching here is unparalleled.

De Wallen (red light district), Amsterdam

De Wallen (red light district), Amsterdam

Nowadays the government is cleaning up the city’s three Red Light Districts. Since prostitution was legalised in 2000 the country’s liberal attitude has been exploited more and more by organised criminal gangs. The aim is to discourage the types of business that are conducive to crime and to allow prostitution in just two areas.

Brothels are bought-up as soon as they are vacated, renovated and new business ventures moved-in, such as fashion designers and restaurants, to strengthen the area’s character and help economic growth. It’s thought that a third of the brothels will eventually close. Safety is key here and the prostitution regulations were tightened in 2012 to further control organised crime and trafficking – the workers also have their own union and police protection.

Amsterdam’s Coffee Shops

Coffee Shop

Coffee House

Take a coffee shop walking tour in Amsterdam. Click here for rates and availability

Amsterdam's First Coffee ShopAmsterdam’s First Coffee Shop

And so to Pedalos…

Check rates and availability for Pedalo hire or hop on hop off bus with boat option

Pedalos by Westerkerk, Amsterdam

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Lily Lau

Thursday 20th of November 2014

I can't imagine how your friend must have felt... I'd die right there if a prostitute starts yelling at me for a miserable photo, oh my!!!

Suzanne Jones

Thursday 20th of November 2014

I know it's wrong of me but I kept laughing about it for days!

Travelbunny Highlights 2013 | The Travelbunny

Monday 30th of December 2013

[…] June – my first new country of the year and a trip with a girlfriend to Amsterdam where we laughed for three days solid, explored Amsterdam’s Canal Life, learned about the gabled buildings and Alison was reprimanded by a prostitute… […]

Amsterdam’s Canal Life | The Travelbunny

Friday 13th of December 2013

[…] So there you have a few of the reasons why I loved the canals of Amsterdam (professional tourist me!) and a few quirky facts too.   Check out my other Amsterdam posts Slightly Squiffy in Amsterdam, What to see for Free in Amsterdam and Sex, Drugs and Pedalos. […]

Backpacking Europe: The Amsterdam Agenda | Erin O'Leary Photography

Thursday 8th of August 2013

[…] Amsterdam – Sex, Drugs and Pedalos? ( […]


Wednesday 7th of August 2013

Chuckling at the prostitute incident Suzanne :-D I can well imagine the people watching potential in that district!

Suzanne Courtney

Wednesday 7th of August 2013

Eyes on stalks Madhu!

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