Amsterdam: History of the Red Light District


From sex shops to brothels, most rumors you have heard about the infamous Red Light District in Amsterdam (or Rossebuurt as the locals call it) are probably true. Women poised in red-fringed windows show off their bodies and offer more than just a peep-show in private parlor rooms to people passing by in the street.  Amsterdam is the only place in the world where window prostitution occurs, but beware of getting too carried away–snapping pictures of the entertainers is highly forbidden, and many of the women employ personal bodyguards to ensure their safety.
By the end of the 17th century, Amsterdam was well known for luxury brothels where one could enjoy the company of common prostitute. As time went on, authorities tried to limit these “houses of pleasure” to prevent the exploitation of women. A law passed in 1911 banned brothels, but it was not enough to keep them suppressed–behind the scenes of massage parlors, art trades and tobacco shops, hidden brothels thrived.
An unofficial policy of tolerating this business was adopted when authorities realized it was impossible to enforce the law in the area around the Old Church, which was the old prostitution district. Women were now allowed to work as long as they were inside the building. They showed themselves through a small opening in the curtains, but as the years passed the curtains opened more and more. Window prostitution was officially legalized in October 2000 to prevent exploitation and forced prostitution of women, and today these working women are taxpayers and protected under several government health laws and regulations on the workplace.
So what are the rules of behavior for visiting the Red Light District?

  • DO NOT TAKE PHOTOS of occupied windows. Things could get ugly pretty quickly if you do (don’t say we didn’t warn you!)
  • Watch out for pickpockets, as the area around the Red Light district is a busy and touristy area
  • Go in groups of people in order not to attract any unwanted attention
  • Don’t buy from dealers–whatever the product, you could wind up on the wrong side of the law.
  • Visit the Red Light district at the end of your stay in Amsterdam, so you don’t miss out on all of the beauty this unique city has to offer!

(info courtesy of
Want to experience all that Amsterdam has to offer? Check out the FlorenceForFun long weekend trip to Amsterdam & Paris, departing on Wednesday Oct. 31 over Halloween weekend, and get the chance to visit two incredible cities in one whirlwind trip!


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