Amsterdam’s Red Light District, known locally as De Wallen, is one of the city’s most iconic neighborhoods. This area, situated in the heart of Amsterdam, is renowned for its liberal attitude, vibrant nightlife, and historic significance. Whether you’re curious about its unique culture, interested in the history, or simply want to explore its lively streets, this guide will provide you with all the information you need to make the most of your visit.

Red Light Secrets Amsterdam, Netherlands - © Depictaè
Red Light Secrets Amsterdam, Netherlands – © Depictaè

History and Location

The Red Light District is one of Amsterdam’s oldest neighborhoods, with a history dating back to the 14th century. It’s located within walking distance from Amsterdam Central Station, making it easily accessible by public transportation or on foot. The district is characterized by its narrow alleys, historic architecture, and canals.

Transformation at Night

As night falls, the Red Light District transforms into a vibrant hub of activity. The iconic red neon lights illuminate the windows, showcasing the area’s famous sex work industry. This spectacle draws many visitors who come to experience the unique atmosphere. The district is also home to a variety of bars, restaurants, and cafes, making it a great place to enjoy Amsterdam’s nightlife.

Red Light District Amsterdam, Netherlands - © Depictaè
Red Light District Amsterdam, Netherlands – © Depictaè

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit the Red Light District is in the evening, from around 6 PM onwards. This is when the lights are most vibrant, and the streets are bustling with activity. However, visiting during the day offers a different perspective, allowing you to appreciate the historic architecture and the quieter, more relaxed atmosphere.

Exploring the Area

Historic Buildings and Canals: The Red Light District is filled with beautiful old buildings and picturesque canals. Take a leisurely stroll to admire the architecture and the scenic waterways.

Sex Work Industry: The district is famous for its sex work industry, with workers displaying themselves in red-lit windows. It’s important to respect the workers and their privacy. Do not take photographs of the workers, as this is strictly prohibited and can result in fines.

Bars and Restaurants: There are numerous bars and restaurants where you can enjoy a drink or a meal. Try local Dutch cuisine or have a beer at one of the many pubs.

Museums and Attractions: Visit the Red Light Secrets Museum to learn more about the history of the area and the sex work industry. The district also hosts various art galleries and cultural spots.

Dos and Don’ts

When visiting the Red Light District, it’s crucial to follow local rules and customs to ensure a respectful and enjoyable experience.


  • Do visit in the evening to experience the full vibrancy of the district.
  • Do stay aware of your surroundings and keep your belongings secure.
  • Do respect the workers and their privacy.
  • Do explore the area on foot to fully appreciate its atmosphere.


  • Don’t take photographs of the workers; it’s strictly prohibited and fines are imposed.
  • Don’t engage in disruptive or disrespectful behavior.
  • Don’t litter or damage property.
  • Don’t assume that everyone is a tourist; many people live and work in the area.

Interacting with Workers

If you choose to interact with the sex workers, do so respectfully. Approach with politeness and respect their boundaries. Understand that this is their place of work, and treat them with the same dignity you would any other professional.

Living in the Red Light District

The Red Light District is not just a tourist attraction; it’s a residential neighborhood with a vibrant community. Many Dutch locals and expatriates live here, and you’ll find regular houses, shops, and services alongside the more notorious establishments. The presence of normal residential life adds to the unique character of the area.

Hours of Operation

The Red Light District never truly closes, as it is a residential area as well. However, the sex work windows typically operate from early evening until the early hours of the morning. Bars and restaurants have varying hours, often staying open late into the night, especially on weekends.


Amsterdam’s Red Light District offers a unique blend of history, culture, and nightlife. By respecting local customs and approaching the area with an open mind, you can enjoy a memorable and respectful visit. Whether you’re exploring the historic streets by day or soaking in the vibrant nightlife, the Red Light District is an essential part of the Amsterdam experience.

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