What Goes Down in the Red Light District – Exploring Amsterdam’s Notorious Neighborhood

Nightlife, Romantic, Things to Do, Travel Tips — By Anna Bandurska on March 23, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Amsterdam’s Red Light District is the city’s most famous tourist attraction. It is also full of unexpected sights and important monuments that usually go unnoticed by tourists who are fascinated by window shopping. If you spend a couple of hours wandering this neighborhood, make sure you see all the sights.
Most people are surprised to hear of the Red Light District as a neighborhood, but indeed, it is a neighborhood like any other in the city, except for the interesting displays, of course. In fact, the Red Light District is actually one of the more expensive neighborhoods of the city. Since the Dutch don’t really believe in blinds or window coverings, it’s easy to take a look into people’s apartments at night and see some of these grand crash pads.
The Oudekerk, or Old Church, is Amsterdam’s oldest church and located in the heart of the Red Light District. Walk around the church and you will also find the Princess Juliana day care centre for the neighborhood, and the Prostitute information Centre, cleverly shortened to PIC, and clever because Pic is “dick” in Dutch. At the PIC you can get all sorts of information about prostitution in Amsterdam.
The Red Light District also has an interesting collection of museums, including the Amstelkring, which is a secret church in an attic, and the Erotic Museum, with its focus on pornography and a few interesting John Lennon sketches.
When you’re walking around the Red Light District, make sure to check out the blue light streets of Bloedstraat and Barndesteeg, where the women are only women from the waist up, when you head over to Nieuwmarkt. Nieuwmarkt is a pretty square now with the historic weigh house (De Waag) dominating it, but it also has a grim past. The square used to be the location of public executions, and Bloedstraat (or Blood Street) has earned its name in a gruesome way. The street is slightly sloping, and Amsterdam is a rainy city, so on execution day the little alley got quite bloody.
Nieuwmarkt itself is full of nice bars for a drink any time of day. Cafe Fonteyn is a nice bar now, but in the 1800s it was the city’s most luxurious brothel.
If you’re looking to dance the night away, the Red Light District’s western border of Warmoestraat (or vegetable street, because this is where the city’s medieval vegetable market was held) is the place to be. Beyond the gay S&M clubs, cheesy souvenir shops and coffeeshops, you can find the Winston Kingdom, with cheap drinks, cheap cover, and a great DNB party on Mondays and dancing all week long.

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