Want to know more about what you can find inside De Wallen?
The centre of prostitution in the capital of the Netherlands for over 800 years, De Wallen is the most famous red-light district in the world. Attracting hundreds of thousands of tourists each year, De Wallen not only offers many people a close-up look at sex workers with the window girls but it also has a range of adult entertainment venues; some have a notorious reputation whilst others are hidden gems.
In this guide, we take a look at what lies inside Amsterdam’s famous sex district from the window girls and live sex shows to the other forms of entertainment you can find inside De Wallen.
- 1 The De Wallen Area
- 2 Highlights of De Wallen
The De Wallen Area
Amsterdam’s original, and still one of the most famous, red light district is called De Wallen. It has been the centre for prostitution in the city since as far back as the 13th century.
Also known as ‘The Wall’, De Wallen has become a part of modern parlance for visiting a prostitute with the phrase ‘going to the wall’ also meaning ‘to pay for sex’. The area is so called due to the fact that this part of Amsterdam was originally a fortified city.
The area was once a part of the original city docks and covers a network of alleys and passageways between two main streets; Oudezijds Achterburgwal and Oudezijds Voorburgwal. Some alleys are so small that passing someone coming from the other direction is nigh on impossible.
It’s a pretty part of the old town area and includes some historic landmark buildings including former monasteries and merchant houses. De Wallen is a popular tourist attraction in Amsterdam but is also a working red light district.
Prostitution in De Wallen
Despite periods of social prudence and religious fervency, prostitution in Amsterdam has largely been tolerated as long as it was restricted to the De Wallen area. Most hookers worked on the streets and serviced clients in the dark alleys or in their rented rooms. However, the early 20th century saw some changes which now characterise this infamous red light area. Changes in the law meant that street prostitution was no longer allowed in the city yet hookers (or street daisies) could use their windows to solicit clients from; as long as the curtains were partially drawn. This did not constitute any breach in public decency laws nor as solicitation.
What emerged in De Wallen was a new method for punters to go window shopping. Women would sit in a state of some undress beside the window, enticingly half covered by sheer material.
The practice still goes on today and De Wallen has a reputation for its window hookers far more so than for its coffeeshops where you can still openly smoke marijuana.
Prostitution in the Netherlands is legalised and De Wallen remains a popular spot for working girls. However, the number of window girls has fallen in recent years as the prices for services here can be disproportionately higher than other brothels in the city.
Highlights of De Wallen
De Wallen remains a prime spot for all kinds of visitors to the city and not just those looking to pay for sex. It is a curiosity for many and you can find people from all walks of life, day and night roaming the tiny alleys and canal side streets.
Whilst sex is a main draw to the area with the window girls, live sex shows and go-go bars, there are other aspects to De Wallen which are worth a look.
The city has quite a few tour operators that offer tours of the area which can be very enlightening about historical aspects and many have gregarious guides who can share some very interesting stories. These are well worth booking and only take a few hours; however, it is just as rewarding to explore on your own. If you are doing so, then here is our selection of must visit spots in De Wallen to get a full overview of just how important this part of the city is to the sex scene of Amsterdam, past and present.
Live Sex Shows
Amsterdam is well known for its live sex-shows and has several options for its visitors to witness explicit performances as well as to take part. Though there are less shows operating today than there was a decade or so ago, there are still four main venues that all offer a great night out.
Oudezijds Achterburgwal 106-108, 1012 DS Amsterdam
Also known as the Pink Elephant, you can find Casa Rosso at the very borders of the red light district of De Wallen. They are a popular tourist spot in the evenings and run live sex shows that are more erotic than full on hardcore. However you do get more than an eyeful with some light BDSM, entertaining parlour tricks and even explicit nudity.
The venue is open daily from 7.00pm and closes at 2.00am (later on Friday and Saturday nights).
Oudezijds Achterburgwal 5-7, 1012 DA Amsterdam
An iconic De Wallen venue, the Moulin Rouge is situated on the canal side and is a lively place to catch a sex show. As well as striptease and dancers they also perform live couples on stage getting it on as well as shows featuring ribbons, vibrators and bananas.
Mouline Rouge is open daily from 7.00pm to 2.00am.
The Sex Palace Peep Show
Oudezijds Achterburgwal 84, 1012 DT Amsterdam
One of De Wallens remaining peep shows, the Sex Palace has a rotating stage on which a new act performs every 10-15 minutes. Booths are arranged around the perimeter which allow guests to watch for 2 minutes at a time (€2).
The peep show is a retro concept in this modern age of free hardcore internet porn but is still a popular place to experience titivation as it used to be done.
It’s a must visit venue whilst in De Wallen and is open daily from 7.00am to 1.00am.
According to the most recent statistics, around three times more window girls operate in De Wallen when compare to Amsterdam’s two other red-light areas (De Pijp and De Singel). Though there are no hard and fast guidelines about which parts of De Wallen offer the best services, the best girls and the best prices, it is safe to say that the price of sex here is much higher than if you were to visit a running house outside of the city. Most people also report that the service with window girls can be short and quite perfunctory.
However, most connoisseurs agree that, if you are paying for sex in Amsterdam, you have to try an experience with one of the famous window girls. To not do so would be like visiting the Trevi Fountain and not throwing in a coin.
We’d give you some steers here on where to head for the best windows but occupants change all the time plus the beauty of the window girls of De Wallen is all in the browsing. Enjoy.
There are no brothels operating anymore within the De Wallen area itself, however you can visit the location of the once world-famous (and exclusive) brothel, Yab Yum. Situated at Singel 295, 1012 WH Amsterdam, Yab Yum still has the tell-tale green lantern outside the building.
Amsterdam has a few strip clubs but only a couple that are in De Wallen. Our top pick would be Banana Bar but you can also get some good dances at La Vie en Proost (Bethlehemsteeg 23, 1012 GH Amsterdam) and La Vie en Rose (Molensteeg 2, 1012 BG Amsterdam)
Oudezijds Achterburgwal 37, Amsterdam
The Banana Bar is a venue synonymous with the tricks that used to be turned in here that featured a certain phallic fruit. It’s a place you can get a lap dance and enjoy some intimate strip tease but no longer performs the same kind of live sex shows that it got famous for.
The bar is open daily from 8.00pm and usually lasts to around 2am-3am.
As you would expect from a busy red-light district, De Wallen has quite a few sex shops, some of which are pretty hardcore. You can find around a dozen adult stores inside De Wallen with another handful around the outskirts of the official borders of this area.
Our top selections for those to visit, include:
- Smart Fetish en Fantasy, Oudebrugsteeg 10, 1012 JP Amsterdam
- Mister B, Warmoesstraat 89, 1012 HZ Amsterdam
- Red Rose Winkel, Oudekennissteeg 9, 1012 EB Amsterdam
- Amsterdam Gay Shop, Spuistraat 21, 1012 SR Amsterdam
Other Interesting Venues
There are also some other places worth stopping by for whilst in De Wallen with our pick being as follows:
Oudezijds Achterburgwal 54, 1012 DP Amsterdam
The Erotic Museum is a small museum that gives visitors the chance to explore the city’s links to the sex scene through various medium including art, cartoons and curios. Easy to spend an hour here being entertained, enlightened and titivated.
The museum is open daily from 11.00am to 1.00am (closing at 2.00am on Friday and Saturday nights).
Sex Museum (Temple of Venus)
Damrak 18, 1012 LH Amsterdam
The world’s first and oldest museum dedicated to sex, the Temple of Venus has an extensive collection of paintings, objet d’art and erotic material. Though some of the items on display are pornographic, the majority of the content is more sensual than hardcore.
It’s a real cornucopia of artefacts and though not particularly large can easily occupy visitors for a few hours at a time.
The Sex Museum is open daily from 9.30am to 11.30pm.
Museum of Prostitution
Another sex themed museum, this one focuses on the city’s links to prostitution and, in particular, the red-light district of De Wallen itself. Arranged like one of the brothels of Amsterdam, visitors can get up and close and personal to what goes on behind the closed doors of the sex trade….before heading to a real one?!
Open daily from 10.00am to midnight.
The Bulldog Cafe
Oudezijds Voorburgwal 90 1012 GJ Amsterdam
More famously a coffee shop where you can buy and smoke cannabis, the Bulldog claims to be the original such location in Amsterdam. Whether this is true or not, the venue used to be a sex theatre and had a sex shop in its basement. It’s an iconic spot to visit and is well worth dropping in on to get a taste of the coffee shop culture of Amsterdam.
The Bulldog is open daily from 8am to 1am.
You can read more about sex in Amsterdam in our full feature guide including other red light areas, strip clubs and brothels in the city.
Featured image via Wikimedia.