The Changing Face Of Amsterdam! Are The “Red Lights” Moving Out? Here’s An Update Plus A Look At All Of The City’s Magic!

Amsterdam windmill

Welcome To Amsterdam!

I love to travel, and had the chance to explore a unique area of the world a few years ago…

If you’ve never been to The Netherlands, you are missing out on a beautiful and unique country! It all begins with Amsterdam, a beautiful city of windmills, tulips and lots and lots of canals!


It is a city full of small bridges that cross over canals that encircle the city…and also one of the most notorious “red light” districts in the world, something that may be going away soon!

Before we get to that, let’s look at some of the other Amsterdam wonders…

Amsterdam Canals

Visit The Tulip Museum!

Yes, there is a tulip museum in the city, where you can see the history of their most iconic flower….

amsterdam tulips

The Anne Frank House!

Amsterdam is also home to the historical Anne Frank house…


You can find out much more about this historically significant site here:

Van Gogh!

They also are home to an amazing Van Gogh museum…

Amsterdam Van Gogh Museum

So you see, Amsterdam is a city with some pretty amazing things….oh, and they also have some fancy lights as well:



Yes, Amsterdam is a fascinating city, full of great people, beautiful history, and yes – a world famous red light district – and hashish cafes too!

Amsterdam Cafe Dread Rock

Time to explore!

I had the chance to spend two days in Amsterdam, a fascinating journey into a city of extremes…after flying in, you grab a train from the airport, which takes you right to the center of town…

Amsterdam Train Station

The streets have a very eastern european sensibility – as if you wandered onto the set of “The Bourne Identity”…street trains that you can hop on to grab a short lift…

Amsterdam street train

And yes, you find yourself crossing over A LOT of canals – since they ring the city…take a look at this aerial view:

John Rieber Amsterdam

So, after getting the requisite self-portrait, I got hungry…which led me to a delicious discovery! While wandering the streets and canals, I came across this french fry shop:

Amsterdam French Fry Shop

They serve NOTHING bur french fries, wrapped up in waxed paper, and topped with some delicious dips. As you can see, they make A LOT of fries, and everything was bubbling up nicely…

Amsterdam French Fry Maker

Mayonaise Fries!

Of course, I ordered my fries the traditional way: with mayonaise! I could have done an aioli, with more garlic, but I stuck with straightforward mayonaise, which is, without a doubt, the best way to have a fry!

Amsterdam French Fries

After this nutritious meal, I continued to walk, finding a stall full of tulip bulbs…apropos i suppose…

Amsterdam flower stall

Amsterdam Windmills!

As it turns out, they really don’t exist in the city any longer. I came across what I was told was one of only two remaining windmills left in the city – but it was pretty cool:

Amsterdam windmill
Amsterdam Windmill

Obviously there are many other unique things to see and do in Amsterdam as well. However, I headed to the heart of Amsterdam – and the red light district.

Amsterdam Red Light District


Some of these pictures are not as crisp and well-framed as I like. I took these pictures during the day – when the district is quiet, and all of these were taken “undercover”, cautiously edging the camera out of my jacket for a brief moment only…

Amsterdam Red Light District

That’s right: there are very strict rules about NOT taking pictures in the Red Light district. If you are seen flashing your camera around, you will be approached by “serious looking” men – who will make it clear you are not to take pictures.

Amsterdam Red Light District

Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands, just as it is in many other European countries. But particularly in Amsterdam, prostitution is also a tourist attraction – and as a result, the Red Light district is packed most nights with tourists and locals alike.

Amsterdam Red Light District

Here are some “official” pictures found online. There are three separate districts in Amsterdam, but the one simply referred to as “the Red Light District” is the large and world famous one in the historic part of town just across from the Central Train Station.


The Famous “Windows” of the Red Light District!

In the Red Light District you’ll see working girls flirting with people from behind their red-lit windows. There is no shame in walking through this area, as you’ll be joined by men and women of all ages since this is not only a major tourist attraction, but also a crowded hub for local residents.

Amsterdam Red Light District

This is a legal profession in Amsterdam and many prostitutes belong to a union. One thing you notice immediately is that the Red Light District is not only full of guys, but couples and families of all ages as well! The residents of Amsterdam don’t have a hangup about what the district has to offer, which is stuff like this:

Moulin Rouge Amsterdam

Amsterdam’s Moulin Rouge!

Amsterdam has a “Moulin Rouge” club, and inside you can get very expensive drinks, and watch a variety of stage shows, including a live sex show…it is all part of what makes this district so “unique”…

Amsterdam Moulin Rouge

The other unique aspect of Amsterdam is on display at clubs like this:

Cafe Dread Rock!

Yes, they have cafes that sell a wide range of cannabis products…here is an example of a cafe “menu”:


Welcome To The Bulldog!

Another well known cafe in Amsterdam is The Bulldog – interestingly, most do NOT serve alcohol at all if they serve hash and marijuana…


The Dread Rock is another well-known cafe. Over the past several years, there have been attempts to outlaw these cafes for tourists, but the effort fell through:.

Amsterdam Cafe Dread Rock

Moving The “Red Lights!”

Momentum has picked up to close down the “red lights” in Amsterdam’s entertainment district and create a new center which will allow these sex workers a safe environment and also provide space for emergency services. As part of an attempt to make the workers feel more secure, there will be only be one way in and out of the building.

Mayor Femke Halsema told the Guardian:

“If you walk through the very narrow streets, you see huge crowds of tourists standing in front of the windows photographing foreign women who are vulnerable and laughing at them.

She went on to add:

“As a woman, I cannot accept this kind of humiliation of women. I cannot accept it. It is against all women’s rights and against the idea that we want to empower sex workers.”

Amsterdam Banana Bar

So, your next visit may or may not offer all of what Amsterdam is known for, but for many that will be a relief…

Amsterdam red light district

It really is a unique sight. There are several streets with very narrow alleyways – and single guys wander down the street, peering into windows that have “red lights” above them – if they see a woman they want to hire, they go inside…

Here you can see the red lights above the doors…

Amsterdam red lights

Here is another alleyway, note the red lights above the doors on the right side…the Mayor is planning to move ALL of the “red light” activity out of this area and into a new “red light” zone not he outskirts of town…no word on when this will happen, but it has created a lot of controversy…

Amsterdam's red lights

I mentioned that you can’t take photos in this district, but I managed to capture some by avoiding the popular times of day.

I headed out first thing in the morning, when the district was deserted, which allowed me to get a few pictures of the area without people:

Amsterdam Red Light district
John Rieber Amsterdam Red Light district

Step Right Up!

One of the most unique aspects to Amsterdam’s Red Light district were these:

Amsterdam Street Urinals

They are portable street urinals…that’s right, the city has figured out that guys need to be guys, so why not acknowledge it and be done with the whole matter?

As you can see, you can go as high or low-brow as you want in Amsterdam, and in fact, the city is a great celebration of all facets of life….

Amsterdam windmill

So go and see it all!

I had the chance to visit when I did a TV presentation in Copenhagen nearby:

This gorgeous nordic city is filled with wonder – and if you click on my story here, you can see all of my adventures!

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Amsterdam canals

Categories: Exotic Travel, Memoirs, Pop Culture, Real Estate, Travel, Travel Adventures, Travel Memoir

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6 replies

  1. I am keen to visit Amsterdam and see the art galleries, John. I don’t know if I would go to the red light district, I just can’t see how women who sell their bodies for a living can really be empowered, but maybe I am narrow minded.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Robbie, that’s what’s behind the movement to get them out of the heart of the city…its a unique part of the city just as all of the has cafes are, but it does take away from the city, which has so much to offer!


  2. The aerial view of the canals puts it into perspective. What a charming city, especially the windmills and tulips. The red light district is certainly interesting! Great post, John!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I went to Amsterdam for three nights in 1989. Despite travelling with my second wife, we did wander the red light area with the girls in windows, just out of curiosity. But the highlight was a long cruise on the canal system, and later eating the delicious pancakes that are famous in Holland.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

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