We all know that the Amsterdam Red Light District is famous for debauchery on display. Whether in the peep shows, the sex shops and museums, or simply walking the streets at night, there is no shortage of stimuli to engage your wandering mind. The nightlife here is jam packed, and mostly speaks for itself. Or yells at you, as it so happens; there is a wealth of young men employed by numerous establishments to be vocal advertisements, offering you the best and sleaziest opportunities as you pass. But between the girls in the windows and the ever present red-lights, there are plenty of other places to spend your time.
If not for the prostitution, the Amsterdam Red Light district would probably be the most famous for its legalized marijuana. Although the drug is available throughout the nation, nowhere is it as common as in the Red Light district. Found in coffee shops designated by a Jamaican flag in the window (and, more often than not, blaring a ubiquitous Bob Marley song from the shop's overworked speakers), every form of marijuana can be had. Whether sold pre-rolled in vending machines or from a multitude of shop employees, there is hardly a kind of weed that exists that cannot be had here. You can also order a variety of pot brownies, space cake or marijuana-infused tea, if you prefer not to inhale, as you sit and consider the benefits and drawbacks of a more liberal, tolerant culture that the Dutch provide.
Almost as prevalent are the neighborhood's smart shops which sell substances that do little to advance your knowledge. Providing mostly marijuana and other smoking paraphernalia along with a wide variety of hallucinogenic mushrooms and pills designed to change your state of consciousness, these smart shops cater to those who came to Amsterdam more for the accessibility of drugs than the sex trade.
Amsterdam's main red-light district, or De Wallen the streets and alleys are long and filled with bars, coffee shops, and brothels with sex workers standing in the windows catering to tourists. In recent years the government has tried to limit tourism to De Wallen banning Red Light District tours and encouraging fancy clothing shops, galleries and other commercial enterprises that cater to tourists.
For US travelers visiting from the states who may have visited Red Light districts like San Francisco travelers will be surprised at the openness of the sex trade.
Amsterdam Red Light District Map
Though the line between them is often confused, there are many bars scattered amongst the coffee shops in the Amsterdam Red Light District (bars do not necessarily provide marijuana, though its use is generally accepted). Unlike the city's hippest and most popular nightclubs, who shun the district in favor of the upper-class sheen that pervades over the other, more respectable sides of town, the city's most rowdy bars are found well within the boundaries of De Wallen. Almost uniformly dark and noisy, as all good bars should be, the crowds are usually a mix of tourists from all over the world, perfect for those who may be a bit homesick or wanting for a conversation in their native tongue (though, in Amsterdam, it seems as if English is the national language anyway).
As you can imagine, the people who work and live in the Amsterdam Red Light District know why you are there and are not shy about providing it. Whether it is girls, drugs, alcohol or latent voyeurism that brings you to the canals and alleyways of the district, you will probably be surprised by the docile and adult way that these "scandalous" affairs are conducted in Amsterdam.