I AMSTERDAM – A Little Something Extra!

If you walk down the main street of any city, you will see rows of shops and lots of people window shopping. It is exactly the same in Amsterdam, but the shop signs are preceded by the word “coffee” and the people are window shopping for prostitutes. Amsterdam is a magical place. It can be anything you want it to be depending on what drugs you are willing to take.

We arrived in Amsterdam like we arrived in most other countries. We had no place to stay and no prospects. We walked across the street from the train station and saw at least ten hotels on one block. There were lots of choices and we slowly made our decision. 

The hostel was a five minute walk to the train station and it was a decent place to stay. The man at the front desk was funny and honest.

“Do you have anything available for tonight,” I said.

“Yes. We have a private room with a double bed and breakfast is included. It’s €50. It’s not the nicest hotel in Amsterdam. Here’s the key. You can check it out first and then let me know,” he replied while drinking a beer and dancing behind the bar.

Amsterdam, of all cities, is a place where you want your own private room. People were walking around on mushrooms, coke, acid, pills, weed and everything imaginable; I didn’t really want them sleeping in the bed next to me.

“It’s a private room; we’ll take it,” without hesitation.

After dropping our bags in the room, we decided to check out the Red Light District.

“Um, where is the Red Light District?” I said rather coyly to the front desk clerk/bar tender.

“You just walk outside and go around the building,” he said. “Along the side of the building you will see doors with red, fluorescent lights above them and there you are.”

“Are we staying in the Red Light District?” I asked.

“You got it!”

How am I going to tell my family that I stayed in the Red Light District in Amsterdam? I
didn’t even want to tell them that I was here. 

I had expectations of Amsterdam, but it is truly a sight that you have to see to believe. As we walked around the Red Light District, I saw more signs with titles beginning with “sex” than I saw museums in Italy. There were sex museums, sex stores, sex shows, and everything imaginable with sex.

The Red Light District consists of one long street with many smaller streets and alleys. Each street was lined with businesses with glass doors on the first and second floors. Behind the glass doors are almost naked women posing for all of the men and women that pass by. This pattern of glass doors was broken by the occasional peep show or sex show. Surprisingly, there were other less sexual stores in the same area. It was not unusual to see a pizza shop or a clothing store next to a prostitute in a doorway. What was even more surprising was the massive church that was located in the middle of the Red Light District. I guess people could kill two birds with one stone. They could fulfill their strongest sexual desires and still have time to make it to confession before returning to work.

Amsterdam was not a place for hagglers. The going price was €50 and that got you about 15 minutes with the lady of your choice. We watched men of all ages enter the rooms. From the time the curtain closed, it was only 15 minutes before it was opened again. We also saw a couple propositioning a prostitute for a better group rate. The prostitute did not falter as she replied, “It is €50 each.”

There were hoards of tourists walking around and having a look at what Amsterdam had to offer. Even at 3 o’clock in the morning, we saw men, women, and even families enjoying the night life in the Red Light District.

We strolled down the streets and noticed a pattern in the alleyways. No matter what you’re into, you can find it in the Red Light District. Some alleys must have been the high-end district because the women were young and attractive. Other districts were less prosperous and had much larger, unattractive women. Some areas were for women that had a little something extra; it is called a penis and it was very noticeable in their white, thong underwear.  There were women, and I use the term loosely, of all sizes and all races. They even have old, senior citizen looking women working hard to pay for their windows.

I thought it would be a good idea to take a picture. After all, what prostitute wouldn’t want her picture taken while she’s in her window propositioning men? As soon as I pulled out the camera, curtains started closing and heads started turning. It proved to be not such a great idea as women started telling me off and screaming at me. Needless to say, I didn’t get many pictures in the Red Light District; at least not of the prostitutes.

Amsterdam truly was a mysterious place.

Check out other great articles by adventurous bucket list seekers at Bucket List Publications.  


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371 thoughts on “I AMSTERDAM – A Little Something Extra!

  1. Ha ha!! Hi Leslie – I laughed when I read your “How could I tell my family we stayed in the Red Light District” .. I had difficulty telling my dad we walked through it .. let alone listening ot my husband tell my parents what it was like!!! :) LOVE YOUR BLOG!!

    ~ Doris
    dorisblanchet.com

    • Thanks a lot Doris. Europe held lots of firsts for me and you have to have little reservation about simple things like wearing clothes or looking at prostitutes ;)

      Where else in Europe have you traveled? I hope to return someday soon. Travel has been the most important part of my identity since I was a child.

      Please keep the comments coming; they are appreciated.

      Lesley

      • Lesley,
        I had no idea Amsterdam was like that. I’ve seen “The Red Light District” mentioned on occasion in my reading, but nothing like what you shared.
        Very enlightening indeed. I’ve never traveled outside of N. America.
        Do you have a Google Plus account? Mostly, when I comment, I leave a comment on g+ with the originator tagged in the comment so they can see it. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • My mother enjoys traveling and experiencing new cultures. I don’t think there are too many more unique cultures than in the red Light District so I tried to swing the conversation in that direction. After all, I wasn’t doing anything illegal :)

    • It was a beautiful place to visit and I actually felt quite safe. Besides the Red Light District, there are several other amazing experiences in Amsterdam. The waterways have spectacular boat tours, the Ann Frank museum is a heart-wrenching tour, the parks are well kept, and the wax museum is really neat.

      I hope you make it there; it certainly is an eye-opening experience. :)

      Thanks for taking the time to comment; it is appreciated.

      Lesley

  2. Funny stuff! I stayed in a hostel that was on top of a bar in the Red Light District years ago, and yes, I remember calming some guy down who we were sharing a room with because he had taken too much acid. Ugh- you’re lucky you had your own room! I also witnessed young teenage boys buying a “session” for their friend and literally pushing him into the prostitutes room. Gotta love Amsterdam!

    • Everyday in Amsterdam is something new; you never know what you’ll see or experience.

      Do you travel regularly? Your photos are amazing!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      Lesley

      • Hey thanks, Lesley! I’m getting really motivated to get a real camera soon. Yes, travel a bunch, but nothing in the works at the moment ;(

        I was wondering the same about you! Are all of these trips current?
        I also noticed you “like” many of the same blogs I do ;)

        • Not all of these posts are recent; I just started blogging about two months ago so I figured I would mix the old with the new.

          I’m four months pregnant which I’m sure will slow down the travel for a little while, but it’s a major part of my life and that will never change.

          What are some of your favorite countries/cities?

          Thanks for commenting,

          Lesley

  3. If you investigate the origins of this “trade centre” you might be surprised.
    I’ve not been to this district (not planning too either) but try & get to the Van Gogh museum, it’s the only place I’ve been in this famous city, & I found it well worth viewing.

    • I had the opportunity to visit the Van Gogh museum. It’s actually not too far from the Red Light District. With the largest collection of Van Gogh paintings in the world, it was definitively worth the short journey from the hotel.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment; it’s appreciated.

      Lesley

    • There are lots of inappropriate things that I decided not to include in this post ;) There is always something to see and experience in Amsterdam.

      I like your photos in On the road — in the land of Zion.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment,

      Lesley

    • Although I didn’t avoid the coffee shops, I didn’t try anything illegal, even for American or Canada standards.

      Did you get to experience more of Amsterdam?

      Thanks for reading and commenting; it’s appreciated.

      Lesley

  4. Nice travel blog, Lesley.

    Funny about the reticence on having their pictures taken. You’d think those “retailers” would like having their “wares” shown off. ;o)

    • I didn’t realize there would be such a problem with taking a picture but I guess these woman have families too and maybe they are not all proud of what they’re doing. I realize the “wrongness” of this, but their reluctance only encouraged me more.

      Thanks for reading and even more for taking the time to comment; it is appreciated.

      Lesley

    • Jojie,

      Thank you for the tweet; it’s appreciated.

      I checked out your blog and your other sites and you are truly amazing! Before you were born brought tears of joy to my eyes.

      I will anxiously await your new post. :)

      • Lesley, I’ve been through what you’re going through now and I promise you the words “painfully sweet, rewarding and beautiful” afterwards. Right now I’ve been taking photos of moms and newborns so expect a lot of inspirational photos for you to look forward to. If you were here on this side of my globe, I would be capturing you in your preggy moments. Rest well and keep humming to your tummy.

  5. Lesley,
    You have a courage I may never find; i am far too inhibited, or down right frightened to travel as you do ~ by the seat of your pants, so to speak.
    So,. I will subscribe to your blog and travel vicariously through you…and, I will still be making reservations and have an itinerary handy…;)
    Go out there, but be safe! (oh, and congratulations)
    Jessica

    • Sometimes such “free” travels can be intimidating, but it often is what makes the journey unique. Regularly, I long to just pack a bag, randomly pick a city or a country, and hop on a plane with little regard for what I’m going to do when I get there. I’m quite certain that will change now that I’m going to be a mother, but I’m also certain that I will still travel regularly and experience everything I can in life; I’ll just need a great baby, backpack to take with me.

      Good luck with your blog; your photos are beautiful.

      Thanks for reading and for commenting; it’s appreciated.

      Lesley

  6. Hey Lesley,
    Coming from Amsterdam as a resident and formerly Dutch citizen, I was hoping you would get beyond the red light district, which is just a matter of fact that reflects the Dutch tolerance and comfort with sexuality, and the right for anyone to sell their wares–any. Amsterdam has been for centuries the ultimate trading place. Tourists can’t get past that fact. I am writing a lot about the differences with the north American culture in which I know live and am often still surprised by the lack of adventure in the mind of those staying within their comfort zones in my adopted continent–that is most citizens. It seems that you are able and willing to step out of that comfort zone. Keep on going!

    • I think I’ve lived most of my life outside of my comfort zone ;) I love to experience new cultures and try new adventures; it shapes who I am.

      I did have the opportunity to explore Amsterdam beyond the Red Light District; I just didn’t have the opportunity to write about it yet. (Hopefully soon!) With over 30 countries behind me, I’ve tried to write about as much as possible in the last two months of blogging.

      I saw that you were in San Francisco a few months ago; did you travel to southern California as well?

      Thanks for reading my post and taking the time to comment; it’s appreciated.

      Lesley

  7. Hi Leslie, first of all thanks for liking my post.. I cannot believe your story on Amsterdam. Great stuff!!!! We did your very same thing years ago and loved it. It is a once in a lifetime experience. I was born in Belgium so I know about the red light districts, but nothing equals Amsterdam. Hope to hear from you again. I love your blog. Keep writing!!!!!!!!

    Sonja

    • Thanks for the beautiful comment; it’s appreciated.

      I loved each new experience in Europe, but Amsterdam was certainly the most unique culturally.

      Good luck with your blog; before you know it you’ll have a hard time keeping up with the comments and “likes”.

      Lesley

  8. This is insainly interesting! I’m headed to Denmark eventoually to meet penpals and Amsterdam is one place I’ve been interested to see while over there. Great pictures!! I love your blogs :)

    ~Bre Agoni

    • There is lots to see and do in Amsterdam. I loved the laid back attitude of its residence and the unique experiences that filled the area.

      Good luck on your trip; I’m sure you’ll have a great time.

      Lesley

  9. Love your sense of adventure. I have always wanted to check out Amsterdam to see what it’s all about. It’s great to meet other like minded individuals and blogging makes that possible. I look forward to traveling more and seeing this big beautiful world. Love your blog. Thanks for sharing your adventures and experiences!

  10. Hi Lesley:
    Thanks for liking my post on China. Love your post on the Red Light District of Amsterdam. I have been through the Red Light District many times and Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities. I love the people, the food, the architecture and the many different forms of culture that one can absorb by just walking through the streets. My last trip there was about 3 years ago and we had a great time. Thanks for bringing back great memories and insights.

    Priscilla

    • It is an amazing place with lots to offer for all ages.

      I was impressed with the safety and cleanliness of such a thriving city.

      Hopefully I’ll make it back there someday.

      Thanks for reading and for commenting; it’s appreciated.

      Lesley

    • There a lot of opportunities if you;re looking for a “naughty” time in Amsterdam, but it offers so many other opportunities as well. I loved the boat tours through the canals and the clean, beautiful parks.

  11. Great post! I went to Amsterdam for my 21st birthday with a group of friends and stayed, by accident, in the Red Light District too! Its such a lively city, loved it there!

  12. Ohhhhhh Amsterdam, and their Pomme Frittes, how I miss you.I would move back in a second if I could. I lived there and worked in a hostel just around the corner from the red light windows. You brought back great memories, hashish and all….hey it was the 60′s! Thanks for a great post!

  13. Nice narrative Lesley. I’ve been to Amsterdam 3 times and visited the red light district each time. It is a fascinating area and a fascinating place to stroll and observe life.

    I also observed a homeless, drunken man cutting up his hands with a pocket knife in front of the Bull Dog cafe.

    Amsterdam reminds me of the lyrics from Alice’s Restaurant: “You can get anything you want…”

  14. My husband and I are going to be living 30 minutes outside of Amsterdam for about a year starting in January. I’ve already been twice, but I’m sure I’ll be making many more trips to the red light district with visitors who are curious about this famous oddity!

  15. hello Lesley, like you, I love to travel too and meet new people and their culture, but it was just lately that I begun to have fond in photography like collecting and taking photos. I will buy myself a canon camera soon… :)
    I got so curious about this so called “Red Light District”… hmmmm one day I will visit Amsterdam too. Thanks for sharing your adventures and photography keep it up, I’m sure your baby would enjoy every moment of your journey together… and I appreciate your liking of my photo too “Beyond this garden”…

  16. Hi, Lesley. Thanks for liking my post on McLaren Vale, South Australia. I also love to travel, experiencing new things and of course, capturing images. Perhaps a visit Down Under is in your list as well? :-) Love this post on Amsterdam – brought back memories of my visit to this amazing city and strolling along the Red Light District – remembering how finding that edifying facade of the cathedral in the middle of the district left me gobsmacked! And those fluorescent lights-framed shop windows displaying the women! I read in the tour brochure that those shop windows are actually rented by the women and they are equipped with ‘panic buttons’ linked to a security system in case of trouble :-). The women are expected to pay tax on their earnings too!
    Love your posts! Thanks for sharing!

  17. Darn — I thought all those women smiling at us in Amsterdam were just being friendly! Actually, it’s unusual that you got photographs, Lesley. When we were there a few years ago, we heard stories of tourists getting their cameras yanked out of their hands by “associates” of the prostitutes. The cameras weren’t returned in one piece, according to what we heard.

    As you’ve noted above, Amsterdam is a terrific city with lots to see… good post, and I look forward to reading more.

    • We heard similar stories about others losing their cameras while trying to get a shot of the prostitutes. We were actually across the street when this photo was taken and I think because it was a woman, me, taking the picture, they were a little more laid back. But we were warned and that was the only photo I took.

      Did you travel to other cities/countries during your trip to Amsterdam?

      Thanks for reading,

      Lesley

      • On that trip, we began in Amsterdam and headed down the Rhine — Cologne, Heidelberg, Strasbourg and a corner of the Black Forest.

        Last month we were in Barcelona and my wife was lining up a shot of a colorful neighborhood — old brick buildings, laundry hanging from balconies, etc. Almost immediately we started getting yelled at by women on the street. It was not nearly as obvious as the red light district of Amsterdam, so we hadn’t realized that these women were prostitutes. We apologized to them and got the heck out of there.

        Based on anecdotal evidence, I’m getting the impression that prostitutes don’t like to have their pictures taken.

  18. It’s fun to read another perspective on ‘our’ RLD. It’s actually one of the most interesting areas in Amsterdam, and not only because of the prostitutes. Great you enjoyed it!

  19. It sounds like we stayed in the same place… My first stop on a two month tour in Europe, and I landed in the red light district. Loved it!

    My dad (with his oh-so-fabulous sense of humor) informed me that perhaps I should look for work while I was there. He did not quite understand the concept of traveling with so many school loans and nothing to your name… :)

  20. I laughed when I read the part about you trying to take pictures of the women in the windows. I went to Amsterdam as part of a school trip with my son. While there, I met a distant relative who asked if I wanted a tour of the Red Light District, but he was sure to warn me not to take pictures because he said men would come out and destroy my camera. Too bad, I wanted to get some pictures for my husband!! LOL

    • I heard similar stories of camera lose at the hands of massive, protective men and I understand there hesitation to be photographed while prostituting themselves, but there are a lot worse things I could have been doing in Amsterdam ;)

      I enjoyed my trip there and I quickly learned that there is more to Amsterdam than the Red Light District. I’d love to return again and explore more of the area.

      Feel free to show your husband my pictures ;)

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment; it’s appreciated.

      Lesley

  21. Hi Lesley. Funny post. So much has been said one the city’s red light district but your perspective was fresh and written by only someone who had been there with careful eyes. I did not think the district would be so close to the station. [Maybe one more reason no photos are allowed is that tooo many people, mostly men, would start clicking and crowding without paying anything; and maybe that... possibly... degrades their profession in a different way??]

    Anyway, Incredible blog. Really. [The Eiffel Tower photo was beautiful.] I like the spirit with which you write. Your love for travel shows. As a fellow travel enthusiast, I admire that. However, I have no idea how one can manage to fit so much international air fare :) That’s what pinches me the most.

    Lastly, since you appreciate informed travel and going off the beaten path, you could look-up the British broadcaster/writer Simon Reeve’s works. He is unquestionably… outstanding.

    Take care, happy travels.

  22. I enjoyed this post. I’ve been to Amsterdam numerous times, and I’ve always liked staying there. Unfortunately, as you make reference to, Americans often can be too uptight to truly enjoy themselves there. Thanks for a refreshing look at one of my favorite cities.

    • I struggled with the freedom that surrounded me in Amsterdam, but I enjoyed the unique experience. I don’t think it’s a place that travelers should be embarrassed to mention even if they are in the Red Light District. I saw men, woman, and children strolling the streets and enjoying their day. It was no different than going to the beach. None of the woman were completely naked and people didn’t need to partake in anything that didn’t interest them.

      I hope that I can return and experience more of the culture and beauty.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment; it’s appreciated.

      Lesley

      • That’s the thing; people don’t have to visit the red light district when they travel to Amsterdam or Rotterdam or any other place. There are so many nice things to do and see in The Netherlands outside of drugs and sex, although those tend to draw a lot of attention for obvious reasons. Locals all over the country tend to chuckle when talking about this, as it does seem to mainly be tourists of all nationalities who are drawn to the coffee shops at least. I’ve only strolled through the red light districts, but I’ve visited plenty of coffee shops and typically find lots of Brits, Irish and Canadians along with a liberal heaping of Yanks. Barney’s Breakfast Bar in Amsterdam is a good example, if it’s still even open.

  23. Wow! You are a busy girl and lead a very interesting life! It is fun to travel with you even if it is only in words. This is what I call “The Art of Living!” You rock!

  24. My wife and I sat in an Indian restaurant for dinner. In Amsterdam. It was the front window. Tourists walked by and looked at us. Some took pictures. It wasn’t til we got outside that we noticed the window we were sitting at was encircled by red lights. I guess the tourists thought we were performers.

  25. Fascinating.

    I’ve also always wanted to know; with the sex industry the way it has been for so long in Amsterdam, is there a reversal effect?

    For instance; in the US and Canada (where I am), social mores are such that people in North America try like anything to seek out and sustain deep loving relationships but there is a portion that fail miserably and seek out prostitutes, strip and swingers clubs, etc.

    Do any of the people who frequent the sex workers and peep shows in Amsterdam ever, after a while, get tired of that life and look for deeper relationships or do they all remain seekers of sex prostitutes and lifestyles highly saturated in adult entertainment to the grave?

    It’s a shame you couldn’t get any shots. I think that would make an interesting photo essay.

  26. Bahahahaha! “Some areas were for women that had a little something extra; it is called a penis and it was very noticeable in their white, thong underwear.”

    You now have me dead curious about this city. I will make it now I”m sure!

    • Although there is much more to Amsterdam than the Red Light District, it is so unique is surroundings and culture that it’s hard not to focus on this area. If you do make it to Amsterdam, be sure to enjoy the other areas as well. It truly is a beautiful city.

      Thanks for reading; it’s appreciated.

      Lesley

  27. This tickled my funny bone. Reminded me of my childhood in Berlin, which also has its naughty places, and when I was a young teenager, my mother sending me to look in a sex shop because she wanted to know what was inside but wouldn’t go in herself!

  28. I only made a brief stopover at Schiphol before continuing my trip to Germany. One day I’ll make sure that I visit the city itself. Sounds interestingly intriguing! (after all those stories that I’ve heard about Amsterdam).

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