|Window Shopping, Amsterdam Style
In the Red Light Districts of Amsterdam you will find, on any given day, hundreds of girls offering sex for money. Nowhere else on earth are the women so straightforwardly on display, sitting sparingly attired on stools behind windows. Nowhere else except in the other main Dutch cities, because this conspicuous window prostitution is distinct to the Netherlands, as distinct as the habit that many of its residents have for living their lives behind open curtained windows.
For many hundreds of years prostitution has been tolerated, it's rarely been considered an offence. In 1996 the taxation of prostitutes was introduced. Since October 2000 window prostitution and brothels have the benefit of being fully legal businesses. This was intended to enhance conditions, decrease crime, and intensify regulation. While prostitutes are now obliged to pay taxes, not many of them will say that this is a benefit, and some businesses, most notoriously banks, have declined to accord prostitutes such things as mortgages and business bank accounts!
Amsterdam's main Red Light District, known locally as the Walletjes (spoken form), or Wallen (written form), or generically as Rossebuurt (red or pink neighbourhood), is situated along and around two of the city's oldest canals, the Oudezijds Achterburgwal, the Oudezijds Voorburgwal (collectively known as the Burgwallen), and around the Oudekerkplein, in an area bounded by the Warmoestraat and the Nieuwmarkt. It's a place where prostitutes, clergy, kids, junkies, residents and cops all interact with social gezellig and titillated tourists gasp, "Isn't it all so shocking?"
There are three Red Light Districts in Amsterdam. The main area, the Walletjes, and two minor, Singel and Pijp. Additionally a tippelzone (pick-up area) was (until Nov, 2003) maintained for automobile bound clientele. Utrecht, about 30 minutes by train from Amsterdam has it's canal boat based scene, Den Haag has a spiffy modern shopping mall, Rotterdam does not have an RLD, but it does have numerous clubs and private houses (privehuizen). In many smaller cities you also find the RLDs. These are, of course smaller, but have their charms, as they are less "touristy" and more relaxed. Smaller cities that have RLD’s are, for example, Leeuwarden, Groningen and Alkmaar. We particularly enjoy Alkmaar, a pleasant little market town with a cosy little Red Light District.
*For of all the cities within Holland which possess red light districts, as well as their locations, please see this page. *If you’ve ever wondered how many window brothels (raambordelen) there are in Amsterdam, we've counted them, because no one's ever bothered to. *If you're interested in what the official policy of the Netherlands is in regards to prostitution and soft drug use, please read: Official Policy on Prostitution in the Netherland.
To begin the tour, we'll start with a location that's very easy to find, Centraal Station. While the station itself is an obvious landmark, the square outside Centraal Station can be messy. Taxis, trams, bikes, roads clotted with traffic, canals and people en masse, it’s enough to make your head spin.
Exiting the station, cross the bridge, and turn left. Your initial heading is the NH Barbizon Hotel, look for it. To the immediate right of the hotel you'll find a street called Zeedijk, which is where we shall begin. The sign points out the direction, "Oosterpark, Waterlooplein, De Wallen"
Zeedijk. The sign points the way. First, let's spend a few minutes on Zeedijk, the oldest quarter in the city.
The Zeedijk, along with the Warmoestraat, the Geldersekade and the Nieuwmarkt are part of the old southern banks of the city where it met the Zuiderzee, and they were from the earliest days the shipping quarter of Amsterdam. The first streets were built on the dams and dikes that start from the Dam (Warmoestraat and Nieuwedijk). Rapidly expanding, the medieval city was extended by digging new canals: first the Kloveniersburgwal and Geldersekade and then the Singel and Spui and all the streets that connect these canals. The Zeedijk is part of this system of dikes and canals. The nearby red light district developed to service the many sailors once found drinking in all the bars and pubs here.
‘T Aepgen. In the Monkeys.
In its earliest days wood was the dominant building material in Amsterdam; brick houses were only built on a large scale from 1600. Most wooden houses were destroyed during two major city fires in 1421 and 1452 (during the 1452 fire three quarters of the city was destroyed). Only two wooden houses are left, one of them is in the Begijnhof (34).
At Zeedijk 1, you'll find the other of the two remaining wooden buildings, 't Aepgen (1550), "in the Monkeys". The name comes from a time when sailors, some of whom couldn't pay their bill, paid with monkeys brought back from the Dutch East Indies. The monkeys, often infested with fleas, passed these onto the customers. This is said to have given rise to a Dutch expression, still used today, 'die heeft in de aep gelogeerd',
It's still a good bar, but these days leave your monkeys at home, it's cash only.
It is worth noting that Zeedijk has the contradictory features of being a safe and pleasant area during the daytime, while some of the areas around here we would recommend that you avoid late at night (when the police have returned home to get their beauty sleep). Just north-east of the Red Light District seems to be a place where petty criminals gather late at night. However, in general, the area itself is safe at night (if you just take normal precautions).
Wandering up Zeedijk and its many bars and restaurants, You’ll soon arrive at a bridge over Oudezijds Kolk, a pretty spot to stop and take a picture—you're facing south along the Oudezijds Achetrburgwal.
Oudezijd Kolk. Kolk Sluice, south along Oudezijds Achterburgwal.
One place you should visit sometime, is Casablanca at Zeedijk 24a. The name refers to old shipping routes, as do a few other names in the area. They offer music (Jazz), vaudeville, and magic acts. The interior is crammed with circus memorabilia, and although it all makes for a slightly weird dining experience, we like both the place and its friendly atmosphere. Dinner and the show are available Thursday nights through Saturday.
Just ahead on your right at Zeedijk 34 is the office of Rob Van Hulst Productions. A former TV actor, now sociologist, Hulst now makes his gold conducting tours of the area. The sign in the window warns that no (free) tourist information is given. As overheard one day, one of the guides for this tour told a slack-jawed group of tourists, "There are over 3,000 windows in the red light district!" "Yeah, if you count each pane of glass", we nearly blurted out. Be careful what you pay for, people.
If you please, we speak Chinese.
As you stroll up Zeedijk you'll pass through a part of the Chinese quarter. Chinatowns around the world developed on the basis of the exploitation of cheap Chinese labour. Here it was Chinese shipboard labourers, followed by merchants, who settled in the arvea. If you like Chinese food, this is a good area to get something to eat -- and not only at the fancy restaurants. It’s an even better stop for the budget traveler. The "all you can eat dim sum place" (Dim Sum Court), just opposite the Fo Kuang Shan Temple serves an excellent inexpensive meal.
Further information on the Zeedijk area can be found here.
The first sighting of the RLD will be Boomsteeg. The steps down follow the slope of the old dike, but you will be ignoring this for now.
The next sighting will be Korte Stormsteeg, on your right, and another sign directing you to "De Wallen, OudeKerk". Ignore it also.
If you were to go left on Stormsteeg, you’d arrive at the Geldersekade, and around the corner to your left, window prostitutes. From the appearance of these prostitutes, you’d think their clients only consisted of the very poor, the very old, or the blind.
Walk past Stormsteeg.
Just up ahead is the end of Zeedijk and the looming brick bulk of the Waag, situated on the Nieuwmarkt. The Waag has had many functions since it was built. First as a city gate; part of the original walls which surrounded the city, as a weigh (waag) house, as a home for various guilds, it was also where Rembrandt painted his "Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp", it’s even been a fire station. Since 1992 it has been a restaurant and also serves as home for the Centre for New Media.
Molensteeg. The sign points the way. Again.
This is the Molensteeg. The sign is labeled "De Wallen, Oudekerk" and the arrow points your way. This time we turn. Turn right on Molensteeg.
Here it is, your first glimpse of the fabled windows of Amsterdam’s Red Light District. Contain your enthusiasm.
African girls normally occupy these first windows you are passing. While passing, don’t be surprised if you are greeted with some energetic finger tapping — or a half-open door and a comment like "Excuse me Sir, could I talk with you, just for a second, pleeeease, just for a second, pleeeease ..." The African girls are known to be a tad pushy!
The windows on the remaining half of Molensteeg are usually occupied by Caucasian girls, a variety of nationalities. It’s not unusual to run into some Eastern European girls here.
Arriving at Oudezijds Achterburgwal, the Old Sailor pub is on your right. We stay out of Old Sailor. Turn left!
"Stay out of Old Sailor?" you say. Why? Isn't that one of the famous pubs in the RLD? Well, maybe that’s the problem, that it is famous! During the weekend evenings it attracts hordes of drunken British "lads". We do not want to be disrespectful, but on weekend evenings some of the lads coming over here from Britain have a tendency to become just a tiny bit drunk. At quieter hours during daytime or weekday evenings, by all means, stop by and have a pint if a British style pub is your cup of tea. Follow our lead; there are a couple of better options ahead and these with more of a Dutch flavour.
As promised earlier, we are proceeding left on Oudezijds Achterburgwal walking south on the left (east) side of the canal.
Monnikenstraat. Corner Oudezijds Achterburgwal.
Continuing down Oudezijds Achterburgwal, you next arrive at Monnikenstraat.
Turn left on Monnikenstraat. You will be walking by a set of windows on your right. We do not really have anything special to say about Monnikenstraat. If it would be something, it would be that many of the ladies in this area seem to practice the € 50 for this, € 50 for that, extra-fee routine. It’s a feature of the local window culture here.
Half way up on Monnikenstraat, on your left there’s Oasis Steakhouse, if you feel like getting a snack or a meal. Roughly opposite this restaurant there’s a small square. Well, there used to be, lately the site has been a construction project, but it marks the location of the next RLD street, Gordijnensteeg. Turn right.
Medieval Amsterdam was home to 20 monasteries and convents, and all but 4 of them were around the Oudezijds Achterburgwal. The street names in this locale remind us of that fact. Monnikenstraat (Monks Street), Bloedstraat (Blood of the Host), and Koestraat (Cow Street, after the prized cattle a nearby nunnery was known for). What Gordijnensteeg (Curtain Lane) refers to, we don't recall, but the name itself is satisfyingly appropriate!
For a couple of years Gordijnensteeg was referred to as "Blue Jeans Alley" on our message board. It was an interesting study in marketing theory. There was a very popular girl working here who did not wear the standard bikini lingerie. She wore blue jeans in a very sexy way, she was cute and she was much sought after by clients. Apparently a lot of the people who read our board came round asking her neighbours if they were the ones mentioned on the board. Suddenly, 70% of the girls in this corner of the RLD were wearing blue jeans! Some still do. It became for a little while, a part of the local window culture here.
Bloedstraat. Beware, the transvestites. Or not.
Just up ahead is Bloedstraat. Directly in front of you there’s a set of windows where you'll find cute "natural" girls. However, after this you should take care, unless you’re interested in meeting a transsexual. Here on Bloedstraat, turning right towards Oudezijds Achterburgwal, you will find transsexuals, both pre-op (pre-operation) and post-op. Fortunately, they are not out to trick you.
If you are not sure of their gender, ask (in a discrete and civil way) and you will find out. If you do not ask, they will assume that you know what you want and that you’re there to get it!
Continue a short distance left on Oudezijds Achterburgwal. To your left is Barndesteeg. This is an Asian section. You’ll primarily find Thai girls, mainly natural girls, but also some "ladyboys." It is a good idea to be on the alert for that Adam’s apple! Further up on Barndesteeg (ironically next to a Christian youth hostel), you'll find Chiang Mai, whose speciality is Thai massage. This is a no-sex place, only massage. Body-to-body massage and a hand job are included, but no "real" sex. It’s a good massage, though. Read more about it in our message board archives.
After Barndesteeg you’ll pass a hotel called Hotel 83. This is a place that looks like it should be passed, unless of course, you want to experience a stay in a shabby hotel smack in the middle of the RLD. We feel that this would be even a little too much for us. Next to the hotel, a coffee shop called Remember, where you can purchase and smoke substances which cause you to forget. Then, of course, a sex video shop, you can never get too many of those!
If you continue up a bit, just after No. 117, you'll pass a pretty little raambordelen named "In den Lichtenkooi". The name means "in the house of lights", an old Dutch slang expression for "whorehouse". But before crossing the bridge, and walking up just a bit further, you'll find another street on your left, Koestraat. There are a few more windows on the opposite corner facing you. At the far end of this pretty street you’ll find another Thai massage place, Love Club 21. Unlike Chiang Mai, this one includes sex as part of the massage. Return to the bridge.
A very pretty view.
At the bridge, stop a moment and savour the pretty view down along the canal. If you look north you see a large part of the RLD. During the night you'll see the neon signs and red lights dancing in the canal. If a RLD can be beautiful, this is it.
Continuing straight ahead over the bridge you'll next find yourself on Stoofsteeg. Avoid being drawn into the live sex show to the left. There is no show there; it's just a selling point for a nearby sex theatre. The guy standing outside will certainly try to give you an offer that you can’t refuse!
There are better places ahead. Instead, step into the strategically located pub 'T Stoofjes on your right. It has grown recently from a small hole in the wall type place and now has replaced several window kamers, including the corner. Have a beer! Once inside you'll find out why we consider it strategically placed.
On the first part of Stoofsteeg you will find a mixture of Caucasian and Asian girls. At the end of Stoofsteeg there is a set of windows on the left where you’ll often find African girls. On Stoofsteeg you will also find a couple of sex shops and at the end on the corner, a second small live sex show establishment.
Cross over the canal on St. Jansbrug. At this end there are often annoying, and sometimes extremely persistent, African pushers loudly whispering. "Cocaine, Viagra" or whatever other crap they're trying to sell to gullible tourists. Ignore them and turn right.
Walk up past the Bulldog Cafe and the Bulldog bike rental and after a while you'll arrive at St. Annenstraat. Turn left into St. Annenstraat.
Sint Annenstraat often has older women in the windows. Well, not old like being in their 50’s, but girls that have been around for a couple of years — maybe in their late 20’s or 30’s. We guess that they like St. Annenstraat, it’s the outskirts of this part of the RLD, and it's quieter than the nearby streets. As with most girls in this area, the girls on St. Annenstraat are generally Caucasian.
Up ahead is the Smartzone, where you may shop for substances to dumb yourself down. Turn right here. You're now in the heart and soul of the Oude Kerk area, Sint Annendwarsstraat. There are windows all along the street and on the side streets to the left and right.
The Oude Kerk is straight ahead (look up). To your left, just beyond the Smartzone, you’ll find the newest addition to the district, Goldbergersteeg (circa 1999).
When checking out Goldbergersteeg, beware of the steps leading down. The steps have a peculiar rubbery texture and it has happened that people have stumbled or fallen here. Even if this is an entertainment area, this sort of entertainment is not the kind we like to see. The 6 windows on Goldbergersteeg are on the right hand side, and the alley is a dead end. Up above, the outdoor terrace which is part of the Hotel Winston, provides a good view.
On the Dolle (Dollebegijnensteeg).
Turn 180 degrees, back up the stairs to Sint Annendwarsstraat. You have Dollebegijnensteeg directly in front of you (or when you were walking up Sint Annendwarsstraat towards Oude Kerk, it’s to your right). Dollebegijnensteeg is, together with Trompettersteeg, the street in the Walletjes where you'll find the district’s finest women, the crème de la crème. For the ladies, there is also a bit of status attached to working in this area, and because the rooms in the area are in such heavy demand and vacancies are rare, some ladies work as "rotating girls". NO, this isn’t a new and unheard-of-as-yet kinky speciality. It describes a lady who has made arrangements to take whatever room that may be available on a particular day, due to the regular occupant having a day off, a sick day, a holiday. These ladies may appear in different rooms from day to day.
Continue down this street returning to Oudezijds Voorburgwal. Turn left. Walk past yet another Bulldog establishment and a souvenir shop. It’s just a short distance. You arrive at a dark and narrow passage on your left. In fact, it is so dark, and so narrow, you might walk right by it.
Trompettersteeg, from Sint Annendwarsstraat.
Turn left into the famous Trompettersteeg. It's the narrowest street in Amsterdam, as those who confuse the concept of street and alley claim. "Steeg" means "alley" or "lane", and it’s aptly named, although rabbit-tunnel might be an even better designation.
To pass someone coming from the opposite direction, it is neccessary to turn sideways, it’s that narrow. During the weekend evenings, especially in the summertime when the tourists add to the normal weekend visitors, Trompettersteeg can be almost sardine-can tight---packed. Once in, there’s no way to turn around. The only way out is straight ahead, as they say. When someone decides to stop and look at a girl, the line of people does not move! Gridlock ensues. On the other hand, although this area is a natural favourite (unfortunately) of pickpockets, the Tromp is free of them, because as you have guessed, there’s no way for them to make an escape. Watch your wallet, though, just in case.
As you emerge from the tunnel, watch out for the infamous puddle! Unless there’s been a drought recently, this spot is nearly always wet. If it has rained recently, there’s hardly a way to avoid soaking your feet.
As said, Trompettersteeg and Dollebegijnensteeg are the streets where you find the best-looking ladies in the RLD. There are windows on both sides of Trompettersteeg, and you are just a couple of inches from the girls. Walking up the narrow street turning your head back and forth is like watching a ping-pong game! "Left, right, left, right..." Watch out you don't hurt your neck!
Eventually you will squeeze through the Trompettersteeg, and if you have not been lured into one of the kamers, you are now crossing Sint Annendwarsstraat again. Directly across Sint Annendwarsstraat, Trompetterssteeg, changes names to Bethlemsteeg. There are windows on the left hand side.
Sexy-land. The sexy and invigourating odour of industrial strength pine-scented disinfectants. And less!
On the right hand side of Bethlemsteeg you’ll find three attractions. First is Sexy-land, movie peeps and adult items for sale, the "life-fucking" shows were discontinued recently. Just beyond Sexy-land you’ll find the entrance to the "covered area", as this indoor mall-like area is normally called on our message board, (actually La Vie En Rose). Squeeze through the soft plastic door-like thingy. Be prepared to get hit by a cocktail of high-level dance music and the scent of trapped air mixed with heavy perfume. You’ll be walking around a claustrophobic rectangular corridor with 11 or so kamers. With all the people so close, and the walls so thin, this must be as close to sex in public as you could ever get, without actually being in public! Some may feel this area is completely without charm. We disagree. It’s absolutely and completely without charm.
Walk around; get out in the fresh air again. Ahhhh, air! At the end of the street, on your right, you have the entrance to the bar La Vie En Proost, a strip bar not always worthy of a visit.
Backtracking to Sint Annendwarsstraat, turn left and aim for Oude Kerk again. On your right you’ll have a set of windows, another spot where one often sees stunningly beautiful girls. On the left you will be passing the main entrance to Sexy-land, whose secondary entrance we walked past earlier.
Walk straight ahead following alongside the ancient church. This is the Oudekerskplein. Surrounding the left side is the African quarter where many women will tap on the glass to try to get the attention of any living breathing creature that passes by.
Up ahead to the left is the Prostitution Information Centre on Enge Kerksteeg, which connects to the Warmoestraat. The present function of P.I.C. is unclear -- other than as an outlet for tacky souvenirs. Stop in and say "Dag" or purchase a T-Shirt if you must. All profits go to paying the expenses of this non-profit org.
Continue up along the church, through the African quarter until you arrive back at Oudezijds Voorburgwal. Turn left.
Just ahead is Cafe Emmelot. Just before it is another narrow easy-to-miss passage with 3 more windows, Slapersteeg. At Cafe Emmelot, turn right and cross the Leisdelsluicebrug—also known as the "Pill Bridge" in honor of the junkies who often loitered here (most of them are gone now). Avoid the streetwalkers, if any are present. The Korte Niezel. lays just in front of you.
Febo. Eat from the wall.
Febo is on the right-hand corner. Long before fast food was ubiquitous in the west, the Dutch were eating their version out of, guess what, windows. It's referred to as "eating from the wall", but this does little to disguise the Dutchie enthusiasm for window display. Life, sex, food. Get your self a hot Kroketten or french fried potatoes smothered in mayo, or yes, even a hamburger.
Continue up the Korte Neizel and you have arrived back at Oudezijds Achterburgwal. Walk out on the bridge, stand for a moment, and enjoy the view along Oudezijds Achterburgwal, the north end of the RLD. You’ll see windows again. After the first set of windows you’ll find the Moulin Rouge sex show establishment.
If you were to continue further down the left (east) side of Oudezijds Achterburgwal you’d find a small side street called Boomsteeg with 7 windows, you’d noticed it earlier from the Zeedijk at the beginning of our tour. In this area you’ll find a variety of South American girls, Venezuela, Colombia, Dominican Republic, etc., and a few African girls.
Leaving the bridge and resuming our walk, we’ll return to the Oudezijds Achtergburgwal, take a left, and continue up the west side. The Bananenbar, across the other side of the canal, is the only place in this part of town that serves something as delicious as fruit. Where and how the female performers inside serve the fruit for your entertainment pleasure, we’ll leave to your imagination, but you’re charged by the hour for the privilege.
Opposite the Bananenbar, you’ll be standing just in front of the Erotic Museum. It’s another one of the amusements in this part of town that, like the Casa Rosso and Bananenbar, thoughtfully provides the therapeutic effects of relieving the tourists of all that heavy, nasty, money they’re carrying around
Sex, bicycles, and windows.
Just inside the entranceway of the Museum, you’ll find one more eternal Dutchie enthusiasm revealed; it’s not, at first glance, what you think it is either. Although the cyclist lacks a few of the standard cycling accessories; flowers, passengers, pets, small furniture, and mobile phone, the characteristic Dutch obsession with windows is not forgotten and is symbolically present in the, otherwise inexplicable, eyeglasses worn by the cyclist.
Ingeniously disguised as tasteless kitsch, it's a stunning representation of the close relationship between Duchies and their bicycles. Ching-ching!
A few bars and windows later you’ll arrive at the next bridge. The Old Sailor pub and the Molensteeg are on your left.
What was the Molensteeg, across the bridge, is now called Oude Kennisteeg. Turn right.
Another name strikingly appropriate for the RLD, Oude Kennissteeg (Old Acquaintance Lane), sports about 20 windows, half Thai girls, and half Caucasian. At the end on the left you’ll encounter a quiet (during the daytime) bar that we find very good, Café Pleinzicht; a small Dutch style "brown café". Stop by, get a Heineken, and listen to the blues they play. If you’re lucky (or unlucky depending on your taste), you’ll see the bartender drumming on the beer taps along to the beat of the music.
Backtrack to Oudezijds Achterburgwal and turn right. We continue south on the right (west) side. If you appreciate really bad puns, we next pass a raambordelen rental office, Sex 2, named after it's address, 62. Get it?
We continue along the canal. Oudezijds Achterburgwal is one of the oldest canals in this old city of Amsterdam. Of the nearly 400 windows in the Walletjes, 104 of them are on this canal alone. It’s also the super touristy part of the RLD; a mixture of peepshows, live shows, bars, hotels.
The window girls here are mostly Caucasian. On Oudezijds Achterburgwal you can run into window girls who are experts at working the tourists. As there are a lot of tourists passing by that never will return to the RLD anyway, or at least not to that specific girl a second time, these girls are not even remotely interested in trying to get the client to come back. It’s simply not important for them. They get plenty of business regardless of the quality of their service. They are often temptingly beautiful. With a sweet smile they can easily make a lot of money attracting tourists for short term sessions.
Of course there are many "regular" girls on Oudezijds Achterburgwal as well. Do not be frightened by our "working the tourists" comment above. Just pay some attention in choosing your girl and you will be fine. Again, we are happy to play the role of your Knight in Shining Amour and rescue you. Read our RLD FAQ and you’ll get some specific tips. It can be very worthwhile trying to find a friendly girl, we’ll try to help to show you how..
You will pass Absolute Danny, a shop for sensual clothing and related "devices". Stop by, it’s quite entertaining. If you are so inclined, purchase a little thingy as a present to the loved one(s) back home. We’re sure it will be appreciated! If nothing else, it will serve as your excuse to why you had to visit the RLD.
The one, the only, Casa Rosso!
After the next peepshow, Sex Palace, you will arrive at the one and only Casa Rosso. We say "one and only", not because it's so awesome, but to distinguish it from the 3 fake shopfronts where tickets are touted. This is THE sex show that all good tourists should visit. Once. Be sure to negotiate the prices and not take the first offered "special price only for you." Drinks are included in the price.
After Casa Rosso, and this last brief stretch of Oudezijds Achterburgwal, the last of the windows! You are now back at the Stoofsteeg.
You’ve now made a complete tour of the Walletjes. We're happy that you joined us. Now, let's drop into 'T Stoofjes for another beer. We all deserve it. Cheers.
The Singel/Spui district
As we did for the Walletjes tour, we’ll start at Centraal Station.
Exiting the station and crossing the bridge, this time we will turn right. Our heading is the Victoria hotel. Look for it up ahead to your right as you cross the intersection. Turning right, in front of the hotel, walk up Prins Hendrikkade to the next crossing, cross the street, and turn left onto Martelaarsgracht.
Next crossing is the shopping street Nieuwendijk. If you were to go left onto Nieuwendijk, you will after a while end up at Dam Square. If you turn right you will come to the Singel Canal. Singel you say, that is where we are going. Let’s push ahead! But hold your horses for a while. Let’s take another path, so that our route takes us past all the (94) windows in the Singel/Spui RLD.
If you are hungry, stop in at the "Soup Kitchen" in the crossing. It is a pretty good place for an English-style artery clogging breakfast. If not hungry, cross the street, and continue down the street, which has, by the way, changed names to Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal.
Up ahead, on the left, the Crown Plaza Hotel. You are now facing a "Y" in the road. Follow to the left beside the Sint Nicolaas Hotel and continue down Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal.
Across the street, past a couple of restaurants, you will see "Blue Boy" and "Why Not", a gay sex cinema and club.
Korte Kolk Steeg.
Ahead of you, just before Amsterdam City Centre Hotel, is Korte Kolk Steeg. Turn right. On this street you will find the first windows, 4 of them. It’s a short street, and in no time you will be standing on Spuistraat. And why not take a look up and down Spuistraat? You will find 2, sometimes 3, floors with window girls. Some that you can see from where you stand, behind you on the right and several further south on Spui, to your left. Spuistraat, with 28 windows, has the highest number of windows of any single street in the area, but they’re scattered up and down the street.
Let’s continue our walk up the street that we were just on. Crossing the Spuistraat, the street name now changes to Korte Korsjespoort Steeg. Again a very short walk up to the next crossing. To your right you have Teerketelsteeg, with 3 windows on the top of the 3rd floor, and to your left Nieuw Oude Straat. "Middlepunkt", a brothel room rental place at number 5, is beside you on your left.
The oxymoronic Nieuw Oude Straat.
Turn left at "Middelpunkt", and walk up Nieuw Oude Straat. The 22 windows are clustered on both ends of this street. At #17 folk hero Hans Brinker was born in 1799. At age 8 Brinker stuck his finger inside a wet hole, and saved the city of Haarlem from flood. Or something. His world-wide fame began in 1865 when American author Mary Mapes published his story.
At the end of Nieuw Oude Straat, we will be turning right, but have a quick look to your left on Lijnbaanstraat and you'll find 2 new windows, just around the corner.
Right on Lijnbaanstraat.
And now, for the first time, we come up to Singel itself, the canal. Singel is the oldest and innermost of the 4 canals which comprise the girdle of canals (Singel, Herengracht, Keizersgracht, Prinsengracht) which surround the old centre of Amsterdam. The Singel is not to be confused with another canal of the same name, Singelgracht, a fifth perimeter canal.
If you look to your right you’ll find some windows on this side along the Singel. Here you will normally find Asian (Thai) girls, and also an occasional Asian "ladyboy" or two. Further up north on Singel you will find more windows. We’ll return to the Singel, a bit later, as we complete the circuit.
Cross the Singel canal on the bridge, Linjbaansbruug. After you have crossed take an immediate left and walk down Singel on the right (east) side. The first street you will come to is Bergstraat. Turn right.
Bergstraat serves mainly locals. It’s rather quiet, no camera-toting tourist groups and no drunken visiting football fans either. 10 windows in total. At the end on the left side you will find a coffeeshop, "Amnesia" on the corner of Bergstraat and Herengracht.
You’re now at Herengracht (Gentlemen’s canal). Turn right, north along the Herengracht. Just before the next bridge, Blauburgwal, you’ll pass Sauna Deco, at number 115, a wonderful sauna which takes pride in it’s elegant art deco furnishings which were salvaged from a 1920’s Parisian department store, housed in a building designed by the great Dutch architect, Berlage.
Crossing the bridge, the Blauwburgwal canal is below you on your right. Blauwburgwal is a cosy little canal, enjoy the picturesque view at this lovely intersection.
On the other side of the bridge, to your left, across the Herengracht, lies the Herenstraat. There’s lots of "Dutchiness" to be found here, and on the following streets. Cosy flower shops, cosy atmospheric restaurants, cosy antiques shops, cosy art galleries, etc. Raging cosiness, if you will.
Continue straight ahead up the Herengracht leaving the Blauwburgwal behind you. At the next street, Korsjespoortsteeg, you will turn right. Just ahead of you, to your left, the Multatuli Museum dedicated to the great Dutch philosopher and free thinker.
Immediately to your right, nearly directly across from Multituli, you’ll find 2 windows. Continuing up to Lange Straat, and crossing over, you will find several more windows. This section of Korsejespoortsteeg appeared in the 1989 Timothy Dalton vehicle, a film called "Hawks", which was financed with the star power (soon lost) he had acquired after his first stint as James Bond, 007. It was a forgettable melodrama about a terminally ill man having a final fling in Amsterdam. If you get a chance to see it, you’ll enjoy how the filmmakers "dressed" the street with every manner of tawdry and garish rubbish, to make it their idea and perhaps by extension, the average persons idea, of what a red light district should look like. It was a far cry from the reality of the quiet, typically Amsterdam street you now stand on.
We’re back at the Singel canal. Cross the bridge. On the other side you’ll find a couple of more windows on Singel . A couple close to the crossing, both left and right, and 2 more, a bit further north along Singel close to the dome of the old Lutheran Church.
Well, that’s it. You've made a complete circuit of the Singel area.
You now have options:
Jump into the quiet bruin café ‘t Koggeschip at 43 Singel, on the corner. Lot’s of bric-a-brac on the walls, in the normal Dutch style. Here it is nautical theme. It's pretty nice we think, but always dead quiet. If you ever run into more than two other guests, then you will be breaking a record! During the summer they have a little terrace facing the grotty green urinal just outside---it may not, on a warm day be a very friendly place for your olfactory organs, but it’s actually a very convenient place to sit if consuming quantities of beer. This particular urinal, incidentally, holds a very special distinction---we can hardly ever pass by without feeling an overwhelming urge to use it. Over many years we have performed this ritual to the watchful eyes of the ladies, or transsexuals, who usually occupy the facing windows, hundreds, possibly, thousands of times.
And with that old familiar urge to take a leak, we now conclude this portion of the tour. Now that you know where all the windows are located in this area, we’ll leave it up to you how to spend your time. Bon Appetit!
The Pijp district
The name of the smallest of the three red light districts, the Pijp (De Pijp, in Dutch) comes from the long straight streets (straight as a pipe) in this section of Amsterdam originally developed in the late 19th century for working class and immigrant residents. Appropriately enough "pijp" is also Dutch slang for "penis". It is also the only one of the three districts where cruising the windows by automobile is possible, which you would see if you ventured here at night. By day, it's a quiet and relaxed district catering primarily to locals, where many a jewel can be found. You'll never see the drunken crowds of football revelers or hoards of tourists, or many non-residents for that matter.
The Pijp/Ruysdaelkade district is behind the Rijksmuseum, south on the Ruysdaelkade. Actually it's quite near Societe Anonymé, just a few more blocks up the Stadhouderskade. First of all, find your way to the Rijksmuseum. Proceed east (left) on Stadhouderskade a short distance, crossing the bridge and the canal, Boerenwetering. Take a right turn on the little brick walkway or continue on a bit further until you arrive at Ruysdaelkade, and then go right. Proceed south along Ruysdaelkade. The first street you'll arrive at is Eerste Jacob Van Campen Straat, followed by Quellijnstraat, Daniel Stalperstraat, Saenredamstraat, Gerard Doustraat, Albert Cuypstraat, and finally Gouvert Flinckstraat. Here it is; it's just up ahead on your left, facing the canal. 30+ windows, on multiple floors, plus a few windows down the sidestreet Gouvert Flintstraat.
If you proceed a bit further up Ruysdaelkade, passing Eerst Jan Steen Straat and Eerst Jan Van Der Heijenstraat, crossing the busy Ceintuurbaan, and strolling a bit further up Ruysdaelkade, you'll find 4 more, lesser known windows.
Features of note in this area are the Albert Cuyp open air market, the concentration of computer shops on Ceintuurbaan just around the corner from Ruysdaelkade, and further up Ceintuurbaan where it changes to Sarphatipark, the privehuis known as Park 118. The back entrance of the Rijksmuseum and the vast Museumplein is also nearby, at the beginning of this walk.
If you care to forego the walk, catch a tram at Centraal Station. Tram 24 routes up Centuurbaan, and arrives at Ruysdaelkade, practically at the doorstep of the Ruysdaelkade/Pijp RLD. Proceed north a short block up Ruysdaelkade. Tram 16 arrives at Albert Cuypstraat and Ruysdaelkade, in that case proceed a short walk south.
That's it folks! There ain't no more! Move along!