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Amsterdam to move its famed Red Light District in tourism ‘reset’

Feb. 04, 2021
3 min read
Red light district in Amsterdam the Netherlands at night
Amsterdam to move its famed Red Light District in tourism ‘reset’
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Visiting Amersterdam may soon have a different feel. The city’s famous Red Light District is set to be relocated to a new “erotic center” elsewhere in the city.

The controversial move is said to be because authorities wish to encourage a different type of visitor — less drawn to the seedier side of the Dutch capital and focused more on art and culture.

Councilors have agreed that many of the brothels and “window displays” will be closed down the narrow alleys near the docks and that sex workers will be able to work in a designated center somewhere else in Amsterdam.

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The De Wallen area contains hundreds of “cabins” rented by prostitutes who typically advertise their services from behind a glass window, backlit by red lights — hence the area’s name. It’s also one of the oldest parts of the city and home to many other exotic attractions such as sex shops, sex theatres, peep shows, a sex museum and a cannabis museum.

The city’s mayor Femke Halsema has said that the windows should be closed as the women working in them have been the victims of verbal abuse and tourists gawping at them.

(Photo by George Pachantouris/Getty Images)

“This is about a reset of Amsterdam as a visitor city,” said Dennis Boutkan, of the Dutch Labour party. “Tourists are welcome to enjoy the beauty and freedom of the city, but not at any cost.”

Read more: Every tourist in Amsterdam makes these same 12 mistakes

Halsema added that the move would also prevent the “rise in human trafficking by providing a safe environment in which sex workers can run their businesses.”

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However, the decision has been met with opposition. Lobby group Red Light United said that business will be severely affected because tourists won’t know where to find the sex workers.

The news comes after there were calls last year to ban tours of the Red Light District as well as stopping tourists from visiting its famous coffee shops due to over-tourism. Halsema has proposed that only Dutch residents will be allowed into Amsterdam’s 166 marijuana-selling coffee shops in a bid to cut down on “drug tourism.”

She said the city could remain “open, hospitable and tolerant,” but at the same time would make life more difficult for criminals and cut down on mass, low-budget tourism.

However, the coffee shop measure has struggled to gain support. The opposing political parties — the liberal D66 party, the Greens, Labour and the Socialist party — argue that the relocation of the Red Light District as well as banning tourists from coffee shops will result in a growth in “unhealthy drug use among visitors and street trade on young people.”

According to the Daily Telegraph, Amsterdam was visited by 19 million people in 2018, dwarfing the city’s population of 850,000.

Featured image by Red light district in Amsterdam the Netherlands at night Photo by Nisangha/Getty Images
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