There aren’t too many locations that can truly boast being “a place where all your fantasies come true.” Disney World? Maybe if your six years old. But I’m talking about adult fantasies. If I were writing about all the great things to do in Amsterdam during the DAY, we’d sure have a different outlook regarding our free time. But Amsterdam at NIGHT? You’re about to enter the big leagues, pal. Minors need not apply. Amsterdam nightlife is a mix of coffee bars, clubs, pubs, drugs and women. The priority of which is entirely up to you. I am talking, of course, about the Amsterdam Red Light District. The major cities of Europe – Prague, Paris, Budapest, Rome and Berlin – all offer tourists an eclectic mix of entertainment, but the nightlife in Amsterdam’s Red Light District manages to put a spin on everything those other cities have to offer. I personally tend to think of Amsterdam nightlife as “shaken, not stirred.”
Let’s be honest, the majority of tourists aren’t necessarily flocking to Amsterdam to walk along the canals and go to museums. Oh sure, that element is there for those who seek it. But the real “fun” kicks in after the sun goes down. Repeat this mantra a few times: “Amsterdam nightlife…Amsterdam nightlife….” Want a cup of coffee and a joint? Want to cruise the Red Light District and say hello to the “window girls”? Want to smoke a joint and THEN go visit the window girls? You came to the right place.
I really AM here just to look. I mean, “look” in the big sense of looking. Amsterdam has so much to offer. But being the responsible journalist that I am, I can not – in good conscious – just stay in my hotel room at night.
So let’s cut to the chase. Even if you get no farther than casually strolling down the streets of the Red Light District to “window shop”, at least do it correctly. This isn’t New York City or Rome, that’s for sure. The women aren’t warming themselves over trash-bin fires, or casually knocking on your car window to see if you’re a legitimate trick or an undercover cop. Nope. This is Amsterdam, baby. What you see is what you get.
For starters, the Red Light District is amazingly well-kept. Because everything is “out in the open” so to speak, you’re not going to bump into discreet businessmen wearing dark glasses and raincoats. Under Amsterdam’s neon lights, visitors can admire the latest vibrators and condoms in the same way other boutiques showcase the latest fashion and furs.
Amsterdam nightlife boasts some unique entertainment: Street-corner PR reps do their best to convince passers-by to check out live sex shows. An erotic museum showcases five floors of erotica, videos, photo’s and more. And the women. Gorgeous women wearing lingerie and a lot less pose behind glass windows and offer a menu goods and services you sure won’t find in a Chinese restaurant. More than once I remind myself that I’m not in Thailand. I’m in Europe. Amsterdam nightlife. Nothing like it.
The Red Light District is better known as “Walletjes-XXX”, and is about a 3 minute walk from the train station. The three X’s appear everywhere as the city’s official insignia, and far from representing the concept of “triple-X rated”; the X’s actually represent the 3 virtues of Charity, Resolution, and Heroism. At least that’s what I was told! I think you need all three qualities to walk through the district unscathed. Think you need to wait until after-hours to come to this part of town? Think again. Business is good 24 hours a day.
Hard to believe that an area such as this is actually one of the most sought after areas of tourism, but it is. You’re sure to see busloads of visitors snapping photo’s as they drive down the district’s main drag. How they are able to get away with this is beyond me. Maybe because a bus offers some sort of sanctity. Because on foot, snapping photo’s is a no-no. The Red Light District is actually quite safe with many policemen on foot and in view. Each house also has their own security and they don’t take kindly to photography.
In general – and mind you I’m not speaking from experience, I’m just an informed shopper – if a building has two stories of windows, the more attractive and more expensive girls will be found on the second floor. Prices for a quarter hour can range from 25 to100 euros depending on the services offered. If you see windows covered by a curtain; guess what – there’s some “business” being transacted. Better to go back later. The rule of thumb is, don’t argue, don’t be obnoxious, don’t try to take pictures and don’t try to not pay.
i walk and look and smile. Every now and then – just to be funny – I’ll see a middle-aged man (hemming and hawing at a store window where a pretty young thing is displaying her goods) and call out, “Hey Bob, is that you?” Just to see his reaction. Trust me it’s always good for a laugh.
This is not the only “nightlife” there is in Amsterdam. Of course there are discos and theatres and the like. It’s just that Amsterdam nightclubs sort of pale in comparison to the “demilitarized zone” of the city center. I think my taxi driver summed it up best when he said he doesn’t know of too many places where you can smoke a joint, have a cappuccino and enjoy oral sex all for less than 60 euro. I don’t think you can find a deal like at McDonalds, that’s for sure.
And speaking of smoking, here’s an interesting sidebar for you. As liberal as Amsterdam is with its “soft drug” laws, some individuals just can’t stay put inside the coffee and smoking bars where smoking is allowed. As recent as February 1st, city officials were posting “No Smoking” signs around the city center. What did the sign show – none other than a joint inside a red circle with a line struck through it! Wouldn’t you know it, no sooner were the signs posted around town, they were quickly stolen by people looking for a memento. No to worry though, seems like the city council got the last laugh. The signs are currently on sale at 90 euros (about $108.00) a pop, with 400 orders already being filled!
That little episode aside, hopefully this article will get you started. Again, there’s so much to Amsterdam’s nightlife it can’t possibly be recapped in a page or two. Maybe next time we’ll talks about restaurants! Until then, walk, browse, look, learn and above all “appreciate”. The best strategy no matter what European city you’re in!
Thinking about visiting Amsterdam? Read Why You Should Go to Amsterdam, Holland.