Unveiling the Origins of Amsterdam’s Red Light District

Amsterdam’s Red Light District is a world-renowned area that attracts tourists from all over the globe. But have you ever wondered when it all began? In this article, we will take a dive into the fascinating history of this district and explore its origins.

The Medieval Roots

The Red Light District, also known as “De Wallen,” traces its roots back to the 14th century. During this time, the city of Amsterdam experienced rapid growth due to its flourishing trade industry. Many sailors and merchants flocked to the city, leading to a higher demand for various forms of entertainment, including prostitution.

In response, the authorities designated certain areas where prostitution was allowed to take place. These zones were typically near religious institutions such as churches and monasteries.

The Prostitution Regulation Act of 1578

Amsterdam’s Red Light District further solidified its presence with the implementation of the Prostitution Regulation Act of 1578. This act aimed to regulate and control prostitution in the city.

The Act stated that prostitution was only permitted within specific areas and required prostitutes to register with the city authorities. This regulation allowed the city to monitor and protect the workers, as well as maintain control over the industry.

Changes in the 19th Century

The 19th century brought significant changes to the Red Light District. As the city grew, Amsterdam underwent urban renewal projects. Many of the narrow alleyways and buildings in the district were demolished to make way for new developments.

However, rather than disappear, the Red Light District shifted to its current location around the Oudezijds Voorburgwal canal. This area provided a centralized space for prostitution to continue while also attracting more tourists.

The Modern Era

In the 20th century, Amsterdam faced challenges with illegal activities and human trafficking within the Red Light District. In response, various measures were taken to enhance the safety and well-being of the workers.

Today, Amsterdam’s Red Light District is a regulated and legalized industry. Prostitutes must undergo regular health check-ups and work within licensed brothels. The district is monitored by the authorities to ensure the safety of both workers and visitors.

Visiting the Red Light District

If you’re planning a visit to Amsterdam, a trip to the Red Light District can be an intriguing experience. However, it’s important to be respectful and follow the regulations in place:

  • Photography is strictly prohibited to protect the privacy of the workers.
  • Do not knock on the windows or make inappropriate gestures.
  • Remember that the Red Light District is a place of work, not a tourist attraction.

By adhering to these guidelines, you can help maintain a safe and respectful environment within the district.


Amsterdam’s Red Light District has a colorful history that dates back several centuries. From its humble beginnings in the Middle Ages to the regulated industry it is today, the district has evolved and adapted over time.

As you navigate through the streets of the Red Light District, take a moment to appreciate the historical significance and cultural context that surrounds this unique area.





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