Red Light District Walking Tour (Self Guided), Amsterdam

Red Light District is the medieval city center of Amsterdam, known for canals and narrow alleys lined with old-school bars, and exotic nightclubs and brothels, surrounded by the neon-lit red-lights. While legalized prostitution is its tourist attraction, being the old city center, the area also features a number of historically important attractions that are well worth visiting. Follow this self-guided walk to explore the famous (or notorious depending your point of view) Red Light District in the heart of Amsterdam.
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Red Light District Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Red Light District Walking Tour
Guide Location: Netherlands » Amsterdam (See other walking tours in Amsterdam)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 12
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.2 Km or 1.4 Miles
Author: clare
Centraal Station

1) Centraal Station (must see)

When in Amsterdam you are bound to enter the Centraal Station at least once during your visit. With over 1500 trains that ply daily through the station, it is one of the busiest places in Amsterdam. Almost 250,000 commuters go through the Central daily and in the truest sense it is the heart of the city.

The Central station began service in the late 19th century. Designed by architects P.J.H. Cuypers and A. L. van Gendt, the structure symbolized the rebirth of the once unstable financial state of the country.

An interesting fact about the Central Station is that it was built on three man-made islands and the current location of the station is not the one that was originally decided. To erect a structure as massive as the Station it took precisely 8687 wooden piles to support the building on the muddy soil. The entire project seemed like a huge mistake and was even condemned by many experts, but in the end, the architects managed to pull it off.

Today, this Neo-Gothic structure stands proudly on the banks of the river IJ and one can only gaze at the beauty and the colossal presence of this magnificent edifice built on a manmade island.

Why You Should Visit:
A mass transit and cosmopolitan fever hotspot, mixing neo-Renaissance architecture and modern technology.

There are several (free) ferry trips through the canals that leave from here about every 5 or 15 minutes and are very worthwhile. You can get right back on the boat if you wish and cruise back to the station.
Sex Museum

2) Sex Museum

What started off skeptically has today turned into one of the key attractions in Amsterdam. Along with a rich past, spectacular art and breath taking architecture, Amsterdam is home to the most flamboyant sex and erotic industry and also the world’s first Sex Museum.

Opened in 1985, the Sex museum gets on an average over 500,000 visitors every year. Also known as the Venus Temple, the Sex museum, is recorded as the fourth most visited museum in Amsterdam just after Van Gogh, Rijksmuseum and Anne Frank’s House, and likely so, the Museum provides detailed historical accounts of how civilizations sated their carnal desires. (Now, who wouldn’t want to know that).

The Museum is definitely not for everyone, only for those who are curious and definitely not children. It is filled with paintings, sculptures, vintage photographs, cartoons and other recordings having one denominator, Erotica and sensuality. The Sex Museum also has a vast collection of objects, personal belongings and recordings of personalities of the past who have played a huge role in shaping and influencing the history of sex. This includes people like Marquise de Pompadour, Marquis de Sade, Mata Hari, etc.

Another fun exhibit at the Museum is the one dedicated to the practices of the ancient Greek and Romans. Altogether, the Sex Museum is a fun experience which should not be missed at any cost.
St. Nicolaaskerk

3) St. Nicolaaskerk

One of the most inspiring structures in Amsterdam is the St Nicolaaskerk or the St Nicolas Church. A unique amalgamation of Neo- Baroque, neo-Renaissance and traditional Dutch architecture, the Church of Saint Nicolas is one of the most splendid structures in Amsterdam.

Built in the late 19th century, the Church is known as one of the best designed churches in modern day Amsterdam.

This overpowering structure was designed by architect A.C. Bleijs, who built it with a vision of reviving different styles of architecture. The chief patron of the Church St. Nicolas, commonly known as Santa Claus, is also Amsterdam’s patron saint. The Church of Saint Nicholas is still one of the main churches in the city that practice Roman Catholicism and services are held regularly even today. Along with masses, the church is also known for its choir and musical recitals. People from all over visit the church to listen to the 19th century organ which is still played during service.

The overwhelming presence of the ornate octagonal dome with the identical towers by it side and the stained glass window that separate them are truly a feat of sheer architectural brilliance. Not only is St. Nicholaaskerk magnificent on the outside, the interiors too are spellbinding. Decorated by one of the most gifted artists of the 19th century, Jan Dunselman the Church in its full right is a true delight to visit.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Schreierstoren (Weeping Tower)

4) Schreierstoren (Weeping Tower)

The Schreierstoren that literally translates to ‘sharp angles’, was once a part of the medieval wall built around the city of Amsterdam. The structure was named so, because of the sharp angles it makes with the Geldersekade and the Oudezijds Kolk. Constructed with the sole purpose of protecting the city in the 15th century, the Schreierstoren stood as a tower of defense.

The Schreierstoren has been associated with many tales and myths in the past. According to popular belief, the Schreierstoren is also nick named the Weeping Tower. It was named so, because it was believed that the wives of sailors and travellers said their goodbyes at this tower and it was here that they anxiously waited for their return. A gable stone with an etched picture of a crying lady is some proof for this legend.

Although the story of the weeping wives does sound plausible, the etched picture is hugely misunderstood. The woman depicted on the stone is actually a virgin, the symbol for the city of Amsterdam.

Apart from the tall tales associated with the Schreierstoren tower, there are many interesting facts about it as well. The Tower has also bid adieu to many voyages that made history. The Schreierstoren was the port from where Henry Hudson set sails for his trip to North America.
Museum Our Lord in the Attic

5) Museum Our Lord in the Attic

Amsterdam is a city full of surprises and sticking to its reputation is the Museum Our Lord in the Attic. It is exactly how it sounds! The lord is indeed in the attic.

The second oldest museum in Amsterdam, the Museum Our Lord in the Attic was built in the 17th century by a merchant, Jan Hartman. During those times of Reformation when practicing Catholicism was considered against the law, Jan Hartman built a secret Catholic church in the attic of the house he had just purchased. Although not completely hidden from the radar of the Protestant Authorities, the Church still managed to function and flourished unharmed. With a plain, modest exterior, it is very difficult to locate which building actually houses this beautiful church. However, the interiors of the church are quite remarkable.

Hidden in the attic of the mansion, the Church is accessed by a creaky and rather steep wooden staircase. The church interiors are filled with incredible paintings and sculptures which make you forget the simple and austere exterior. With a narrow nave, the Church has a capacity of seating almost 150 people. One of the most remarkable features of the Church of Our Lord in the Attic is the organ which is as old as the Church itself and is played to this date.

A perfect example of architecture and interiors of the Dutch Golden era, the Museum Lord in the Attic must not be missed.
Prostitution Information Center

6) Prostitution Information Center

One of the key attractions of Amsterdam is its ostentatious and very legal prostitution. The Red Light District or the De Wallen, as the locals call it, is the largest red light area in the world. Although this aspect of the city may seem very exotic, appealing and adventurous, assistance may be needed to ensure you are well informed and familiarized.

Having an information center for the world largest prostitution area seems like a logical idea, and Miss Mariska Majoor, a onetime professional herself, did exactly that. Started in 1994, the Prostitution Information Center helps educate newcomers, tourists and visitors about this thriving industry of Amsterdam. Right from well reputed places to what to expect behind the curtain, you can find assistance at the PIC.

The PIC is a non-governmental organization and helps keep the prostitution business as clean and professional as possible. Protecting both the customer and the professional, the PIC is the best place to get the right information about the Red light District of Amsterdam. A fun tour is organized by the PIC around the De Wallen and noted Red Light Areas that lasts for one hour and takes visitors around some pretty interesting places. A must when in Amsterdam!
Sight description based on wikipedia

7) Condomerie

This novelty shop usually features a crowd of onlookers outside its doors taking pictures of the display. The Condomerie sells a multitude of condoms, souvenirs, postcards, and other items.

Operation Hours: Monday-Saturday: 11 am - 9 pm; Sunday 1 pm - 6 pm.
Oude Kerk (Old Church)

8) Oude Kerk (Old Church) (must see)

In the midst of De Wallen, the largest and best known Red Light District in Amsterdam is the oldest parish of the city, the Oude Kerk or Old Church. St. Nicholas is the main patron of this stunning Roman Catholic Church. Not only is the structure one of the oldest, but the Church is also home to the city’s oldest church bells that date back to 1450.

This stunning Church dates back to the early 14th century which started off as a modest wooden Chapel. The Church later took the form of this magnificent late Gothic structure that it is today. It was constructed on an old cemetery and even today one can see that the floor of the Oude Kerk contains gravestones. Beneath the floors of the Church lie at rest more than 10,000 Amsterdam denizens, some of whom were quite famous personalities. The Church is the resting place of Jacob van Heemskerck, a naval hero, Frans Banning Cocq, a central character of Rembrandt’s Night Watch and Dutch composer Jan Sweelinck.

The splendor of the Oude Kerk is contained not only in its exterior -- the inside is equally breathtaking. This three-nave Church manages to transport its visitors back to the past with its grandeur and elegance. The Church from the inside is surprisingly spacious, with a ceiling made of wood and covered with some magnificent paintings depicting saints and events in the Bible.

Why You Should Visit:
While Niewe Kerk is bigger and more ornate, Oude Kerk is very old and has a real sense of history about it.

Wonderful views from the tower (note that the fee is only payable with credit/debit cards); coffee and a snack in the charming garden.

Opening Hours:
Sun: 1pm-5:30pm; Mon-Sat: 10am-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Erotic Museum

9) Erotic Museum

There are a lot of things Amsterdam is famous for; it may be history, art, architecture or science. However, one thing about the city you just cannot ignore is its bold and candid expression of eroticism. Whether it is taking a walk down the Red Light District or visiting the Erotic Museum, people of Amsterdam are not shy.

Bringing forth eroticism with a hint of art is what the Erotic Museum strives to do. Collecting art, paintings, photography, sketches, sculptures and prints from artists all over the world who have a common denominator, eroticism and its artistic expression is what the Erotic Museum works towards all around the year.

At the entrance of the Museum, one is greeted with an orgasmic mannequin of a maid riding a power paddled dildo. The museum is filled with new age erotic art, wax models, equipment and toys as well as vintage, turn of the century erotic art and photographs. It may not be the place you can take an innocent minded, but it is definitely a place worth the visit in Amsterdam for rarely does one come across a museum displaying erotica. The most ironic part however, is the gable stone on this building that reads ‘God is myn burgh’ (God is my citadel).
Casa Rosso

10) Casa Rosso

Casa Rosso is without doubt the most famous and well known of all the Amsterdam sex shows. The club can be easily found due to the large neon pink elephant adorning the front of the building in the heart of the Red Light District. Casa Rosso has strong links to the almost equally famous Banana Bar, found not far away on the same canal, but the layout here is much more of a theatre set up than the more free flowing, lounge-like Banana Bar.
Nieuwmarkt, Antiek en Curiosamarkt

11) Nieuwmarkt, Antiek en Curiosamarkt

Nieuwmarkt is a flea market that is located at Nieuwmarkt Square in the beautiful Jordaan district of Amsterdam. It is held every Sunday from May to September. The market offers vintage, antique and art lovers an exciting bargain-hunting opportunity. Over here, you can find furniture, décor, fashion accessories, jewelry and various home decorations that date from the 19th century to the present day.

Operation Hours on Sundays: 9 am - 5 pm, from May through September
Weigh House

12) Weigh House

Built in 1488, the Weighing House or the De Waag in Dutch was once a part of the city gates built to overlook the city. Later, in the 17th century, this monumental building was converted to a weighing house.

Originally, the building was much taller than it presently is. In the early 16th century, plans of expanding the city limits brought down the wall that once surrounded it. After razing the walls, all that remained was the gate that was no longer useful. The defensive canal and the area surrounding the gate were later transformed into the market square. The ground level was raised stunting the structure further.

De Waag housed many guilds and associations, one of which also included the painter’s guild. It is in this building that Rembrandt van Rijn, the famous Dutch artist, was inspired to make his painting, ‘The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolas Tulp’ which earned him his worldwide reputation. Post the 17th century, the Weighing house served home to many associations; it also housed two museums and even a fire brigade. It was only in 1996 that the building was taken over by the Waag society which carefully preserved the structure for generations to see.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Create Your Own Walk in Amsterdam

Create Your Own Walk in Amsterdam

Creating your own self-guided walk in Amsterdam is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Plantage Walking Tour

Plantage Walking Tour

Amsterdam's Plantage neighborhood has been throughout the centuries a place of rest and entertainment. Beside its impressive 19th-century architecture, there is the historic Royal Zoo, and close-by is the verdantly exotic Hortus Botanicus. Follow this self-guided walk to explore one of the greenest neighborhoods in Amsterdam – a lovely place to stroll and laze.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.7 Km or 1.1 Miles
Jordaan Walking Tour

Jordaan Walking Tour

The Jordaan is a district of the city of Amsterdam. It was originally a working class neighborhood, but in recent years it has become quite upscale and home to many museums and art galleries, particularly those focused on modern art. The district is also dotted with specialty shops, markets and restaurants. This tour is a perfect opportunity to see the main attractions of the district of Jordaan.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 Km or 1.3 Miles
Souvenir Shopping

Souvenir Shopping

It would be a pity to leave Amsterdam without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. We've compiled a list of gifts and souvenirs, which are unique to Amsterdam, that a visitor might like to purchase to reflect their visit.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.7 Km or 1.7 Miles
City Orientation Walk

City Orientation Walk

Amsterdam is the capital and the largest city of the Netherlands. It is famous for its unusual life rhythm manifested in the air of cannabis, coffee shops, the Red Light District and many other elements that keep drawing in people from the whole world all year round. Here are some suggestions on the top-rated tourist attractions of this extraordinary city.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.6 Km or 2.9 Miles
Churches Walking Tour

Churches Walking Tour

Amsterdam's numerous churches are an unique example of architectural diversity. Whether you are a keen church goer or simply interested in the architectural and historic aspects, Amsterdam will not disappoint. Take this self guided walk to visit the important religious sites in Amsterdam. The walk starts from the central station and visit eight religious sites in the city.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.3 Km or 2.7 Miles
Museum Quarter Walk

Museum Quarter Walk

The museums of Amsterdam are among the main tourist attractions of the city. Some of its museums are quite small, but nevertheless important, and some, like the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum are world famous and should not be missed. This tour gives you an opportunity to visit Amsterdam's most renowned museums and learn more about history, art and even the world of diamonds.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.7 Km or 0.4 Miles

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