red light district amsterdam

Amsterdam’s famous brothel windows will be closed and relocated. Image: Adobe Stock

Amsterdam’s infamous Red Light District to be ‘cleaned up’ for tourism

The city intends to move sex workers away from its Red Light District in the heart of Amsterdam to an ‘erotic centre’ elsewhere.

red light district amsterdam

Amsterdam’s famous brothel windows will be closed and relocated. Image: Adobe Stock

Amsterdam is home to tranquil canals, beautiful architecture, a cosmopolitan vibe and millions of bicycles. It is also infamous for its Red Light District with brothel windows and “coffee shops” that sell more than just coffee, leaving it with a slightly seedy reputation.  

Now, in a pandemic world, city leaders want to clean up that reputation and attract tourists through Amsterdam’s “richness, its beauty and its cultural institutions” instead.  

A proposal from Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema involves shutting down a significant number of the brothel windows in the narrow alleys around the docks. Instead, sex workers in the De Wallen Red Light District will be invited to move to a purpose-built centre elsewhere in Amsterdam.

Several parties back relocation proposal

The proposal was backed by a broad group of political parties. These include the CDA and ChristenUnie, who have long lobbied for the closure of the windows. They have now been joined by the VVD, the party of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, as well as the Greens and the Labour party.

Leaders intend to ‘reset the city’

In a recent article in the Sun, Councillor Dennis Boutkan of the Dutch Labour party said they wanted to “reset Amsterdam” as a “visitor city”. The CDA’s Diederik Boomsma said intervention was needed to attract a different kind of tourist to the city.

Amsterdam’s mayor said the brothel windows had become a tourist attraction, attracting gawping and abuse. She wants these closed so tourists will visit the city for “its richness, its beauty and its cultural institutions” instead.

“These measures aim to result in a better mixture of functions, better control, a valuable visitor economy and strengthening cultural diversity and the local identity, more diverse range of housing and more residents in the inner city, more accessible public space and more greenery.”

Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema

Tours of Red Light District banned

The city has already introduced several restrictions in the Red Light District, such as banning group tours of the area in 2020. Tours of the district were only allowed if guides stuck to new restrictions which kept the windows off their itineraries. More than 100 guided tours passed through the district every day during peak season.

Most councillors agreed that the relocation of sex workers in the De Wallen Red Light District to a purpose-built centre on the outskirts of the city was necessary to change the type of tourists being attracted to Amsterdam. A venue has not yet been identified.

Banning cannabis shops also on the cards

The city is also planning to introduce a ban on tourists buying cannabis from the city’s cafés, which could be enforced by 2022.

Research revealed 58% of foreign tourists in Amsterdam come mainly to consume the drug. Cannabis is technically illegal in the Netherlands though possession of under 5g is permitted. Production remains illegal but coffee shops are allowed to sell it.

Halsema’s proposal is aimed at tackling the flow of hard drugs and organised crime linked to the marijuana trade. Backed by local police and prosecutors, the plan will only allow Dutch residents to enter the cannabis-selling outlets.

The mayor said she wanted to “shrink” the cannabis market to make it more manageable. But Halsema is struggling to win support for this proposal over fears it would hand the trade over to street dealers, Het Parool reported.