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Oudezijds Achterburgwal

Oudezijds Achterburgwal, 1012 Amsterdam, Netherlands
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De Wallen: Amsterdam's Infamous Red-Light District Amsterdam  The Netherlands

De Wallen: Amsterdam's Infamous Red-Light District

It's one of Amsterdam's prettiest districts, where swans glide on tree-shrouded canals and gabled mansions recall Holland's Golden Age: de Wallen, better known as the Red Light District (RLD). Since 2000, prostitutes have plied their trade here as legal taxpayers, drawing tourists who come to buy, gawk, giggle, and window-shop, Amsterdam-style.

While the number of windows has declined since 2008, when the city launched an initiative to replace 50% of them with chic boutiques over the next decade, the area still draws packs of mates on holiday, couples strolling arm-in-arm, giggling hen groups and busloads of camera-toting Japanese tourists. Whoa to the shutterbug who snaps a pic of one of the ladies; it's strictly verboten and could cost the clueless photographer a camera.

In addition to seductive girls flaunting their natural assets in eye-popping, barely-there outfits, the RLD's cobbled streets are lined with peep shows, adult toy shops, and naughty cinemas. Watch live sex onstage at Casa Rosso or Moulin Rouge, or opt for a budget version in booths offering two minutes of live erotica for €2. Other popular hangouts include the Drunken Sailor and Banana Bar, where half-naked girls indulge in such tricks as writing postcards without using their hands.

However you enjoy your time in the RLD, watch your belongings. While the area is heavily patrolled by police, bodyguards, and mounted video cameras, pickpockets and hard-up junkies abound, waiting to catch you unaware.